This past weekend we saw popular Japanese fighter Sho Kimura (19-3-2, 12) take a 2nd round win over fellow former world champion Merlito Sabillo. Following that win Kimura spoke about getting back into the mix for a world title. At the moment it's unclear whether Kimura will be fighting at Flyweight or Light Flyweight, but which ever option he takes there are a lot of potentially exciting opponents out there for him, and some amazing match ups he could be involved in.
Here we look at Five For...Sho Kimura, and we'll consider options at both Light Flyweight, where he is currently world ranked, and Flyweight, where he fought at last time.
1-Moruti Mthalane (39-2, 26)
The most likely of the world champions for Kimura would be Moruti Mthalane. Although Kimura isn't ranked by the IBF, at the moment, changes are going to be made shortly, and with IBF #3 Giemel Magramo and #7 Junto Nakatani set to fight for the WBO title there will opening in their rankings. Mthalane has shown a willingness to travel to Japan, his last two bouts have been there, and we wouldn't be too surprised to see him return, if the right offer is made. Kimura could easily be slipped on to a bigger card as the second title bout, and deliver this bout. On paper this would be an amazing fight between two strong, solid, fighters and would see Kimura back at his natural weight, Flyweight.
2-Artem Dalakian (20-0, 14)
At the start of the month Kimura was ranked #10 by the WBA at Light Flyweight, but as we know he's probably better off fighting at Flyweight any way so a move up in weight to take on Artem Dalakian would be a smart one. Given Dalakian's reign so far he needs a legitimate challenge, otherwise his reign will become an even bigger joke, and Kimura would be a genuine challenge, for anyone at Flyweight. Kimura's style would force Dalakian to show all he has in his locker and would bring the type of pressure that the Ukrainian has never seen before. This is the sort of bout that makes sense for both men. It gives Kimura another shot, and gives Dalakian a worth while foe. Also, given Kimura still isn't well backed in Japan financially, he would likely jump at the chance to go to Europe for the bout. It's worth noting only one Japanese fighter has won a world title in Europe before, and that was Naoya Inoue last year.
3-Julio Cesar Martinez (15-1, 12)
Bring the violence! WBC Flyweight champion Julio Cesar Martinez has got a bout set for February 29th against Jay Harris, but if he gets through that he'll be looking for a bigger name opponent, and why not former WBO champion Sho Kimura? On paper this would be brutal, two heavy handed, aggressive, exciting fighters meeting center ring and letting their blows go. Martinez, the younger man, would be the favourite and would likely get the bout secured for the US, or Mexico, thanks to his link up with Eddie Hearn, and if you offer Sho Kimura a bout on US soil he would almost certainly snap your hand off. This bout, as part of a big Stateside card in the US would be a great bout, and from a business sense, could help DAZN Japan get a show of interest. Also it would be a rather cheap bout to make, and guaranteed war.
4-Elwin Soto (17-1, 12)
if Kimura intends to fight at Light Flyweight we wouldn't like to see him in with Carlos Canizalez again, however a bout with WBO champion Elwin Soto could be brilliant, brutal and thrilling. Although that is dependent on Kimura making 108lbs with no issues. Soto is a talented youngster, with big power, and exciting style. If Kimura can make 108lbs comfortably it would be great to see whether his pressure and tenacity could break down Soto, or whether Soto has the power to chip away and stop Kimura. This bout would be brutal, exciting, action packed and absolutely amazing to watch. Like the Martinez bout this could take place in the US and be part of a DAZN card, this time from Golden Boy Promotions.
5-Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9)
We return to Japan for the final bout on this list, a potential all Japanese show down with WBA "Super" Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi. Kyoguchi isn't expected back until around April, plenty of time for Kimura to prepare for the move down in weight, and would be a very easy bout to make. This would be a brilliant fight for TBS to put on one of their broadcasts, and could work as a major support for a bigger name, such as the potential Kazuto Ioka Vs Kosei Tanaka bout. Kyoguchi is the more rounded boxer, but it would be very interesting to see him trying to beat off Kimura's pressure for 12 rounds. Like the Soto bout however this really depends on how easily Kimura can make Light Flyweight.
This past Thursday we saw the very long awaited return to the ring of the hugely popular Daigo Higa (16-1, 16), who stopped Jason Buenaobra in 6 rounds, after almost 2 years out of the ring. Although expressed some really worrying comments after the bout, at least for fans wanting to see him in the ring long term, his return did leave us salivating at the potential bouts he could be involved in, if he sticks around.
As fans we would love to see Higa's motivation return, but for that to happen he'll need fights that excite him and get the juices going. No easy bouts, just tough, testing, exciting ones. With that in mind, here are Five For... Daigo Higa.
1-Guillermo Rigondeaux (20-1, 13)
If we're looking at bouts that intrigue us there are very, very, very few times we'll ever list Guillermo Rigondeaux, however we would love to see how his defense, movement, and 39 year old legs hold out against the incessant, high octane pressure of Higa. If Higa needs a fight to excite him, get his motivation up and make him want to fight, a bout against a world level name, for the WBA "regular" title should be the type of bout that does just that. Yes this is an extremely tough bout for Higa, but maybe the type of bout he needs to reignite his love for the sport.
2-Nawaphon Sor Rungvisai (48-1-1, 38)
Of course Higa isn't the only fighter who has moved up from Flyweight to Bantamweight in recent years, and another was Thailand's Nawaphon Sor Rungvisai. On paper a bout between Higa and Nawaphon might not excite those looking to see top names clashing but in reality this would be so much fun to watch. Both guys are aggressive, and style wise this should be a lot of fun. Higa would be favoured, but that doesn't change the fact that this style a really fun and interesting bout between two fighters who like to come forward and like to let heavy leather go. More notably than the style is the significance of this bout, with Nawaphon being ranked #2 by the WBC and said to be pushing for a world title fight. Higa Vs Nawaphon in a world title eliminator? Yes please!
3-Zolani Tete (28-4, 21)
If Higa can't get a true top level name, then it'd be fun to see him face a recent champion, and an interesting possibility there would be Zolani Tete. Tete was stopped last year, by Johnriel Casimero, but is still an awkward out for anyone in the division, has a decent name and would ask questions of Higa. If Higa isn't motivated then Tete would expose than, jab his head off and take a clear win, likely sending Higa into retirement, but if Higa can get up for this, he could potentially take out Tete and prove his value in the Bantamweight division. It's a very winnable bout, if Higa can get up for it.
4-Petch Sor Chitpattana (54-1, 39)
Given Higa's only world ranking at the moment is the WBC it's worth looking at who's around him in the WBC rankings, and once such fighter is Petch Sor Chitpattana, who is ranked really close to Higa. Not only are both world ranked but both men love to come forward, both like to let leather go, both are tough and stylistically this should be something truly special. It would be one of the rare times that Higa would be up against a man who may be able to match him physically, and take his punishment, and would be a really fun fight to watch. It lacks something in terms of importance, but as a spectacle this would be sensational to watch.
5-Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-1, 12)
We're back to thinking of Higa against a recent champion, and why not go up against someone known in Japan for being a previous Naoya Inoue opponent right? So with that in mind Emmanuel Rodriguez seems a perfect choice. Like Petch and Nawaphon the Puerto Rican former world champion is ranked in the WBC, in fact he's #3 with the WBC, behind Nonito Donaire and Nawaphon, and a bout between Higa and Rodriguez would be something to get very excited about. Rodriguez is still a solid name in the division, he's world ranked, and would give Higa an opponent who can ask questions of him. Style wise this isn't the best out there for Higa, but it's certainly a very significant bout, and could, potentially, even help him secure a US debut, which could play a major part in helping with his motivation.
This past weekend we saw Uzbek sensation Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6) claim the WBA "super" and IBF Super Bantamweight titles with an excellent win over Daniel Roman. The performance, in just his 8th professional bout, was a real statement from Akhmadaliev, despite a bizarre 12th round, and a sign of the rising wave of the Uzbek fighters, which include the likes of Israil Madrimov, Bektemir Melikuziev and Bakhodir Jalolov.
With his win at the weekend it's going to be interesting to see what Akhmadaliev does next. The Super Bantamweight division is a very interesting one, and as a double champion there are some very interesting potential moves for "MJ" going forward. So with that in mind lets look at Five for... Murodjon Akhmadaliev
1- Ryosuke Iwasa (27-3, 17)
The obvious next next fight for "MJ" is a mandatory defense of his titles against IBF "interim" champion Ryosuke Iwasa. If MJ avoids this fight, for whatever reason, he'd likely be stripped of the IBF title and given how he spoke about being a unified champion we don't imagine him wanting to relinquish either belt any time soon. In the ring this would be a really interesting match up. It would be the first time MJ has fought a hard hitting southpaw, though he has faced two lefties already in his career, and would also see whether or not Iwasa has figured fellow southpaws himself, or whether his performance against Marlon Tapales was a fluke. Given the heavy hands both men have we wouldn't be surprised to see this one end inside the schedule and for both to be rocked at some point.
2- Emanuel Navarrete (30-1, 26)
Whilst Akhmadaliev may be a unified champion there are still titles out there for him to go and capture. The reality is that a bout between "MJ" and WBC champion Rey Vargas wouldn't be an enjoyable watch, however a fight between the unbeaten Uzbek and marauding Mexican Emanuel Navarrete would be something special. It would be beautifully brutal, with both men firing off heavy shot. It would be "Vaquero's" pressure, against MJ's movement and boxing ability, it would be champion against champion, and it would be stylistically the most pleasing and exciting unification bout the division could give us right now. This would be something to get very, very excited about.
3- Daniel Roman II (27-3-1, 10)
Lets be honest the first fight between Akhmadaliev and Daniel Roman was good, really good...so good we want to see it again! Of course with the bout being a WBA mandatory there's no obligation for "MJ" to give Roman a rematch, but it did seem like both wanted to do it again, and we sure as hell would love to see them go again. Their first bout showed they were well matched, and with 12 rounds already between the men we would love to see what changes they make for a rematch. We would expect more output from Roman in the early going, especially given the way he seemed to have Akhmadaliev in trouble in the final round, whilst we expect Akhmadaliev to pace himself just a tough more and be able to fight hard in the final round. Alternatively the first 12 rounds may have allowed one man to find a weakness in the other they could exploit early in a rematch. Although we don't expect this to be next, we do expect this to be excellent when, and if, it happens.
4- Brandon Figueroa (20-0-1, 15)
Another really interesting match up from a style point of view would see "MJ" take on "The Heartbreaker" Brandon Figueroa. Whilst Akhmadaliev is the WBA "Super" champion Figueroa is the "Regular" WBA champion, so it would get rid of one of those pesky WBA belts, at least temporarily. MJ would certainly be favoured over the unbeaten Figueroa, but that doesn't take away from the fact this would be very, very exciting to watch and would see him up against a big, strong, powerful and aggressive foe. In many ways this would be like Akhmadaliev facing a lesser quality version of Emanuel Navarrete, and would work as a nice tune up for a bout with the Mexican down the line.
5- Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16)
Possibly entering to the realms of a dream fight here, but "MJ VS The Monster" is a mouth watering proposition, and potentially something we'll see somewhere down the line. In terms of height and reach the guys are very similiar, but both are also very different. MJ is probably the better boxer, and the better mover, but we suspect Inoue is the better puncher, and and the slightly quicker on the trigger. Either way we would love to find out, in what would be arguably the most intriguing bout either could have. This would see Inoue stepping up in weight again, attempting to become a 4-weight champion, but again given the fact the men are so similar in size, we wouldn't imagine that being a problem. In fact instead size being the key to victory it would be what they can do in the ring, and we would love to see match up of sensational young champions at some point, preferably sooner rather than later.
With a lack of big bouts over the last week we were left with very few fighters to consider for this week's "Five For..." series. Despite the lack of fighters we did come to the conclusion that there was an obvious choice. That was Canadian based Kazakh Batyrzhan Jukembayev (18-0-0-2, 14), who didn't get the opponent he had been hoping for last weekend but made light work of the late replacement he ended up facing.
Given the easy nature of Jukembayev's win over Ricardo Lara, it now makes sense to suggest that Jukembayev should be back in the ring sooner rather later, so we'll now take a look at 5 possible match ups for the talented southpaw.
1- Daud Yordan (40-4-0-1, 28)
Whilst not the most likely bout out there for either Jukembayev or Indonesian fighter Daud Yordan it would serve as a perfect match up to see whether Jukembayev is ready for the big time or not, it will also serve a purpose for both men. The 32 year old Yordan is in the WBO world rankings, whilst Jukembayev is ranked by the WBC and IBF, meaning both men having something to gain. Yordan is a fantastic gatekeeper, and to see him with Jukembayev would see both men answering questions. We would find out if Jukembayev has got the potential to go all the way, and we would also find out if Yordan still has anything left at this level.
2-Jorge Linares (46-5, 28)
If Jukembayev and his team are looking to make a statement then a bout with Venezuelan star Jorge Linares would be a very interesting one. On his day Linares is a sensational fighter, and could well prove to be too much for Jukembayev, however Linares is, and always will be, vulnerable. A win over Linares might not mean as much as it once did but it still carries a lot of weight and if Jukembayev can stop the 34 year old "El Nino De Oro" he will have a much enhanced profile, and be moved much closer to a world title fight. Linares' inconsistent performances and vulnerable chin make this a very interesting potential match up.
3-Pablo Cesar Cano (33-7-1-1, 23)
Whilst a bout between Jukembayev and Linares makes a lot of sense, and would allow Jukembayev a chance to get a former world champion on his resume, it may be even better for him to face a man who stopped Linares. With that in mind a bout between Jukembayev and Pablo Cesar Cano would certainly be a good fight, a fan friendly one, and a test of what Jukembayev can do against the inconsistent, but dangerous, "El Demoledor". Cano is certainly no world beatet, but he's had 3 solid wins in a row and would enter this bout in good form, make for an exciting style match up with the Kazakh and would be a very compelling opponent for Jukembayev.
4-Raymundo Beltran (36-9-1-1, 22)
It's unclear what Mexican veteran Raymundo Beltran has left in the tank, however he is still, at the age of 38, a serviceable name in the sport. Just last year Beltran fought in a world title bout against Richard Commey, but was unable to make Lightweight and unable to win the title, and he's been in some real tough bouts recently. At his best he was a tough nosed, hard hitting, under-rated fighter. Now however he's very much a man who has slipped, and aged. For Jukembayev a win over Beltran would be a huge win, and get his name in the mix for bigger fights. Beltran could still be too much for Jukembayev, as he turned out to be too much for Hiroki Okada a year ago, but it would look like a very smart and calculated risk.
5-Cristian Rafael Coria (29-7-2, 13)
We've seen Jukembayev's team look towards Latin American fighters regularly, in fact his last opponent was supposed to be from Argentina before visa issues scuppered their plans. If they want their man to face an Argentinian then why not Cristian Rafael Coria. On paper Coria poses little threat but the 37 year old is a genuine gate keeper level fighter, who will come to win and has the ability to really test a fighter like Jukembayev. In 2017 he travelled to Canada and went 10 rounds with Custio Clayton, showing a willingness to travel up to Canada, and since then he has ran Hiroki Okada incredibly close and beaten Joel Diaz Jr.
This past weekend we saw Japanese 154lb fight Takeshi Inoue (16-1-1, 10) retain his WBO Asia Pacific title with an early win against the horribly over-matched Cheng Su. The bout was his third win since losing in a WBO world title bout in January 2019 to Jaime Munguia, and it seems clear that he wants to move back towards big bouts by the end of 2020.
With Inoue's recent win it seems an ideal time to look at 5 possible opponents for Inoue for later this year, as we do the latest in our "Five for..." series.
1-Hironobu Matsunaga (16-1, 10)
Our number 1 pick here is probably the most likely and the easiest fight to make, by far. Inoue has dominated the Japanese and Oriental scene at the weight, beating the likes of Akinori Watanabe, Koshinmaru Saito, Riku Nagahama and Yuki Nonaka. The only domestic fighter of note he's yet to face is current Japanese champion Hironobu Matsunaga, who will defend his national title in March then be available to face who he wants. Matsunaga, like Inoue, is an aggressive fighter and physically strong fighter at 154lbs who has the style to make for some excellent fights. Both of these men are lacking a bit of size at the weight but both are physical fighters and a fight between the two should be thrilling!
2-Tony Harrison (28-3, 21)
There's not many world class fighters that Inoue would be given much a chance against, however a man who has been stopped in 3 losses would give Inoue an outside chance. Former world champion Tony Harrison would be the perfect match up for Inoue to try and prove that he belongs on the world level. Harrison lost his world title in December, when he was stopped by Jermell Charlo, and facing off with him now would be a smart move if Inoue and his team can secure the bout. Inoue would clearly have to travel for the fight but his style would give Harrison, a boxer-mover, real problems. The aggression and pressure from Inoue against the skills and movement of Harrison, for 12 rounds would be great to see and a really interesting mix of styles.
3-Israil Madrimov (4-0, 4)
Unbeaten Uzbek Israil Madrimov is known to be struggling in terms of getting opponents, and getting rounds. His first 4 bouts have gone a total of 19 rounds and he could do with an opponent to test his stamina and his ability to fight over a longer distance. Inoue would answer those questions, and also ask question questions of Madrimov's in ring mentality against someone who is bull strong and physical. A clash between the two would see Madrimov enter as the big favourite, but it would still be an excellent test for the Uzbek, and the type of fight he needs to prove himself, before a world title fight. On paper this isn't a big name fight, but it would be a match up we would be very interested in seeing.
4-Julian Williams (27-2-1, 16)
Hours after Inoue defeated Cheng Su we saw Julian Williams being upset against Jeison Rosario, and losing the WBA "super" and IBF titles to the hard hitting Dominican fighter. Williams had made it clear that he will be making the most of a rematch clause in their contract, and that will likely be next for him, though we do like Inoue Vs Williams, and it's a bout with a back story. Originally the two were ordered to have an IBF eliminator in 2018, the saga went on and on and in the end the two men went in different directions. We can't help but feel this would be a great fight to watch and would love to see the two men facing off.
5-Carlos Adames (18-1, 14)
Dominican fighter had his flaws shown up last year, when he lost to Patrick Teixeira, but showed and aggressive and exciting style against the more skilled Brazilian. We can't help but feel that Adames' style and Inoue's style would gel for an excellent stylistic clash. Both men are physically strong, come to fight, let their hands go and don't know how to back up. Adames would be the favourite, and would be looking to bounce back from the loss to Teixeira in what was an instant classic, whilst Inoue has the momentum of his last 3 wins. This would be brutal, entertaining and something that both men could benefit from.
Last weekend we saw Mongolian fighter Tuguldur Byambatsogt (2-0) score an impressive win over Japanese based Dominican puncher Vladimir Baez, in the Knock Out Dynamite tournament final at 65KG. The win was a very solid performance for such a novice professional and proved that Byambatsogt's debut win over Shusaku Fujinaka was no fluke, or win of circumstance.
With a couple of solid wins behind him, it seems an ideal time to give Byambatsogt the "Five For" treatment, and look at 5 opponents that he could be matched up with next. Unlike most fighters mentioned in this series we're certainly not discussing a big name, or big potential fights, but we do have some interesting bouts that could help the Mongolian really make a name for himself by the end of the year.
1-Akihiro Kondo (32-9-1, 18)
The biggest bout that we could see Byambatsogt in some time soon would be a bout with former world title challenger Akihiro Kondo. On paper this would be a mismatch, but Byambatsogt has shown the type of style that could see him really torment the older, slower, Kondo. Over a 6, or even 8 round, distance we could see Byambatsogt taking a decision over Kondo in a similar fashion to Andy Hiraoka's win over the Japanese fighter last year. This would be a tough ask, and it would take some brave match making, but we genuinely see this as being a possibility for Byambatsogt.
2-Alvin Lagumbay (11-5-1, 10)
We've seen Byambatsogt taking on heavy handed fighters already, and making them pay for their crudeness. With that in mind we don't think his team are afraid of punchers, and that could be a good reason for him to take on Filipino slugger Alvin Lagumbay. Whilst it's unclear whether Byambatsogt will be looking to card out his career in Japan or not, it is worth noting that Lagumbay is known in Japan. In fact Lagumbay is known further afield for his double knockdown against Keita Obara, and that could help Byambatsogt's profile growing. Beating the guy involved in that memorable incident.
3-Terry Tzouramanis (23-4-3, 3)
Stepping away from punchers we'd like to see Byambatsogt face off with different styles of fighters and Australian Terry Tzouramanis would certainly ask a lot of different questions of the Mongolian. At 34 years old Tzouramanis is certainly on the slide, but a win over him still means something, especially after his recent win over Brandon Ogilvie. This could potentially see Byambatsogt getting some experience "down under" or continue his development in Japan and would let us see him up against something who thinks about what he does, and goes to work without looking for a knockout. Over 8 rounds, again, this would be a genuinely good test for the Mongolian.
4-Marlon Paniamogan (10-2-1, 5)
Filipino fighter fighter Marlon Paniamogan might have lost 2 of his last 3, coming up short against Kuntae Lee and Lei Wang, but asked questions of both men and could also ask questions of Byambatsogt. This is one where we feel 8 rounds would be perfect for Byambatsogt to answer any possible questions regarding his stamina. Paniamogan is a decent enough fighter to asked questions, but a safe enough one for Byambatsogt to beat without too many problems.
5-Roberto Ortiz (35-5-2, 26)
Whilst we've assumed that Byambatsogt would remain in Asia going forward it wouldn't be a surprise to see him actually turning up in the West at some point, especially due to the TMT link up that Knock Out Dynamite Tournament had. If he's to hit the West then we not look at facing a Mexican veteran to help announce himself to a new audience? On paper a bout with Mexican veteran Roberto Ortiz looks seriously tough, but the 34 year old Ortiz has lost his last 4, is win-less in his last 5, and has been stopped in 3 of his last 4. It would still be a really tough test, but would see Byambatsogt taking on someone of some name value, who has faced other notables fighters and fought on US TV.
Going forward we're going to really look forward to seeing where Byambatsogt goes, and really hope the Mongolian builds on his really impressive start to professional boxing. We'd ideally love to see him continue fight on Dangan shows, but in reality the 140lb fighter probably has limited options, long term, if he does remain in Japan. We suspect it won't be long until he begins to fight outside of Asia.
One of the world champions who defended their world title at the very end of 2019 was WBO Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9). The man from Chukyo made his third defense of the title in impressive fashion, putting on a near punch perfect display against Chinese challenger Wulan Tuolehazi, before clinically closing the showing with some sensational uppercuts.
With 3 defenses behind him and a potentially massive 2020 ahead of him it seems we're now at an ideal time to give Kosei Tanaka the "Five For" treatment, and look at five potential match ups for the "KO Dream Boy". Here are 5 options he, and manager Kiyoshi Hatanaka, should be looking at if they want to have a huge year!
1-Moruti Mthalane (39-2, 26)
A bout between Tanaka and South African Moruti Mthalane would be a sensational match up between two men who are incredibly talented and smart in the ring, but go about things very differently. Mthalane, the current IBF champion, is a defensively sound fighter, with clean punches and a willingness to press forward behind a tight guard to force mistakes and open up counter opportunities. Tanaka on the other hand is a speedy fighter who likes to let his hands go, and will involve himself in a war far too easily. This could end up being a brilliantly exciting, yet high skill, war, though with Mthalane now in his late 30's we'd want this sooner rather than later.
2-Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14)
Leading into the end of year show to close out 2019 it seemed TBS and the WBO were both building to a potential all Japanese show down between Tanaka and WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka. The bout would see Tanaka leaving the Flyweight division, just as it seems to be heating up, but for a bout against a Japanese icon like Ioka, with a 4th divisional title on the line it'd have been hard to fault Tanaka for going this route. Sadly since the show on New Year's Eve this bout has began to seem unlikely, at least for now. It seems both are on different paths, and if they do cross, it could well be 2 or 3 years from now.
3-Julio Cesar Martinez (15-1, 12)
Although it seems WBC champion Julio Cesar Martinez won't be available until the middle of the year, given he's pencilled into defend his title in late February, this is still a match up that genuinely intrigues us. On one hand you'd have Tanaka, a lightning quick boxer-puncher, blessed blink and you miss it speed. On the other hand you have "El Rey", a destructive freak of nature, who walks through opponents, with intense pressure and brutal power. Speed against power is always fun to see, and we can't help but view this as a super competitive bout between men with very different abilities, but abilities that would gel well. Oh and it'd be a unification bout!
4-Artem Dalakian (19-0, 14)
Another unification bout, and another we'd have to wait until summer for, would be a clash between Tanaka and WBA champion Artem Dalakian. Tanaka might not yet have truly shined as a Flyweight, though has beaten decent competition in his defenses, but Dalakian has completely wasted the good will of his title win. Despite being an excellent fighter Dalakian has done little of note since winning the belt in the US against Brian Viloria. Dalakian set to make his 4th defense in February, against Josber Perez, and that should be his final easy bout. With Dalakian turning 33 in August he needs big bouts, and he needs them soon, what better than facing Tanaka, in a unification bout in summer?
5-Sho Kimura (18-3-2, 11) II
The dark horse bout, though it really shouldn't be, would see Tanaka take on former foe Sho Kimura in a rematch of their 2018 Fight of the Year. Their first bout was a sensational war that helped put Tanaka on the map, and for him to give Kimura a chance to reclaim his title would be the right thing to do. If we ended up with a rematch half as good as their first contest then we wouldn't be complaining at all! We do imagine Tanaka would win a rematch easier than he won their first bout, but we'd still absolutely love to see these two share the ring one more time!
In the final world title bout of 2019 we saw WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) make his first defense. After the bout there was 3 names linked to him, and whilst one of those is now looking less and less likely, it is an interesting point in Ioka's career, especially if the rumours of him going independent and setting up his own gym turn out to be true. If he does that it would essentially give him the chance to call the shots on his career in a way that was never previously possible, and give him full flexibility in terms of match making.
With that in mind Ioka seems the perfect fighter for the first "Five For" of 2020!
1-Juan Francisco Estrada (40-3, 27)
The main Ioka has publicly stated is his ideal opponent is Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada, the current WBC Super Flyweight champion and a former WBO and WBA Flyweight champion. The two do have some history, with Ioka being the mandatory back when Estrada was a Flyweight champion, before the Mexican vacated to pursue Super Flyweight action. They also have rather similar styles, with both being technical and adaptable fighters. Estrada is the more pure boxer of the two, but both are fantastic, and have found ways to adapt to over-come naturally bigger fighters. Despite being technicians both are happy to let their hands go and this would be amazing high speed chess.
2-Roman Gonzalez (48-2, 40)
Another name mentioned by Ioka in a recent article is Nicaraguan great Roman Gonzalez, who like Ioka is a 4-weight world champion having won titles from 105lbs to 115lbs. Although now seen as a faded force Gonzalez is still one of the biggest names in the lower weights and recently returned to a Japanese ring for the first time in over 5 years. Various reports from Japan suggested that Gonalez's fight on December 23rd was designed to help build this potential show down, and it's one that would certainly be a big fight, still. The two have circled each other for years, but never shared the ring, and it would be a great shame if we don't get to see them face off at some point. In his prime we suspect Gonzalez would have been too much for Ioka, but with Gonzalez slipping, this would be a real test to see what he has left in the tank.
3-Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9)
In the lead up to the New Year's Eve show this year there had been a lot of talk in Japan about Kazuto Ioka potentially facing WBO Flyweight Kosei Tanaka in 2020, with Tanaka moving up to Super Flyweigth for the bout. The talk of that has quietened a bit since, with Tanaka suggesting he was happy to remain at Flyweight for now. The bout certainly isn't dead in the water, but it does seem likely the two men will continue on different trajectories, at least for now. Despite that the bout is a brilliant all-Japanese bout pitting two of TBS's top fighters against each other in what would be a sensational high speed fight. The reality is that it's "bad" for Japanese boxing, particularly for TBS, though it would be good for fans. If this one waits a year or two we don't think many would complain, as long as both face fitting competition.
4-Jerwin Ancajas (32-1-2, 22)
If Ioka is going to go with his own gym and does want a unification bout it wouldn't be a bad idea to do that by working with Bob Arum and taking on IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas. The Filipino is known in Japanese fighting circles due to wins over Teiru Kinoshita and Ryuichi Funai, he's also a man who had ESPN broadcasting his fights, and would likely be an easier unification fight to make than facing off with Kal Yafai. Technically this would be an interesting fight, where both are against skilled fighters and both would enter the bout with belief they could walk away a double champion. Notably however Ancajas does have a mandatory due in 2020 against Israel Gonzalez, who earned his shot with a recent win over Ioka's former stablemate Sho Ishida.
5-Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-5-1, 41)
We want the best to fight the best right? Then pitting Ioka and Srisaket is about as good as it gets, with the exception of the Estrada fight. Ioka would be taking on the single most dangerous man of his career, and Srisaket would be getting a chance to become a 3-time world champion. This would be skills against power, speed against strengths, body punching against bludgeoning punching. It's a real shame that Srisaket hasn't fought since losing to Estrada in April 2019, and to return against Ioka would be perfect. Given how it seems Eddie Hearn is already bored with the Thai there is a real chance this could take place in Japan and continue the long and stories Japan Vs Thailand rivalry as well. Double it up with Tanaka against a Thai in a wonderful double header and fans would be in with a treat!
On December 23rd baby faced fighter Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10) notched his 7th defense of the WBC Light Flyweight title, stopping Randy Petalcorin in 4 rounds, following 4 knockdowns. With that win fresh in the memory we've decided to do an extra "Five for..." this week and look at some potential bouts we could see Kenshiro in in 2020. We already know that the Japanese world champion is wanting to not only fight 3 times next year, but also unify and fight overseas. With that in mind we've tried to find bouts that fulfil those criteria here.
1-Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9)
An obvious number #1 choice here is a bout between Kenshiro and fellow Japanese world champion Hiroto Kyoguchi, the current WBA "super" champion. This is a bout that both men spoke about more than a year ago, and it really is time the two sat down and tried to make it happen. It's known that the two men are friends, they get on, but they also have a rivalry from their days as amateurs and what better time than to face off this Spring? The loser certainly may see their shine vanish, along with their title and unbeaten record, but with both men being in their mid 20's their careers certainly wouldn't be over. Instead the winner would go into the rest of the year as a big star, and the loser, would remain in the mix and be hunting another major bout later in the year.
2-Elwin Soto (16-1, 11)
In 2019 Mexican puncher Elwin Soto became one of the sports break out fighters for the lower weights, and his two world title bouts both took place in the US, as he won and defended the WBO world title. His world title would see Kenshiro get the much desired unification bout, and with Soto's growing reputation Stateside he could also get his over-seas bout here. The fight would also have a serious sense of danger, with Soto being a monstrous puncher, meaning the Japanese fighter would have to be at his best, defensively, and this is likely to get the very best performance from Kenshiro. As for Soto this would be a huge fight, and allow him a chance to unify titles just a year after winning his first, from Angel Acosta.
3-Felix Alvarado (35-2, 30)
A bout that was arranged, and was supposed to take place earlier this month, was for Kenshiro to take on IBF champion Felix Alvarado in Yokohama, to unify the WBC and IBF titles. Sadly that bout fell through when Alvarado fell ill, and Petalcorin ended up becoming Kenshiro's December opponent as a result. Now as we head into 2020 the bout can be re-arranged, if and when Alvarado is fit and healthy again. On paper this is a mouth watering match up pitting one of the best pure boxers in the division, Kenshiro, against one of the most brutish punchers in the division. This is a brilliant clash of styles and would be a meeting of two legitimate world class talents. Being totally honest the fact this bout fell through originally was one of the biggest disappointments of the year, and fingers crossed this now gets made at some point in 2020.
4-Deejay Kriel (16-1-1, 8)
South African fighter Deejay Kriel has had a strange 2019, winning the IBF Minimumweight title early in the year before vacating and moving up before managing a single defense. He's now fought in the US and in Mexico, and it's unclear where his future lies going forward. Regardless of what he's got coming up it seems clear that he's now a Light Flyweight contender, and is a former world champion at Minimumweight, meaning he'd be a perfect possible opponent for Kenshiro, and give him a chance to shine to a new, South African, audience. Kriel doesn't appear to have much of a financial backing, so a good offer will lure him over to Japan
5-Jing Xiang (17-4-2, 3)
Another potential fight on the road could see Kenshiro head over to China to take on Chinese contender Jing Xiang, who has shown he's able to fight at either Minimumweight or Light Flyweight. The Chinese boxing scene has been growing notably over the last few years and Xiang is one of the nation's biggest hopes, with wins over former world champions like Merlito Sabillo and Kompayak Porpramook in recent years. If Kenshiro wants to get out of Japan, then China is a decent option, and Xiang is an excellent fighter to look good against. We like this bout a lot and although it would be seen as a "safe" fight for Kenshiro it would also be bout between two excellent boxers.
Earlier this week we saw Japanese star Ryota Murata (16-2, 13) retain his WBA Middleweight title with a TKO win over Canadian challenger Steven Butler. After that promoter Bob Arum mentioned two possible bouts for Murata for 2020, for the Tokyo Dome. Here we look not only at those 2 bouts, but also 3 other potential options for Murata for his next bout, as the Japanese Middleweight star looks to further build on his career. With that in mind lets look at "Five for...Ryota Murata".
1-Gennady Golovkin (40-1-1, 35)
One of the potential opponents mentioned by Arum was Kazakh fighter Gennady Golovkin, the current IBF Middleweight champion and one of the biggest names in the sport. At 37, soon to be 38, time is running out on Golovkin's career, and a huge pay day for a summer fight with Murata would be enticing, especially with it being unification bout and a fight he'd feel he should win. This would be a massive all-Asian fight, between two heavy handed fighters, who can bring fireworks. The only real issue with this fight is just how much does Golovkin have left in the tank after a very long and career, which has seen him look more and more human in recent years.
2-Saul Alvarez (53-1-2, 36)
If Murata fails to land GGG then the obvious choice is a man who has been speaking of fighting in Japan recently, Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. Golden Boy Promotions, who promote Alvarez, were in Japan with Butler and they seemed very open to the idea of a Canelo Vs Murata fight in the new year. The date pencilled in for this would likely be after the 2020 Olympics games, but that's certainly not likely to be a problem for either man. The big question mark would be the weight, with Murata being a Middleweight and Canelo fighting between Middleweight and Light Heavyweight.
3-Liam Willams (22-2-1, 17)
If the big names can't be scheduled for Murata in 2020 we'd love a fan friendly battle with Welshman Liam Williams. This wouldn't be a big name, or a huge draw fight, but would be the sort of fun action bout that we'd enjoy watching. Murata would be strongly favoured against "The Machine", but Williams certainly deserves a big fight and why not have that against Murata in what would be a fun war? Williams may want to go a different route to a title, for example chasing Demetrius Andrade, but we suspect this would be the high profile option and the most exciting, by far. It would also help both men increase their profiles with a new audience, with British fans often over-looking Murata and an international audience not being that away of Williams.
4-Demetrius Andrade (28-0, 17)
Few fighters have frustrated and disappointed as much as Demetrius Andrade. The American, known as "Boo Boo" has been a professional since late 2008 and has spoke a good fight but failed to secure any sort of career defining bout. Andrade has a dull style to watch and whilst he is a talent the 31 year old, who turns 32 in February needs a big fight. There won't be many bigger options than a unification bout in Japan with Murata. Andrade is pencilled in to fight Luke Keeler in January, but that should be a straight forward win, and a bout with Murata in May would certainly be do-able, if they both want it. It wouldn't be great to watch, but would see the winner leaving with 2 titles and having more power to call shots with the likes of Golovkin.
5-Esquiva Falcao (25-0, 17)
About that was once talked about a lot, but never materialised, was a bout between Murata and Brazilian Esquiva Falcao. The two men fought in two notable amateurs bouts, the semi-final of the 2011 World Championships and the final of the 2012 Olympics, with Murata winning both and a rematch in the pros always seemed the logical match up. We do wonder if the ship has perhaps sailed, but if not this bout would be an easy sell, and has a great back story running through it. Falcao's next bout is set to take place in China, in February, and if he wins there's no reason why Japan couldn't be next.
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).