This past weekend we saw Tugstsogt Nyambayar (12-1, 9) score his latest win, beating Cobia Breedy by a split decision in what was an entertaining, well fought and competitive contest. The plan was for that to be a WBC Featherweight title eliminator, but the performance it's self seemed to leave us with more questions than answers in regards to what Nyambayar can do, and will do. With that in mind we've decided to look at 5 potential bouts for the Mongolian, including two potential bouts for the WBC Featherweight title, and 3 other bouts that could be what he needs to show what he can really do.
1-Gary Russell Jr II
The obvious match up that's next for "King Tug" is a rematch with Gary Russell Jr, the current WBC Featherweight champion. The two men fought this past February, with Nyambayar losing a clear decision to the American, though the assumption is that he has learned from that loss. That bout was lost in the first 8 rounds, with Nyambayar doing little more than following Russell Jr early on, whilst the American cased his skills and speed. Nyambayar did get going late in the bout, and gave Russell something to think about, but it was far too little far too late. If we're being honest we don't see Nyambayar having the intensity to ever beat Russell Jr, but he'll surely want to run it back and try to avenge his sole defeat.
There has been talk about Gary Russell Jr vacating the WBC title, in search of bigger tests, and if that happens "King Tug" would be the mandatory challenger for the vacant title. Currently ranked #1 by the WBC is Jessie Magdaleno, who would likely make up the other side of a vacant title fight. Magdaleno is a former WBO Super Bantamweight champion, he has something of a name value, and has a style that we suspect will force Nyambayar to actually go for it and fight. Although not the best fighter out there Magdaleno hits hard, he hits fast and he's a legitimate world level contender. He should make for a great fight with Nyambayar and it will be a sink or swim type of contest for both men.
Another fan friendly potential option for the Mongolian would be a bout with the dangerous Julio Ceja. The Mexican might not be a natural Featherweight but he is world ranked by the WBC, is dangerous, comes to fight, and should force Nyambayar into a fight. We suspect we need an aggressive and dangerous fighter to get the most from the Mongolian and Ceja is that type of fighter, boasting heavy hands, a good work rate and questionable toughness. Ceja and Nyambayar make a good stylistic match up, should provide fireworks, and would see the Mongolian enter as the clear favourite and in a position to get a big win.
Although really, really, unlikely we would absolutely love to see Nyambayar to take on WBA champion Can Xu in what would be a sensational fight to watch. One of our big complaints with the Mongolian is that he doesn't let his hands go often enough, and it's something we feel is holding him back from reaching his potential. Matched against Can Xu, a man who never stops throwing, we suspect we'll see the best from the Mongolian. We also suspect we'll see Xu being in yet another thriller against a tough and hard hitting challenger and of course, the elephant in the room, the build up. This will be China Vs Mongolia, and the hype videos and build up have Genghis Khan and his conquest of China to use as a visual backdrop for any hype videos. This would be great to watch, a bout that sells it's self and fight that would have historic rivalry behind it. Come on boxing, this is too obvious not to happen!
5-Jesus M Rojas
Another bout that would be fun would be a bout between Nyambayar and former WBA champion Jesus M Rojas, which would be a fight that would give us action, be a fun one to watch and give both men a big bout, just as they need it. Of course both men would prefer a world title bout, and Nyambayar would clearly prefer a bout with Russell Jr or Magdaleno, but if those bouts can't come off a contest with Rojas would certainly not be a bad alternative. The Mongolian would be up against a Puerto Rican willing to let his hands go and make a fight of things, whilst Rojas would get a chance to take a huge step towards a second world title fight. Style wise this would be fun, both men would have their chins checked and both would be firing off heavy leather. Rojas is also the type of fighter who would draw the best from Nyambayar, who couldn't get away with being lazy in this match up.
This past week Japanese fight fans at Korakuen Hall saw Kazuki Nakajima (9-0-1, 8) score his latest win, as he dipped his toes at Super Bantamweight and took out Kenta Nomura in 3 rounds. Following that win his promoter, Hideyuki Ohashi, suggested that next year Nakajima would be fighting for a Japanese or OPBF title.
Whilst Nakajima was fighting at Super Bantamweight for the contest he seemed open to fighting at either Bantamweight or Super Bantamweight, and with that in mind we have some interesting for the hard hitter in this weeks "Five For..."
Given travel restrictions in Japan we have kept to just looking at Japanese opponents for Nakajima, but that's not a bad thing given the Japanese depth at Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight.
1-Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13)
With Bantamweight being one of the division's where Nakajima is plying his trade we can't think of a more exciting bout than seeing Nakajima take on Keita Kurihara in what would be a thrilling shoot out. The hard hitting Kurihara is the current OPBF Bantamweight champion but has only defended his belt once since winning it in December 2018. Given the power of both men and their styles this would be a sure fire barn burner, for as long as it lasted. This would be a huge step up in class for Nakajima, but given he wants a title fight he needs to step and this is an ideal match up.
2-Toshiki Shimomachi (12-1-2, 8)
A completely different type of match up for Nakajima would be a clash with the slippery and skilled Toshiki Shimomachi at Super Bantamweight. The talented Shimomachi is the type of fighter who would expose Nakajhima's technical flaws and over-all stiffness, but the bout would always have the potential to end with just a single shot, from either man. Although he's slippery Shimomachi is a heavy handed counter puncher and he could pounce on a mistake from Nakajima, whilst Nakajima's power will mean he's always a threat. A really interesting match, even if it's not the assured fire works of a bout with Kurihara.
3-Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13)
Back to potential wars, a bout between Nakajima and the heavy handed Yusaku Kuga would have the ingredients for a Japanese Fight of the Year. Nakajima is the better boxer, but he is rather rigid at times, and a bit on the predictable side. Kuga, the current Japanese Super Bantamweight champion, is less technical but is rather unpredictable in the ring and can box, brawl or bang. Kuga would likely bring the pressure and the aggression and it would be interesting to see if Nakajima could control the distance and make Kuga pay for his offensive charges. This is, probably, the toughest bout for Nakajima but also the one with the biggest rewards. A win over Kuga would not only see Nakajima become a Japanese champion but also take huge strides towards a world ranking.
4-Yusuke Suzuki (11-3, 7)
Current Japanese Bantamweight champion Yusuke Suzuki is another interesting potential match up, and one that looks easy on paper, but would deliver fireworks. Nakajima's chin, mental toughness and work rate would all be questioned by Suzuki who is insanely tough, improving with every fight and will be hungry to keep the title he won last year. In his title win Suzuki fought through some serious facial damage and gutted out the victory, showing his will to win was incredible and we suspect that would be a major problem for Nakajima, who would begin to question himself when Suzuki was still there 6 or 7 rounds into the bout.
5-Ryoichi Tamura (13-5-1, 7)
If Nakajima can't land a title fight then a bout with Ryoichi Tamura is as good as it gets from a fan perspective. Tamura is insanely tough, has an amazing work rate, heavy hands and real desire to show what he can do in the ring. Technically he is limited, but he's a nightmare to face due to his physicality and strength. If Nakajima is looking to see what he can do at Super Bantamweight a contest with Tamura, himself a former Japanese champion at 122lbs, would serve as a great test for Nakajima before a title fight at the weight.
Just over a week ago we had a card in Tokyo headlined by Shuichiro Yoshino, who retained his OPBF, WBO Asia Pacific and JBC Lightweight titles. On the same was an exhibition featuring WBC Light Flyweight champion Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10). With "The Amazing Boy" still having no bout scheduled we thought this was an ideal time to look at some potential opponents for Teraji, and give him the "Five For" Treatment.
Although travel restrictions regarding travel to Japan are expected to be loosened in the near future we have tried to make these selections viable from a travel perspective. Sadly this rules out fighters from South Africa, the US, Mexico, the Philippines and Indonesia. As a result we have limited this list to Japan, where internal travel restrictions aren't an issue, and Thailand, where we know the current situation is somewhat under control and a viable country to get visiting fighters from.
As WBA champion Hiroto Kyoguchi has his next bout arranged, and without full venues, he's not been considered as a potential opponent here.
1-Tetsuya Hisada (34-10-2, 20)
The most interesting potential bout for Kenshiro, by far, would be a defense against Japanese veteran Tetsuya Hisada. This bout has several interesting sub stories. Firstly it would give us a way to compare Kenshiro to Hiroto Kyoguchi, who beat Hisada in a competitive bout last year. Secondly it would see us getting a bout we were supposed to get years ago, when Hisada was the mandatory challenger to Kenshiro when he was the Japanese champion. And thirdly it would also see the champion taking on the man the WBC rank as the #1 contender. With Hisada turning 36 in October and opportunities being very limited for him this would be a great option, and a potentially very interesting match up for the champion.
2-Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-1, 5)
Hisada isn't the only former Hiroto Kyoguchi that we would like to see challenge Kenshiro. Another former Kyoguchi opponent that we'd like to see Kenshiro share the ring with is Thailand's Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart. This would be a very interesting match up against a challenger in his prime who showed skills and toughness against Kyoguchi despite losing a clear decision. It's a shame we've not see Satanmuanglek in a boxing ring since his loss to Kyoguchi, but he has remained active and has fought in a few kick boxing bouts since then. He's a talented, hungry and tough challenger, who would ask questions of Kenshiro, and again allow comparisons to Kyoguchi.
3-Masamichi Yabuki (11-3, 11)
Going back to Japan a bout between Kenshiro and Japanese national champion Masamichi Yabuki would be a well received domestic show down, even if it wouldn't generate much international buzz. The hard hitting Yabuki has looked incredibly since dropping down in weight, last year, and has dismantled domestic youngsters Rikito Shiba and Tsuyoshi Sato. At 28 years old and riding a 4 fight stoppage run Yabuki has got momentum behind him, but a bout with the WBC champion would be a massive step up in class. This is probably the easiest bout to make, given Yabuki has spoke about fighting for a world title, but also one of the ones that wouldn't create any attention outside of Japan, sadly.
4-Panya Pradabsri (33-1, 21)
The bout we actually want the most from this short list is Panya Pradabsri, a talented 29 year old Thai, who may well be the toughest opponent on the list. The talented Thai is a solid boxer-puncher with decent power, nice aggression and under-rated speed and skills. Sadly he has been wasting his time, and he will continue to do so later this month in another stay busy fight, but he is a very solid fighter who has scored plenty of solid regional wins during his career. We see him potentially posing the most problems for Kenshiro and having the tools to question the champion. Sadly though he is busy with a bout on September 25th, hasn't travelled since controversially losing to Xiong Zhao Zhong in 2017, and looks to be unsure if he really wants to continue at Light Flyweight, with his next bout being at 105lbs.
5-Tsubasa Koura (15-1, 10)
A wild card suggestion for number 5, but an option we really like, would be a bout between Kenshiro and once beaten fighter Tsubasa Koura, who would have to move up in weight for the but we don't see that being much of an issue. For Kenshiro this would be regarded as an easier defense, against a smaller, less experienced man who was stopped just 2 fights ago, but it would be a very easy to make bout. For Kenshiro this would scratch an itch, keep him busy and get him some ring rime, whilst Koura would get a world title fight, and a chance to get his career back on track after a frustrating year or two. In the ring this would be a pretty interesting for a few rounds, before Kenshiro finds his groove and puts his foot on the gas. If Kenshiro wants an easy defense, after having been out of the ring since December, this one makes a lot of sense.
This past Monday we saw talented teenager Jin Sasaki (8-0, 7) score his biggest to date, blasting out Shun Akaiwa inside a minute to claim a JBC ranking at 140lbs. The win was incredibly impressive for the 19 year old and immediately sees him make up for the disappointment of his Rookie of the Year journey ending the way it did last year, where he was unable to compete in one of the bouts.
The win for Sasaki also opens up the big question of "What is next for Jin Sasaki?" To try and answer that we have decided to feature Sasaki in our latest "Five For..." article, looking at 5 potential domestic rivals for the talented and fast rising teenage prodigy.
1-Akihiro Kondo (32-9-1, 18)
We start with potentially the most interesting possible match up, and one that, on paper, should be relatively easy to make. That would put Sasaki against veteran tough guy Akihiro Kondo. This would be a serious test for Sasaki, who would go into the bout knowing that Kondo is teak tough, but also a great chance for the youngster to get some serious ring time and experience. The teams of the two fighters both work closely with those behind A-Sign, with Sasaki being an Hachioji Nakaya gym fighter and Kondo being from the Ichiriki, and it would be a brilliant main event for an A-Sign show, with a potential passing of the torch moment...or a potential chance for Kondo to put in one final great performance.
2-Ryuji Ikeda (14-7-3, 9)
Of course Kondo might be seen as a step too far, a step too much, and too much too soon. With that in mind Sasaki's team might want to find someone a little bit easier. If that's the case then a bout with Ryuji Ikeda might made a lot of sense. Ikeda fought for the title Japanese title last year, being stopped in 5 rounds by Koki Inoue, and despite that loss, and a subsequent one to Aso Ishiwaki, he has proven himself to be a fan friendly and aggressive fighter who comes to win. With that in mind we suspect Ikeda Vs Sasaki would be a lot of fun, and a very, very winnable bout for the teenager, who could potentially do the job much quicker than Inoue.
3-Cristiano Aoqui (15-8-2, 11)
Talking about fan friendly bouts a contest between Sasaki and Japanese-Brazilian puncher Cristiano Aoqui is one that oozes potential excitement. Aoqui isn't the most polished or talented fighter out there, but he's a wicked puncher, with an aggressive style and has a fighters mentality. He can be out boxed, but not many in Japan will be able to do that, and even fewer will be able to win a war with him. Given how Sasaki fights we suspect he'll be one of the very few who would fancy his chance in a war with the man from the Kadoebi Gym. This would be a great bout on either an A-Sign show or a Kadoebi promoted Slugfest show, and would be fit to be the chief support on an event from either team.
4-Kenta Endo (5-1-1, 4)
We stay on the idea of wanting to see Sasaki in fan friendly bouts with a contest against Teiken's Kenta Endo, with the added fact that this could well end up on a Dynamic Glove card, televised by G+. Endo was destroying fighters early in his career, with his power, aggression and physicality, but lost last time out to recent Sasaki victim Shun Akaiwa. For Endo a bout with the man who beat the man who beat him would certainly be an attractive proposition whilst Sasaki would be taking on a puncher and potentially getting some TV exposure. This would be a fun clash and a potentially very explosive one between two men who can really throw bombs.
5-Aso Ishiwaki (8-2-1, 6)
We end this with a fight that, from a fans perspective, would be great but a bout that really doesn't make a lot of sense from the fighters perspective. That is a clash between Sasaki and 21 year excitement machine Aso Ishiwaki. Unless the Japanese Youth title could be put on the line we don't see Sasaki and Ishiwaki meeting, though we do wish we could. Sasaki is of a hard hitting boxer-puncher with a very aggressive style and heavy hands. Ishiwaki on the other hand is a teak tough pressure fighter, with under-rated power and very over-looked boxing skills, putting them together would provide real fireworks, test both men and give us something truly memorable. At the moment though it's one we suspect will be left to the side, and could end up being one that builds for a few years. Both of these young men have the ability to win national titles and we would love to see them clash when the bout is worth more, even if it would be an amazing bout for the start of 2021.
This past weekend we saw former world title challenger Shingo Wake (27-6-2, 19) return to the ring and score a dominant win over fellow Japanese fighter Shohei Kawashima. The win was one that saw Wake dropping Kawashima 4 times, and looked like he was in cruise control for the most part with his brilliant counter punching being the main difference between the two men.
Following that win we were actually asked what was next for Wake, and whilst we really don't know, there are a lot of interesting options out there for the popular Japanese southpaw right now. With that in mind we're going to take a look at potential opponents for Wake as we give him the Five For... treatment this week.
Unfortunately Wake isn't currently world ranked, and this means he's unlikely to get some of the fights we'd like to see, for example a showdown with Hiroaki Teshigawara, due to the risk-reward of fighting him. But there are still a lot of interesting options out there and some really are fantastic match ups.
1-Jhunriel Ramonal (17-8-6, 10) III
Our first choice for Wake's next bout would be a rubber match with Filipino slugger Jhunriel Ramonal. The first bout between the two saw Wake stop Ramonal way back in 2013, to retain the OPBF Super Bantamweight title. A rematch last year saw Ramonal get revenge with a brutal KO of Wake, in a massive upset. That rematch was supposed to be one final bout before Wake get a second world title bout, but ended up dashing any chances of a shot at a top title. Now a third bout between the two would be brilliant and the winner would certainly be on the verge of a world title fight. The bout would let Ramonal prove his win wasn't a fluke, it would allow Wake a chance for revenge, and would also, potentially, be fore the WBO Asia Pacific title and a lofty world ranking. Style wise it would be an interesting fight between aggressive slugger and skilled counter puncher and with the previous results we know either man can win.
2-Jeo Santisima (19-3, 16)
Staying with Filipino fighters a second Pinoy option for Wake would be recent world title challenger Jeo Santisima, The 24 year old came up very short against Emanuel Navarrete in February and hasn't fought since then, but does have that recency value as a very recent world title challenger. That, alone, is worth something and a win over him would mean something, even if Santisima did show that he didn't belong at that level. Style wise Santisima should make Wake look really good, with the Filipino being aggressive and open, the sort of style that Wake loves to pick apart. We suspect that this could be easy to make when travel from Philippines to Japan is made possible, and would likely be one that Santisima would take if offered. It should, however, be said that at the moment Santisima's promotional situation is unclear after ALA closed, and he could end up actually moving over to Japan and signing up with one of their gyms down the line. This would be an interesting one to watch, and could open doors for Santisima, win or lose.
3-Ryohei Takahashi (18-4-1, 8)
Staying with the idea of Wake looking to face off with recent world title challengers, a bout with former IBF title challenger Ryohei Takahashi, who lost to TJ Doheny, may also be an attractive option for Wake, if the bout can be made. Takahashi, like many others on this list, has a style that looks like it could be well suited to making Wake look good, and does so without too much risk as Takahashi doesn't have fight changing 1-punch power. If Wake and his team and looking for someone to make their make look sensational Takahashi should be getting a call. As for Takahashi he may feel his pressure and relentlessness would eventually get to Wake, meaning he does have a chance, but it's a slim one.
4-TJ Doheny (22-2, 16)
As a neutral the bout that would be the biggest would be a contest between Wake and former IBF champion TJ Doheny, who is known in Japan for his win against Ryosuke Iwasa. From what we understand neither of these two are currently world ranked, but both certainly want a big fight. Both are fringe world class, at absolute worst, and both have suffered major upsets in recent bouts. With both men being in their 30's time is ticking down on their days in the sport and both need a noteworthy win to get back into the mix. Given that this is a perfect bout to make, and one that wouldn't just be meaningful in terms of their standing in the sport, but also really interesting from an in ring perspective. Both fighters are good southpaws both guys like to box, and bother have under-rated bang in their hands. The winner of this would certainly help their chances of getting another world title fight and it would be a really good, and very makable, bout.
5-Abigail Medina (20-4-2, 10)
A left of center choice to end this is Spanish based Dominican fighter Abigail "Bebe" Medina. The aggressive Medina has fought in Japan before, losing to Tomoki Kameda and had a fan friendly, aggressive, pressure style. He walked through the shots of Kameda and pressed through out. That sort of style would test Wake, be very fan friendly, and would draw the best from Wake. The aggression and pressure of Medina against the skills, movement and counter punching of Wake would make for an amazing dynamic and a really good bout that neither man could afford to lose. If Wake's team are looking for a potential international bout for Wake this would be the one we'd love to see. Although Wake can be effective on the front foot he's better off fighting as a counter puncher, and Medina would give him those opportunities.
This past weekend we saw talented Uzbek Israil Madrimov (6-0, 5) score his latest win, as he defeated tough American Eric Walker. The bout was a real eye opener and saw Madrimov go the distance for the first time, going 12 rounds. The bout was a dramatic one, with a huge botched call by the referee being the talking point. Despite the total mess caused by the referee even that didn't really cover over the cracks that Madrimov showed.
Plenty have now cooled the jets on Madrimov and we have all been left with more questions than answers. The reality is that before he gets a world title fight it'll be best for him to answer those questions, regarding his defense, his movement, his chin and his stamina. With that in mind we've given Madrimov the "Five for..." treatment this week, looking at 5 possible opponents that we would love to see the Uzbek in with next, before a potential world title fight in 2021.
1-Wale Omotoso (28-5, 22)
The truth is Madrimov needs to face opponents who can either take a shot, or can hurt him, if not both. The reality is that veteran Wale Omotoso can potentially do both those things. He's a rugged, hard hitter who has seen better days but is certainly still a serviceable gatekeeper, who just last year faced the brilliant Brian Carlos Castano. At 35 years old Omotoso is on the slide but is still danger, as we saw against Curtis Stevens last year, and he's only a few fights removed from giving Jamal James all he could handle. On paper Omotoso is the smaller man, and that will give Madrimov some breathing space, but he's also a veteran and not someone Madrimov can take liberties with. This would be a rather fun bout and give Madrimov, and his team, a chance to compare against Castano, who is widely regarded as one of the top 10 in the division.
2-Takeshi Inoue (16-1-1, 10)
We, like many fans, enjoy a war, with two tough aggressive fighters letting their shots go. With that in mind a bout between Madrimov and teak tough Japanese fighter Takeshi Inoue ticks all the boxes we could want to be ticked for a fan friendly fight. Coming in Inoue is ranked by 3 of the 4 world title bodies, with only the WBA currently not ranking him, and Madrimov is in line for a WBA world title fight. Ranking wise this would open up lateral options for the winner, and as a bout, god damn this would be amazing to watch, and wonderfully violent. More than anything this would serve as a gut check for Madrimov, who would have to dig deep against a fellow strong, aggressive and tough fighter. Inoue might not have the skills, but does have the stamina and toughness to ask new questions of Madrimov and the Uzbek's mental attitude,
3-Brandon Cook (22-2, 15)
We'd like to see Madrimov in with someone who likes to fight a bit, and with that in mind we would love to see him fight Canadian veteran Brandon Cook. The 34 year old Canadian is unlikely to get a second world title fight, losing a stoppage loss to Jaime Mungia, in 2018, but he's still very much a live, exciting puncher in the division. With both of his losses coming by stoppage we know he's not the toughest and most durable fighter out there, but he comes to fight, has plenty of pop and is a former world title challenger, which is, on paper at least, the type of opponent that we want to see Madrimov in with. We don't imagine this will be the toughest bout for Madrimov, but Cook has the power to test his chin, as we saw when he stopped Steven Butler. We see this as a fan friendly bout and one that should help get people back on the Madrimov express after his recent struggle with Eric Walker.
4-Kell Brook (39-2, 27)
It's really hard to know what exactly Englishman Kell Brook has left. If he's half the fighter he once was then he's a legitimate contender, but with just 2 fights in the last 24 months he may well be shot to bits. If he's still got ambition we'd like to see him in a live fight and a bout with Madrimov would certainly be a live bout for him. For Brook this would be a chance to prove he belongs in with the world champions at 154lbs. On the other hand Madrimov would get the chance to score a win over a notable name and a former world champion. This bout would be an easy one to make, in theory, as both are promoted by Matchroom, but Matchroom don't have a great record of matching their contenders, sadly.
5-Tony Harrison (28-3, 21)
Whilst a bout between Madrimov and Brook should be easy to make it's fair to say that Brook is a faded force. A more interesting bout, but a much tougher one to make, would be a contest between Madrimov and recent world champion Tony Harrison. Harrison is technically very good, and Madrimov would need to have his head screwed on to cope with "Super Bad", but the power and aggression of the Uzbek may well be enough to break down the American, who has been stopped in all 3 of his losses. Sadly this is tricky one to make, but one we would love to see and think it would really show what both men have to offer the sport..
Earlier this week fight fans at Korakuen Hall, yes they are back!, saw Japanese Featherweight champion Ryo Sagawa (10-1, 5) successfully retain his title and record his second defense. With that in mind we've decided to give him the "Five for" treatment this week. Whilst we haven't featured any world title bouts for the Japanese fighter, who we do think is still a few fights away from competing at that level, there are still a lot of great bouts out there for him.
Here we have included a really obvious one, that we expect to see in 2021, along with a rematch we'd like, a couple of regional title unifications and then a bout against someone who appears to be heading towards becoming a divisional gate keeper.
Note - Due to current travel restrictions we have limited this to just Japanese fighters. We're not totally sure when Filipino fighters, for example, will be able to easily get to Japan so it makes more sense to stick to bouts we know "can" be made, even if the reality is that Sagawa won't fight until those limitations are lifted.
1-Hinata Maruta (10-1-1, 8)
The obvious match up, and the on we expect to see in 2021, is a bout between Sagawa and mandatory challenger Hinata Maruta. This bout was originally planned for this year, before the global situation forced it to be cancelled, and caused problems in rescheduling it. On paper this is about as good a match up as we could expect at domestic level and the winner will see their standing in the sport boosted massively. On one hard Sagawa would probably be the slight favourite, given his competition and wins, but talented Maruta should not be written off when, or if, this bout takes place. This would be high level, high speed stuff from both in a brilliant technical match up.
2-Reiya Abe (19-3-1, 9) II
Another alternative for a Japanese title defense would see Sagawa taking on the man he beat for the then vacant title, Reiya Abe. The two men fought in an ultra close and competitive bout last year and to see them go again would be great. Sadly the originaly bout wasn't aired on TV in full, with only very brief highlights, but a rematch between the two would hopefully be shown in full. Both of these fighters are very highly skilled, well matched and make for an interesting match up. It should be noted that Abe has been out of the ring since their first clash, last September, but will be back in action later this year. If he comes through that bout this is one we would love to see being re-run.
3-Satoshi Shimizu (9-1, 9)
The one weakness we think Sagawa has is his chin. He has been stopped once and dropped in the past. With that in mind a bout against the crude, technically awkward, but monstrously heavy handed Satoshi Shimizu looks like an interesting one for us. Shimizu certainly has the power to take Sagawa out if he lands clean, giving a real risk to Sagawa for fighting the man from the Ohashi Gym. On the other hand Shimizu is so clumsy, so crude, and so open, that Sagawa could have a field day with him, using his counters, and sharp fluid punching to burst up and break down the Olympic bronze medal winner. This bout would also have a few substories to it. Shimizu is the OPBF champion, meaning the bout could serve as a unification of the Japanese and OPBF titles, and it's also a bout for Shimizu to avenge the loss of stablemate Ryo Matsumoto, who was stopped by Sagawa.
4-Musashi Mori (11-0, 6)
Another potential unification bout could see Sagawa risking his Japanese title against WBO Asia Pacific champion Musashi Mori. On paper Mori is an easier opponent for Sagawa than Shimizu, with Mori lacking the destructive power and heavy hands of Shimizu, but he is still no push over, with good technical ability, a smart boxing brain and a lot of confidence. A bout between Sagawa and Mori would be a technical delight, with one of the best Japanese offensive fighters in the division against one of the better defensive fighters. This would be high speed, high skill, and whilst perhaps not the most entertaining match up possible it would be a very engaging and competitive bout.
5-Tsuyoshi Tameda (21-5-2, 19)
On paper a bout between Sagawa and Tsuyoshi Tameda doesn't look all that great, especially with Tameda losing his last bout and 2 of his last 5. In reality however his style could be the type of thing to give Sagawa fits. Tameda is crude, he's defensively poor, he can be hit, and he can be hurt. He is however an aggressive, heavy handed fighter who will be in the ring to win and that power and aggression could ask questions of Sagawa's chin. We suspect Sagawa would win, and would have the skills to take care of Tameda, but the quick starting of Tameda would make this a potential shoot out early on. Very much a high risk-low reward fight for Sagawa, but a fun one for 3 or 4 rounds. If Sagawa sees out the early storm we suspect he'd stop Tameda, but those early rounds would be incredibly interesting.
Last weekend we saw hard hitting Thai Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (48-5-1, 41) return to the ring after 16 months out and put on a rather under-whelming performance as he beat a game Amnat Ruenroeng. The bout was supposed to be a mismatch and a chance for Srisaket to make a statement ahead of a bigger bout later in the year. Sadly though it seemed that the former 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion lacked the timing we'd seen from him in the past and he looked like a man with a lot of rust to shake.
Srisaket ended up winning, but that was, at least in part, due to Amnat's 40 year old legs struggling in the later stages of the 10 round bout.
Going into the bout it was supposed to be a contest that would open the door to another world title fight for the power punching man from Si Sa Ket and we suspect that is still the plan. If, for whatever reason, Srisaket can't get a world title bout next there are other options out there for the Thai.
Here we're going to look at two possible world title fights and 3 other interesting bouts as we give Srisaket Sor Rungvisai the "Five for" treatment!
1-Roman Gonzalez (49-2, 41) III
The most obvious bout, for us at last, is a third bout between Srisaket and Roman Gonzalez. Although Srisaket has won the first 2 bouts a third bout makes sense now that Gonzalez is a world champion again, with the Nicaraguan now holding the WBA title. A third bout will give Gonzalez a chance to extract some revenge over the only man to have beaten him, and will give Srisaket a chance to become a 3-time world champion. The reason we think this bout would be the preferred choice to the other possible world title bout is that Gonzalez is a man that Srisaket has twice beaten. He knows he has the tools to deal with the Nicaraguan great, whilst Gonzalez will be desperate for revenge.
2-Juan Francisco Estrada (40-3, 27) III
Whilst we'd prefer to see Srisaket against Gonzalez there is some real unfinished business between Srisaket and Mexican fighter Juan Francisco Estrada, who are 1-1 against each other. Given how Srisaket looked last weekend we wouldn't suggest this is a bout he should race head first into, despite the two very competitive bouts the men have already had. If he's anything less than 100% Estrada will toy with him, out work him, and counter him, something that Amnat did in the early stages. This rematch makes a lot of sense, but sadly for Srisaket if he's still struggling for timing he would not come out of this one with out suffering another defeat. In our eyes he really needs another bout before a rubber bout with "El Gallo".
3-Carlos Cuadras (39-3-1, 27) II
Another man we'd love to see Srisaket face off with again is Carlos Cuadras. It was Cuadras that ended Srisaket's first reign, way back in May 2014, and there was some real unfinished business there. That bout was stopped in round 8 with Cuadras taking a technical decision and Cuadras did what he could to avoid a rematch with a then prime Srisaket. Since then both men have taken a lot of punishment, both men are on the slide. Despite that it would be great to see the rematch between the two men, even if it is well and truly over-due. We get the feeling Cuadras wouldn't be in a rush to take on Sriskaet, at either Super Flyweight or Bantamweight, but it is a bout that we'd absolutely love to see...still!
4-Liborio Solis (30-6-1-1, 14)
Although Srisaket is expected to continue his career at 115lbs there is some potential that he will struggle to get his thick, muscular, powerful frame down to the weight going forward. He's now heading towards his 34th birthday and it may well be time for him, if he can't get one of the rematches above, to begin campaigning at Bantamweight. If he's going to do that then he may as well face a former world champion and someone who recently fought for a world title. With that in mind a bout with Liborio Solis would make for a great match up. It's one where Srisaket will be strongly favoured, but in terms of styles this should be a sensational fight. Solis is a decent fighter, he gave a decent effort against Guillermo Rigondeaux and had a brilliant fight with Shinsuke Yamanaka a few years ago. This would be great fun to watch fight, even if it's not a top tier match up.
5-Pedro Guevara (36-3-1, 21)
Of course if Srisaket is going to remain at Super Flyweight, and can't get one of the 3 rematches we've mentioned, it'd be great to see him in with a top divisional contender. With that in mind a bout with Pedro Guevara, who is very highly ranked by the WBC and WBO, would be really a really good clash. Technically Guevara is the better boxer, but the natural size and power advantages of Srisaket would likely be the the difference between the two men. Despite this not being as good as the 3 rematches we mentioned Guevara would work as a decent tune up for a bout with Estrada, so if we end up with Gonzalez Vs Estrada II a bout between Srisaket and Guevara would make for a brilliant chief support bout on a "Super Fly" type event.
Last weekend we had the chance to see 40 year old Japanese veteran Kenichi Horikawa (41-16-1, 14) turn back the clock and win the OPBF Light Flyweight title with an excellent and controlled display against the much younger Daiki Tomita. The win proved that Horikawa, even at his advanced age, still had the tools to compete with some of the best in and around the regional title scene and saw him take a huge step towards a much bigger bout.
With that win in mind we put on out match making caps, for the latest in out "Five For" series, where we look at 5 potential match ups for for the fighter in mind, this week Horikawa.
1-Masamichi Yabuki (11-3, 11)
The obvious match up in mind for Horikawa would be a show down with newly crowned Japanese national champion Masamichi Yabuki, who won the Japanese title just a day after Horikawa claimed the OPBF belt. After his win Yabuki stated that Horikawa was the man he wanted to face and on paper this is probably the bout that makes the most sense, and is the one to determining the leading Japanese contender for a world title bout. Stylistically it's be interesting to see Horikawa's pressure and experience up against Yabuki's power and movement, and this is certainly a bout we want before the year is over!
2-Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7)
I we can't have Yabuki opposite to Horikawa then maybe the next best choice from Japan would be 2-time world title challenger Reiya Konishi. On paper this bout the appeal of having a unified title champion, but is potentially a better bout from a style point of view. Both men like letting their hands go, both are strong and tough guys and we would expect some really thrilling exchanges between these two. Konishi would typically be the favourite, but he's not been in the ring since May 2019, when he lost to Felix Alvarado, and we're not sure what he'd be like after such a lengthy lay off. There's not better time for Horikawa than now to get this one sorted.
3-Toto Landero (11-4-2, 2)
A left of center choice here, but one we like would be a match up between Horikawa and Filipino contender Toto Landero. As first defense of the OPBF title this would make for an interesting match up, and one that is certainly not a foregone conclusion. Horikawa, at home in Japan, would be favoured, but Landero is no push over, despite losing 3 of his last 4. The Filipino has mixed at world level, and showed what he could do in being competitive with Knockout CP Freshmart, Simipiwe Konkco and Melvin Jerusalem. Given his style of aggressive technical fighting Landero would make for a fan friendly contender, and would likely be willing to fight up close more than some opponents. For Horikawa the aim will be cover his lack of speed, and with Landero willing to fight, rather than box, that weakness of the veteran is unlikely to be an issue here.
4-Siridech Deebook (21-6-1, 13)
The first of two possible opponents from Thailand is Siridech Deebook, also known as Pongsaklek Sithdabnij. The 27 year old Deebook is certainly no world beater, in fact he suffered 2 losses in 2018 and should have had another in 2019 when he escaped with a very controversial win against Romshane Sarguilla. He is however the perfect foil for Horikawa. Although he's only in his 20's Deebook is damaged good, but also stylistically the type of fighter Horikawa should be licking his lips to face. The Thai comes to fight, doesn't do well on the back foot and would engage in a war with Horikawa. That'd be a war that would see the Thai likely being broken down in the second half and eventually stopped in a thriller. If we can't have a high stakes bout, for example the one with Yabuki, this could be as fan friendly as we can get!
5-Thanongsak Simsri (14-0, 12)
Whilst maybe not the logical choice a bout between Horikawa and 20 year Thai prodigy Thanongsak Simsri could be perfect if none of the other 4 bouts listed can be sorted. The Thai youngster is fighting in Japan regularly anyway, due to a deal with Green Tsuda, and his team has spoke about fighting for regional honours sooner rather than later. It would be a big step up from his recent competition but given how most of this year has been a wash for him we could see his team look to make up for lost time. For Horikawa this would be high risk, low reward, but as a fan this would be one of the rising punchers in against a rugged veteran. Simsri is less dangerous than Yabuki, but is certainly heavy handed and should be a very interesting match up for Horikawa if, he gets the call.
This past week the super highly touted Japanese prospect Rentaro Kimura (1-0, 1) began his professional career, doing so behind closed where he stopped Yuya Azuma in 2 rounds. Prior to the bout the talk was that the hugely promising southpaw was going to be looking for a world title within 3 years, or around 10 fights. With that in mind we thought we'd try and look for 5 potential opponents for the 23 year star in the making as we do our latest "Five For".
Although his debut was above the Super Featherweight limit we are going to assume Kimura will be looking to make his mark at 130lbs going forward, and his next bout will either be a 6 or 8 rounder.
1-Attanon Kunlawong (15-6, 11)
A realtively easy bout to make for Kimura, and one he would be strongly favoured in, would be a contest with Thailand' s Attanon Kunlawong, a once touted fighter himself. Attanon, also known as Konthara KKP, looked like a man going places when he began his career 13-0 (10) but since then has gone 2-6 (1). Although not the most mouth watering opponent the 24 old Thai is a decent fighter on his day and he could certainly be a good step up form Kimura's debut, despite his current form. We would expect Kimura to be too good and too sharp, but we this could be a good chance for him to see a new style and go in with someone who, in their day, is very fluid and has some solid sting on their shots.
2-Al Toyogon (10-6-1, 6)
Whilst Kunlawong would be an easy win we would love to see Kimura take on someone a big more testing and tougher. In step Al Toyogon, someone who would serve as a perfect test for Kimura. With Kimura stating he wants to stop everyone he faces Toyogon would serve as a perfect dance partner, being tough enough to force Kimura to use all the tools in his locker. Toyogon is known as a durable opponent, and last year he went the distance with Ryo Sagawa, Shuya Masaki, Jorge Linares and Carlo Magali, so a stoppage over him would be huge. Toyogon is no push over, but we see him being more of a stamina and check than a skills test for Kimura.
3-Dai Iwai (23-6-1, 7)
With the world the way it is it may make more sense to look closer to home for an opponent for Kimura and who better than the experienced Dai Iwai. On paper this is a massive step up for Kimura, and the sort of opponent that proves Kimura is dreaming of greatness. Iwai is no better than a domestic level contender, but that's a great level to be fighting at in just fight #2 and leaves Kimura potentially in the Japanese rankings ahead of his third fight. That would have him on a similar trajectory to Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka. Given the talk that seems to be around Kimura that's the type of fighter he wants to be compared to, so Iwai is the perfect domestic opponent.
4-Seiichi Oakada (22-7-1, 13)
Another potential Japanese opponent, and probably an easier one to beat, would be former national champion Seiichi Okada. The 38 year old Okada has been stopped 4 times in his 7 losses and was beaten last time out by the distinctly average Kanehiro Nakagawa. He's there for the taking and is a long way removed from his days as a national champion. Despite that he's still a decent domestic name, and this could be a passing of the torch. Sadly it would come more than 8 years after Okada lost the Japanese title to Daiki Kaneko, but would still be an impressive step up in class from Kimura's debut.
5-Ulysses Lagos (12-2, 6)
It's unclear what route to titles Kimura is looking to go, with Japanese, OPBF an WBO Asia Pacific titles all out there. If he is looking at the WBO regional title then a smart match up would be for him to take on Filipino Ulysses Lagos. When the rankings were last done for the WBO Asia Pacific title Lagos was ranked at #15, and he would be a rather easy looking entry into those rankings. Although is ranked his record is uninspiring and only 4 fights ago he was stopped by Mark John Yap, a natural Bantamweight. If Kimura and his team want to fast track their way to a regional title this may be the smart way to go, with champion Joe Noynay unlikely to want to remain at this level for too much longer, given he is ranked 3 of the 4 world title bodies.
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).