This past weekend we saw Filipino icon Nonito Donaire (41-6, 27) show, at the age of 38, that he is still one of the heaviest handed fighters in the sport as he dominated Nordine Oubaali, dropping him 3 times in 4 rounds to claim the WBC Bantamweight title. The win saw him prove he wasn't shot, and whilst he is certainly old for a Bantamweight, he looked in great condition and bounced back really well form his 2019 loss to Naoya Inoue in the WBSS final.
With the win under his belt we thought it was a chance to focus on Donaire and consider what might be next for him, as we take a look at Five for... Nonito Donaire.
1 - Nawaphon Sor Rungvisai (51-1-1, 41)
We begin with a pretty likely bout, even if it's not a hugely attractive one, and that would be a defense against leading WBC challenger Nawaphon Sor Rungvisai, also known as Nawaphon Kaikanha or Nawaphon Por Chokchai, from Thailand. This is certainly not a big fight for Donaire, but we can hardly complain at him having an easy first defense after reclaiming the WBC Bantamweight title. And potentially even having it in the Philippines, where he's not fought since his 2016 win over Zsolt Bedak, in what was actually his first defense of the WBO Super Bantamweight title. Nawaphon would offer very little in terms of a threat to Donaire, but if the "Filipino Flash" wanted to fight in the Philippines once more before he retired Nawaphon would be the ideal safe opponent for such a fight. Nawaphon is also an opponent who would look good on paper, even if his record is awfully padded.
2 - Charlie Edwards (16-1, 6)
Whilst there are super fights out there for Donaire, which we'll get on to shortly, there are other options for him, and one of those is a return to the UK, where he fought twice in 2018. If the UK is somewhere that he wants to return the obvious choice for a UK fight is former WBC Flyweight champion Charlie Edwards, who is ranked very highly by the WBC still. Edwards, who previously faced Johnriel Casimero, would not only serve as a potential UK opponent for Donaire but would also give him a chance to have a head to head rival with Casimero, ahead of a potential all Filipino world title unification bout down the line. Edwards has a style that could pose questions for Donaire, but it seems likely that Donaire's power would land, at some point, and take out the Englishman.
3 - Johnriel Casimero (30-4, 21) / Guillermo Rigondeaux (20-1-0-1, 13) winner
The first super obvious potential match up for Donaire is a clash with the winner of the upcoming WBO world title fight between Johnriel Casimero and Guillermo Rigondeaux. It's only #3 on this list because we don't really like including opponents who are tied up with bouts in these lists, but sadly we've got to do it a couple of times in this particularly list.
If Casimero beats Rigondeaux when the two clash in August we'd have the potential for an all Filipino unification bout between the WBC and WBO world champion, something that would be massive for not just the Bantamweight division but also Filipino boxing. It would give us a unified champion, and set us up with a clear front runner for a potential Naoya Inoue bout. A bout between Casimero and Donaire would be incredible, and would see both men taking on a huge puncher, with the bout not just being an all Filipino clash, but also one that could end at any second.
If Rigondeaux beats Casimero it sets up a really, really interesting rematch. Back in 2013 Donaire lost to Rigondeaux, in a bout that stands out as Rigondeaux best win as a professional. By a long way. For Donaire a rematch would be a chance to avenge that loss, and get some sense of revenge for a defeat that really harmed his career. As for Rigondeaux it would be a chance to him to get a second major win over the Filipino icon, and add a lot more to his career, which has promises so much but regularly failed to deliver.
Either of these potential options is good with us!
4 - Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17) / Michael Dasmarinas (30-2-1, 20) winner
Another 2 for 1 is the winner of the upcoming bout between Naoya Inoue and Michael Dasmarinas. Sure Inoue is the VERY clear betting favourite, but both of these men would make for interesting bouts with Donaire, as long as they win here.
Firstly the potential Inoue bout would be a rematch of the WBSS final from 2019, and would see Donaire get a chance to avenge his only loss as a Bantamweight. Their first bout was a brilliant contest, and a rematch would be expected to be another fantastic fight. As well as the history between the two men the bout would also see 3 titles being unified, as we see the Bantamweight division take a step towards having a unified champion. A rematch between these two would also, potentially, allow fans in the US a chance to see the bout in person, after their first fight was in Japan. Given the choice of all the possible bouts for both men, this is probably the one we most want to see, and we suspect most fans also want to see.
Of course if Inoue loses to Dasmarinas a bout between Donaire and Dasmarinas becomes a huge fight for Filipino boxing, and would see the two men battling for 3 titles in the biggest all Filipino bout in living memory. This would be massive for boxing and would, in some ways, be even bigger than the potential Casimero bout. Especially given that for this one to take place Dasmarinas would need to have upset Inoue, in one of the biggest upsets in recent years. If this one comes about it would be for 3 titles, and would be on the back of big wins for both guys.
5 - Kazuto Ioka (26-2, 15)
A bit of an outlandish one to finish with, but one we'd love to see, would be Donaire taking on Japanese star Kazuto Ioka, who would have to move up from Super Flyweight to Bantamweight. It's well known that Ioka wants to only have big fights, and fighting at Super Flyweight his options are rather limited, with the only readily available name being Jerwin Ancajas or a mandatory defenses against Francisco Rodriguez Jr. Decent fights, surely, but not legacy defining ones. A move up to Bantamweight to face Donaire however, would be a career defining bout, and a chance for him to become the first man from Japan to win world titles in 5 weight classes. As for Donaire it'd be a huge chance to get a win over Inoue's country man and a brilliant name to add to his record. This might seem an outlandish bout to think about, but it would be a compelling contest that would test Donaire's power and timing against the skills and boxing IQ of Ioka. It would be high level stuff, and it would be a very, very intriguing bout. It would be a battle of left hooks, and it could be the bout we didn't know we wanted!
This past weekend we all got the chance to see Katsunari Takayama (32-9-0-1, 12) show what he could do, putting in a fan friendly showing in a loss to the younger, bigger, stronger, Elwin Soto. The bout, which ended when Laurence Cole did what Laurence Cole does, was the first time many had seen Takayama and it's fair to say he won fans over with his work rate, his toughness, and his desire to win.
We had assumed a loss there would be the end for Takayama, who is 37 and is very much coming to the end of his long and successful career. Instead however he and his team have made it clear that he intends to continue on. With that in mind let us bring you Five for... Katsunari Takayama, as we look at 5 men we want to see the "Lightning Kid" fight next.
1-Knockout CP Freshmart (21-0, 7)
Typically we don't like including fighters here who have bouts lined up, but in reality Kncokout's May 29th bout against Pongsaklek Sithdabnij should be little more than a stay busy defense for the long reigning WBA champion. With that in mind we're considering him the #1 target for Takayama. The title held by Knockout is, as mentioned, the WBA one and it's the one that has actually eluded Takayama through his career, with the Lightning Kid only ever winning the interim version. With that in mind Takayama and his team, including Nobuhiro Ishida and Hiroaki Nakade, should do all they can to lure Knockout over to Japan for a bout at the end of the year. Knockout is a well polished boxer, a decent fighter, but doesn't have a high work rate, he's not quick and he's not a destructive puncher. With that in mind Takayama does have a genuine chance of out working him and winning the title, especially if they can secure this bout in front of a hostile fan base in Osaka.
2-Rene Mark Cuarto (19-2-2, 11)
Staying on the idea that Takayama will want to remain in world title bouts he will almost certainly be looking at other champions for us we're not going to look at the Light Flyweight champions. The reality is that they are too big for him, and Soto looked 2, if not 3 divisions bigger than Takayama last weekend. With that in mind the division for him is, and always has been, the Minimumweight division. With that in mind one champion he should be eyeing up is Rene Mark Cuarto, the Filipino who won the IBF Miniumweight weigth title back in February. The Filipino is young and fresh faced, but in reality nothing he brings to the table should be a worry, of any kind, to Takayama. Cuarto is not a puncher, he's not physically intimidating, and is instead reliant on speed and boxing, two things that Takayama can do. In terms of damage a bout with Cuarto would certainly not be a punishing one for Takayamna, and would be a good chance for him to end his career with the IBF Minimumweight title. The title he literally chased around the globe earlier in his career.
3-Wilfredo Mendez (16-1, 6)
Takayama is the only ever 2-time WBO Minimumweight champion and with that in mind there's the potential he also wants to become the first 3-time champion. To do that he should target Puerto Rican fighter Wilfredo Mendez, who like Cuarto and Knockout is not a big puncher, in fact Mendez is the lightest puncher of all the reigning champions at 105lbs. Although the quickest champion he is probably the most limited, and has a style that we suspect Takayama would love to be matched up again. A speedy boxer-mover against a speedy swarmer. This bout would also open the door to something else, something none of the other champions offer, a chance for Takayama to fight on US soil again. It's unlikely a bout with Mendez would land on a Canelo under-card, but there's no reason it couldn't land on a show shown by US TV, with Mendez's team likely happy to work with a big promoter to land Mendez a fight with big exposure. A world title fight for say Ring City USA would be huge for them, and this would certainly be a potential fight, and distribution outlet, that would serve everyone well. It's unlikely that boxing will do the right thing, and not only make this bout but also give it wider exposure, but it would be a fantastic sign of what boxing can do, when it gets it right!
4-Wanheng Menayothin (54-1, 18)
The obvious choice here would have been WBC champion Panya Pradabsri but I'll be honest, I think that would be an horrific style match up for Takayama. Although not an amazing fighter Panya is taller, longer, younger, bigger, stronger and more physically imposing than Takayama. If I was in Takayama's team Panya is the one champion I would try to avoid for now. Instead I would look at former champion Wanheng Menayothin, especially given how these two men seemed to circle each other for several years when both were champions. The bout would have been better in 2014-2016, but better late than never! Style wise this would be amazing to watch, with both men having top tier experience, great styles that should gel, and their lack of power should give us a 10, or 12, round war. We would understand if both men wanted world title fights instead, but as selfish fans this is a bout we wanted 6 years ago and we still want it now! Better yet, winner gets a shot at a title and loser retires on the back of a FOTY contender!
5-Tetsuya Hisada (34-11-2, 20)
If Takayama is determined to be a Light Flyweight going forward there are some bouts that we would like to see him have. One of those would be a bout with fellow Japanese veteran Tetsuya Hisada, in what would be a huge domestic bout between two men based in Osaka. The match up might not be the most appealing internationally, and certainly not a world title bout like both men would likely want, but it'd be an eliminator between two old school veterans who are both insane tough, have great engines and different, but exciting styles. If we are talking about bouts that are made because they'd be fan friendly contests there are few that would be as good as this one. We'd have Takayama's incredible energy and work rate against the strength and pressure of Hisada. We'd have a fantastic back and forth and standout contender for the Japanese fighter of the Year. From a fan's perspective this is a bout we'd love, if Takayama persists in chasing a Light Flyweight world title.
This past weekend Japanese youngster Ryosuke Nishida (4-0, 1) scored a brilliant win in just his 4th professional bout, beating former world champion Daigo Higa to become the new WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion. The win put Nishida on the map in the eyes of many, and saw him building on his fantastic December victory over Shohei Omori, in what was itself a massive step up in class.
With solid back to back wins on his record, and world rankings heading his way following the win over Higa, questions will now turn to what is next for Nishida, who stated that he'd like to face WBO world champion Johnriel Casimero in the future. Whilst that fight seems unlikely for the time being, with Casimero scheduled to face Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux, there are still a lot of interesting options for Nishida for later this year. We'll take a look at 5 of those as we give Nishida the "Five for..." treatment.
1-Joseph Agbeko (38-5, 28)
We're not totally sure who, involved with the WBO's brain trust, are in charge of their world rankings, but we can only assume that Joseph Agebeko's mother has a say as somehow the 44 year old from Ghana is their current #1 ranked Bantamweight. That's despite the fact his last win of actual note came close to a decade ago. For any Bantamweight interested in securing a WBO world title fight the logical move is to beat their #1 contender, and with Agbeko, inexplicably, being ranked #1 he needs to be seen as a very serious target for Nishida and the Muto Gym. Agbeko, at his best, was a fantastic fighter, but his best came back around 2010, when he was more than holding his own with Yohnny Perez, Vic Darchinyan and Abner Mares. Not in 2021 after wins against Gabriel Ochieng and Albert Commey. We suspect a lot of fighters are chasing a fighter with Agbeko, but a good offer to fight the 4-0 Nishida may tempt him over to the Land of the Rising sun.
2-Paul Butler (32-2, 15)
Sticking with the idea of the WBO rankings a potential fight to make would see Nishida take on Englishman Paul Butler, who is currently ranked #3 in the WBO rankings. Strangely this could be a relatively easy bout to make, especially out in the middle east or in the UK, as both men have connections with MTK Global, who work with Butler and also work with Muto Gym via "MTK Japan". With both men set to be highly ranked in the next WBO rankings, this would, for all intents, be a world title eliminator and could see the winner securing a potential showdown for the WBO title later in the year, or in 2022. On paper this is also a match up that Nishida should feel super confident in winning as well. Butler is certainly not a bad boxer but he struggled with the height, reach and southpaw stance of Zolani Tete, and Nishida is also a tall, rangy southpaw. Butler is a highly skilled boxer, but lacks power and at 32 is also heading to the end of his career.
3-Takuma Inoue (14-1, 3)
At the moment getting international fighters into Japan is a major issue, and as a result we may need to look to Japan for a few potential opponents. The reality right now is that many of the top Japanese Bantamweights are already scheduled for bouts. This includes Naoya Inoue, pencilled in for June 19th, Kai Chiba, Ikuro Sadatsune, Kyosuke Sawada and Kazuki Nakajima. This leaves very few potential domestic opponents for Nishida with the most interesting being Takuma Inoue, the younger brother of Naoya Inoue. At the moment Takuma is also looking to move towards a world title fight and given Nishida's win it's fair to say a clash between the two would be regarded as a world title eliminator. On paper it wouldn't be the most explosive of bouts but would be a huge bout for Japan and one between two very technically skilled fighters. Maybe not the bout either man wants, but one that the two men could certainly make and one that would seriously enhance the winner's profile.
4-Sho Ishida (29-2, 15)
Another potential Japanese option for Nishida would be Sho Ishida, who has openly stated he's happy to fight at either Super Flyweight or Bantamweight, and is a former world title challenger. Ishida would be a very similar size to Nishida, and is a very accomplished fighter himself, with a very technical style, an excellent jab, good footwork and a rather frustrating style at times. The bout would be a test for Nishida, and a chance to see if he can work out the jab of Ishida, and it would also serve as a real test to see what Ishida's future in the sport really is. A win for Nishida would see him taking a step towards a world title fight, and be another respectable win at this early stage of his career, whilst a win for Ishida would revitalise his career after a few disappointing years.
And lets not ignore the fact it would be rather fun to see Ishida Vs Nishida being written out!
5-Lee McGregor (10-0, 8)
Whilst Nishida said he wanted Johnriel Casimero he also seemed open to fighting outside of Japan, and one of the absolute hotbeds of boxing right now is the UK. With that in mind a trip from Japan to the UK to face fellow unbeaten youngster Lee McGregor is a potentially interesting match up, one that could be made rather easily and one that would act as a potential eliminator for both the IBF and WBC titles, with Nishida expected to take Higa's rankings with those two bodies as well as the WBO. McGregor is very highly ranked by the IBF, and also in the top 15 with the WBC, making a win over a fellow ranked fighter would boost his career, whilst a win for Nishida would rocket him up the rankings. In terms of viability, both men have links to MTK, as with Paul Butler, and with fans set to return to the UK boxing scene sooner rather than later this would be a potential chance for Nishida to show what he can do on the international stage. It would be high risk, high reward for both men, and that is never a bad thing. Interestingly this would also see the EBU champion battle with the WBO Asia Pacific champion, in a legitimate clash between continental champions
Last weekend we were supposed to see Japanese Flyweight champion Seigo Yuri Akui (15-2-1, 10) fighting in a non title bout against Yuto Nakamura, who pulled out of the bout on a days notice. To save the show Masamichi Yabuki (12-3, 11) [佐藤政道] stepped in to take part in a 4 round spar with Akui, whilst Akui and his team spoke very angrily about the situation which they had found themselves in.
With the bout against Nakamura falling through it's clear that Akui has a point to prove when he returns to the ring later this year, and won't have taken much damage in his spar with Yabuki.
With that in mind, lets take a look at some opponents who could be next for Akui as we give the Japanese Flyweight puncher the Five for treatment.
1-Sho Kimura (19-3-2, 12)
It's known that Akui wants to work his way towards a world title fight, though it's also clear there is a lot of work to do before that can happen. With that in mind a former world champion being next for him would be a great idea. It would allow us to measure where he is, and allow him to, potentially, score a win over a big name fighter. It wouldn't be an easy bout to make, especially not over in Okayama where Akui is based, but a bout between Akui and former WBO world champion Sho Kimura would be huge for boxing in the area and give us a marker as to how good Akui really is. It was also let us see how much Kimura has left in the tank. Although he's a former world champion Kimura doesn't demand huge purse, though he may not be too willing to step down to Japanese class for a bout like this. If it can be made however this would be incredibly exciting, and a properly violent clash.
2-Ryota Yamauchi (7-1, 6)
Whilst Kimura would be a huge fight for Akui, on route to potentially moving into the world title mix, there are other options out there and testing himself at regional title level would make more sense. With that in mind a bout against WBO Asia Pacific champion Ryota Yamauchi would be huge and a chance for the two Japanese youngsters to massively boost their careers and take huge strides towards big fights. It would also, brilliant, unify two of the 3 major sub-world titles recognised in Japan and leave the winner as the leading Japanese contender to move on to the world stage. The bout would, potentially be a tricky one to make, given that both would likely want to fight in their current home city, but wouldn't be impossible, and style wise it would be thrilling. This bout, would, however be on the caveat that Yamauchi beats Yuta Nakayama on June 24th without suffering too many cuts. Given the date of that fight it may, sadly, be one we end up waiting until 2022, or even 2023, for.
3-Taku Kuwahara (8-0, 4)
Staying on the idea of Akui facing fellow Japanese youngsters one man who instantly springs to mind, as an alternative to Yamaguchi, is Ohashi promoted fighter Taku Kuwahara, who is opening wanting title fights and looks like potentially the next bit thing from the Ohashi stable. Him facing Akui would be a brilliant match up of styles, with Kuwahara being a more volume intensive fighter, but a highly skilled one and Akui being an aggressive fighter with incredible power. Style wise this would be a brilliant clash and would be a chance to see what both men are made of. We do wonder whether Kuwahara would travel to Okayama for a title fight, especially given his promoter is the bigger one, though it would be a great chance for him to prepare for the bigger fights expected of him down the line. This wouldn't be the type of fight to create international attention, but would certainly be a very solid domestic fight.
4-Jayr Raquinel (12-1-1, 9)
We mentioned Ryota Yamauchi a few moments ago, but he's not the only man with a regional title. Another is OPBF champion Jayr Raquinel, who has a history in Japan thanks to wins over Keisuke Nakayama, Shun Kosaka and Takuya Kogawa, having stopped all 3 of those men. He's also on the fringes of a potential world title fight himself, has a hard hitting style, and is very much the type of fighter who brings excitement. A Raquinel Vs Akui bout would promise fireworks, excitement, and almost certainly end with one, or both, of the fighters hitting the canvas. In terms of styles and meaning this fight is a potential cracker though it does have an issue, at least right now. At the moment Japan still isn't letting visitors into the country without a 14 day quarantine period, and a bout between a Japanese fighter and an international fighter may still be somewhat impossible to arrange due to the Covid19 restrictions in the country. Fingers crossed they are eased in the future, but it seems that, for now, this could be another that we need to patiently wait for.
5-Kento Hatanaka (11-0, 9)
The most likely man, a least in regards to being next, is the unbeaten "Prince" Kento Hatanaka, who is currently ranked the #1 contender for the Japanese Flyweight that that Akui holds. The 22 year old Hatanaka is always involved in fun, exciting fights and seems like he wants to challenge for the Japanese title as early as possible, making him a very plausible challenge to face Akui next. In terms of styles this would be something a little bit special, between two men who can punch, go to war and can actually box, even if both do hide that part of their game at times. The only issue, perhaps, is that Hatanaka may be seen as still needing a little bit more seasoning by his team, including his father, before facing someone like Akui. Though there is also the argument that he has already proven what he can do and deserves a shot at the title. We suspect this bout would get the best out of both fighters and although not a huge name fight it's the sort of bout which would see the winner really banging on the door of becoming a Japanese break out. Notably both fighters are from relatively minor boxing markets, though both markets do have a very dedicted fan base, which would make the bout easy to put together and could lead to a fantastic atmosphere.
This past weekend we saw IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (33-1-2, 22) record his 9th defense as he over-came mandatory challenger Jonathan Javier Rodriguez in a brilliantly competitive and exciting bout. The bout was, by far, the most entertaining world title defense for Ancajas, who has held the IBF title since September 2016 and failed to secure a genuine A tier defense, having ticked over with mandatories and B tier challengers.
After the win it seemed like he wanted some big bouts to establish himself as more than just a title holder, but as one of the legitimate best at 115lbs. Sadly a number of the top fighters in the division are engaged in a 4 man tournament for the WBC and WBA titles, but that does still leave a lot of good options out there for Ancajas.
With that in mind lets take a look at those options as we give Jerwin Ancajs the "Five for..." treatment.
1-Kazuto Ioka (26-2, 15)
The most obvious choice to Ancajas to target right now is WBO champion Kazuto Ioka, in what is the only legitimate unification bout out there right now for either man and seemingly the logical bout to make for both men. Ancajas has had a lengthy reign from lesser challengers, with those defenses frustrating fans who want to see more from him and find out how good he really is. A bout with Ioka would let us find out if Ancajas is really a top level fighter in the division. Likewise it would give Ioka another chance to fight on US soil, something he has spoken about wanting to do regularly since returning to the sport in 2018. Not only is this the biggest possible match up for both men, but it's also a truly interesting one from a style point of view, between two men who are technically very good, but very different. This is easily the best bout the division can give us outside of the aforementioned 4 man WBC and WBA mini tournament.
2-Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9)
Ioka isn't the only Japanese fighter who would be sniffing around a fight with Ancajas. Another is former 3-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka, who lost to Ioka in a thrilling bout at the end of 2020 but seems like the type of fighter who would love a second shot at a Super Flyweight title sooner rather than later. Tanaka would, coming off the back of the loss to Ioka, probably be better off with an interim fight himself, but from Ancajas' point of view this bout has enough about it to make it an interesting one. It would be a bout against a world class fighter, with some name value, an exciting style, and someone who, if he beats quickly enough, will boost his value in a potential Ioka match up. For Ancajas it's a bout with value, despite Tanaka's recent loss, and for Tanaka it's a huge chance to fight outside of Japan, something he's spoken about wanting to do, as well as a second shot at becoming a 4 weight world champion.
3-Donnie Nietes (43-1-5, 23)
It's fair to say that Ancajas is a quality boxer, but one who lacks major names on his record. One thing he needs are recognisable opponents. With that in mind an all-Filipino bout with Donnie Nietes would certainly be one worthy of some attention. Nietes, who fought back on April 3rd, is certainly a major name in the lower weight classes and even at 38 has the tools and boxing IQ to be a top player in the division. Whilst Nietes wants a big name himself it's fair to say his options are as limited as Ancajas', given the 4 man WBC/WBA tournament, and the best options for Nietes himself are Ioka and Ancajas. For Ancajas a win over Nietes would be huge for his career and his standing in the sport, whilst a win for Nietes would see him having some more bargaining power for a potential future unification bout. Sadly though Nietes has previously spoken about not wanting to face fellow Filipino's, though things may have changed now given the lack of other options for the Filipino legend.
4-Francisco Rodriguez Jr (35-4-1, 24)
Although not a huge name, and certainly not the high level fight that we suspect Ancajas would want, we can't help but think a bout between the Filipino and Mexican Francisco Rodriguez Jr would be an interesting one, and certainly a fun one. Rodriguez is best known for his days down at 105lbs, where he unified the WBO and IBF titles and since then he has moved up through the weights. He was supposed to face WBC Flyweight champion Julio Cesar Martinez on the under-card of Saul "Canelo" Alvarez Vs Callum Smith, but that bout was cancelled when Martinez was ill. Sadly Rodriguez missed out there however we suspect he would jump at the chance to face Ancajas for a title, even up at Super Flyweight. For Ancajas, who will want to win fans over, this would be ideal as Rodriguez always comes to fight and would make for a very entertaining clash here.
5-Franklin Gonzalez (24-0, 24)
The current IBF rankings at Super Flyweight are weak, despite the division it's self being strong. Going through the rankings there really aren't many options that are that appealing. One exception to that, at least on paper, is 24 year old Venezuelan Franklin Gonzalez, who sports a perfect 24-0 (24) record. As with many Venezuelan fighter with impressive looking records it's hard to know how good he is, and there isn't any substance at all to his paper record, but given the rest of the IBF rankings he makes for a bout that would have "some" intrigue. An unbeaten puncher, with a perfect record tends to either be legitimate, or be swatted out super fast when they take on a highly skilled fighter, as we saw recently with Heber Rondon. If this turns out to be an easy one for Ancajas then he can have a quick turn around.
Sadly for Ancajas he's in an awkward position, as many top Super Flyweights are currently booked up and a move to Bantamweight, whilst tempting, doesn't bring too many interesting potential bouts for him in the immediate future. Sadly many of the top Bantamweights, such as Naoya Inoue, Nordine Oubaali, Nonito Donaire and John Riel Casimero are all pretty much off limits to him right now and and outside of Ioka, Tanaka and Nietes there isn't a legitimate, and obvious, big name available to him until very late in the year.
Last weekend fight fans at the EDION Arena Osaka saw Japanese prospect Toshiki Shimomachi (13-1-2, 9) score his latest win, as he stepped up from Super Bantamweight to Super Featherweight and stopped Thunder Teruya in 3 rounds, in one of the most impressive performances of his career. Following the win he and his team made it clear that his immediate future lay at 122lbs, and it's there that he will look to make a name for himself, despite the depth in Japan at the weight.
Following his latest win his promoter seemed to suggest they were chasing the Japanese national champion, Gakuya Furuhashi. If they can't land that fight however there are a lot of very, very interesting domestic options out there for him right now in a brilliantly packed Japanese scene. We'll discuss 4 of those options, as well as the title fight, as we take a look at "Five for... Toshiki Shimomachi"
1-Gakuya Furuhashi (27-8-1, 15)
After Shimomachi's win at the weekend Masaya Motoishi made it clear his man was targetting Gakuya Furushashi, the current Japanese Super Bantamweight champion, and it seems clear that Furuhashi is their primary target. The reality is that it's unlikely this bout will be next, but is certainly one that Shimomachi and Motoishi want, and one that makes for a very interesting match up. Furuhashi won the title earlier this year, winning a thrilling war with Yusaku Kuga, but at 33 years old his career is certainly coming to an end in the next year or two, especially given his style. Style wise Furuhashi's pressure and aggression against Shimomachi's smart footwork and defense would be an excellent clash. We suspect Furuhashi would prefer a less awkward first defense, however there's no reason that this bout can't take place in 2021.
2-Ryoichi Tamura (14-5-1, 7)
Whilst a bout with Furuhashi seems to be the one that Shimomachi wants it we expect it to be one that he has to wait for. With that in mind we'd like to see the slippery and under-rated Shimomachi take on someone with a similar style and someone who has previously held the Japanese title. One man who fits through criteria pretty damn well is Ryoichi Tamura, who is relentless with his pressure, never stops throwing and doesn't understand what it's like to take a backwards step. Shimomachi will need to deal with incessant pressure when he faces Furuhashi and we can't think of many better ways to prepare for that than facing Tamura. Interestingly Tamura and Furushashi clashed in 2019, with Furuhashi taking a close decision over Tamura, and this would serve as a good chance for Shimomachi to compare his own performance with that of the current champion.
3-Yusaku Kuga (19-5-1, 13)
An alternative option who fits the "similar style, and former champion" mould would be Yusaku Kuga, the man Furuhashi beat for the title. Kuga is less of a pure pressure fighter than Furuhashi and Tamura, and is more of a puncher-pressure fighter, but he style would do a decent enough job of replicating the incessant offense of Furuhashi. This bout would also help give Shimomachi a proper chin checking, something he's yet to have. Notably Kuga has been in a lot of recent wars, including two with Tamura and one with Furuhashi, and is seen as a man on the slide, due in part to the accumulated punishment of a very hard career, something that should help Shimomachi. At the time of writing Kuga is ranked #3 by the JBC and a win over him would shoot Shimomachi to the verge of a mandatory title fight.
4-Ryohei Takahashi (19-4-1 8)
At the moment there are a few things working against Shimomachi in regards to securing a title fight. One of those is his awkward and slippery style, which we don't think he should change for anyone. Another is the fact he's based in Osaka, which has a decent boxing scene but one that pales compared to the scene in Tokyo. A third is that he is, relatively speaking, an unknown compared to many of the more notable fighters in East Japan. One way to change that would be getting a bout on a Dynamic Glove card. One of the few notable Japanese fighters who he could face in a G+ televised bout would be former world title challenger Ryohei Takahashi, who is best known for losing to TJ Doheny. We suspect the styles of the two men would see Shimomachi make this one look really easy, but it would be more about the exposure, and fighting at Korakuen Hall, rather than testing Shimomachi.
Although this one is one we'd like to see we suspect that Shimomachi will be headlining a Green Tsuda card in Osaka next, rather than focusing on bolstering his appeal to fight fans in Tokyo. It's understandable that he wants strong home support, but we can't help feeling like it would be great to see him getting TV exposure through G+ sooner rather than later.
5-Yosuke Fujihara (18-7, 5)
Potentially the easiest of these bouts to make, but the least interesting, would see Shimomachi take on former 2-time Japanese title challenger Yosuke Fujihara, who is certainly coming to the end of his career. Fujihara is, as we write this, ranked higher than Shimomachi by the JBC, but would almost certainly be a big under-dog against the talented youngster, who seems to be on a roll in recent performances. Fujihara has the experience to ask some question of Shimomachi, but we don't see anything other than a win for the youngster, who is the much more skilled, slippery and intelligent. Fujihara, in many ways, is made to order for Shimomachi to look good, and the veteran would almost certainly travel to Osaka to fight, meaning he would be available for the scheduled date for the next Green Tsuda show. Of the options on this list he seems the most likely, at least if Shimomachi wants to be the "home" fighter.
Last weekend we saw a massive show in Uzbekistan, headlined by standout Super Bantamweight Murodjon Akhmadaliev (9-0, 7) who made his first defense of the IBF and WBA "super" titles, as he stopped Ryosyuke Iwasa. The stoppage may have been a bit early, though it was certainly coming, however the key to take away from the bout wasn't the result, but the performance, and what it means for the Super Bantamweight division.
The win sees Akhmadaliev continue to have a strong claim as the #1 fighter in the division, following back to back wins over Daniel Roman and Ryosuke Iwasa, as well as other solid wins over Carlos Carlson and Isaac Zarate. The division is, however, one of the best in the sport and there are so many other options out there for claiming to be the divisional number. It's why the division has, in the last few years, become one of the most compelling.
With his latest win now on his record lets take a look at five for... Murodjon Akhmadaliev
1-Stephen Fulton (19-0, 8)
On paper the best match up in the division would see Akhmadaliev take on unbeaten American Stephen Fulton to unify the IBF, WBA "super" and WBO titles. Not only would this be a triple title unification bout but it would also be a clash between two unbeaten world champions, something we also love to see, and two men who are just coming in to their primes. Both fighters are in their mid 20's, both guys have legitimate claims to be the best in the division and both have the attitude of wanting to face the best out there. From a fan perspective this bout isn't just a massive clash for the division but also one of the most fan friendly bouts we could get at 122lbs. This is the bout the division needs, but a hard one to make, as many of these will be, due to the issues between PBC and DAZN.
2-Luis Nery (31-0, 24)
Another potential bout that would have fans excited, though would again need someone to work some political magic, would be a bout between Akhmadaliev and controversial Mexican Luis Nery. Again this would be a 3 title unification bout, with Nery being the current WBC champion, and it would again have the ingredients to be something special. As with the Fulton match up this would be a triple title unification bout between two unbeaten men with styles that would gel and would again need to see someone cross the street. Although a fantastic match up this ones doesn't have the same appeal as the Fulton bout as Nery looked pretty poor last time out, as he struggled past Aaron Alameda, and there are question marks about how he will really get on at 122lbs going forward.
3-Daniel Roman (28-3-1, 10) II
Yet another bout that could be scuppered by the DAZN/PBC rivalry would be a rematch between Akhmadaliev and Daniel Roman. These two gave us a special bout in 2020, as Akhmadaliev took a split decision over Roman to claim his titles, and a rematch seems so obvious. Obviously this wouldn't be a unification bout but is a bout we know would be good, we know from their first bout that the men match up well, we know their styles gel and we know there is a back story here. We also know that Akhmadaliev will want to prove he didn't need some luck from the judges to take the win in their first bout, and we know Roman will want revenge for his loss in 2020. Roman will also want to make a statement to Matchroom, who had the chance to extend his contract, though chose not to after the loss to Akhmadaliev, adding a real sense of something else to this potential rematch. This bout makes too much sense not to happen, and we really hope the rivalry between the two different stables doesn't stop this one happening.
4-Hiroaki Teshigawara (22-2-2, 15)
Given how many of the top names are unlikely to cross the road for a bout with Akhmadaliev we need to take a look at fighters not affiliated with PBC, Top Rank and Frank Warren. Thankfully one such name is that of Hiroaki Teshigawara, who just so happens to be the leading contender with the IBF and is essentially unaffiliated with any Western promoter. Teshigawara is the current OPBF Bantamweight champion and is a 30 year old from Japan, who has been knocking on the door of a world title fight for a few years now, but has lacked the backing to secure a big fight. He is currently riding a 10 fight winning run, including wins over Keita Kurihara, Teiru Kinoshita and Shohei Omori and given his availability and IBF ranking he makes for a perfect opponent. He also comes with the Japanese angle, something that's worth noting following Akhmadaliev's recent win over Iwasa.
5-Thomas Patrick Ward (29-0-1, 4)
There are many, many, many options we would prefer to see Akhmadaliev in with that Englishman Thomas Patrick Ward, we need to make that clear. Ward wouldn't be in our top 10 choices, if we could just pick bouts for Akhmadaliev. He is however a likely, plausible, and easy to make bout for Akhmadaliev's next defense. The 26 year old Ward has something that very, very, few fighters at 122lbs have, and that is an existing working relationship with Eddie Hearn, one of the main promoters behind Akhmadaliev. The unbeaten Englishman doesn't have the competition to suggest he belongs in the ring with the Uzbek, but would be a cheap option, and easy to make option and give British fans extra reason to tune into seeing Akhmadaliev in action. This bout could also take place in the UK later in the year and act as a relative cheap world title bout for Hearn to add to a bigger show.
We need to make it clear. We would see this as a massive, and brutally one-sided mismatch, but we also see it as a very likely option for Akhmadaliev if he wishes to have a speedy turn around and be back in the ring at some point in the summer, or wishes to fight on British soil sometime soon.
(Note - Given we had so many fighters who would need to "cross the street" to face Akhmadaliev, such as Fulton, Nery and Roman, Brandon Figueroa, Raeese Aleem and Angelo Lee rather than making this list all about fights we want, but almost certainly won't be getting. Likewise we have over-looked potential bouts with Top Rank fighters Carlos Castro and Naoya Inoue for the same reason. It just doesn't seem likely for those bouts to happen at this juncture.)
(Note 2 - This list was put together before the WBA ordered Akhmadaliev to face Ronny Rios, which was missed from the list, but is a fantastic match up. The WBA's decision to order the bout seemed an odd one, given they had previously ordered Rios to face Brandon Figueroa, but it's a fantastic bout and one we'll happily look forward to).
This past weekend we saw Filipino fighter Donnie Nietes (43-1-5, 23) return to the ring after more than 2 years out of action. The talented Filipino great looked brilliant for a 38 year old Super Flyweight with almost 50 bouts to his name, and although there was ring rust that needed shaking he looked very fresh and lively for an "old man" in a division where fighters tend to age quickly.
At the weekend Nietes easy defeated Colombian veteran Pablo Carrillo, despite a very weird scorecard from Ferenc Budai, and immediately thoughts turned to what should be next for "Ahas" as he looks to climb to the top of the sport once again.
With that in mind lets take a look some potential options for Nietes' next bout as go through Five For... Donnie Nietes.
Before we look at the 5 fighters we have to remember that a number of the top men in the division already have their next bouts decided. With that in mind we will not be including Jerwin Ancajas, who fights this coming weekend, Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez, Carlos Cuadras and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, with those 4 men involved in a 4 man tournament of sorts, ordered by the WBC. Those 5 men are among the most interesting possibilities for Nietes, though there is no guarantee they will win their next bouts, which would massively damage a bout with Nietes.
1-Kazuto Ioka (26-2, 15) II
The most obvious bout for Nietes, given all the currently unavailable fighters, is a rematch with Kazuto Ioka, the man he beat at the end of 2018 to become the WBO Super Flyweight champion, before vanishing from the sport. Since then Ioka has picked up 3 wins, claimed the WBO Super Flyweight title, moved into the Ring Magazine top 10 Pound for Pound fighters and really boosted his reputation, thanks in part to a big win at the end of 2020. Ioka might not be the huge name that Roman Gonzalez is, but given the history between Nietes and Ioka, and Ioka's enhanced international profile this bout makes a lot of sense. In fact it would probably be the biggest bout currently available for either man. Due to the links both fighters have internationally it could take pretty much anywhere, and would be a brilliant match up to act as either a main feature in the East or a fantastic supporting bout in the West. This bout would have high level boxing, two brilliant legacies and a bit of history.
2-Jeyvier Cintron (11-1-0-1, 5)
Although not a massive name, one fighter we would love to see Nietes facing off with is Jeyvier Cintron, in what would be a compelling contest. Nietes is as crafty, smart and intelligent as they come and he would need to rely on all that guile here if he was to take on the younger, bigger and faster Puerto Rican. The bout wouldn't have "huge" appeal, and we fully accept that, but the two men aren't particularly limited by where they fight, meaning they could, potentially, put this on a bigger card and have it as a potential eliminator to face someone more notable. For example putting it on the same card Estrada Vs Gonzalez III, to help build for a bout down the line. Cintron is a fantastic boxer, he would pose questions of Nietes and we'd love to see how Nietes handles him.
3-Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9)
Talking about potential eliminator bouts we'd love to see, another would be Nietes taking on former 3-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka, who is looking to rebuild following his 2020 loss to Kazuto Ioka. This bout would be wily old, sneaky veteran against the young, quick upstart. It would be two men at completely different points in their career, fighting in what would be a must win for both men. Could Nietes' boxing brain out fox the speed and power of Tanaka? Would Tanaka be able to avoid the counters of Nietes? Again this isn't a monster bout, not by any stretch, but it's one we would love to see and it would be a stylistic match up for the ages. Interestingly a bout like this may also be enough to get Tanaka out of Japan, something fans have wanted to see him do for a while. We suspect CBC wouldn't want him to travel, given the time they have spent promoting him, but letting Tanaka fight in the US against Nietes would be huge for his profile. A win for Nietes would almost guarantee him a world title fight later in the year, or in early 2022.
4-Charlie Edwards (16-1, 6)
One interesting proposition that may be sent to Nietes would be a fight in Europe. The veteran has fought in Asia, North America, Central America, and the Middle East, but has never fought in Europe. The current centre of European boxing is the UK, and why not have Nietes finally show what he can do to a European audience? With that in mind we need to look at the British options at the weight and there isn't too many. The most interesting is former WBC Flyweight champion Charlie Edwards, who currently holds world rankings with the WBC, IBF and WBO. If Nietes can only fight in the UK once, then there doesn't make much sense in facing a C tier fighter, or a fellow import. It makes more sense to face a British fighter, and better yet Edwards is a former world champion who is also managed by the same management company as Edwards, MTK Global. This bouts makes sense, even if it's not a huge bout for Nietes.
5-Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17)
We know, we know, we haven't included fighters with bout arranged, though here want to make a single exception, and that's for a bout between Nietes and Japanese star Naoya Inoue.
This is a bout that actually makes more sense to take place later in the year, rather than any time soon, unlike the other bouts. And a bout that looks very possible, with a huge amount for both men to gain and a compelling stylistic match up. Inoue's next bout, expected in June, will see him battle against Michael Dasmarinas in an IBF mandatory title fight, in Las Vegas. If he gets past that, as we expect, it'll lead to Filipino fans wanting to see another Filipino have a shot at the Monster. Whilst the obvious choice is John Riel Casimero, an alternative is Nietes. The bout would also give Nietes the super fight he craves, a chance to become a 5-weight world champion, and a chance to beat a man who beat fellow Filipino legend Nonito Donaire. It would be another chapter in the long running Japan Vs Philippines rivalry. It would be easy to make, with Bob Arum and MTK regularly working together, and Nietes would be the most technically sound fighter that Inoue has faced. Given this isn't an immediate option, it would give Nietes the time to bulk an extra 3lbs for the Bantamweight division and get ready for the biggest test of his career.
We might be fantasising a little bit here, but we would genuinely love to see Inoue Vs Nietes later in the year in what could easily be sold as legends colliding.
This past weekend we saw unbeaten teenage prospect Phoobadin Yoohanngoh (11-0, 6) score his latest win, stopping veteran Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo and further enhancing his impressive reputation. Sadly it seems that Phoobadin will outgrow the Thai domestic scene sooner rather than later, and could well be done with Thai foes by the end of 2021.
For now however Thailand is not letting many visitors into the country and boxers travelling over to the Land of Smiles to face the teenage sensation will be few and far between.
With that in mind we've tried to take a look at what might be next for Phoobadin as we give him the Five for... treatment, and think about 5 potential fighters he could be facing later this year. Including one man he publically called out this past weekend.
1- Apichet Petchmanee (8-0, 2)
The man Phoobadin called out after his latest win was unbeaten Thai Apichet Petchmanee, a Lightweight hopeful who is unbeaten in but has stumbled his way through a number of those bouts, and seems like a loss waiting to happen. Apichet turned professional with a fair bit of hype and expectation on his shoulders but has failed to really deliver on his potential. Now aged 31 the time is now or never for Apichet to progress on to bigger and better things, though the feeling is that a bout with Phoobadin would see him being destroyed in quick fashion. Notably Apichet is set to fight in the coming days, against Kaewfaw Tor Buamas, but if he gets through that then the build to this fight will grow.
2- Nick Frese (10-1, 8)
Whilst visitors to Thailand are limited there are some Thai based international fighters, two of which are on this list. One of those is Nick Frese, a Thai based Dutch fighter. The once touted Frese began his professional boxing career with 10 straight wins before being upset in November 2019. He's been out of the sport since then but we suspect he would happily return for a suitable bout, and a contest with the rising teenage star would be a very good reason to return to the ring. Frese is a natural Welterweight, and would be the bigger man against Phoobadin, but with more than a year out of the ring, and around 2 years since his last win, Frese would be battling ring rust and the complete lack of career momentum. The bout would also give Phoobadin a potential chance to dip his toes at 147lbs.
3- Musheg Adoian (7-3, 7)
A second Thai based international fighter is the heavy handed Musheg Adoian, who's originally from Armenia. Adoian has spent his entire professional boxing career in Thailand, debuting in 2019 and fighting as recently as December 2020. Sadly he was beaten on debut and has lost his last 2 bouts, though those most recent losses do both come with an "*". The first of those two defeats was a hugely controversial decision loss to the previously mentioned Apichet, who he dropped twice. The second was a rematch with Apichet, in which he spent much of the bout fighting with 1 arm due to a nasty injury that left him a 1-handed fighter. Despite those defeats Adoian is a dangerous fighter, with nasty power, and he would be a genuine threat for Phoobadin. It's fair to say Phoobadin would be favoured, but this would be a genuine test for the youngster.
4- Downua Ruawaiking (16-1, 13)
Potentially the most interesting, but least likely, match up would be a bout between Phoobadin and recent world title challenger Downua Ruawaiking, aka Apinun Khongsong. Downua was stopped inside a round last year by unified world champion Josh Taylor and hasn't fought since then. If we were part of Phoobadin's team we would be desperate to try and get a Downua in the ring with our guy as soon as possible. Whilst Downua is much better than his performance against Taylor suggests he is also a man who would be coming in on the back of an opening round loss and closing in on 2 years without a win. Now would be the perfect time to face him, before he can rebuild his confidence. Sadly it seems to be an unlikely bout, mainly because Downua's team would likely not want to risk back to back losses for their man, but from Phoobadin's side this is something they should be chasing.
5- Pharanpetch Tor Buamas (22-4, 20)
We'll admit we struggled to find a fifth notably option for Phoobadin, but decided to sett on Amphol Suriyo, who has previously been known as Pharanpetch Tor Buamas. The Thai 33 year old is a veteran who has faced some notable fighters of his career but shouldn't be too much of a straight to Phoobadin. Pharanpetch has been a professional since 2011, and has typically fought at Super Featherweight or Lightweight during his career. Whilst he hasn't ever shined, and is 7-4 in his last 11, he has shown an ability to pick up an occassional upset, which was saw in 2018 against Kazuki Saito. We suspect he'd be too small, and too old to be a real test for Phoobadin, but he's likely to be better at 140lbs than Chonlatarn was and would make for a decent stay busy fight whilst waiting for the Covid19 restrictions in Thailand to be lifted. Though it would be a pretty obvious "stay busy" bout for Phobadin.
This past Thursday we saw talented Japanese Light Welterweight Gonte Lee (3-0-1, 1) pick up his most notable win so far, as he defeated Aso Ishiwaki in an 8 rounder at Korakuen Hall. With that win under his belt Lee has done 8 rounds for the first time, and beaten his first Japanese opponent. He has also taken huge steps towards getting his first title fight.
With that win now under his belt we've decided to focus on Lee this week as we look at 5 potential bouts for the talented southpaw, who recent turned 25 and will not be wanting to waste too much time before moving his career to the next level.
Note - Due to the current restrictions in Japan, we have only considered Japanese fighters here.
1-Koichi Aso (24-9-1, 15)
Although it seems early to be taking major risks with Lee's career we really don't imagine that Teiken will hold him back. Instead we expect Teiken to want him to move towards a title fight in 2022 or 2023. With that in mind we wouldn't be surprised by Teiken looking to match their man with a former Japanese champion. There's few around at 140lbs, but one of those that would be available would be veteran Kocihi Aso. The 35 year old Aso has been an amazing servant to Japanese boxing over the years but is very much a fighter on the slide, he has lost 2 of his last 4 and looked very much washed in his razor thin win over Shogo Yamaguchi. He is an ideal opponent for Lee.
2-Akihiro Kondo (32-9-2, 18)
Although Aso would be ideal there is a chance Teiken have bigger aspiration for their 35 year old hopeful. It that's right then maybe they'll take a look at former world title challenger Akihiro Kondo as a future opponent. This would be a very high risk bit of match making, but the reward would be huge. And Lee has the tools to beat Kondo. We last saw Kondo in the ring in 2020, when he pushed Daishi Nagata all the way in a 7th round technical draw. Before then however he had looked poor against Tatsuya Yanagi and was easily outboxed by Andy Hiraoka. If Lee works on the gameplan that Hiraoka did, using his speed, movement and jab, and avoids a tear with the smaller, much older Kondo, he could well take a wide decision over him. This would be a chance to make a huge statement for Lee.
3-Homare Yasui (5-1-2, 4)
A left of field pick here for a potential Lee opponent is 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner, at Welterweight, Homare Yasui. The 21 year old Yasui is an aggressive, exciting and physically strong fighter who is hungry to make a mark on the sport himself. He wouldn't be there to roll over, and he wouldn't be there to make up the numbers. Instead he would be, much like Aso Ishiwaki was, there to win, there to beat the touted amateur standout. He would be there looking to make a name for himself. We suspect that the skills and amateur pedigree of Lee would be enough to defeat Yasui, but he'd have to work hard for it, and it would be a very interesting match up. It would also give Yasui a chance to return to Korakuen Hall, where he won Rokkie of the Year!
4-Ryuji Ikeda (14-7-3, 9)
In terms of more well known potential foes for Lee one possible opponent would be Ryuji Ikeda, a former Japanese title challenger who has experience, power and a fan friendly style. Sadly he has just one win in his last 5 bouts, and lost to recent Lee opponent Aso Ishiwaki, but there's enough value in him to make him a viable opponent for Lee at this early point in his career. Ikeda wouldn't pose too much of a threat to Lee, but should have the tools to ask questions of Lee, take Lee a few rounds and make the Teiken hopeful work for a win. Obviously it would also be a win over a former Japanese title challenger, and that would be the key here. It would also give Lee a chance to score a rare stoppage, something we don't think he'll get many of
5-Shogo Yamaguchi (12-6-3, 7)
We mentioned Koichi Aso at the start of this and it seems right to mention his most recent opponent, Shogo Yamaguchi, as another potential foe for Lee, and like Aso he makes for a very interesting one. He lacks the name value and recognition of Aso, but is a very viable domestic opponent, who comes to fight, press forward, lets his hands go and can leave himself open to counters. He's not the best fighter out there, but he's more than good enough as an opponent, especially this early in Lee's career. The skills, movement and speed of Lee should be too much for Yamaguchi, but this should still be a bout that proves him as a fighter heading in the right direction and should be a similar type of test to that that Ishiwaki posed this past Thursday.
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).