With no fights currently taking place we've had a bit of time on our hands, and with that in mind we've decided to look at the sport in terms of how divisions sit, and do something that had previously been requested. The Asian divisional top 10's. We'll be starting this at Minimumweight and working our way through the divisions over the coming days and weeks. We know there will be some debate about some rankings and there is certainly some area for discussion, and that is certainly not a bad thing at all!
One of the most interesting division's in the sport, and particularly in Asia, is the Super Flyweight division. The division has had the spotlight shined on it a lot in recent years with, and has had more than it's share of great bouts. Here we look at the best in Asia.
1-Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-5-1, 41)
Although no longer holding a world title former 2-time WBC champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai is widely regarded as one of the best of the best in the division. The now 33 year old Thai has the best record in the division, with wins against Yota Sato, Jose Salgado, Roman Gonzalez, twice, and Juan Francisco Estrada. Blessed with heavy hands, an iron chin, freakish size and an awkward southpaw stance he's a very tricky man to beat. He was beaten last time out, in his second bout with Juan Francisco Estrada, though that was at partly down to some of the stupidest tactics seen in a world title bout. We do wonder how much longer Srisaket can continue to compete at the top, 33 is old for a man in the division and with 46 fights he has taken damage but for now he's in the divisional elite.
2-Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14)
WBO champion Kazuto Ioka is perhaps not the top Asian in the division but is almost certainly the Asian money man with TBS and SANKYO backing him heavily. The Japanese fighter won the WBO last year to become the first Japanese male 4 weight champion and has since defended the belt once. A tactically smart boxer-puncher, with some of the best body shots in the sport, he's managed to look like a strong and complete fighter at 115lbs, not something we expected when he was looking like an under-sized Flyweight a few years ago. With wins against McWillians Arroyo, Aston Palicte and Jeyvier Cintron in his last 4 bouts, to go alongside a close loss to Donnie Nietes the Osakan has proven his value at the weight. At 31 years old time is certainly not running down on his career, and he's got the perfect mix of skills and experience.
3-Jerwin Ancajas (32-1-2, 22)
Current IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas has one of the longest active reigns of any world champion in the sport, and the 28 year old "Pretty Boy" also has one of the most significant promoters on the planet, with Bob Arum behind him. He began his IBF title reign back in 2016, when he beat McJoe Arroyo, and has made 8 defenses of the belt. Whilst that sounds impressive some of his opposition during his reign has been disappointing. Despite some of his competition being questionable he does have noteworthy wins over Arroyo, Israel Gonzalez and Jonas Sultan, among others. When Ancajas is in full flow he's a joy to watch, though his draw against Alejandro Santiago Barrios does leave us wondering how he'd cope with some of the more technical capable fighters at 115lbs.
4-Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9)
Another Japanese multi-divisional champion is Kosei Tanaka, who signalled his intent to move up in weight earlier this year, vacating the WBO Flyweight title to join the ranks at Super Flyweight. It's hard to know what he's going to be like at 115lbs but the reality is that he's move proven, as a fighter, than anyone outside of the top 3 in the division. He's the mandatory for Ioka, and they could potentially clash later this year if the suspension on boxing is lifted. The 24 year old has a lot of questions to answer at the weight, but given his speed, will to win, under-rated power and his skills he could be a genuine handful. His ranking is based, at least somewhat, on what he's done at lower weights, but see him fitting right into the mix at the top of the division when he returns to the ring.
5-Sho Ishida (28-2, 15)
It's really hard to know how go Sho Ishida is. When he's been matched against better competition he's come up short, losing to Kal Yafai and Israel Gonzalez, but by that same token he has shown flashes of brilliance and looks like a talent. At least at times. The tall and rangy Osakan is a former stable mate of Ioka's and it's clear he has learned a few things from Ioka, but it very much feels like he's missing a higher gear. It would be great to see him in with some top regional fighters in the next year or two to see if he can sink or swim at the Oriental level. Right now it feels very much like his Japanese title reign, which ran from August 2014 to mid-2016, is a very long time ago and he's not managed to replicate that level of performance since.
6-KJ Cataraja (11-0, 9)
At 24 years old the time is rife for KJ Cataraja to go from being one of the best kept secrets in Asian boxing to being a star. The former amateur standout had been matched well early on, and was fighting in 8 round bouts as early as his third contest. Sadly it took a bit too long for him to progress into facing a genuine test, with his 2018 bout against Victor Hugo Reyes being his one true test so far. He's ready to be let off the leash, but ALA Promotions, who guide his career, had a horror in 2019 rarely putting on shows and seeing Nietes vacate his title. If ALA can't push Cataraja forward when boxing returns to the Philippines we wouldn't be surprised by the youngster leaving the ALA stable and following Mark Magsayo in the pursuit of bigger and better things. He's too good to waste his career against the likes of Delfin De Asis and Crison Omayao, the two opponents he faced in 2019.
7-Ryusei Kawaura (7-0, 4)
Of course Cataraja isn't the only promising youngster ready to be unleashed when boxing returns on a wider scale in Asia. Another is Ryusei Kawaura, the protege of Hiroshi Kawashima. The unbeaten Kawaura only fought twice in 2019 but his competition there was solid with wins against Renoel Pael and Joy Joy Formentera. He proved his boxing brain and toughness in those bouts, and was asked questions that he had to answer. Although he's yet to fight beyond 8 rounds it's worth noting he has gone 8 completed rounds in 3 of his last 4 bouts and doesn't appear to have struggled with that distance so far. Hopefully 10 or 12 rounds will come for him in the next year or two and he's got skills, a smart manager and a lot of potential. One thing he will need to do however is get more eyes on him, and so far he's lacked any form of TV coverage, something that will need to change sooner rather than later.
8-Kongfah CP Freshmart (32-1, 16)
Kongfah CP Freshmart, aka Jakkrawut Majoogoen, is arguably the forgotten man of the division.The 25 year old Thai has been a professional since 2013 and his only career defeat came way back in 2015 to Daigo Higa. Since then he has reeled off 18 wins including victories over Renz Rosia, Ryoji Fukunaga and Hyuma Fujioka. Whilst much of his competition has been poor he has been climbing up the rankings based on his competition, and his win over Fukunaga is certainly one worthy of note, as he also fits into the top 10. Talented, with respectable power, good speed, work rate and toughness he could go on to be a player in the division, but really will need to step up his competition when boxing resumes in Thailand.
9-Ryoji Fukunaga (12-4, 12)
Current WBO Asia Pacific champion Ryoji Fukunaga scored a career defining win last time out, when he stopped Froilan Saludar. Prior to that win he had done little of note since winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year back in 2016. His career seemed to go off the tracks, especially when he suffered back to back losses in 2018 to Yuta Matsuo and Kongfah CP Freshmart, but the win over Saludar has given the 33 year old a major win and a chance to build something from. Sadly at 33 years old his potential is limited, but with his power and will to win he'll make for some interesting fights, until father time takes him down. It'd be interesting to see him in with the likes of KJ Catraja or Ryusei Kawaura in the future, but we feel the youngsters both have the tools to out point Fukunaga, even at this point their career's.
10-Froilan Saludar (31-4-1, 22)
Once tipped as a future world champion the 31 year old Froilan Saludar rounds out our top 10. The former WBO Asia Pacific champion is very much a fighter who has failed to reach the heights expected of him, but yet has remained a constant enigma. At his best he is very good, but it's hard to know how good he really is when he keeps losing his biggest bouts. Set backs against McWilliams Arroyo, Takuma Inoue, Sho Ishida and Fukunaga show he isn't world class, but he's very much in the mix at the regional level. He's skills, heavy handed and dangerous, but question marks about his durability and stamina will always hang over him and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him become a regional gate keeper in the coming years.
On the bubble
Kenta Nakagawa, Jonas Sultan, Takayuki Okumoto, Jade Bornea and Yuta Matsuo
Note - Donnie Nietes has not been considered as he has been inactive for over a and would be at least 38 by the time he returns to the ring. His long break from the ring may not have been confirmed as a retirement but it's impossible to know what he'll have left it he returns.
Last weekend we saw Filipino fighter Froilan Saludar (30-3-1, 21) resurrect his career as a Super Flyweight with a huge KO win against Tsubasa Murachi at Korakuen Hall. For the "Sniper" this was a huge win, and a much needed win after previous losses to Japanese fighters Takuma Inoue and Sho Kimura. The win not only kept alive Saludar's career but also saw him win the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title, putting him in the mix for a WBO world title fight, down the line. Of course he's not going to suddenly become the mandatory, but he has got himself in the queue for a title fight, and will certainly chase a second world title shot.
With his recent win behind him, we're going to look at Saludar and consider 5 options that may be on the table for the once very highly touted Filipino.
1-Akira Yaegashi (28-6, 16)
With Saludar having scored a big win in Japan last week we'd love to see him return there in the near future. It would seem a world title fight is unlikely, but that doesn't mean he can't face a world class fighter, and Akira Yaegashi would make for the perfect opponent for Saludar, and for fans. The bout would promise excitement, as every Yaegashi fight does, it could be made for December, when Yaegashi is set to retain and the winner would certainly find themselves on the verge of a title fight. This would be a bout both men would see as winnable, and would provide a lot of excitement.
2-Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14)
If Saludar is to land himself a world title fight in the near future the only real option he has is the WBO champion Kazuto Ioka. The Japanese star is set to defend his title later this year, likely against Jeyvier Cintron on December 31st, but if that fails to come off than Saludar would be an interesting alternative. On the other hand if Ioka gets past Cintron then facing off with Saludar in 2020 wouldn't be an awful choice for a defense. It would seem like a straight forward one for the champion, but is a bout Saludar will be itching for and a bout that could help make Ioka look like a star.
3-Koki Eto (24-5-1, 19)
As with the Yaegashi fight, if Saludar can't land a world title fight he might as well fight against a beatable but exciting opponent, and Koki Eto fits the mould perfectly. In fact Eto may actually come with some extra advantages, given that a fight with Eto could take place Stateside, and this could help increase Saludar's profile. Eto tends to make for fun fights, but is very beatable, and Saludar should be looking to fighters like Eto going forward to build on the win over Murachi.
4-Aston Palicte (25-3-1, 21)
The top Filipino fighters at Super Flyweight are Donnie Nietes and Jerwin Ancajas, and it's unlikely either of those are in a rush to face any other Filipino. As a result the best of the all-Filipino bouts at the weight that we could expect would be a bout between Saludar and Palicte, who would make for a very interesting match up. The edge in power and work rate would certainly favour Palicte but Saludar is no push over and given the fact Palicte was stopped last time out Saludar may well fancy his chances now. This would set the winner up as a legitimate contender for a title and put the other out of the mix. High risk, but high reward.
5-Francisco Rodriguez Jr (31-4-1, 22)
A bit of a while suggestion would be a bout with former unified Minimumweight champion Francisco Rodriguez Jr, in what would be a sensational fight between two men looking to make their mark on the Super Flyweight world scene. In terms of styles this would be compelling, with Rodrgiuez being an aggressive pressure fighter and Saludar being a talented mover, both are looking for a world title fight and the bout has an underlying story. Rodriguez Vs the Philippines. He has fought the likes of Merlito Sabillo, Donnie Nietes, Jomar Fajardo and Elias Joaquino and a bout with Saludar would be another chapter in that story. A brilliant match up for fans and another high risk-high reward one.
It's fair to say that the month of August was relatively quiet for Asian fight fans. It wasn't “silent” by any means, but it was certainly quiet with the boxing turning down down during the Olympic period. That silence however ends tomorrow and we move in to a very busy, exciting and active September.
With so much action during the month we've decided to try and mark off some key dates for the month with a 3-part article of the upcoming Asian bouts. This is the first of those three parts and briefly covers fights between September 1st and September 12th.
Jerwin Ancajas Vs McJoe Arroyo
The action kicks off on the first Saturday of the month as Filipino star Jerwin Ancajas (24-1-1, 16) takes on IBF Super Flyweight champion McJoe Arroyo (17-0, 8). The bout will be the first defense by the Puerto Rican fighter, who won the title last year with a technical decision win against Arthur Villanueva. On the other hand Ancajas will be riding an 11 fight stoppage run into what is his first world title bout.
Naoya Inoue Vs Petchbarngborn Kokietgym
Just a day after the IBF Super Flyweight title be we see the WBO version of the title being fought for as Naoya Inoue (10-0, 8) looks for his third defense of the title. The “Monster” will be battling against Thai veteran Petchbarngborn Kokietgym (38-7-1, 18) in what looks like a straight forward defense for the champion. Whilst Inoue will be strongly favoured the Thai isn't travelling to just pick up a pay cheque and will instead be looking for one of the biggest upsets of the year.
Takuma Inoue Vs Froilan Saludar
On the same show on September 4th we will have several other bouts of note, including a mouth watering test for youngster Takuma Inoue (7-0, 2), who takes on Froilan Saludar (23-1-1, 14). This is a genuinely tough test for Inoue, who goes up against a man many tipped a few years ago to win a world title. Saludar knows that a loss here could be the end of his career whilst Inoue knows a win will help open the door to a world title fight either later this year or early next year.
Koki Inoue vs Heri Andriyanto
A third Inoue in action on September 4th is Koki Inoue (4-0, 3) who takes a step up in class as he faces Indonesian veteran Heri Andriyanto (22-22-2, 10) in an 8 round bout. The talented and exciting Inoue hasn't set the world on fire yet but has shown real potential and a win here against Andriyanto may be able to push him towards a domestic title fight. For the visitor the bout is likely to be painful but he's certainly proven his toughness in the past.
Satoshi Shimizu vs In Kyoo Lee
Still staying on that September 4th 4th card we'll finally see the professional debut of Satoshi Shimizu (0-0) who goes up against Korean visitor In Kyoo Lee (3-2, 1). The Japanese debutant is 30 years old and is expected to be fast tracked to the top so will almost certainly be looking to look fantastic here. But Lee is no push over and won't be travelling to just fall over in front of the 2012 Olympic Bronze medal winner.
Keita Obara Vs Eduard Troyanovsky
One of the most interesting bouts this month takes place in Russia and sees Japanese puncher Keita Obara (16-1-1, 15) battle against IBF Light Welterweight champion Eduard Troyanovsky (24-0, 21). The bout hasn't got much attention but looks almost certain to be a war between two massive punchers each looking to score a career defining win. We don't see this one going the distance but it will be fire works from start to end and should be a bit of a hidden gem.
Kenichi Ogawa vs Kento Matsushita
The month really steps up on September 10th, a day where an avid fan gets the chance to watch hours, and hours, of fights. The first of the many title bouts featuring Asian fighters takes place in Japan and sees Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kenichi Ogawa (18-1, 15) defending his title against veteran Kento Matsushita (34-9-7, 13). The bout should be a straight forward defense for the champion but he did look poor last time out before stopping Satoru Sugita.
Johnriel Casimero vs Charlie Edwards
The first of a number of world title fights involving an Asian fighter will see Filipino fighter Johnriel Casimero (22-3, 14) defending his IBF Flyweight title against unbeaten British novice Charlie Edwards (8-0, 3) in London. On paper this looks like an opportunity that has come too for Edwards however it's good to see Western fighters on the fast track and testing themselves against world class fighters like Casimero rather than padding their records.
Gennady Golovkin vs Kell Brook
Staying in London we'll also see a battle of unbeaten men trading blows for the Middleweight crown, as well as the WBC, IBF and IBO titles. The bout in question will see Kazakh star Gennady Golovkin (35-0, 32) taking on British fighter, and IBF Welterweight champion, Kell Brook (36-0, 25). Golovkin will be heavily favoured though some have suggested that this could be Golovkin's hardest bout so far and it could well open real doors in the UK for “GGG”.
Jesus Soto Karass vs Yoshihiro Kamegai II
Potentially the Fight of the Month is rematch as Japan's popular Yoshihiro Kamegai (26-3-2, 23) battles against Jesus Soto Karass (28-10-4, 18). These two men faced off in an all out war earlier this year and we're expecting something similar here with the two men both having styles which will always be fun to watch. Kamegai seemed to do enough to claim a win in their first bout, but the judges disagree and we'd not be shocked to see both putting it all out there for the win here.
Carlos Cuadras vs Roman Gonzalez
In a rare all-Teiken bout we'll see WBC Super Flyweight champion Carlos Cuadras (35-0-1, 27) defending his belt against pound-for-pound sensation Roman Gonzalez (45-0, 38). For Caudras the bout is great chance to legitimise his world title reign, which has been disappointing so far, whilst Gonzalez will be looking to become a 4-weight world champion. The bout is a rare title bout between unbeaten fighters and we can't help but be excited by this one.
Genesis Servania vs Alexander Espinoza
Action continues through Japan for much of the much and on September 11th fans in Ishikawa will get the chance to see world ranked Filipino Genesis Servania (27-0, 11) take on the heavy handed Alexander Espinoza (11-7, 10). Servania has had a frustrating career recently with inactivity, fighting only twice last year and not fighting this year, but will have to be careful here against a big punching Venezuelan who has gone the world distance with two former world champions.
Given the activity during the month part will be posted in the upcoming days and feature bouts from the 12th of September and onwards, including several world title bouts, the first of the WBO Asia Pacific title bouts to be held in Japan and a lot more!
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).