Last weekend we saw Chinese fighter Can Xu (18-2, 3) continue a stellar year as he scored his third win of 2019 and recorded his second defense of the WBA Featherweight title. A year ago no one would have assumed that 2019 was going to be the year of Xu but he has been a genuine revelation through the year and despite his lack of power he is a must watch fighter who simply doesn't stop throwing. Following his win over Manny Robles last weekend there really was no one who be a more obvious choice for this week's "Five for..."
1-Josh Warrington (30-0, 7)
After beating Robles we saw Xu himself call out IBF champion Josh Warrington and in reality, that is probably the most exciting bout the division can give us. Not only is it a brilliant unification bout between the WBA and IBF champions but style wise it's a fight that would be none stop action. Both men are very similar in a number of ways, notably they both lack power and they both throw a lot of leather. A clash between the two would likely break the compubox records for most combined punchers and we would genuinely just see a blur of human mass trading blows. The problem is that the men are affiliated with "different sides of the street" but Xu has made it clear he's happy to travel for the fight and it's now pretty much in the hands of the promoters.
2-Shakur Stevenson (13-0, 7)
If Xu can't get the IBF champion in the ring then he could chase someone else who wants Warrington. The guy who is regularly calling out the English fighter it American fighter Shakur Stevenson, the current WBO champion. Stevenson has a lot of attention on him from a US media standpoint, and the 2016 Olympian has the backing of Bob Arum, a super star look and a lot of things going for him. Despite some weak performances early in his career he has began to shine recently and is arguably the most notable fighter in the division due to his sizeable US fanbase. This could easy be marketed along the China Vs USA lines, as well as the unification angle, and given the styles of the two men it could be a very entertaining bout with a lot of shots being thrown.
3-Hiroshige Osawa (36-5-4, 21)
If Xu and his team can't secure a big unification fight away from home he might as well return back to China for a fight, like he did mid 2019, and take on a regional opponent. This would be the smart time to get rid of a mandatory challenger and at the moment the #1 ranked WBA fighter is Japan's Hiroshige Osawa. Osawa is no world beater, and wouldn't really be expected to test Xu, but would make for a nice homecoming opponent for Xu's first defense of 2020 before bigger bouts later in the year. This wouldn't be our number 1 choice from a momentum or style perspective, but from a logical stand point it does make sense to get rid of a potential mandatory sooner rather than later, if bigger bouts can't be made.
4-Kid Galahad (26-1, 15)
England's Kid Galahad is a man that not many fighters will be wanting to fight. He's slippery, awkward, and rather dull to watch. He's the sort of fighter who will make opponents look bad and will try to stink the joint out. He's the sort of fighter that, logically, everyone should avoid. However he's the sort of fighter that if you can beat decisively you can essentially get rid of, as a top contender. Warrington struggled badly with Galahad when the two men earlier this year, but if Xu can press and pressure the the Englishman, swarming him, and preventing him from getting the space he needs to mess about, then Xu could likely break him down. This is no easy assignment but one that would get Xu a lot of credit, and potentially open him up to the UK market before a showdown with Warrington. Also unlike most on this list Galahad would likely be willing to travel "across the street" to face Xu given he has little drawing power of his own.
5-Michael Conlan (12-0, 7)
A left of center choice, but one we sort of like from a marketing standpoint is a showdown with Irishman Michael Conlan. Conlan is a former Olympian, best known for giving the judges the finger in Rio 2016, and is now unbeaten as a professional with top 10 rankings from the WBA, IBF and WBO. Conlan is another fighter who wouldn't be the most fun from a style perspective but would be good from a marketing one, with Conlan being a name many fans recognise, especially Irish fans. From an atmosphere point of view the mix of Chinese and Irish fans would be great and the fight would be pretty easy on the eye, even if it's not the all action bout a Warrington contest would give us. This is one of those opportunities to grow a fan base against a notable rising name, and could be a pretty fun way for Xu to sell himself to a UK and Irish fan base, and add pressure to Warrington for the fight we all want.
The month of November is a crazy one for fight fans with notable fights taking place through the month, he we look at the most notable bouts set to take place during the first week of the month in the first part of our look towards a brilliant looking month.
Hiroki Okada (13-0, 10) v Valentine Hosokawa (20-5-3, 9)
The first title fight of a thoroughly hectic month will see Japanese Light Welterweight champion Hiroki Okada defending his title against veteran Valentine Hosokawa,who has come up short in two previous title fights. For Okada the bout will be his 6th title defense,and if he wins there is the thinking he may vacate the title rather than face mandatory challenger Koichi Aso, who he has beaten twice already, and move on to OPBF title bouts instead. For Hosokawa this will likely be his last chance at a title given that he's 35 years old.
Tatsuya Fukuhara (17-4-6, 6) v Genki Hanai (7-0, 5)
We see more Japanese title action early in the month as Minimumweight champion Tatsuya Fukuhara defends his title against the unbeaten, and fast rising, Genki Hanai. For the under-rated champion this is his third defense of the title and he is likely to fight for a world title in 2017, if he can secure a victory here over Hanai. If he gets that chance it will open big doors for the popular Kumamoto man. For Hanai the bout will be his first title bout, and whilst he could claim the title he may also play party pooper to Fukuhara's world title dreams and get himself in the position for a world title bout. A really intriguing domestic level clash for Japanese fight fans.
Daigo Higa (10-0, 10) v Felipe Cagubcob Jr (6-2-5, 2)
The first OPBF title fight of the month comes on a huge day of action as sees exciting Flyweight contender Daigo Higa look to defend his OPBF title for the first time. The “Romagon of Okinawa” will be up against little known Filipino challenger Felipe Cagubcob Jr. The exciting Higa will be looking to join the mix at world level in 2017 but will need to continue his winning ways to do that, with many expecting him to do just that here with a stoppage. For the Filipino challenger, this will be his first bout away from home and see him taking on his best opponent to date, and a man who has enjoyed mowing through Filipino fights thus far through his career
Zou Shiming (8-1, 2) Vs Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym (39-1-2, 24) II
Staying with the Flyweight division we will not only see an OPBF title fight but also a world title fight as the vacant WBO title goes on the line in a bout between Zou Shiming and Kwanpichit OnesongChaigym. These two men met back in 2014, when Shiming came close to stopping Kwanpichit on route to a wide, and now we have the two men going at it again with a world title up for grabs. A win for Shiming is expected, and if he manages to win he will become the second Chinese world champion, but he has failed to reach the heights expected of him and Kwanpichit has rebuilt well since his loss, winning his last 12 bouts, all by stoppage.
Nonito Donaire (37-3, 24) v Jessie Magdaleno (23-0, 17)
The Super Bantamweight division hasn't been the most exciting in recent years, but does look like a division that is genuinely interesting with a mix of experience veterans and emerging youngsters. One of the veterans of the division is 33 year old Filipino sensation Nonito Donaire who defends his WBO title against emerging destroyer Jessie Magdaleno in a bout that could turn out to be the bout of night. At his best Donaire is a real sensation but at 33 he's not the fighter he once was. Magdaleno has shown real promise but this is a huge step for the unbeaten American.
Oscar Valdez (20-0, 18) v Hiroshige Osawa (30-3-4, 19)
At Featherweight we appear to be seeing the emergence of a new Mexican star, Oscar Valdez. In his first defense of the WBO Featherweight title Valdez will be facing Japan's Hiroshige Osawa, a relative unknown outside of the Japanese scene. Valdez really does look like a special fighter and his rise to becoming a star is exciting to watch, though here we see him up against a veteran who is fighting in what will likely be his only shot at a world title. For Osawa it's now or never and he'll give everything he's got, whether that's enough or not is the big question and unfortunatley it's hard to see him winning here unless Valdez has completely taken his eye off the ball.
Jessie Vargas (27-1, 10) v Manny Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38)
Whilst Valdez is a rising star of boxing there is still some megastars of the sport out there, including Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao, who looks to reclaim the WBO Welterweight title as he takes on once beaten champion Jessie Vargas. The bout will see the 37 year old Filipino attempt to further strengthen his legendary status in the sport, and become a 3-time WBO Welterweight champion which is an incredible feat it's self. For Vargas the bout will give him a chance to score a career defining win. With 10 years age difference between these two there is a possible passing of the torch or further proof that Pacquiao really is a truly special fighter.
Ye Joon Kim (14-1-2, 7) v Yuki Strong Kobayashi (10-5, 5)
To end a hectic weekend attention turns to South Korea where world ranked Super Bantamweight hopeful Ye Joon Kim looks to defend his IBF Asia title. In the opposite corner to the Korean hopeful will be Japanese visitor Yuki Strong Kobayashi, who has previously fought for the OPBF Bantamweight title. Kim is regarded as one of the very few Korean's of any real interest and whilst this won't boost his standing in the sport he is someone who could, potentially at least, create a buzz in Seoul. Kobayashi isn't a terrible fighter, but is Kim fails to win here it's more about Kim being inconsistent rather than Kobayashi suddenly being a massively improved fighter.
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).