For this week's Remarkable Round we're not looking at a round that had knockdowns, but we are looking at a round that had high level boxing and one of the best sequences from the entire of 2016. Better than just the action, which was brilliant, is the fact this round came in a world title fight, and it ended up being the final round in the career of a true modern day Asian icon of the sport.
The bout really summed up the skill set of one of the men, and the desire of the other, and ended up giving us something memorable. Despite that it was really this round that stood out as being genuinely exceptional and something that was truly highlight worthy. That was despite the fact that the round was a massively intense one, in fact first 2 minutes of it saw little happen, but the final minute or so, boy was that something special!
Hozumi Hasegawa (35-5, 15) vs Hugo Ruiz (36-3, 32)
The bout it's self was a WBC Super Bantamweight world title bout and saw hard hitting Mexican world champion Hugo Ruiz travel over to Japan to defend his title against the popular and often exciting Hozumi Hasegawa.
At the time of this bout Ruiz was seen as a destructive force, a big punching Mexican fighter who was huge at Super Bantamweight. Stading at 5'9" he was a big guy and at just 29 years old he was regarded as still being well within his prime. With 39 fights to his name was a veteran of the ring, but from those 29 bouts he had scored 32 T/KO's. His only losses were an early career one to Enrique Quevedo, a controversial decision to Koki Kameda and a stoppage to Julio Ceja, which had been avenged.
Hasegawa on the other hand was 35 and had looked an old man. He had been stopped in 3 of his last 10, and had been battered in to submission in his previous world title bout at Super Bantamweight, against Kiko Martinez, more than 2 years earlier. Although he had been a great, especially at Bantamweight, he was regarded as a man who was really being advised to retire and was thought of as being shot, especially given how badly he had struggled just 1 bout earlier against Carlos Ruiz. He was also a massive under-dog here, with bookies in the US making him a 3/1 dog.
The first 8 rounds had been highly engaging and relatively competitive. With the WBC's open scoring being in effect in Japan we knew the scores around 30 seconds into round 9, and these were 78-72 to Hasegawa, 76-74, also to Hasegawa, and 76-74 to Ruiz. For those wondering, Hasegawa had been deducted a point in the opening round for a clash of heads, before Ruiz was deducted a point, also for a clash of heads, in round 7, with both deductions coming under the WBC's accidental foul rule.
With the scores known, and with 4 rounds left, the bout was all to play for in the final stages, and both men knew it.
The start of the round, as mentioned previously, wasn't too exciting. Hasegawa was trying to use his speed to line up southpaw left hands, and make the most of Ruiz's slow feet. Ruiz on the other hand was cautious pressing, hoping to line up Hasegawa, who smart footwork to create some space when he needed it. It seemed that Ruiz's size and power were something that Hasegawa had to be wary of and midway through the round Ruiz managed to connect, forcing Hasegawa back and exciting Ruiz who came forward with some new energy. It hurt Hasegawa who bucked and looked to hold before backing on to the ropes.
It was with Hasegawa on the ropes that the round got it's highlight as Ruiz went for the kill and Hasegawa slipped, slid and countered wonderfully with his back against the ropes. It was an amazing back and forth exchange, and one that saw both men letting their hands go, almost none stop for 15, heart in mouth, seconds. This was just amazing to watch, incredibly intense action and it saw the tide change, with Ruiz hurt, backing off and having his face, which was bloodied at the start of the round, looking smashed to pieces. Hasegawa could smell blood and looked for the finish, though was respectful and didn't risk too much against the power of Ruiz.
Immediately as the round ended Ruiz's team waved in the towel, deciding their man was done. Ending the bout, and the round, with their man's health at the forefront of their mind.
Amazing Ruiz had won the round on two of the judges scorecards, despite ending the round with his corner waving the towel.
After bout Hasegawa sat on the title for a few months, before deciding this was the perfect time to end his career, retiring as a 3-weight world champion, having accomplished the target he had set himself years earlier. As for Hugo Ruiz his career continued and in 2019 he was stopped, inside a round, by Gervonta Davis, in what is likely to be his final career bout.
Some of the best stoppages come from fighters we don't regard as punches. Today we get to look at one such example from 2006 that helped to prove that a man who wasn't stopping people, genuinely could punch. Not only that but he had really nasty power when he landed the perfect shot. The bout has a genuinely dramatic ending, and sadly it lead to the eventual end for one man, who was never the same, whilst it help boost the other to being one of the biggest names in Asian boxing for around a decade.
Hozumi Hasegawa (19-2, 6) vs Veeraphol Sahaprom (51-2-2, 35) II
In 2005 Japanese fighter Hozumi Hasegawa put him a fantastic and mature performance to over-come Thai great Veeraphol Sahaprom in their first bout. The contest saw Hasegawa become the WBC Bantamweight champion, claiming his first world title. The win for Hasegawa ended a 14 defense reign of the Thai, who had held the title for more than 6 years, and gave Sahaprom his first loss in over 9 years. It was a big upset at the time and a win that really put Hasegawa on the map.
Having lost his title and his long unbeaten run Sahaprom returned to Japan in 2006 to try and reclaim the belt and get revenge over Hasegawa.Following the loss he had gone back to Thailand, picked up 5 wins, stopping 4 of his 5 foes, and had rebuilt some of his aura. He was, however, now 37 and had had 55 pro boxing bouts to go alongside a very long Muay Thai career. He was still a top fighter, but very much a man who had seen better days.
As for the 25 year old Hasegawa this was set to be his second defense following a win over the very poor Gerardo Martinez in September 2005. It was a chance to prove his title win wasn't a fluke and prove that he really was world class.
Through the first 8 rounds the bout was an intriguing one with not much splitting the men up to that point. In fact if anything it seemed that whilst Hasegawa had had a good start Sahaprom was starting to build some momentum through the middle rounds and was starting to come on come on Hasegawa began to throw less, move less and fight the wrong fight against the more physical Sahaprom.
Then we got to round 9 and we got to the finish. It was a blink and you miss it finish. As the two men both threw about 10 seconds into the round Sahaprom dropped to the canvas from a right hand of Hasegawa, following a jab. He tried to beat the count, but his body didn't do what he wanted it to, instead his legs betrayed him, and he ended up on his back.
Watching the shot "as live" it looked somewhat innocuous, like it shouldn't have dropped a legend like Sahaprom. Then we saw the replay and it showed just how perfect the shot was.
The replay showed that the right landed perfectly as a counter Sahaprom's own right hand narrowly missed the target. Whilst it didn't look amazing "live" it had Sahaprom' s coming into the shot, it landed perfectly, and took out the Thai in excellent, fashion. This was brilliant.
With the win Hasegawa legitimised his reign and went on to record a further 8 defenses before later becoming a 3-weight world champion. As for Sahaprom this was pretty much the start of the end for him. Whilst he did score 15 wins before losing in a world title eliminator in 2008 to Vusi Malinga, in what was Sahaprom's last big fight as a professional boxer.
We've all heard of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and we've decided to put our spin on things with "Six degrees of separation" looking to connect Asian fighters you may never have assumed were connected! Today we connect Hozumi Hasegawa and.... Hiroyuki Ebihara, connecting 2 legends of Japanese boxing!
Just as ground rules, we're not doing the more basic "A beat B who beat C who beat D" type of thing, but instead we want to link fighters in different ways. As a result we will limit A fought B connections, and try to get more varied connections together, as you'll see here! We also know there are often shorter routes to connect fighters, but that's not always the most interesting way to connect them.
1-The fantastic Hozumi Hasegawa made his debut on November 22nd 1999 at the Chicken George in Kobe. The same show also played host to the professional debut of Yuki Nonaka.
2-Despite his later career success Yuki Nonaka lost 3 of his first 5 bouts, with the final one of those losses coming to Taisei Marumoto in April 2001.
3-Although Taisei Marumoto is some what known in Japan for his professional boxing career he is now actually a promoter and one of his most notable charges is youngster Riku Kano.
4-In 2016 a then 18 year old Riku Kano faced off with Katsunari Takayama for the then vacant WBO Minimumweight world title. Kano would lose by technical decision to Takayama in an attempt to set a Japanese record for the youngster world champion, trying to beat a record held by Hiroki Ioka.
5-The talented Hiroki Ioka was the final world champion trained by the revered Eddie Townsend, who is still one of the most famous and highly regarded trainers in Japanese boxing history and actually has an award named after him for the Japanese trainer of the Year.
6-During his long and storied career as a boxing trainer Eddie Townsend trained 6 world champions, one of those was the legendary Hiroyuki Ebihara, who held the WBA and WBC Flyweight titles.
(Images courtesy of http://jpba.gr.jp)
When we talk about great Japanese fighters it's hard to ignore Hozumi Hasegawa, a 3-weight world champion, a key figure in the Bantamweight division for 5 years and one of the faces of Japanese boxing for over a decade. The "Japanese Ace" was a sharp punching sensation and a force to be reckoned with, as shown by the fact he was a 4 time Japanese boxing MVP.
Although it's easy to wax lyrical about Hasegawa's skills we don't want to do that here, instead we want to bring you 10 facts you probably didn't know about...Hozumi Hasegawa.
1-Hasegawa's father was also a professional boxer, who fought 3 times before health issues ended his career.
2-Surprisingly Hasegawa failed in his first pro-test bout, due to poor physical condition.
3-Hasegawa began his career at the Senrima Kobe gym where he was trained by Masato Yamashita, who had no previous background as a trainer. Interestingly Yamashita would later set up the Shinsei Gym, and Hasegawa would transfer to the gym with Mr Yamashita in 2007.
4-Despite being managed by Mr Yamashita for much of his career his world title bouts were all promoted by Teiken, who worked alongside the Shinsei gym to further Hasegawa's career.
5-Hasegawa got married in the year 2002
6-In the later stages of Hasegawa's career his walk out song was "Fighting Man" by Shinsuke Kiyokiba, who wrote it specifically for Hasegawa. Notably Hasegawa features in the video for this song, as can be seen at the end of this article, and he is good friends with Kiyokiba. Prior to having "Fighting Man" he used "Once you had gold" by Enya.
7-Hasegawa worked in a watch shop, and did so even when he won his first world title.
8-Although well liked through out the Japanese boxing scene Hasegawa has had a particularly close relationship with Takahiro Ao, and has been described as being like an elder brother to Ao. Incidentally Ao won his first world title, the WBC Featherweight title, on the same day that Hasegawa knocked out Vusi Malinga in a WBC Bantamweight title defense, though the bouts took place on different shows.
9-Hasegawa had long hoped to fight in the US, though sadly it never happened. The closest we got was in 2009 when an agreement had been made, in principle, for Hasegawa to travel to the US to face Vic Darchinyan, if Darchinyan beat Joseph Agbeko. Sadly Darchinyan lost to Agbeko scuppering those plans.
10-Hasegawa's first world title defenses, against Gerardo Martinez, was part of the first "World premium boxing" which ran on NTV from 2005 to 2018 to showing world title fights live, and featured the likes of Hasegawa, Shinsuke Yamanaka and Takahiro Ao.
Bonus Fact - Hasegawa's first world title defenses, as mentioned above, came against Gerardo Martinez. It was however originally planned to come against Deigo Morales, a Mexican southpaw, in a mandatory defenses. Sadly Morales was injured in training and was replaced by Martinez on short notice.
Bonus Fact 2 - Although often regarded as non-puncher, Hasegawa went 13-3 (8) in world title bouts, and had a run of 4 world title bouts ending in the first 2 rounds. In none world title fights he was 23-3 (8).
After weeks of trying to come up with a regular Saturday feature we've finally got one thanks to our good friend Derek Bonnett, from Seconds Out, who's regular posts on facebook lead to things clicking. Whilst we know Derek wasn't the first to come up with the idea, it's been his regular posting of them that has really flicked a switch and lead us to begin this new series.
To begin with we must admit we're not 100% sure which we this will end up going and what will take priority. The original idea was going to be "The 5 best wins for..." though our realisation was that the "best" didn't always mean significant, and in the end it can be a frustrating task to summarise what is really "better" than something else. As a result we've decided to mix the two pretty interchangeably to begin with. This may change in the future, but for now we're going with a hybrid of "best", "significant", "meaningful" and "impressive".
To kick things off with we're going to look at former 3-weight Japanese world champion Hozumi Hasegawa (36-5, 16). The "Ace of Japan debuted in 1999 and fought for the final time in 2016. During his long he won the WBC Bantamweight, WBC Featherweight and WBC Super Bantamweight title whilst becoming a genuine star in his homeland and one of the most widely respected fighters out there.
Of course we all know who Hasegawa is, but what were his Top 5 wins?
5-Jess Maca (May 18th 2003)
The first win we'd like to talk about when it comes to Hasegawa is his 2003 win over Filipino veteran Jess Maca for the OPBF title. This isn't a win that got much attention in the west but showed that the 22 year old Hasegawa was a real one to watch. Coming in to the bout Maca had developed a reputation as a "Japanese killer" winning against a string of Japanese fighters, including Setsuo Segawa, Shigeru Nakazato, Shin Yamata and Katsushige Kawashima, whilst running up 7 defenses of the OPBF Bantamweight title. Hasegawa managed to end Maca's run with an excellent performance, taking a narrow split decision over the Filipino. This was Hasegawa's first title win, and put him on the road to the top.
4-Veeraphol Sahaprom (April 16th 2005) - Fight I
After making 3 defenses of the OPBF title Hasegawa got his first world title fight, taking on Thai great Veeraphol Sahaprom, for the WBC Bantamweight title.The Thai boasted a 46-1-2 (31) professional record, with his only loss coming Nana Yaw Konadu way back in 1996, a loss that had been followed by a 44 fight unbeaten run including 14 defenses of the WBC Bantamweighr title. Like Maca we'd seen Sahaprom prove to be a thorn in the side of Japanese boxing, with 2 wins against the legendary Joichiro Tatsuyoshi, a 2-0-2 series with Toshiaki Nishioka. Hasegawa would go on to take a close and competitive decision over Sahaprom, ending the Thai's lengthy world title reign.
3-Vusi Malinga (March 12th 2009)
It was somewhat hard to place Hasegawa's two wins over notable South African fighters. The first of those came in 2007, when he took a decision win over Simpiwe Vetyeka, and the other came less than 2 years later when he beat Vusi Malinga. The bout with Vetyeka is one that certainly aged very well, though in reality was a hard to watch bout between two talented 26 year old's who pretty much cancelled each other out. Against Malinga however Hasegawa impressed, blitzing the tough Southpaw inside a round, giving him his only stoppage loss. This was arguably the most impressive destruction job Hasegawa ever managed and showed that the Ace could punch much harder than his record suggested. In just 157 seconds Hasegawa took out a legitimately tough guy. This wasn't the most notable win, but was one of the most impressive.
2-Hugo Ruiz (September 16th 2016)
At the age of 35 Hasegawa was seen as a man coming to the end of his career, and his 2016 bout with Hugo Ruiz was expected to one final roll of the dice in his attempt to become a 3-weight world champion. Almost 30 months earlier he had been broken down by the then IBF champion Kiko Martinez and just 9 before facing Ruiz he had been dropped twice by Carlos Ruiz. He looked done. Ruiz on the other hand was a was a huge Super Bantamweight, who had real power, was 29 years old and had avenged a stoppage loss to Julio Ceja. Ruiz's only other losses were a 2007 loss to and a very close decision loss in Japan to Koki Kameda. Despite being beyond his best Hasegawa put up a great performance and forced Ruiz to retire in his corner after 9 rounds. At the time of the stoppage Hasegawa was in a very narrow lead, and in fact one judge had him down, but finally he'd done it. Almost 6 years removed from his last world level win, he had become a 3 weight champion.
1-Veeraphol Sahaprom (March 25th 2006) - Fight II
Whilst Hasegawa's first win over Veeraphol Sahaprom, in 2005 was an excellent performance to win the WBC Bantamweight title we'd actually go with the rematch, just 11 months later, as a better win. For Hasegawa this was his second defense, following a rather easy win over Gerardo Martinez. For Veeraphol however the bout was a chance to avenge his loss, reclaim the title and scoring a 6th straight win. This time around Hasegawa took the result out of the judges hands and seemed to toy with Sahaprom at times before landing a brutal right hand early in round 9 to take out the Thai with 1 shot. This was only the second time the Thai had been stopped, and despite the fact he was 37 the finish here, and the pressure to perform at the highest level earned this bout the #1 place.
The month of December is massive in Asian boxing with the end of year run in being crazy. As a result we've had to split our “things to look forward to...” for December article into two pieces, a pre-Christmas and a post-Christmas article, which is to be posted around Christmas time.
When we say December is busy, we really aren't kidding.
The new month gets off to an almost immediate start with an OPBF title fight coming on just the second day of the month. The bout in question is all Filipino bout for the OPBF title, recently vacated by Koki Eto, and will see Eto's former foe Ardin Diale (26-9-3, 15) take on the once beaten Renoel Pael (19-1-1, 9). It was of course Diale Vs Eto that saw Eto win the title, claiming an amazing 8th round win over Diale in a FOTY contender, but since then Diale has gone 6-0 (5) ans really rebuilt his career. For Pael this is his biggest bout to date, though he did fight to a very controversial loss to the world ranked Noknoi Sitthiprasert back in 2014 in what his only loss to date. This really could be something special for Filipino fans.
Fast rising Japanese prospects seem to be the “in thing” at the moment with numerous youngsters racing through the ranks. One of those is Kazuki Tanaka (3-0, 3) who takes a huge step up in class to face Monico Laurente (27-12, 6) in what should be regarded as a genuine test for the unbeaten 22 year old. Tanaka is regarded very highly, and some view him as a potential star of the Green Tsuda gym, however Laurente is no push over and should test the youngster in ways that he has never been tested before.
Last year we saw several Asian fighters emerge and go from being relatively unknown to being names that were on the tip of the tongue for fight fans. Obviously the biggest example was Naoya Inoue, who really became an internationally recognised name, another was Amnat Ruenroeng (16-0, 5) who claimed the IBF Flyweight title and defended it twice, including a shock win over Kazuto Ioka. He looks to secure his third defense of 2015 as he takes on Japanese challenger Myung Ho Lee (19-4-1, 6) in what looks like a stay busy fight for the Thai before a big fight in 2016, possibly against Roman Gonzalez or a rematch with Ioka.
The first of two “WBA Flyweight title” rematches this month sees Thailand's unbeaten Stamp Kiatniwat (14-0, 6) defending his interim title against Dominican slugger Gregorio Lebron (13-3, 11). Their first bout saw Stamp claim a majority decision to win the title though a petition by Lebron's team has helped their fighter get a rematch for the title. Their first bout was decent and we're expecting another good contest, though we suspect we'll see a better Stamp than we saw the first time around.
The second of the OPBF title fights this month is a farcical one Super Middleweight champion Yuzo Kiyota (28-4-1, 26) battles Indonesian challenger Michael Speed Sigarlaki (16-15-2, 14). Kiyota, who is best known for losing in a WBO Super Middleweight world title fight against Robert Stieglitz, might not be world class but is a solid puncher who really should be defending his title against the best OPBF challengers out there., In Sigarlaki however we have a challenger who is 4-6 (3), according to boxrec, in his last 10. It's worth noting that the challenger was in Japan back in March, losing to OPBF/JBC Middleweight champion Akio Shibata and we can't see anything but a repeat of that journey for Sigarlaki.
Whilst Kiyota's OPBF title defense is the most significant “male” bout of the day it's not the highest level bout in Japan. Instead that's an IBF female Minimumweight world title bout between two former champions. The home fighter is Etsuko Tada (14-2-2, 4) who is looking to become a 2-time world champion as she battles former title holder Victoria Argueta (13-2, 4) in what appears to be a very matched bout. Both fighters have suffered recent losses, with Argueta losing 2 of her last 6 and Tada losing 2 of her last 4, but all of those loses have come to fellow world class fighters. This really could be a fantastic fight for fans in Kobe
On the same show as the Tada/Argueta bout fans will also get a chance to see the fantastic Hozumi Hasegawa (34-5, 15) continue his career, a career we thought was over last year. The former 2-weight world champion will be dipping his toes into the Super Featherweight division as he goes up against the world ranked Carlos Andres Ruiz Machuca (14-1, 5). On paper Machuca looks to be a young, fresh and promising fighter, coming into this on the back of his best win however there is some thinking that Hasegawa's team have hand picked the Mexican to help further Hasegawa's career.
Arguably the most famous Asian in action on December 11th is Filipino star Nonito Donaire (35-3, 23) who faces off against Puerto Rican Cesar Juarez (17-3, 13). The bout, which takes place in Puerto Rico is rumoured to be a potential WBO Super Bantamweight title clash, though that's unconfirmed at the moment. For Donaire this is a great chance to make a statement and move towards potentially big bouts with Carl Frampton, Scott Quigg and Julio Ceja whilst for Juarez it's a chance to notch up a third notable win in a row.
The first of two Super Featherweight title fights on December 14th sees OPBF champion Masayuki Ito (17-1-1, 8) battle against Shingo Eto (17-3-1, 9) in what seems like a brilliant fight on paper. Ito, who won the title last time out stopping Dai Iwai, will be looking to establish himself as another in the long like of brilliant Japanese Super Featherweights however Eto is a very capable fighter looking to claim his first title, after having previously come close to winning the Japanese title last year.
Talking about the Japanese Super Featherweight title we see that champion in action as well as Rikki Naito (13-0, 5) defends his title against the big punching Kenichi Ogawa (16-1, 14). Naito is tipped to go far though we've been less than impressed by his recent performances, which have seen him struggle past Eto, Ito and Nihito Arakawa. Ogawa on the other hand has impressed us and has racked up 8 straight stoppages, whilst also avenging his sole defeat. This is a boxer against a puncher and will almost certainly be a great contest with both men putting it all on the line.
Over the last 12 months we've seen the Bantamweight division change a lot with titles changes hands and new contenders breaking through. Arguably the most exciting of those contenders is the heavy handed Shohei Omori (15-0, 10) who looks to move towards a world title as he fights in a WBO world title eliminator against Filipino fighter Marlon Tapales (27-2, 10). The winner of this will get a shot at either Pungluang Sor Singyu or Jetro Pabustan in 2016 and is a key bout looking forward, and should be a final test for either man before being legitimately considered a threat at the top level.
On the same card as the good looking world title eliminator we will see a Japanese title fight as Omori's stablemate Kota Tokunaga (16-2, 11) defends his Japanese Lightweight title against the little known Kazuhiro Nishitani (15-3-1, 7). This will be the second defense from the heavy handed Tokunaga who will be favoured going into the bout though Nishitani will know there is no pressure on him to perform, in what is a huge, and somewhat undeserved, opportunity.
WBA “interim” Cruiserweight champion Beibut Shumenov (16-2, 10) looks to make the first defense of his title as he takes on former WBC champion Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (49-3-1, 35) in what is a really good match up. We know Shumenov, originally from Kazakhstan though now based in the US, is the favourite but Wlodarczyk will see this as a great chance to become a 3-time “world champion”. As a match up this is a good on and would legitimise Shumenov as a Cruiserweight,something his last win, against BJ Flores didn't really do.
History is made on December 19th as Sri Lankan fans in Colombo get the chance to see professional boxing for the first time since the country gained independence from the British in the late 1940's. The show will be headlined by a female world title fight as WBO Atomweight champion Nao Ikeyama (16-3-1, 4) looks to defend her title against Filipino Jujeath Nagaowa (13-15-1, 8). The bout is an historic one for the Sri Lankan people and great chance for the two fighters to help introduce the sport to a new audience.
WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (14-4-1, 7) isn't one of the sports biggest names but she is a potential star if she keeps racking up the wins and retaining her title. On December 20th she'll look to do both of those as she battles against former IBF champion Nancy Franco (14-6-2, 4) in one of the best female bouts of the year. Kuroki, 24, has the looks of a movie star and if she can keep building her career momentum there is a chance that she will help become the star that some were hoping Tomomi Takano would be. Franco however is a tough test for anyone and could well derail the Kuroki climb.
All Japan Rookie of the Year Finals
On the same day we get the 2016 All Japan Rookie of the Year finals which will feature a number of bouts with fighters looking to take a huge step towards becoming a star. We won't pretend any of the men are sensational yet, but some of the bouts are great, such as a Light Flyweight bout between Hiroyasu Shiga (6-0, 3) and Masahiro Sakamoto (5-0, 3) as well as a Featherweight bout between Shuma Nakazato (5-0, 4) and Teppei Kayunuma (6-0, 4). This really will be a treat for fans in Tokyo.
The final Japanese title fight before Christmas comes on December 21st and is a genuinely brilliant match up between two men who are both looking to prove themselves, whilst also being at very different stages in their career's. In one corner will be relative newbie Yusaku Kuga (11-1-1, 7, a really promising Watanabe Gym fighter with solid power and a point to prove, in the other corner will be veteran Yasutaka Ishimoto (26-8, 7), a Teiken fighter who will be getting his third shot at a Japanese title and will be hoping that it is third time lucky given that he's now years old and may not get another opportunity like this.
For those who celebrate Christmas, we wish you a great one before the big action returns on December 26th with an OPBF title fight, and then things really go into over-drive as the year comes to a close in wonderful style!
So, May has finally ended and we're now in June. What a perfect time to look back on the fights we've had over the past 31 days.
The action kicked off almost immediately with an intriguing Japanese show on May 1st. The headline bout saw Ryota Murata (7-0, 5) score an impressive TKO against Brazilian fighter Douglas Damiao Ataide (13-2-1, 6) and in fairness to Murata it was the sort of finish that he needed after going the distance in back-to-back fights. There is still a lot of questions regarding how far Murata will go but at times he looked world class, especially with the way he finished of Ataide, who had never previously been stopped.
Although Murata's bout was, technically, top of the bill there was also a world title fight on the card as Takashi Miura (29-2-2, 22) took care of Australian Billy Dib (39-4-0-1, 23) with a very destructive stoppage. This was Miura's 4th defence of the WBC Super Featherweight title and he's now looking to break out his passport and fight in the US or Mexico in the hope of building his international fan base.
The day wasn't all good for Japanese fighters however as Takahiro Ao (27-4-1, 12) got stopped in a WBO Lightweight title bout by Raymundo Beltran (30-7-1, 18). Beltran, who had failed to make weight for the bout, looked significantly bigger than Ao and made light work of the under-sized Japanese fighter. Interestingly a story has since broke that Beltran has failed a drugs test and if that story is confirmed this bout will be changed to a No Contest.
Just a day later we saw the richest fight in history as Manny Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38) and Floyd Mayweather Jr (48-0, 26) finally got it on. Sadly the bout failed to live up to the expectations of many and although the bout made an insane amount of money it really did little to advertise our great sport. Pacquiao, who lost the bout by unanimous decision, did himself no favours following the bout by citing an arm injury for his performance and numerous people have since filed court cases against the hugely popular Filipino.
On May 6th we had more title action with a Watanabe promoted triple header. The most impressive performance here saw WBA Super Featherweight “super” champion Takashi Uchiyama (23-0-1, 19) blast away Thai challenger Jomthong Chuwatana (9-1, 4) in just 2 rounds. Uchiyama looked sensational at times in one of his most impressive performances since winning the title more than 5 years ago. Although the Japanese fighter looked amazing he did later require surgery on his left elbow.
On the same show Uchiyama's stablemate Ryoichi Taguchi (22-2-1, 9) retained his WBA Light Flyweight title with an 8th round TKO of Thai veteran Kwanthai Sithmorseng (49-4-1, 26). Kwanthai brought the fight for the most part but was dropped numerous times by the champion who certainly his harder than his record indicates.
The third champion to defend their title on this show was WBO female Minimumweight champion Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (7-1-2, 3) who managed to take a very close technical decision over Kayoko Ebata (8-6, 4). Sadly for Ebata this was her 4th loss in world title bouts and it now seems unlikely for her to get another.
We saw more Japanese world title action on May 9th as WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (13-4-1, 6) retained her title with a wide points win against Masae Akitaya (9-6-2, 3). For Kuroki this was the second defense of her title and it seems likely that the 24 year old is only going to get better and better. Sadly for Akitaya this was her 4th set back in world title bouts and the 37 year old, who actually fought on her birthday, is clearly coming to the end of her career.
Also in action on May 9th was the iconic Hozumi Hasegawa (34-5, 15) who put on a stellar performance to clearly defeat the heavy handed Mexican Horacio Garcia (29-1, 21). The bout was Hasegawa's first for more than a year and he looked like a fighter who had more fight in him than we had expected. On the other hand Garcia was disappointing and never looked like really testing the talented Japanese southpaw.
Sadly May 9th wasn't all good for Japanese fighters as it ended with Tomoki Kameda (31-1, 19) suffering his first professional defeat. Kameda, who vacated the WBO Bantamweight title, took on WBA “regular” champion Jamie McDonnell (26-2-1, 12) and despite dropping McDonnell in round 3 Kameda came up short on the cards. The Japanese fighter suffered his first loss though there has since been a lot of talk regarding a rematch later in the year.
On May 12th we saw the ring return of former world champion Kompayak Porpramook (51-5, 36). The Thai had been out of the ring for 21 months following his October 2013 loss to Koki Eto in a FOTY contender. His return was a very low key affair against the debuting Fahpratan Kwanjaisrikot (0-1) and it was no surprise when Kompayak stopped his foe in the 2nd round.
We had one of the biggest upsets of the year, so far, on May 16th when unheralded Filipino Eden Sonsona (34-6-2, 12) shocked previously unbeaten Mexican fighter Adrian Estrella (22-1, 20). Estrella had been touted as a future world title contender though was stopped in the 2nd round by Sonsona who may well find himself capable of getting a sizeable payday next time out.
On the same night we saw Kazakh puncher Gennady Golovkin (33-0, 30) continue his reign of terror in the Middleweight division. Golovkin, defending his WBC “interim” and WBA “super” titles saw off Willie Monroe Jr (19-2, 6) in the 6th round. Monroe had given a spirited effort, especially given that he was down twice in round 2, though it did often seem like Golovkin was toying with his American foe.
May 23rd saw our attention turning to South Korea where Hyun Mi Choi (10-0-1, 3) retained her WBA female Super Featherweight title with a wide decision win over Japanese veteran Chika Mizutani (14-5, 7). Choi was in control through out the bout and looked very talented whilst Mizutani generally looked out classed but brave.
On May 28th we saw Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (34-4-1, 31) score one of his best wins to date as he mowed down Mexican Jose Salgado (34-3-2, 27) in 4 rounds. This bout was for the WBC “silver” Super Flyweight title and with the win Srisaket is now the mandatory challenger for WBC world champion Carlos Cuadras, the man that actually took the title from Srisaket last year.
The final highlight of the month came on May 30th when Japanese teenager Kosei Tanaka (5-0, 2) claimed the WBO Minimumweight title in just his 5th professional bout. The youngster over-came Mexican Julian Yedras (24-2, 13) in a compelling 12 round affair which saw Tanaka show off everything he was capable off in the ring, including a few defensive issues that will hopefully be worked on when he gets back in to the ring. The youngster became the “quickest” Japanese world champion beating the previous record of Naoya Inoue by a single fight.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
May 2015 will be one of the most significant in boxing history. We all know that professional boxing will get the attention of the world on May 2nd however that's not the only date of note this coming month.
To begin the month we get 4 notable bouts as the month kicks off in style. The first of those will see former 2-weight world champion Akira Yaegashi (20-5, 10) begin his career as a Super Flyweight following back to back losses in late 2014. The popular Yaegashi has been matched with an easy opponent though it's still going to be a joy to see him in action.
On the same card as Yaegashi's bout we will see Japanese Olympic gold medal winner Ryota Murata (6-0, 4) battle against WBO world ranked foe Douglas Damiao Ataide (13-1-1, 6). This is a step up for Murata and a win here will move him towards a possible WBO world title fight though it also promises to be his toughest bout so far.
Also on this card is a WBC Super Featherweight world title fight which will see the hard hitting Takashi Miura (28-2-2, 21) defending his title against former Featherweight title holder Billy Dib (39-3-0-1, 23). This is a high profile opportunity for Miura who has yet to become the star despite having a very fun to watch style.
The remaining bout of note takes place in the US where Japan's Takahiro Ao (27-3-1, 12) looks to claim the WBO Lightweight title and over-come the tough Raymundo Beltran (29-7-1, 17). This bout will give Ao an opportunity to become a 3-weight world champion though it's not an easy contest for the popular Japanese fighter.
It goes with out saying that the biggest bout of the month takes place in a little venue in the US on May 2nd as Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38) battles against the unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr (47-0, 26) in a bout to unify the WBO, WBC and WBA “super” titles at Welterweight. This bout is set to break all sorts of records and is, with out a doubt, the most significant bout in recent memory. The winner of this long anticipated fight will be viewed as the fighter of their generation and it's fair to say the fans of the loser will be left wondering “what if” had the bout taken place several years ago when both were still in their pomp.
The action returns on May 6th world title triple header. The most exciting match up here will see WBA Super Featherweight “super” champion Takashi Uchiyama (22-0-1, 18) defending his title against unbeaten Thai Jomthong Chuwatana (9-0, 4) in what looks to be an amazing contest. This is not going to be easy for either man and a win for Uchiyama will hopefully lead to a unification whilst a win for Jomthong would instantly make him a boxing star.
In a Light Flyweight title bout Ryoichi Taguchi (21-2-1, 8) will be defending his WBA title against Thai veteran Kwanthai Sithmorseng (49-3-1, 26). This will be Taguchi's first defense following his victory against Alberto Rossel in December and whilst it looks like a good bout on paper it really isn't very good with Sithmorseng having come up short against almost every notable foe that he's faced.
The third world title fight will see WBO female Minimumweight champion Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (6-1-2, 3) defending her belt against Kayoko Ebata (8-5, 4). This will be Ebata's 4th shot at a world title having come up in 3 previous title fights whilst Ikehara will be defending her title for the second time following a disappointing technical draw with Jessebelle Pagaduan in February.
One of the busiest days of the year comes on May 9th when we get a host of notable bouts taking place around the world.
The most notable bout takes place in the US where Tomoki Kameda (31-0, 19) will battle against Jamie McDonnell (25-2-1, 12) in a WBA Bantamweight title bout. Originally this bout was announced a WBA/WBO unification contest but the WBO refused to sanction the bout and as a result Tomoki vacated the belt so that the bout could go on. It's a really good bout and one that we are genuinely excited about.
One of the most notable bouts takes place in Kobe as former 2-weight world champion Hozumi Hasegawa (33-5, 15) battles against the unbeaten and heavy handed Horacia Garcia (29-0, 21). This will be Hasegawa's comeback bout following his loss to the then IBF Super Bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez last year, sadly however he's up against a very, very good opponent.
Also in Japan we get a female world title fight as Yuko Kuroki (12-4-1, 6) defends her WBC female Minimumweight title against former world title challenger Masae Akitaya (9-5-2, 3). This isn't a great bout but it will likely give a lot of action for the fans at the Aqua Bunka Hall and will see Kuroki being forced to answer serious questions about her talent.
A notable bout in the UK will see the heavy handed Rey Megrino (21-20-3, 18) attempt to upset the very highly regarded Khalid Yafai (14-0, 9). Yafai is talented but this is a step up for the youngster and although it looks like a mismatch Megrino does have that power which can be a problem for anyone in the lower weight classes. [Note-This bout now appears to be in doubt]
A third successive Saturday of note comes on May 16th when we get two stateside bouts of note.
One of those bouts will see unbeaten Kazakh destroyed Gennady Golovkin (32-0, 29) defending his collection of titles against the once beaten boxer-mover Willie Monroe Jr (19-1, 6). This will be Golovkin's 7th bout in the US as he looks to continue to continue his destructive run through the contenders of the Middleweight division. For Monroe this is a huge opportunity but one we certainly can't see him winning.
On the same show we will also see the Teiken promoted Roman Gonzalez (42-0, 36) defending his WBC Flyweight title and making his long over-due HBO debut. The exciting Nicaraguan will be facing off against Mexican veteran Edgar Sosa (51-8, 30) in what should a very exciting bout and a great introduction for the US who haven't seen much of Gonzalez despite his sensational career.
On May 30th we get a couple of bouts that have us excited. To us the most notable of those is in Aichi as the unbeaten teenager Kosei Tanaka (4-0, 2) attempts to set the Japanese record for few fewest fight to win a world title when he battles the much more experienced Julian Yedras (24-1, 13) for the vacant WBO Minimumweight title. The bout isn't the best the division could have given us but it is a brilliant chance to see if Tanaka is as good as he looks and a stoppage against Yedras would be very impressive.
In the UK fans will see the Teiken promoted Jorge Linares (38-3, 25) defending his WBC Lightweight title against Britain's popular Kevin Mitchell (39-2, 25). This will be Linares's first defense of the title after winning the belt on December 30th last year, stopping Javier Preito, and will also be his UK debut. This bout really is exciting with men being able to hurt and be hurt and we'd be very surprised to see it go the distance.
Another world title bout takes place in Mexico as the once beaten Milan Melindo (32-1, 12) battles against Javier Mendoza (23-2-1, 19) in a bout for the IBF Light Flyweight title. This is a very tough bout for Melindo, as he takes on a very hard hitting, aggressive and exciting champion, however the Filipino has got the ability to bring back the title if he performs at his very best. [Note-This bout was originally scheduled for May 9th though was rescheduled due to TV]
The final bout of note will come on the final day of the month as former Japanese and OPBF Minimumweight champion Ryuji Hara (18-1, 10) battles against Petchnamchai Sor Sakulwong (1-2, 1). This will be Hara's comeback bout following his sole loss, a 10th round TKO defeat by Kosei Tanaka, and we're expecting to see a very impressive performance by Hara here who will be wanting to make up for lost time and begin fighting for titles sooner rather than later.
On July 18th boxing fans at the Portopia Hotel in Kobe will get the chance to be part of a small bit of history as they get the opportunity to see the first ever fight taking place at the excellent hotel. The bout, an IBF Super Flyweight world title contest, will see Teiru Kinoshita (19-0-1, 3), himself an employee of the the hotel, fighting against South African puncher Zolani Tete (18-3, 16).
One thing that struck us was that this was going to be the 5th "Japan Vs South Africa" world title bout in the last few years and the first not to feature either Katsunari Takayama and Hozumi Hasegawa who between them have been involved in all 4 of the previous clashes between the nations. With that in mind we've decided that it was worth looking over the short history of the other recent Japan Vs South Africa world title clashes.
Of course the rivalry between the two isn't a big one. It's not like the rivalries between the Oriental countries which have seen some great fights between Japanese fighters and Thai's, Thai's and Filipino's and Filipino and Japanese. But the rivalry has started to warm up, especially since the JBC began to recognise the IBF and it seems likely that we will see more and more meetings between fighters from the two nations.
Hozumi Hasegawa Vs Simpiwe Vetyeka
The first of these of these bouts was just over 7 years ago as the then WBC Bantamweight champion Hozumi Hasegawa, then with a record of 21-2 (7), battled against the unknown Simpiwe Vetyeka, who was unbeaten with a record of 16-0 (9) though had faced no one of real not.
The bout, which took place on May 3rd 2007 at the Ariake Colosseum, gave us one of the least exciting Hasegawa fights as both men waited on the other to strike. It was as if both were scared of the counters from the others whilst hoping to land their own counter shots. As a result it was a somewhat tiresome affair that did little to helped boost Hasegawa's standing in the sport at the time, though he did manage to take home a decision.
Although both men stood off each other Hasegawa did manage to find some conviction late in the bout to secure the victory and his 4th world title defence though it was his first world title defence in which he failed to score either a stoppage or a knockdown and the first bout that he failed to score a knockdown in since his first bout with Thai legend Veraphol Sahaprom.
For Vetyeka it was actually his first world title bout. In later years he really came to prominence with back to back victories over Daud Cino Yordan and Chris John and in reflection it's a better win for Hasegawa in hindsight than it was at the time. Of course we'd all learn, over the following few years, just how good Hasegawa really was. Sadly though I think he went unappreciated by too many of boxing's fans from the west who refused to give him a watch and this bout arguably solidified their views on him at the time
As with the victory over Vetyeka this was a win that looks better on paper than it did at the time. Malinga was a well deserving challenger courtesy of the win over Sahaprom but no one expected him to really bounce back from this loss. Instead of fading away however Malinga went on to twice challenge for the IBF version of the title and took both Stuart Hall and Leo Santa Cruz the distance in fights that he made tricky.
For Hasegawa it was a sensational victory that helped to boost him in the eyes of the fans who made an effect to track the fight down. His perceived "feather fist" reputation was blown to smithereens courtesy of a victory that showed just how exciting the "Ace of Japan" could be when he really wanted to let his hands go.
Up to the point of the headclash the action had been high paced with Takayama landing the great quantity of shots but the much better shots had come from Joyi who appeared to be the much more powerful fighter and appeared to wobble Takayama several times in the opening round. Despite the problems Takayama had had in the opening round he was looking happy to take the fight to Joyi and keep a high pace as if the idea was to out work the South African, a tactic we expect to see from Kinoshita.
The headclash immediately caused blood to gush from over Takayama's right and left the doctor with no option but to stop the fight though didn't end their rivalry...
Nkosinathi Joyi Vs Katsunari Takayama II
...14 months after their first clash Takayama and Joyi would meet for a second time and like their first bout it saw Takayama as the travelling fighter as the JBC refused to recognise the IBF.
This time the two men wouldn't see a premature ending to their bout and instead we had 12 rounds of very good action between the two that saw an off looking Joyi struggle with Takayama who aggressive throughout in a performance that deserved much better than it got.
Despite many feeling that Takayama had been taking too many hard shots against Joyi in their first fight the Japanese fighter did all he could to secure his rematch with out too much fear. It seemed clear, from his willingness to take the rematch, that he was confident of victory and it seemed that he thought he was getting to Joyi in their first bout. This time around he showed why he was so confident as he really took the action to the South African champion in a bout that couldn't have been any more different to the Hasegawa/Vetyeka bout that I started this article with. It was really all action.
Sadly for Takayama he would find the judges less than impressed by his activity with all 3 judges scoring the bout widely in favour of the defending champion despite neutral observers suggesting the bout could very easily have gone either way. With out trying to sound like a Takayama "fanboy" he probably should have known he wasn't going to get the rub of the green early on when a hurt Joyi held on for dear life with the referee doing nothing about it.
For Joyi this would be his second and final successful defence of the IBF title which he would lose, in a massive upset, to Mario Rodriguez in Mexico. Takayama showed his desire for the title by travelling to Mexico to defeat Rodriguez and, at the third time of asking, became the IBF Minimumweight champion.
Going in to the Kinoshita/Tete bout Japan lead the way in recent results with 2 wins from the 4 bouts. A win for Tete would balance the score though with personal and national pride at stake we're expecting history to go out of the window and the men to think about the present. With that in mind we've got to admit we're really excited about the contest and, fingers crossed, we'll get to see a really entertaining bout on July 18th.
Images courtesy of:
Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux (12-0, 8) is a fighter who widely splits opinion. If you listen to HBO, Ring Magazine or even Bob Arum you'd assume that Rigondeaux was as boring as listening to paint dry.
If you listen to fans of "the sweet science" however, Rigondeaux is generally seen as a supremely gifted fighter who has the ability to make good fighters look ordinary and ordinary fighters look garbage.
Sure he may not have the most exciting bouts fight after fight but one thing about Rigondeaux we can all agree on is that he's a special boxer. Not necessary a great fighter but clearly the top Super Bantamweight on the planet right now.
Unfortunately despite being the clear #1 at 122lbs it seems unlikely that HBO will willingly cover his next bout. With that in mind we started to wonder, what is next for the main who beat "The Filipino Flash" Nonito Donaire (31-2, 20)?
Our conclusion was that "El Jackal" would be best off looking to the East for his next fight, as a number of top Super Bantamweights ply their trade over there, in fact there is so many match ups that Ringondeaux could be looking at if he traveled to either Macau or Japan that his career for the next few years could be as busy as he wanted it to be.
The most logical option, if Rigondeaux does look for a fight in the Orient, would be against former 2-weight world champion Hozumi Hasegawa (33-4, 15).
Hasegawa would almost certainly love a chance to claim a third divisional title, he has the ability to draw a crowd and is still, despite losses in recent years, seen as one of the top Japanese fighters.
In terms of the fight it's self Hasegawa would not only bring some TV money and a crowd but also speed, in fact he may be the only fighter at 122lbs who can match Rigondeaux for pure hand speed. His style should actually suit Rigondeaux's counter punching and whilst we could get a chess match it would certainly be a high speed and exciting one with both men having questionable chins.
Incidentally a Hasegawa victory over Rigondeaux would see him fulfilling one of his future goals in becoming a unified champion.
If a fight with Hasegawa couldn't be made for whatever reason there is a trio of Teiken fighters who would all likely be willing to fill a slot with the Cuban.
Firstly you have former WBA champion Akifumi Shimoda (27-3-2, 12), who's highly ranked by both the WBA and WBO. Shimoda certainly wouldn't be given much of a chance by the boxing public but he is known by US fans and could well serve as a supposed "stay busy fight" for the Cuban.
Secondly you have Yasutaka Ishimoto (22-6, 5), pictured, who has been on a recent Bob Arum promoted Macau show, where he scored a notable upset defeating former world champion Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. Ishimoto is ranked highly by the WBO and whilst he's unlikely to put up a great challenge he's a fighter who knows that a win would open up major paydays.
The final Teiken option would be Shinsuke Yamanaka (19-0-2, 14), the current WBC Bantamweight champion. Of course Yamanaka would have to move up a division for the bout but Rigondeaux himself is a small Super Bantamweight. Although this is the least likely of the "Teiken Trio" it would certainly be a fight that would have fans across the globe very interested, arguably more so than the Hasegawa bout mentioned above.
Aside from the 4 men mentioned above there is other options, in fact there is really huge selection of options.
One possibility would be Shingo Wake (14-4-2, 7), the current OPBF champion. Of course Wake has a bout with Filipino Jhunriel Ramonal lined up for October, though after that a Rigondeaux bout would likely be his dream contest for early 2014.
In terms of mass attention, perhaps the only fight in Japan that would be bigger than a Yamanaka/Rigondeaux contest would be Rigondeaux against Koki Kameda (31-1, 17). Unfortunately this is likely to be a total no-no for Kameda who has been selective with opponents and would need to step up both a weight class and an opposition class. Saying that though the attention this bout would get, with Kameda looking for a fourth divisional title would be massive.
Of course it's not just Japan that has options and in fact Indonesia has a very, very interesting option, as long as Rigondeaux himself is willing to move up a division.
A bout between Rigondeaux and Chris John (48-0-3, 22) in Jakarta or even Singapore, at Featherweight would be massive.Sure this is a highly unlikely bout but there would be major interest from fans across the globe wondering if Rigodeaux could compete at 126lbs and wondering if Chris John can genuinely beat a world level fighter.
Unfortunately this bout really does have a number of stumbling blocks. Not only would money be an issue, or venue but also the dreaded "Golden Boy/Top Rank" rivalry which has already denied up a number of bouts.
One thing is for certain, despite what Bob Arum and HBO seem to think, there are fights out there for Rigondeaux that can draw a real interest and there are options out there. Hopefully it's not long before Arum realises he can send Rigondeaux out to Macau or Singapore and try to capitalise on the busy Asian scene.
If Rigondeaux's next fight isn't in the East, it's fair to say Arum has missed a trick.
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).