We'll pretend July was the greatest of months but we have had more than enough notable action over the last 4 weeks!
The month began with action in Thailand as the unbeaten Knockout CP Freshmart (11-0, 6) retained his WBA interim Minimumweight title with a 4th round TKO of the previously unbeaten Alexis Diaz (16-1, 10). Diaz was expected to put up a real fight against the Thai but was made to look second rate as he beaten by the defending champion. Following the win talk began of a contest between Knockout and Hekkie Budler.
On July 4th we turned our attention to Mexico where Filipino slugger Warlito Parrenas (24-6-1, 21) found himself feeling robbed as he was held to a very debatable draw against David Carmona (19-2-5, 8) in a bout for the WBO interim Super Flyweight title. It seemed like Parrenas did far more than enough to claim the win here but he failed to convince the judges that he deserved the win. A really unfortunate outcome, but one that still keeps him in the hunt for a potential show down with Naoya Inoue later this year.
We saw Japanese youngster Takuma Inoue (5-0, 1) claim his biggest win to date as he out pointed Mark Anthony Geraldo (31-6-3, 14) and claimed the OPBF Super Flyweight title. This was Takuma's toughest bout to date but also his most impressive and it appeared he has now filled into a full blown Super Flyweight. For Geraldo it's a second successive loss but at 23 he has plenty of time to rebuild and we'd be shocked not to see him at this level again in the near future
On July 7th we had one of the months most interesting match ups as Donnie Nietes (36-1-4,21) took on Francisco Rodriguez Jr (17-3-1, 11). The bout saw Nietes have some problems, especially early, but take a clear decision over the former unified Minimumweight champion. Nietes looks to be the standout Filipino fighter at the moment but at 33 he really is getting on for a lower fighter and although he looked youthful in the ring some are wondering how long he really has left.
On the same day fans saw WBA Heavyweight champion, well “regular” champion, Ruslan Chagaev (34-2-1, 21) retain his title with a very easy win again Francesco Pianeta (31-2-1, 17). Chagaev dropped Pianeta twice inside a round to retain his title.
July 12th saw talented Korean teenager Kyoo Hwan Hwang (2-0, 2) claim his first professional title, the South Korean Light Middleweight title, as he scored a 6th round KO against Chan Hee Park (5-6-1). Hwang, tipped by some as the future face of Korean boxing, showed some really notable skills but it was very clear that he needs a lot of work before stepping up in class.
We saw a new Japanese Flyweight champion being crowned on July 17th as Takuya Kogawa (24-4, 13) clearly out pointed the tough Hiroki Saito (9-5, 5). Kogawa, who previously held this title, is now looking at some excellent domestic show downs, including a potential rematch with Suguru Muranaka, or alternatively passing up the title to chase world honours. For Saito it seems clear that he will come again, though does need some more seasoning against lower level competition rather than continuing to be matched this hard.
On July 18th we unfortunately saw Ik Yang (19-1-0-1, 14) being given a schooling by talented Argentinian Cesar Rene Cuenca (48-0-0-2, 2) in a out for the IBF Light Welterweight title. Yang was attempting to become a the second Chinese world champion though came up very short in this bout, which really showed how good Cuenca was.
On the same card we saw Nonito Donaire (35-3, 23) destroy the completely out gunned Anthony Settoul (20-4, 8). Now it seems likely that Donaire will move towards a WBA title fight with Scott Quigg.
Unfortunately the night ended in disappointment for Filipino fans as Arthur Villanueva (27-1, 14) was controversially beaten by McJoe Arroyo (17-0, 8). The Filipino seemed to do enough to rack up the rounds but the judges all disagreed, giving Arroyo a very wide technical decision when the bout was stopped in round 10.
The same card also saw the US debut of Korean slugger Min Wook Kim (13-1, 10), who easily took care of Luis Alberto Pelayo (11-6, 7). Kim will hopefully return to the US later this year for a more notable bout.
On July 20th we saw the much touted Sho Nakazawa (7-0, 4) take a huge step up in class as he defeated former world title challenger Silvester Lopez (25-10-2, 18). Nakazawa was dropped early in the bout but managed to regroup and clearly out boxed Lopez who proved that whilst he isn't the most skilled he is still very dangerous.
On the same day we also saw South Korean hopeful Ye Joon Kim (12-1-2, 6) retain his IBF regional title as he stopped Yoshihiro Utsumi (12-7-3, 7) in 7 rounds. Kim, the face of the KBF, is one of Korea's most talented youngster and this performance showed that he does have real promise but really needs to be given more progressive tests.
We saw a new star emerge on July 24th as Daigo Higa (7-0, 7) went to Thailand and surprisingly picked up a 7th round KO win against Kongfah CP Freshmart (14-1, 8). The bout was one of the best of the month and lived up the high expectations that we had for the contest. The hope is now that Higa will be defending his belt in Autumn before possibly being matched with a world class foe next year.
Kazakh fighter Beibut Shumenov (16-2, 10) became a 2-weight world champion on July 25th as he claimed the WBA “interim” Cruiserweight title with a clear win over American fighter-come-analyst BJ Flores (31-2-1, 20). Flores showed good power early but Shumenov showed a completely revised style that saw him moving more than he had in the past. It was that movement that allowed Shumenov to claim the win with Flores later complaining about the Kazakh not standing still.
The month ended, in terms of major action, with Thai teenager Stamp Kiatniwat (14-0, 6) claiming the WBA interim Flyweight title with a majority decision win over Gregorio Lebron (13-3, 11) on July 29th. The win has seen Stamp receive some international attention but domestically he's really boosted his popularity and it seems that the 17 year old is being pushed as the new face of Thai boxing.
We'll be honest the month of June wasn't the most exciting of months to follow Asian boxing but it does seem like July promises a lot, and hopefully will deliver on that promise.
Knockout CP Freshmart Vs Alexis Diaz
The month kicks off with a WBA interim title fight in Thailand as the home favourite Knockout CP Freshmart (10-0, 5) battles against unbeaten Venezuelan Alexis Diaz (16-0, 10). On paper this might only be an “interim” title fight but it's still a mouth watering match up between highly regarded and unbeaten fighters. The winner becomes the top contender for Hekkie Budler in what would be another very attractive match up.
Warlito Parrenas Vs David Carmona
We get a second “interim” world title bout in a matter of a few days as Filipino slugger Warlito Parrenas (24-6, 21) takes on Mexico's David Carmona (19-2-4, 8) in a contest for the WBO interim Super Flyweight title. On paper it looks like a well matched bout between a vicious puncher and a decent boxer and styles should give us a very good contest. The winner of this one will be the mandatory to the sensation Naoya Inoue, and a sizeable payday in Japan,
Takuma Inoue Vs Mark Anthony Geraldo
On July 6th we get the chance to see Japanese super prospect Takuma Inoue (4-0, 1) fight in his first title bout as he battles experienced Filipino Mark Anthony Geraldo (31-5-3, 14) in a bout for the OPBF Super Flyweight title. Takuma, the younger brother of the sensational Naoya Inoue, is hoping to claim a world title in his 6th professional bout will need to win here first in what is a genuinely excellent match up.
Yuzo Kiyota Vs Kajornsak Sithsaithong
OPBF Super Middleweight champion Yuzo Kiyota (27-4-1, 25) looks the make the next defense of his title as he takes on Thai challenger Kajornsak Sithsaithong (7-5, 7) in what looks to be a hugely disappointing match up on paper. Although Kiyota isn't a world class fighter, despite some world rankings, he isn't a bad fighter by any means and to fight Kajornsak merely shows how few viable contenders there are in the division. Kajornsak enters the bout on two losses and it'd be amazing for it not to become 3 in a row.
Donnie Nietes Vs Francisco Rodriguez Jr
WBO Light Flyweight champion Donnie Nietes (35-1-4, 21) looks to continue his long reign as he takes on the highly capable, former unified Minimumweight champion, Francisco Rodriguez Jr (17-2-1, 11) in a mouth watering bout. The contest is a mandatory defense for Nietes and looks to be one of his toughest on paper as he goes up against a fantastic young Mexican. It does need noting however that Rodriguez didn't look good in his last 2 bouts, both against Filipino Jomar Fajardo, and he'll need to do much better here than he did in either of those bouts.
Ruslan Chagaev Vs Francesco Pianeta
A rare Heavyweight bout of note sees WBA “regular” champion Ruslan Chagaev (33-2-1, 20), from Uzbekistan, defending his title against German based Italian born fighter Francesco Pianeta (31-1-1, 17). On paper this looks really matched, and in fact on paper it looks like a fantastic match up, in reality however Pianeta hasn't scored a win of note in quite some time whilst Chagaev appears to be less than half the fighter he once was. It should be competitive but we're not holding our breath on this being a fun one.
Takuya Kogawa Vs Hiroki Saito
The vacant Japanese Lightweight title is up for grabs in what looks like like a sure fire FOTY contender. The bout will see former world title challenger Takuya Kogawa (23-4, 13) attempt to reclaim a title he once held as he goes up against the tough and rugged Hiroki Saito (9-4, 5). On paper we confess this one doesn't look great, in reality however we have very high hopes for the action with both men being aggressive, tough and enjoying a tear up. This really is one of the best bouts we've seen made this year and we're jealous of those who are going to be in attendance for it.
Naoko Shibata Vs Esmeralda Moreno
Japan's Naoko Shibata (14-3, 4) goes on the road, travelling to Mexico, to defend her IBF female Light Flyweight title against experienced Mexican Esmeralda Moreno (30-7-1, 10) in a mouth watering match up between two world class fighters. Originally this bout was scheduled for late June though got pushed back just days before Shibata was set to fly over to Mexico. The fight is a brilliant on paper and we really don't think many female bouts will be better than this.
Ik Yang Vs Cesar Rene Cuenca
Chinese boxing is on the up and that's seen again in the next of the Macau cards as Chinese slugger Ik Yang (19-0-0-1, 14) takes on tricky Argentinian Cesar Rene Cuenca (47-0-0-2, 2) in a bout for the IBF Light Welterweight title. The title, which was stripped from Lamont Peterson earlier this year, is up for grabs and could see the second Chinese champion being crowned. Strangely a win for Cuenca would see him picking a world title in his 50th fight!
On the same card as Yang Vs Cuenca fans will see an interesting card featuring the likes of Rex Tso (16-0, 9) and Filipino icon Nonito Donaire (34-3, 22), both of whom are against over-matched foes.
Arthur Villanueva Vs McJoe Arroyo
Another all-unbeaten title fight takes place in the US as Filipino fighter Arthur Villanueva (27-0, 14) takes on McJoe Arroyo (16-0, 8) for the vacant IBF Super Flyweight title. This is a really intriguing match up between two talented fighters who are each looking for a break out win, a win that would take them from contender to champion. The title, which was vacated by Zolani Tete earlier this year, is almost certainly going to put the winner in the mix for some big fights and this is really a fantastically matched contest.
Stamp Kiatniwat Vs Gregorio Lebron
The final bout of note for us will see unbeaten Thai Stamp Kiatniwat (13-0, 6) take on Dominican puncher Gregorio Lebron (13-2, 11) for the WBA “interim” Flyweight title. The bout will see the 17 year old Stamp attempt to move on to the next level, though it's hard to be sure how good Lebron is given that his competition so far has been poor, in fact Stamp's win over Kwanthai Sithmorseng is far better than anything on Lebron's ledger. This bout, for those interested, will be on Thai channel 3.
Earlier today we saw Chinese fighter Zou Shiming (6-1, 1) come up short against Thailand's talented but frustrating Amnat Ruenroeng (15-0, 5). If you listened to some members of the boxing press that was the death knell for Chinese boxing. According to them Shiming was the be all and end all of Chinese boxing. For the country to have a boxing scene Shiming needed to be a success.
Strangely however the under-card on the same show seemed to suggest that whilst Shiming was the jewel in the crown of Bob Arum's “Chinese Dynasty” he wasn't the be all and end all of the Macau scene. Never mind the Chinese boxing scene.
Firstly let me just give a mention to what is happening on the Chinese mainland courtesy of Zovi boxing.
If you listened to much of the boxing media you may never have heard of Zovi boxing but the outfit has been “Chinese boxing” before Chinese boxing. They have guided Xiong Zhao Zhong to a world title, the only one won by a Chinese male, and they have guided the career of several other Chinese fighters including the very promising Qiu Xiao Jun. Although a small company in the grand scheme of things they are the ones who are putting in the investment to create a Chinese boxing scene and they are the ones pulling the WBC into China.
Zovi have been around since 2003 though have really grown in recent years with the development of fighters like Zhong, Jun and the Xaing Jiang.
If you've not heard of of Jun or Jiang then you'll probably not think you're missing out on anything however both are world ranked. Jiang is WBO #15 at Flyweight, albeit with the WBO calling him “Xiang Jiny”, whilst Jun is the WBC #3 at Super Bantamweight. The odds are both will end up fighting for world titles in the coming years and both are young enough come again and again.
Going back to Top Rank, it's fair to say they wanted Shiming to become a world champion. They knew that if Shiming became a champion then they would have the key to making Chinese boxing massive. Shiming however failed to capture the imagination of those in the West. Fans watching the shows with Shiming were repeatedly critical of the double Olympic champion. Strangely those same fans were often positive about other fighters on the card that managed to steal the attention and fanfare.
One of those fighters was Super Flyweight action man Rex Tso (16-0, 9). Tso is an infectious fighter with a huge smile, great natural charisma, a happy go lucky attitude and a style that is made for TV. He has recently inked a deal with Top Rank for 2 years and although he's limited there are shades of Arturo Gatti about. He can box, we've seen him box against Ratchasak Kokietgym, but for whatever reason he gets dragged into a war and makes for some of the most fan friendly bouts we've seen in the Super Flyweight division.
The Super Flyweight division is a tough one but Tso can put bums on seats and when a fighter can do that they will get opportunities.
Another of the fighters was Ik Yang (19-0-0-1, 14) who is now ranked #2 by the IBF at 140lbs. Yang is a 29 year old boxer-puncher who was described as being a “Chinese Adrien Broner” by British journalist Steve Bunce. We'd say that was a harsh description of Yang but see where Bunce is coming from with Yang's combination of ability and clowning though the guy is pure box office. He punches like a mule, he clowns and taunts and he puts on eye catching performances. He is defensively lapse but has a solid chin and is happy to take one to land one and has been on the radar of some fans for the last 3 years or so, since he beat Elly Ray in fact.
Yang is the type of guy who will appeal to US TV viewers, he will appeal to Chinese fans, he will attract European fans and more tellingly he is fighting in an attractive division. In fact he's fighting in one of the most popular divisions in the West. Add his appeal to Bob Arum's promotional backing and we have a star in the making. Better yet he speaks broken English giving him a “Gennady Golokvin-like” charm.
A third Chinese fighter who has caught the attention on the Bob Arum shows is Macau's very own Kuok Kun Ng (7-0, 3). Ng is the most limited of the 3 but also the least experienced and the man who has had the weakest of teams in his corner. Although he's the biggest “work in progress” he's also a local Macau fighter, exciting and good looking with a notable local fan base. We're not going to say he's mega popular but he does have a loyal fan base and, as shown in his latest bout, he's developing a really exciting aggressive streak.
Ng is unlikely to be moved towards a world ranking any time soon. He's simply too inexperienced and too flawed. He is however a popular local draw who will bring in a crowd and be given time to develop his skills without too much pressure on his shoulders. As long as he can link up with a notable corner team he could, slowly, develop into a contender.
Whilst the loss for Shiming was a big hit to Top Rank's attempt to take over the Chinese boxing market it wasn't the end of the concept. In fact in many ways it was the first set back since they started doing them and with the working relationships to Teiken and ALA I suspect Top Rank will continue to build in the area.
The one major issue is that the cards may need to be more “name heavy” promotions. This could mean that fighters like Nonito Donaire, Brian Viloria, or Manny Pacquiao need to be involved. It could however work to the advantage of boxing fan who may get the chance to see someone like Takashi Miura in Macau to try and tempt over Japanese gamblers. Lets be honest, who'd complain at seeing Miura given a huge profile HBO opportunity in Macau?
Personally I suspect we'll see HBO back in Macau in a few months time with Shiming in a against a world ranked foe as he rebuilds, Tso continuing his pursuit of the WBA Super Flyweight title, though not getting his much talked about title bout, and Yang possibly getting a high profile bout. Maybe I'm wrong but I really hope that's not the end of the Macau shows because they have given us some great, great fights and helped get some Western attention to the Flyweight division, something that we've been very happy about.
(Image courtesy of Chris Farinas/Top Rank)
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).