Last weekend we saw Jong Seon Kang (12-0-2, 6) kick off the boxing year for Asia with a sensational 12 round decision win over Nam Jun Lee in an early runner for the 2021 Fight of the Year. For fans who missed it, we really recommend giving it a watch, especially given the general lack of action taking place in the ring at the moment, as it was 12 rounds of totally brutal, thrilling action.
The win saw Kang claim the WBO Oriental Featherweight title and push his career forward, whilst notching the 19 year old hopeful his 12th professional win and extending his unbeaten record to 14. He was also, at least for a few days, a man that fans were genuinely quite interested in seeing more of, and wanting to know about him, as well as his ceiling in the sport. Despite thinking his ceiling isn’t that high, we certainly want to see more of him and he is easily among the most exciting fighters out there to watch, with his flawed defense, incredible stamina, his toughness and his incessant work rate.
With that in mind we thought we’d look at 5 potential bouts for Kang for the rest of this year as we give Jong Seon Kang our Five For treatment.
1-Jae Woo Lee (7-3, 6)
The obvious fighter to start this with is a bout between Kang and fellow Korean warrior Jae Woo Lee, who famously took part in the Hajime No Ippo 30th Anniversary Featherweight tournament and beat Tsuyoshi Tameda in an upset win before losing to Shingo Kusano. Lee, like Kang, has that Korean in ring mentality that sees him showing no quit at all in the ring, and happy to always have a war, even if they have the skills and tools to avoid it. The edge in power goes to Lee here, but the energy and incessant pressure from Kang may end up being enough for him to take the victory over 12 non stop rounds of action. Either way this would be brutal, thrilling, and seems like the best possible fight for Korean fans wanting to get their teeth into some Featherweight action.
2-Renji Ichimura (8-5, 7)
Having seen Kang in some gruelling wars in recent years the youngster deserves an easy one, and not one that’s easy due to a late replacement opponent. He also deserves a chance to shine on foreign soil and begin working his way towards bigger and better fights. With that in mind an “easy” bout in Japan at some point in late 2021 would be a great career move, and we don’t see many better opponents for Kang in Japan than Renji Ichimura. The 27 year old Ichimura has enough to look threatening but with 3 stoppage losses in his last 5 bouts he is certainly not a world beater. Instead what he should be is a showcase opponent for Kang, who would get a chance to break down an opponent over a few rounds on a Boxing Raise or A-Sign show. This wouldn’t be a big name win for Kang, but would help open doors for him.
3-Qiang Ma (6-2-2, 4)
Jae Woo Lee wasn’t the only international fighter involved in the Hajime No Ippo 30th Anniversary Featherweight tournament, as Chinese fighter Qiang Ma also featured in the competition. And thinking about it for a few minutes a bout between Kang and Ma would have all the ingredients of a thrilling war. Ma, like Kang, is a very flawed fighter, but Ma’s biggest issue isn’t just his defence but also his stamina and pacing. We suspect Ma would be competitive, and maybe even dangerous for 3 or 4 rounds, but as the bout went on the pressure and none stop punching from Kang would get too much for Ma. If this one happens, in either China or South Korea, it would be a thrill ride, but one that Kang should finish on top of.
4-Inthanon Sithchamuang (31-14-1, 19)
Thai veteran Inthanon Sithchamuang, also known as Tanawat Phonnaku, is a long, long way from his best. The 34 year old, who was once a credible Super Flyweight contender, is not a natural Featherweight, but he is someone who has spent the last few years competing up at 126lbs and would be a solid enough name, with former world level experience, to make a bout with Kang sellable. The reality is that this would be very, very cynical matchmaking from Kang’s team, but also very smart matchmaking to get Kang in with someone who has fought for a world title. At just 19 Kang deserves an easy fight or two, and a chance to get some ring time based about building his experience, and Inthanon should ask him questions for a few rounds, before the volume of Kang breaks him down. This might not be the best bout out there, but would be a shrewd bit of business from Kang’s team.
5-Shun Kubo (14-2, 9)
We finish this by heading back to Japan for what could be a very left of field choice, but one that Kang and his team may genuinely be thinking about, if he and his team can travel to Japan this year. That would be a fight with former WBA Super Bantamweight champion Shun Kubo. On paper it might seem ludicrous to put the 19 year old Korean in with a former world champion, at this early stage, though Kang and his team may well be looking at Kubo and licking their lips. But both of Kubo’s losses have come against aggressive fighters, who throw a lot of leather and apply almost constant pressure. Neither of the men who have stopped Kubo have been massive punchers but have instead broken down the Japanese fighter through repeatedly tagging him. Kubo is certainly the more skilled and more experienced but Kang’s style is something that has been shown to give Kubo fits. Maybe, just maybe, Kang and his team should be giving Masato Yamashita a call to get this one sorted and get their man a relatively huge win for the all action teenager!
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).