One of the most popular and familiar faces on the Japanese scene is the "Amazing Boy" Kenshiro (16-0, 9). The talented and skilled fighter, who has also been dubbed the "Smiling Assassin" and the "baby faced assassin" is one of the fighters who has managed to capture the attention of Japanese fans, and those who follow the Japanese scene.
Despite the growing attention for the youngster, there is a lot about him that fans may not know, so here are "10 facts you probably didn't know about...Ken Shiro"
1-Kenshiro, full name Kenshiro Terahi, was named after the Kenshiro character in "Fist of the North Star".
2-His cousin is boat racer Takahiro Korezawa
3-Originally Kenshiro wasn't interested in boxing, and was almost pushed into it due to bad school grades and his father, Hisashi Teraji who was a successful fighter himself in the 1990's, winning the Japanese Middleweight and OPBF Light Heavyweight titles.
4-As an amateur Kenshiro ran up a 58-16 (20) record, including 2 losses to Naoya Inoue one of which came by stoppage in the 63rd Inter Highschool Final's in August 2009!
5-Interestingly the 63rd Inter Highschool Final saw Rikki Naito win the tournament. Naito and Kenshiro hold a distinction together, as the only second generation fighters to have won OPBF and Japanese titles, following in the footsteps of their fathers who had done the same. Kenshiro's father Hisashi, as already mentioned, won the Japanese Middleweight and OPBF Light Heavyweight titles whilst Naito's father, Cassius Naito, won the Japanese and OPBF Middleweight titles. Kenshiro is however the first son of a former OPBF and Japanese champion to go all the way and win a world title.
6-Kenshiro is the first world champion from his father's BMB gym in Kyoto.
7-Despite having won the Japanese title from Kenichi Horikawa, ending Horikawa's reign, the two fighters have a very good relationship. Horikawa has been used as a sparring partner a number of times for Kenshiro, including in some media spars ahead of world title defenses. Kenshiro returned favour earlier this year when he publicly sparred with Horikawa after Ryuto Oho failed to make weight to face Horikawa in what had been scheduled as a Japanese title defense.
8-Kenshiro was supposed to defend the Japanese Light Flyweight title in the 2017 Champion Carnival against would be mandatory challenger Tetsuya Hisada. That bout, which was scheduled for April 2nd 2017, was scrapped when Kenshiro's team managed to secure a bout with WBC world champion Ganigan Lopez. Kenshiro went on to win that bout by majority decision. Around 4 and a half years after the scheduled Hisada Vs Kenshiro bout, Hisada would challenge for the WBA title against Hiroto Kyoguchi. Interestingly Hisada would still get a shot at the Japanese title in 2017, beating the previously mentioned Kenichi Horikawa for the belt in what was their third bout.
9-Unlike many fighters Kenshiro has actually shown no major rush to become a multi-weight champion, stating on multiple occasions that he'd rather break the Japanese record for most world title defenses of a single title instead. The male record currently stands at 13, held by Yoko Gushiken who held the WBA Light Flyweight title, and has only seriously been challenged a couple of times, most notably by Shinsuke Yamanaka who managed 12 defenses of the WBC Bantamweight title. At the time of writing he has notched 6 defenses of the WBC Light Flyweight title.
10-To end this we go full circle. Kenshiro's ring walk song has long been Crystal King's "Regain Love", which was also the theme song for first 82 episodes of the "Fist of the North Star" anime.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Over the next 12 months we're expecting to see a lot of changes in the world of professional boxing. As a result we have put together a list of 30 Asian fighters to keep an eye out for 2016. These range from champions to novices but all are expected to make a mark on the sport over the next 12 months. Here is part 2 which looks at 5 young novices who have impressed in 2015 and look likely to do the same over the next year.
For those who missed it, part 1 is here.
Whilst Christmas is fast approaching the action doesn't really end for Asian fight fans with Japanese and Filipino fighters being in a number of notable before the year is out. Here we look at those big upcoming bouts.
Shun Kubo Vs Lloyd Jardeliza
The first of the “post Christmas” bouts comes just a day after the festivities and sees one of Japan's most promising prospects, Shun Kubo (8-0, 6), battle against a Filipino puncher, Lloyd Jardeliza (7-2-3, 6), for the OPBF Super Bantamweight title. The bout looks to be, on paper, a late Christmas present, and one that could well be a cracker. Kubo is seen as the next fighter of note from the Shinsei Gym, the gym that has managed Hozumi Hasegawa, and Kubo is supposed to the fighter who follows in Hasegawa's footsteps. Jardeliza has lost 2 of his last 4 but is regarded as a serious puncher and could well follow in the footsteps of Marlon Tapalese, who recently upset Shohei Omori in Japan. This could be a shoot out, an exposure or a break out win.
Kenichi Horikawa Vs Ken Shiro
Just a day after the Kubo/Jardeliza fight we get two Japanese title fights. In our eyes the more interesting of the two comes down at 108lbs where veteran Kenichi Horikawa (30-13-1, 7) defends his title, for the first time, against the fast rising Ken Shiro (5-0, 3). The men have a good friendship but have a local rivalry, with both being Kyoto fighters, and are likely to have that rivalry over-rule their friendship in what could be a real coming out party for the talented Ken Shiro, or a statement win for Horikawa, who looked better than ever last time out when he stopped Shin Ono.
Yuki Nonaka Vs Koshinmaru Saito
The other Japanese title fight on December 27th sees Light Middleweight champion Yuki Nonaka (27-8-3, 9) defending his title against Koshinmaru Saito (22-7-1, 12). Nonaka, now in his second reign as champion, will be hoping to secure his third successive defense of the title whilst also making his ring return for the first time since his controversial draw against Takayuki Hosokawa back in April. Saito is an experienced title level fighter though has gone 0-4 in title bouts so far, and isn't really being given much of a chance to end that run.
Riku Kano Vs Pigmy Kokiegym
Whilst the two title bouts on December 27th are worthy or attention there is another bout which perhaps deserves to be more than just a foot note. That bout will see teenage hopeful Riku Kano (7-1-1, 4) go up against former world title challenger Pigmy Kokietgym (58-8-2, 23). For Kano, 18, this is a monstrous step up in class however it's one his team will believe he's capable of making, especially considering they are talking about Kano challenging the record for the youngest Japanese world champion. Notably Pigmy is just 4 months removed from his upset loss to Jaysever Abcede.
Naoya Inoue Vs Warlito Parrenas
Whilst December 26th and 27th are notable days it's fair to say that December 29th over-shadows the earlier action. That is mostly due to the ring return of wunderkind Naoya Inoue (8-0, 7) who defends his WBO Super Flyweight title against Filipino slugger Warlito Parrenas (24-6-1, 21). On paper this shouwl be a win for Inoue, especially if he's as good as we believe, however Parrenas is a huge puncher and Inoue's inactivity and injuries could well take their toll and he might not be the fighter he once was, or become he fighter we all wish he would become.
Akira Yaegashi Vs Javier Mendoza
The Inoue/Parrenas bout isn't the only world title fight on December 29th as Inoue's stablemate and close friend Akira Yaegashi (22-5, 12) attempts to become a 3-weight world champion. The popular Yaegashi will be up against aggressive Mexican fighter Javier Mendoza (24-2-1, 19), who will be defending his IBF Light Flyweight title. Yaegashi, a former champion at 105lbs and 112lbs, lost twice last year and will likely know that a loss here will be the end of his career at the top level. He has however got the experience and skills to give Mendoza a tough one, if his body can hold up at 108lbs.
Takuma Inoue Vs Rene Dacquel
Takuma Inoue (5-0, 1), Naoya's younger brother, is also on the card defending a title as he risks his OPBF Super Flyweight title against talented, yet under-rated, Filipino Rene Dacquel (15-5-1, 5). This will be the first defense by Inoue of a title he won earlier this year, when he out pointed Mark Anthony Geraldo, and an impressive showing could see his team push him towards a world title fight in 2016. For Dacquel, a former GAB champion, this is a chnce to really make a name for himself, and add another belt to his collection, as well as improving his 1-1-1 record in Japan. This really could be a tough ask for Inoue.
Satoshi Hosono Vs Akifumi Shimoda
One other title bout here sees a former world champion take on a former world title challenger in a bout that could, very easily have, have headlined a lesser show. That bout will see former 3-time world title challenger Satoshi Hosono (29-2-1, 20) defending his Japanese Featherweight title against former WBA Super Bantamweight champion Akifumi Shimoda (30-4-2, 12).. The loser of this really can kiss their dreams of another top level fight good bye, however the winner will be regarded as a genuine world title challenger for 2016. This bout will be over-shadowed but is incredibly significant.
Takashi Uchiyama Vs Oliver Flores
We get a host of title bouts on New Years Eve, in fact there are 5 world title bouts on the day. Of the bouts in action the biggest mismatch is in Tokyo where long term WBA Super Featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama (23-0-1, 19) defends his belt against limited Nicaraguan challenger Oliver Flores (21-1-2, 17). On paper this looks like an interesting match up for the unbeaten 36 year old champion though footage of Flores really doesn't impress and we suspect Uchiyama finishes off the challenger quickly before moving towards a major bout in early 2016.
Ryoichi Taguchi Vs Luis De la Rose
Staying in Tokyo fans get the chance to see Uchiyama's stablemate Ryoichi Taguchi (22-2-1, 9) defending his WBA Light Flyweight title against the horribly limited Luis de la Rosa (24-5-1, 14). The talented champion is looking for his second defense and shouldn't have to look too hard given the Colombian challenger has lost every time he has faced a notable opponent, and is 3-4 in his last 7. Sadly for Taguchi's fans this is a farce and they will know it, especially given the talent that is in the division and hopefully Taguchi will be facing a much better opponent in early 2016.
Kazuto Ioka Vs Juan Carlos Reveco II
Although both the title bouts in Tokyo are poor we have to admit that Osaka has got a great title fight to end the year as Kazuto Ioka (18-1, 10) defends the WBA Flyweight title against Juan Carlos Reveco (36-2, 19). Ioka beat Reveco, by majority decision, to win the title earlier this year in a really good bout. This rematch was ordered by the WBA but it really is almost certainly going to be one of the most exciting bout to end the year. Both men have a lot on the line here and both will bring the action in what should be something very special.
Katsunari Takayama Vs Jose Argumedo
Staying in Osaka it's also the venue for an IBF Minimumweight world title bout between defending champion Katsunari Takayama (30-7-0-1, 12) and little known challenger Jose Argumedo (15-3-1, 9). This will be Takayama's 3rd defense of the year but seems like a significant step backwards following a win last time out against Ryuji Hara. For Argumedo this is his first bout in 13 months and he enters the bout 1-1 in the last 2 years, leading to real questions as to why he's managed to get a world title fight.
Kosei Tanaka Vs Vic Saludar
Takayama isn't the only Minimumweight champion defending his title as WBO champion Kosei Tanaka (5-0, 2) makes the first defense of his title, in Aichi. The talented 20 year old will be up against Filipino puncher Vic Saludar (11-1, 9) in what looks like a solid first defense on paper. The talented Tanaka has been frustratingly inactive since winning his title in May but is likely to get a chin check here against a man who has serious power and will be looking to continue a 9 fight unbeaten run.
Takahiro Yamamoto Vs Yuki Strong Kobayashi
Going back to the Osaka card, the same show also has two lower level title fights on it, with an OPBF and a JBC title up for grabs. In the OPBF title fight we see Bantamweight kingpin Takahiro Yamamoto (16-4, 13) defending his crown against Yuki Strong Kobayashi (9-4, 5). For Yamamoto this will be his first defense since winning the title, with a TKO victory against Yu Kawaguchi, sadly however it is a bit of a “gimme” against a man we don't see posing any threat to the champion.
Sho Ishida Vs Ryuta Otsuka
As for the Japanese title fight, that comes at Super Flyweight where unbeaten champion Sho Ishida (20-0, 10) defends his belt against Ryuta Otsuka (15-8-2, 5). The talented Ishida will be looking for his 4th title defense whilst Otsuka will be hoping to claim a title in his shot. It's hard to see what Otsuka really offers, given he has lost 3 of his last 5, though it's clear that Ishida still needs a little bit more experience and seasoning before he moves onto the next level.
The month of September was a month with a few stand out days, October however looks mouth watering with numerous days of note.
Waseem Muhammad Vs Min Wook Lee
The new month kicks off with an intriguing debut in South Korea. The bout in questions sees Pakistani debutant Waseem Muhammad (0-0) battle against Korean local Min Wook Lee (2-2) in a bout for the South Korean (KBC) Bantamweight title. On paper it looks a strange one but Muhammad is based in Korea and AK Promotions seem to have invested heavily in the former Pakistan amateur stand out. A win for Muhammad as we may see him become the first Pakistan born fighter of real note.
Shusaku Fujinaka Vs Randall Bailey
On the same card as Muhammad's debut we'll see an intriguing match up between Japan's Shusaku Fujinaka (12-5-2, 8) and American veteran Randall Bailey (45-8-0-1, 38), with the two men fighting for the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight crown. Fujinaka isn't a great fighter but this bout has garnered real attention with Bailey, a former multi-time world champion, bringing genuine attention to the South Korean boxing scene. With Bailey contracted to AK Promotions this could end up being the first of many fights in Korea for the “KO King”.
Ken Shiro Vs Rolly Sumpalong
It's again minor title action that has our attention as Japan's fast rising Ken Shiro (4-0, 3) battles against unbeaten Filipino Rolly Sumalpong (9-0-1, 4) in a bout for the WBC Youth Light Flyweight title. We've been impressed by Ken Shiro since his debut, last year, and if he wins here we're expecting to see him fight for a Japanese title in early 2016. Sumalpong on the other hand has gone under our radar but did claim the WBC Eurasia Pacific Boxing Council Minimumweight title earlier this year and could himself be one to watch.
Yoshitaka Kato Vs Ricky Sismundo
On the same card as the Ken Shiro Vs Sumpalong fight is a potentially explosive Lightweight clash between Yoshitaka Kato (29-5-1, 9) and Ricky Sismundo (29-8-2, 13). This bout will likely go under-the-radar for many fans but it really does look like it could be a very special bout between two tough guys with under-rated power and under-rated skills. It is only scheduled for 8 rounds but it could end up being one of the best 8 round bouts of the year.
Kohei Kono Vs Koki Kameda
In a genuinely historic bout fans will get the chance to see two Japanese fighters fight for a world title on US soil, the first time such a bout has taken place in America. The bouts will see current WBA Super Flyweight champion Kohei Kono (30-8-1, 13) take on mandatory challenger Koki Kameda (33-1, 18) in what is likely to be a must win bout for both men. At 34 years old Kono will be unlikely to get another shot if he loses here to Kameda whilst a loss for Kameda would end a horror year for the Kameda clan, which has also seen Tomoki lose twice and Daiki suffer a huge shock loss. A loss for Koki and the Kameda's really will have lost the appeal they once had.
Gennady Golovkin Vs David Lemieux
It's rare to have bouts with every ingredient, but we think we may have one here with hard hitting Kazakh king Gennady Golovkin (33-0, 30) facing off against Canadian destroyed David Lemieux (34-2, 31). Coming into the bout both men are major punchers and world champions, with Golovkin holding the WBA “super”, WBC “interim” and IBO titles whilst Lemieux is the IBF title holder. Potentially this has “FOTY” written all over it, though could be over in a blink of an eye given the power, and styles, of the men involved. It's been a while since a world title bout had us this excited, and we've got it admit it might be a while before we see another, equally as exciting, unification bout.
Roman Gonzalez Vs Brian Viloria
Teiken promoted Nicaraguan sensation Roman Gonzalez (43-0, 37) looks to continue his rise to the top of the sport as he faces Filipino-American Brian Viloria (36-4-0-2, 22) in what looks to be another brilliant bout. Coming in to this one Gonzalez is looking for the 3rd defense of his WBC Flyweight title whilst Viloria is fighting to remain relevant in the sport. A win here for Gonzalez helps cement his place atop the pound-for-pound rankings and could move us a step closer to the potential super fight between the Nicaraguan and Japan's Naoya Inoue whilst a win for Viloria will give his career one more run at the top and continue his up-and-down career.
Donnie Nietes Vs Juan Alejo
In another title bout fans will get to see talented Filipino Donnie Nietes (36-1-4, 21) make his US debut as he defends his WBO Light Flyweight title against little known Juan Alejo (21-3, 13) of Mexico. The bout, which is to take place in California, is part of ALA's first US show and is part of their move towards establishing their outfit as a world wide promotional outfit. A loss for Nietes would be disastrous for both the fighter and the promoter, but he hasn't been matched hard here and it'd be a shock to see Nietes given any real problems.
Naoko Fujioka Vs Hee Jung Yuh
Former 2-weight world champion Naoko Fujioka (13-1, 6) looks to continue her brilliant career as she attempts to claim a 3rd divisional world title. The exceptional Japanese fighter faces South Korean fighter Hee Jung Yuh (15-2, 6) in a bout for the WBO female Bantamweight title in what looks, on paper, like a brilliant fight. Aged 40 Fujioka is certainly “old” but she's in great shape and will be favoured over Yuh, who has won 14 in a row. Interestingly Yuh is married to another fighter Young Kil Bae, who set to fight for a world title himself in early November.
Hikaru Marugame Vs Jonathan Baat
On the same show as the Fujioka/Yuh bout is a great test for one of Japan's most under-rated prospects, Hikaru Marugame (5-0, 3). The talented Marugame steps up massively here as he takes on the highly experienced Jonathan Baat (30-6-3, 14), a Japanese based Filipino. A win for Marugame is expected, but Baat has scored notable upsets in the past, including popping 4 cherries and this is clearly a dangerous assignment for the 25 year prospect.
Momo Koseki Vs Ayaka Miyao
We get the second world title unification of the month a week after the Golovkin/Lemieux bout as WBC Atomweight champion Momo Koseki (20-2-1, 7) takes on WBA champion Ayaka Miyao (20-5-1, 4). This bout has been on the radar of fans for a while and is finally happening due to the fact both fighters have, essentially, run out of worth while opponents. We're expecting a lot of action here and although it won't be the cleanest action it should be sensationally exciting and amazing fun to watch. Interestingly the winner will claim a place in history as the first ever unified Atomweight champion.
Satoshi Hosono Vs Hideyuki Watanabe
Japanese Featherweight champion Satoshi Hosono (28-2-1, 20) returns to the ring for his second defence in the space of about 9 weeks af he takes on the tough and gutsy Takuya Watanabe (36-5-1, 12). Hosono, a multi-time world title challenger, is looking to record his 4th successive defence but will be up against a man who simple doesn't know how to quit. Watanabe came to our attention last year, in the wake of his “bloody” bout with Jaesung Lee and having seen that war we suspect he'll go through anything in an attempt to claim the title. This could be the perfect bout to close out the month.
Recently a poster on boxingforum24 asked a brilliant question that caught our eye. It was a simple question, but one with a lot of possible answers. “Good Asian Prospects?” It lead us to wondering what we could narrow it down to. As a result we've decided to do a few prospects features starting with this one which has interpreted the question as “Who are the best Japanese prospects with 5 or fewer fights?”
It was a way to limit the list but also give some exposure to some perhaps lesser known fighters. For those wondering these haven't been put into a particular order but all men featured here have had 5 or fewer fights at the time of writing.
At Welterweight Koki Koshikawa (4-0, 2) has been making waves and has been doing it quietly with out much fan fair. Part of why he's been doing it with out too much noise is his promoter, Celes Kobayashi, who doesn't have a huge TV and doesn't have the backing to give his man huge publicity. Despite that he has been very impressive, as seen in his debut win over Quaye Peter.
Koshikawa fights in a huge step up on June 8th when he battles former Japanese title challenger Koshimaru Saito. Saito will enter that bout as a ranked domestic contender though a win for Koshikawa would boost him from “prospect” to “contender”. Given how weak the Japanese domestic scene is at 147lbs there is every chance Koshikawa will be in the title mix by the middle of next year.
For fans from the west Koshikawa is likely to be the most notable due to his size and, like many others, he was a good amateur. We wouldn't say Koshikawa was an international star in the unpaid ranks but he was a very capable fighter. It was due to that amateur pedigree that he began his career in 6 rounders and why he is already being moved towards 8 round bouts. Given that he is now 24 he's a baby in the division but we do expect to see him matched very hard if he looks good in his clash against Saito.
Another man in, or around, the Bantamweight division is former amateur stand out Kazuki Tanaka (2-0, 2) who scored a genuinely outstanding win last time out, stopping Kaname Tabei in 4 rounds. The 22 year old Osakan is viewed as one of the best kept secrets in Japanese boxing and he's hoping to be moved towards a Japanese ranking later this year, a move that wouldn't be a shock at all despite his “novice” status in the pro game.
As an amateur Tanaka ran up a sensational 63-14 (14) record and it seems that the pro-style has suited him down to the ground already, especially when you consider the way he's been stopping opponents in the paid game. Unfortunately it may be a while until we manage to get footage of him in action but he's confident and talented.
With Green Tsuda backing him he's got a good gym with notable names, such as Nobuhiro Ishida and Yu Kawaguchi, there for him to talk to and get advice from the world really is his oyster. They key to Tanaka's future however seems to be just how much he can develop and how quickly he's moved. If he's given time at Japanese domestic level and the OPBF level to full mature then he really could go a very, very long way.
One more wildcard we'd like to mention is Keisuke Matsumoto (0-0) who isn't expected to turn professional until after the 2020 Olympics. The youngster has been featured in several TV segments, including this one here, and has trained alongside both Naoya Inoue and Akira Yaegashi, in fact Matsumoto's father and trainer is Koji Matsumoto who is also the trainer of Yaegashi.
It's really hard to say how good Matsumoto is, or will be, but the signs are that he could be another prodigy and may well be a real star of the future for Japanese boxing, even if we will need to wait a number of years to see how good he really is.
Images courtesy of-
Celes Gym and Green Tsuda
Note-Kosei Tanaka has not been included on here as he's advanced beyond the "prospect" stage despite still being a "novice".
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).