With no fights currently taking place we've had a bit of time on our hands, and with that in mind we've decided to look at the sport in terms of how divisions sit, and do something that had previously been requested. The Asian divisional top 10's. We'll be starting this at Minimumweight and working our way through the divisions over the coming days and weeks. We know there will be some debate about some rankings and there is certainly some area for discussion, and that is certainly not a bad thing at all!
We'll begin by looking at Minimumweight today and work our way through the weights in the future one by one.
1-Wanheng Menayothin (54-0, 18)
There is, of course, some debate about the #1 and #2 in the division between two Thai's. Of the two we have Wanheng Menayothin, the WBC champion, as the #1 guy in the division. His 54-0 record might not be full of quality, but in terms of his overall record his resume is better than anyone else's in the division. Wins over Florante Condes, Oswaldo Novoa, Saul Juarez, Melvin Jerusalem, Tatsuya Fukuhara, Pedro Taduran and Simpiwe Konkco are do put him ahead of anyone else. At 34 years old his career hasn't got long left, but until he's dethroned it's hard to put anyone above him, especially given his resume to date. It's also worth noting that he has already ran up a very impressive 12 defenses of the title since winning it more than 5 years ago.
2-Knockout CP Freshmart (21-0, 7)
The other Thai in the running for top spot is Knockout CP Freshmart, the WBA champion. The 29 year old Knockout has been inconsistent at times, in both his performances and his competition. At his best he looks fantastic, but unfortunately he has built a reputation as someone more than happy to stink out the joint, as he did against Byron Rojas in 2018. Wins over the likes of Carlos Buitrago, Byron Rojas, Muhammad Rachman, Rey Loreto and Xiong Zhao Zhong look good on paper but in reality he's not looked the most impressive in some of those and really has managed frustrate fans. He did look good earlier this year, when he beat Norihito Tanaka, but that came after a number of uninspired performances.
3-Pedro Taduran (14-2-1, 11)
IBF Minimumweight champion Pedro Taduran is an interesting case here. On paper the 23 year old is some way behind the WBA and WBC champions, though he did give Wanheng one of his toughest bouts to date. He impressed in his title win last year, when he stopped Samuel Salva in a 4 round thriller, and was unfortunate to see his first defense to end in a technical draw in February. Unlike the men ranked #1 and #2 Taduran is a real fun fighter to watch, with an aggressive and exciting style, though it does seem likely that he will lose the title sooner rather than later. We suspect his next bout will be a rematch with Daniel Valladares, and given their bout earlier this year we will not be complaining about them re-running that, as it was a great fight.
4-Vic Saludar (20-4,11)
Former WBO champion Vic Saludar is a hard man to place on this list. The 29 year old has looked great at times, such as in his loss to Kosei Tanaka and his wins over Ryuya Yamanaka and Masataka Taniguchi. At other times however he has looked questionable. His title loss last August, to Wilfredo Mendez, ended what had been a reign that started well but never really got going. He's talented, heavy handed, has an under-rated boxing brain but is a touch on the slow slide and can be out boxed. At his best he's a nightmare for anyone in the division, though we do wonder if his days at Minimumweight are numbered.
5-Ginjiro Shigeoka (5-0, 4)
One of the most exciting and promising prospects in the sport, Ginjiro Shigeoka is a special fighter and the youngster has already claimed the WBO Asia Pacific title and put himself in the running for a world title fight. Aged just 20 years old he has already shown he can box or punch. His body shot KO of Clyde Azarcon was truly brutal and his stoppage of Rey Loreto, in just his 5th professional bout, legitimised him as a true contender. The rating here might be a little high however that is, in part, due to his potential, which we expect we will see a lot of when the sport returns to the ring.Don't be surprised at all if Shigeoka fights for a world title in his next fight or two.
6-Melvin Jerusalem (15-2, 9)
Another Filipino youngster who needs to be mentioned is 26 year old contender Melvin Jerusalem. Jerusalem does have a couple of losses to his name, but one of them was a razor thin loss to Wanheng Menayothin and another was a close loss to the always tricky Joey Canoy. Since losing those fights, which were back to back in 2017, Jerusalem has won his last 4 including solid wins over Philip Luis Cuerdo and Toto Landero. He's yet to have a win at the world level, but our feeling is that will change sooner rather than later and he prove himself as a world class fighter in the next year or two. A really exciting, talented youngster with a lot of promise.
7-Lito Dante (17-11-4, 9)
On paper Lito Dante doesn't belong on this list, with 11 losses in his 32 bout career. The reality however is that the records of fighters don't always reflect their ability, or how dangerous they are and that's the case with Dante. The 30 year old Filipino is the current OPBF champion and is one of the division's hidden danger men. He's got 11 losses but has never been stopped and most of his losses have come in 6 rounders. We mention that because Dante's big strength is not just his toughness, but also his insane stamina, making him a total nightmare to fight over the longer distances. Over 10 or 12 rounds he will be a handful for anyone and would give any of the champions fits.
8-Masataka Taniguchi (12-3, 7)
Japan's Masataka Taniguchi is another of those hard men to place, like Vic Saludar who holds a win against him. Taniguchi is a very real talent, and we were looking forward to his proposed showdown with Lito Dante before boxing in Japan was put on hiatus. He's a solid puncher, had under-rated skills, an exciting style, but still has a lot of work to do. The 26 year old isn't a KO artist, he's not got the best stamina, and he does have areas to work on. But, he's also a very, very good fighter and has been unfortunate in 2 of his 3 losses, with the other coming to Saludar in a world title fight. Don't be surprised to see Taniguchi banging on the door of future world title fights down the line. He does however need to find that extra gear in the coming years if he's to win a top level belt.
9-Yudai Shigeoka (2-0, 1)
The 23 year old Yudai Shigeoka is the older brother of Ginjiro Shigeoka and actually appears to bee the more polished fighter of the two, though he lacks the explosiveness and physical strength of his younger brother. Yudai made his debut just over a year ago and then really impressed as he beat Lito Dante, over 6 rounds, in his second professional bout. The talented southpaw looks to be an excellent, sharp boxer, with some brutal body punching, educated foot work and a very smart boxing brain. He certainly fights to his strengths, though we do wonder whether or not he can fight the way he does over 10 or 12 rounds. That's the one big question over Shigeoka and one we hope to see answered later this year.
10-Samuel Salva (18-1, 11)
Former world title contender Samuel Salva is someone who came up short in his biggest bout to date, being stopped by Pedro Taduran, but at 23 years old has a lot of time to rebuild and learn from that loss. Against Taduran we saw a really talented young fighter, with good power, good technical ability and good speed, but a fighter who lacked the mental toughening he needed against Taduran. He had early success but didn't like it when he was on the receiving end of Taduran's pressure. There's a chance that Salva will never like being under intense pressure, as he was against Taduran, but we're going to give him the benefit of the doubt and go with the idea that that loss will actually make him a better fighter. He now knows what he needs to work on, he'll hopefully learn to bit down on his gum shield a bit more, and maybe even take a bit of a whooping in sparring to mentally preparing him for when the going gets tough again. He's got the skills, now he just needs maturing, and mentally toughening up.
On the bubble:
ArAr Andales, Jing Xiang, Marco John Rementizo, Tsubasa Koura and Hasanboy Dusmatov
Note - Typically a fighter with a win against a ranked fighter would be above the ranked opponent. Here though we've decided that the 6 round limit neutralises Shigeoka's win over Dante a little bit, and have left Shigeoka behind Dante, however not a lot separates the two of them, or Taniguchi at this present moment in time.
This past week has been a somewhat quiet one in the realms of Asian Boxing news. It's not been a silent week, by any stretch, but we didn't see any major stories breaking, instead it was a relatively subdued week of lesser quality news, though plenty of that news is worth catching up on if you did miss it.
Tenshin Nasukawa Vs Gervonta Davis at Rizin 15!
According to multiple sources we'll see Japanese combat sport prodigy Tenshin Nasukawa fight against WBA Super Featherweight Super champion Gervonta Davis in April. The bout wasn't announced officially but sources from both sides of the Pacific did mention the bout as being close to a done deal and should be announced in the coming weeks, if not days. We don't see this ending well for Tenshin, who may end up taking more punishment in boxing exhibitions than is good for him, and it's probably time that he decides whether he wants to remain in kick boxing, or convert to boxing and do it properly, rather than getting beaten up in public exhibitions.
A Monster heading to Scotland?
On a frustrating week for WBSS news it now seems like we're set to see Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) [井上 尚弥] make his European debut, and take on IBF Bantamweight champion Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12) in Scotland, in their WBSS semi-final. It appears that massive scheduling issues will force the bout to be part of the Josh Taylor card on May 18th. This wasn't officially confirmed but both Juan Orengo, the manager of Rodriguez, as well as the Sauerlands, suggested that this would be the case, not long after Hideyuki Ohashi confirmed the possibility of the bout being in the UK. This seems set to be confirmed early this week
Kuroda set to get a shot at Mthalane in May!
Although the specifics weren't announced we do now know that a deal is in place for the IBF Flyweight title bout between Japan's Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16) [黒田 雅之] and world champion Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25). The bout, a mandatory defense for Mthalane, was announced as being done by Kuroda and his team, though they gave no details away of the bout, leaving the specifics set for a future announcement. It sounds like the bout will be in either Kanagawa or Tokyo in May, though Nitta do seem to be keeping their cards close to their chest until the announcement is due.
Katsunari Takayama to begin amateur journey on March 1st!
As for things that were announced, officially, former world champion Katsunari Takayama [高山 勝成] revealed that his amateur journey, which he hopes will result in a medal at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, will begin on March 1st. The exciting and very likable Takayama will compete in a national selection event, with the winner assured a shot at the Asian Championships, and a potential Olympic berth. We'll be honest and admit we don't imagine Takayama going far in the amateurs, given his age and style, but we do really look forward to seeing him in action again.
Koura to defend OPBF crown in March
The OPBF twitter account is a great soure of news and announcements, and this week they let slip the fact they have sanctioned their Minimumweight champion Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9) [小浦 翼] to make his next defense against Filipino challenger Lito Dante (15-10-4, 7) on March 31st. On paper this is one that won't excite people, but the reality is that this should be a good test of what Koura can do against a really tough opponent. We don't see it being a competitive bout, but Dante is a battler and won't fold early on to Koura's power. A mismatch, but one likely to have real intrigue.
WBO order Super Flyweight title fight
The WBO held a world title eliminator at Super Flyweight recent, which saw Aston Palicte (25-2-1, 21) become the mandatory challenger for WBO world champion Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23). The men have now been ordered to negotiate as the WBO look to keep their title active. The negotiation period for the two men is to end in less than 2 weeks, so we should see these two facing off, for the second time, in the middle of 2019.
Wanheng Vs Fukuhara rematch pushed back
Staying with world level rematches it appears the WBC Minimumweight title bout rematch between unbeaten champion Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] and former WBO champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6-6, 7) [福原 辰弥] has been pushed back by 4 weeks, to March 29th. No reason was given, though Wanheng will fight in an exhibition with WBA champion Knockout CP Freshmart (19-0, 7) [น็อคเอาท์ ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท] in the mean time, with that set to take place on February 22nd. Every fan of the little guys wants to see Wanheng take on Knockout, sadly however it seems the best we're going to be getting any time soon is this exhibition.
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).