This coming November is a hectic month to say the least with numerous title bouts as well as a major debut, of a man regarded as being a once in a generation prospect and a show to make a real note of for the effects it will have on the Japanese scene for the next 12 months.
The notable action kicks off on November 2nd with a mouth watering “Strongest Korakuen” card. The show features 4 bouts to decide the mandatory challenger for 4 Japanese titles.
The lightest weight covered by those bouts is Flyweight where former world title challenger Masayuki Kuroda (23-6-3, 14) takes on recent Japanese title challenger Yusuke Sakashita (13-5-2, 8). Of the two men it's Kuroda who is the more established having been a former Japanese Light Flyweight champion and of course he challenged for a world title, losing a decision to Juan Carlos Reveco. Saying that however he has gone 2-3-3 in his last 8 bouts. Sakashita on the other hand did challenger for the Japanese Flyweight title last year, before being iced by a single shot by Suguru Muranaka, in what would actually be Muranaka's last fight as a Flyweight.
At Bantamweight we see former Japanese champion Kentaro Masuda (22-7, 11) attempt to move towards regaining the title he lost to Shohei Omori earlier this year. Masuda is in for a tough fight however with the under-rated Hideo Sakamoto (16-1-3, 5) who is quickly coming into his own. Masuda, a 32 year old late bloomer, was completely dismantled by Omori but had scored several notable wins, including a 3rd round blow out against Konosuke Tomiyama and a 2014 FOTY contender against Tatsuya Takahashi. Coming in to this Sakamoto is on a 6-0-1 (3) run including a win over Hiroki Shiino though was held to a draw last time out, against Hiroaki Teshigawara, albeit a controversial one. This could be something very special.
At Lightweight we see former Japanese and OPBF champion Nihito Arakawa (25-6-1, 16) attempt to move towards reclaiming the Japanese title. The teak tough Arakawa, who is of course well known for his bout with Omar Figueroa, will be up against recent challenger Yuya Sugizaki (20-10-1, 6). Strangely both of these men lost their most recent bouts with Arakawa actually going 2-5 in his last 7, with losses to Yoshitaka Kato and Rikki Naito in his last 2 bouts, and Sugizaki going 5-4 in his last 9, including an 8th round TKO loss to current champion Kota Tokunaga. Despite those losses we do suspect that this could be a very action packed fight.
The remaining bout is at Welterweight and, on paper at least, appears to be the most one sided. The fight will see former Japanese, OPBF and PABA champion Akinori Watanabe (33-4, 28) take on the little known Toshio Arikawa (11-4, 9). Given that both men have been stopped and both guys have real power, in fact between them they have 52 bouts with on 8 going the distance, we're not expecting this one to reach the final bell. Given the huge edge in experience and quality of opposition we're expecting Watanabe to earn a shot at Japanese title shot at Suyon Takayama, though we have seen Watanabe lose fights that he really should have won in the past.
All 4 of those bouts will come with an incentive, the MVP of the bouts will be the recipient of a 1,000,000 yen bonus, a really big reason to impress.
Just days after the Strongest Korakuen show we get the first Japanese title fight of the month, and it's a fight that looks like a sure fire thriller. The bout in question is a rematch between Japanese Flyweight champion Takuya Kogawa (24-4, 13) and the highly ranked, at least by the JBC, challenger Tetsuma Hayashi (25-3-2, 9). When the men first met, back in 2012, Kogawa won a very competitive bout however the champion has been in some real wars since then whilst Hayashi is thought to be in his prime. Given the styles of the two men this really could be a FOTY contender with unbridled action and numerous exchanges.
The emergence of a new wave of Japanese youngsters rising through the ranks has been really exciting. Whilst the biggest name among those fast risers is, of course, Naoya Inoue, he may not actually be the most exciting. That tag could instead be applied to Daigo Higa (7-0, 7) who looks to make the first defense of his WBC Youth Flyweight title on November 7th at the Korakuen Hall. In the opposite corner to Higa will be tricky Filipino champion Renren Tesorio (15-6-3, 4), who is known to Tokyo fans due to his very competitive 2014 battle with Toshiyuki Igarashi. This could be the next step towards a world title for Higa, or could see the power punching 20 year old really given a very tough test by the much more experienced Filipino.
Talking about the “new wave” of Japanese fighters it's worth noting that just a few hours after Higa's bout we will see the American debut of Middleweight hopeful Ryota Murata (7-0, 5) who faces off against Gunnar Jackson (22-6-3, 8). The Japanese puncher is regarded as one of the sports most marketable stars and is a real celebrity in his home land. The hope here is to help him become a star in the US and build his marketability in the West before a potential world title fight in 2016. This is a good test on paper even if Jackson isn't the most recognisable name out there.
Also making his American debut on the same day is heavy handed 140lb fighter Keita Obara (15-1, 14) who looked to extend his 15 fight winning streak and impress Western fans as he takes on Nicaraguan fighter Walter Castillo (26-3, 19) in an IBF Light Welterweight eliminator. The bout is a great chance for the 28 year old Misako gym fighter to make a name for himself however Castillo isn't a bad fighter himself and this really could be something very special for US fans tuning in to the PBC show from Miami.
Although there are two Japanese fighters making their US debut's they aren't the only Asian fighters of note on the road. There are two in action in Monaco with one of those being Kazakh Bantamweight Zhanat Zhakiyanov (25-1, 18) who faces WBA interim champion Yonfrez Parejo (17-1-1, 8). For Zhakiyanov, who is limited but heavy handed, this is a big step up in class however it's a winnable bout for the Hatton protege.
Another Asian on the Monaco card is the highly ranked Chinese fighter Qiu Xiao Jun (18-2, 8) who defends his WBC silver Super Bantamweight title against Frenchman Amor Belahdj Ali (14-3-1-1, 2). On paper this one looks likely to go the distance however Jun has stopped 4 of his last 5 foes, including former world champion Silvester Lopez, and it wouldn't be a shock for the crude Chinese “Dragon” to stop his relatively unknown Frenchman, who is the French champion.
Whilst the first Japanese title fight comes on November 5th we need to wait until the 9th for the first OPBF title fight, or rather the first OPBF/JBC title fight as unified Middleweight champion Akio Shibata (26-8-1, 12) defends his titles against the heavy handed, and genuinely fun to watch, Koki Tyson Maebara (9-1-1, 9). On paper this is a massive step up in class for Maebara however he does have 11 years of youth on the champion, a clear edge in power, a slight edge in height and is a southpaw. Shibata, whilst best known for losing a then debuting Ryota Murata, has been in good form recently and is 10-1 (4) in his last 11 bouts going back more than 4 years and is likely expecting to continue that run which has seen him notch wins over Makoto Fuchigami, Hikaru Nishida and Daisuke Nakagawa.
On November 11th we have a female world title double. The more interesting of those bouts sees boxer-model Tomomi Takano (8-1, 5) face off against WBO female Super Flyweight champion Daniela Romina Bermudez (17-3-2, 5). This is the first world title fight for Takano, who is much better known for her looks than her fighting ability, and it's fair to say she will be the under-dog against the much more proven Bermudez.
The other female world title fight will see Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (7-1-2, 3) defend her WBO female Minimumweight title against Momoko Kanda (9-7-2, 3). On paper this looks like a real mismatch in favour of the once beaten champion however the challenger is better than her record suggests and she has gone 5-1 (3) in her last 6 bouts as she's began to turn things around. Clearly Ikehara will be the favourite but this could be a very competitive match up.
Staying with female title action we see another female world title bout on November 13th as IBF female Light Flyweight champion Naoko Shibata (14-3, 4) defends her title against Mexican foe Maria Salinas (11-4, 4). This looks to be very well matched on paper despite the fact Salinas has gone 3-4-1 in her last 8 bouts, including a loss to Etsuko Tada in Japan. For Shibata this is expected to be her 4th defense and is expected to be much easier than her last bout, a narrow win over Saemi Hanagata back in February.
Every so often a bout comes along that has us licking our lips in real excitement. The next such bout takes place on November 21st and will be another US debut of a Japanese fighter. The bout in question sees WBC Super Featherweight champion Takashi Miura (29-2-2, 22) face off against unbeaten challenger Francisco Vargas (22-0-1, 16), an unbeaten and exciting mandatory challenger. Given the styles of both fighters and their in-ring mentalities this bout is almost certainly going to be a war and given the power of both men there is a very good chance that it won't be going the distance. Whilst it's not the main event of the show it's got a genuine chance of being the bout of the night.
The debut of the next in the long line of Japanese super-prospects comes on November 22nd as the very highly touted Hinata Maruta (0-0) kicks off his professional career. The talented 18 year old goes straight into the deep end with an amazingly ambitious debut against the world ranked, and heavy handed, Jason Canoy (24-5-2, 18). If Maruta wins here he could well end up with a lofty world ranking from the off, however Canoy, who has never been stopped, is a real danger man and recently blew away Drian Francisco. On paper this looks like one of the most ambitious debuts in recent memory and we really applauded the confidence of Maruta and his team.
The Maruta/ Canoy bout isn't the only Japan Vs Philippines bout of note. Another sees OPBF Light Middleweight champion Dennis Laurente (49-6-5, 30) defending his title against former Japanese champion Takayuki Hosokawa (27-10-4, 9). The 38 year old champion was last seen in the ring in August, losing a shut out to the touted John Jackson though has shown his toughness and could well break down Hosokawa who has been stopped 6 times from his 10 losses.
The Laurente/Hosokawa bout is one of two title bouts for the day. The other sees Tatsuya Fukuhara (15-4-5, 6) facing off against Hiroya Yamamoto (9-3, 3) for the vacant Japanese Minimumweight title. The title, which was given up earlier this year by Go Odaira, has been a stepping stone to a world title fight for numerous former champions, and so the winner of this one will likely be looking at a major bout down the line. Interestingly however it would seem likely that the winner would have Genki Hanai chasing them for a title fight in early 2016 with the unbeaten Gifu man certainly looking to move into title level.
The only world title fight in Thailand this month sees unbeaten WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (39-0, 14) take on heavy handed Korean challenger Young Gil Bae (26-4-1, 21). For the challenger this is a huge step up in class as he looks to become the first Korean born man to claim a world title since In Jin Chi, and in fact he's the first Korean man to even challenger for a world title in 2 years, following Jung-Oh Sun's challenger against Koki Kameda. Saying that however Bae is a major under-dog against the criminally under-rated Thai who has remained under the radar despite his long winning run, which has admittedly come against some weak opposition that has reflected his actual ability.
On November 28th we get the next in the “WOWOW Touch!” events. The events are a free-to-air day of WOWOW in Japan and with the past few years Japanese fans get a boxing treat on the subscription based channel, which mainly airs international bouts from the West. This year Japanese fans get a couple of very interest Mexico Vs Japan world title contests.
The most interesting of those is a potential war between Teiken promoted Mexican Carlos Cuadras (33-0-1, 26) and the always fun to watch Koki Eto (17-3-1, 13). For Cuadras this is his first bout in Japan since winning the WBC Super Flyweight world title in 2014, when he over-came Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in Mexico, though is his 6th bout in the country over-all. Interestingly he holds a record of 5-0 (5) in the country with all 5 bouts 8 rounds. As for Eto this sees him returning to the Super Flyweight division for the first time in more than 4 years and could potentially help the all-action warrior become an international star. Worrying for both men the winner will be mandated to fight Srisaket in 2016.
The other part of this double-header sees Japan's Yu Kimura (17-2-1, 3) take part in his biggest fight to date. The former Japanese Light Flyweight champion will be up against WBC world champion Pedro Guevara (26-1-1, 17), in a bout that sees Guevara return to Japan for the first time since he won his title last December against Akira Yaegashi. The challenger, 32, is currently on an 8 fight winning run following a TKO loss in 2011 to current WBA champion Ryoichi Taguchi however he has never fought at close to this level. As for Guevara the challenger has to be a big favourite despite being given a real test last time out against Ganigan Lopez.
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.
We have to say that January 2015 was one of the least memorable starts to the year that we can remember, in a very long time. Thankfully however things get under-way properly in February and here are the bouts that we suspect will be the highlights.
WBC Minimumweight Title Fight [February 5th]
The month kicks off in style as Thai boxing get it's first world title fight of the year. That fight will see WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (36-0, 12) defending against unbeaten Filipino fighter Jeffrey Galero (11-0, 5). This bout looks a bit like a mismatch, given the competition Galero has faced so far, though we did see Wanheng step up big time last year and Galero may well feel he can do the same in his first world title shot.
Pinoy Pride 29 [February 7th]
The first major Filipino show of the year closes out the first week of February and although there are no world title bouts on the card there are 3 highly ranked Filipinos, and a former world champion all in action.
The stand out fighter in action is Genesis Servania (25-0, 11) who is one of the most naturally talented Filipinos currently making his name on the boxing scene. Servania, who is very highly ranked in the Super Bantamweight division, is expecting to get a world title fight later this year though will have to get past Juan Luis Hernandez (17-3-1, 9) on this show first.
Another man who will need to record a win if he's to get a chance at a world title somewhere down the line is Jason Pagara (34-2, 21), the older brother of the monstrously talented Albert Pagara. Pagara will be taking on Cesar Chavez (24-7, 12) and a win here us likely to lead him to a big bout in the US, though a loss will set him back big time.
Talking about a man who cannot bare to take a loss right now it's fair to say that Arthur Villanueva (26-0, 14) cannot even think about losing. Ranked #3 by the WBO at Super Flyweight Villanueva has a lot to lose and little to gain as he takes on former WBO Flyweight champion Julio Cesar Miranda (38-11-2, 29). Miranda needs a win to keep his career alive and Villanueva needs a win to open up a chance at getting a world title fight later this year. It's fair to say that this is the most important bout of the day, by some margin.
On the same day, albeit in Japan, we see the return to the ring of former WBC and Lineal Flyweight champion Toshiyuki Igarashi (19-2-1, 11) who fights against Mexico's Efrain Perez (17-5, 12) in what looks to be a must win bout for the Japanese fighter. On paper this looks like an easy win however Perez is a gutsy fighter who will almost certainly bring the best out of Igarashi in what could be a very tough 10 rounds for the Japanese southpaw who had only 9 rounds of action in the last 17 months.
DANGAN 121 [February 9th]
We get the first Japanese title fight of the year on February 9th as unbeaten men collide in a really enticing looking contest of speed and skills for the Japanese Super Featherweight title. Going into the bout the champion is the much touted Rikki Naito (11-0, 5) however his challenger is the equally as touted Masayuki Ito (16-0-1, 7) and the winner will almost certainly emerge as yet another Japanese Super Featherweight to keep an eye on. With both men being in their early 20's a loss isn't a major set back though neither will be wanting anything but a win in a contest that just looks a little bit special
Legend Fight Vol 3 [February 18th]
We've been fans of Ryosuke “Eagle Eye” Iwasa (18-1, 11) for a long time and finally he's getting his shot at the big time as he battles in an IBF Eliminator against American fighter Sergio Perales (24-2, 16). It's hard to see anything but a win for Iwasa here who will move towards a world title fight with Randy Caballero if he comes out on top here. Iwasa has been patiently waiting for a shot a world title and we suspect he'll be fully prepared for what is certainly the most important bout of his career so far.
Earnest Efforts 3 [February 19th]
Just a day after we get a world title eliminator we get a world title double.
The key bout here is an all-Japanese bout for the IBF Light Flyweight title as Naoko Shibata (13-3, 4) battles against Saemi Hanagata (9-5-2, 4) in what looks like to be a really intriguing battle of wills. Shibata, entering as the champion, will be looking to record her 3rd defence of the title whilst Hanagata will be hoping to claim her first world crown.
On the same show the legendary WBC Atomweight champion Momo Koseki (19-2-1, 6) will be hoping to keep her record setting run going as she hunts title defence #15. Rough, tough and a real handful it's hard to see anyone at 102lbs beating Koseki and we can't see Aisah Alico (5-4, 5) even coming close to beating her here.
Thunderbolt [February 21st]
The always exciting Gennady Golovkin (31-0, 28) returns to the ring for his first bout of 2015 and looks to defend his WBA “super”, IBO and WBC interim Middleweight titles against the touted Martin Murray (29-1-1, 12) of the UK. Murray is seen as being one of Golovkin's toughest tests so far and is expected to give him a tough bout however Golovkin does carry a sensational run of 18 straight stoppages and it's hard to see Murray ending that run which dates back more than 6 years!
Wake Vs Paypa-OPBF Title Fight [February 27th]
In Asia the last fight of note comes from Japan where the world ranked Shingo Wake (17-4-2, 10) attempts to defend his OPBF Super Bantamweight title for the 5th time. Wake will be battling against Filipino challenger Jimmy Paypa (16-2-1, 6) in a bout that was originally penciled in, though never formally announced, for December 30th 2014. It's thought that a win here for Wake will put him into a world title fight in Summer.
Loreto Vs Joyi II-The Rematch [February 28th]
In 2014 we saw a major shock as the then unheralded Rey Loreto (19-13, 11) knocked out the highly regarded South African Nkosinathi Joyi (24-3-0-1, 17). Not only did Loreto shock the boxing world with the win but he also claimed the IBO Light Flyweight title and left fans around the world talking about him. Sadly the momentum of that win faded however the memory hasn't and the two will get it on again to close out February 2015. We suspect Joyi will be more aware of the man he is up against whilst Loreto will know a win here could take him on to a “real” world title fight later in the year.
(Image courtesy of www.sportsviewlondon.com)
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).