We've all heard of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and we've decided to put our spin on things with "Six degrees of separation" looking to connect Asian fighters you may never have assumed were connected! Today we connect current day Japanese star Naoya Inoue to former Kazakh fighter, turn boxing official, Serikzhan Yeshmagambetov.
Just as ground rules, we're not doing the more basic "A beat B who beat C who beat D" type of thing, but instead we want to link fighters in different ways. As a result we will limit A fought B connections, and try to get more varied connections together, as you'll see here! We also know there are often shorter routes to connect fighters, but that's not always the most interesting way to connect them.
1-Before winning his first world title Naoya Inoue had already won both the Japanese and OPBF Light Flyweight titles, as he raced through the domestic and regional ranks, and then onto world level. A prior Japanese and OPBF Light Flyweight champion is Takashi Shiohama, who won the Japanese title in 1995 and the OPBF title in 1996. He did challenger for a world title, but came up short against the then WBA champion Rosendo Alvarez.
2-To win the OPBF Light Flyweight title Takashi Shiohama stopped experienced Filipino Ric Magramo, who was fighting in his 51st professional bout. This would actually be the second OPBF title bout for Magramo, who had previously fought to a draw with Shiro Yashiro, just 5 months prior to losing a technical decision to Shiohama.
3-The Ric Magramo mentioned above, who faced Shiohama and Yashiro, was born Renato Magramo but fought as Ric Magramo. This sees him sharing a ring name with Endrikito Magramo, who used the Ric Magramo name in the 1960's and 1970's. Interestingly the first Ric Magramo also came up short in a number of OPBF title bouts, albeit at Flyweight.
4-The original Ric Magramo, the one from the 1960's, fought a mini who's who of the Flyweight scene of the era. This included bouts against the likes of Hiroyuki Ebihara, Bernabe Villacampo, Walter McGowan, Berkrerk Chartvanchai and Erbito Salavarria. In fact Magramo and Salavarria clashed 4 times, with the men splitting their series 2-2.
5-Despite twice losing to Ric Magramo the talented Erbito Salavarria would go on to have a very successful career, winning both the WBA and WBC Flyweight titles during his very notable career. Another Filipino who won the WBC Flyweight title was, of course, the iconic Manny Pacquiao.
6-In March 2003 Manny Pacquiao, the then IBF Super Bantamweight champion, fought in a non title bout as he took on little known Kazakh Serikzhan Yeshmagambetov. The bout, although not too well remembered, saw the Kazakh pull himself off the canvas in round 1, drop Pacquiao in round 4, but end up being stopped himself in the 5th round.
Over the last few days we've worked our way through the top 10 rankings for the Asian scene at Minimumweight through to Super Flyweight and today we add the Bantamweight rankings, and this is one of the divisions with incredible depth. We feel the #1 is a consensus pick, #2 and #3 are interchangeable and then the other 7 are a mix of really talented fighters in one of the most packed top 10's that we'll be covering. There could be some debate about the placements, but in reality there's not a lot separating some of these guys. However, that's not a bad thing, and it helps show the competitive nature of the division right now.
1-Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16)
The current WBA "Super" and IBF unified champion champion is arguably the face of Asian boxing right now, Naoya Inoue. The heavy handed 27 year old from Kanagawa is already a 3 weight world champion and within just 19 fights is one of the sports genuine stars. After winning world titles at Light Flyweight and Super Flyweight Inoue moved to Bantamweight and decimated Jamie McDonnell, Juan Carlos Payano and Emmanuel Rodriguez, before working hard to defeat Nonito Donaire in the WBSS Finale last November. The bout against Donaire saw Inoue needing to prove his toughness, chin and will to win and proving them in the way he did really boosted his standing in our eyes, and he answered some real questions. Having now shown he can fight through adversity we know Inoue is much, much more than just an offensive "Monster".
2-Nonito Donaire (40-6, 26)
Having given Inoue such a tough bout in the WBSS final it's fair to suggest that Nonito Donaire is #2, or at worst #3, in division in regards to Asian fighters. The 37 year old Filipino veteran is a physical monster at the weight, with huge size advantages over almost everyone else at 118lbs. He's not just big but he's also strong, very powerful, incredibly tough and a nightmare to fight. He's not as quick as he once was, though as he's lost speed he has adapted and certainly throws fewer wild shots than he once did. There is a case of father time being on his back, but the "Filipino Flash", is experienced, skilled, strong, and has become a more intelligent fighter as the years have gone on. We don't imagine he'll have a Bernard Hopkins-esque career, but he did show there is more than just a bit of life left in his career.
3-John Riel Casimero (29-4, 20)
We mentioned that Donaire was either #2 or #3, the man he is potentially interchangeable with is WBO champion John Riel Casimero. Casimero is a 3-weight world champion, and is someone who has long been over-looked by fans of the sport. He's won titles at at 108lbs, 112lbs and now Bantameight. Blessed with confidence, speed and power Casimero is nightmare to face when he's on song. He is however rather unpredictable and he can look both amazing and terrible in the same fight. He won the WBO title last year, stopping Zolani Tete, and seems to be enjoying a good run of form, though that could change at any moment. Originally the plan had been for Casimero to face off with Inoue in April though that bout was cancelled by on going global situation. Now it appears the two men could end up going in different directions with Casimero now looking likely to face Joshua Greer Jr, in a mandatory title defense instead.
4-Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13)
After the top 3 we end up with 4 or 5 guys who are very tricky to split, and matching any of them would give some compelling bouts. Among those "chasing group" is OPBF champion Keita Kurihara, a hard hitting 27 year from Japan. On paper Kurihara shouldn't be here, with 5 losses from his 20 bouts, however those losses don't tell the full story of where Kurihara is now. In fact 4 of his losses came in his first 7 bouts and he has only been beaten once in his last 13, with that coming to Hiroaki Teshigawara. In that time he has beaten Ryan Lumacad, Yuki Strong Kobayashi, Warlito Parrenas and Sukkasem Kietyongyuth. He's not the most talented of the ones in this area of the rankings, through he is very much among the most dangerous.
5-Reymart Gaballo (23-0, 20)
The most overlooked man in the division, by some margin, is 23 year old Filipino Reymart Gaballo. Gaballo is a joy to watch, but also a freakishly good fighter with some absolutely terrifying traits. He's lightning quick, tall and rangy, with frightening power, very confident and despite look a bit raw around the edges appears to take a good shot, and throw and even better one. His best win to date is probably over Stephon Young, more than 2 years ago, and since then has been supposedly decent opponents. We're really looking forward to seeing the leash being off Gaballo and allowing him to back up our high ranking of him as he looks like the sort of fighter who really could stamp his authority on the division.
6-Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3)
Naoya Inoue's little brother, Takuma Inoue, is pretty much the opposite of Keita Kurihara. Whilst Kurihara is all about power Inoue at the cost of skills Takuma Inoue is very much about skills and movement, at the expense of his power. He's a smart boxer-mover, with under-defense, very good movement and sharp punches, but a lack of punching power a strange lack of physical strength, despite visibly looking strong. His 2019 loss to Nordine Oubaali saw him being bullied for much of the fight, though his will to win shined through late on and he pushed Oubaali hard late on, answer questions about his heart and his stamina. We do wonder whether he could drop back down to Super Flyweight, where he fought earlier in his career. If he could he would a great addition there, but instead might find his success being a bit limited at Bantamweight. Saying that however he's only 24 and is still a boxing baby, despite being a pro since 2013. He might not be the generational talent that his older brother is, but don't write him off at after just a single loss.
7-Nawaphon Por Chokchai (48-1-1, 38)
Former Flyweight world title challenger Nawaphon Por Chokchai, also known by various other names, has reeled off 12 wins since being stopped by Juan Hernandez back in 2017. Whilst his competition hasn't been the best he has scored notable victories over Amnat Ruenrroeng, Richard Claveras, Sonny Boy Jaro and Ryan Lumacad since his sole defeat, putting him back among the contenders looking for a shot. His record is padded, but watching him, you know he can step it up and would be a nightmare for many of the divisional elite. Some how he's only 28 at the moment, and right bang in his prime, despite already having 50 bouts to his name. Another fighter we can't right off for just having a loss against his name.
8-Michael Dasmarinas (30-2-1, 20)
There's an argument that 27 year Filipino Michael Dasmarinas should be much higher up this list, and we do appreciate those arguments. Wins over Karim Guerfi and Kenny Demecillo are very good wins. Sadly however we can't the gift he got against Manyo Plange out of our head, and his win over Demecillo was certainly not the clear cut win that many would have expected for a supposed top divisional talent. He's skilled and talented, but we do wonder if he has maybe hit an early peak and is now, perhaps, heading the wrong way. He's been a sparring partner for both of the Inoue brothers, and is technically a mandatory for the IBF title, but we do wonder whether he'd last long with the Monster if, or when, they fight.
9-Yusuke Suzuki (11-3, 7)
Japanese national champion Yusuke Suzuki is another fighter with a record looks out of place in this top 10, but he certainly belongs here. He would also be an absolute nightmare for many in the rankings. The 31 year old southpaw is a solid puncher, teak tough, with an insane work rate and excellent will to win. He can be out boxed, and he cant be out manoeuvred, but but he's a dark horse in the division and certainly deserves a mention. Last time out he over-came some awful facial swelling to out point Yuta Saito. To date he has only lost once at the weight, and that was a split decision in the Philippines to the touted Jeffrey Francisco. Since then he has reeled off 5 wins and come back from a nasty injury. He's not in the mix for the higher positions but is pretty much interchangeable with the man ranked #9.
10-Yuki Strong Kobayashi (16-8, 9)
Another fight who's record doesn't scream "top 10" is Yuki Strong Kobayashi, who is in the list due to his recent results. In the last 60 months he had gone 6-1 (3) with his only loss being a close one to Keita Kurihara. In that same time he has beaten Satoshi Ozawa, Vicent Astrolabio and Ben Mananquil. The win over Mananquil saw him net the WBO Asia Pacific title and score a recent big surprise last year over the talented Filipino. Kobayashi has improved from the fighter he once was, and when he was 10-7 (5) his career very much seemed like it was going nowhere but the 28 year old is now an experienced regional champion and with Muto gym well and truly behind him his future is bright. He's not near the top of this list, but certainly belongs on it. A rematch between him and Kurihara would be good, as would a bout with Suzuki.
On the Bubble:
Ben Mananquil, Kenny Demecillo, Renz Rosia, Yelshat Nikhemttolla, Petch Sor Chitpatttana, and Carl Jammes Martin
With live boxing still off on the horizon, we thought we'd have a bit of fun looking at some of the most eye catching knockouts in Asian Boxing history. This really isn't going to make up for the complete lack of action we've got right now, but will hopefully be a chance to share some perhaps over-looked finishes from Asia.
Naoya Inoue (1-0, 1) Vs Ngaoprajan Chuwatana (9-10, 9)
We get to begin this series with a KO that was compared, at the time, to Sugar Ray Robinson's sensational knockout of Gene Fullmer by Joe Koizumi. Whilst the fight didn't have the same meaning as that one, the shot it's self is similar and had Japanese scribe fans in serious excitement about the sensational youngster they had seen in just his second professional bout.
The fighter in question was the then 19 year old Naoya Inoue, who had made his debut just 3 months earlier, stopping Crison Omayao, and was returning to take on the usually durable Ngaoprajan Chuwatana from Thailand. Chuwatana was no world beater, but from his 19 fights coming in to this he had faced a real mini-who's who, including 3 men who, at some point, won world titles, and a further 3 world title challengers. He had also gone the distance in an OPBF title bout, in a very competitive bout against Toshikazu Waga.
Like the Robinson shot it was a counter left hook, whilst going backwards, that landed like a peach.
Some how the Thai got to his feet, being counted out standing, but that's not to take away from how brilliant the finish shot was. For a fighter to do this only his second bout, whilst still a teenager, against a fighter who had gone much longer with the likes of Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Katsunari Takayama, Ryo Miyazaki and Jonathan Taconing.
Given Inoue has scored more impressive wins since this one it's easy to over look how impressive this was at the time, but it deserves a rewatch. The timing, the placement, and the speed were all sublime and thanks to TBS we got replays from multiple angles. For a man in just his second bout to do this is genuine sensationally, though of course as we all know now Inoue is no normal fighter.
This past weekend we saw Uzbek sensation Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6) claim the WBA "super" and IBF Super Bantamweight titles with an excellent win over Daniel Roman. The performance, in just his 8th professional bout, was a real statement from Akhmadaliev, despite a bizarre 12th round, and a sign of the rising wave of the Uzbek fighters, which include the likes of Israil Madrimov, Bektemir Melikuziev and Bakhodir Jalolov.
With his win at the weekend it's going to be interesting to see what Akhmadaliev does next. The Super Bantamweight division is a very interesting one, and as a double champion there are some very interesting potential moves for "MJ" going forward. So with that in mind lets look at Five for... Murodjon Akhmadaliev
1- Ryosuke Iwasa (27-3, 17)
The obvious next next fight for "MJ" is a mandatory defense of his titles against IBF "interim" champion Ryosuke Iwasa. If MJ avoids this fight, for whatever reason, he'd likely be stripped of the IBF title and given how he spoke about being a unified champion we don't imagine him wanting to relinquish either belt any time soon. In the ring this would be a really interesting match up. It would be the first time MJ has fought a hard hitting southpaw, though he has faced two lefties already in his career, and would also see whether or not Iwasa has figured fellow southpaws himself, or whether his performance against Marlon Tapales was a fluke. Given the heavy hands both men have we wouldn't be surprised to see this one end inside the schedule and for both to be rocked at some point.
2- Emanuel Navarrete (30-1, 26)
Whilst Akhmadaliev may be a unified champion there are still titles out there for him to go and capture. The reality is that a bout between "MJ" and WBC champion Rey Vargas wouldn't be an enjoyable watch, however a fight between the unbeaten Uzbek and marauding Mexican Emanuel Navarrete would be something special. It would be beautifully brutal, with both men firing off heavy shot. It would be "Vaquero's" pressure, against MJ's movement and boxing ability, it would be champion against champion, and it would be stylistically the most pleasing and exciting unification bout the division could give us right now. This would be something to get very, very excited about.
3- Daniel Roman II (27-3-1, 10)
Lets be honest the first fight between Akhmadaliev and Daniel Roman was good, really good...so good we want to see it again! Of course with the bout being a WBA mandatory there's no obligation for "MJ" to give Roman a rematch, but it did seem like both wanted to do it again, and we sure as hell would love to see them go again. Their first bout showed they were well matched, and with 12 rounds already between the men we would love to see what changes they make for a rematch. We would expect more output from Roman in the early going, especially given the way he seemed to have Akhmadaliev in trouble in the final round, whilst we expect Akhmadaliev to pace himself just a tough more and be able to fight hard in the final round. Alternatively the first 12 rounds may have allowed one man to find a weakness in the other they could exploit early in a rematch. Although we don't expect this to be next, we do expect this to be excellent when, and if, it happens.
4- Brandon Figueroa (20-0-1, 15)
Another really interesting match up from a style point of view would see "MJ" take on "The Heartbreaker" Brandon Figueroa. Whilst Akhmadaliev is the WBA "Super" champion Figueroa is the "Regular" WBA champion, so it would get rid of one of those pesky WBA belts, at least temporarily. MJ would certainly be favoured over the unbeaten Figueroa, but that doesn't take away from the fact this would be very, very exciting to watch and would see him up against a big, strong, powerful and aggressive foe. In many ways this would be like Akhmadaliev facing a lesser quality version of Emanuel Navarrete, and would work as a nice tune up for a bout with the Mexican down the line.
5- Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16)
Possibly entering to the realms of a dream fight here, but "MJ VS The Monster" is a mouth watering proposition, and potentially something we'll see somewhere down the line. In terms of height and reach the guys are very similiar, but both are also very different. MJ is probably the better boxer, and the better mover, but we suspect Inoue is the better puncher, and and the slightly quicker on the trigger. Either way we would love to find out, in what would be arguably the most intriguing bout either could have. This would see Inoue stepping up in weight again, attempting to become a 4-weight champion, but again given the fact the men are so similar in size, we wouldn't imagine that being a problem. In fact instead size being the key to victory it would be what they can do in the ring, and we would love to see match up of sensational young champions at some point, preferably sooner rather than later.
Following his win this past weekend the big question now is, what is next for WBO Bantamweight champion John Riel Casimero (29-4, 20). Obviously he called out Naoya Inoue, but that certainly isn't the only for the hard hitting Filipino, who has a lot of potential fighters looking in his direction.
With that in mind we will look at Five For... John Riel Casimero, with Inoue being one of the 5 fighters we'll look at, alongside the WBO mandatory challenger and other interesting potential foes.
1-Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16)
The obvious choice for Casimero is, Naoya Inoue, the man he called out after his win over Tete. The bout would be a huge all-Asian unification bout that could take either side of the Pacific. In Japan the bout would be a huge follow up to Inoue's win over Donaire in the WBSS final, whilst in the US it would be a monster introduction for US fans to the winner in Inoue's Top Rank debut. Obviously Inoue would be the favourite, but Casimero has regularly been the under-dog and hasn't cared about his opponent being the favourite. This could be mouth watering, but really depends on which Casimero turns up.
2-Joshua Greer, Jr (22-1-1, 12)
Loud, brash and confident American Joshua Greer is the #1 contender to Casimero and the WBO title, and is the Inoue bout can't come off, for whatever, then Gree is the man Casimero should be looking to face as quickly as possible. A win over Greer would get rid of him as the mandatory challenger and help to further enhance Casimero's reputation as a road warrior. If we're being completely honest we don't see Gree being competitive over a half focused Casimero, though of course seeing Casimero fighting at less than half of his best is never a surprise. Gree has managed to create plenty of hype with his pillow gimmick, and we suspect that if he got in the ring with Casimero he'd need the pillow himself, rather early on.
3-Jason Moloney (20-1, 17)
The well travelled Casimero has genuinely fought all over the place, but has yet to pick up a stamp from Australia on his well used passport. A trip "down under" to face the talented and heavy handed Jason Moloney would certainly be an interesting assignment, and would come against a legit top level opponent. Moloney proved his ability in 2018, when he beat Kohei Kono and the lost a hotly contested bout with Emmanuel Rodriguez, and would make for a fantastic opponent for Casimero. This wouldn't be as high profile as Inoue or Greer, but from a neutral point of view this would be a brilliant match up between heavy handed and talented fighters.
4-Nonito Donaire (40-6, 26)
One thing we still don't get enough of is All-Filipino world title bouts, and yet we have to truly top level Filipino Bantamweights, both of which are at an interesting cross roads and both are seemingly interested in a future showdown with the same man. Why not have them face off? Both Casimero and Nonito Donaire have made it clear they want to face Inoue down the line, and whilst Donaire has just faced the Monster he wants to go again, and Casimero has made his intention clear. A bout between the two wouldn't just be an Inoue eliminator but would also be a potentially explosive clash between two very heavy handed fighters. This could be made in either the Philippines, in what could be sold as Donaire's last bout, or in the US, with Casimero looking to boost his profile and Donaire being seen as the perfect foil. It would be a potential passing of the torch for Casimero, or one more final hurrah for the Filipino Flash.
5-Jonas Sultan (16-5, 10) II
A left of field choice, but maybe a more personal one for Casimero, would be a rematch with fellow Filipino Jonas Sultan. In 2017 Casimero was out pointed by Sultan in a Super Flyweight world title eliminator, and suffered his first, and only, loss to a fellow Filipino fighter. The bout saw Casimero look totally off, and the cards of Carl Zappia and Glenn Trowbridge really were both kind to Casimero who never looked good at any point against Sultan. Since then Sultan has gone 2-2 and looks like a fighter who has peaked and is on his way down, whilst Casimero looks to be having an Indian summer of sorts. The loss is one that looks wrong on Casimero's record, and the only one which has come to someone who has never won a world title. He has a chance to avenge it, and why wait? Yes this is much less high profile and big name, but we certainly see the appeal of this bout, if Casimero wants to get revenge for what happened in their first bout.
We've all heard of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and we've decided to put our spin on things with "Six degrees of separation" looking to connect Asian fighters you may never have assumed were connected! Today we connect Japanese star Naoya Inoue and..Sung Kil Moon
Just as ground rules, we're not doing the more basic "A beat B who beat C who beat D" type of thing, but instead we want to link fighters in different ways. As a result we will limit A fought B connections, and try to get more varied connections together, as you'll see here! We also know there are often shorter routes to connect fighters, but that's not always the most interesting way to connect them.
1-Current WBA and IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue has become one of the biggest stars in Japanese boxing and is already a 3 weight world champion and one of the most highly regarded fighters in world boxing today. Before he moved to Bantamweight he had won the Japanese Light Flyweight title, his professional title.
2-Another man to have held the Japanese Light Flyweight title was Yu Kimura, who actually won the title after Inoue vacated it. Kimura was a fighter from the well established, and world famous, Teiken Gym in Tokyo. Not only was he a Teiken fighter, but he was also a man who Teiken lead to a world title.
3-At Teiken one of Yu Kimura's stablemates, was WBC Bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka, who held the for close to 6 years.
4-Another Japanese fighter who held the WBC Bantamweight title, well before Shinsuke Yamanaka had achieved the feat, was Joichiro Tatsuyoshi, who was a Japanese boxing mega-star in the 1990's.
5-The man Joichiro Tatsuyoshi beat for the WBC Bantamweight title in 1991, in just his 8th bout, was Greg Richardson from the US. Coming in Richardson was looking to make his second defense in just 7 months, but was stopped by Tatsuyoshi.
6-In his very next bout, after losing to Tatsuyoshi, Greg Richardson would resurface in South Korea, where he lost to the then WBC Super Flyweight champion Sung Kil Moon.
Yesterday we got an unexpected cracker as Japanese star Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16) was given a huge test by Filipino great Nonito Donaire. Despite the struggle Inoue got through with a well-earned decision win to pick up the Muhammad Ali trophy and score his biggest, toughest, and most impressive win to date. He was shaken, he was cut, but he was also the clear winner and the well deserved winner of the WBSS.
Following the WBSS win it was confirmed that Inoue had signed a deal with Top Rank, who will be promoting him in the US going forward. With both his win, and Top Rank deal, in mind we've decided to look at "Five For...Naoya Inoue", looking at 5 possible opponents for his next bout.
1-Nordine Oubaali (17-0, 12)
The obvious fight to make right now would be a clash between Inoue and French-Morrocan Nordine Oubaali, the WBC champion defeated Naoya's younger brother Takuma Inoue on Thursday. The bout would see the WBA, IBF and WBC titles being unified and would be an easy sell with Naoya looking to avenge his brother's loss, with Oubaali would be looking to get the double over the Inoue family. The bout makes sense, and is one both men were open to following Thursday's bouts, and we all love to see titles being unified. However both men do have mandatory defenses to make which may hold up this show down, unless the WBC and IBF are both willing to delay the mandatory schedules.
2-Michael Dasmarinas (30-2-1, 20)
Talking about mandatory defenses Inoue's IBF mandatory defense is against Filipino fighter Michael Dasmarinas, who was actually sparring with Takuma Inoue in the build up his bout this past Thursday. Dasmarinas wouldn't be expected to pose much of a threat to Inoue but would mean the "Monster" would get rid of his mandatory obligation, and keep his unified titles intact, and would potentially serve as an interesting first assignment under Top Rank. The bout could be sold as Dasmarinas trying to avenge Donaire's loss for the Filipino people, whilst Inoue would clearly be coming into the bout to retain his title. Dasmarinas hasn't looked great in recent bouts, and would likely be taken out by Inoue, but would look good enough on paper to interest American fans.
3-Luis Nery (30-0, 24)
On paper a harder bout to make, as Luis Nery is very much a PBC fighter, a bout between Inoue and Mexican fighter Luis Nery is an easy sell. If it can be made. Nery is public enemy #1 in Japanese boxing circles due to his two tainted wins over Shinsuke Yamanaka, and a bout between Nery and Inoue would give Japanese boxing a chance to right the wrong of those Yamanaka losses, it would also give Nery a chance to face the new Japanese Bantamweight star. The issue for this bout is all between the two teams, Top Rank and PBC, but if a deal could be made to sort that out the fight would be huge, and the atmosphere, even in the US on supposedly neutral turf, would be electric. Interestingly if Inoue beat Oubaali, Nery would be his WBC mandatory, though if Nery beat Oubaali the bout would be a very nice unification bout. The options for this down the line are certainly there.
4-Zolani Tete (28-3, 21) / John Riel Casimero (28-4, 19)
This time we have a double choice, as it really depends on who wins on November 30th as to which of these two is option #4. South African fighter Zolani Tete is the current WBO champion, and he was actually part of the WBSS before getting injured and pulling out of a semi-final bout with Nonito Donaire. Tete was the opponent many had hoped to see face Inoue in the WBSS final, so having that bout, to unify the WBA, IBF and WBO titles would be a great bout for 2020. With his size and reach Tete poses a lot of interesting questions to Inoue, but would be seen as a clear under-dog.
On the other hand if John Riel Casimero, the WBO interim champion, can over-come Tete at the end of the month, he would make for a different but equally interesting opponent for Inoue. Casimero isn't the rangy and taller opponent that Tete is, but is an unpredictable, heavy handed slugger, who would make for a really interesting foe for Inoue. Casimero certainly has power, and like Inoue is a 3-weight champion, but would obviously need to get past Tete to secure that bout.
5-Isaac Dogboe (20-2, 14)
Whilst all the other options we've looked at have been Bantamweight options one thing to consider is that Inoue may look to move up in weight sooner rather than later. One option for that would be a bout with former WBO Super Bantamweight champion Isaac Dogboe, who is promoted by Top Rank. In fact this bout could take place at either Bantamweight or Super Bantamweight and could be made very easily if Top Rank wanted to pursue it. Dogboe has just suffered back to back losses to Emanuel Navarrete, but has been shown on US TV, is a Top Rank fighter and is a former world champion. On paper an easy bout to make, but maybe not the right time to make it, given Dogboe's recent defeats.
On November 5th Naoya Inoue will have his biggest bout to date, as he takes on Nonito Donaire in the WBSS final at the Saitama Super Arena. As one of the biggest names in Japanese boxing, a lot is known about the "Monster", but we think we've come up with "10 facts you probably didn't know about" about Inoue
1-Inoue has A Type blood - In Japan the blood type has been linked to personality traits, with Type A being linked to people who are well organised, diligent, attentive, intense and perfectionists, among other things.
2-Music that has been used for several of Inoue's walk outs in the past, including both of his WBSS bouts, was "Departure" by Japanese composer Naoki Sato. He has used other walk out music, but this has been the most regular one for him, and can be heard in full at the end of this article
3-Inoue didn't originally like the nickname of "Monster", as he revealed in a 2015 interview. In the same interview he stated he has never been dropped or cut, as either a professional or amateur.
4-Inoue's first son was born on October 5th 2017
5-His debut was the first time that a Japanese teenager had debuted in an A class bout, over 8 rounds, and was the first fighter to do so since Takeyuki Akagi had done it in 1987. This makes him only the 7th Japanese fighter to debut in such a bout.
6-Whilst Inoue is strongly linked to Fuji TV his first 2 bouts were both shown on rival TV station TBS as part of their "Guts Fighting" broadcasts, and both were televised on delay.
7-Staying with TV, his third bout, against Yuki Sano, was his first on Fuji TV and was the first live, prime time broadcast of boxing on the channel in more than 20 years. Since then Fuji has become one of the most significant channels in Japanese boxing, and works with a number of notable Japanese fighters. Fuji have aired all of his bouts in Japan since this contest, with WOWOW airing his non-Japanese bouts live.
8-As an amateur at the 2011 Japanese Interschool Meet he beat Ryomei Tanaka in the 49KG final. Tanaka is the older brother of Kosei Tanaka.
9-Also when he was an amateur Inoue and Ryota Murata shared a room at a dormitory and Murata described Inoue as being like a younger brother. Despite the significant size difference the two did train together and Murata had spoken glowingly of Inoue's physical strength.
10-Inoue, along with Ryota Murata and Akira Yaegashi, all played small roles in a Japanese TV Drama based on Fighting Harada, and especially Harada's bouts with Eder Jofre.
The month of May promised a lot for Japanese fighters, with a staggering 8 world title fights featuring Japanese fighters during the first month of the new Reiwa period of Japanese history. Sadly what could have been a huge month for Japanese fighters was a nightmare, with their fighters going 1-7 for the month at the top level. Whilst history was made in Europe, Japanese fighters suffered losses on Japanese, Chinese and American soil, and some defeats were horribly one sided.
The first of the Japanese fighters to fall short was Ryuichi Funai (31-8, 22) who was stopped in the 7th round by Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21) on May 4th, in an IBF Super Flyweight title bout. Ancajas was a big under-dog, but his performance saw him being totally out classed, and used as a punch bag by Ancajas, who had one of his best performances. Whilst Fuani showed his toughness his lack of defense, speed and movement really cost him hard here and allowed Ancajas one of his best performances so far.
Just over a week later, on May 13th, we saw Masayuki Kuroda (30-8-3, 16) put up a brave effort as he lost to Moruti Mthalane (38-2, 25), in an IBF Flyweight title bout. To credit Kuroda he was always seen as the under-dog and was really competitive in the first half, though ended the bout as the clear loser, suffering awful facial swelling in the process. Kuroda's effort deserves so many plaudits, but at the end of the day Mthalane was too good, too sharp and too skilled.
The third man to lose again put up a brave effort, with Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7) coming up short in an IBF Light Flyweight title fight with Felix Alvarado (35-2, 30) on May 19th. Again the Japanese challenger put up a great effort, and was competitive at times, but was unable to match the champion overall, and was rocked hard late on as Alvarado came close to dropping the Shinsei man. All credit to Konishi for his effort, but he was clearly second best here to the excellent champion
The weekend of May 25th and 26th was a nightmare for Japanese fighters, a real nightmare, with a 0-3 run over the weekend. The first of those to lose was Masayuki Ito (25-2-1, 13), who lost the WBO Super Featherweight title to Jamel Herring (20-2, 10), in what was regarded as a 50-50 bout. Herring really boxed to a fantastic gameplan to out point Ito, who failed to ever get a read on the southpaw stance of Herring.
Just a day later we saw back to back losses for Shun Kubo (13-2, 9) and Sho Kimura (18-3-2, 11).
Kubo put in a fan friendly performance, though was stopped by Chinese fighter Can Xu (17-2, 3) in a WBA "regular" Featherweight title fight. Kubo came to win, and gave a good account of himself, but was worn down by Xu, who made his first defense.
Kimura on the other hand was lacklustre, and very disappointed in himself, as he lost to WBA "regular" Light Flyweight champion Carlos Canizales (22-0-1, 17). Kimura, who dropped down in weight, looked like he had lost 25% of his usual hunger, desire and energy and was rarely a threat to Canizales.
The final set back came on May 31st when former WBO Minimumweight champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-7-6, 7) lost a technical decision to WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18). This rematch was expected to be hotly contested, but Fukuhara was just doing enough to lose competitive rounds to Wanheng, who extended his unbeaten record.
The only shining light for Japanese boxing at the world level this past month was the sensational Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16), who created history in Glasgow by stopping Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-1,12) in 2 rounds to add the IBF Bantamweight title to his WBA regular belt. This bout, on May 18th, saw a Japanese fighter win a world title bout on European soil for the first time, after 20 losses, and proved to be their only success at world level this past May.
Whilst many of those who lost were clear under-dogs, such as Funai, Mthalane and Kubo, others weren't. Kimura was the betting favourite and Ito was a 50-50 shot. To see such a band month is a real worry and one that will linger in the mind of Japanese fans for the foreseeable future, as all the countries other top fighters, several of which have big fights in June and July.
Whilst the month promised a lot, it was a disaster for Japanese fighters, and hopefully not a sign that the Reiwa era will be a bad one for the Land of the Rising Sun.
On May 18th we'll see Japanese star Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) attempt to progress to the WBSS Final, as he takes on Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12). The bout, for the IBF, WBA "regular" and the Ring Magazine Bantamweight title is really highly anticipated though is strangely regarded as a mismatch with the bookies.
At the time of writing the book makers in the UK have Inoue priced at 1/7 to win with Rodriguez priced as high as 25/4.
This isn't going to be one of our looks into the odds however, and is instead a bit of a history piece, suggesting that those odds really are remarkable, and that a win for Inoue would actually be an historic milestone for Japanese boxing. In fact it would end a 51 year barren run for Japanese fighters travelling to Europe in world title fights. It would be a first in a number of ways and could be a real turning point in the way Japanese fighters figure in Europe.
It's long been accepted that Japanese fighters don't do well on their travels. They have had notoriously bad form in nearby Thailand, as well as the US and Mexico. What is often over looked however is that they are 0-20 in world title fights in Europe. A figure that is incredible given the talent Japan has given us. Worryingly it's not just been lesser challengers who have come up short when they have travelled continent but some really good fighters as well. And their misfortune runs across Europe, from Russia to the UK.
So lets roll back the clock. The first loss by a Japanese fighter in a world title fight in Europe came way back in 1968, when Mitsunori Seki fought Howard Winstone for the WBC Featherweight title. Both men had been leading contenders, essentially unable to over-come the legendary Vincente Saldivar, who beat Winstone 3 times and beat Seki twice. When Saldivar retired the two fought for the title he vacated with Winstone stopping Seki in the 9th round, retiring the Japanese fighter.
The difference between then and now is huge. Back then there was only 2 titles, the WBC and WBA titles. Despite both fighters being top contenders they were both in their mid 20's, with Seki being the younger man at 26 and Winstone being 28. Despite that Winstone was figthing for the 65th time whilst Seki was in his 73rd bout. We don't often see careers like that any more. Interestingly neither man would fight beyond the year, with Seki retiring after this loss and Winstone retiring following his title loss 6 months later.
It would take 6 years before another Japanese fighter travelled over for a shot at glory, with that being Lion Furuyama in 1974. The Japanese fighter had a win some-lose some record but would come close to upsetting Perico Fernandez in a bout for the then vacant WBC Light Welterweight title. The bout took place on neutral soil, in Italy, and was decided by Ronald Dakin's card of 148-147 to Fernandez. Yes the bout was decided by a single round of the scoring referee's card. This is as close as a Japanese fighter has come to clinching a world title in Europe.
Interestingly both Furuyama and Fernandez would go on to suffer 2 losses to Thai legend Saensak Muangsurin, with Fernandez being the man Muangsurin beat for the title in his third bout, and Furuyama being the man he beat in his second bout.
The third occasion, at least the third one we could find, was 13 years later, taking place in 1987 in the UK and comes from a peculiar time in Japanese boxing history. This bout saw Akio Kameda travel to face Terry Marsh for the IBF Light Welterweight. At the time the JBC didn't recognise the IBF at all, holding that stance until very recently. As a result Japanese fighters who wanted to fight for IBF titles fought under the alternative IBF Japan. A number of fighters did this, including Satoshi Shingaki. Kameda became the first, and only, IBF Japan fighter to travel to the UK to fight for a world title.
Marsh broke down Kameda until the Japanese visitor's team stopped the bout between rounds 6 and 7 in what was the final bout for both men.
Despite the long break between Furuyama and Kameda getting shots there wasn't a long wait for the next one, with Akinobu Hiranaka travelling to Italy to face Argentinian Juan Martin Coggi for the WBA Light Welterweight title. Although Coggi was an Argentinian the Italian had adopted him following his 1987 title win over Patrizio Oliva, and this was his 4th bout in the country.
Hiranaka knew he would need a KO to win and did all he could to get it, dropping Coggi hard in round 3 and having him in all sorts of trouble. Coggi would grit it out though, dropping Hiranaka later in the bout to help secure a wide decision on the cards. Hiranaka would later claim the title, ripping it from Edwin Rosario in 1992, in just 92 seconds.
Bizarrely there wasn't a single Japanese title challenger travelling to Europe in the 1990's, from what we found, but since 2004 there has been 16, more than 1 a year. They've all come up short, but they have had mixed performances with some certainly putting up better effort than others.
In 2004 we saw both Nobuaki Naka and Yoshinori Nishizawa come up short in firsts. Naka was the first to fight in Denmark, losing in a WBA Super Bantamweight title fight to Johnny Bredahl via a wide decision. Just 9 months after Naka's loss Nishizawa travelled to Germany to challenge WBA Super Middleweight champion Markus Beyer, becoming the first Japanese fighter to challenger for a Super Middleweight title and the first to challenge in Germany. Surprisingly Nishizawa, then aged 38, dropped Beyer before losing a wide decision to the German.
The following year Shigeru Nakazato travelled to France, marking the first time a Japanese fighter had challenged in the country, where he was stopped in 6 rounds by the exciting Mahyar Monshipour. Interestingly this card did feature a notable win for Japan, as Toshiaki Nishioka picked up a win against Mustapha Abahraouhi, which was the only win we stumbled on in a none-title fight during our research.
It was a return to France in 2006 when Takefumi Sakata battled Robert Vasquez for the WBA "interim" Flyweight title. This was the lowest we found and was another where the Japanese fighter gave a great account, losing a split decision to Vasquez in the first meeting between the two. Despite the loss Sakata would get a shot at the regular title just 3 months later, beating Lorenzo Parra in a third bout between the two men. In his first defense Sakata avenged his loss to Vasquez, winning a decision in Tokyo over the Panamanian.
Although there was a rise in activity of Japanese challengers in Europe there wasn't one in 2007. Instead we had to wait until 2008 when Norio Kimura challenged Andriy Kotelnik in Ukraine for the WBA Light Welterweight title. Kimura had come into the bout with a lot of momentum, but was no match for the skills and craft of Kotelnik, who took a wide and clear win over Kimura to make his first defense.
In 2009 we were back in Europe twice. The first of those bouts saw hard hitting Middleweight Koji Sato take on WBA Middleweight king Felix Sturm. The dangerous Sato was nullified by Sturms excellent jab and stopped in round 7, suffering the first loss of his career. Sato, who recently revealed that he wanted to competed in the 2020 Olympics, would suffer only 1 other defeat, losing to Makoto Fuchigami in 2011 and we'll speak about him a little bit later.
The second bout was another in Ukraine as Motoki Sasaki challenged the then WBA Welterweight champion Vyacheslav Senchenko. Sasaki's technical limitations were a massive obsctable here against the technically sound, though rather uninspiring, Senchenko. The Ukrainian was cut but a clear winner, with Sasaki being deducted points for a headclash in round 6.
After a few years where Japanese fighters stayed at home there was a pair of bouts in 2012, and strangely both were at Middleweight and took place within a matter of days. The first of those was in Russia, where Nobuhiro Ishida challenged Dmitry Pirog for the WBO Middleweight title. Despite putting up a solid effort Ishida would lose a wide decision to the excellent Russian, in what would turn out to be his last fight before injury forced him out of the ring. Just days later Makoto Fuchigami, who ended the career of Koji Sato, would face Gennady Golovkin in Ukraine. Sadly for Fuchigami he was totally out of his depth and was stopped in 3 rounds by the Kazakh great, who retained his WBA title.
An aside, is that Pirog and Golovkin were meant to meet in the US after this bout, but plans were scuppered by Pirog's injury, meaning Golovkin made his US debut against Grzegorz Proksa, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Ishida marked an historic first in 2013 when he challenged Golovkin himself, and like Fuchigami he was stopped in 3 rounds. This bout, in Monaco, saw Ishida become the first Japanese fighter to challenge for a world title in Europe twice, and the first to lose twice. He would however remain a popular figure and twice fight for the Japanese Heavyweight title afterwards.
The bout between Ishida and Golovkin wasn't the only time a Japanese fighter world travel in 2013. The other saw Yuzo Kiyota challenge Robert Stieglitz for the WBO Super Middleweight title, Kiyota was a deducted a point early against the German champion and later stopped on cuts. Originally the result was announced as a technical decision win for Stieglitz, himself a very poor champion, though was later reviewed and changed to a TKO win.
At the time of writing Boxrec incorrectly lists, in the wikipedia for the fight, that this was the first time a Japanese fighter had challenged for a world title at 168lbs or higher. That was, however, Yoshinori Nishizawa back in 2004 who did it twice, first against Anthony Mundine in Australia then again against Markus Beyer in Germany.
In recent years the UK has seen Japanese challengers coming over on a pretty regular basis, about 1 a year. The first of those was in 2014 when Hidenori Otake travelled to challenger Scott Quigg, the then WBA Super Bantamweight champion. Otake put up a brave effort, and showed incredible toughness, but struggled to have any great success against the much sharper Quigg. The following year Ryosuke Iwasa travelled to face Lee Haskins for the vacant IBF Bantamweight title. This was regarded as a 50-50 match up, though unfortunately Iwasa was stopped in round 5, following a peach a shot from Haskins.
Iwasa, like Hiranaka, would later go on to win a world title, moving up in weight to take the IBF Super Bantamweight title.
In 2016 Keita Obara travelled to Russia to challenge the then IBF Light Welterweight champion Eduard Troyanovsky. Obara had moments in this bout, and seemed to wobble Troyanovsky at one point, but was knocked out of the ring in round 2 before later being stopped the same round. At the time of writing this is the last time a Japanese fighter challenged in Europe, but not in the UK.
We saw two Japanese fighters travel to the UK challenge for world titles in 2017, both challenging WBA Super Flyweight champion Kal Yafai. The first of those was Suguru Muranaka, who proved to be incredibly tough and gutsy, but lost a clear decision to Yafai in Birmingham. Following Muranaka was the more skilled Sho Ishida, who asked questions of Yafai but fought far too tamely to take the decision. Despite the wins over the Japanese pairing Yafai did little to enhance his reputation with the wins and has failed to shine since.
With a 20 fight losing streak in world title bouts in Europe Japanese supporters may need to be a little cautious of Inoue ahead of the fight with Rodriguez. It's not a gimme for Inoue, as the betting suggests, and although he's, easily, the best Japanese fighter to have fought in Europe he is going to be well aware that history is not on his side.
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).