Japanese fighters leaving a mark in the US isn't something we see too often. Today we look at a fighter who did leave a lasting impression on his US debut, despite losing. That is Nihito Arakawa (32-7-2, 18).
Everyone will remember his incredibly gutsy effort against Omar Figueroa in 2013, and some may also remember his 2014 loss to Jorge Linares, as he returned to the US for his second bout in the country. That was less memorable and was the final time he fought on US soil. Despite disappearing off US TV Arakawa remained an active competitor until last year, with his final career bout coming in Ukraine against Denys Berinchyk.
Today we continue our 5 Midweek Facts series by looking at Nihito Arakawa, and his life and career!
1-Although Arakawa made his name as a boxer, and was a successful one, boxing wasn't the first sport for him. That was actually baseball. He was apparently a good pitcher at high school level and was so good he was made team captain.
2-Of course Arakawa didn't go on to play baseball at a high level and instead turned to boxing. Sources in Japan suggest that Arakawa really didn't have a lot of amateur experience before turning professional, with reports being that he had gone 4-1 (3) before turning professional and making his debut in 2004!
3-Prior to facing former world title challenger Takehiro Shimada in 2012 Arakawa had been ranked #1 by the WBC at Lightweight.
4-Arakawa's November 2012 bout against Daniel Estrada was incredibly controversial. The WBC accidental foul rule came into play as did instant replay and even resulted in a rematch being ordered. The bout saw Arakawa lose a wide decision, but that only tells half the story. Arakawa had caused serious swelling around Estrada's eye, which was originally ruled a head clash, then over-ruled on replay to coming from punched, then the over-ruling was over-ruled again. In that time Arakawa had a point deducted, then the deduction cancelled. An accidental elbow from Arakawa was then blamed for the worsening facial injuries of Estrada. The bout would later have a rematch ordered, with Estrada reportedly turning it down, leading to Arakawa's legendary bout with Omar Figueroa as a result.
For those wanting instant replay in boxing, this was a case of it not working, properly, and as football (soccer) fans have seen, instant replay can't solve the issues of inconsistency and misuse.
5-Arakawa currently remains involved in the sport, working as an instructor at the KOD Lab, the gym set up by former world champion Takashi Uchiyama.
The final 13 days of September are hectic to say the least with several notable bouts taking place involving Asian fighters.
Donnie Nietes v Edgar Sosa
The most significant bout to feature an Asian this coming weekend sees former WBO Minimumweight and Light Flyweight champion Donnie Nietes (38-1-4, 22) look to make a mark at Flyweight. The talented veteran takes on former world champion Edgar Sosa (52-9, 30) in a bout for secondary tier WBO title. Although Sosa is a fighter who has seen better years, and at 37 is clearly winding down his career, this could be a baptism of fire for Nietes who will be fighting as a fully fledged Flyweight for the first time.
Arthur Villanueva v Juan Jimenez
On the same card as Nietes Vs Sosa we get a rematch between Arthur Villanueva (29-1, 15) and Juan Jimenez (22-10, 15), with the two men trading blows for the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title. These two fought back in May, with both men hitting the canvas, before Jimenez was finished off with an accidental headbutt. Jimenez will be looking for revenge whilst Villanueva will be looking to prove he would have won the first bout without the headbutt finish.
Mark Magsayo Vs Ramiro Robles
Staying with that same card we will also see Filipino prospect Mark Magsayo (14-0, 11) defend his WBO International Featherweight title as he takes on Ramiro Robles (13-5-1, 8). For Magsayo this will be his first defense of the title he won earlier this year, when he won a soot out with Chris Avalos, and we'll be hoping to a more controlled performance here.
Nihito Arakawa v Yusuke Tsukada
In Tokyo we get one of two Japanese title fights as Lightweight champion Nihito Arakawa (27-6-1, 16) looks to defend the title for the first time since claiming it back in April. The tough and exciting Arakawa will be up against under-dog Yusuke Tsukada (8-5, 3) in what looks like a mismatch in favour of the champion. Giving the draining career that Arakawa has had no one will begrudge him an easy one, but this might be a bit too easy.
Shota Hayashi v Noriyuki Ueno
On the same day in Japan we get a second domestic title bout, this time in Aichi as Shota Hayashi (27-5-1, 17) faces Noriyuki Ueno (18-13-5, 5) in a bout for the vacant Japanese Featherweight title. The title was vacated earlier this year by Satoshi Hosono, who's looking to earn a 4th world title fight, and has given us this bout. On paper it looks like a mismatch however Ueno knows that this will be his only chance, with his 35th birthday coming earlier next year.
Nop Kratingdaenggym Vs Nehomar Cermeno
The final Asian bout of note this month sees unbeaten Thai Nop Kratingdaenggym (17-0, 5) battle against Nehomar Cermeno (24-5-1, 14), in a bout for Cermeno's WBA Super Bantamweight. For the champion this sees him return to China, where he won the title earlier this year, whilst Nop will be stepping up in class massively for his first bout outside of Thailand.
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.
The month of June has been a long and eventful one for boxing fans, and now we're about to roll into June, which again promises a lot of action. Here's what we, at Asian Boxing, have to look forward to over the coming weeks.
The month kicks off with WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (37-0, 12) defending his title for the second time. The talented Thai, who won the title last year by stopping Oswaldo Novoa, will be facing the unknown Jerry Tomogdan (17-5-3, 9) of the Philippines. For Tomogdan it's a huge opportunity to make a name for himself, however there is nothing about his resume that suggests he has any chance against the often under-rated Wanheng.
On June 6th we'll see popular Indonesian warrior Daud Cino Yordan (33-3-0-1, 24) battle against the experienced Maxwell Awuku (40-2-1, 26). This will be Yordan's first bout of the year and he's apparently looking to move towards a WBO world title fight. Better yet this card is set to be littered with the best prospect in Indonesian boxing, and be screened internationally on RCTI. A win all-round even if the card isn't the strongest.
On the same day, in Japan, fans will have the chance to see a couple of former world champions in action as Toshiyuki Igarashi (20-2-1, 11) and Akifumi Shimoda (28-4-2, 12) both fight for the first time this year. Neither man is taking on a global name but it's worth noting that both men will be expecting big fights later in the year if they come through unscathed.
On June 8th Japanese fans get an interesting double header at the Korakuen Hall. The first of those bouts will see unbeaten Japanese Super Featherweight champion Rikki Naito (12-0, 5) make the move to Lightweight where he will face the teak tough Nihito Arakawa (25-5-1, 16) in a very attractive looking bout. Although no titles are on the line this is a really significant bout for both men with Arakawa's career really needing a win and Naito really wanting to continue his unbeaten run.
The other bout will see exciting OPBF Flyweight champion Koki Eto (16-3-1, 12) defending his title against Japanese challenger Yuki Fukumoto (17-9, 5). We don't really see what purpose this bout serves but it's always a joy to watch Eto in action and he hope certainly seems to be to get him a world title fight later in the year.
Talking about world title fights it has seemed like Shingo Wake (18-4-2, 11) has been on the verge or a shot at the gold for a long time. On June 10th Wake gets the chance to take a huge step towards a world title fight as he faces Thailand's Mike Tawatchai (35-7-1, 21) in an IBF world title eliminator. The winner of this is expected to fight Carl Frampton later in the year or early next year.
In a female bout on this card Tomomi Takano (7-1, 5) will fight Nongbua Lookpraiaree (9-12-1, 1) for the OPBF female Super Bantamweight title. This will be Takano's first title bout and although it looks easy on paper it is still a test for the model-come-boxer who has shown frailties in the past.
The same card will also see Hisashi Amagasa (28-5-2, 19) in his first bout since being stopped by Guillermo Rigondeaux. The lanky Japanese fighter will be up against Thai visitor Patomsith Pathompothong (12-3, 5) and has the intention of chasing an IBF Featherweight title bout later in the year. It's not a given that he will get one but this is his first step towards one.
Remaining on the theme of world title bouts, we'll see a the once beaten Ryosuke Iwasa (19-1, 12) travel to England to battle against Lee Haskins (31-3, 13) in a contest for the IBF interim Bantamweight title. Iwasa has the opportunity to become the first Japanese fighter to win a world title in Europe however he will be expecting to fight Randy Caballero, if he were to win here, to become the IBF's “real” champion.
On June 20th we get two very different looking “secondary” title bouts. Neither is great but, if we're being honest, one is a joke.
The relatively interesting bout comes form Mexico where Filipino puncher Warlito Parrenas (24-6, 21) battles Mexico's very own David Carmona (19-2-4, 8) in a fight for the WBO interim Super Flyweight title. The winner of this will be matched with Naoya Inoue later in the year, giving us a bout that is genuinely significant for both Inoue and Parrenas. On paper Carmona has nothing to trouble the Filipino though this will be Parrenas's first bout outside of Asia.
The other fight is in Las Vegas as Beibut Shumenov (15-2, 10) attempts to claim the WBA “interim” Cruiserweight title. Shumenov, a former title holder at Light Heavyweight will be up against once beaten American BJ Flores (31-1-1, 20) in a bout that we're really struggling care about. The bout will receive more widespread attention than the Parrenas/Carmona bout but it really shouldn't and the WBA really should be asked questions about sanctioning this contest.
The middle part of the month is mostly quiet but we do get an exciting looking closer for the month as unbeaten IBF Flyweight champion Amnat Ruenroeng (15-0, 5) defends his title against mandatory challenger Johnriel Casimero (21-2, 13). Casimero, a former champion at Light Flyweight, is a real threat to the talented Ruenroeng and although the Thai is a the king of slowing the pace Casimero is explosive enough to really give Ruenroeng a hard time here.
On the same day female fans in South Korea can see their very own Eun Hye Lee (7-0, 2) battle against Thai youngster Ploynapa Sakrungrueng (12-5-1, 1) in a contest for the WBO female Light Flyweight title. This bout has really gone under-the-radar but it could potentially see South Korea claiming another female world champion, as recognised by “The Big 4”. It's certainly less high profile than some of the months other bouts but it is a notable one all the same and one where Lee seems to be the clear favourite.
Images courtesy of-
Thairec.com and boxmob.jp
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).