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 popular Hong Kong warrior Rex Tso to...former Korean world champion Chan Young Park.
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-The all action Rex Tso was a major star in Hong Kong and one of the most exciting men in boxing with regular Fight of the Year contenders. Those who saw his wars with Ryuto Maekawa, Hirofumi Mukai and Kohei Kono will fondly remember them. Interestingly Tso actually shares his birthday with Baishanbo Nasiyiwula, with both men blowing out their candles on July 15th.
2-In December 2016 Baishanbo Nasiyiwula claimed the WBA International title at 140lbs, beating Leki Maka for the title. Baishanbo never actually defended the belt and it has been passed around a bit since he held it. Currently the belt belong to Uzbek amateur standout Shakhram Giyasov, who win the belt last April and has defended it once.
3-Whilst the WBA International 140lb title was Shakhram Giyasov's first title in the professional ranks he really was a former star in the amateur scene winning an Olmypic Silver medal in 2016 and World Amateur Championships gold medal the following year. Another man who won medals at those very same competitions is current world champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev.
4-The excellent Murodjon Akhmadaliev won world titles in his 8th bout earlier this year. Another man who won their first world title bout, in their 8th professional fight, was Japanese star Joichiro Tatsuyoshi, who stopped Greg Richardson for the WBC Bantamweight title in 1991.
5-We mentioned that Joichiro Tatsuyoshi won his first world title in 1991 but it's worth noting the venue where he won that bout the City Gymnasium in Moriguchi, had previously held 3 other world title fights, each of which featured Takuya Muguruma. Like Tatsuyoshi in 1991 Muguruma won his first world title there, back in 1987 when he stopped Azael Moran in 5 rounds to claim the previously vacant WBA Bantamweight title.
6-Sadly for Takuya Muguruma his reign was a short one, and he lost the WBA Bantamweight title less than 2 months after winning it, losing in 11 rounds to Korean fighter Chan Young Park.
The month of September was,lets be honest, a fun one for the most part. That fun is expected to continue through a rather exciting looking October.
Yasutaka Ishimoto (28-8, 7) vs Gakuya Furuhashi (18-7-1, 8) II
The month kicks off with a really exciting Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout between defending champion Yasutaka Ishimoto and former challenger Gakuya Furuhashi. The bout is a rematch from a thoroughly engaging bout the two men had last year and should prove to be a very friendly bout again here. For Ishimoto the bout serves as his second defense of the title whilst Furuhashi is looking to gain both the title and avenge his defeat when the men first met.
For fans interested in watching the bout will be aired live on G+
Jessica Chavez (27-4-3, 4) vs Naoko Fujioka (15-1, 6)
Female boxing doesn't get the attention it, sometimes, deserves. October has several notable female bouts, with possibly the best of them seeing WBC female Flyweight champion Jessica Chavez battle against 3-weight world champion Naoko Fujioka in a bout that really is mouth watering. Both of these are top, established talents and both know that a win here would see them strengthening their already impressive legacies. It's a great bout and both will come into this in fantastic condition. It may sound like hyperbole but this is possibly the best bout of the month.
Satoshi Hosono (32-2-1, 21) vs Jonathan Victor Barros (40-4-1, 22)
The early part of the month is rather packed and on the third we get an intriguing IBF Featherweight world title eliminator as Japanese veteran Satoshi Hosono, a 3-time world title challenger, faces Argentinian veteran Jonathan Victor Barros, himself a former world champion. The winner of this will be expecting a bout with Lee Selby in 2017 and both know that a loss here could be the of their career at the top level. Given the styles of the men and what's on the line this really does have the hall marks of something really exciting.
Kenta Nakagawa (12-2-1, 9) vs Hayato Kimura (25-8, 16)
The second Japanese title fight of the month comes on October 6th as the heavy handed Kenta Nakagawa faces former Korean Super Flyweight champion Hayato Kimura for the currently vacant Japanese title. The two men have had very different careers but should match up well in the ring with Nakagawa being the bigger puncher and Kimura being the more experienced and arguably more skilled fighter. The winner of this will pick up the title vacated earlier this year by Sho Ishida, who vacated in search of a world title fight.
Fans interested in watching this one can do so on delay courtesy of boxingraise.com
Rex Tso (19-0, 12) vs Ryuto Maekawa (11-0-1, 7)
Staying at Super Flyweight, which may well have been the most interesting division over the last few weeks, October 8th sees unbeaten fighters Rex Tso and Ryuto Maekawa colliding for the WBO International and WBC Asian Boxing Council Super Flyweight titles. Of the two men Tso is the more well known, and the favourite by our guess, but can be dragged into a war by lesser fighters and this could potentially be a lot of fun as a result.
Nana Yoshikawa (6-1, 4) vs Eun Hye Lee (8-0, 3)
Just over a week from the Chavez Vs Fujioka bout we get another intriguing female world title fight, this time between once beaten Japanese fighter Nana Yoshikawa and unbeaten Korean Eun Hye Lee for the WBO female Flyweight title. Coming in to this one Yoshikawa seems to be suggesting it's now or never and at 38 years old she may well be right. The 33 year old Lee is a former WBO female Light Flyweight champion champion and is looking to become a 2-weight champion here.
Je Ni Ma (9-1-3, 8) Vs Hironobu Matsunaga (10-1, 5)
The WBO Asia Pacific titles appear to be here to stay and Japanese fighters appear to have gone “in for a penny, in for a pound”. This is seen again on October 9th when once beaten Japanese fighter Hironobu Matsunaga travels to Daejon to face big punching Korean Je Ni Ma for the Light Middleweight title. The bout is a great test for both men who will likely be looking to use a win here to launch their careers towards bigger and better fights. Given the power of Ma, and his 12 fight unbeaten run, he should be favoured here, but Matsunaga has impressed recently and stopped a former Japanese Middleweight champion last time out.
Over the last few weeks we've looked at 30 fighters who we tipped as “ones to watch in 2016”, unsurprisingly however we had to miss out on a lot of fighters. Here we are doing a bonus part trying to include an extra 20 fighters who missed out on our original 6 parts! With these 20 extra fighters it brings the total covered up to an amazing 50 fighters!
For those who missed them the previous parts are available below-
Part 1 is here
Part 2 is here
Part 3 is here
Part 4 is here
Part 5 is here
Part 6 is here
And the first bonus part is here.
Earlier today we saw Chinese fighter Zou Shiming (6-1, 1) come up short against Thailand's talented but frustrating Amnat Ruenroeng (15-0, 5). If you listened to some members of the boxing press that was the death knell for Chinese boxing. According to them Shiming was the be all and end all of Chinese boxing. For the country to have a boxing scene Shiming needed to be a success.
Strangely however the under-card on the same show seemed to suggest that whilst Shiming was the jewel in the crown of Bob Arum's “Chinese Dynasty” he wasn't the be all and end all of the Macau scene. Never mind the Chinese boxing scene.
Firstly let me just give a mention to what is happening on the Chinese mainland courtesy of Zovi boxing.
If you listened to much of the boxing media you may never have heard of Zovi boxing but the outfit has been “Chinese boxing” before Chinese boxing. They have guided Xiong Zhao Zhong to a world title, the only one won by a Chinese male, and they have guided the career of several other Chinese fighters including the very promising Qiu Xiao Jun. Although a small company in the grand scheme of things they are the ones who are putting in the investment to create a Chinese boxing scene and they are the ones pulling the WBC into China.
Zovi have been around since 2003 though have really grown in recent years with the development of fighters like Zhong, Jun and the Xaing Jiang.
If you've not heard of of Jun or Jiang then you'll probably not think you're missing out on anything however both are world ranked. Jiang is WBO #15 at Flyweight, albeit with the WBO calling him “Xiang Jiny”, whilst Jun is the WBC #3 at Super Bantamweight. The odds are both will end up fighting for world titles in the coming years and both are young enough come again and again.
Going back to Top Rank, it's fair to say they wanted Shiming to become a world champion. They knew that if Shiming became a champion then they would have the key to making Chinese boxing massive. Shiming however failed to capture the imagination of those in the West. Fans watching the shows with Shiming were repeatedly critical of the double Olympic champion. Strangely those same fans were often positive about other fighters on the card that managed to steal the attention and fanfare.
One of those fighters was Super Flyweight action man Rex Tso (16-0, 9). Tso is an infectious fighter with a huge smile, great natural charisma, a happy go lucky attitude and a style that is made for TV. He has recently inked a deal with Top Rank for 2 years and although he's limited there are shades of Arturo Gatti about. He can box, we've seen him box against Ratchasak Kokietgym, but for whatever reason he gets dragged into a war and makes for some of the most fan friendly bouts we've seen in the Super Flyweight division.
The Super Flyweight division is a tough one but Tso can put bums on seats and when a fighter can do that they will get opportunities.
Another of the fighters was Ik Yang (19-0-0-1, 14) who is now ranked #2 by the IBF at 140lbs. Yang is a 29 year old boxer-puncher who was described as being a “Chinese Adrien Broner” by British journalist Steve Bunce. We'd say that was a harsh description of Yang but see where Bunce is coming from with Yang's combination of ability and clowning though the guy is pure box office. He punches like a mule, he clowns and taunts and he puts on eye catching performances. He is defensively lapse but has a solid chin and is happy to take one to land one and has been on the radar of some fans for the last 3 years or so, since he beat Elly Ray in fact.
Yang is the type of guy who will appeal to US TV viewers, he will appeal to Chinese fans, he will attract European fans and more tellingly he is fighting in an attractive division. In fact he's fighting in one of the most popular divisions in the West. Add his appeal to Bob Arum's promotional backing and we have a star in the making. Better yet he speaks broken English giving him a “Gennady Golokvin-like” charm.
A third Chinese fighter who has caught the attention on the Bob Arum shows is Macau's very own Kuok Kun Ng (7-0, 3). Ng is the most limited of the 3 but also the least experienced and the man who has had the weakest of teams in his corner. Although he's the biggest “work in progress” he's also a local Macau fighter, exciting and good looking with a notable local fan base. We're not going to say he's mega popular but he does have a loyal fan base and, as shown in his latest bout, he's developing a really exciting aggressive streak.
Ng is unlikely to be moved towards a world ranking any time soon. He's simply too inexperienced and too flawed. He is however a popular local draw who will bring in a crowd and be given time to develop his skills without too much pressure on his shoulders. As long as he can link up with a notable corner team he could, slowly, develop into a contender.
Whilst the loss for Shiming was a big hit to Top Rank's attempt to take over the Chinese boxing market it wasn't the end of the concept. In fact in many ways it was the first set back since they started doing them and with the working relationships to Teiken and ALA I suspect Top Rank will continue to build in the area.
The one major issue is that the cards may need to be more “name heavy” promotions. This could mean that fighters like Nonito Donaire, Brian Viloria, or Manny Pacquiao need to be involved. It could however work to the advantage of boxing fan who may get the chance to see someone like Takashi Miura in Macau to try and tempt over Japanese gamblers. Lets be honest, who'd complain at seeing Miura given a huge profile HBO opportunity in Macau?
Personally I suspect we'll see HBO back in Macau in a few months time with Shiming in a against a world ranked foe as he rebuilds, Tso continuing his pursuit of the WBA Super Flyweight title, though not getting his much talked about title bout, and Yang possibly getting a high profile bout. Maybe I'm wrong but I really hope that's not the end of the Macau shows because they have given us some great, great fights and helped get some Western attention to the Flyweight division, something that we've been very happy about.
(Image courtesy of Chris Farinas/Top Rank)
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).