On Saturday we were lucky enough to be able to catch an interesting looking OPBF Light Welterweight / Super Lightweight title bout as Rikki Naito (23-2, 8) faced off with Yusuke Konno (16-5, 9). The bout, Naito's 4th defense of the title, looked like an easy one on paper, but it was one that had real intrigue due to the recent form of Konno, who had won his last 5 including solid wins over Kazuya Maruki, Vladimir Baez and Baishanbo Nasiyiwula. Those wins had seen Konno build up momentum and style wise he seemed to be the kryptonite for Naito, who has long issues with physical boxers and with stamina.
Of course those who watched the bout will known that Naito won the contest when Konno was forced to retire in his corner after 9 rounds with an injury, a disappointing end to a relatively interesting match. And an ending that came just before we expected to see Konno's stamina, toughness and size begin to play their part on the bout.
With the bout now behind we've taken the chance to rewatch it and give our take aways from the bout.
1-Naito is a joy to watch
We need to start with the obvious and that's that Rikki Naito really is a joy to watch. He's a pure boxer, with nice speed, good movement, lovely shot placement, a brilliant straight left hand, and he really does tick a lot of boxes. Sadly though he is very much a boxer and not a fighter. When dragged into a fight he struggles, and his lack of physicality, power, strength and questionable stamina are all major issues. At this sort of level he looks very classy, very talented and very much a wonderful boxer. Sadly for him however being a wonderful boxer does have it's limitations and he lacks those other tools needed to be a real star outside of Japan.
2-Konno's pressure told in round 6
In round 2 and in round 6, to a much bigger degree, we saw Konno's pressure really getting to Naito and it seemed like Naito was falling into the wrong sort of fight. Round 6 in particular made things really interesting, and it's a shame Konno suffered his injury as another round like that and we would could have been looking at a new champion. Konno's toughness, size, and power allowed him to take clean blows from Naito and his physical strength and body work could well have worn down the champion had he gone on unhindered. It really is a shame we saw him suffer the injury to his left shoulder that forced the early conclusion of the bout.
3-The injury of Konno seemed to show as early as round 6
Konno's excellent round 6 seems to come at a very serious price. He didn't take much punishment from Naito but by the dying seconds of the round it seemed he was a 1-handed fighter. He was in the position to throw left hooks a number of times, but simply didn't let them go. It was amazing, looking back, just how much success he had as a 1-handed fighter. It seemed that in round 6 he hadn't completely done in the arm, but was certainly not using it towards the end of the round. He then essentially fought the following 3 rounds without using his left. When he he walked towards his corner something seemed wrong, though strangely his team only iced his right side and not his left.
4-Kadoebi gave their man a chance even with an injury
Likely realising their man was a 1-handed fighter the Kadoebi team in charge of Konno gave their man every opportunity to continue on and allowed him to fight 3 rounds whilst clearly carrying an issue. To his credit he did throw some left hands in round 7, but they were few and far between, and they rarely looked right. To be honest, they looked wild, sloppy and lacked any crispness at all. We suspect those shots really just did more harm than good and likely explained why rounds 8 and 9 saw him essentially give up with the left all together. Credit to his undoubted toughness however, and well done to his team for giving him a chance and then pulling him out before he took any serious punishment or further damaged the shoulder. Fingers crossed he'll be back in the ring in 2021 with a fully healed shoulder
5-Naito's ceiling isn't too much higher than this
We started this saying how Naito is a joy to watch and then listing his flaws. Sadly those flaws are going to keep him at this type of level. At 29 it seems unlikely he'll develop any more in terms of power or physical strength, and if he does they will likely come at the expense of his speed and his already questionable stamina. Naito against anyone near the top of the division wouldn't bode well for the Japanese fighter, no matter how nice, smooth and technical his boxing skills are. With that in mind we see him continuing his career at the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific type level. On one hand that's disappointing, given his ability, but on the other hand that keeps some really good match ups on the table for him. A rematch between Naito and Daishi Nagata, or Konno, would be great, or Naito against fighters like Hiroki Okada, Andy Hiraoka, Akihiro Kondo, the winner of the upcoming bout between Jin Sasaki and Aso Ishiwaki, Hwang Kil Kil, Downua Ruawaiking and Koichi Aso would be entertaining bouts. His ceiling isn't massively high, but there are a lot of interesting match ups out there for him.
A few days ago we shared our Lightweight rankings and confessed that the division was a hard one to really talk about. There was a unified champion, Yuichiro Yoshino, but the rest of the division was a bit of a mess and there was no clarity within it. Things don't get any clearer at 140lbs. In fact Light Welterweight might be an even harder division to rank, but also one of the most interesting with a number of people all banging on the door of big fights.
1-Batyrzhan Jukembayev (18-0-0-2, 14)
Unbeaten Canadian based Kazakh contender Batyrzhan Jukembayev is really banging on the door for a world title fight. Although not too well known internationally Jukembayev has ready scored noteworthy wins against the likes of Cosme Rivera, Patricio Lopez Moreno and Miguel Vazquez. A talented boxer puncher, but still a work in progress, Jukembayev is part of the chasing pack wanting a world title fight sooner rather than later. At 29 the Kazakh will be wanting to get back into the swing of things as soon as possible, and certainly doesn't have too much time to waste if he's going to have a solid time at, or around, the top of the sport. He's not old, but he's also no spring chicken.
2-Shohjahon Ergashev (18-0, 16)
The most explosive and exciting fighter in this top 10 is the powerful, but technically flawed, Shohjahon Ergashev. The heavy handed American based Uzbek is a fighter who can completely destroy opponents with his left hand, but can also be made to look rather rudimentary and basic by those who can control the action against him. Ergashev burst on the wider scene in 2018, when he dismantled Sonny Fredrickson in a charismatic and thrilling performance, and has notched 7 more wins since then. He looked very human against the awkward Mykal Fox, but absolutely terrifying against Nazareno Gaston Ruiz and more recently Adrian Estrella. The crude dangerman of the division.
3-Shakhram Giyasov (9-0, 7)
Another US based unbeaten Uzbek hopeful is 2016 Olympic gold medal winner Shakhram Giyasov. The talented "Wonder Boy" has shown a lot of potential, and looks to be a better boxer than Ergashev, but has got a lot of questions to answer before we move up any further up this list. Although he's a hard hitting boxer-puncher there are defensive holes we've seen from Giyasov and the now 26 year old did not look good against Emanuel Taylor last year. He scored an impressive blow out against Darleys Perez last time out, but still has a lot to prove. We suspect that when Giyasov steps up in class he will impress more than he has so far, but it might be a case of waiting for another year or so before we come close to seeing how good Giyasov really is.
4-Downua Ruawaiking (16-0, 13)
Thailand's Downua Ruawaiking, also known as Apinun Khongsong, was preparing for a world title fight before the global situation pout a halt on worldwide boxing. When we come out of this current situation we would expect to see the Thai getting a shot at unbeaten Scottish fighter Josh Taylor. The Thai hasn't got many wins of note on his record, but his 2019 win over Akihiro Kondo in Japan was very impressive and certainly sees him deserving a high ranking here. Although he's not the quickest, he has shown under-rated technical ability, real power and he is much better than many Thai's around this weight. We don't expect him to defeat Taylor, when the two finally clash, but he is certainly among the very best at 140lbs in Asia, and is going to be someone who would be fancied against pretty much everyone in region.
5-Koki Inoue (15-0, 12)
The unbeaten Koki Inoue is the "lesser known Inoue", and is the cousin of Naoya and Takuma. Inoue isn't as well established as his two cousins, but is another boxing product of Shingo Inoue and the Ohashi gym. Inoue has proven to be a solid punching boxer-mover who has shown the ability to bang when he wants to, as we saw against Jheritz Chavez last year, and box when he needs to, as we saw against Valentine Hosokawa. At times he's been a bit dull to watch, but there is always a sense of tension with his fights, knowing he can go into another gear as, and when, he chooses. Currently Inoue is the Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific and we see him moving onto the next level sooner, rather than later.
5-Daud Yordan (40-4-0-1, 28)
Indonesian veteran Daud Yordan appears to have been around forever, but the former world title contender is still only 32 and his career, which began in 2005, is still very much active. Originally a contender at Featherweight Yordan has seen his body fill out over the last decade and he's now fighting between Lightweight and Light Welterweight. Although not the physically imposing fighter he was lower down the weights he's certainly still a handful and a genuine gatekeeper. His 2018 proved he still deserves to be mentioned here in among the best in Asia, with an excellent win in Russia against Pavel Malikov and a game performance in a loss to Anthony Crolla. Yordan is some way from being world class, but is a definite gatekeeper level fighter.
6-Zhankosh Turarov (24-0, 17)
The second Kazakh to make it on to this list is the unbeaten 29 year old "Kazakh Kid" Zhankosh Turarov. The unbeaten Turarov has been a professional for more than a decade but has yet to make a real mark at the top, not help by the fact he spent around 21 months out of the ring from September 2017 to June 2019. Although talented there has, seemingly, been lacking direction and hunger in his career and he really needs some stiffer competition to see what he's really made out of. It'd be great to see Turarov taking on a test this year, but we do wonder if the desire is really there. He was supposed to be in a tournament last year but pulled out with injury and with that in mind we do need to wonder if he's perhaps, maybe, a touch fragile and injury prone. A talent, but one who needs to be questioned and needs to do more, soon.
7-Rikki Naito (22-2, 7)
OPBF champion Rikki Naito is in an interesting position. He's clearly a talented boxer who has won the Japanese Super Featherweight title and now holds the OPBF title at 140lbs, but he's a talented boxer with some real issues. We know his stamina isn't great, and he tends to run on fumes in the championship rounds. We know he lacks power, which further makes his lack of stamina and issue, as bouts do go long, and physically he's not the strongest at the weight. Despite those flaws he's fast, very skilled, smart and know how to move around the ring. As with Turarov his ability isn't going to be questioned, but boxing isn't all about ability and we can all see Naito's flaws, so to will future opponents. Jheritz Chavez and Daishi Nagata have pushed Naito all the way, and we suspect any decent regional level fighter will do the same, but he has been finding ways to win!
8-Daishi Nagata (14-2-1, 5)
It's hard to know how good 20 year old Japanese fighter Daishi Nagata is. It's clear he can fight, it's clear he's a warrior and his performances against Rikki Naito, in a razor thin loss, and Cristiano Aoqui, in a 2019 win, showed what he could do. Sadly though he's been fairly inconsistent, struggling past the unheralded Min Ho Jung and being battered into submission by Vladimir Baez. When he's on song Nagata could well be a nightmare for those ranked above him, as he was for Naito, but his next bout is likely to be against Inoue and we suspect there will be a clear between the two Japanese fighters when we get around to seeing that one.
9-Andy Hiraoka (15-0, 10)
Talented Japanese fighter Andy Hiraoka is someone we should have seen fans talking about internationally back in April. He was pencilled in to fight on the under-card of the now cancelled Naoya Inoue Vs Johnriel Casimero bout and the reality is that he would have got a lot of eye balls on him there. The talented 23 year old is big, strong, tough, fast and has the athletic traits to be a real one to watch in the division, with the potential to quickly outgrow the Asian scene. Despite the athletic ability Hiraoka is still a work in progress and needs to develop the technical skills to go with his athletic tools. We saw Hiraoka make good development last year, and his decision win over Akihiro Kondo was a career best win, but the best is yet to come.
10-Ablaikhan Khussainov (11-0, 8)
Rounding off our top 10 is another Kazkh, Ablaikhan Khussainov. Khussainov, like Jukembayev, fought much of his career in Canada but is now based in the US where he is hoping to have a big break through in the near future. The talented Kazakh fought much of his career at Lightweight but his last two bouts have suggested that a move to being a fully fledged Light Welterweight it now on the cards. Although not as proven as the others on this list Khussainov is a good former amateur, who has proven his professional ability around the globe and is clearly ready to be tested. His future may lie at Lightweight but for now we're ranking him at 140lbs, where his 29 year old body may be better, rather than draining the extra 5lbs. We're hoping that when the sport returns in 2020 we see Khussainov in a real test, as we genuinely believe he'll rise to the occasion.
On the bubble:
Hiroki Okada, Yusuke Konno, Baishanbo Nasiyiwula, Tuguldur Byambatsogt and Hwang Kil Kim
Last week we saw Japan's Rikki Naito (22-2, 7) make his third defense of the OPBF Light Welterweight title, with a good win in South Korea over Gyu Beom Jeon. The bout had been rescheduled several times, and in the end it really wasn't competitive, with Naito dominating much of the bout with his boxing skills, until slowing down late and Jeon just a slight window of opportunity. In the end bout was a clear victory Naito.
With the OPBF title still around his waist Naito will have a target on his back and he looks a very beatable champion, especially by fighters who can force him to fight at a high pace and get to him late. Today we look at 5 potential opponents for Naito going forward.
1-Koki Inoue (14-0, 11)
On December 2nd Koki Inoue will look to claim the WBO Asia Pacific title, as he faces Jhertiz Chavez, and add it to a collection that also includes the Japanese title, a match with Naito would therefore clear who is the best at 140lbs not only in Japan but also the wider region. The two have some history, following them from the amateurs, they are both regarded as being among the best in regions and stylistically they should make for a compelling all southpaw bout. This has everything, history, titles, and regional domination. Of course Inoue will need to get past Chavez, and that is certainly not a given, for this bout to have the allure in 2020.
2-Mercito Gesta (32-3-2, 17)
Another bout that is dependent on future bout would be a showdown with US based Filipino veteran Mercito Gesta. Gesta has a bout scheduled for November, but if he comes through that unscathed a bout with Naito would certainly be an interesting looking contest. For Gesta it would be a chance to face a fellow Asian fighter, something he's not done recently, having fought solely in the US since 2007 mostly against American and Mexican opponents. On the other hand it would give Naito a great chance to fight in the US and make his American debut, and in a bout he would see as very winnable. Gesta would likely be the favourite but this certainly would be interesting.
3-Yusuke Konno (15-4, 8)
We go back to Japan for our third option, and a bout with the under-rated Yusuke Konno. On paper this doesn't have the greatest allure, but in reality this would be the type of bout that would push Naito, and test him to his absolute limits. In terms of skills and speed the advantages lie with Naito, however Konno has the advantages in stamina, power and will be in there to win. We saw Konno score a career best win earlier this year over Baishanbo Nasiyiwula in China, to extend his current winning streak to 4, and he would be make for a fantastic bout with Naito. This would be skill against will, speed against power and brilliant to watch.
4-Miguel Vazquez (41-9, 15)
In his prime Miguel Vazquez was an avoided fighter, nobody wanted to share the ring with the awkward, talented, and smart Mexican. In the last few years however he has been able to get the role of gatekeeper and has landed a lot of fights against solid prospects and hopefuls. Although he typically loses he always puts up a good effort, and exposes areas for youngsters to work on. With that in mind he makes the perfect opponent for a future Rikki Naito fight. Naito should have enough to beat him, but this would still be a very good at this point and a chance for Naito to be compared to some of the better fighters in the division. If the Naito gym could get this in the US it would also help improve Naito's international profile and could be his US debut.
5-Downua Ruawaiking (16-0, 13)
A high risk-high reward option would be a showdown with unbeaten Thai puncher Downua Ruawaiking, aka Apinun Khongsong. The Thai poses a lot of risk and danger with his power but by that same token he is the IBF #1 ranked fighter in the division and if Naito could secure a fight with him, and beat him, he could find himself in line for a world title fight. It would take a lot of money to make the Thai and his team risk their future fight for the title, maybe too much money to risk here, but it would make for a very interesting boxer-mover vs boxer-puncher match up and the type of high risk-high reward fights that we love seeing fighters take.
The month of December is massive in Asian boxing with the end of year run in being crazy. As a result we've had to split our “things to look forward to...” for December article into two pieces, a pre-Christmas and a post-Christmas article, which is to be posted around Christmas time.
When we say December is busy, we really aren't kidding.
The new month gets off to an almost immediate start with an OPBF title fight coming on just the second day of the month. The bout in question is all Filipino bout for the OPBF title, recently vacated by Koki Eto, and will see Eto's former foe Ardin Diale (26-9-3, 15) take on the once beaten Renoel Pael (19-1-1, 9). It was of course Diale Vs Eto that saw Eto win the title, claiming an amazing 8th round win over Diale in a FOTY contender, but since then Diale has gone 6-0 (5) ans really rebuilt his career. For Pael this is his biggest bout to date, though he did fight to a very controversial loss to the world ranked Noknoi Sitthiprasert back in 2014 in what his only loss to date. This really could be something special for Filipino fans.
Fast rising Japanese prospects seem to be the “in thing” at the moment with numerous youngsters racing through the ranks. One of those is Kazuki Tanaka (3-0, 3) who takes a huge step up in class to face Monico Laurente (27-12, 6) in what should be regarded as a genuine test for the unbeaten 22 year old. Tanaka is regarded very highly, and some view him as a potential star of the Green Tsuda gym, however Laurente is no push over and should test the youngster in ways that he has never been tested before.
Last year we saw several Asian fighters emerge and go from being relatively unknown to being names that were on the tip of the tongue for fight fans. Obviously the biggest example was Naoya Inoue, who really became an internationally recognised name, another was Amnat Ruenroeng (16-0, 5) who claimed the IBF Flyweight title and defended it twice, including a shock win over Kazuto Ioka. He looks to secure his third defense of 2015 as he takes on Japanese challenger Myung Ho Lee (19-4-1, 6) in what looks like a stay busy fight for the Thai before a big fight in 2016, possibly against Roman Gonzalez or a rematch with Ioka.
The first of two “WBA Flyweight title” rematches this month sees Thailand's unbeaten Stamp Kiatniwat (14-0, 6) defending his interim title against Dominican slugger Gregorio Lebron (13-3, 11). Their first bout saw Stamp claim a majority decision to win the title though a petition by Lebron's team has helped their fighter get a rematch for the title. Their first bout was decent and we're expecting another good contest, though we suspect we'll see a better Stamp than we saw the first time around.
The second of the OPBF title fights this month is a farcical one Super Middleweight champion Yuzo Kiyota (28-4-1, 26) battles Indonesian challenger Michael Speed Sigarlaki (16-15-2, 14). Kiyota, who is best known for losing in a WBO Super Middleweight world title fight against Robert Stieglitz, might not be world class but is a solid puncher who really should be defending his title against the best OPBF challengers out there., In Sigarlaki however we have a challenger who is 4-6 (3), according to boxrec, in his last 10. It's worth noting that the challenger was in Japan back in March, losing to OPBF/JBC Middleweight champion Akio Shibata and we can't see anything but a repeat of that journey for Sigarlaki.
Whilst Kiyota's OPBF title defense is the most significant “male” bout of the day it's not the highest level bout in Japan. Instead that's an IBF female Minimumweight world title bout between two former champions. The home fighter is Etsuko Tada (14-2-2, 4) who is looking to become a 2-time world champion as she battles former title holder Victoria Argueta (13-2, 4) in what appears to be a very matched bout. Both fighters have suffered recent losses, with Argueta losing 2 of her last 6 and Tada losing 2 of her last 4, but all of those loses have come to fellow world class fighters. This really could be a fantastic fight for fans in Kobe
On the same show as the Tada/Argueta bout fans will also get a chance to see the fantastic Hozumi Hasegawa (34-5, 15) continue his career, a career we thought was over last year. The former 2-weight world champion will be dipping his toes into the Super Featherweight division as he goes up against the world ranked Carlos Andres Ruiz Machuca (14-1, 5). On paper Machuca looks to be a young, fresh and promising fighter, coming into this on the back of his best win however there is some thinking that Hasegawa's team have hand picked the Mexican to help further Hasegawa's career.
Arguably the most famous Asian in action on December 11th is Filipino star Nonito Donaire (35-3, 23) who faces off against Puerto Rican Cesar Juarez (17-3, 13). The bout, which takes place in Puerto Rico is rumoured to be a potential WBO Super Bantamweight title clash, though that's unconfirmed at the moment. For Donaire this is a great chance to make a statement and move towards potentially big bouts with Carl Frampton, Scott Quigg and Julio Ceja whilst for Juarez it's a chance to notch up a third notable win in a row.
The first of two Super Featherweight title fights on December 14th sees OPBF champion Masayuki Ito (17-1-1, 8) battle against Shingo Eto (17-3-1, 9) in what seems like a brilliant fight on paper. Ito, who won the title last time out stopping Dai Iwai, will be looking to establish himself as another in the long like of brilliant Japanese Super Featherweights however Eto is a very capable fighter looking to claim his first title, after having previously come close to winning the Japanese title last year.
Talking about the Japanese Super Featherweight title we see that champion in action as well as Rikki Naito (13-0, 5) defends his title against the big punching Kenichi Ogawa (16-1, 14). Naito is tipped to go far though we've been less than impressed by his recent performances, which have seen him struggle past Eto, Ito and Nihito Arakawa. Ogawa on the other hand has impressed us and has racked up 8 straight stoppages, whilst also avenging his sole defeat. This is a boxer against a puncher and will almost certainly be a great contest with both men putting it all on the line.
Over the last 12 months we've seen the Bantamweight division change a lot with titles changes hands and new contenders breaking through. Arguably the most exciting of those contenders is the heavy handed Shohei Omori (15-0, 10) who looks to move towards a world title as he fights in a WBO world title eliminator against Filipino fighter Marlon Tapales (27-2, 10). The winner of this will get a shot at either Pungluang Sor Singyu or Jetro Pabustan in 2016 and is a key bout looking forward, and should be a final test for either man before being legitimately considered a threat at the top level.
On the same card as the good looking world title eliminator we will see a Japanese title fight as Omori's stablemate Kota Tokunaga (16-2, 11) defends his Japanese Lightweight title against the little known Kazuhiro Nishitani (15-3-1, 7). This will be the second defense from the heavy handed Tokunaga who will be favoured going into the bout though Nishitani will know there is no pressure on him to perform, in what is a huge, and somewhat undeserved, opportunity.
WBA “interim” Cruiserweight champion Beibut Shumenov (16-2, 10) looks to make the first defense of his title as he takes on former WBC champion Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (49-3-1, 35) in what is a really good match up. We know Shumenov, originally from Kazakhstan though now based in the US, is the favourite but Wlodarczyk will see this as a great chance to become a 3-time “world champion”. As a match up this is a good on and would legitimise Shumenov as a Cruiserweight,something his last win, against BJ Flores didn't really do.
History is made on December 19th as Sri Lankan fans in Colombo get the chance to see professional boxing for the first time since the country gained independence from the British in the late 1940's. The show will be headlined by a female world title fight as WBO Atomweight champion Nao Ikeyama (16-3-1, 4) looks to defend her title against Filipino Jujeath Nagaowa (13-15-1, 8). The bout is an historic one for the Sri Lankan people and great chance for the two fighters to help introduce the sport to a new audience.
WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (14-4-1, 7) isn't one of the sports biggest names but she is a potential star if she keeps racking up the wins and retaining her title. On December 20th she'll look to do both of those as she battles against former IBF champion Nancy Franco (14-6-2, 4) in one of the best female bouts of the year. Kuroki, 24, has the looks of a movie star and if she can keep building her career momentum there is a chance that she will help become the star that some were hoping Tomomi Takano would be. Franco however is a tough test for anyone and could well derail the Kuroki climb.
All Japan Rookie of the Year Finals
On the same day we get the 2016 All Japan Rookie of the Year finals which will feature a number of bouts with fighters looking to take a huge step towards becoming a star. We won't pretend any of the men are sensational yet, but some of the bouts are great, such as a Light Flyweight bout between Hiroyasu Shiga (6-0, 3) and Masahiro Sakamoto (5-0, 3) as well as a Featherweight bout between Shuma Nakazato (5-0, 4) and Teppei Kayunuma (6-0, 4). This really will be a treat for fans in Tokyo.
The final Japanese title fight before Christmas comes on December 21st and is a genuinely brilliant match up between two men who are both looking to prove themselves, whilst also being at very different stages in their career's. In one corner will be relative newbie Yusaku Kuga (11-1-1, 7, a really promising Watanabe Gym fighter with solid power and a point to prove, in the other corner will be veteran Yasutaka Ishimoto (26-8, 7), a Teiken fighter who will be getting his third shot at a Japanese title and will be hoping that it is third time lucky given that he's now years old and may not get another opportunity like this.
For those who celebrate Christmas, we wish you a great one before the big action returns on December 26th with an OPBF title fight, and then things really go into over-drive as the year comes to a close in wonderful style!
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
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).