The excellent Boxing Raise service is one of those that we suggest every fight fan wanting to follow Japanese boxing at least considers subscribing to, at least on and off, and the service has regularly delivered some of the best fights we’ve seen every month. In December the one absolute stand out bout was the Super Flyweight clash between Ryoji Fukunaga (13-4, 13) and Kenta Nakagawa (19-4-1, 12).
The bout saw Fukunaga unify the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title, which he held going into the bout, with the Japanese title, that Nakagawa held, and the previously vacant OPBF title, to see him end the year a triple crown winner. It wasn’t however just a big fight in terms of the silverware on the line, but also the in ring action with the bout being a truly brilliant fight, one of the legitimate Japanese Fight of the Year contenders. In the end Fukunaga, the bigger puncher, came out on top, thanks to a 10th round TKO but before we got there we had everything we could ask for, and the two men really delivered something special.
1-Kadoebi’s pre-fight presentation added something
Before the ring entrances Kadoebi played something of hype package before hand showing highlights of the two men along with interviews of the two fighters and a voice over of someone building up anticipation for the bout. Whilst the fight really didn’t need anything to build it up, it was still great to see Kadoebi going the extra few steps and delivering a really nice build up video. If we’re going to have to wait a few moments for a fight then using something like this is fantastic, and something we really should start seeing in the west, rather than going to a studio team who end up chatting garbage for far too long. This was short, it was sharp, it made the bout feel a little bit more important and let us see, and hear, from the men we were about to see fight. It was only a minute or two but it served its purpose really well and added a little bit of extra gloss to the fight.
2-Fukunaga can really take a shot!
Whilst we already know Ryoji Fukunaga was a big puncher, what this bout showed is that he can really take a shot too. This wasn’t shown too much early on, but as the bout progressed, and as both men grew tired, both landed with alarming regularity and both seemed to buzz the other with clean shots, that were followed up on. Amazingly whilst Fukunaga was buzzed a few times he never really looked close to going down. He has been down in the past, and was down in his previous fight against Froilan Saludar, but here he looked like a man possessed with staying on his feet no matter what. It was a testament to grit, determination and toughness for him to stay up right in rounds 8 and 9 in particular. More about those rounds a little later. When a man is fighting and has that “you’ll never stop me” mentality, he’s a very, very hard man to beat, and we saw that so much here. He physically and mentally beat Nakagawa here.
3-The all-southpaw dynamic wasn’t an issue
Often when we get all-southpaw bouts the dynamic of the fight is off, with many all-southpaw bouts feeling awkward and failing to catch fire. This was not one of those bouts. The two men shared respect for each other early on, but when they began to find their groove, and get comfortable this became a bout that got better and better as it went on. Early on both men took their time looking to find their range, used their jabs and began to lay the groundwork for what was to come later in the bout. Nakagawa was dropped in round 4, and from there on fireworks were seen regularly between the two men, who had no issues at all with their opponents stance. This was perhaps the best all-southpaw bout of 2020, and it is one that seriously deserves a watch as the drama unfolds in amazing fashion.
4-Rounds 8, 9 and 10...what the hell!
We had some amazing fights in 2020, and some fantastic rounds, though rarely have we had back to back round of the year contenders. This fight however gave us just that with rounds 8 and 9, and what we had of round 10, being insane. The action started quickly in both rounds, and saw the two men both landing bombs, both looked out on their feet several times, before responding with a huge burst of shots of their own. It seemed like both men had not just fought themselves to a standstill but also fought the other into waking up, and digging deeper and deeper into their energy reserves. Going beyond the point of fighting on fumes, and beyond the tank being empty. This was almost 8 and a half minutes of pure brutality and beautiful violence. If you haven’t got boxing raise these rounds alone are worth the price of a month subscription and are absolutely sensational.
Action, drama, determination, desire, brutality, heart and jaw dropping back and forth. These rounds were simply awesome.
5-Yuji Fukuchi did an amazing job
It seems like we’re always praising Japanese referees in this series but they often deserve, as Yuji Fukuchi did here. A less referee would have jumped in multiple times during this bout. Ian John Lewis for example would have denied us much of the fight. Fukuchi however allowed this to go on, even when both men were rocked, tired, and looking close to spent. He gave the fighters the chance to fight back, he let them show their heart and their fighting spirit and made it clear that they were allowed to fight. He did an amazing job by letting the fight flow, by letting the bout come to a natural conclusion and made a perfect stoppage when he finally stepped in and saved Nakagawa. His patience and understanding of the fighters, the understanding of the bout he was officiating, and what the fight meant allowed him to do the perfect job and few would have done as good a job as Fukuchi did. We’ve praised Michiaki Someya and Nobuto Ikehara multiple times during this series but Fukuchi did just as good here. Genuinely fantastic from the referee.
With December 2020 now firmly behind us and our feet both into 2021 we thought there was no better time to look back at what Boxing Raise brought us in December, in what was a genuinely excellent month for the service. The month brought us some amazing KO’s, brilliant bouts, thrilling wars and some of the best entertainment the service has provided in the entirety of 2020
As with our previous "Best of Boxing Raise" article all the fights featured here can be accessed by subscribers by logging into Boxing Raise and adding the "movie/####" to "https://boxingraise.com/".
Brutal KO in women’s world title bout - Etsuko Tada (19-3-3, 6) Vs Ayaka Miyao (23-8-2, 6) II [movie/9127/]
Really early in the month we saw WBO female Minimumweight title bout between former world champion Etsuko Tada and Ayaka Miyao. The bout was a rematch of a draw from earlier in the year and delivered everything we needed for a great contest, with good back and forth action and one of the best KO’s in female boxing in recent memory. This was a brutal finish in a bout between two legitimate world class fighters
Japanese title bout! - Masataka Taniguchi (12-3, 7) vs Hizuki Saso (12-6-2, 4) [/movie/9128/]
On the same show as the Tada Vs Miyao rematch was a Japanese title bout between Masataka Taniguchi and Hizuko Sasao, who look to fill the vacancy left by Norihito Tanaka back at the start of the year. This wasn’t the most competitive or best of bouts, but it was great to see a new champion being crowned almost a year after the belt was vacated. Even though it’s not the best of bouts it is still worthy of a watch.
Women’s world title action in Osaka - Miyo Yoshida (14-1) vs Tomoko Okuda (6-2-2, 1) [/movie/9160/]
The second female world title bout to be made available on the service was the WBO female Super Flyweight bout between Miyo Yoshida and Tomoko Okuda. This didn’t end in the brutal fashion of the Tada Vs Miyao bout but was certainly among the most meaningful and significant contests on Raise during December. Well worthy of anyone’s time during the next few days, where there is a lack of fighters in general.
War for Triple Crown! - Ryoji Fukunaga (12-4, 12) vs Kenta Nakagawa (19-3-1, 12) [movie/9185/]
The best bout on Boxing Raise during December, by some margin, was the tremendous triple title unification bout between Ryoji Fukunaga and Kenta Nakagawa, who fought to unify the OPBF, WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese Super Flyweight titles. This one of the very best bouts of 2020, not just December on Boxing Raise, and saw both men being hurt, both digging deep, both landing some monstrous shots and both fighting incredibly hard. If you like brutal wars and punishing battles this is one you must watch!
Hard hitting champion takes on rugged veteran - Masamichi Yabuki (11-3, 11) vs Toshimasa Ouchi (22-9-3, 8) [movie/9266/]
The final Japanese title fight of 2020 came on December 26th when Japanese Light Flyweight champion Masamichi Yabuki made his first defense, taking on veteran Masamichi Yabuki. On paper this was a test to see what Yabuki could bring if his power didn’t do the job, especially given the number of early blowouts he’s had, and it was a bout that saw the champion needing to answer a number of questions.
Sharp finish between Japanese youngsters - Jinki Maeda (5-0, 3) vs Kaito Okubo (5-1, 2) [/movie/9292/]
On one of the final Japanese shows of 2020 we saw youngsters Jinki Maeda and Kaito Okubo clash in what looked like a really compelling match up. This was a tactical battle from the off, with both men looking to control the range until a sudden, and brutal finish in round 2. The bout wasn’t the most exciting but it showcased some stuff from two youngsters, and a finish that really did look incredibly brutal. A gorgeous finish worth watching the bout for.
A legend returns! - Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7) vs Katsunari Takayama (31-8-0-1, 12) [/movie/9290/]
After more than 4 years away from professional boxing we saw former multi-time world champion Katsunari Takayama return to the ring and take on 2-time world title challenger Reiya Konishi. The bout was one that had been scheduled for November and then got added to a December show after Konishi got a false positive Covid19 test. Despite the delay this one lived up to all the expectations and was a high tempo war throughout. A real gem of a post-Christmas fight between two high tempo fighters each letting shots fly.
Veteran takes on former champion - Ryota Yada (20-6, 17) vs Yuichi Ideta (13-15-1, 7) [/movie/9284/]
The final bout to be shown on Boxing Raise in 2020 was supposed to be a mismatch as former Japanese Welterweight champion Ryota Yada took on the completely out of form Yuichi Ideta. This was supposed to be a mismatch for the hard hitting Yada though no one told Ideta he was supposed to lose again and the veteran took the fight to Yada making this a thrilling battle of will Vs skill. It’s not the prettiest fight you’ll see but it is a solid one and a real enjoyable watch as Ideta tries to roll back the clock to the days when he was once regarded as a genuine prospect and hopefu.
With no fights currently taking place we've had a bit of time on our hands, and with that in mind we've decided to look at the sport in terms of how divisions sit, and do something that had previously been requested. The Asian divisional top 10's. We'll be starting this at Minimumweight and working our way through the divisions over the coming days and weeks. We know there will be some debate about some rankings and there is certainly some area for discussion, and that is certainly not a bad thing at all!
One of the most interesting division's in the sport, and particularly in Asia, is the Super Flyweight division. The division has had the spotlight shined on it a lot in recent years with, and has had more than it's share of great bouts. Here we look at the best in Asia.
1-Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-5-1, 41)
Although no longer holding a world title former 2-time WBC champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai is widely regarded as one of the best of the best in the division. The now 33 year old Thai has the best record in the division, with wins against Yota Sato, Jose Salgado, Roman Gonzalez, twice, and Juan Francisco Estrada. Blessed with heavy hands, an iron chin, freakish size and an awkward southpaw stance he's a very tricky man to beat. He was beaten last time out, in his second bout with Juan Francisco Estrada, though that was at partly down to some of the stupidest tactics seen in a world title bout. We do wonder how much longer Srisaket can continue to compete at the top, 33 is old for a man in the division and with 46 fights he has taken damage but for now he's in the divisional elite.
2-Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14)
WBO champion Kazuto Ioka is perhaps not the top Asian in the division but is almost certainly the Asian money man with TBS and SANKYO backing him heavily. The Japanese fighter won the WBO last year to become the first Japanese male 4 weight champion and has since defended the belt once. A tactically smart boxer-puncher, with some of the best body shots in the sport, he's managed to look like a strong and complete fighter at 115lbs, not something we expected when he was looking like an under-sized Flyweight a few years ago. With wins against McWillians Arroyo, Aston Palicte and Jeyvier Cintron in his last 4 bouts, to go alongside a close loss to Donnie Nietes the Osakan has proven his value at the weight. At 31 years old time is certainly not running down on his career, and he's got the perfect mix of skills and experience.
3-Jerwin Ancajas (32-1-2, 22)
Current IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas has one of the longest active reigns of any world champion in the sport, and the 28 year old "Pretty Boy" also has one of the most significant promoters on the planet, with Bob Arum behind him. He began his IBF title reign back in 2016, when he beat McJoe Arroyo, and has made 8 defenses of the belt. Whilst that sounds impressive some of his opposition during his reign has been disappointing. Despite some of his competition being questionable he does have noteworthy wins over Arroyo, Israel Gonzalez and Jonas Sultan, among others. When Ancajas is in full flow he's a joy to watch, though his draw against Alejandro Santiago Barrios does leave us wondering how he'd cope with some of the more technical capable fighters at 115lbs.
4-Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9)
Another Japanese multi-divisional champion is Kosei Tanaka, who signalled his intent to move up in weight earlier this year, vacating the WBO Flyweight title to join the ranks at Super Flyweight. It's hard to know what he's going to be like at 115lbs but the reality is that he's move proven, as a fighter, than anyone outside of the top 3 in the division. He's the mandatory for Ioka, and they could potentially clash later this year if the suspension on boxing is lifted. The 24 year old has a lot of questions to answer at the weight, but given his speed, will to win, under-rated power and his skills he could be a genuine handful. His ranking is based, at least somewhat, on what he's done at lower weights, but see him fitting right into the mix at the top of the division when he returns to the ring.
5-Sho Ishida (28-2, 15)
It's really hard to know how go Sho Ishida is. When he's been matched against better competition he's come up short, losing to Kal Yafai and Israel Gonzalez, but by that same token he has shown flashes of brilliance and looks like a talent. At least at times. The tall and rangy Osakan is a former stable mate of Ioka's and it's clear he has learned a few things from Ioka, but it very much feels like he's missing a higher gear. It would be great to see him in with some top regional fighters in the next year or two to see if he can sink or swim at the Oriental level. Right now it feels very much like his Japanese title reign, which ran from August 2014 to mid-2016, is a very long time ago and he's not managed to replicate that level of performance since.
6-KJ Cataraja (11-0, 9)
At 24 years old the time is rife for KJ Cataraja to go from being one of the best kept secrets in Asian boxing to being a star. The former amateur standout had been matched well early on, and was fighting in 8 round bouts as early as his third contest. Sadly it took a bit too long for him to progress into facing a genuine test, with his 2018 bout against Victor Hugo Reyes being his one true test so far. He's ready to be let off the leash, but ALA Promotions, who guide his career, had a horror in 2019 rarely putting on shows and seeing Nietes vacate his title. If ALA can't push Cataraja forward when boxing returns to the Philippines we wouldn't be surprised by the youngster leaving the ALA stable and following Mark Magsayo in the pursuit of bigger and better things. He's too good to waste his career against the likes of Delfin De Asis and Crison Omayao, the two opponents he faced in 2019.
7-Ryusei Kawaura (7-0, 4)
Of course Cataraja isn't the only promising youngster ready to be unleashed when boxing returns on a wider scale in Asia. Another is Ryusei Kawaura, the protege of Hiroshi Kawashima. The unbeaten Kawaura only fought twice in 2019 but his competition there was solid with wins against Renoel Pael and Joy Joy Formentera. He proved his boxing brain and toughness in those bouts, and was asked questions that he had to answer. Although he's yet to fight beyond 8 rounds it's worth noting he has gone 8 completed rounds in 3 of his last 4 bouts and doesn't appear to have struggled with that distance so far. Hopefully 10 or 12 rounds will come for him in the next year or two and he's got skills, a smart manager and a lot of potential. One thing he will need to do however is get more eyes on him, and so far he's lacked any form of TV coverage, something that will need to change sooner rather than later.
8-Kongfah CP Freshmart (32-1, 16)
Kongfah CP Freshmart, aka Jakkrawut Majoogoen, is arguably the forgotten man of the division.The 25 year old Thai has been a professional since 2013 and his only career defeat came way back in 2015 to Daigo Higa. Since then he has reeled off 18 wins including victories over Renz Rosia, Ryoji Fukunaga and Hyuma Fujioka. Whilst much of his competition has been poor he has been climbing up the rankings based on his competition, and his win over Fukunaga is certainly one worthy of note, as he also fits into the top 10. Talented, with respectable power, good speed, work rate and toughness he could go on to be a player in the division, but really will need to step up his competition when boxing resumes in Thailand.
9-Ryoji Fukunaga (12-4, 12)
Current WBO Asia Pacific champion Ryoji Fukunaga scored a career defining win last time out, when he stopped Froilan Saludar. Prior to that win he had done little of note since winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year back in 2016. His career seemed to go off the tracks, especially when he suffered back to back losses in 2018 to Yuta Matsuo and Kongfah CP Freshmart, but the win over Saludar has given the 33 year old a major win and a chance to build something from. Sadly at 33 years old his potential is limited, but with his power and will to win he'll make for some interesting fights, until father time takes him down. It'd be interesting to see him in with the likes of KJ Catraja or Ryusei Kawaura in the future, but we feel the youngsters both have the tools to out point Fukunaga, even at this point their career's.
10-Froilan Saludar (31-4-1, 22)
Once tipped as a future world champion the 31 year old Froilan Saludar rounds out our top 10. The former WBO Asia Pacific champion is very much a fighter who has failed to reach the heights expected of him, but yet has remained a constant enigma. At his best he is very good, but it's hard to know how good he really is when he keeps losing his biggest bouts. Set backs against McWilliams Arroyo, Takuma Inoue, Sho Ishida and Fukunaga show he isn't world class, but he's very much in the mix at the regional level. He's skills, heavy handed and dangerous, but question marks about his durability and stamina will always hang over him and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him become a regional gate keeper in the coming years.
On the bubble
Kenta Nakagawa, Jonas Sultan, Takayuki Okumoto, Jade Bornea and Yuta Matsuo
Note - Donnie Nietes has not been considered as he has been inactive for over a and would be at least 38 by the time he returns to the ring. His long break from the ring may not have been confirmed as a retirement but it's impossible to know what he'll have left it he returns.
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).