The Middleweight division isn't one that we immediately think of when we think of Asian boxers, but it's a surprisingly interesting one right now, thanks in a big part due to the recent surge of Central Asian fighters making their mark on the sport. With that in mind this is actually a really interesting top 10 mixed with some nice match ups as well as some solid fighters of notes.
1-Gennady Golovkin (40-1-1, 35)
Like many we believe the 38 year old Gennady Golovkin might be heading towards the end of his days as an active fighter, but the reality is that he is, still, one of the very best Middleweights on the planet. The iron chinned and rock fisted Kazakh was given a hell of a test last October, against Sergey Derevyanchenko, and is expected to make a mandatory of his IBF title later in the year. Although not the force he once was there's not many fighters in the division that would be expected to give "GGG" a real test. Time is ticking on Golovkin's career, but with wins against some of the best Middleweights from the last decade it's hard to argue anyone should
2-Ryota Murata (16-2, 13)
Another fighter with rocks for hands and an iron jaw is Ryota Murata, the WBA "regular" champion. The 34 year old from Japan is a legitimate star in the Land of the Rising sun and draws huge audiences to see him in action. Since winning a Gold medal at the 2012 Olympics Murata has been one of the most marketable stars in the sport, and the hope of him headlining a major Dome show in Japan seemed to be on the verge of happening. Sadly however with global situation that now looks to be little more than a pipe dream. Murata, like Golovkin, is probably on the back end of his career, but he's not had the long damaging career that Golovkin has had and may well have another few years left in the sport, if he wants them.
3-Janibek Alimkhanuly (8-0, 4)
Confident, skilled and still only 27 years old Janibek Alimkhanuly looks like the natural successor to Gennady Golovkin for Kazakh fans wanting a Middleweight to get behind. The talented Alimkhanuly has called out the likes of Demetrius Andrade and has made it clear he wants to be facing the best in the world. Although not a destructive puncher Alimkhanuly has looked to be sitting on his punches more in recent bouts and has started to polish off his style which was once looking a bit too amateurish. He's a long way behind the two men ranked above him, but has shown a lot of promise already.
4-Meiirim Nursultanov (13-0, 8)
Another Kazakh fighter worthy of some attention is Meiirim Nursultanov, a 26 year old who has been quietly making a name for himself without too much fuss. The US based Kazakh is managed by Egis Klimas and was busy in 2019, with 4 bouts. Given his competition seems to be improving fight by fight he's certainly someone we expected to be tested properly in the near future. Sadly though he appears to lack championship level power and will need to rely on his boxing skills more than his power.
5-Kazuto Takesako (12-0-1, 11)
It might seem hard to believe that there's two Japanese Middleweights in the top 5 for Asia but it's a surprising time in boxing and Kazuto Takesako is certainly in in and around the middle of the top 10. So far the hard hitting Takesako has has looked devastating on the domestic scene, and has unified the Japanese and OPBF titles. Although not the most polished fighter out there he's strong, aggressive, takes a shot and has very heavy, thudding shots. Wins over the likes of Shuji Kato, Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa, Sanosuke Sasaki and Hikaru Nishida has made him the clear #2 in Japan behind Murata
6-Kanat Islam (27-0, 21)
One tipped as a big hopeful for Kazakh boxing Kanat Islam's career has really come to a screeching halt in recent years. In September 2017 he looked on the verge of something big after stopping the then 18-0 Brandon Cook but since then injuries and inactivity have been a major problem for "Qazaq". Islam was a really talented boxer-puncher at Light Middleweight but at Middleweight last time out against Walter Kautondokwa he looked poor, and like he really wasn't suitable for the 160lb weight class. That bout was full of controversy, with Islam being injured and hurt multiple times layer on. At 35 we don't see Islam getting any more suited to the weight and suspect the move up will turn out to be a bad one.
7-Yuki Nonaka (34-10-3, 10)
At the age of 42 Japanese Southpaw may end up being the oldest man on any of these ranking lists, but the WBO Asia Pacific champion is certainly here on merit. Nonaka, a talented Osakan, first made his name at Light Middleweight, where he won the Japanese and OPBF titles, then made a mark at Middleweight, winning the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. Nonaka is very much a throwback type of fighter, who has done things the hard way, faced a true regional who's who, and has managed to some of his best performances the wrong side of 40. His time is clearly coming to an end, and he didn't look good last time out against Hyun Min Yang, but there's still very few Asian fighters we would back against him.
8-Hurshidbek Normatov (10-0, 3)
The unbeaten Hurshidbek Normatov is a 28 year old Uzbek who hasn't had the attention many of his countrymen have had. Instead he's been quietly going about things and has notched noteworthy wins against Nicklaus Flaz, Walter Wright and Uriel Hernandez. There is still very much a "jury's out" feeling to Normatov, who clearly needs to be matched tougher than he has been, but there is real potential there and he has some freakish intangibles. Stood at 6'2" and fighting out of the southpaw stance he has two things that can make him a very awkward man to beat, though a lack of power may be a downfall when he steps up in class.
9-Ainiwaer Yilixiati (17-1, 12)
Chinese warrior Ainiwaer Yilixiati is an interesting fighter who perhaps could be much higher up this list, if he and his team pushed better match making. The aggressive and fun to watch 27 year old looked exciting on his climb through the ranks, was much more competitive with Jayde Mitchell than the scorecards said in 2017, and has slowly moved on since that loss. Wins against Ryosuke Maruke and Betuel Ushona in 2019 seemed to suggest that there was progress with his career but we need to see that continue when boxing resumes in China later in the year. He's talented, young-ish at 27, but needs to be allowed to test himself.
10-Riku Kunimoto (4-0, 2)
The final place in these rankings was a hard one, with several names all in the running. We've gone with potential rather than anything else here, with Riku Kunimoto. The Japanese novice is just 23 but already looks like the countries next major Middleweight player. His first two bouts were relatively straight forward wins but last year he stopped Shoma Fukumoto in a big step up and is clearly a very capable youngster, able to make a mark. He was supposed to face Kazuto Takesako this year, though speculation is that that bout may end up slipping to 2021 due to the on going situation, and in reality that is probably a good thing for Kunimoto and his career.
On the bubble:
Abay Tolesh, Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa, Shuji Kato, Ulugbek Khakberdiev and Odiljon Aslonov
Earlier this week we saw Japanese star Ryota Murata (16-2, 13) retain his WBA Middleweight title with a TKO win over Canadian challenger Steven Butler. After that promoter Bob Arum mentioned two possible bouts for Murata for 2020, for the Tokyo Dome. Here we look not only at those 2 bouts, but also 3 other potential options for Murata for his next bout, as the Japanese Middleweight star looks to further build on his career. With that in mind lets look at "Five for...Ryota Murata".
1-Gennady Golovkin (40-1-1, 35)
One of the potential opponents mentioned by Arum was Kazakh fighter Gennady Golovkin, the current IBF Middleweight champion and one of the biggest names in the sport. At 37, soon to be 38, time is running out on Golovkin's career, and a huge pay day for a summer fight with Murata would be enticing, especially with it being unification bout and a fight he'd feel he should win. This would be a massive all-Asian fight, between two heavy handed fighters, who can bring fireworks. The only real issue with this fight is just how much does Golovkin have left in the tank after a very long and career, which has seen him look more and more human in recent years.
2-Saul Alvarez (53-1-2, 36)
If Murata fails to land GGG then the obvious choice is a man who has been speaking of fighting in Japan recently, Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. Golden Boy Promotions, who promote Alvarez, were in Japan with Butler and they seemed very open to the idea of a Canelo Vs Murata fight in the new year. The date pencilled in for this would likely be after the 2020 Olympics games, but that's certainly not likely to be a problem for either man. The big question mark would be the weight, with Murata being a Middleweight and Canelo fighting between Middleweight and Light Heavyweight.
3-Liam Willams (22-2-1, 17)
If the big names can't be scheduled for Murata in 2020 we'd love a fan friendly battle with Welshman Liam Williams. This wouldn't be a big name, or a huge draw fight, but would be the sort of fun action bout that we'd enjoy watching. Murata would be strongly favoured against "The Machine", but Williams certainly deserves a big fight and why not have that against Murata in what would be a fun war? Williams may want to go a different route to a title, for example chasing Demetrius Andrade, but we suspect this would be the high profile option and the most exciting, by far. It would also help both men increase their profiles with a new audience, with British fans often over-looking Murata and an international audience not being that away of Williams.
4-Demetrius Andrade (28-0, 17)
Few fighters have frustrated and disappointed as much as Demetrius Andrade. The American, known as "Boo Boo" has been a professional since late 2008 and has spoke a good fight but failed to secure any sort of career defining bout. Andrade has a dull style to watch and whilst he is a talent the 31 year old, who turns 32 in February needs a big fight. There won't be many bigger options than a unification bout in Japan with Murata. Andrade is pencilled in to fight Luke Keeler in January, but that should be a straight forward win, and a bout with Murata in May would certainly be do-able, if they both want it. It wouldn't be great to watch, but would see the winner leaving with 2 titles and having more power to call shots with the likes of Golovkin.
5-Esquiva Falcao (25-0, 17)
About that was once talked about a lot, but never materialised, was a bout between Murata and Brazilian Esquiva Falcao. The two men fought in two notable amateurs bouts, the semi-final of the 2011 World Championships and the final of the 2012 Olympics, with Murata winning both and a rematch in the pros always seemed the logical match up. We do wonder if the ship has perhaps sailed, but if not this bout would be an easy sell, and has a great back story running through it. Falcao's next bout is set to take place in China, in February, and if he wins there's no reason why Japan couldn't be next.
This past weekend Kazakh fighter Gennady Golovkin (40-1-1, 35) reclaimed a portion of the Middleweight crown as he narrowly outpointed Sergiy Derevyanchenko to become the new IBF Middleweight champion. The bout was supposed to be a mismatch for Golovkin, but the 37 year old was pushed all the way by the "Technician" and it now seems like time is running out for Golovkin and his career.
With that in mind we've decided to do a special mid-week "Five For..." for the hard hitting "GGG", along with our regular Friday "Five For...", which will look at options for Japanese Flyweight Junto Nakatani.
1 - Sergiy Derevyanchenko (13-2, 10) II
The most obvious match up for Golovkin is to re-run this weekend's match and give Sergiy Derevyanchenko a rematch. The first bout was fantastic, competitive, and a back and forth war that saw both men digging deep. With that in mind a rematch next time out would be a very marketable bout, though one that may not be something that Golovkin will be rushing head first towards. Whilst the Kazakh does have big money on the table from DAZN Derevyanchenko brings very little to the table, and given how hard he pushed Golovkin the bout is a high risk low reward bout for "GGG", but one that fans may be demanding due to just how close their first contest was.
2 - Ryota Murata (15-2, 12)
For the last few years the Japanese press have been regularly pushing the narrative of Golovkin coming to Japan and fighting 2012 Olympic champion Ryota Murata. The bout has long been mooted as being something that could headline at the Tokyo Dome, something no Japanese fighter has ever done, and would be a big money spinner for both. Murata and his team have been rumoured to have the money to bankroll a Golovkin fight, and throwing the money into the kitty that DAZN would already have set aside for Golovkin would suggest this could be a huge money fight. There are issues with TV, both in Japan and the US, but those issues could be solved relatively easily and we have seen the promoters for the two men working together in recent months. The feeling we get is it's now or never to pull the trigger on this one.
3 - Demetrius Andrade (28-0, 17)
If Golovkin is going to remain in the US, and the rematch with Derevyanchenko isn't going to happen then a possible alternative is a unification bout with WBO champion Demetrius Andrade. The unbeaten American is desperate for a big fight and Golovkin, although looking like a faded force, is still a big fight and remains one of the division's biggest names. For Golovkin it gives him a chance to unify 2 of the Middleweight titles, again, and try to secure one more big win. For Andrade it delivers the big fight he is said be craving and gives him a dance partner who will be looking to beat him. This isn't much a great match up stylistically, but it does tick boxes for both men and would be a compelling match up, even if it's not likely to be a great fight to watch.
4 - Billy Joe Saunders (28-0, 13)
Murata isn't the only fighter to have long been linked to Golovkin, but not yet managed to secure a fight with the Kazakh. Another fighter in a similar situation is English fighter Billy Joe Saunders, who has come close to facing GGG but the never has never ended up being done. Earlier this year Saunders attended an event in Kazakhstan calling for a fight in Golovkin's native country and it seems like that would be a bout that would make sense. Win or lose facing Saunders in Kazakhstan would give Golovkin a home coming bout, and a chance to fight in front of the Kazakh fans. If he's planning on fighting in Kazakhstan before calling it a day on his career this is the bout that makes the most sense, and would work, win or lose, as a great swansong for his career.
5 - Alfredo Angulo (26-7, 21)
A left of field suggestion would be a bout with the hard hitting Alfredo Angulo, who just put himself back on the map with an upset win over Peter Quillin. The reality is that this wouldn't be a big bout, but would see Golovkin going up against a fighter trained by his old trainer, Abel Sanchez. More importantly than that it would be the type of bout that we'd imagine Golvokin win would win with out too many problems, look good doing so and would let him retire on a high. This isn't the sort of bout that would really excite fans, but for a farewell bout, sold as such, this would an ideal way to close out his career next May.
Japanese boxing may not be known for it's "larger" fighters but 2012 Olympic champion Ryota Murata has managed to make a pretty notable impact on the Middleweight division, being a 2-time holder of the WBA "regular" title. Whilst his performance have blown hot and cold Murata is huge in Japan, so with that in mind let's look at 10 facts you probably didn't know about...Ryota Murata
1-Like many boxers Murata has his own favourites, naming Shinsuke Yamanaka and Felix "Tito" Trinidad as his favourites.
2-Murata is the youngest of 3 brothers. His parents divorced when he was in elementary school, though continued to live together at the time.
3-Surprisingly Murata is the only Japanese boxer to have won medals at both the World Amateur championships, taking silver in 2011, and the Olympics, taking a gold in 2012.
4-Murata's professional career began in a rather unique way. Not only did he debut against the then unified Japanese and OPBF champion but he did so as a Top Rank and Teiken promoted fighter fighting out of the Misako gym stable. His official designation with Teiken was that he was Teiken affiliated, essentially they were his match makers whilst Misako were his gym.
5-According to a book Murata wrote, "101%のプライド (which translates as "101% of pride"), he was told be doctors that his skull is "1.5 times thicker" than the average persons, with this coming up in a CT scan. This is similar, in some ways, to the 1996 episode of the Simpsons "The Homer They Fall" where Homer is seen to have more fluid around his brain than normal people.
6-May is a very important month for Murata. He was married in May 2010, his oldest son was born in May 2011 and his oldest daughter was born in May 2014.
7-For a number of bouts, including his recent rematch with Rob Brant, Murata has used "He's a Pirate" from the "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" as his ring walk music. This was due in part to his old teachers from high school.
8-Murata has blood type AB, which in Japan blood theory would make him an eccentric. The traits associated with the blood type include composure, being charming, diplomatic, controlled, rational, a dream chaser, popular and adaptable.
9-Murata's pro-test bout saw him share the ring with former Japanese Middleweight champion Sanosuke Sasaki on April 16th 2013, at the Korakuen Hall, and was aired live in Japan on Fuji TV. Notably this was on the same show as Naoya Inoue's third professional bout, which came against Yuki Sano.
10-Murata and Inoue would also share a broadcast on August 25th as well, when Fuji aired both Inoue's bout with Japanese Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi and Murata's debut with Akio Shibata. Interestingly these two bouts took place on different shows in different cities.
Over the last few years Teiken's dominance of the Japanese scene has really under threat and as we right this they currently have no world champions at the gym and only a pair of domestic champions. It wasn't that long ago that fighters like Shinsuke Yamanaka, Roman Gonzalez, Jorge Linares, Takashi Miura, and Carlos Cuadras all holding, or in the mix for, world titles. Now their hopes at the top level essentially lie with Ryota Murata, who will know a loss in July ends his career, the beyond their best trio of Gonzalez, Linares and Cuadras, who are all still in the mix, but not the fighters they once were, and Kenichi Ogawa.
Worryingly all of the names so far mentioned are 30 or above, and most of them are seen as being on the slide.
It would be easy to suggest the Teiken gym is now longer a leading gym in Japan. The likes of the Watanabe Gym and the Ohashi Gym seem to have over-taken it in recent years, and the gym hasn't replaced their faded stars. That however would be partially wrong. The gym isn't done as a top gym, what has happened however is that their transitional stage to the next generation of top fighters, has been delayed some what.
What we mean by that is that instead of having ready made replacements for their faded stars the gym really missed out on a generation of talent. They failed to secure the youngsters who were part of the current generation of stars. The likes of Naoya Inoue and Kenshiro and Hiroto Kyoguchi and Kosei Tanaka took other options, and didn't ink deals with the Teiken gym. Sometimes the reason was obvious, such as location or gym owner, and other times it wasn't, but what is clear is that the top Japanese fighters of today saw other avenues, and went their own way.
That left Teiken needing to chase the next wave of fighters, and that's exactly what they've done, signing 3 top Japanese amateurs in the last 18 or so months, and developing some lesser talents as well. They have essentially had to play catch up with the rival gyms since Yamanaka retired, and they have done so in a manner that could end up having them back on top of the Japanese scene in the coming years.
Before we look at their top prospects it's worth looking at both of their current national champions. They are Super Featherweight Masaru Sueyoshi (19-1-1, 11) and Welterweight Yuki Nagano (16-2, 12). Interestingly neither of these were amateur standouts, Sueyoshi managed to go 21-8 in the amateurs before competing in the 2012 Rookie of the Year, losing to Masayuki Ito. Nagano on the other hand won the 2015 Rookie of the Year. Both have developed from Rookies to national champions, and that leads us to one of the top Teiken prospects, one who doesn't have a strong amateur backing but has excited fans.
Super Flyweight hopeful Hayate Kaji (12-0, 9), like Sueyoshi and Nagano, came through the Rookie of the Year. In fact Kaji won the Super Flyweight competition on the same day that Nagano won the Welterweight competition, in 2015, winning the final in just his 4th professional bout. Sadly since that Rookie triumph Kaji hasn't shone like many suspected, and despite maintaining his unbeaten record the 21 year old has shown signs of ill discipline, and disappointing performances, especially his 2017 clash with Jun Blazo. Those poor performances, added to blow outs against some horribly over-matched competition, has seen Kaji essentially put on the back burner, with his team clearly focused on getting him experience before getting him a title fight. That's a risky approach for the youngster, who needs to be tested, but he is a big hope for the gym, with an exciting style and vicious power, and time well and truly on his side.
Whilst Kaji is clearly a prospect to keep an eye on the more interesting thing about the Teiken gym is a trio of former amateur standouts, who are just beginning their professional careers but all 3 are marked, already, for something huge.
They are Mikito Nakano (2-0, 2), Kuntae Lee (1-0, 1) and Shokichi Iwata (2-0, 1) who only 5 pro fights between but can already be regarded as 3 of the brightest hopes in Japanese boxing, and at the time of writing all 3 are 23 years old.
The oldest of the 3, by a few months, is Nakano a southpaw competing in the Featherweight division. He ran up a tremendous 68-9 (48) record in the amateur ranks before turning professional last year and debuting in October. Despite being a fantastic talent his first two bouts were little more than show cases against Thai novices however we now know that his third bout, scheduled for July 6th, will come against Filipino Arvin Yurong (12-2, 3).
Yurong is a really test for Nakano, and he showed a lot of desire and hunger in his January loss to Xiang Li. If Yurong can show that same hunger here he could give Nakano real issues and ask very serious questions of the Teiken man. If Nakano slices through him we can already mark Nakano as someone who should be mixing for titles by the end of 2020.
On the same card as Nakano's bout with Yurong we'll see Lee have his second bout. Like Nakano Lee is a southpaw, and had a stellar amateur career, running up a reported 102-10 amateur record. He fights at 140lbs, a division which Japan hasn't had much international success at in recent years, and looks like a real natural. On his debut he hardly broke sweat, beating a Thai novice inside a round, but looked like every punch he threw was crisp, natural and sharp. He's someone with a lot of potential, strong amateur background, and a rather rare backstory, with North Korean blood in his veins. As an amateur he competed for North Korea in international competitions and clear has the ability to make a mark well above domestic level.
At the moment Lee's opponent for his July 6th bout hasn't been announced, though the bout will be scheduled for 6 rounds and we'd expected a limited opponent, before a stiffer test at the end of the year.
Nakano and Lee are both fighting on the same card leaving Iwata as the odd one out, however he will actually be in the ring on July 12th, as part of the under-card for Ryota Murata rematch with Rob Brant. Iwata made his professional debut in the US last year, after running up a 59-12 (16) amateur record, and then made his Japanese debut earlier this year against Rookie of the Year winner Daiki Kameyama. Unlike the other two he does spend plenty of time in the west and clearly is happy to fight on international soil early in his career, despite the fact he's a Light Flyweight and the best competition there is in Asia right now. On paper the's the least experienced in terms of amateur bouts, but his win over Kameyama is the best that the trio have and he seems the ost likley to be fast tracked.
We've not yet been told who Iwata will be debuting against but we're expecting it to be an international opponent, hopefully some one who will ask Iwata something new, and allow the speedy youngster to show more of what he can do.
Whilst the Teiken gym hasn't got any world champions, it appears they have 3, or 4 if we include Kaji, top prospects and the foundation is there for the next wave of Teiken success. It might be a few years away, and we may see Watanabe and Ohashi move further ahead in that time, but Teiken is not dead, it's merely transitioning to the next generation of fighters, and they are very exciting.
One more thing to add is the fact Teiken will be scouting the 2020 Olympics and will be expecting to pick up several of the top prospects from those games, so the next wave of Teiken fighters won't just be Kaji, Nakano, Lee and Iwata, but also some of the fighters who may well medal at Tokyo games. The gym has the money, the connections and the know how to secure big signatures, and we're really excited to see where those Olympians end up at the end of next year, along with those top amateurs who fail to qualify for the games. They are likely to have promoters, including Teiken, trying to get their signatures, and strengthen the stables for the future.
Teiken isn't dead, it's just a sleeping giant.
(All Images courtesy of Teiken.com)
Over the next 12 months we're expecting to see a lot of changes in the world of professional boxing. As a result we have put together a list of 30 Asian fighters to keep an eye out for 2016. These range from champions to novices but all are expected to make a mark on the sport over the next 12 months. Here is part 2 which looks at 5 young novices who have impressed in 2015 and look likely to do the same over the next year.
For those who missed it, part 1 is here and part 2 is here.
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.
So, May has finally ended and we're now in June. What a perfect time to look back on the fights we've had over the past 31 days.
The action kicked off almost immediately with an intriguing Japanese show on May 1st. The headline bout saw Ryota Murata (7-0, 5) score an impressive TKO against Brazilian fighter Douglas Damiao Ataide (13-2-1, 6) and in fairness to Murata it was the sort of finish that he needed after going the distance in back-to-back fights. There is still a lot of questions regarding how far Murata will go but at times he looked world class, especially with the way he finished of Ataide, who had never previously been stopped.
Although Murata's bout was, technically, top of the bill there was also a world title fight on the card as Takashi Miura (29-2-2, 22) took care of Australian Billy Dib (39-4-0-1, 23) with a very destructive stoppage. This was Miura's 4th defence of the WBC Super Featherweight title and he's now looking to break out his passport and fight in the US or Mexico in the hope of building his international fan base.
The day wasn't all good for Japanese fighters however as Takahiro Ao (27-4-1, 12) got stopped in a WBO Lightweight title bout by Raymundo Beltran (30-7-1, 18). Beltran, who had failed to make weight for the bout, looked significantly bigger than Ao and made light work of the under-sized Japanese fighter. Interestingly a story has since broke that Beltran has failed a drugs test and if that story is confirmed this bout will be changed to a No Contest.
Just a day later we saw the richest fight in history as Manny Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38) and Floyd Mayweather Jr (48-0, 26) finally got it on. Sadly the bout failed to live up to the expectations of many and although the bout made an insane amount of money it really did little to advertise our great sport. Pacquiao, who lost the bout by unanimous decision, did himself no favours following the bout by citing an arm injury for his performance and numerous people have since filed court cases against the hugely popular Filipino.
On May 6th we had more title action with a Watanabe promoted triple header. The most impressive performance here saw WBA Super Featherweight “super” champion Takashi Uchiyama (23-0-1, 19) blast away Thai challenger Jomthong Chuwatana (9-1, 4) in just 2 rounds. Uchiyama looked sensational at times in one of his most impressive performances since winning the title more than 5 years ago. Although the Japanese fighter looked amazing he did later require surgery on his left elbow.
On the same show Uchiyama's stablemate Ryoichi Taguchi (22-2-1, 9) retained his WBA Light Flyweight title with an 8th round TKO of Thai veteran Kwanthai Sithmorseng (49-4-1, 26). Kwanthai brought the fight for the most part but was dropped numerous times by the champion who certainly his harder than his record indicates.
The third champion to defend their title on this show was WBO female Minimumweight champion Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (7-1-2, 3) who managed to take a very close technical decision over Kayoko Ebata (8-6, 4). Sadly for Ebata this was her 4th loss in world title bouts and it now seems unlikely for her to get another.
We saw more Japanese world title action on May 9th as WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (13-4-1, 6) retained her title with a wide points win against Masae Akitaya (9-6-2, 3). For Kuroki this was the second defense of her title and it seems likely that the 24 year old is only going to get better and better. Sadly for Akitaya this was her 4th set back in world title bouts and the 37 year old, who actually fought on her birthday, is clearly coming to the end of her career.
Also in action on May 9th was the iconic Hozumi Hasegawa (34-5, 15) who put on a stellar performance to clearly defeat the heavy handed Mexican Horacio Garcia (29-1, 21). The bout was Hasegawa's first for more than a year and he looked like a fighter who had more fight in him than we had expected. On the other hand Garcia was disappointing and never looked like really testing the talented Japanese southpaw.
Sadly May 9th wasn't all good for Japanese fighters as it ended with Tomoki Kameda (31-1, 19) suffering his first professional defeat. Kameda, who vacated the WBO Bantamweight title, took on WBA “regular” champion Jamie McDonnell (26-2-1, 12) and despite dropping McDonnell in round 3 Kameda came up short on the cards. The Japanese fighter suffered his first loss though there has since been a lot of talk regarding a rematch later in the year.
On May 12th we saw the ring return of former world champion Kompayak Porpramook (51-5, 36). The Thai had been out of the ring for 21 months following his October 2013 loss to Koki Eto in a FOTY contender. His return was a very low key affair against the debuting Fahpratan Kwanjaisrikot (0-1) and it was no surprise when Kompayak stopped his foe in the 2nd round.
We had one of the biggest upsets of the year, so far, on May 16th when unheralded Filipino Eden Sonsona (34-6-2, 12) shocked previously unbeaten Mexican fighter Adrian Estrella (22-1, 20). Estrella had been touted as a future world title contender though was stopped in the 2nd round by Sonsona who may well find himself capable of getting a sizeable payday next time out.
On the same night we saw Kazakh puncher Gennady Golovkin (33-0, 30) continue his reign of terror in the Middleweight division. Golovkin, defending his WBC “interim” and WBA “super” titles saw off Willie Monroe Jr (19-2, 6) in the 6th round. Monroe had given a spirited effort, especially given that he was down twice in round 2, though it did often seem like Golovkin was toying with his American foe.
May 23rd saw our attention turning to South Korea where Hyun Mi Choi (10-0-1, 3) retained her WBA female Super Featherweight title with a wide decision win over Japanese veteran Chika Mizutani (14-5, 7). Choi was in control through out the bout and looked very talented whilst Mizutani generally looked out classed but brave.
On May 28th we saw Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (34-4-1, 31) score one of his best wins to date as he mowed down Mexican Jose Salgado (34-3-2, 27) in 4 rounds. This bout was for the WBC “silver” Super Flyweight title and with the win Srisaket is now the mandatory challenger for WBC world champion Carlos Cuadras, the man that actually took the title from Srisaket last year.
The final highlight of the month came on May 30th when Japanese teenager Kosei Tanaka (5-0, 2) claimed the WBO Minimumweight title in just his 5th professional bout. The youngster over-came Mexican Julian Yedras (24-2, 13) in a compelling 12 round affair which saw Tanaka show off everything he was capable off in the ring, including a few defensive issues that will hopefully be worked on when he gets back in to the ring. The youngster became the “quickest” Japanese world champion beating the previous record of Naoya Inoue by a single fight.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
May 2015 will be one of the most significant in boxing history. We all know that professional boxing will get the attention of the world on May 2nd however that's not the only date of note this coming month.
To begin the month we get 4 notable bouts as the month kicks off in style. The first of those will see former 2-weight world champion Akira Yaegashi (20-5, 10) begin his career as a Super Flyweight following back to back losses in late 2014. The popular Yaegashi has been matched with an easy opponent though it's still going to be a joy to see him in action.
On the same card as Yaegashi's bout we will see Japanese Olympic gold medal winner Ryota Murata (6-0, 4) battle against WBO world ranked foe Douglas Damiao Ataide (13-1-1, 6). This is a step up for Murata and a win here will move him towards a possible WBO world title fight though it also promises to be his toughest bout so far.
Also on this card is a WBC Super Featherweight world title fight which will see the hard hitting Takashi Miura (28-2-2, 21) defending his title against former Featherweight title holder Billy Dib (39-3-0-1, 23). This is a high profile opportunity for Miura who has yet to become the star despite having a very fun to watch style.
The remaining bout of note takes place in the US where Japan's Takahiro Ao (27-3-1, 12) looks to claim the WBO Lightweight title and over-come the tough Raymundo Beltran (29-7-1, 17). This bout will give Ao an opportunity to become a 3-weight world champion though it's not an easy contest for the popular Japanese fighter.
It goes with out saying that the biggest bout of the month takes place in a little venue in the US on May 2nd as Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38) battles against the unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr (47-0, 26) in a bout to unify the WBO, WBC and WBA “super” titles at Welterweight. This bout is set to break all sorts of records and is, with out a doubt, the most significant bout in recent memory. The winner of this long anticipated fight will be viewed as the fighter of their generation and it's fair to say the fans of the loser will be left wondering “what if” had the bout taken place several years ago when both were still in their pomp.
The action returns on May 6th world title triple header. The most exciting match up here will see WBA Super Featherweight “super” champion Takashi Uchiyama (22-0-1, 18) defending his title against unbeaten Thai Jomthong Chuwatana (9-0, 4) in what looks to be an amazing contest. This is not going to be easy for either man and a win for Uchiyama will hopefully lead to a unification whilst a win for Jomthong would instantly make him a boxing star.
In a Light Flyweight title bout Ryoichi Taguchi (21-2-1, 8) will be defending his WBA title against Thai veteran Kwanthai Sithmorseng (49-3-1, 26). This will be Taguchi's first defense following his victory against Alberto Rossel in December and whilst it looks like a good bout on paper it really isn't very good with Sithmorseng having come up short against almost every notable foe that he's faced.
The third world title fight will see WBO female Minimumweight champion Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (6-1-2, 3) defending her belt against Kayoko Ebata (8-5, 4). This will be Ebata's 4th shot at a world title having come up in 3 previous title fights whilst Ikehara will be defending her title for the second time following a disappointing technical draw with Jessebelle Pagaduan in February.
One of the busiest days of the year comes on May 9th when we get a host of notable bouts taking place around the world.
The most notable bout takes place in the US where Tomoki Kameda (31-0, 19) will battle against Jamie McDonnell (25-2-1, 12) in a WBA Bantamweight title bout. Originally this bout was announced a WBA/WBO unification contest but the WBO refused to sanction the bout and as a result Tomoki vacated the belt so that the bout could go on. It's a really good bout and one that we are genuinely excited about.
One of the most notable bouts takes place in Kobe as former 2-weight world champion Hozumi Hasegawa (33-5, 15) battles against the unbeaten and heavy handed Horacia Garcia (29-0, 21). This will be Hasegawa's comeback bout following his loss to the then IBF Super Bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez last year, sadly however he's up against a very, very good opponent.
Also in Japan we get a female world title fight as Yuko Kuroki (12-4-1, 6) defends her WBC female Minimumweight title against former world title challenger Masae Akitaya (9-5-2, 3). This isn't a great bout but it will likely give a lot of action for the fans at the Aqua Bunka Hall and will see Kuroki being forced to answer serious questions about her talent.
A notable bout in the UK will see the heavy handed Rey Megrino (21-20-3, 18) attempt to upset the very highly regarded Khalid Yafai (14-0, 9). Yafai is talented but this is a step up for the youngster and although it looks like a mismatch Megrino does have that power which can be a problem for anyone in the lower weight classes. [Note-This bout now appears to be in doubt]
A third successive Saturday of note comes on May 16th when we get two stateside bouts of note.
One of those bouts will see unbeaten Kazakh destroyed Gennady Golovkin (32-0, 29) defending his collection of titles against the once beaten boxer-mover Willie Monroe Jr (19-1, 6). This will be Golovkin's 7th bout in the US as he looks to continue to continue his destructive run through the contenders of the Middleweight division. For Monroe this is a huge opportunity but one we certainly can't see him winning.
On the same show we will also see the Teiken promoted Roman Gonzalez (42-0, 36) defending his WBC Flyweight title and making his long over-due HBO debut. The exciting Nicaraguan will be facing off against Mexican veteran Edgar Sosa (51-8, 30) in what should a very exciting bout and a great introduction for the US who haven't seen much of Gonzalez despite his sensational career.
On May 30th we get a couple of bouts that have us excited. To us the most notable of those is in Aichi as the unbeaten teenager Kosei Tanaka (4-0, 2) attempts to set the Japanese record for few fewest fight to win a world title when he battles the much more experienced Julian Yedras (24-1, 13) for the vacant WBO Minimumweight title. The bout isn't the best the division could have given us but it is a brilliant chance to see if Tanaka is as good as he looks and a stoppage against Yedras would be very impressive.
In the UK fans will see the Teiken promoted Jorge Linares (38-3, 25) defending his WBC Lightweight title against Britain's popular Kevin Mitchell (39-2, 25). This will be Linares's first defense of the title after winning the belt on December 30th last year, stopping Javier Preito, and will also be his UK debut. This bout really is exciting with men being able to hurt and be hurt and we'd be very surprised to see it go the distance.
Another world title bout takes place in Mexico as the once beaten Milan Melindo (32-1, 12) battles against Javier Mendoza (23-2-1, 19) in a bout for the IBF Light Flyweight title. This is a very tough bout for Melindo, as he takes on a very hard hitting, aggressive and exciting champion, however the Filipino has got the ability to bring back the title if he performs at his very best. [Note-This bout was originally scheduled for May 9th though was rescheduled due to TV]
The final bout of note will come on the final day of the month as former Japanese and OPBF Minimumweight champion Ryuji Hara (18-1, 10) battles against Petchnamchai Sor Sakulwong (1-2, 1). This will be Hara's comeback bout following his sole loss, a 10th round TKO defeat by Kosei Tanaka, and we're expecting to see a very impressive performance by Hara here who will be wanting to make up for lost time and begin fighting for titles sooner rather than later.
Earlier this year Fuji TV ran a show featuring Naoya Inoue and dubbed it "Exciting Time". The show, which featured not only Inoue but also the public exhibition of Ryota Murata, really did suggest that we were at the beginning of a very exciting time in Japanese boxing.
When you recall that actual card, on April 16th this year, you'll also remember that it saw the 7th straight stoppage victory for the highly touted Ryo Matsumoto further adding to the idea of "Exciting Time".
Since then however things have just become a little more exciting, in fact we'd go as far as to suggest Japanese boxing is on the verge of a Golden Age thanks to all the young talent coming through. There are so many good youngsters that we felt the need to talk about them, though unfortunately we're bound to over-look some just due to how many there are right now.
The most obvious of the promising Japanese youngsters is clearly Naoya Inoue (4-0, 3). The youngster has already claimed the Japanese national title and will be looking to add the OPBF title next time out as he takes on Jerson Mancio of the Philippines.
Whilst there is still a lot development to be done with Inoue, who's been fast tracked so far, there is so much to like about the kid that it's easy to see why so many are excited about him. He has wonderful shot selection, great movement, very hurtful power and one of the best boxing brains of any youngster in the sport. In fact it's fair to say that he's just a flat out natural in the ring and there is no doubt that he'll be a world champion sooner rather than later.
Whilst we all know about the talent of Naoya Inoue it's also worth noting that his 17 year old brother has just turned professional himself.
Takuma Inoue (0-0) has followed in his brother's footsteps by signing up with the Ohashi stable of fighters and although he's yet to fight as a professional there is a lot of expectation surrounding him. In fact the rumour is that Takuma will be trying to claim a Japanese national title in just 3 fights, beating his older brother by a fight.
Takuma Inoue is expected to make his professional debut on December 6th on the same show as Naoya attempts to claim the OPBF title and we'd be very shocked if he was given an easy opponent looking at how Naoya has done so far.
Whilst the Inoue brothers are youngsters with as much time as they want to build a career it's fair to say that Ryota Murata (1-0, 1) has a bit less time to reach his potential.
Aged 27 Murata has huge expectation on his shoulders though has the talent to go as far in the sport as he wishes. In fact in the case if Murata it's not just talent but the personality, the looks and the natural charisma to be a genuine star in either the west or the east.
Murata is a former amateur standout who claimed both an Olympic Gold and World Amateur Champion silver and that appears to have served him well. He made his professional debut back in August and dominated OPBF champion Akio Shibata and looked like he was made.
Incidentally Murata will also return on December 6th on the same show as the two Inoue brothers.
It's easy to fall in love with a puncher and we hope that's not what we're doing here but Masayoshi Nakatani (6-0, 5) looks like a monster.
Stood at 5'11" the Ioka trained Nakatani is a Lightweight with serious power, lovely body punches and a great jab, when he uses it. Although still fairly raw he looks like someone who has the potential to be very special.
Nakatani came to our attention earlier this year when he stopped fellow puncher Shuhei Tsuchiya in 3 rounds and we'll admit we're very excited about his future, which will hopefully see him fighting for either a Japanese of OPBF title in the next 12 months.
It's not just the debut of Takuma Inoue that is getting Japanese boxing fans excited but also the debut of Kosei Tanaka (0-0) who debuts on November 10th against the world ranked Oscar Raknafa of Indonesia.
Tanaka is just 18 but is seen as one of the future stars of Japanese boxing thanks to his excellent amateur career which saw him picking up 4 High School titles before turning to the professional ranks.
Tanaka is viewed as a "super prospect" like Naoya Inoue and Kazuto Ioka before him and on the showing of his test bout against Yuji Shimizu there really is no limit to what this youngster could produce in the ring.
As well as the five names mentioned above we'd also advise keeping an eye on the following fighters:
Sho Ishida (14-0, 7) is a Super Flyweight who at just 21 is starting to make a name for himself. Although more experienced than the names above he is still young and has already started to move up in terms of the quality of his opponents. We'd like to see him take another step up but he certainly doesn't need rushing at his age.
Shohei Omori (9-0, 5) is a southpaw currently campaigning in the Bantamweight division. Aged 20 he's slowly making a name for himself and really made an impact last time out stopping Kiron Omura in 92 seconds in by far his most notable victory to date. Stood at 5'8" he certainly could fill out in to a solid looking Featherweight at full maturity and is looking likely to move up the domestic Bantamweight rankings in the near future.
Hiroki Okada (6-0, 6) is another puncher much like Nakatani though one not likely to go as far as the Lightweight hopeful. Stood at 5'9 Okada is a sightly shorter than average Light Welterweight though he really impressed us by stopping Heri Andriyanto in 2 rounds earlier this year. Although it was the fifth stoppage of Andriyanto it's worth noting he had taken both Shuhei Tsuchiya and Yoshihiro Kamegai the distance in his two previous bouts in Japan.
Ryo Matsumoto (8-0, 7) is another Bantamweight prospect who is worth keeping a close eye on. The Ohashi fighter is 19 years old though already showing his man strength with a quick victory over the likes of John Bajawa. As well as his power he has also shown the ability to pace himself as he did out pointing Takuya Miyamori over 8 rounds last time out. Being in the Ohashi gym will see him maturing quickly and the rub of fellow stablemate will help him develop into a very good young fighter
With the likes of the fighters we've mentioned here, and of course the top youngsters who are already established like Kazuto Ioka and Tomoki Kameda, it really is a very exciting time for Japanese boxing. The next decade or so could give us a truly golden age in Japanese boxing.
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).