We recently looked at the incredibly packed Bantamweight division, and the top 10 there was genuinely amazing. It's not the only super stacked division for Asian fighters through and we also have some amazing depth at Super Bantamweight. In fact the division might be even deeper than the Bantamweight.
1-Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6)
The #1 in the and the division is unbeaten Uzbek Murodjon Akhmadaliev who showed his ability last time out when he defeated Daniel Roman to become the WBA "Super" and IBF champion in the division. The win over Roman alone, is the biggest of anyone in this list, and arguably bigger than anyone has right now in the division. For Akhmadaliev to have done that in just his 8th bout was truly exceptional. With a pair of titles around his waist and a completed 12 round under his belt the 25 year is only going to get better and better and will be the number in the division until he gets beat. A fantastic boxer puncher who brawl when he needs to. A truly fantastic fighter and one who proved us wrong in his win over Roman, a bout we felt was maybe too early at the time but "MJ" proved other wise.
2-Ryosuke Iwasa (27-3, 17)
Former IBF champion Ryosuke Iwasa, who is actually the current IBF "interim" and the mandatory for Akhmadaliev, is a very hot and cold fighter. When he's at his best he's a special talent, a hard hitting boxer-puncher. Sadly though he's had a number of off nights during his career, can look very one paced and has historically struggled against fellow lefties. Although technically good Iwasa is more of a puncher than a boxer, and his power has impressed against the likes of Kentaro Masuda, Yukinori Oguni and Marlon Tapales. Sadly he really failed to get going against TJ Doheny in 2018 and was made to look awful against Lee Haskins in 2015. Those set backs are now in the rear view mirror and wins last year against Cesar Juarez and Marlon Tapales have really put him right back in the mix.
3-Hiroaki Teshigawara (21-2-2, 14)
Current OPBF champion Hiroaki Teshigawara is a man who is very much knocking on the door of a world title fight, which he had been hoping to get this year. The 29 year old made his debut in 2011 and but it's really been the last few that he's managed to make a mark on the sport. It's fair to say that the main turning point in Teshigawara's career was his close loss to Ryo Akaho in 2016. Since that loss he has reeled off 9 straight wins including victories over Keita Kurihara, Jason Canoy, Teiru Kinoshita and Shohei Omori. Although on first glance Teshigawara can look a bit rough around the edges at times he's an incredibly smart boxer puncher who manages to dictate the pace and tempo off his very smart feints and educated lead hand. Teshigawara might be some way behind Akhamdaliev and Iwasa, but he's very much in the mix for a potential world title fight when international boxing resumes later in the year.
4-Jhunriel Ramonal (17-8-6, 10)
If this list was based solely on "what have you done recently" Ramonal would be banging on the door for the #1 position. Despite sporting a journeyman-like record the dangerous 30 year old Pinoy puncher stopped both Shingo Wake and Yusuaku Kuga in 2019. He's the current WBO Asia Pacific champion and is riding a 5 fight unbeaten run, with his last loss coming way in November 2014. Although not the most talented, quickest or smartest fighter out there Ramonal is a dangerous fighter and not someone you can look past. With stone like hands and a great will to win he's #4 on merit, though there are question marks about how long his current run will last.
5-Shingo Wake (26-6-2, 18)
Talented Japanese southpaw Shingo Wake is someone who is a very smart technical boxer, he uses his reach, his range and his jab fantastically, and has enough power on his shots to get respect, without being a puncher. We also cannot question Wake's heart, and his desire against Jonathan Guzman in 2016 was incredible, especially given how battered his face was. In 2019 he was stopped in 3 rounds by Ramonal, ending a 6 fight run of stoppages including wins over Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym, Yusaku Kuga and Takafumi Nakajima. His comeback is pencilled in for July, though given the current situation it's currently unclear if that bout will take place or not.
6-Tomoki Kameda (36-3, 20)
Former WBO Bantamweight champion Tomoki Kameda is the only one of the Kameda brothers still fighting, after brothers Koki and Daiki retired. The 28 year old is carrying on the Kameda name and seeking to become a 2-weight champion and he pursues a bout at 122lbs. High skilled, with quick hands and good movement Kameda has the ability to win a title, but unfortunately appears to have a lack of power at the weight, and his shots, whilst they look good, don't appear to get opponents respect, something that will be an issue against the best in the division. He was also comfortably beaten last time out, when Rey Vargas out boxed him at range. There is a feeling that Kameda's skills won't be enough to over-come the physical advantages of the top fighters in the division, but at he's certainly not going to be an easy man to beat. We suspect he'll be too good for regional level bouts but not quite good enough to take a world title here.
7-Yukinori Oguni (21-2-1, 8)
Former IBF champion Yukinori Oguni is hard to place in these rankings. He has lost to Shingo Wake and Ryosuke Iwas, but holds a huge 2016 win over Jonathan Guzman. Another reason he's so hard to rank is due to what he's done since his 2017 loss to Iwasa. Originally he retired following that loss, but then came back in 2018 and has scored two wins. He's not looked his best in those victories but, it did seem like the 31 year old was more focused on shaking ring rust than trying to impress people. Fingers crossed we get a good chance to see what Oguni had next time left as he's a really talented, and often over looked fighter who could, and perhaps should, have achieved more than he has so far. Although not a puncher he does hit harder than his record suggests and is certainly a clean puncher, who is accurate, smart and has some very nice looking body shots.
8-Marlon Tapales (33-3, 16)
Another former world champion here is 28 year old Filipino Marlon Tapales, a really under-rated southpaw. Tapales was a former WBO Bantamweight champion, who won the title in a brilliant comeback against Pungluang Sor Singyu, but lost the belt on the scales 9 months later. Despite only having 16T/KO's in his 33 wins the Filipino is a solid puncher, with a lot of his decision wins coming early in his career before he got his man strength. Despite being a talented fighter it is worth noting that he was made to look second last time out, by Ryosuke Iwasa, and was stopped in 11 rounds. That bout was very much a beating for the Filipino and it's going to be very interesting to see what he's like when he returns to the ring. Notably that loss was his first defeat in over 6 years and his first stoppage loss in over a decade.
9-Albert Pagara (32-1, 23)
Once beaten Filipino Albert Pagara was supposed to be the next big Filipino star, and sadly he's not yet got there. The talented 26 year old obviously has time on his side but also has a lot of questions to answer about his mental and physical toughness. The "Prince" is a sharp boxer-puncher, who very quick and very heavy handed, but was stopped himself by Cesar Juarez in 2016 and he's yet to return to that fringe level. If we're being honest Pagara passes the eye test with ease, but we'll remain unsure about his potential until he get in another dog fight, then we expect that we'll see a lot of questions answered about him. Sadly his 32 wins so far really haven't done much to prove his ability, and he desperately needs a step up in class when boxing returns to the Philippines.
10-Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13)
2-time Japanese champion Yusaku Kuga is a rough, tough, crude but exciting fighter, but one who is maybe feeling the effects of a hard career. At his best Kuga is an aggressive boxer-puncher, and he's score notable wins over the likes of Yusuke Suzuki, Yasutaka Ishimoto and Ryoichi Tamura however those wins have often come in very punishing bouts, and both of his bouts with Tamura were massively damaging wars, for both men. Notably Kuga has been stopped in 2 of his last 5, with those losses coming to Jhunriel Ramonal and Shingo Wake. Although he's "only" 29 we do wonder how much those tough, gruelling bouts with Tamura have taken from him. He's supposed to make a mandatory defense of his Japanese title against Gakuya Furuhashi later this year, and that will likely tell us what he has left in the tank.
On the bubble:
Mike Plania, Ye Joon Kim, Chainoi Worawut, Gakuya Furuhashi and Jeo Santisima
With a massive lack of Asian related action last week we really struggled to find a suitable fighter to cover in this week's "Five For...". Sure we saw Jeo Santisima fight in a high profile bout, but the reality is...he didn't shine. He was competitive, at times, with Emanuel Navarrete, but it was clear he wasn't on the Mexican's level.
Rather than finding someone to talk about that didn't fight we're instead going to take things in a slightly different direction than usual. Rather than focusing on an Asian fighter and looking at 5 options he could face, we're instead going to look at 5 Asian's who could challenge Emanuel Navarrete later in the year. Thankfully we have a lot of Asian fighters competing at Super Bantamweight, and a lot could give Navarette a very different type of bout to the one we saw from Santisima.
1-Hiroaki Teshigawara (21-2-2, 14)
Japanese fighter Hiroaki Teshigawara is someone who has began knocking on the door of a world title fight on merit in recent years. The talented, and heavy handed, boxer-puncher has stopped his last 4, including former world title challenger Shohei Omori and Teiru Kinoshita, he has proven to be tough, dangerous and tricky. Whilst he's not the most polished he does have under-rated skills, and at 5'7" he's one of the few who could physically match the Mexican world champion. Given the styles and mentality of the two men this would be a very, very interesting match up and a huge chance for Teshigawara to get a world title fight be the end of 2020.
2-Albert Pagara (32-1, 23)
Once tipped as future star for the Philippines Albert Pagara has seen his career really fail to develop as hoped. Thankfully for "Prince" Albert he's rebuild well since his 2016 loss to Cesar Juarez, and has notched up 6 straight wins to remain in the title mix. At the age of 26 it's probably best for ALA to roll the dice with Pagara rather than continue to leave him treading water. ALA are struggling as a gym and need a big win, and you don't get those without taking risks. Also Pagara will have seen Santisima have moments against Navarrete, and will believe he's a better boxer than his ALA stablemate. Of course this would be a really big ask of Pagara, but the reality is that his going has become rather aimless, and it would seem better to to take a big, high profile bout like this, than to continue fighting in obscurity.
3-Jhunriel Ramonal (17-8-6, 10)
Staying with Filipino's a bout with Navarrete would be a good reward for the heavy handed Jhunriel Ramonal, who scored two huge wins on the road last year, stopping both Shingo Wake and Yusaku Kuga in Japan. On paper Ramonal might not look the most testing but with his brutal power, high level experience and will to win he'd certainly make for a better than the likes of Santisima, who seemed to accept he'd not be able to win relatively early on. Ramonal isn't a rounded fighter, he's not the best move, or the smartest, but he's full of confidence, punches like a mule, unbeaten in more than 5 years and would be an easy fighter to get in the ring. Whilst we wouldn't give the Filipino much of a chance with the champion we have been surprised by him in the past and he's a fighter you write off at your peril.
4-Tomoki Kameda (36-3, 20)
Maybe the way to beat Navarrete is by relying on speed and boxing, rather than trying to have a fight with him. With that in mind a bout against Tomoki Kameda would certainly be an interesting proposition. Kameda lacks power, especially at Super Bantamweight, but is a tough, talented boxer-mover with quick hands and the ability to pick his shots very well. He was easily beaten by Rey Vargas last year, but that was a stylistic nightmare for Kameda, whilst a bout against Navarrete would be a lot, lot more interesting. This would a big name for Navarrete, and a second chance for Kameda to become a multi-weight world champion. A mouth watering match up and one of the more intriguing ones the division could give us. Also the bout could easily be staged in Mexico, given Kameda's long established links to the country.
5-Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6)
We've saved the best to last with the final option being a potential triple title unification bout between Navarrete, the WBO champion and the unified WBA and IBF champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev, of Uzbekistan. The bout would be an excellent one to decide the clear #1 in the division, it would match the most destructive against the most impressive. On one hand the Mexican champion had looked good against lower level opponents, whilst establishing a long reign, but he needs a defining win. Akhmadaliev has a defining win, over Daniel Roman, but now needs to prove it wasn't a fluke. This would be the bout that would let both men answer serious questions, and the winner would come out of the bout with 3 titles and the legitimate claim of the best in the division.
Over the last few weeks we've looked at 30 fighters who we tipped as “ones to watch in 2016”, unsurprisingly however we had to miss out on a lot of fighters. Here we are doing a bonus part trying to include an extra 20 fighters who missed out on our original 6 parts! With these 20 extra fighters it brings the total covered up to an amazing 50 fighters!
For those who missed them the previous parts are available below-
Part 1 is here
Part 2 is here
Part 3 is here
Part 4 is here
Part 5 is here
Part 6 is here
And the first bonus part is here.
Although August was exciting there a lack of big name action. That changes however in September when we get a host of world level bouts with other rising contenders in action across a number of weights.
Masanobu Nakazawa Vs Masayoshi Kotake (Japanese)
The month kicks off with title action in Japan as the once beaten Masanobu Nakazawa (17-1-1, 7) battles Masayoshi Kotake (9-9-2, 5) in a bout for the Japanese interim Light Welterweight title. This bout has come about due to an injury to Hiroki Okada and we're expecting a good one here. On paper it's easy to side with Nakazawa though he's taking a huge step up in class to face the much more proven Kotake in what really looks likely to be a very competitive match up.
Tomoki Kameda Vs Jamie McDonnell II (WBA)
One of the best bouts this year saw Japan's Tomoki Kameda (31-1, 19) suffer his first loss in a brilliantly competitive 12 round bout with Englishman Jamie McDonnell (26-2-1, 12). Now the men will do it again with McDonnell hoping to prove his win wasn't a fluke and Kameda looking to avenge his sole defeat. Up for grabs isn't just personal gratification but also the WBA Bantamweight title and the claim of being the #2 fighter in the division.
Jonathan Taconing Vs Jomar Fajardo (OPBF)
Some bouts are guaranteed to give excitement and action. Any bout that features Jonathan Taconing (21-2-1, 18) is likely to be worth a watch. Taconing will be defending his OPBF Light Flyweight title against compatriot, and fellow slugger, Jomar Fajardo (14-8-2, 7) in a bout that could be the sleeper bout of the month. Stylistically this one promises to be really exciting, though we do suspect that Taconing will be too big, too strong and too powerful for the gutsy Fajardo.
Shohei Omori Vs Hirofumi Mukai (Japan)
Fast rising Japanese Bantamweight Shohei Omori (14-0, 9) impressed us all when he won the Japanese Bantamweight title earlier this year. He makes his first defense of that title as he takes on former 2-time world title challenger Hirofumi Mukai (11-3-2, 1) in what looks like a solid, though unspectacular, defense for the man dubbed “Demon of Left”. Whilst the bout isn't a great one it does see Omori up against his most accomplished southpaw opponent
Kota Tokunaga Vs Yuhei Suzuki (Japan)
On the same card as Omori's Bantamweight title fight his stablemate Kota Tokunaga (15-2, 10) will make the first defense of the Japanese Lightweight title. In the opposite corner is heavy handed challenger Yuhei Suzuki (16-4, 12). This one promises to be explosive with both guys able to through heavy leather, though neither has shown a real ability to cope with being tagged hard meaning that this could be over at any moment.
Shin Ono Vs Kenichi Horikawa (Japan)
Former world title challenger Shin Ono (18-6-2, 2) looks to claim his first domestic title as he faced veteran pro Kenichi Horikawa (29-13-1, 6). For Horikawa this will be a 4th Japanese title fight and although he's come up short in first 3 shots he'll be determined to make the most of this one. With both fighters being in their 30's this could be a case of now or never, especially with the fast rising Ken Shiro waiting in the wings for the winner.
Xiong Zhao Zhong Vs Crison Omayao (OPBF)
China's only man to claim a world title, Xiong Zhao Zhong (25-6-1, 14) will look for one of his most notable wins as he takes on Filipino fighter Crison Omayao (17-9-3, 5) in a bout for the OPBF Minimumweight title. On paper this looks like a mismatch but Omayao has got a spotty record due to facing some of the most talented little men on the planet, including Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka. This really should be the Chinese highlight of the month.
Shinsuke Yamanaka Vs Anselmo Moreno (WBC)
The Asian wide highlight of the month, and one of the world wide bouts of the month, will see WBC Bantamweight kingpin Shinsuke Yamanaka (23-0-2, 17) defending his belt against former WBA “super” champion Anselmo Moreno (35-3-1, 12). For some this bout is to decide the facto #1 Bantamweight on the planet, for others how it's just a bout to savior and features one of the most talented pure boxers in the sport battle against one of the sports most natural punchers. This really is something very special.
Less than a week after the Yamanaka/Moreno bout we get another of the month's highlights as we get a real huge bumper show in Osaka.
Kazuto Ioka Vs Roberto Domingo Sosa (WBA)
The main event will see Kazuto Ioka (17-1, 10) defending his WBA Flyweight title against Roberto Domingo Sosa (26-2-1, 14). This will be Ioka's first defense of the title, that he won against Juan Carlos Reveco earlier this year, and if he comes through this, as is expected, he will be facing Reveco in a bout penciled in for December 31st. A lot riding on this one for the 26 year Japanese youngster.
Katsunari Takayama Vs Ryuji Hara (IBF)
Another world title bout on the same card will see IBF Minimumweight champion Katsunari Takayama (29-7-0-1, 11) defending his title Ryuji Hara (19-1, 11) in what looks to be a genuinely mouth watering match up. For Takayama this will be the second defence of his title whilst Hara fights in his first world title fight, having previously been the Japanese and OPBF champion.
Sho Ishida Vs Hayato Kimura (Japan)
On the same card the Ioka bout will be three other title bouts. One of those will see Japanese Super Flyweight champion Sho Ishida (19-0, 10) defending his belt against Hayato Kimura (23-7, 15). This doesn't look great on paper but it's a good test for Ishida who will be hoping to move on to world level in his upcoming bouts. Alstough a big favour there are some questions marks about the champions stamina which will hopefully be tested again here.
Kei Takenaka Vs Krikanok Islandmuaythai (OPBF-Female)
A lower title fight on this card will see Kei Takenaka (9-0, 3) defending her OPBF female Light Flyweight title against Thai visitor Krikanok Islandmuaythai (4-4-1, 2). This is a weaker bout than the other two major fights on this card but it's expected to be one of Takenaka's final bouts before stepping up to world level.
Eun Hye Lee Vs Ploynapa Sakrungrueng (WBC-Female)
The final world title bout comes towards the end of the month as South Korean fighter Eun Hye Lee (7-0, 2) battle Thai visitor Ploynapa Sakrungrueng (12-5-1, 1) in a bout for the WBO female Light Flyweight title. This bout has been rescheduled twice following various issues and is finally looking like it's all sorted, finally.
Yukinori Oguni Vs Taiki Minamoto
The final notable action of the month takes place at the end of the month where Japanese fans get a couple of national title fights. The most interesting of those will see Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yukinori Oguni (14-1-1, 4) defending his belt against the heavy handed Taiki Minamoto (10-4, 9). This will be Oguni's second defense and if he comes through he'll be expected to face a rematch against Yasutaka Ishimoto.
Suyon Takayama Vs Ryoji Tanaka
The other title fight at the end of the month will see Suyon Takayama (22-1, 7) defending the Japanese Welterweight title against Ryoji Tanaka (8-4-1, 2). This is a weak looking match up, if we're being honest, but the significance of the bout is worth noting and if Takayama keeps defending his title we may, one day, see him take part in a more interesting match up than his recent ones.
(All Images courtesy of boxmob.jp
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.
It's widely accepted that Japan is the 10th most populated country on the planet. It's got around 128,000,000 people living on it and this places it between Russia with around 144,000,000 and Mexico 118,000,000.
In terms of comparing it with some other boxing countries, the US is the 3rd most populated country with around 317,000,000, the Philippines is the 11th most populated with 99,000,000, Germany is the 16th most populated with around 81,000,000, the UK is the 22nd most populated with around 64,000,000 and Argentina is 32nd with 40,000,000.
This means that Japan has less than half as many people as the US, marginally more than Mexico, 50% more than Germany, twice as many as the UK and thrice as many as Argentina. Despite the population being what it is, there seems to be so many more top youngsters coming from Japan than anywhere else.
The big question then, is how come so many Japanese youngsters look so talented, so young?
At the moment Japan has a wealth of young talent under the age of 25. This includes world champions such as Tomoki Kameda, 22 and Kazuto Ioka, 24, OPBF champions Ryosuke Iwasa, 24 and Masayoshi Nakatani, also 24, up coming world title challenger Naoya Inoue, 20 and more outstanding prospects than I can possibly list such as Kosei Tanaka, 18, Takuma Inoue, 18, Sho Ishida, 22 and Ryo Matsumoto, 20.
Maybe, as we've said in the past, Japanese boxing is on the verge of a Golden Age of young talent, a once in a life time boom of youngsters who are all breaking through at the same time. Something tells me this isn't really the case though as 6 is years is a notably long time between the oldest of these guys and the youngest. Personally I think the the real answer lies in the amateur boxing system of Japan and the match making of Japanese fighters .
It may be a surprising to mentioned the amateur scene considering that Japanese amateur boxers haven't been a key fixture at world meets. We rarely see Japanese fighters taking home medals from either the World Amateur Championships or the Olympics, however what we do tend to see is that the top Japanese amateurs don't tend to remain amateur for much longer than they need to. There are, of course, counter examples such as Satoshi Shimizu who has announced plans to compete at the 2016 Olympics, though these are rare.
What we have instead are youngsters who have come through the Japanese amateur ranks by fighting regularly in high school and then turning professional at a young age before bad habits and amateur traits are engrained in their style.
As well as turning professional at a young age these youngsters also seem to have adapted more professional styles than fighters from around the world. In many countries top amateurs take a number of bouts to learn to adapt. They are basically retrained in how to walk again against a much lower calibre of opponent than they were beating in the amateurs. In Japan however their styles are often fairly professional and they aren't taking huge steps back in their early professional outings.
What is the point in going from fighting the elite, either domestically or on the world stage, as an amateur to then fighting domestic level journeymen as a professional? Are we really suggesting that top amateurs, such as Luke Campbell in the UK or Rau'shee Warren in the US need to learn by taking 10 steps backwards?
If we look, for example, at Ryo Matsumoto. He did start like a typical "western" prospect fighting a string of weak opponents though by fight #5 he was facing a decent opponent in the form of John Bajawa and in fight #10 Matsumoto will be fighting a multi-time title challenger. As for Luke Campbell's 5th fight he's fighting Scott Moises, a guy who holds an 8-8-1 record. Still Campbell did do better than Warren who faced Jiovany Fuentes, a blown up Flyweight who had been inactive for 2 years.
Warren, who now sports a record of 10-0, fought his 10th professional contest earlier this year and faced the very experienced German Meraz who at the time sported a decent looking 46-28-1 record. Unfortunately Meraz hadn't beaten a fighter with a winning record since late 2009 and had only beaten a handful in total. Meraz was the proverbial can crusher with a boosted record that allowed other fighters to look impressive though in reality served as little more than a record padder himself.
So as well as having more professional styles the Japanese youngsters are also matched better. They are matched progressively on the whole and take steps up. There is no point in wasting time in this sport as one good shot could finish your career and if you're good enough you're good enough.
Possibly the biggest reason for the boom in Japanese youngsters however is that promoters are willing to take a risk or two. They aren't hiding their talented youngsters in the shallow end of a swimming pool with water wings but are willing to let them swim with sharks. If they get bitten early then it's a rebuilding process and they can cycle things down a gear, as seen in the career of Keita Obara who lost on debut though is now fighting for an OPBF title just a few years later.
If a youngster doesn't get bitten however then let them swim with more sharks. Kazuto Ioka is probably the best example right now. In fight #6 he faced an experienced domestic level campaigner, then in fight #7 he faced a highly experienced and unbeaten world champion then in fight #10 he faced a fellow world champion in a world title unification. These were risky fights but Ioka believed in himself, his team believed in him and he showed his worth.
In so many places keeping a fighters unbeaten record is actually more important than developing their skills and legacy. You develop by fighting better fighters, you develop by fighting in competitive matches and you develop by needing to prove yourself. Taking a loss along the way is just part of a fighters development.
In the US fans are already starting to turn on Gary Russell Jr who has had 24 fights but no risks, Deontay Wilder is similar though has 33 wins with no risk and Sean Monaghan is 20-0 though has again had no risks. Between them these three fighters have had 77 fights yet we have no idea how good they are. Between Ioka, Tomoki, and Naoya Inoue there is a combined 48 fights and already there 2 world champions and a future title contender.
US promoters might want to protect their investment and that makes sense, but do you really think Japanese promoters aren't doing the same? The difference is Japanese promoters don't tell you they have a wonder talent then protect him, instead they tell you they have a super talent and they prove it. They don't use smoke and mirrors to sell us a prospect they let the prospect talk with their actions.
So why does Japan have so many good, talented youngsters?
Well their amateur system seems to promote a more professional style to boxing at a young age, they don't waste time staying in the unpaid ranks for too long, they are developed quickly as professionals and they are allowed to prove their talent rather than merely defeat over-matched foes for years. This is a combination of "ignoring" the amateur scoring system that has plagued amateur boxing for so long, great training, great desire of the individual fighters to prove themselves and brave promoting.
This isn't a golden age of Japanese boxing, but the start of a revolution which I feel will continue for a long time.
(Pictures-Top is courtesy of Boxrec.com and is Tomoki Kameda, middle is from Ohashi Gym and features Naoya Ioue and bottom is from Kosei Tanaka courtesy of Boxingnews.jp)
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).