It's fair to say that January wasn't a busy month, by any stretch of the imagination, but there was a handful of gems that took place over on Japanese subscription service Boxing Raise and with that in mind we felt it was worth sharing those gems as we cover the The Best of Boxing Raise January 2021.
As with our previous "Best of Boxing Raise" article all the fights featured here can be accessed by subscribers by logging into Boxing Raise and adding the "movie/####" to "https://boxingraise.com/".
The rising Lightweight hopeful - Shu Utsuki (7-0, 6) vs Masashi Wakita (10-10-2, 5) [movie/9409/]
To begin with we don't have a gem per se but a bout you should make an effort to watch as it features one of the most promising Lightweights in Japan. That is the unbeaten, and heavy handed, Sut Utsuki who was up against the rangy and experienced Masashi Wakita. The bout wasn't the most competitive or most exciting, but for fans wanting to see one of the more promising Japanese fighters at 135lbs this is well worth a watch.
Japanese Super Featherweight title bout - Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) vs Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21) [movie/9411/]
An obvious choice here for this months list was the first Japanese title fight of 2021, and that saw Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka take on mandatory challenger Takuya Watanabe. On paper this one promised a lot, with Saka being one of the biggest puncher in Japan and Watanabe being a well known tough guy, who has been in some thrilling action bouts during his long career. The bout may not have quite reached the lofty expectations some, including ourselves, had for the bout, but it was certainly worth a watch.
Japanese title war! - Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) vs Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14) [movie/9413/]
Another obvious choice to enjoy was the sensational Japanese Super Bantamweight title fight between defending champion Yusaku Kuga and mandatory challenger Gakuya Furuhashi. Like the Saka Vs Watanabe bout, the expectation was high, and this exceeded those expectations, giving us a legitimate fight of the year contender. If you like high-tempo, inside, phone booth wars this will be down your alley. And if you don't like those sorts of fights, why are you even following this sport? Genuinely this is going to be a very, very hard fight to beat and we may well have already seen the Japanese fight of the year!
Teenager debuts - Seiya Iwamoto (0-0) vs Keisuke Endo (0-0) [movie/9432/]
One thing Japan does better than anywhere else is making 4 rounders something, and their regular 4 round shows match novices who both come to win, rather than have a prospect taking a quick and easy win against someone incredibly limited. One example of that was the debut of 17 year old Seiya Iwamoto, who took on Keisuke Endo in a short but fun fight. The skill level here was low but the action came from the opening bell and the bout really is a gem hidden away on the service. Fun, short and exciting.
All debutant Lightweight clash - Tomoki Sato (0-0) vs Jun Nakahara (0-0) [movie/9434/]
Another 4 rounder that's worth watching is the Lightweight bout between Tomoki Sato and Jun Nakahara. Again these were two debutants and both men were there looking to leave an impression. This wasn't a crude battle, like Iwamoto Vs Endo, but was an entertaining bout, with 2 knockdowns and a chance to see two fighters who may well end up competing in a Rookie of the Year tournament one day. Despite the novice status of both men there was plenty to like here, and it's clear both fighters have got something to work with, even if they are both very, very rough around the edges.
Another 4 rounder! - Kei Fujita (2-1, 2) Vs Narimichi Miura (1-2, 1) [movie/9436/]
Another exciting 4 rounder was the bout between Kei Fujita, who fought on the under-card of Kazuto Ioka Vs Kosei Tanaka, and Narimichi Miura. On paper this looked like it could be an explosive one given neither man had seen the final bell in any of their bouts. It didn't end up being quite as explosive as anticipated, but it was still a damn good bout and round 2 in particular was thrilling. If you like competitive back and forth action this is fantastic to watch and was fought in really good spirits by two men who believed they could take home a victory.
We know some don't enjoy "club level" fights, but to us they are quickly becoming some of our favourites and the 4 rounders in this list are great examples of why, with exciting action and both fighters coming to win. With so few fights taking place in January we really do suggest giving these 4 rounders a watch, as well as the three bigger bouts!
This past weekend in the US the Super Bantamweight division came alive with stellar performances from Raeese Aleem and Stephen Fulton, who both looked spectacular on Showtime on Saturday night. Before those two bouts we also had a Japanese national title fight in the division, with that bout taking place on Friday in Tokyo, and being shown around the globe on Boxing Raise.
That bout in Japan saw Gakuya Furuhashi (27-8-1, 14) dethrone Yusaku Kuga (19-5-1, 13) in what was a sensational fight for a title that has repeatedly given us amazing bouts. It was a brilliant back and forth, fought almost entirely on the inside, and it saw both men take a lot of punishment. It was competitive, dramatic, brutal and one we suggest all fight fans make an effort to watch in 2021.
Having had time to let the bout breathe before rewatching it earlier today we've decided it's now time to share our take aways from what was a genuinely amazing fight.
1-The styles gelled perfectly
When we look at potential bouts, and how much we're going to enjoy them, or whether they are going to be fan friendly we need to think about how each fighter fights, and how their styles should gel. For this bout the styles gelled amazingly. Both men have the same mentality or fighting, rather than boxing, both have similar game plans, and both have similar strengths. This made for a bout that was great on paper, and equally as good in the ring.
Despite this being a mandatory title defense for Kuga it rather fortunately showed what good match making should focus on. It's not the records that matter when making a good fight, but the styles. Both of these men wanted to work at a high pace. Both wanted to let their shots go and both did so in different ways. Kuga wanted to fight at mid-range, but was willing to fight up close in spurts. Furuhashi wanted to fight up close, and was willing to take a bomb or two to get inside. In many ways this was similar to the Angela Leo vs Stephen Fulton fight seen on Saturday, and again the styles gelled. Wonderful to watch.
2-Akihiko Katsuragi did a great job
We've been over this so many times in this series but Japanese referees seem to be consistently fantastic and Akihiko Katsuragi, the third man in the ring here, is no exception. Katsuragi stayed out of the action, he let fight, he didn't look to interject at any point. He wasn't there to get involved unless he needed to be, such as at the end of the rounds. The one exception to that came towards the end of the bout when he quite rightly stopped the contest with Kuga being completely gone. We saw a lot of praise for David Fields' work on Saturday night, for letting Leo and Fulton fight, and it was the same here with Katsuragi. When they clinched, which was incredibly rare, they were allowed to fight out of it, breaks were few and far between.
Not only did Katsuragi not interject but he was also aware of the fight, it's meaning and the men involved. A lesser referee would, potentially, have stopped this at various points. A nervous referee may have thought a man was more hurt than he actually was and jumped in. We've seen it in the past with early stoppages particularly prevalent in the UK. Katsuragi showed no intention of stopping this until he needed to.
3-This deserved a louder audience
Originally this bout was planned for April 28th 2020, as part of the annual Champion Carnival series of fights. Sadly due to Covid19 the bout was postponed by around 9 months. Covid19 not only meant there was a lengthy delay to the bout, but also meant that restrictions were put on the fans, who were limited by number and by what they were allowed to do. All fans were forced to wear masks to attend the fight and they weren't allowed to chant and cheer on their man. Instead they were pretty much limited to applauding.
We fully understand the rules, the regulations and the limitations on the fans and the venues, and why they are in place.
However this bout deserved so much more noise and atmosphere than it got. Throughout the bout we had rounds of applause, with fans appreciating the fighters, the action and the fantastic bout they were watching unfold. Sadly however it deserved chants, cheering, and roars of appreciation from a full Korakuen Hall. It was a brilliant bout, a brutal war, and a great come from behind victory for Furuhashi. It deserved to have fans going wild over what we were seeing. Instead it sounded appreciative, rather than excited. It sounded respectful, rather than rapturous. It sounded mild instead of deafening.
4-Furuhashi wasn't going to be denied
This was Furuhashi's third shot at the title and at the age of 33 it was almost certainly going to be his last. Given the punishment he took in the bout a loss would have been incredibly hard to bounce back from, mentally and physically. He put everything he had into the bout. And that's really the key to this point. It was do or die and he wasn't going to be denied. He had his head snapped back multiple times, he took huge shots to the body and kept coming forward, and it didn't matter that he had to walk into the danger zone to get to his man. He wasn't going home empty handed here.
When a fighter has the mentality Furuhashi had here they are able to dig deeper and deeper than anyone can imagine and that showed as he fought like a man willing to go to the depths of hell for the title. He beat Kuga in part, due to his desire. His refusal to lose. It's rare we see a fighter dig as deep as Furuhashi did, but he showed exactly what the title meant to him, and how much he needed that belt.
5-The end for Kuga?
Yusaku Kuga is someone known for his brutal power and his durability. Or rather he was. Sadly this is now the third time in 6 fights that Kuga has been stopped, having also been worn down by Shingo Wake in 2018 and blasted out by Jhunriel Ramonal in 2019. With that in mind we do wonder if this is the end for him. He took a lot of punishment here, and he's also been in gruelling bouts with Ryoichi Tamura, twice and Yasutaka Ishimoto, in their first bout. A man can only go to the well so many times before his body says no more and we can't help but feel that might be where Kuga's body is right now. He has been on the wrong end of a lot of punishment during his 25 fight career, and it may well be time to hang them up, for the good of his long term health.
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
Back on December 12th exciting Japanese Super Bantamweight Hiroaki Teshigawara (21-2-2, 14) recorded his third win of the OPBF Super Bantamweight title, stopping Shohei Kawashima in 5 rounds, notching his third stoppage win of the year. After that win he spoke about fighting for a world title in 2020. Whilst that's a possibility it's expected that for him to do that, he would have to wait until towards the end of the year, giving him time to squeeze in one, or two, fights before battling at world level.
With momentum behind him, and an exciting style, we expect to see a lot of Teshigawara next year, and we expect more and more fans to become aware of him as he moves towards a world title fight. With that in mind we bring you "Five For....Hiroaki Teshigawara"
1 - Yusaku Kuga (19-3-1, 13)
Before fighting for a world title we would like to see Teshigawara fight one of two domestic opponents, the most notable of which is current Japanese champion Yusaku Kuga. On New Year's Eve Kuga fights for the WBO Asia Pacific title, and the reality is that if Kuga wins that bout, as expected, a bout between Teshigawara and Kuga would essentially be fore unified regional title, with the two men each holding 1 of the 2 major regional belts. Stylistically this would be a thriller, and the winner would open up different routes to a world title fight. At the moment both men are ranked by just a single world title body, with Teshigawara being in the IBF rankings and Kuga in the WBC, so whilst both would be risking a title and a regional ranking, they would also stand to gain a lot with a win. Also it helps that style wise, this would be a special type of war.
2 - Isaac Dogboe (20-2, 14)
Whilst we would love to see Teshigawara in an action bout in Japan he'll likely be looking to claim a major scalp in 2020, and a recent world title challenger or world champion would be the type of fighter he'd want on his record. Having someone like that would legitimise him on the international stage and see fight fans around the globe looking into him, and wanting to know more about him. Given how Top Rank have began looking more and more towards Japan for fighters Teshigawara may well be on their radar, and a bout with former WBO champion Isaac Dogboe would be a great introduction to the US market. Dogboe looks to be a faded force after back to back beatings to Emanuel Navarrete, and getting him now would be the perfect time. Also a win over Dogboe by Teshigawara would be give Top Rank a new challenger for Navarrete later in the year.
3 - Ryoichi Tamura (13-5-1, 7)
The other Japanese domestic option for Teshigawara is former Japanese national champion, and current OPBF "silver" champion Ryoichi Tamura. Tamura isn't as well known as Kuga, and has lost twice to Kuga, but is the type of fighter who would make for a very fan friendly clash with almost anyone. Tamura is a high work rate pressure fighter who comes forward and throws, a lot. With Teshigawara showing more sides to his boxing in recent fights he should be able to out box Tamura, though their is also a chance he ends up engaging in a war with Tamura, to give the fans what they want. This could be a great fun fight to watch, a chance for some highlight footage before a potential charge to world level and it would also be a mandatory defense of the OPBF title. It's not as good as a Kuga bout in terms of reputation, but it's just as good in terms of fan friendly violence
4- Ronny Rios (32-3, 16)
We mentioned a Top Rank option for Teshigawara, with Dogboe, but a different US option would be working with Golden Boy Promotions, potentially angling for a WBC shot at Rey Vargas. A good option, if he wanted to take that route, would be through Ronny Rios. This is, in reality, a much tougher bout than the Dogboe one, with Rios in good form thanks to 3 wins in 2019 including a 6th round win over Deigo De La Hoya. It would really legitimise Teshigawara as someone who isn't just wanting to take a win over a name, but is wanting to take it over a name in form. Technically this would be a really fun fight, mixing the under-rated technical ability of both with their aggression and exciting mentalities. This would be a legit world title eliminator type of bout, and a great way for the winner to stamp their place on the sport as a top contender.
5- Cesar Juarez (25-7, 19)
Another possible, and potentially exciting, way to introduce Teshigawara to a Western audience would be a bout with Mexican Cesar Juarez. The 28 year old Juarez does have a fun style and has been in entertaining bouts, with his 2015 clash with Nonito Donaire being a bit of a forgotten classic. Juarez is a level below world class, and losses to Donaire, Dogboe and Ryosuke Iwasa have shown he's not quite part of the divisional elite, however wins against Albert Pagara, Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr and Cesar Seda, as well general performance, show him to be a fantastic gate keeper. Get past Juarez and you are typically world class. If Teshigawara gets past the Mexican his argument for a world title fight certainly strengthens.
The month of December is massive in Asian boxing with the end of year run in being crazy. As a result we've had to split our “things to look forward to...” for December article into two pieces, a pre-Christmas and a post-Christmas article, which is to be posted around Christmas time.
When we say December is busy, we really aren't kidding.
The new month gets off to an almost immediate start with an OPBF title fight coming on just the second day of the month. The bout in question is all Filipino bout for the OPBF title, recently vacated by Koki Eto, and will see Eto's former foe Ardin Diale (26-9-3, 15) take on the once beaten Renoel Pael (19-1-1, 9). It was of course Diale Vs Eto that saw Eto win the title, claiming an amazing 8th round win over Diale in a FOTY contender, but since then Diale has gone 6-0 (5) ans really rebuilt his career. For Pael this is his biggest bout to date, though he did fight to a very controversial loss to the world ranked Noknoi Sitthiprasert back in 2014 in what his only loss to date. This really could be something special for Filipino fans.
Fast rising Japanese prospects seem to be the “in thing” at the moment with numerous youngsters racing through the ranks. One of those is Kazuki Tanaka (3-0, 3) who takes a huge step up in class to face Monico Laurente (27-12, 6) in what should be regarded as a genuine test for the unbeaten 22 year old. Tanaka is regarded very highly, and some view him as a potential star of the Green Tsuda gym, however Laurente is no push over and should test the youngster in ways that he has never been tested before.
Last year we saw several Asian fighters emerge and go from being relatively unknown to being names that were on the tip of the tongue for fight fans. Obviously the biggest example was Naoya Inoue, who really became an internationally recognised name, another was Amnat Ruenroeng (16-0, 5) who claimed the IBF Flyweight title and defended it twice, including a shock win over Kazuto Ioka. He looks to secure his third defense of 2015 as he takes on Japanese challenger Myung Ho Lee (19-4-1, 6) in what looks like a stay busy fight for the Thai before a big fight in 2016, possibly against Roman Gonzalez or a rematch with Ioka.
The first of two “WBA Flyweight title” rematches this month sees Thailand's unbeaten Stamp Kiatniwat (14-0, 6) defending his interim title against Dominican slugger Gregorio Lebron (13-3, 11). Their first bout saw Stamp claim a majority decision to win the title though a petition by Lebron's team has helped their fighter get a rematch for the title. Their first bout was decent and we're expecting another good contest, though we suspect we'll see a better Stamp than we saw the first time around.
The second of the OPBF title fights this month is a farcical one Super Middleweight champion Yuzo Kiyota (28-4-1, 26) battles Indonesian challenger Michael Speed Sigarlaki (16-15-2, 14). Kiyota, who is best known for losing in a WBO Super Middleweight world title fight against Robert Stieglitz, might not be world class but is a solid puncher who really should be defending his title against the best OPBF challengers out there., In Sigarlaki however we have a challenger who is 4-6 (3), according to boxrec, in his last 10. It's worth noting that the challenger was in Japan back in March, losing to OPBF/JBC Middleweight champion Akio Shibata and we can't see anything but a repeat of that journey for Sigarlaki.
Whilst Kiyota's OPBF title defense is the most significant “male” bout of the day it's not the highest level bout in Japan. Instead that's an IBF female Minimumweight world title bout between two former champions. The home fighter is Etsuko Tada (14-2-2, 4) who is looking to become a 2-time world champion as she battles former title holder Victoria Argueta (13-2, 4) in what appears to be a very matched bout. Both fighters have suffered recent losses, with Argueta losing 2 of her last 6 and Tada losing 2 of her last 4, but all of those loses have come to fellow world class fighters. This really could be a fantastic fight for fans in Kobe
On the same show as the Tada/Argueta bout fans will also get a chance to see the fantastic Hozumi Hasegawa (34-5, 15) continue his career, a career we thought was over last year. The former 2-weight world champion will be dipping his toes into the Super Featherweight division as he goes up against the world ranked Carlos Andres Ruiz Machuca (14-1, 5). On paper Machuca looks to be a young, fresh and promising fighter, coming into this on the back of his best win however there is some thinking that Hasegawa's team have hand picked the Mexican to help further Hasegawa's career.
Arguably the most famous Asian in action on December 11th is Filipino star Nonito Donaire (35-3, 23) who faces off against Puerto Rican Cesar Juarez (17-3, 13). The bout, which takes place in Puerto Rico is rumoured to be a potential WBO Super Bantamweight title clash, though that's unconfirmed at the moment. For Donaire this is a great chance to make a statement and move towards potentially big bouts with Carl Frampton, Scott Quigg and Julio Ceja whilst for Juarez it's a chance to notch up a third notable win in a row.
The first of two Super Featherweight title fights on December 14th sees OPBF champion Masayuki Ito (17-1-1, 8) battle against Shingo Eto (17-3-1, 9) in what seems like a brilliant fight on paper. Ito, who won the title last time out stopping Dai Iwai, will be looking to establish himself as another in the long like of brilliant Japanese Super Featherweights however Eto is a very capable fighter looking to claim his first title, after having previously come close to winning the Japanese title last year.
Talking about the Japanese Super Featherweight title we see that champion in action as well as Rikki Naito (13-0, 5) defends his title against the big punching Kenichi Ogawa (16-1, 14). Naito is tipped to go far though we've been less than impressed by his recent performances, which have seen him struggle past Eto, Ito and Nihito Arakawa. Ogawa on the other hand has impressed us and has racked up 8 straight stoppages, whilst also avenging his sole defeat. This is a boxer against a puncher and will almost certainly be a great contest with both men putting it all on the line.
Over the last 12 months we've seen the Bantamweight division change a lot with titles changes hands and new contenders breaking through. Arguably the most exciting of those contenders is the heavy handed Shohei Omori (15-0, 10) who looks to move towards a world title as he fights in a WBO world title eliminator against Filipino fighter Marlon Tapales (27-2, 10). The winner of this will get a shot at either Pungluang Sor Singyu or Jetro Pabustan in 2016 and is a key bout looking forward, and should be a final test for either man before being legitimately considered a threat at the top level.
On the same card as the good looking world title eliminator we will see a Japanese title fight as Omori's stablemate Kota Tokunaga (16-2, 11) defends his Japanese Lightweight title against the little known Kazuhiro Nishitani (15-3-1, 7). This will be the second defense from the heavy handed Tokunaga who will be favoured going into the bout though Nishitani will know there is no pressure on him to perform, in what is a huge, and somewhat undeserved, opportunity.
WBA “interim” Cruiserweight champion Beibut Shumenov (16-2, 10) looks to make the first defense of his title as he takes on former WBC champion Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (49-3-1, 35) in what is a really good match up. We know Shumenov, originally from Kazakhstan though now based in the US, is the favourite but Wlodarczyk will see this as a great chance to become a 3-time “world champion”. As a match up this is a good on and would legitimise Shumenov as a Cruiserweight,something his last win, against BJ Flores didn't really do.
History is made on December 19th as Sri Lankan fans in Colombo get the chance to see professional boxing for the first time since the country gained independence from the British in the late 1940's. The show will be headlined by a female world title fight as WBO Atomweight champion Nao Ikeyama (16-3-1, 4) looks to defend her title against Filipino Jujeath Nagaowa (13-15-1, 8). The bout is an historic one for the Sri Lankan people and great chance for the two fighters to help introduce the sport to a new audience.
WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (14-4-1, 7) isn't one of the sports biggest names but she is a potential star if she keeps racking up the wins and retaining her title. On December 20th she'll look to do both of those as she battles against former IBF champion Nancy Franco (14-6-2, 4) in one of the best female bouts of the year. Kuroki, 24, has the looks of a movie star and if she can keep building her career momentum there is a chance that she will help become the star that some were hoping Tomomi Takano would be. Franco however is a tough test for anyone and could well derail the Kuroki climb.
All Japan Rookie of the Year Finals
On the same day we get the 2016 All Japan Rookie of the Year finals which will feature a number of bouts with fighters looking to take a huge step towards becoming a star. We won't pretend any of the men are sensational yet, but some of the bouts are great, such as a Light Flyweight bout between Hiroyasu Shiga (6-0, 3) and Masahiro Sakamoto (5-0, 3) as well as a Featherweight bout between Shuma Nakazato (5-0, 4) and Teppei Kayunuma (6-0, 4). This really will be a treat for fans in Tokyo.
The final Japanese title fight before Christmas comes on December 21st and is a genuinely brilliant match up between two men who are both looking to prove themselves, whilst also being at very different stages in their career's. In one corner will be relative newbie Yusaku Kuga (11-1-1, 7, a really promising Watanabe Gym fighter with solid power and a point to prove, in the other corner will be veteran Yasutaka Ishimoto (26-8, 7), a Teiken fighter who will be getting his third shot at a Japanese title and will be hoping that it is third time lucky given that he's now years old and may not get another opportunity like this.
For those who celebrate Christmas, we wish you a great one before the big action returns on December 26th with an OPBF title fight, and then things really go into over-drive as the year comes to a close in wonderful style!
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).