The Chinese scene has shown some promise in recent years, and would love to see that moment continue over the next few years, as the country is a potential sleeping giant in the world of professional boxing. Sadly though it looks likely to remain a sleeping giant until promoters are able to really unearth some big time prospects on a regular basis.
This coming Saturday sees two promising local fighters in action,though whether they will kick start the revolution in Chinese fighter is yet to be seen.
One of those, in fact the main in the main event of the card, is 25 year old prospect Yongqiang Yang (8-0, 6) who will be looking to claim the WBC Asian Boxing Council Continental Lightweight as he takes on Indonesian foe Robert Kopa Palue (14-6-3, 4), who's most notable loss was a 9th round TKO loss to Hiroshige Osawa way back in 2012. Yang has shown a lot of promise, with a 3-0 (1) run in 2017 and should over-come the visitor here, but will need to take a huge step up if international fans are going to take note of him by the end of the year.
The other really promising local in action on this show is unbeaten Bantamweight Yelieqiati Nihemaituola (11-0-1,3), who at 23 has a lot of time to develop and mature. The Chinese hopeful went 3-0 (2) in 2017, seemingly finding his power, and will be looking to score a third straight stoppage as he takes on Indonesian journeyman Ichal Tobida (13-23-1, 8). Tobida is an out and out journeyman, travelling to Thailand to pick up losses on a regular basis, though did manage to score a very notable 6 round draw with the once promising Iwan Zoda. It's hard to imagine Tobida getting anything at all out of this, but it will be interesting to see how Nihemaituola deals with him.
The first Chinese show of 2018 is set to not include a single Chinese fighter, as Lutador Promotions, along with Danny Kelly Promotions hold the first of two Chinese based shows for them during the month. The show, which will take place in Jinan, is apparently set to be aired somewhere on the CCTV or CGTN network of channels.
The headline bout from the show will see recent WBO Cruiserweight world title challenger Michael Hunter (12-1, 8) take on former domestic level Mexican Light Middleweight Hugo Lomeli (20-12-1, 15), in a bout that looks genuinely inexcusable. At his best Lomeli was a limited fighter down at 154, or even 160, but at 35 and well above his best fighting weight questions need to be asked about this contest. Hunter is a very talented fighter, but should be looking at better bouts than this if he's to get a second world title fight some time soon.
In the co-feature fans will get the chance to see Javier Molina (17-2, 8) in action in a 10 round bout. Details on this bout are a bit unclear, though this will be Molina's first bout in almost 2 years as he begins the long road to rebuilding his career, following a 2016 loss to Jamal James.
On Monday we kick off a new year and for fans in the Japanese capital it will seem like nothing has chances as Kyoei put on a show at the Differ Ariake.
The show isn't as big as the two shows that ended 2017 but is still a notable one with a splattering of notable fighters.
Arguably the most distinguished of those fighters is Jun Yabuki (9-0, 4), who recently won the Japanese female Minimumweight title with a win over Fuka Komura. The 26 year old won't be defending her title, but will be in an 8 round bout, against a visiting Thai foe.
Yabuki is right in the middle of the card, despite her status as national champion. That's partly because she will be in action before the latest of the Kameda family to turn professional. That's Koki, Daiki and Tomoki's cousin Kyosuke Kameda (0-0) who kicks of his professional career with a bout against Shinnosuke Kimoto (2-1), who has won two bouts since a close loss on debut at the start of 2017.
The other bout on top of Yabuki's is the show's main event, which will see Joe Vlog (0-0) make his professional boxing debut against John Yano (2-3). The debutant is known in Japan for his youtube exploits, and saw his profile balloon in 2017 thanks to an exhibition contest against Koki Kameda on Abema TV, with Koki later taking the role of his trainer. A win for him here would be huge news and kick off a new joint deal with Kyoei and Abema. Yano, a Filipino based in Japan, appears to have been selected as a safe opponent for Vlog to shine against and this should be an easy win if the debutant wants any creditability going forward.
*Note - Joe Vlog is a name taken from the fighter's youtube, he may be fighting under an alternative name going forward
This Sunday closes out an incredibly long year for us boxing fans and does so in spectacular fashion with a trio of world title bouts, including a two mandatory title defenses by champions in their first defenses and a world title unification.
The first part of the world title triple header will see IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (8-0, 6) making his first defense of the title he won earlier this year as he takes on talented Nicaraguan challenger Carlos Buitrago (30-2-1-1, 17)). For the fast rising Kyoguchi, who won the title a little more than a year into his career, the bout is another big step up in class and this really does look like a baptism of fire for the youngster, who looked explosive whilst going to 6-0 (6) to begin his career. In Buitrago we'll see Kyoguchi up against a challenger in his 4th world title challenger, and it's likely that it's now or never for the man who was once regarded as the next Roman Gonzalez. The bout matches aggressive against skills and should be a very entertaining clash of styles.
The second part of the triple header is an all Japanese bout, as WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (15-1-2, 8) makes his first defense, following his shock upset over Zou Shiming in July. The new champion will be up against mandatory challenger Toshiyuki Igarashi (23-2-3, 12), a former WBC and Linear champion. Kimura really showed his will to win as he broke down the naturally more skilled Shiming and will be hoping to do the same here against the more experienced Igarashi, who will know it;s now or never if he's to become a 2-time world champion. Sadly fans who have followed Igarashi in recent times will be expecting head clashes to mar this bout, but on paper it's a very interesting and incredibly tough first defense for the Aoki gym fighter.
The main event of the triple header is one of the best match ups we've seen this year and pits WBA Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi (26-2-2, 12) against his IBF counter part Milan Melindo (37-2, 13) in a mouth watering world title unification bout. Coming in to this Taguchi is the longest active reigning champion at 108lbs, having held his title since the end of 2014 and racked up 6 defenses, but his form has been inconsistent and he's certainly frustrated at times during his reign, whilst seeking a big bout. For the technically superb Melindo this is his second defense, and sees him returning to Japan, where he won his title, with a chance to earn Fighter of the Year honours with an impressive performance. Since winning the title in May Melindo has beaten Hekkie Budler and had a career defining year, with a win here potentially putting a cherry on top. The winner will not only unify the WBA and IBF titles but also claim the Ring magazine title and be regarded by some as the de facto best in the division.
Also on this card will be former world title challenger Shingo Wake (22-5-2, 14), who is looking for his third successive win since being stopped by Jnathan Guman in 2016, and the excellent Masataka Taniguchi (8-2, 6), who's only losses have been razor thin ones in battles for the Japanese and OPBF Minimumweight titles. Both Wake and Taniguchi will be up against limited Thai foe
As with the last few years this year is set to end with a spate of Japanese action. The first of two big shows to end 2017 is in Yokohama, where Ohashi and Fuji TV put on an interesting looking show.
The main event of this year closer will be the end in the latest chapter of Naoya Inoue's (14-0, 12) career, as he makes his 7th, and likely final, defense of the WBO Super Flyweight title. The talented Japanese fighter had been ruining out of willing opponents and will close 2017 with a bout against the inform Frenchman Yoan Boyeaux (41-4, 26). On paper it looks good but the reality is that this is a huge step up in class and likely serves as a dummy run for the “Monster” before he moves up to Bantamweight in pursuit of a third divisional world title.
A second world title bout on this show will see WBC Light Flyweight champion Ken Shiro (11-0, 5) make his second defense, as he goes up against confident Panamanian visitor Gilberto Pedroza (18-3-2, 8), who fights in his first world title bout. The talented Ken Shiro has had a career defining year with wins over Ganigan Lopez and Pedro Guevara and closing out the year with a third win would, in fairness, put him on the fringes of the Fighter of the Year shortlist. As for Pedroza this is a huge opportunity to claim a world title and make a name for himself ahead of the near year.
A third title bout on this card will see OPBF Featherweight champion Satoshi Shimizu (4-0, 4) make his first defense as he looks to move towards a world title fight. The talented Japanese fighter, who came to international attention in 2012 when he claimed a Bronze medal at the London Olympics, will be up against Filipino challenger Eduardo Mancito (15-7-2, 9). The champion won the title in impressive fashion earlier this year, when he stopped Korean Sa Myung Noh and is expected to make an easy first defense here. Although limited Mancito is tough and is expected to get some rounds out Shimizu, who can prove whether his power is legitimate or not here.
In one of the leading support bouts Takuma Inoue (9-0, 2) will take on 2-time Japanese Bantamweight champion Kentaro Masuda (27-8, 15), in what looks likely to be a mismatch. The talented Takuma was supposed to fight for a world title a year ago, but an injury ruled him out and he now seems to be trying to get back to fully fitness and shake off any ring rust before moving back into the world title picture. Masuda is an exciting fighter, but with recent stoppage losses to Shohei Omori and Mark John Yap his limitations have been shown, and he's a fun but crude fighter who should be easily out boxed by Inoue.
A third Inoue on this card is the fast rising Koki Inoue (9-0, 8), who takes on Korean visitor Dong Hee Kim (8-1-2, 3). The Korean enters the bout as the Korean Light Welterweight champion and an OPBF ranked fighter and it's clear that Inoue is chasing titles, with this bout potentially opening the door for an OPBF title fight in 2018. Inoue has been very impressive, very exciting and very aggressive since his debut however the Korean has never been stopped, looks to be tough and durable and will not have travelled to just roll over to Inoue.
Also on this card as Ohashi novices Katsuya Yasuda (1-0, 1) and Kazuki Nakajima (2-0, 2), who will both be in 6 rounders and will be looking to have big 2018's.
A second Asian show will take place in Kazakhstan where we get a number of interesting, though lower key bouts.
One of the key bouts from the show will see once beaten Kazakh hopeful Firuza Sharipova (7-1, 4) battle against Belgian fighter Djemilla Gontaruk (13-4-1, 2) in a bout for the WBC silver Female Super Featherweight title. The bout looks like a good one on paper, but coming in to this the Kazakh has won 7 in a row whilst Gonturak has lost against every notable opponent she has faced, including a loss last time out to Ramon Kuehne and her wins have been against very limited foes.
Another title bout on this card will see Aidyn Yelzhanov (4-0, 3) take on Sergey Dudinsky (4-1, 3) for a WBC regional title at Super Bantamweight. The 24 year old Yelzhanov has impressed so far,but has been fighting at a very liw level and will have to show something new to over-come the hungry Dudinsky, who has won his last two.
One other bout of note will be the home coming, of sorts, for Light Heavyweight prospect Ali Akhmedov (10-0, 7), who takes on Ismat Eynullayev (12-2, 8). Akhmedov has fought 5 of his last 6 outside of Kazakhstan, where he is incidentally 5-0 (5), and will be looking to put on a show here. Eynullayev, from Azerbaijan, has won his last 3 but will not be expected to put up much of a challenge against the home town hero.
In the Russian capital fan will be able to see Russian Uzbek Ulugbek Khakberdiev (4-0, 2) look to build on his solid 2017 as he takes on Ugandan puncher Med Sebyala (17-10-1, 14). The unbeaten Kazakh has gone under the radar this year, despite stopping Dmitry Sukhotsky in September and looks to end his year with a 5th straight win. The 37 year old Sebyala has lost 2 of his last 3, but does appear to be a legitimate puncher and could chin check the powerful Kazakh.
This coming Thursday fight fans in Thailand get a handful of notable bouts.
The most notable of those bouts will see Thai teenager Stamp Kiatniwat (18-1, 6) take on Filipino visitor Macrea Gandionco (12-5-3, 7). The talented Stamp is riding a 3 fight winning run following his 2016 loss to Kazuto Ioka in a bout for the WBA Flyweight title. The visitor on the other hand has won just 1 of his last 5 bouts and is 0-3-1, with 3 stoppage losses in the Land of Smiles, with another loss expected here.
In Bangkok we'll get two Thai title bouts.
One of those bouts will see Chatchai Or Benjamas (8-10, 6) battle against Fahpituck Por Pakdee (7-4, 4) for the national Light Flyweight title. Chatchai has been stopped in 2 of his last 3, including a 3rd round TKO defeat to the debuting Lu Bin whilst Fahpituck has won just 1 of his last 5 bouts, and is a long way removed from a fighter who was once 6-0.
The other title bout will see the limited but heavy handed Rungpetch Saithonggym (5-4, 5) take on Saksith Yutthana Chaiyonggym (6-5, 4) for a Super Bantamweight title,though with both men only fighting a few days ago there is a chance the bout will now no longer take place.
In a strange match up in Thailand this coming Wednesday fight fans will be able to see Samson Dutch Boy Gym (43-0, 26) and Veeraphol Sahaprom (66-4-2, 46) both end long breaks from the ring, to face each other. The unbeaten Samson, now aged 45, hasn't fought since 2002 and is risking his unbeaten record against the former 2-time Bantamweight world champion, who has been retired since 2010 himself. In some ways this is a bit of a gimmick fight, but it is still a very intriguing event between two retired veterans.
This coming Tuesday we see a return to action for the first post-Christmas show in Asia, with the attention switching to Hyogo where Shinsei promotions put on an interesting gift of a card, with a Japanese title bout and a very good looking chief support bout, with some genuine significance.
The main event is a Japanese Minimumweight title bout, as unbeaten champion Reiya Konishi (14-0, 5) makes his second defense of the title, taking on #1 ranked domestic challenger Kenta Matsui (8-6, 1). The champion, who won his title earlier this year against Masataka Taniguchi, looked less than stellar in his first defense, against Shin Ono, and it's fair to say that he needs to shine here if he's to really make the title his own, and move towards a world title fight in early 2018. On paper Matsui looks an under-qualified challenger but he has scored two notable wins in his last 3 bouts and could prove to be a banana skin here for the unbeaten but unspectacular champion.
The leading support bout will see Japanese ranked Lightweight Masashi Wakita (8-5-2, 3) take on Japanese ranked Super Featherweight Naotoshi Nakatani (10-1, 6) in a rematch of a bout from a year ago. In their first bout Nakatani won a competitive decision but since then Wakita has scored back to back wins, and looks to be getting some momentum going. On the other hand Nakatani was upset last time out, suffering a 6th round TKO loss to Accel Sumiyoshi, and hasn't won a bout since his win over Wakita 12 months ago.
In another supporting bout fans will see the talented Ryo Kosaka (15-3-1, 7) take on a Thai foe. Coming in to this Kosaka is riding an 8 fight winning run and should be fighting for the Japanese Super Bantamweight title next year, if he comes through this one without suffering any sort of serious injury.
As well as the action in Japan fans may also be interested to know that Swiss based Japanese fighter Aniya Seki (32-3-2, 5) will be in action, as she battles Hungarian foe Judit Hachbold (4-2). Although Seki is a flawed fighter it's hard to imagine her losing here to the visitor.
So Christmas is this coming Monday, Turkey, alcohol, presents, fun and family. On Sunday however we have fights in Japan as the sport delivers once more before the big day.
The more notable of two shows comes from Kadoma City in Osaka and will feature a number of notable fighters.
One of those notable fighters is second generation hopeful Juiki Tatsuyoshi (6-0, 4), who will be facing off with a Thai visitor in the main event of the card. The bout with Tatsuyoshi is his first to be scheduled over the 8 round distance, and will actually be aired on G+, who appear happy to push him as a star in the making, thanks to his still hugely popular father Joichiro Tatsuyoshi. This will be Tatsuyoshi's first bout of the year, though comes after a number of injuries and the birth of his first child, so expect a lot of substories being told by the TV crew, but the key is for the unbeaten Osakan to win, and move into 2018 with his unbeaten record intact.
In the co-feature we'll see former world title challenger Hiroshige Osawa (32-4-4, 19) look to take a huge step towards a second world title fight, as he takes on world ranked Nicaraguan Alexander Mejia (8-0, 4). Internationally Osawa is best known for his 1-sided loss to Oscar Valdez but has bounced back since then with two wins, including a wide decision win over the then unbeaten Julio Cortez. Coming into this Meija has never fought outside of Nicaragua and comes into the bout with split decision wins over Lesther Lara and Ramiro Blanco as well as his unbeaten record.
One other bout of note on this card will see Shohei Kawashima (15-1-2, 3) face off with Gaku Aikawa (8-5-1, 2) in what looks likely to be a pretty interesting match up. The once beaten Kawashima has only fought once since his narrow defeat to Cristian Mijares in October 2016 and is a very talented fighter, who may well suffer from inactivity here, after 9 months out of the ring. Although his record doesn't show it Aikawa is a very decent lower tier domestic fighter and could well take advantage of Kawashima's inactivity here.
The other show comes from Osaka city, and features some notable fighters, but far less than the other card.
The main event here sees the unbeaten Takuya Uehara (13-0, 8) take on Takuya Yamamoto (8-7, 4) in what looks like a mismatch on paper. The unbeaten 22 year old Southpaw has shown traits of being one to watch, but has been matched lightly, with his best win being a decision over Filipino Markquil Salvana. Uehara is young, and for that we can let him off for the poor competition, but it's starting to feel like he's ready for a step up. Yamamoto is a limited fighter but is much better than his record indicates, and he has given Shingo Kawamura and Yuta Uetani tough bouts in recent times, though was dominated by Satoshi Shimizu back in May, who stopped him inside 2 minutes.
In the chief support bout fans will see the touted Kazuaki Miyamoto (4-1, 3) take on a Thai foe, in what should be a straight forward win for Miyamoto. Miyamoto was stopped earlier this year, by Shuzo Inada, but should be able to record his second win since that loss.
The main show this coming Saturday, for us at least, is the annual All-Japan Rookie of the Year final which will be held at the Korakuen Hall and feature 12 bouts, from Minimumweight to Middleweight. The event is so significant in the Japanese boxing calendar that it will be aired, live, on G+ in one of their final pre-Christmas shows of 2017.
Whilst the show is a really significant one we won't go through all the bouts, just a few that stand out for us.
One of those bouts is the Minimumweight contest, which will seen teenagers Retsu Akabane (2-0, 1) and Yuga Inoue (5-0-1) clash. Akabane is an 18 year old who claimed the Rookie of the East by beating two unbeaten men and really not losing a round on route. He looked fantastic and very promising. The West Japanese fighter is more experienced with 6 bouts but he could only score a draw in his last outing and does appear to lack power, which could be an issue against someone as talented as Akabane.
Another bout between unbeaten men takes place at Featherweight, with Ren Sasaki (5-0, 3) taking on Shuto Takase (4-0-1, 1). Aged 22 Sasaki is the East Japan champion and comes into this bout on the back of a big win over Rotu Kiyota, though has had questions asked of him in other bouts. Takase is the slightly younger man at 21 and has had a number of very close bouts, despite those close ones he's unbeaten and will come into this with plenty of confidence.
We're expecting the most explosive bout to be at Super Featherweight as we get two punchers colliding. In one corner will be the once beaten Zirolian Riku (8-1, 8), a 29 year old who won the East Japan Rookie of the year whilst the other corner will have 18 year banger Musashi Mori (4-0, 4). Riku has fought 24 rounds as a professional, since debuting in November 2014. He lost on his debut but has since reeled off 8 straight stoppages including 3 in the opening round. Mori on the other hand has fought just 6 rounds, he has never gone beyond round 2 and has looked like a vicious southpaw so far since his debut juster over a year ago. This bout will not be one you want to look away from and will not be one that is likely to go to the final bell.
At Light Welterweight we see 20 year old Munetaka Kihara (3-1, 1) take on 32 year old Japanese based American Marcus Smith (4-0, 4). The youngster lost on debut in November 2016 but has since reeled off 3 wins and got his career motoring whilst winning the East Japan Rookie of the Year. He's still perhaps a little physically immature but with 15 rounds under his belt he has proven his stamina at this level and can go 4 rounds. Smith has taken his 4 wins in a combined 6 rounds and the Southpaw is a very heavy handed fighter who has never seen the start of round 3. This is going to be Kihara's skills against Smith's power in what should be a very intriguing bout.
As well as the Japanese rookies we'll also see Filipino rookie Carl Jammes Martin (6-0, 5) in action, with the talented 19 year old looking to build on an excellent year. Martin will be up against Thailand's Chatpayak Sithkopon (14-18, 12) in a bout for the Interim WBC Asian Boxing Council Continental Bantamweight title. The promising Filipino has scored 3 wins already this year, and claimed his first title, but a win here could help him begin a relationship with the WBC. The Thai visitor on the other hand has had an ultra busy 2017 and has gone 8-4 in 2017, though it should be noted he is 0-3 when fighting outside of Thailand this year.
In India fight fans will be able to see local hero Vijender Singh (9-0, 7) defending his regional WBO titles against hard hitting visitor Ernest Amuzu (23-2, 21), from Ghana. For Singh the bout looks like a potential chin check against a heavy handed and tough visitor. It's worth noting that the visitor has fought very low level competition, but his power does seem to be effective at that lower level and he will come into this one with a lot of confidence. For Singh the bout is another chance to shine in front of his local fans, but it's hard to see him moving towards a world title fight, and given his age he doesn't have time to waste on bouts like this.