This coming Saturday had promises of a lot for fight fans in Asia, with a brilliant looking show in Tokyo, running alongside a bout in Australia featuring a Japanese fighter in a sure fire thriller. Sadly Coronavirus saw the Japanese show being cancelled and an injury saw Jacob Ng pull out of his fight with Valentine Hosokawa.
Despite the changes we still have a decent amount to look forward to though!
The best of the action, at least in our eyes, is from Russia, where we see several really good bouts, and a very talented young prospect.
One of the best bouts on the card will see the unbeaten Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov (15-0, 9) battle against former world champion Tomas Rojas (51-18-1-1, 34), in what will be Yaqubov's third defense of the WBC International Super Featherweight title. The unbeaten Russian based Tajik fighter notched 3 wins last year and appears to be heading towards a big fight, and Rojas should be a decent. Rojas, who won the WBC Super Flyweight title way back in 2010, is a true veteran of the sport but is very much a man who has seen better days and at 39 father time is snapping at his heels.
In a very attractive looking bout we'll see Russian Mark Urvanov (17-2-1, 9) take on exciting Kyrgyz Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu (15-0, 8) in what could be the bout of the weekend. The 23 year old Urvanov enters this bout on a 6 fight unbeaten run, including a stoppage over former world title challenger Evgeny Chuprakov and will be entering with plenty of confidence. Uulu on the other hand is unbeaten and has been scoring solid wins over the likes of Jon Jon Estrada and Mike Tawatchai in recent bouts. This could well be a genuinely fantastic little fight, and it's been previewed by George Delis here
A third bout of note will see talented youngster Dmitry Yun (3-0) take on Stanislav Maksyuchenko (2-1-1, 1). Yun, a Russian-Uzbek, is a genuine joy to watch and has an excellent amateur background, though does lack power. Ukrainian fighter Maksyuchenko shouldn't be much of a threat to the talented Yun, and is more than a year removed from his last win.
In Victoria fans will be able to see a local hopeful take on an upset minded Filipino. The bout in question will see Kayne Clarke (9-0, 6) look to score his fifth straight stoppage as he takes on Pinoy puncher Rodynie Rafol (14-7-2, 7) in a bout for the IBO Asia Pacific Lightweight title. Clarke has been impressive in terms of results, but this is a very clear step up in class for him. Rafol, who is now based in Australia, has scored back to back upsets coming in to this, stopping James MacDonald and Tyson Lantry and shouldn't be seen as a push over for Clarke
New South Wales, Australia
Staying in Australia we'll see the unbeaten Sam Goodman (6-0, 3), a 21 year old and a genuine bright hope for Australian boxing, take on former world title contender Noldi Manakane (33-30-4, 18) from Indonesia. Goodman has looked fantastic so far, and a TKO win over Claudevan Sese last year is impressive and something we see as a real marker of how good Goodman is, putting him on par with Yuki Yamauchi. Manakane was once a serviceable regional level fighter, and on his day can show a bit of grit, but we don't see him lasting with Goodman for the scheduled 8 rounds.
This weekend is a big one for fans of Asian boxing! The biggest show comes from Aichi on Saturday but that's not all we have, with notable action in the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Russia!
The big card in Aichi, will be headlined by a world title fight, and will have support bouts featuring a fast rising local prospect and a former world title challenger. It's not a monster card, but it is a very good one.
The main event will see 3-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka (13-0, 7) defending the WBO Flyweight title against mandatory challenger Jonathan Gonzalez (22-2-1, 13). For Tanaka this will be his second defense of the title he took from Sho Kimura last year, and sees him looking to build on his win over Ryoichi Taguchi earlier this year. For Gonzalez this will be his first world title fight, and finally a chance for him to live up to the potential he showed as an amateur. This should be a really high speed and very technical bout, but the champion will clearly be the favourite. Interestingly if Tanaka wins there are murmurs he could be set for another step up in weight and another world title. Our preview of this world title bout can be read here Tanaka returns for next defense, faces "Bomba" Gonzalez
In an excellent supporting bout we'll see the hard hitting and wonderfully exciting Kento Hatanaka (9-0, 9) take on world ranked Filipino fighter Jaysever Abcede (19-8, 12). The unbeaten Hatanaka has needed just 32 rounds to get to 9-0 and already looks like he's a star in the making with major titles clearly in his future. On paper Abcede should be a straight forward step up for Hatanaka hwever the Filipino is no push over and he has regularly proven to be a banana skin, with upset wins against the likes of Pigmy Kokietgym, Stamp Kiatniwat and Seigo Yuri Akui. This should be a really good test for Hatanaka. Our preview of this bout can be read here Hatanaka steps up in class for Abcede test!
Another notable name in a supporting role is former world title challenger Genesis Servania (32-2, 15), who will be fighting for the first time since he lost to Carlos Castro back in February. The talented Japanese based Filipino is getting a clear confidence builder here as he takes on limited Indonesian foe Erick Deztroyer (12-5-1, 3), in a clear mismatch. Don't be surprised if this one ends very early!
A much more interesting match up on this card will see the limited but hard hitting Kanta Fukui (6-2, 5) take on the very talented and promising Shuma Nakazato (8-1-2, 6). Fukui came runner up in the West Japan Rookie of the Year last year, losing a razor thin decision to Takuya Ota in the final. Since then he has bounced back with a single win, but will be stepping up massively here. The 22 year old Nakazato is genuine talent, and someone who should be on the radar of hardcore Japanese. He's the son of former world title challenger Shigeru Nakazato, and has already held his own with Hironori Mishiro, losing a competitive decision to the current OPBF champion and beaten Lorence Rosas. Although in the middle of the card this is a very interesting match up, and one that could end in explosive fashion.
Also on this card will be Japanese Youth Super Flyweight champion Yuto Nakamura (10-5, 7) who battles in an 8 round bout against Indonesian Muhammad Wahid (4-2, 1). Wahid impressed us, in some ways, this past May when he stood and took a 6 round pounding from Lap Cheon Cheong in Hong Kong, and he showed his bravery. We suspect that Wahid will again have to be brave, but can't see him lasting 8 round here.
Metro Manila, Philippines
Staying in Asia we also get a notable card in Metro Manila, featuring a great mix of fighters from world class to prospect level.
The world title bout, or rather the WBO "interim" world title bout, will see John Riel Casimero (27-4, 18) defend his Interim Bantamweight title against the limited Cesar Ramirez (18-3, 11). The talented Casimero, a true road warrior, won the title in April and will be looking to make his first defense here. Ramirez is yet to prove he belongs any where near world level, especially in this talent stacked division that we currently have. Although can blow hot and cold, it's hard to imagine him really being tested here. Our preview of this bout is available to read here Casimero set to face Ramirez in first interim title defense
In a pretty interest all Filipino bout between regional contender types we'll see Vincent Astrolabio (13-3, 9) take on Kevin Aseniero (9-2-1, 5). Astrolabio will be defending the WBO Oriental Bantamweight title, which he won in Indonesian back in April, for the first time. Aserniero on the other hand will be looking to stretch a 4 fight unbeaten run.
The most notable prospect on this card is former amateur standout Charly Suarez (2-0, 2), who takes a big step up in class to face the under-rated Virgil Puton (17-12-2, 8). The 30 year old Suarez, who made his debut in January, will be looking to get his career back on track after a 5 month break from action. He's incredibly talented, but doesn't have time to waste. In Puton we have a true regional journeyman, who picks up losses, but pushes good fighters, such as Ye Joon Kim and Shuya Masaki. This is a tough test for Suarez, but one he must pass if he's to make any noise at all in the pro ranks.
Amazing we'll have a third world title fight, with WBO Minimumweight champion Vic Saludar (19-3, 10) making his second defense as he takes on mandatory challenger Wilfredo Mendez (13-1, 5) in Puerto Rico. The under-rated champion, who won the belt in July 2018, was successful this past February when he beat Masataka Taniguchi in his first defense and now fights outside of Asia for the first time. Although not a major global name Saludar is very talented, heavy handed and has under-rated boxing skills. For Mendez this will be his first world title fight, and it looks like a massive step up in class for the talented, though rather negative, Puerto Rican hopeful. This could be a very interesting clash of styles, though will of course be over-shadowed by the other world title bouts earlier in the day. Our full preview of this bout can be read here Vic Saludar and Wilfredo Mendez clash for WBO title!
In Russia we get a pretty big card headlined by Sergey Kovalev and Anthony Yarde. Although that bout doesn't have an Asian interest the under-card does, and it has quite a few in fact with several different bouts featuring an unbeaten Central Asian fighter.
Arguably the most interesting of the Central Asian hopefuls on this card is the always fun to watch Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu (14-0, 7) defending his WBA Asia Super Featherweight title. Originally he was pencilled in to face off with Sibusiso Zingange (13-3-2, 3), though Zingange was removed from the bout and at the time of writing, his replacement hasn't been named. Uulu, whilst flawed, would have been strongly favoured to beat the South African.
Another really interesting bout will see Uzbek Super Middleweight Azizbek Abdugofurov (12-0, 4) risk his WBC Silver title against once beaten Russian Andrey Sirotkin (16-1, 5). The talented Uzbek has been out of the ring since beating Wuzhati Nuerlang last November, and has lost much of the early momentum his career once had. Despite that he will be favoured over the 34 year old Sirotkin, who is best known for being stopped last October by John Ryder in the UK.
Unbeaten Kyrgyzstan born Russian based Erzhan Turgumbekov (6-0-1, 2) looks to bounce back from a draw against Javokhirbek Karimov just a few weeks ago, as he takes on unbeaten Ukrainian teenager Heorhii Lashko (9-0, 5). The unbeaten Turgumbekov rushed to 6-0 in just over 13 months but the draw last time out certainly slowed his momentum. Lashko on the other hand scored his biggest win in March, when he beat Ryo Takenaka in China, and will be looking for his 5th win of the year here. Takenaka aside there is little on his record of any note at all.
Kazakh Meiirim Nursultanov (11-0, 8) will also be looking to extend his unbeaten record as he takes on the once beaten Artur Osipov (15-1, 10). The 26 year old Kazakh, who is managed by Egis Klimas, has been out of the ring since beating Luis Hernanez in March, and will be looking to impress on what will be his first bout outside of the US in close to 2 years. Osipov on the other hand is coming in to this bout after a loss in March to Evgeny Terentiev, and will likely be low on confidence, for what looks like his toughest bout so far, on paper.
Another bout on this Russian card worthy of interest ins a contest between Aleksei Papin (11-0, 10) and Ilunga Makabu (25-2, 24) in what is a must watch bout on paper, promising a lot of explosive fireworks and a real feeling that this one will not see the final bell. A full preview of this bout is available here Dynamite meets TNT as Papin and Makuba clash!
This coming Saturday is a crazy day in Asian boxing, with the welcome return of one series of shows from Thailand as well as notable and large shows featuring Asian fighters in the Philippines and Russia as well as other action!
Metro Manila, Philippines
The most interesting card of the day is an MP Promoted card from Metro Manila, featuring a couple of world title eliminators, along with some other interesting supporting bouts.
One of the world title eliminators comes at Bantamweight, where Michael Dasmarinas (28-2-1, 19) and Kenny Demecillo (14-4-2, 8) battle to become the IBF mandatory challenger at 118lbs. Of the two men Dasmarinas is the more experienced and more proven man, but Demecillo has proven to be capable of upsets in the past and will know that Dasmarinas looked less than his best last time out, being gifted a draw with Manyo Plange. A very interesting bout, with real significance in the packed Bantamweight division. Our full in depth preview of this contest can be read here - Demecillo and Dasmarinas clash in eliminator!
Another world title eliminator on this card is an IBF Minimumweight eliminator, as Samuel Salva (16-0, 10) and Rene Mark Cuarto (16-1-1, 9) battle for the right to become the mandatory challenger. This is, on paper, more interesting than the Bantamweight bout due to how similar the records of the two men are, but will likely get over-looked in the west due to the weight class. Both will be aware that they could book a bout with Deejay Kriel with a win here, and that will drive both on in what could be a real classic. An indepth preview of this bout can be read here Salva and Cuarto battle in eliminator
In supporting bouts we'll see Singaporean fighter Muhamad Ridhwan (11-1, 8) take on Landy Cris Leon (11-18-5, 5), in what should be a good confidence building bout for Ridhwan after a loss to Paulus Ambunda last September.
Other supporting bouts will include Chinese prospect Lei Wang (2-0, 1) battling Adam Diu Abdulhamid (13-7, 5), in a tough test for the unbeaten novice, a brilliant all-Filipino match up between Ronnie Baldonado (13-1-1, 9) and Elias Joaquino (12-3-2, 6) and a potentially very fun contest between Orlie Silvestre (12-5-1, 8) and Joel Taduran (8-10-2, 2).
As well as the Filipino show there's also a stacked RCC Promotions show in Russia.
One of the main bouts here will see Tajik born Russian Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (13-0, 10) battle against South African Rofhiwa Maemu (18-7-2, 12), in what will be Rakhimov's third defense of the IBO Super Featherweight title. On paper this doesn't look great, but a lot of that is due to Maemu's 7 losses. Whilst that is notable we do need to put it into context and explain that 5 of those came in his first 11 bouts, and he has since gone 14-2. It should however be noted that Rakhimov is in amazing form and is expected to win and go on to much bigger and better things in the near future.
Russian based Kyrgyzstan born fighter Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu (13-0, 6) will be expecting his next win as he takes on Thai veteran Mike Tawatchai (45-12-2, 28), who will be fighting for the 61st time as a professional. At his best Tawatchai could be a good test for Uulu, but at the age of 33 and more than 3 years removed from a win of note it's hard to see Tawatchai being much of a threat for the unbeaten hopeful.
Other Asian fighters involved on this card include Uzbek born prospect Mukhammad Shekhov (3-0, 2), Kyrgyz fighter Erzhan Turgumbekov (5-0, 1), Filipino puncher Jon Jon Estrada (11-5-1, 10) and highly touted Uzbek fighters Makhmud Gaipov (2-0, 1) and Elnur Abduraimov (3-0, 3).
Bang Phun, Thailand
We return to the Workpoint Studio for the first WP Boxing show of 2019 and although the details aren't totally clear we do know that the show will feature hotly tipped Apichet Petchmanee (2-0, 2), who will be taking on Shota Suito (11-9-1, 1) for a WBC regional silver title. Apichet is one of the best talented in Thailand, and finers crossed he will be kept busy in 2019, because at the age of 2019 he sadly doesn't have much time to waste. Unfortunately this bout does look to be a step backwards for the Thai, but picking up some WBC title could open doors for him in the future.
We have also been informed that Thai based Dutch fighter Nick Frese (8-0, 6) is expected to be on this card.
Johore Bahru, Malaysia
We're also expecting a card to take place in Malaysia, which again lacks in terms of details. The one bout that is listed for this show is a WBC Asian Boxing Council silver Super Middleweight title bout, with unbeaten local Adli Hafidz (5-0, 2) taking on Indonesian foe Bambang Rusiadi (9-8, 4), who is 0-5 outside of Malaysia.
Over in the US we get an excellent match up as Filipino journeyman Ricky Sismundo (35-12-3, 17) hits the road again and takes on unbeaten Russian puncher Maxim Dadashev (12-0, 10). On paper this looks like a mismatch but the reality is that Sismundo is among the very best journeymen on the planet and the 31 year old has picked up upset wins against the likes of Yoshitaka Kato, Ghislain Maduma, Akihiro Kondo and Shuhei Tsuchiya. Dadashev is a great talent, but this should be a very good test for the Russian puncher.
The most notable card for us this coming Saturday is in Ekaterinburg, where we will see several promising Central Asian fighters in action.
The most notable bout will see Russian based Kyrgyzstan born Super Featherweight hopeful Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu (12-0, 6) facing off with hard hitting Filipino Jon Jon Estrada (11-4-1, 10). Uulu looks to be a real prospect, and is coming in to this bout on the back of wins over Leonardo Padilla and Aristides Perez. Despite those wins the unbeaten man has been down a number of times, and that could be his biggest problem. Estrada is flawed, can be stopped and can be outboxed himself, but he's a serious puncher and recent wins over Brian Lobetania and Tasuku Nakagawa show that he is a real danger man at this level. This could be a very interesting bout.
One of the other central Asian's on this card is Uzbek Sardor Muzaffarov (3-1, 2), who goes up against veteran Andrei Isayeu (30-14, 9). The 23 year old Muzaffarov has notched up two wins since suffering his maiden defeat and will be taking a big step up here, to face off with a very well travelled 38 year old who had gone with a number of notable names, like Rendall Munroe, Oleg Yefimovych and Kevin Mitchell. Although this is a step up, it is worth noting that Isayeu is 1-9 in his last 10 going back more than 3 years.
Another Uzbek on this card is Jaloliddin Uktamov (3-1, 2), who faces off with the unbeaten Timur Pashaliev (1-0-2, 1) of Russia. This is an interesting novice match up that should be competitive, though both men are so early in their career's that it's hard to say too much, especially given the level of competition both men have faced so far.
It's also been reported that Makhmud Gaipov (1-0, 1) will be on this show as well, though details of his bout haven't yet been announced.
Over in Texas we'll see a couple of promising US based Kazakh prospects.
One of those prospects is Iskander Kharsan (4-0, 4), who takes on fellow unbeaten Jorge Ramos (6-0-1, 3) in a bout for the WBC Youth Youth Intercontinental Super Bantamweight title. Kharsan made his debut in July 2017 and has looked destructive so far, but has been matched very softly so far with Manuel Rubalcava being his toughest opponent so far. The 19 year old Ramos actually debuted against the aforementioned Rubalcava back in July 2017. His competition has also been poor so far, though did step up last time out, and fought to a draw with Eric Manriquez
Kharsan's countryman Askat Zhantursynov (2-0, 2) is being matched easier on this card as he takes on Michael Coronado (1-1-1). The Kazakh Cruiserweight debuted in July of this year and is staying active, though could certainly do with a step up in class next year. Coronado is yet to face a fighter with a win, and we suspect he'll come up very short here. Coronado's opponents so far have done little to suggest he has a chance against Zhantursynov.
Also in the US, albeit in California, we'll see the professional debut of former Japanese amateur standout Shokichi Iwata (0-0), who is basing his career in the USA during it's formative years, something we don't usually see from Japanese fighters. The hope for 2019 is to keep Iwata busy, but we suspect his debut will be a pretty simple bout, as he takes on 29 year old American Joel Bermudez (0-1), who was stopped in 71 seconds on debut in August.
In the Philippines we'll get a pretty notable card, featuring a trio of title bouts which were originally stated to take place on December 7th but appears to have been pushed back a day.
The main event of the show will see former world title challengers collide for the PBF Minimumweight title. The bout will see Pedro Taduran (12-2, 9) go up against Jeffrey Galero (15-7, 8) in what could a very good action bout. Both men have come up short to WBC world champion Wanheng Menayothin, but neither embarrassed themselves against the unbeaten Thai. Taduran's not fought since losing to Wanheng earlier this year whilst Galero has gone 6-4 since facing the Thai, though all 4 losses have been in Japan with one of them being a TKO loss to the excellent Tsubasa Koura. Taduran will be the favourite, but this is no gimme for the 22 year old.
A second PBF title bout takes place at Bantamweight, as the unbeaten Denmark Quibido (8-0, 5) takes on Joel Taduran (8-10-1, 2). The 22 year old Quibido is slowly stepping up the quality of his opposition, and this is a good step forward, but a step forward that he will be expected to make with no real issues. Taduran has really lacked form recently, going 1-8 in his last 9, with losses to the likes of Toshiyuki Igarashi, Junto Nakatani and Mark Anthony Barriga, with his last win coming almost 2 years ago against the very limited Noel Guliman. Hard to see anything but a win for Quibido here.
The least significant of the title bouts will see Kevin Aseniero (7-2, 4) take on Jayar Diama (7-16-7, 3) for the vacant LuzProBA Super Flyweight title. Of the two men it's the experienced Diama who is more well known, having fought in Thailand, Japan and China, and despite his record he is actually a good test at the type of level, with a "potential banana skin" feel about him. Aseniero has the much better record on paper, but has lost 2 of his last 3, and will know that another slip up here will be a major set back. The reality is that Aseniero should be favoured, but he will have to work for a win here.
Seoul, South Korea
There is also a small South Korean card. Sadly it's a show really lacking in quality, and the stand out bout is a 6 round contest between Tae Yun Baek (2-0-1, 1) and Seung Hee Lee (2-4, 1) in what doesn't look like a particularly interesting fight, if we're being honest. The good news however is that the Korean scene does, finally, seem to be picking up and we are seeing more and more Korean cards, even if some are really weak like this one.
On the subject of Korean's it's worth noting that Korean Hopeful Deok No Yun (2-0, 1) will take on the debuting Regan Slade (0-0) in Australia. This is Yun's second bout of the year, with the other also being in Australia, and it would be nice to see a Korean making a mark down under. Sadly we're really unconvinced by how much promise Yun really has and he will certainly have to show more in upcoming fights, if he's to be regarded as an actual prospect.
There isn't much action this coming Friday but there are a number of Asian prospects in action.
The most notable of those prospects is the very talented and very exciting Canadian based Kazakh Sadriddin Akhmedov (3-0, 3), who takes a massive step up in class to take on Bruno Leonardo Romay (21-5, 18). The 20 year old Akhmedov, who is fighting out of Quebec, was a sensational amateur at youth level and already appears to be on the fast track in the professional ranks, thats despite only making his debut this past April. Whilst this is a big step up it does seem like Akhmedov's team are confident and his next bout is pencilled in for October. Argentinian 30 year old Romay is heavy handed and tough, and should pose a very serious threat to Akhmedov. Romay has only been stopped once in 26 bouts, and that was all the way back in his 4th bout, since then he has faced mostly limited opposition, but was able to go 10 rounds with Zhankosh Turarov last September.
As well as Akhmedov's fight in Canada there will also be a couple of bouts of note in Russia.
For us the most interesting bout will see Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu (11-0, 5) take on Mirzhan Zhaxylykov (10-3, 4). Uulu, originally from Kyrgyzstan though now based in Russia, has been slowly stepping up the quality of his opposition though was pushed all the way last time out by Leonardo Padilla which perhaps showed his team that he needs a step backwards. Kazakh foe Zhaxylykov hasn't fought in almost 18 months, and was stopped in his last 2 bouts, so he shouldn't serve as much of a test for Uulu.
A more promising Kazakh on thus card will be Stanislav Kalitskiy (4-0, 3). Sadly however he hasn't had his opponent for the card announced at the time of writing.
Busan, South Korea
In Asia it's self there will be a low key card in Busan, featuring a couple of title fights.
One of those title fights will see former OPBF title challenger Jin Wook Lim (10-5-5, 3) take on Filipino visitor Jess Rhey Waminal (11-2-1, 6) in a bout for the vacant WBA Asia Bantamweight title. Both men have come up short against their most notable opponents, with Lim losing to the likes of Shohei Kawashima and Shun Kubo whilst Waminal has lost to Ben Mananquil and Carlo Demecillo, however they should make for a very interesting match up together.
The second title bout will see big punching Middleweight hopeful Sung Jae Jo (6-0, 5) take on Jong Min Bang (3-7-1) in a bout for the vacant Korean Middleweight title. The 23 year old Jo has shown promise and has been moved relatively well for a Korean domestic level fighter, and should be strongly favoured here. Unfortunately Bang has been stopped in his last 3, and should pose no real threat to the rising youngster.
Another bout on this card will see 31 year old Tae San Kil (5-0, 3) battle against Thai visitor Chaiwat Mueanphong (4-2, 2) in a bout scheduled for 6 rounds. It's hard to see anything but a win for the unbeaten man, though hopefully this will open doors to more meaningful bouts in the near future.
This coming Sunday is set to be a busy day for fight fans following the Asian boxing scene. There is 3 cards in Japan and a number of Asian fighters in action in Russia.
The most notable of the Japanese cards comes from Kobe where fans will get a Japanese title fight at Minimumweight, with both of the fighters involved looking to claim the vacant title.
That title bout will see the under-rated Ryoki Hirai (10-4-1, 4) battle against former multi-time world title challenger Shin Ono (21-9-3, 5) for the vacant Japanese Minimumweight title. These two are ranked #1 and #2 by the JBC and are fighting for the title that Reiya Konishi vacated earlier this year, so that he could move up in class to fight for the WBA title. Hirai's record is a bit of a mess, but that's because he started his career 3-3-1, before rebuilding and going 7-1. In recent bouts Hirai has beaten the likes of Takumi Sakae and Ryoya Ikema and has really deserved a shot at the title and a chance to shine. As for Ono he has really struggled in recent years, going 4-4-1 in his last 9, though has mixed at a high level with losses to Katsunari Takayama, Kenichi Horikawa, Knockout CP Freshmart and Reiya Konishi. The bout really pits Hirai's youth and hunger against Ono's experience and should be very interesting.
In a supporting bout we'll see Japanese and OPBF ranked Giraffe Kirin Kanda (11-2, 6) take on the limited but heavy handed Tatsuya Miyazaki (9-10-1, 9). Although Kanda should be favoured he has has been stopped before and Miyazaki will have the belief that he has the power to stop Kanda, just like Yuki Nagano did in 2015.
Staying in Hyogo, though going from Kobe to Kawanishi, fight fans will be able to see the next Morioka card, featuring several noteworthy fighters in what will likely be some horrific mismatches.
The main event of the card will see former OPBF title challenger Hinata Maruta (6-1, 5) battle against Indonesian visitor Arega Yunian (6-9, 1), in what looks like a really disappointing match up for the talent Maruta. Despite losing to Hidenori Otake last November Maruta is an exceptional talent and a bout like this will do little to help build that talent, and it feels like he would have been much better off taking on a domestic level fighter than someone like Yunian. The Indonesian has already suffered 6 stoppage losses, all of which have come when he's fought on the road and include stoppages to Ryo Matsumoto and Takashi Igarashi in Japan
As well as Maruta fans will also be able to see former world title challenger Warlito Parrenas (25-7-1, 22) and former Japanese Youth title challenger Naoto Iwai (4-2, 2) both in action, as they each face Thai opponents. Parrenas will be seeking his second win since a 2015 loss to Naoya Inoue, in a bout for the WBO Super Flyweight title, whilst Iwai will be looking to put a poor 2017 behind and begin to rebuild his career.
As well as the action in Hyogo there will also be a low key card in Fukuoka. This card is a pretty weak one in all honesty, but will be headlined by former WBO Minimumweight champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (19-6-6, 7), who will look to bounce back following back-to-back defeats to Ryuya Yamanaka and Wanheng Menayothin. The former champion, will be up against domestic foe Yuto Takahashi (8-3, 4) in what looks to be a big step down in class. Despite stepping down in levels Fukuhara does deserve an easy one given his run from winning the Japanese title in 2015 to today has seen him facing 3 unbeaten men, two current world champions and two other fringe world class fighters. Takahashi hasn't shown he can compete at the top of the domestic level and although this is a big chance for him to make a mark, it's very hard to see how he can over-come the under-rated Fukuhara.
As well as the Japanese action there is also a lot of Asian interest in a Russian card, with several notable fighters in action.
The main event of the card looks set to be a special kind of bout, as Indonesian warrior Daud Yordan (37-3-0-1, 25) takes on unbeaten Russian Pavel Malikov (13-0, 5) in a really good looking 12 round bout. Yordan seems to have been around around forever but at 30 years old he still has some time on his side to get a second world title fight, following a set back against Chris John back in 2011, and a win against Malikov might be what he needs to get a crack at a world champion. As for Malikov he has been in some great bouts recently, and his last two have been razor thing wins over Daiki Kaneko, in an under-rated 2017 war, and Deiner Berrio. Malikov is certainly beatable, but whether Yordan will be the man to beat him is yet to be seen. It's worth nothing that both of these men hold world rankings and the bout is essentially a world title eliminator.
In a great support bout we'll see unbeaten men collide, with Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu (10-0, 5) battling Leonardo Padilla (16-0, 12) for the vacant WBA Asia Super Featherweight Title. Uulu is a Kyrgyzstan born Russian based fighter who has struggled at times but appears to be improving and has got the talent to go a long way, if he can correct some defensive flaws. Those defensive flaws could be a major problem here however as Padilla, like many fighters from Venezuela, can bang with 8 stoppages in his last 10. We'll be honest and admit we're unsure how the Venezuelan qualifies for a WBA Asia title but that can't take away from what looks like a really exciting match up.
Another battle of unbeaten men will see Uzbek hopeful Ravshanbek Umurzakov (2-0, 2) take on Georgian Merab Turkadze (5-0, 2). The Uzbek looks to be a natural prospect and was a solid amateur before making his debut at the end of last year. So far Umurzakov has fought only 2 rounds, taking both of his opponents out with brutal left hands to the body in the opening round. It's always hard to know what you get with a Georgian fighter but given that Umurzakov is scheduled to fight again in May it seems like his team are confident of another quick win here.
One other bout of note will see Russian novice Mekhdi Abdurashedov (1-0) take on the once touted Iwan Zoda (14-3-1, 13) of Indonesia. At one point Zoda looked like a star in the making, and his 2015 win over Petchchorhae Kokietgym was a sensational performance. Sadly though he has gone 1-2-1 in his last 4 and really is fighting an up hill battle to remain relevant. It's unclear how good Abdurashedov is, but this is a big step up for the Russian and hopefully Zoda will show of the skills that got many of us excited when he was younger