After a bit of a break from events at Korakuen Hall return to the Japanese boxing "Holy Land" this coming Thursday for a really good looking card featuring an OPBF title bout, two Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi finals and two under-card bouts featuring notable names!
The main event will see Riku Nagahama (11-2-1, 4) take on unbeaten Japanese-Afghan Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8) in a bout for the vacant OPBF Welterweight title fight. The talented Nagahama has won 3 in a row since losing to Yuki Nagano in May 2018, and will be getting his second title fight, follow a loss in a Japanese Light Middleweight title bout against Takeshi Inoue. Kaneko on the other hand is someone who is getting his first title fight, but has earned it on the back of impressive wins against the likes of Toshio Arikawa, Rikuto Adachi and Moon Hyon Yun. Neither of these two are well known, but a win here will put the winner on the map, and see them become the new OPBF champion. Our preview of this bout can be read here Kaneko and Nagahama clash for OPBF crown!
In one of the two Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi finals we'll see hard hitting and teak tough Korean fighter Jae Woo Lee (7-2, 6) take on Japan's Shingo Kusano (12-8-1, 5). On paper this could end up the more fun of the two semi final bouts, especially given the quarter final bouts the men were involved in. Jae Woo Lee got past Tsuyoshi Tameda in a 3 round war, whilst Kusano was dropped multiple times before bouncing back to beat Qiang Ma. This could be a thriller, but it's hard imagine Kusano handling the pressure of Lee.
The other semi final will see Filipino fighter Richard Pumicpic (21-10-2, 6), who had a bye in the round of 8, take on Daisuke Watanabe (9-4-2, 6), who advanced on the basis of a technical draw against Koshin Takeshima. This is the tougher of the two semi finals to predict. Pumicpic is, and has long been, an under-rated terror to face off with, but he is the naturally smaller man and is on away soil. Watanabe has an incredibly under-rated record, and on his day is a threat with his solid boxing and heavy hand. We expect another exciting fight here, though this could easily end up being a real mess, with head clashes, if the fighters aren't careful.
One of two notable fighters on the under-card is former OPBF Minimumweight champion Tsubasa Koura (14-1, 9), who will be up against Ariston Aton (9-2, 5). Koura, who hasn't fought since losing the OPBF title last year to Lito Dante, was originally scheduled to face Yujie Zeng (14-10-1, 6) before Zeng was replaced by Aton. For Koura the clear purpose of this bout is to rebuild however Aton is no push over and he was very competitive last December against Tatsuro Nakashima.
The other notable fighter on the under-card is former Japanese Lightweight champion Shuhei Tsuchiya (23-5, 18), who who has his first fight since June 2017, as he takes on Shogo Yamaguchi (11-5-3, 6). Tsuchiya was in the ring in January, albeit in a public exhibition, after his planned opponent failed to secure a visa, and we suspect he'll come on top here. As for Yamaguchi he has scored just 2 low level wins in his last 9, and was stopped last time out by Masanori Rikiishi.
Following a busy Saturday we get a pretty interesting Sunday, with 3 title fighters and a number of interesting match ups.
The most notable of the shows takes place in Osaka and will be promoted by Green Tsuda under their "Crash Boxing" banner.
The main event of the card will be a Japanese Super Flyweight title bout, as Takayuki Okumoto (23-8-4, 11) defends his title against former champion Kenta Nakagawa (17-3-1, 12). For Okumoto this will be his 4th defense of the title, and sees him looking to build on recent wins over Yuta Matsuo and and Dynamic Kenji. For Nakagawa the bout gives him a chance to reclaim the title he lost in 2017 to Ryuichi Funai. Since losing the title Nakagawa has scored 4 wins, but all at a much lower level than this bout, and at 34 years old he really cannot afford another set back. Our in depth preview of this bout is available here Japanese champion Okumoto takes on former champion Nakagawa in up coming defense
In the chief support bout we'll see bombs away as Yuki Beppu (20-1-1, 19) and former Japanese Welterweight champion Ryota Yada (19-5, 16) trade blows for the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title. Yada is less than 8 months removed from losing the Japanese title to Yuki Nagano, incidentally Nagano is the only man to beat Beppu, taking a decision over Beppu last year. Neither man is a world beater, but good fights don't need world beaters, they just need to be well matched and this one is! It's hard to imagine this one going the distance, but with both men being aggressive punchers it's very hard to predict who's going to end up victorious. Our preview of this bout can be read here The Kyushu Tyson takes on the Terminator of Naniwa for WBO Asia Pacific title!
Originally the plan was for this card to be a triple title show, but Toshiki Shimomachi (10-1-2, 6) was unable to secure an opponent to defend his JBC Youth Super Bantamweight title against. Instead of defending his title the talented Japanese youngster will go up against Indonesian teenager Jufry Kakahure (5-2, 5). Whilst it's disappointing to see Shimomachi not defend his title against a decent domestic foe we're glad he's still on the show.
In a really great fight we'll see Thai teenager Thanongsak Simsri (12-0, 11) take on world ranked Filipino Christian Bacolod (12-0, 9) in a truly fantastic match up. The Thai youngster is training alongside the Green Tsuda gym, and has been compared to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in the Thai press. That's huge praise in a way, but also massive amounts of pressure for a 19 year old who only debuted in the summer of 2018. This is a huge step up for him and we will see him answering questions, win or lose. Bacolod on the other hand has slowly been climbing towards a big fight. He enters with a WBO world ranking and has stopped 4 of his last in the first 2 rounds. Despite Bacolod being the more proven fighter he was dropped twice in a recent fight and that will be major encouragement for Simsri.
Another interesting assignment for an unbeaten man will see Rei Nakajima (2-0) take on Thai veteran Patomsuk Pathompothong (39-11-1, 25), aka Komsan Polsan. This is a huge step up in class for Nakajima, but the Nobuhiro Ishida promoted professional novice is very highly regarded and it's clear that a win here will be a massive boost to hid fledgling career.
Staying in Osaka there will be another title fight, as the unbeaten Musashi Mori (10-0, 6) defends his WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title against once beaten puncher Takuya Mizuno (17-1-1, 14), in a mouth watering bout. Mori has impressed though much of his career, and working with Ismael Salas will help him tidy up his defensively flaws, flaws that had shown themselves in his most notable bouts. Although Mori is working on his defense it's clear Salas won't want him to be too negative, and against Mizuno negativity could be a problem. Mizuno is technically pretty poor, and he can be out boxed, but he bangs and Mori shouldn't let him build up any confidence. We suspect the gulf in skills should be the difference, but Mizuno can certainly turn the fight around. Our preview of this bout can be read here Fast rising Mori takes on hard hitting Mizuno in next title defense
Sadly the rest of the card here is non-descript 4 rounders.
A third show will take place in Okinawa, where we see some pretty a couple of interesting, but lower level, bouts.
The main event of this card will see a clash between Japan's Tatsuro Nakashima (10-1-1, 7) Filipino visitor and Ariston Aton (9-1, 5). Nakashima has bounced back well from a 2018 loss to Kai Ishizawa with 3 straight wins, and looks to be heading in the ring direction. Similarly Aton has bounced back from his sole loss, with 2 low key wins. This is a low key main event, but a very interesting one between two men looking to continue the rebuilding success.
In a female bout we'll see Yuko Henzan (8-8-4, 2) clash with Gretel de Paz (5-5-2, 2). On paper this is a very competitive looking bout, and whilst the skill level will be low it should still make for an interesting 6 rounder.
Also on this card is the return of Marcus Smith (6-1-1, 6), who hasn't fought since losing a Japanese title eliminator in October 2018 to Koki Inoue. Smith was supposed to fight earlier this year but missed weight, and was subsequently suspended. His return sees him being matched softly as he battles Indonesian journeyman Hendy Luis (10-17-3, 5). Although Smith is no world beater he is heavy handed and will be expected to beat Luis, though Luis is a durable foe and has only been stopped 3 times in his 30 fight career. This could be a very good chance to Smith to shake some ring rust.
Outside of Japan there will also be a small show in Qingdao, China. The quality of this show is lacking, however the card will feature an interesting main event between Youli Dong (14-2-1, 9) and Larry Siwu (28-12, 34). We suspect the local fighter will have the youth and skills to deal with Siwu, but the Indonesian visitor should be a good test for the 24 year old local.