It's not often we're going to get the chance to talk about world title action this month, but thankfully this Saturday is one of those rare chances, as we get a really interesting day. Not only do we have a solid looking Filipino card, but also a show in California featuring a world title bout and a very highly regarded Uzbek hopeful.
Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, California, USA
The most notable of the shows will be taking place in California on a Golden Boy Promotions show.
The world title fight will see IBF Super Featherweight champion Joseph Diaz (31-1, 15) defending his title against mandatory challenger Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0, 12), from Tajikistan. For Diaz this will be the first defense of the title he won last year, when he fought through a nasty cut to pound out a win against Tevin Farmer, in what was a stellar performance by Diaz. In the opposite corner will be the technically limited, but strong and heavy handed Rakhimov, who has been owed at the title since 2019, when he stopped Azinga Fuzile in South Africa. Although Rakhimov is flawed he does have a fun, exciting style and can make for very fan friendly bouts, much like Diaz. With that in mind we could end up with a genuine instant classic here as two aggressive guys clash in a very meaningful mean event on DAZN. Our full, in depth, preview of this one can be read here Rakhimov takes on Diaz in IBF title fight
We're also expecting two very talented and promising Uzbek's to be in action on this show.
One of those Uzbek fighters is Super Middleweight contender Bektemir Melikuziev (6-0, 5), who was originally supposed to fight at the end of January before Sergey Kovalev failed a drug test. Sadly his opponent for this show hasn't yet been announced.
The other is Lightweight hopeful Elnur Abduraimov (6-0, 6) who will be taking on Colombian veteran Deivi Julio (21-9-0-1, 13), who is now 39 years old. The Colombian veteran was once regarded as a world ranked contender, but he has now lost 7 of his last 9 bouts and it's clear he is not the fighter he once was.
The Bubble, MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Staying in the US Top Rank will be putting on their own show in Las Vegas. The main event here will be a WBO Light Heavyweight title fight, which will pit heavy handed American Joe Smith Jr (26-3, 21) against Russian veteran Maxim Vlasov (45-3, 26). This should be a really interesting match up and will pit Smith's power agains the skills, movement size and experience of Vlasov. Interestingly the loser of this is unlikely to get another chance, given both are the wrong side of 30, so it could be well be regarded as a must win, for both me. An indepth preview of this one thanks to George Delis can be read here Vlasov and Smith clash for WBO title!
2nd Floor, Mega Mart Burgos Poblacion Norte, Paniqui, Tarlac, Philippines
As well as the US action there is also a pretty interesting show in the Philippines. It's not a stacked card, but it is certainly an interesting one with plenty of promising talent.
In an excellent looking match up for the GAB Flyweight title we'll see the once beaten Bienvenido Ligas (12-1-1, 9) take on the criminally under-rated Alphoe Dagayloan (14-3-6-1, 5), in a much better match up than the records suggest. Ligas has bounced back well following a technical draw and a loss in 2018 to Joseph Ambo, and has won his last 6, with 5 of those wins coming by stoppage. Dagayloan on the other hand has continually proven to be better than his record suggests and is 10-1-2 in his last 13, with his loss being a very close one in Japan to Ryota Yamauchi. A preview of this one by Troy Parslow can be read here Proving Ground: Ben Ligas steps up to Alphoe Dagayloan
In another interesting match up we'll see the unbeaten Charly Suarez (4-0, 4), who was a very highly regarded amateur before he turned professional, take on the hard hitting Jon Jon Estrada (11-7-1, 10). At the age of 32 Suarez really is in "now or never" territory, and if he doesn't get a move on this year there's a good chance he fails to ever come close to a world title fight. As for Estrada he's a flawed fighter, but a very serious puncher and a relatively tough guy who has only been stopped twice in his 7 losses, including in his 2013 debut. This should be a test for Suarez, but a test he passes without too many issues.
Another once beaten fighter on this show is Ranelio Quizo (7-1, 1) who takes on Prince Andrew Laurio (10-3-1, 7) in a very good looking match up. The 22 year old Quizo was beaten last February by the under-rated John Mark Tihuk, and will be looking to bounce back from that defeat after more than a year out of the ring. As for Laurio, who is also 22, his career is in some trouble after 3 successive KO losses, and he needs a win here. Interesting Laurio will be fighting for the first time since July 2019 and although his form has been poor he certainly has the power here, with Quizo being a non-puncher. This might not look like an amazing bout, but it's an interesting one, with a glass cannon taking on a non-puncher.
A third fight involving a once beaten fighter will see Lorenz Ladrada (7-1-1, 2) take on Remon Basas (5-4, 4). On paper it is very, very easy to see this as a complete and utter mismatch, however it's not as simple as it looks. In his 9 fight career Ladrada has struggled with the 6 round distance, and had several very close decisions over inexperienced and limited opponents. He could easily have more than just the single loss to his name. Basas on the other hand is a solid puncher, with a decent chin, who has faced better opponents. This is much more competitive than it looks on paper.
Also on this card is unbeaten novice Ali Canega (2-0, 2) who risks his unbeaten record against Glenn Bismanos (6-1-3, 4), yet another fighter with a single defeat to his name. For Canega this will be his first bout against an opponent with a win and his first 6 rounder. It is also expected to be the first time he goes beyond 2 rounds. As for Bismanos he is unbeaten in his last 8, after a loss to John Lawrence Ordonio back in 2016, and has fought at a much higher level than Canega. This could be another very good bout, and it's good to see two fighters with good records risking them against each other, something we rarely see in the Philippines.
This coming Friday is set to be an incredibly busy day for Asian fight fans, with cards of note taking place in Japan, Thailand, Russia and Tanzania. The days also has a nice mix of rising youngsters looking to make their way in the sport, a veteran looking for his 98th professional win, and several contenders also in action.
Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, California, USA
We'll start not in Asia but in the US, where rising Uzbek sensation Bektemir Melikuziev (5-0, 4) will be defending his WBA Continental America's Super Middleweight title against Mexican challenger Alan Campa (17-5, 11). This, in reality, should be little more than a stay busy bout for the talented Uzbek, who looks set to become a star in the coming years. Sadly the "Bully" hasn't been as active as we'd have liked, though given how 2020 has been we are glad we're going to see him get a run out here.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
One of the many cards comes from Korakuen Hall, and will be made available on demand on Boxing Raise. The card has several good looking bouts on it, and several others worthy of note.
the best of the bouts on this one will see rising Japanese Lightweight Shu Utsuki (6-0, 5) look for win #7 as he takes on Takayuki Sakai (9-2-2, 6). The heavy handed Utsuki had a great 2019, scoring 4 stoppages, but has been out of the ring since October 2019, and has lost much of the momentum he had. As for Sakai he's no push over, and scored a notable 2018 win over Amphol Suriyo, aka Pharanpetch Tor Buamas, but has gone 1-1 since then. We expect Utsuki to come out on top here, but it should be a very, very fun bout.
Another unbeaten man on this card will be Ryo Nakai (1-0-1, 1), who looks for his second professional win as he takes on Mirai Naito (8-1, 3). Nakai turned professional last year with some solid amateur credentials but was held to a draw in a tough debut, before picking up his first win in November. He has the amateur background but Naito has the blood line, with his father, Cassius Naito, and brother, Rikki Naito, both being notable fighters. Naito also has the edge in professional experience and has notched 3 wins since his solitary loss. We expect this one to be the hidden gem of the show.
In a female bout the unbeaten Sayo Segawa (1-0, 1) will be up against Natsuki Tarui (3-6-2). The talented Segawa ran up over 30 wins in the amateurs and placed 3rd in an All Japan amateur tournament before turning professional last year and looking good on her debut. Sadly she's been out of the ring for a year as we enter this bout and her career has clearly stalled before it's even got going. Tarui on the other hand is a 29 year old domestic level fighter who isn't expected to go far, but should serve as a good opponent to help Segawa shake some ring rust and get back up to speed.
Rangsit International Stadium, Rangsit, Thailand
Over in Thailand we get a small show featuring two notable names, and a promising youngster. Sadly however it's hard to get invested in this show.
The main event will see the young, and somewhat unproven, Kittithat Ungsrivongs (16-1, 9) fight for the WBC Asian Boxing Council Continental Super Featherweight title. Sadly his opponent is the win-less Omar El Ouers (0-1-1). Kittithat, also known as Wanchana Menayothin is only 21, so it's harsh to complain too much about an easy bout, but he's been a professional for almost 4 years now and is still fighting very limited opposite. Notably El Ouers did fight to a draw last time out with Kongfah CP Freshmart, but Kongfah is very much a Super Flyweight, and El Ouers success there is unlike to carry up to 130lbs.
Talking about Kongfah CP Freshmart (33-1-1, 16) he will also be on the card, along with Petch Sor Chitpattana (57-1, 42). Sadly however neither man has had their opponent made clear at the time of writing. Given how Petpiya fights go, and how these two have been matched previously, we don't really expect anything exciting for either man.
PTA Hall, Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania
On the subject of Thai's it's worth noting that former 2-weight world champion Sirimongkol Singwancha (97-4, 62) is also scheduled for action, albeit in Tanzania, where he is set to face local fighter Twaha Kassimu Rubaha (15-6-1, 8) for the WBC Asia Pacific Super Middleweight title. Despite once being a brilliant fighter Sirimongkol is now a 43 year old, former blown up Bantamweight with over 100 bouts to his name and is not the fighter he once was. Although Rubaha is moving up in weight for this bout he is the naturally bigger man, and the much younger man, and we think those advantages will take him to victory here.
USC Soviet Wings, Moscow, Russia
In Moscow we have some fighters from Central Asia in action.
The most notable of the Central Asian fighters in action here is Kazakh female fighter Firuza Sharipova (11-1, 6), who has often received a lot of media attention but appears to be under-the-radar for this fighter, likely due to the backlash her last bout had. The frustrating Kazakh will be up against Serbian fighter Sara Marjanovic (7-7, 3), who's record is very padded thanks to 5 successive wins against very low level opposition. This should be an easy win for Sharipova,
Another central Asian fighter on this show is 26 year old Kyrgyzstan fighter Turat Osmonov (3-0, 3), who looks for his next win as he takes on the win-less Mutrib Karambakhshov (0-3), a Russian based Tajik. Really is hard to get too excited about this one, though we have liked what we have seen of Osmonov and hopefully he will be stepped up in his next fight or two.
This coming Friday we see the return of boxing onto Channel 7 in Thailand, but sadly we won't see Bektemir Melikuziev in action.
Rangsit International Stadium, Thailand
We see action continue to get back to normal in Thailand as we get, we believe, the first televised outdoor card since boxing returned to the country. The event will be on Channel 7 and like many Thai cards features names in total squash matches.
In the main event Petch Sor Chitpattana (55-1, 40) will defend his regional WBC title against Tongthep Taeyawong (5-2-1, 4). This really should be little more than a work out for the talented Petch, who needs much, much tougher opponents for us to really see what he's made of. Competition like this will not help him develop the skills he needs to become a champion, as we saw when he suffered his sole defeat to Takuma Inoue.
In the the chief support bout Petchmanee Kokietgym (32-1, 21), also known as Panya Pradabsri, will be in action against a Brazilian opponent, that we're lead to believe is Dionatha Santos Tobias (0-2). On paper this should be little more than a work out for the talented Thai who should, really, be facing tougher opposition to help prepare for a second world title bout. The Thai based Brazilian has faced stiff competition so far, but has come up short in both of his bouts since turning professional.
Another likely mismatch on this card will see Kittithat Ungsrivongs (15-1, 8) take on Omar El Ouers (0-1). Kittithat, also known as Wanchana Menayothin, is only 21, but he has been a professional since 2016 and he's still fighting at the same level as he was back then. We feel he needs to step it up and get developmental fights, rather than padding his record in bouts like this. He's had 6 confidence building wins since his 2018 loss to Que Xu and doesn't need any more.
Also originally scheduled for this show was Noknoi Sitthiprasert (72-5, 44) but the 33 year old was pulled from the event earlier this month.
On the subject of things being pulled, a scheduled event on DAZN, which was was supposed to feature Bektemir Melikuziev (5-0, 4) taking on Alan Campa (17-5, 11), was cancelled. Sadly that whole show was pulled just over a week before the event, after the promoters failed to secure a replacement opponent for Javier Fortuna, after Jorge Linares was forced to pull out of the event.
Kadoebi are perhaps not one of the real big name promoters in the eyes of many but the Japanese stable consistently put on interesting shows in Tokyo, and this Friday they put on another at Korakuen Hall.
In the main event will be former world title challenger Froilan Saludar (31-3-1, 22) defending his WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title against Ryoji Fukunaga (11-4, 11). The experienced Saludar won the title last year, when he stopped the touted Tsubasa Murachi and he returns to Japan for this fight against the heavy handed Fukunaga, who is crude but dangerous. A win here will push Saludar one step closer to a second world title bout. Whilst Fukunaga may have home advantage he is very much the under-dog, but is the naturally bigger man. Our preview of this bout can be read here Saludar returns to Japan to defend regional title against hard hitting Fukunaga!
World ranked Japanese Flyweight Ryota Yamauchi (5-1, 4), who is bizarrely highly ranked by the WBA, will look to build on his 2019 Alphoe Dagayloan as he takes on MJ Bo (8-3-2, 4). It's fair to say that 2019 was a frustrating year for the talent Yamauchi, who lost a hotly contest decision to Wulan Tuolehazi in March, beat Dagayloan in August then missed out on a Japanese title eliminator due to injuries suffered against Dagayloan. We expect him out there to impress here. As for Bo the Filipino will be returning to Japan just 5 months after being stopped by Yuta Nakayama, and it's hard to imagine anything but another loss here for the Filipino visitor. We expect Yamauchi to go to the ring with the intention of making a real statement.
Foor us the real pick of the gems on this show is a potentially explosive bout between Yuki Nakajima (3-1, 3) and Shisui Kawabata (2-1, 2). Although on paper this might just look like a typical novice bout the reality is that both of these men were solid amateurs, and both are regarded highly by those in Japan. Nakajima is regarded very highly and racked up more than 50 wins in the amateurs whilst Kawabata fought for a Japanese youth title in just his third bout. We expect explosive action here in what is our "One to watch" for this week.
Over in the US we'll see fast rising Uzbek hopeful Bektemir Melikuziev (4-0, 3) take on his most notable opponent to date, as he battles former world title challenger Marco Antonio Periban (25-5-1, 16). The bout will be "Bek Bully's" 5th in just over 8 months, and it's clear he and his team have got their eye on the fast track to the top. After going 10 rounds with Vaughn Alexander in December we know the Uzbek can box, as well as bang. Periban is a long way removed from the fighter lost a razor thin decision to Sakio Bika and fought to a draw with Badou Jack, back in 2013, but is still a solid name and someone who could ask questions of Melikuziev. Whilst Melikuziev is expected to win, the real question will be how, and if stops Periban early it would be a genuine statement from the 23 year old.
Big punching Uzbek destroyer Bektemir Melikuziev (3-0, 3) steps up again this coming Friday when he battles against experienced American foe Vaughn Alexander (15-3, 9). This is a very good step forward for Melikuziev, who only made his debut in June, and it's a good statement from his team that they intend to be fighting tougher and tougher bouts. The contest will be for a regional WBA bauble, and the intention is for the Uzbek to begin to crash into the rankings. Alexander isn't a world class name but the 34 year old is rugged, gave Janibek Alimkhanuly some resistance last year and upset Money Powell IV back in August. This shouldn't be a walk over, but we suspect Melikuziev will make it look like one.