Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The first show in Vietnam for the new year will be one originally scheduled for mid-December, though it seems like most things last year things didn't go as hoped.
The main event will see once beaten Vietnamese fighter Van Thao Tran (13-1, 8) take on unbeaten Thai puncher Boonrueang Phayom (9-0, 9) in what looks set to be a really interesting match up. Tran was tipped for big things, following a solid amateur career, but inactivity and a loss in 2019 to Billy Dib has cost his career and he's really not reached the level that many had hoped he would. Aged 22 Boonrueang is one of the more interesting Thai prospects, and a genuine puncher, but someone who has fought at a very, very low level. For Boonrueang this is a massive step up in class, and his first fight bout outside of Thailand, but a win here would help set him up for some interesting bouts later in the year.
Interestingly this show will also feature a Super Middleweight bout, as Van Hieu Pham (1-0) takes on Vietnamese based Irishman Sean Anthony Duffy (0-0) in a 4 rounder. We're not expecting to see many bouts in Vietnam at 168lbs so this is certainly worthy of some attention.
This coming Sunday is a big day in Japan, with 4 different shows, including a title bout in Osaka, several bouts with prospects and the East Japan Rookie of the Year final.
Sumiyoshi Ward Center, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
The show with the most important single bout takes place in Osaka, where we see several rising stars of Japanese boxing in action.
The main bout of the show will see WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion Ryosuke Nishida (4-0, 1) defending the title he won from Daigo Higa earlier this year. The talented, and really promising, Nishida will be up against fellow Japanese fighter Tetsuro Ohashi (8-2-1, 2), who is best known as a solid and promising young Super Flyweight. Ohashi is a very solid fighter, but this is a big step up for him, and he is very much like a smaller, less polished version of Nishida. As for the champion this is a solid first defense, even if it is a step down from his last two bouts, which saw him beating Shohei Omori and Daigo Higa. Unlike those bouts this will see Nishida up against a fellow boxer, as opposed to a fighter or puncher, and we could see him needing to answer some different questions here. Our preview of this one can be read here Nishida takes on Ohashi in first WBO Asia Pacific title defense
In a major supporting bout we'll see former Japanese title challenger Riku Kunimoto (4-1, 2) look to bounce back from his loss to Kazuto Takesako as he takes on the unbeaten Kazuki Kyohara (5-0-2, 3). On paper this looks a really even match up but in reality Kunimoto is the more proven and the more polished, and a very solid former amateur. Kyohara will know a win opens the door for a title fight of his in 2022, but he's meant to be little more than a game "opponent" here.
On the subject of good former amateurs we'll also see Kaito Yamasaki (1-0) fight in his second professional bout, as he takes on the experienced Takahiro Hamazaki (3-7-2, 1). Yamasaki was a very talented amateur and he looked like he could go a long, long way on his debut, but does have some questions to answer, including some about how he'll adapt to the professional ranks, and how his power will hold up. Hamazaki on the other hand is there to play the role of a veteran, and we suspect the 35 year old will ask some questions on route to a wide decision loss.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Over in Tokyo we get two shows, the most notable of which is set to take place at Korakuen Hall. The reason is so notable is because it's the East Japan Rookie of the Year Final, and is a platform for future stars. In total there is 12 bouts set for this card, with bouts taking place from 105lbs all the way up to Middleweight, with the exception of 154lbs which isn't competed in as part of the Rookie of the Year.
One of the most interesting match ups for this show is at Bantamweight, as Hiroto Sato (3-0-1) takes on Shori Umezu (5-0, 5) in a battle of unbeaten youngsters. Sato, aged 21, only debuted in July but has managed to squeeze 4 fights in already this year, prior to this one. Sadly he did fight to a draw on debut, has shown a lack of power, which could be a major issue here. Umezu, himself only 23, made his debut in August 2020, and has taken out his first 5 opponents in a combined 8 rounds. He has never seen round 3, and has really heavy hands. He'll be looking to show what his power can do here.
Another interesting bout between two unbeaten fighters will see Ryuya Kusamura (2-0, 2) take on Minori Okamura (2-0, 1), with this bout being the Middleweight bout, and for those not aware Japanese Rookie of the Year Middleweight bouts tend to be among the most entertaining as it's usually two big, somewhat unpolished, guys landing a lot of leather on each other. Interesting both these men debuted in September, both had their second pro bout in November and will be having this bout just 3 and a half months after their debuts. Kusamura is the taller man, and the harder hitter, and has looked really fun to watch in his first two bouts. Okamura on the other hand has had attention on him, with his debut coming against Eigoro Akai, the son of a popular former fighter, and he has gone 4 rounds, which he did last time out. This should be a very, very fun 4 rounder.
Arena Tachikawa Tachihi , Tachikawa, Tokyo, Japan
Staying in Tokyo, there is a small, but notable card in Tachikawa city. The card is certainly not a huge one but it does have a very solid main event, as JBC ranked Lightweight Shinnosuke Saito (8-4, 2) takes on Mirai Naito (8-3, 3). Coming in Saito is going to be the favourite, and he certainly is the more prove fighter, though Naito will be wanting to prove himself, especially with this bout coming less than a week after his brother's upset loss to Koichi Aso. Saito did lose last time out, with that loss ending a 5 fight winning run, but he'll be hungry to get back to winning ways here.
Aioi Hall, Kariya, Aichi, Japan
We'll also be getting rookies in action in Kariya as we get a show featuring only 4 rounders. Sadly it's always hard to get too excited about these shows, due to the lack of name value, but the 4 rounder format does tend to deliver some amazing action as two flawed novices put it all on the line. Despite the lack of notable names, we do like the look of these shows and this should be fun.
If pushed for a bout to make a note of, it's worth noting the nominal main event of the show will be a bout between Kenta Sugawara (2-2-1, 1) and Yuya Nakazato (5-12, 5), who is the most experienced man on the card, by far.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Over in Vietnam we're going to be seeing once beaten Vietnamese fighter Van Thao Tran (13-1, 8) take on unbeaten Thai puncher Boonrueang Phayom (9-0, 9) in what looks set to be a really interesting match up. Tran was tipped for big things, following a solid amateur career, but inactivity and a loss in 2019 to Billy Dib has cost his career and he's really not reached the level that many had hoped he would. Aged 22 Boonrueang is one of the more interesting Thai prospects, and a genuine puncher, but someone who has fought at a very, very low level. For Boonrueang this is a massive step up in class, and his first fight bout outside of Thailand, but a win here would help set him up for a very interesting 2022.