Action really begins to pick up this coming weekend with a host of fights taking place that are worthy of attention. We get the first televised Japanese card of the year, the first televised Korean card of the year and the first world title fight involving an Asian of the year.
The Japanese card, which will be aired live on G+ as part of their Dynamic Glove series, is an interesting card with a fantastic main event and two notable fighters in supporting bouts.
Tha main event looks set to be a genuine shoot out as Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (12-4-1, 11) defends his Japanese Middleweight title against Japanese national champion Kazuto Takesako (11-0-1, 11). Whilst Takesako's title isn't on the line we still see this as being a very special and explosive bout between two hard hitters each out to make a statement. We do not expect this one to go the distance, and instead we expect bombs to be fired off until one man ends up being saved by the referee. It might be a short bout, it might be a long one, but with the power of the two men combined this is going to be a brutal for as long as it lasts. Our preview of this bout can be read here Hosokawa and Takesako battle in clash of champions
In the chief support bout we'll see former world title challenger Takeshi Inoue (15-1-1, 9) make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Light Middleweight title, as he takes on Chinese challenger Cheng Su (14-2-1, 8). Although this looks interesting on paper, with both men having similar looking records, we really can't see it being anything more than an easy defense for Inoue. Footage of Su shows him to be a slow, open and clumsy fighter and Inoue's pressure should grind him down in the middle rounds. Anything other than a stoppage for the champion should be seen as disappointing for a man who will be hoping to get a second world title fight in the near future. Our preview of this fight can be read here Takeshi Inoue takes on Cheng Su in WBO Asia Pacific title defense
Also on this card will be unbeaten prospect Takuma Takahashi (4-0, 4), who looks for his 5th straight win as he takes on Filipino journeyman Leonardo Doronio (17-17-3, 11). The talented Takahashi is likely to be looking at title fights by the end of 2020, and already holds a win over recent OPBF title challenger Sitthidet Banti, and this seems an easy first bout of the year. Doronio was once a capable Lightweight, and scored good wins against Al Rivera and Burning Ishii among others, but has gone 3-8-1 (2) in his last 12 and shouldn't be competing at Welterweight, a weight that really doesn't suit him.
We get more title action in Mexico, as WBC "interim" female Light Flyweight champion Kenia Enriquez (22-1, 9) defends her title against Japanese challenger Chaoz Minowa (6-2, 5). For Minowa this is a must win after coming up short in 2 previous world title bouts, and given her amateur reputation if Minowa does fail to claim some version of a world title it would be regarded as a huge achievement. Sadly for Minowa we've been very impressed by what we've seen of the technically sound Enriquez, who will be expecting to notch her 4th defense of the WBC interim title. We've previewed this bout here Chaoz Minowa returns to Mexico to face WBC interim queen Kenia Enqiruez!
Jeonju, South Korea
Back in Asia we also get an interesting card in South Korea, featuring 5 title bouts! These are 3 WBA Asia title bouts and 2 KBM title bouts.
One of those WBA Asia title bouts will see the heavy handed Yang Hyun Min (8-3, 7) take on Italian born Australian Danilo Creati (4-0, 1) for the WBA Asia Middleweight title. For Min this is a second regional title fight, after he gave Yuki Nonaka a surprisingly tough test last September in a WBO Asia Pacific title bout. Min is no world beater, but he hits hard, takes a short and is aggressive. As for Creati this will be a notable step up in class for the unbeaten Australian and will be his first bout in Asia. This could be a very interesting clash of styles.
In a WBA Asia Super Bantamweight title fight the unbeaten Min Jang (9-0-2, 2) will take on limited Chinese foe Junhui Zhao (4-5-2 1). Jang is a former Korean Super Flyweight champion but is said to have out grown the 115lb weight class and the 19 year old is expected to make a splash, at least domestically, at Super Bantamweight. Zhao will be a clear under-dog here, but should make for a good foil for the local hopeful.
The most interesting of the WBA Asia title bouts comes at Super Flyweight where former OPBF Flyweight champion Keisuke Nakayama (11-5-2, 5) take on once beaten Korean Woo Hyun Kim (8-1, 1). The local, a former "interim" PABA Bantamweight champion, has fought just once in the last 3 years, but that was a win against the previously mentioned Junhui Zhao, and he'll feel confident of picking up a career best win here. Nakayama on the other hand is 1-3-1 in his last 5 and has not looked good recent performances. Nakayama needs a win to keep his career alive, but we wouldn't be surprised at all if this was a third straight defeat for him.
The KBM title bout which has caught our attention sees all action Han Bin Suh (5-0-3, 4) defending his KBM Super Middleweight title against former amateur standout Dong Myung Shin (2-0). Suh really caught our attention last year, with the 19 year old going 2-0-2 for the year and being involved in some sensational bouts. Although not the most polished of fighters he did give us the vibe of being an old school Korean fighter. Shin is a talented fighter, and was a very experienced amateur turning professional, but with his 32nd birthday coming in March his best years are likely behind him. Interestingly when this bout was first announced Korean sources stated that if Suh won he would be chasing an OPBF title fight with Hiroaki Teshigawara later in the year, in what would be a massive step up in class.
The other KBM title fight takes place at Super Featherweight and will see unbeaten Korean based Kyrgyzstan fighter Urmat Amankulov (4-0-2, 3) battle against Seung Yoon Shin (4-3-3, 2) for the vacant title. Shin has scored 1 win in his last 3 and it would be a genuine surprise if he was competitive with Amankulov.
Camarines Sur, Philippines
One more Asian show of note will come from the Philippines, where we get some low level action.
In one of the most noteworthy bouts on this card the once beaten 21 year old local Michael Mendoza (10-1-2, 3) will battle Indonesian journeyman Stevanus Nana Bau (10-12-2, 2), with the two men trading blows for the lightly regarded WBF International Flyweight title. Coming in to this Mendoza has won 5 in a row since his soul defeat, to Arvin Magramo, almost 2 years ago and appears to be building some genuine momentum. Bau on the other hand has lost 4 of his last 6 and is win-less outside of Indonesia, with an 0-8 record on the road. Fair to say we're not expecting much of Bau here.
The only other bout of note here will see the once touted Al Sabaupan (25-3-1, 20) end a lengthy break from the ring to take on Benny Tamaela (4-9-1, 1) in an 8 rounder. Although Sabaupan hasn't fought since November 2016, when he was stopped by Jheritz Chavez, he'll be strongly favoured here. Tamaela is a 36 year old who has 1 win since the start of 2016 and is 2-9-1 in his last 12. An easy comeback for Sabaupan.
Metro Manila, Philippines
Ateention turns to the Philippines this coming Saturday as ESPN5 televised their first show of the new year. It's not a bumper card, but does feature some notable names as the channel looks to increase the profile of a number of Filipino fighters.
One of the notable bouts on this card will see the unbeaten pairing of Dave Apolinario (9-0, 6) and Mark Vicelles (9-0-1, 5) battle for the WBO Asia Pacific Youth Flyweight title. We've been impressed by Apolinario since he made his debut back in 2017 and the 20 year old looks like a dynamite prospect with speed, skills, power and a lot of potential. This however is a step up in class and Vicelles will be coming to do more than just make up the numbers. The 23 year old Vicelles has already ruined 22 unbeaten records, and will be looking to expose another touted domestic rival here. We're expecting real fireworks and excitement here in what should be the show stealing bout.
In a good supporting bout Reymart Gaballo (20-0, 17) will be taking on Japanese foe Yuya Nakamura (9-2-1, 7) in what should be an interesting assignment. Gaballo will be favoured, he really impressed last year with wins against Stephon Young and Julias Kisarawe, but Nakamura is no push over, and he impressed in December when he should have had a win over Yougu Yu, though the judges found a way to score that a draw. Gaballo should win, but Nakamura won't be there to just make up the numbers.
In another supporting bout the hard hitting Romero Duno (18-1, 14) will face off with Indian Kuldeep Dhanda (7-1, 1) in what is expected to be little more than a stay busy bout for Duno. The Filipino puncher is on a 9 fight winning run, including his break out win over Christian Gonzalez from March 2017, and looks like a potential world title contender. Dhanda on the other hand has never previously fought outside of India and lacks a win of any note, suggesting he will be completely unable to cope with Duno's power and skills.
Jeonju, South Korea
In Korea fans will be getting a double title show, with domestic Cruiserweight and Welterweight titles up for grabs. The theme of the show is Korea Vs Japan Vs China, but sadly the international bouts are over shadowed by the title bouts.
The Welterweight title will see either Yong Hwan Jun (4-4-1, 2) or Dong Young Kang (4-5-2) being crowned as the new champion. Neither of these two are great, but the Korean Welterweight scene isn't very good right now and hopefully getting the title scene up and running will kick start that, with fighters vying for a shot.
The Crusierweight title fight on the other hand will see Hyun Tae Bae (5-1-1, 3) battle against Kyung Hak Lee (3-5-1, 1). The 29 year old Bae returned in December, after more than 2 years out of the ring, and stopped Tae San Kil to earn his shot at the title. Lee on the other hand is without a win since March 2011, and it seems like this is little more than a coronation event for Bae.
One other bout of note here will see the unbeaten Dong Myung Shin (1-0), who impressed on debut in September, battle against Chinese fighter Yiping Gao (3-5, 1). Shin looked really good, defeating Hiroyuki Sagehashi on debut, and we're expecting him to shine again here. At the age of 30 Shin will need to be active to make any mark on the sport, but could be one of the few Korean with the skillset to impress internationally.
Another Asian fighter in action in the US is Filipino Genisis Libranza (17-1, 10), who will be looking to make his US debut following an aborted bout in January against Carlos Buitrago, who failed to make weight for a bout with Libranza. He will be up against Gilberto Mendoza (11-6-2, 4), who is a 29 year old who has yet to score a win of note. This should be seen as a showcase to Libranza if we're being honest.