This coming Saturday is a really interesting day for fans of Asian fighters with 3 different world title bouts featuring Asian fighters taking place on 3 continents. Not only do we have 3 world title bouts but we also get a bout featuring a former world champion and a fighter returning after more than 6 years out of the ring.
BT Sport Studio, Stratford, London, United Kingdom
The most interesting of the world title bouts comes from London, England, where Downua Ruawaiking (16-0, 13), aka Apinun Khongsong, will challenger IBF and WBA Light Welterweight champion Josh Taylor (16-0, 12). The Thai enters as the IBF mandatory title challenger, having earned that shot last year, but he will be regarded as a huge under-dog against the very talent Scottish world champion. For the Thai the bout is a massive step up in class, and despite stopping Akihiro Kondo last year there is still a lot of questions for him to answer. As for Taylor he is regarded by many as the #1 in the division and comes into this on the back of his victory over Regis Prograis in the WBSS final last October. Our full preview of this bout can be read here Unbeaten Thai takes on unified champion Taylor!
Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA
The second most notable world title fight will see WBO Bantamweight champion Johnriel Casimero (29-4, 20) defending his title, for the first time, as he takes on Duke Micah (24-0, 19) in the US. Originally the plan had been for Casimero to take on Naoya Inoue, to unify the WBO, IBF and WBA titles, but due to the on going situation the two men have gone in different directions. That opened the door for this bout with Casimero taking on the relatively unknown Micah. For Casimero this is a chance to build on his 2019 upset win over Zolani Tete, when he stopped the South African in the UK to claim his title, whilst Micah will be looking to make his mark on the highest level and adding some quality to quite a weak record. Although Casimero will be the favourite he is inconsistent and the last few months have been very frustrating ones for him, so this could end up being more interesting than many predict. Our full preview of this can be read here Casimero defends against the unbeaten Micah
Central Gym, Kobe, Hyogo, Japan
In Hyogo we get a card from Shinsei who don't just have a world title bout on the card, but also two interesting support bouts. For those wanting to watch this show it will be streamed on BOXING REAL.
The main event of the card will see former WBA Super Bantamweight champion Shun Kubo (13-2, 9) take on Takashi Igarashi (13-4, 5). This will be Kubo's first since being stopped by Can Xu last year and it's fair to say that he can't afford any more losses if he's to get another world title fight. Thankfully for him this is actually a very winnable contest, where he should be favoured. Although Igarashi has a similar looking record to Kubo he was beaten last time out by Toshiya Yokogawa, who had more losses than wins, and that bout was almost 2 years ago. Igarashi has been in active and hasn't scored a single win of any real note.
The world title bout here is actually the co-feature and will see WBO Atomweight champion Mika Iwakawa (9-5-1, 3) defending her title against fellow Japanese fighter Nanae Suzuki (10-3-1, 1). Iwakawa won the title in July 2018, when she beat Nao Ikeyama, but sadly hasn't defended it, due to a lack of challengers. Now, more than 2 years on, the 37 year old looks to extend her reign and finally get a defense under her belt. For Suzuki this is a shot that she should feel fortunate to get given that just 18 months ago she did lose to the then 2-0 Eri Matsuda. Thankfully for the challenger she has picked up a couple of wins since then and has done enough to earn a shot at a champion who really needed a challenger. At the age of 28 this could be a case of right time, right place for Suzuki. Our in depth preview of this bout can be read here Iwakawa defends WBO title against Suzuki.
One other bout on this card worthy of a mention will be the ring return of Kohei Oba (36-3-1, 14), more than 6 years after his last bout. The former Japanese Bantamweight champion will be up against 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Yoshiki Minato (8-3, 3) in a 6 rounder. At his best Oba, dubbed the "Mayweather of Nagoya" would be very strongly favoured, but having bout of the ring for so long we really do wonder what he has left in the tank here. Sadly for Minato since winning Rookie of the Year he has gone 0-2 and and he is the naturally smaller man, being a natural Flyweight. This is really a case of "what does Oba have left?" If he's 80% of the fighter he once was he should take a win, but 6 years out is a very, very long time.
Suamlum Night Bazaar, Ratchadaphisek, Bangkok, Thailand
As well as the Japanese we also get an interesting bout in Thailand where Atchariya Wirojanasunobol (12-0, 5) will take on veteran Kaewfah Tor Buamas (29-6, 10) in a rematch between the two men who fought in 2018. Originally Atchariya was supposed to face teenage sensation Phoobadin Yoohanngoh (9-0, 5), but sadly Phoobadin was injured and has been replaced by Kaewfah. Whilst this bout does give Kaewfah a chance to avenge his 2018 loss it should be noted that Atchariya has got a point to make, following a wrongful arrest in 2019, and could be out there to make statement and get something off his chest.
This coming Friday in Tokyo we get a low key card with a few notable bouts on it.
One of the names on this card to be excited about is the debuting Ayato Hiromoto (0-0), the older brother of promising female fighter Eruka Hiromoto. The talented Ayato is expected to go on to big things, and will get a chance to show what he can do here against Thai opponent Suriyo Chonlathan (1-0, 1). Little is known about the Thai, though from what we under-stand he made his debut 11 months ago, with a win against another debut.
In a potentially explosive bout we'll see the hard hitting Zirolian Riku (8-3, 8) take on fellow Japanese foe Ken Matsuzawa (5-5, 3). Between the two men they've had a combined 11 KO wins, from 13 combined wins, and 5 of their 8 combined losses have also been by stoppage. We do not expect this one to see the final bell!
Interestingly the actual main event of this card is a low key match up between Joji Tsuchiya (8-5-3, 5) and Kazuki Kobayashi (7-10, 2), in what is a really weak main event bout. It's hard to get excited about this main event, but it should be a pretty competitive 8 rounder and make for some really fun low level action.
Metro Manila, Philippines
Despite the action in Japan we'd actually say the day's highlight is in the Philippines, where we see a former world title challenger, a top young prospect and a once touted contender all in action.
One of two title bouts will see the talented Mark Anthony Geraldo (37-9-3, 18) take on the limited Lorence Rosas (9-4-2, 3), with Geraldo looking to defend the GAB Super Bantamweight title. The talented Geraldo will be looking to make his first defense here, and score his 4th straight win following a 2017 loss to Nordine Oubaali. Rosas on the other hand is looking to avoid a 4th straight loss, but it's now 18 months since he last picked up a win.
A second title bout on this card will see the unbeaten Carl Jammes Martin (13-0, 12) go for gold as he takes on the experienced Benezer Alolod (19-12-5, 7) in a bout for the PBF Bantamweight title. On paper this isn't really a step up for Martin, but in reality we;re expecting this to be his toughest bout to date, as Alolod, despite his record is no push over and he'll be in there to win, and to upset the fast rising youngster. Given Martin's energy, power and aggression he'll be favoured, but we expect to see him need to work for this one
Also on this card will be former world title challenger Vince Paras (14-2, 10), who has been matched incredibly softly as he goes up against domestic journeyman Vincent Bautista (5-15-4, 1). After taking two hard fought losses in 2018, to Hiroto Kyoguchi and Jonathan Taconing, we can excuse a couple of confidence building wins for Paras, who also picked up an easy win in April against Reymark Taday. At one point Bautista was a solid journeyman but with 9 losses in a row and 3 stoppages losses in his last 7 there is a feeling he's very becoming damaged goods.
Staying in Asia we also get a small card in Thailand.
One of the bouts of note here will see Kongfah CP Freshmart (28-1, 15) taking on Hyuma Fujioka (10-9-1, 2), in a bout for a regional WBC Super Bantamweight title. On paper this looks like a mismatch in favour of Kongfah, who is currently riding a 14 fight winning. Despite being a clear under-dog Fujioka is a live dog here, and ran Ryo Akaho close earlier in the year. Kongfah should be favoured, but we wouldn't be surprised if he really needs to work for the win.
Yorkshire, United Kingdom
We also see some Asian attention in the UK as once beaten Thai fighter Aran Dipaen (6-1, 5) takes on unbeaten Brit Tommy Frank (11-0, 3) in a bout for the WBC international silver Super Flyweight title. For Dipean this will be his third bout outside of Thailand, following a loss in Russia to Zafar Parpiev and a win earlier this year in Japan against Ryohei Arakawa. The under-dog the Thai is a very live fighter coming into this. Frank has been matched tougher than the Thai and until recently had shown little in terms of power, but with 3 stoppages in his last last 4 he is certainly developing belief in his power. This could be a very, very interesting match up.
Originally Downua Ruawaiking (16-0, 13) was pencilled into for this card, but he now appears to have had his bout on the show cancelled.
Attention turns to the Korakuen Hall this coming Monday as we get an IBF world title eliminator at 140lbs as well as a must win bout for a former Japanese title challenger.
The main event is the aforementioned world title eliminator, which will see teak tough Japanese veteran Akihiro Kondo (31-7-1, 18) battle against unbeaten Thai Downua Ruawaiking (14-0, 11), with the winner getting a shot at the IBF Light Welterweight title. The Japanese fighter came to the attention of international fans in 2017, when he battled Sergey Lipinets in a surprisingly competitive contest, and since then has scored a couple low profile stoppages whilst staying busy. Downua on the other hand is a touted Thai hopeful who hasn't fought major names, but has impressed and was really sharp in December, when he stopped Sonny Katiandagho in 3 rounds to defend the IBF Pan Pacific Light Welterweight title. The Thai is a heavy handed fighter, with good speed and timing, but this is a big step up for him. We're looking forward to this one, a lot, even if neither man would be regarded as a serious test for any of the current world champions. Our preview of this bout is available here Kondo and Downua battle in IBF eliminator!
The chief support bout will see former Japanese Lightweight title challenger Masashi Noguchi (12-11-1, 6) fighting in a must win contest. Noguchi has lost his last 6, including a stoppage losses to Shuhei Tsuchiya, Satoshi Hosono and Reiya Abe, and another loss likely ends his career. In the opposite corner to Noguchi will be Tasuku Nakagawa (7-4-1, 3), who has lost 3 of his last 4 and needs a win of his own. This is a real must win for both men.
There isn't much action on February 22nd but what there is, at least in regards to the Asian scene, will be aired on Channel 32 in Thailand and will be a Kiatkreerin show featuring two IBF regional title bouts.
The most interesting of those bouts will see the unbeaten Downua Ruawaiking (5-0, 3) take on Japanese ranked Yuta Maruoka (12-3, 6) in what looks like a clear step up for the unbeaten Thai. Although Maruoka is no world beater he's proven to be a solid fighter on the Japanese scene, and is coming in to this bout on the back of 3 straight wins.
Also on the card will be an IBF Pan Pacific Bantamweight title fight which will see Sukkasem Kietyongyuth (15-6, 10) battle an Indonesian foe. Sadly at the time of writing we haven't been given the name of the Indonesian fighter.