Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
It's fair to say that February is set to be a very, very quiet month with less action scheduled for the month than there was in January, also a super quiet month. Thankfully however this coming Thursday there is a notable show taking place at Korakuen Hall, and it's a genuinely exciting card with a Japanese Youth title fight and Japanese title fight both set for the show. Better than that, is the fact both of the title fights look very, very even and very interesting on paper..
The show only has 4 bouts on it in total. The most interesting of those will see Shinnosuke Kimoto (6-4, 2) take on Shota Ogasawara (5-3, 3) in a 6 round Super Bantamweight bout. Incidentally this is their second bout, but more about that in a moment. Coming in to this Kimoto is looking to rebound from a majority decision loss to talented youngster Tom Mizokoshi, a loss than ended a 2-fight winning run for him. As for Ogasawa he'll be fighting for the first time in over a year, following his loss in the 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year. Although he lost last time out in a notable bout Ogasawara is better for a different loss, his thrilling 2019 loss to Ryugo Ushijima. As mentioned these two have fought before, with Ogasawara beating Kimoto back in 2017, in what was Kimoto's debut. Fair to say Kimoto will want revenge here!
The first of the two title fights on the show will see Ryu Horikawa (3-0-1, 1) clash with Yudai Shigeoka (2-0, 1) in a sensational looking Japanese Youth Light Flyweight title fight, for the vacant title. The 20 year old Horikawa impressed in his 2019 debut and impressed even more in his second professional bout, when he beat Yuki Nakajima, though was unlucky in his third bout when he was controversially held to a draw in China against Xiang Li. Horikawa is a very skilled and quick boxer-mover and will be looking to make the most of his slick footwork here. On the other hand Shigeoka, the older brother of Ginjiro Shigeoka, looked promising on debut and sensational in his second bout, as he calmly outboxed OPBF Lito Dante over 6 rounds. Shigeoka looks the more imposing fighter, the physically stronger and more polished, but also the man with the slower footwork. This should be a genuinely fantastic match up, and a really high level bout between two sensational youngsters. Our preview of this bout can be read here Horikawa and Shigeoka battle for Youth crown in Tokyo!
In the main event we'll see Japanese Featherweight champion Ryo Sagawa (10-1, 5) defend his belt against mandatory challenger Hinata Maruta (10-1-1, 8), in a bout that was originally scheduled for 2020 but was delayed due to Covid19. For Sagawa this will be his third defense since beating Reiya Abe for the vacant title in 2019 and he looks to continue an excellent 9 fight winning run which has seen him defeat Junki Sasaki, Ryo Matsumoto, Al Toyogon and the aforementioned Abe. The champion has looked fantastic in recent bouts, but there are question marks about his chin and durability. On the other hand Maruta, who turned professional with a lot of buzz, has failed to meet the expectations put on his young shoulders, however a win here would see that buzz return. Aged just 23 Maruta has the tools to go a very, very long way, but a 2017 loss to Hidenori Otake slowed his rise and a controversial draw against Ben Mananquil also slowed him down. Coming in this the challenger has won his last 3, and has shown a more aggressive side to his boxing than earlier in his career. Our in depth preview of this bout can be read here Sagawa and Maruta clash at last, in Japanese title bout!
Yoyogi First Gym, Tokyo, Japan
As well as the show at Korakuen Hall there will also be a special event at the Yoyogi 1st Gym in Tokyo. This however isn't one you'll find on Boxrec and is instead a charity event where we'll get 7 exhibition bouts, and nothing that will go down on a fighters record. Despite that it's something that is worth being aware of, in part due to the fighters featured on it, including several world champions, amateur standouts and genuine Japanese stars.
One of those will be an potential dream bout as WBA "Super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) shares the ring with the now retired Akira Yaegashi (28-7, 16), who himself held the IBF Light Flyweight title along with titles at Minimumweight and Flyweight. It's a shame the careers of these two didn't over-lap as this is a brilliant match up.
Another retired former world champion on this show will be former WBA Super Featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama (24-2-1, 20) who will be in the ring with current Japanese national Super Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka (21-5, 18). Although Uchiyama would be strongly favoured to win, had the two men clashed for real, this could be an interesting exhibition, especially given that Uchiyama is in fantastic condition.
A third former world champion included in the event is former WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (19-3-2, 12) who will be battling with former K-1 fighter Yoshiki Takei (0-0), who makes his professional boxing debut in March. Whilst not the greatest match up it will be a chance to see what Takei brings as a boxer, and we always love seeing Sho Kimura in the ring.
Former world title challenger Takeshi Inoue (17-1-1, 10) will be taking on amateur standout Yuito Moriwaki in one of several bouts between professional fighters and amateurs. Another of these will see 140lb hopeful Andy Hiraoka (16-0, 11) share the ring with Japanese Olympian Daisuke Narimatsu and the a third will see Japanese Youth champion Jin Sasaki (10-0, 9) [佐々木尽] face off with the very highly regarded Seon Okazawa.
We've saved the best until last, and that's a bout between WBA "super" and IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17) and former WBC Flyweight kingpin Daigo Higa (17-1-1, 17) [比嘉 大吾], in what should be a sensational exhibition bout over 3 rounds and something worthy of paying the hefty admission fee for. This is two big names, both in their primes, facing off in a bit of a dream fight, even if it is just an exhibition.
From where we're sat the main show this coming Saturday is in Tokyo, where we get 4 Japanese title eliminators on what is a mouth watering card. The winners will all get Japanese title shots at the 2020 Champion Carnival meaning these 4 bouts are very significant.
The lowest weight covered by these eliminators is Bantamweight, where the once touted Kazuki Tanaka (11-2, 8) takes on the often under-rated Kyosuke Sawada (13-2-1, 6), in what could turn out to be a masterful lesson of boxing by Sawada or an all out brawl. This really does depend on just how desperate the two men get, and whether Tanaka's power will be too much for Sawada to handle with his skills. This could be a very, very good fight. A full preview of this bout can be found here Sawada and Tanaka look to book a place at the Champion Carnival
At Featherweight we'll see the very highly regarded Hinata Maruta (9-1-1, 7) take on former Japanese Featherweight champion Takenori Ohashi (17-5-2, 11). We suspect that Murata will have the speed, size and skills to deal with Ohashi, but the experienced man can genuinely bang and his KO earlier this year over Shun Wakabayashi showed just how heavy his hands are. This should be a win for Murata, but he really cannot get sloppy given the lights out power of his opponent. A full preview of this bout can be read here Maruta and Ohashi clash in Japanese eliminator
On paper we could end up with a bit of a boxing classic as Kazuki Saito (7-1, 5) and Izuki Tomioka (6-2-1, 2) meet in Japanese Lightweight title eliminator. Saito is a fantastic offensive boxer, but has real issues taking a shot, and that does actually make his fights even more fun to watch, and he is quite honest a bit of a glass cannon. Tomioka on the other hand is a very light punching boxer-mover and he managed to give Masayoshi Nakatani fits in an OPBF title fight. We expect skills to be on here. Our preview of this bout can be read here Saito and Tomioka clash in Lightweight eliminator!
The heaviest weight covered on this show is the Welterweight division, where former world title challenger Keita Obara (21-4-1, 19) will take on Toshiro Tarumi (12-3-3, 6). On paper this doesn't look a great bout, with Obara having the edges in experience, power, and level of competition. It is worth noting however that Tarumi has momentum coming in to this, thanks to wins over Noriaki Sato and Shusaku Fujinaka during a 7 fight winning run. Our preview of this bout can be read here Hard hitting Obara takes on little known Tarumi in Japanese eliminator
As well as the fantastic action in Japan we're actually being treat to a huge amount of fights spread across Asia, including a card from Kazakhstan.
The headline bout of this show will see the unbeaten Kanat Islam (26-0, 21) take on recent world title challenger Walter Kautondokwa (18-1,17), in what looks likely to be a very, very explosive bout. The unbeaten Kazakh will be fighting for the second time since returning from an injury that kept him out of the ring for close to 2 years. We say fighting for the but it's hard to call his 14 second demolition of Julio De Jesus a fight, more an assault. The 34 year old Kautondokwa, from Namibia, has only been beaten once and that in a WBO Middleweight world title fight against Demetrius Andrade, so he is tough, but it's a big ask for him to get a result in Kazakhstan.
Novice Kazakh prospect Nursultan Amanzholov (1-0) will look to build on his first professional win as he takes on 38 year old Polish foe Michal Banbula (13-31-4). At his very best Banbula was a criminally under-rated fighter who scored a win over Tony Oakey and a draw with Tony Jeffries. Sadly though Banbula has lost 5 of his last 6 and should pose little threat to someone like Amanzholov, who is a fully blown Heavyweight.
The pick of the bouts outside of Japan looks to be an excellent contest in China where we see two older fighters in action to keep their careers alive.
The bout in questions sees the once beaten local Wenfeng Ge (11-1, 6) take on former world champion Kompayak Porpramook (60-7, 41) for the WBO Global Flyweight title. The tough Ge is looking to bounce back from a TKO loss to Giemel Magramo earlier in the year, and that was a painful beating so we'll see what effect it has on his psyche and will to win. As for the Thai he has lost 2 of his last 3, but the former WBC Light Flyweight champion is still a nightmare for fighters willing to have a war with hi, and he should be viewed as a legitimate live under-dog here.
The chief support bout is a contest for the WBC Asian Boxing Silver Super Bantamweight title China's Chunlei Lin (9-3, 2) will battle against Indonesian Galih Susanto (17-9-1, 4). The 25 year old local, dubbed the "Black Dragon", has not proven a great deal yet and has lost to his 2 most notable opponents thus far, including a loss at home to Japan's Shun Wakabayashi. On the other hand Susanto is no world beater but is a bit better than his record suggests and may well expose Lin a little bit, before losing, likely on the cards.
A second Chinese card will see the unbeaten Xiang Li (5-0, 4) take on Japan's Takuya Ota (8-2-1, 6). The technically limited but hard hitting Li scored a solid win in January, or Arvin Young, and scored another in August over Do Jin Lee. So it's good to see him being active after a very slow start to his professional career, sadly though his competition doesn't appear to be improving through the year. Ota is nothing of a step up from the last couple of bouts for Li, but is still a capable fighter and he reached the Rookie of the Year final last year. We suspect this will be another win for Li, but another one where his flaws are made evident by the successes of his opponent.
A third show in China will be headlined by Mongolian Tsendbaatar Erdenebat (1-0), though sadly his opponent hasn't yet been announced for a bout in Shenzhen. Whilst no opponent is known at the time of writing for the Mongolian this is set to be a 10 rounder, which is very ambitious for the 2016 Olympian.
Yet another Chinese card will take place, with this one being headlined by unbeaten local Zhong Liu (14-0, 5) taking on Filipino John Kenan Villaflor (8-5-4, 2) in what looks like an interesting 8 rounder. The unbeaten local comes into this on the back of a big win over Jess Rhey Waminal and Villaflor will be in the ring looking to get revenge for his countryman.
A second bout of interest will see Chinese youngster Wuzhati Nuerlang (12-3, 10) look score his second win of 2019 as he takes on veteran Said Mbelwa (47-29-5, 31). This could be a good chance for the 23 year old Chinese fighter to shine against a very shop worn foe who has got over 80 career bouts and 12 career stoppage losses.
La Union, Philippines
On a lesser level we have a Filipino show in La Union, this show certainly doesn't have much in terms of names, but does have a couple of bouts that could end up being much better than they look on paper.
The heavy hitting 25 year old Arnel Baconaje (11-3, 9) will be up against fellow Filipino Jestoni Autida (12-11, 6). On paper this looks like a mismatch, especially given that Baconaje has gone 5-1 in his last 6, however Autida is a tough and capable fighter who has give Ryoichi Tamua, Ernesto Saulong and Jason Canoy very tough bouts in recent years. Baconaje is the favourite, but Autida a clear live under-dog.
Another potentially interesting match up will see Jules Victoriano (9-2, 6) take on Virgil Puton (17-13-2, 8), though this could also be a stinker. The 22 year old Victoriano was on a 9 fight winning before losing in Japan to Yoshimitsu Kimura in June, and we suspect he'll be confident of getting back to winning ways here. The 30 year old Puton was once a very, very capable opponent, but he is now 0-5-2 in his last 7 and has been stopped in 4 of those 7 bouts, and seems very much like he's a "shot" fighter. If Puton has anything left in the tank he could make this competitive, but the worry is that he's only a shell of the fighter he once was.
One other bout on this card will see IBF Bantamweight mandatory challenger Michael Dasmarinas (29-2-1, 19) fight in a stay busy bout against Artid Bamrungauea (25-27, 23). The talented Filipino is the mandatory for the winner of the upcoming WBSS winner Bantamweight finish and this really is just a tick over against a heavy handed but very limited Thai foe. It's worth noting that in recent weeks Dasmarinas has been sparring with Takuma Inoue, and although this is only a low key fight he'll likely be wanting to impress.
In Bangkok fans are set for some low quality action.
In the most notable bout the UK's 48 year old Denise Castle (2-2, 2) will go up against Thailand's Sutthinee Bamrungpao (4-6) in a bout for the vacant WIBA Minmumweight title. The Thai fighter is the younger of the two but has suffered 6 stoppage losses in her 10 bout career and has never beaten a fighter with a winning record. Castle is well beyond her best years, which were spent outside of boxing, but we wouldn't be surprised if she did enough to take the win here. It's worth noting that both of Castles' losses have come in world title bouts, with the first coming to Momo Koseki, but she's done very little to derseve this fight with her last win being more than 5 years ago.
Also on this card we'll see rather odd WBC interim Asian Boxing Council silver Featherweight title bout between the limited Thai based Filipino Joel Kwong (4-9, 4) and the limited Waldo Sabu (13-14, 3), from Indonesia. We assumed the idea of the Silver titles was to get rid of the need for an interim belt, but an interim silver regional title fight between two guys with losing records is very, very hard to defend.
Staying in Asia we also have a small card in Singapore.
One of the main bouts will see unbeaten Malaysian fighter Adli Hafidz (7-0, 3) take on 40 year old Indonesian fighter Ramadhan Weriuw (18-11-1, 16) in a bout for the WBA Asia South Super Middleweight title. This really should be a very straight forward win for Hafidz, who is no world title challenger in the making but still a very capable fighter. It's worth noting that in 2016 Weriuw fought as a Welterweight and has no reason to be fighting as an out of shape, old Cruiserweight.
Local favourite Muhamad Ridhwan (13-2, 9) will also be on this show as he takes on Thai visitor Taweechai Juntarasuk (10-13, 6), who is 0-8 in fights outside of Thailand. This looks a mismatch on paper, and we suspect it will also be a mismatch in the ring, with Ridhwan looking to score a third straight win since back to back losses.
In the US we get a very even looking match up as 28 year old American Andy Vences (22-1-1, 12) takes on 25 year old Filipino Mark Bernaldez (19-2, 13). Vences began his career 20-0 but has struggled in recent bouts, going 2-1-1 in his last 4, and now needs to get his career back on track following his first professional loss, back in June to Albert Bell. Bernaldez on the other hand has lost 2 of his last 6, but is unbeaten the US, where his last 2 bouts have been held and does have a little big of momentum. We suspect the naturally bigger Vences will take the win, but this it the perfect time for Bernaldez to face him.
This coming Wednesday is not only the 1st of May but it is also a day with a stacked card as we begin a busy, and potentially brilliant month of Asian boxing. And if we're being honest we begin the month with a genuinely brilliant card courtesy of Dangan, who put on not only a brilliant title bout, but 3 other bouts worthy of note. This is a good a domestic card, on paper, that we've seen in 2019.
The main event is a Japanese Featherweight title bout, which will pit national champion Taiki Minamoto (16-5, 13) against mandatory challenger Reiya Abe (19-2, 9), The hard hitting champion really impressed us in his title win, dominating Takenori Ohashi in April 2018, but looked very beatable in his first defense, scoring a late stoppage in a nip and tuck bout against Tatsuya Otsubo. Abe on the other hand has been in impressive through the last few years with 11 straight wins, including victories over Tsuyoshi Tameda, Joe Noynay and Satoshi Hosono. This will be a fantastic match up between a boxer-puncher and a brilliant slick boxer and we're really, really looking forward to this. It could be very special. Our full preview of this bout can be read heere Minamoto and Abe clash in mouth watering Featherweight title bout!
In the chief support bout we'll see Hinata Maruta (8-1-1, 7) look to build on his December win over Tsuyoshi Tameda as he takes on Coach Hiroto (13-2-2, 4). For Hiroto this will be his first bout since fighting to a draw with Ryo Hino in January 2018, during which time he has been kicked out of the Kadoebi Gym for failing to make weight for a bout with Shohei Omori. Hiroto certainly has a point to prove, fighting under the Dangan banner for the first time, but will be the clear under-dog against Maruta, who is a super talent despite the two marks on his record. Our full preview of this bout is available here Maruta and Hiroto clash at Korakuen Hall!
Another brilliant bout on this show will see the hard hitting Masamichi Yabuki (8-3, 8) take on skilled youngster Ryuto Oho (12-4-1, 4), in a bout rearranged from March. The bout had to be delayed due to Oho suffering an injury but he now seems to be healthy in what is regarded as being a Japanese title eliminator. This promises high quality boxing, exciting exchanges and real action. A potential classic, and a bout that may have been helped in it's delay, by being added to such a stacked card, getting more eyeballs on the fighters.
One other bout worthy of note will see former amateur standout out Motoki Osanai (3-2, 1) look to record his third straight win, as he takes on Naoto Fujimoto (11-9-1, 5). Osanai turned professional with big expectations but hasn't yet found his groove in the pro ranks and has been fighting between Super Flyweight and Super Bantamweight. If he can find his place he has the ability to really put this poor start behind him. On paper Fujimoto looks like a bit of a nothing opponent, but the reality is that he's a nightmare to fight and we're expecting him to make this bout ultra-competitive and there could just be a round or 2 separating the men at the end of the scheduled 8.
This coming Monday Japanese fight fans get a genuinely exceptional card, headlined by an OPBF Featherweight title fight, between unbeaten fighters, and stacked with several other notable bouts, including 2 genuinely brilliant support bouts.
The main event of this card will 2012 Olympic bronze medal winner Satoshi Shimizu (7-0, 7) take on Takuya Uehara (16-0, 10). The bout will be Shimizu's 4th defense of the OPBF Featherweight title and if he wins he's expected to be moved aggressively into a world title fight in the new year. Despite being a stand out amateur Shimizu has looked like a flawed professional, but with his unbeaten record and perfect T/KO run it's hard to double the results, even if the performances haven't been the best. The 23 year old Uehara is a former WBC Youth champion but this is a massive step up in class, and is likely to be his first bout against a genuine puncher. This could be a good test for Shimizu, but one he'll be expected to pass. A full preview of this bout can be found here - Olympic hero Shimizu takes on Uehara in next OPBF title defense!
The co-feature looks even better than the main event, and is a really well balanced match up that should give us a combination between explosive heavy handed blows and skills. The match up pits the very heavy handed Tsuyoshi Tameda (18-3-2, 16) against the incredibly highly skilled Hinata Maruta (7-1-1, 6), in a bout that will likely lead the winner to a regional title fight in 2019. Tameda is the more raw fighter, but also the hard hitting and the one with real explosive power. Maruta is the more skilled man, but has failed to deliver on the promise he has in recent bouts, and some are perhaps not doubting the Morioka man. This really could be something very, very special. A preview of this can be read here - Preview - Maruta and Tameda to fight on December 3rd!
Another interesting all prospect match up is a mouth watering 8 rounder between Taku Kuwahara (2-0, 2) and Takamori Kiyama (2-0, 2), which may well go down as the best match up between a couple of 2-0 fighters ever. As an amateur Kuwahara was a 2-time national champion and the Ohashi gym view him as a potential major player in their gym, this is however a massive step up in class from the Indonesian fighters he has faced in his first two bouts, neither of which have lasted a round. Kiyama, from the Atsumi gym, was also an amateur standout, and he's has looked fantastic since turning professional as well. This is really a risky bout for both fighters but they should both be admired, for willing to risk their "0" against a fellow prospect this early on.
Former Japanese Supe Featherweight champion Seiichi Okada (21-6-1, 12) looks to record his 4th straight win, as he takes on the limited Takahiro Araki (12-7, 4). Okada is a faded force to the man who had pushed Takashi Miura hard in 2010 and had gone on to win the Japanese title the following year, running up 3 defenses before losing to Daiki Kaneko. He is however capable against the lower level domestic fighters and will see this as a good chance to score his 22nd professional win. The 31 year old Araki however is no push over and will see this an opportunity to get a win against a former national champion.
The once touted Sho Nakazawa (11-2, 5) looks to continue rebuilding his career after a 2017 loss to Ryo Hino. The former amateur standout will be looking for a second straight win as he takes on Filipino journeyman Jhon Gemino (17-11-1, 7). On paper this looks like a mismatch but Nakazawa really has failed to shine as a professional and Gemino is the sort of fighter who can be a very tricky out. We suspect Nakazawa gets the win, but Gemino won't have travelled to just roll over.
Another prospect on this card is the highly touted Kazuki Nakajima (5-0, 4), who takes a notable step up in class to fight the experienced Yoshihiro Utsumi (15-8-3, 10). So far Nakajima has only been tested one, with Taiga Higashi giving him issues last December, and has otherwise had things all his own way. Utsumi on the hand has collected losses, but has faced tough competition with losses to Yasutaka Ishimoto, Ye Joon Kim and Hiroaki Teshigawara. It's worth noting that coming into this bout Utsumi scored a huge upset win over Hibiki Jogo and is riding a 3 fight stoppage run into this contest.
Metro Manila, Philippines
This coming Thursday our attention turns to the Philippines where we get the chance to see one of the best prospects in world boxing, a regional female title fight, a runner up in the 2017 Japanese Rookie of the Year and experienced local hopeful.
That top prospect is Hinata Maruta (7-1, 6) who is stepping back up in class for the first time since losing in an OPBF title challenger against Hidenori Otake. The talented youngster form the Morioka gym will be taking on OPBF Silver champion Ben Mananquil (16-1-2, 4). Although the bout will be a non-title fight it is a very interesting match up and we suspect the winner of it will be moved into an OPBF title fight towards the end of this year, or very early next year. The Japanese fighter, as mentioned, as only been beaten by Otake whilst the Filipino's only loss has come to Jing Xiang, with that defeat coming in China. We suspect this could be a very special bout between two young, hungry and driven fighters looking to take a huge step forward with their careers.
In a female title bout fans will see Umi Ishikawa (6-2, 4) battle against Wassana Kamdee (3-3, 2) for the vacant WBC Asian Boxing Council Female Minimumweight Title. Ishikawa has come up short at title level before, losing to Norj Gurop earlier this year, but she should have too much for Kamdee, who is 0-3 against fight a win on their record. Kamdee has faced the better opponents, including the likes of Yuko Kuroki and Hee Jung Yuh, but we'd still be surprised to see her put that experience to real use here.
Another Japanese fighter with potential on this card is the hard hitting Arashi Iimi (6-1, 6), hwho came runner up in the 2017 Rookie of the Year at Super Bantamweight. The hard hitting 22 year old will be up against limited Filipino Danny Tampipi (8-8-2, 5). Tampipi isn't terrible but as his record suggests he's nothing special either and it's hard to see anything but a win for Iimi, who we think will hit too hard for the local.
Outside of the bouts with Japanese fighters it's worth noting that Glenn Porras (31-7, 19) will be up against Renante Suacasa (7-19, 1). The 32 year old Porras is now a faded force, having lost 3 of his last 5, but should see this as a straight forward win over a man he dropped 3 times less than 2 years ago. Suacasa is a very limited opponent and should be a safe win for Porras, even at this stage of his career.
This coming Sunday is set to be a busy day for fight fans following the Asian boxing scene. There is 3 cards in Japan and a number of Asian fighters in action in Russia.
The most notable of the Japanese cards comes from Kobe where fans will get a Japanese title fight at Minimumweight, with both of the fighters involved looking to claim the vacant title.
That title bout will see the under-rated Ryoki Hirai (10-4-1, 4) battle against former multi-time world title challenger Shin Ono (21-9-3, 5) for the vacant Japanese Minimumweight title. These two are ranked #1 and #2 by the JBC and are fighting for the title that Reiya Konishi vacated earlier this year, so that he could move up in class to fight for the WBA title. Hirai's record is a bit of a mess, but that's because he started his career 3-3-1, before rebuilding and going 7-1. In recent bouts Hirai has beaten the likes of Takumi Sakae and Ryoya Ikema and has really deserved a shot at the title and a chance to shine. As for Ono he has really struggled in recent years, going 4-4-1 in his last 9, though has mixed at a high level with losses to Katsunari Takayama, Kenichi Horikawa, Knockout CP Freshmart and Reiya Konishi. The bout really pits Hirai's youth and hunger against Ono's experience and should be very interesting.
In a supporting bout we'll see Japanese and OPBF ranked Giraffe Kirin Kanda (11-2, 6) take on the limited but heavy handed Tatsuya Miyazaki (9-10-1, 9). Although Kanda should be favoured he has has been stopped before and Miyazaki will have the belief that he has the power to stop Kanda, just like Yuki Nagano did in 2015.
Staying in Hyogo, though going from Kobe to Kawanishi, fight fans will be able to see the next Morioka card, featuring several noteworthy fighters in what will likely be some horrific mismatches.
The main event of the card will see former OPBF title challenger Hinata Maruta (6-1, 5) battle against Indonesian visitor Arega Yunian (6-9, 1), in what looks like a really disappointing match up for the talent Maruta. Despite losing to Hidenori Otake last November Maruta is an exceptional talent and a bout like this will do little to help build that talent, and it feels like he would have been much better off taking on a domestic level fighter than someone like Yunian. The Indonesian has already suffered 6 stoppage losses, all of which have come when he's fought on the road and include stoppages to Ryo Matsumoto and Takashi Igarashi in Japan
As well as Maruta fans will also be able to see former world title challenger Warlito Parrenas (25-7-1, 22) and former Japanese Youth title challenger Naoto Iwai (4-2, 2) both in action, as they each face Thai opponents. Parrenas will be seeking his second win since a 2015 loss to Naoya Inoue, in a bout for the WBO Super Flyweight title, whilst Iwai will be looking to put a poor 2017 behind and begin to rebuild his career.
As well as the action in Hyogo there will also be a low key card in Fukuoka. This card is a pretty weak one in all honesty, but will be headlined by former WBO Minimumweight champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (19-6-6, 7), who will look to bounce back following back-to-back defeats to Ryuya Yamanaka and Wanheng Menayothin. The former champion, will be up against domestic foe Yuto Takahashi (8-3, 4) in what looks to be a big step down in class. Despite stepping down in levels Fukuhara does deserve an easy one given his run from winning the Japanese title in 2015 to today has seen him facing 3 unbeaten men, two current world champions and two other fringe world class fighters. Takahashi hasn't shown he can compete at the top of the domestic level and although this is a big chance for him to make a mark, it's very hard to see how he can over-come the under-rated Fukuhara.
As well as the Japanese action there is also a lot of Asian interest in a Russian card, with several notable fighters in action.
The main event of the card looks set to be a special kind of bout, as Indonesian warrior Daud Yordan (37-3-0-1, 25) takes on unbeaten Russian Pavel Malikov (13-0, 5) in a really good looking 12 round bout. Yordan seems to have been around around forever but at 30 years old he still has some time on his side to get a second world title fight, following a set back against Chris John back in 2011, and a win against Malikov might be what he needs to get a crack at a world champion. As for Malikov he has been in some great bouts recently, and his last two have been razor thing wins over Daiki Kaneko, in an under-rated 2017 war, and Deiner Berrio. Malikov is certainly beatable, but whether Yordan will be the man to beat him is yet to be seen. It's worth nothing that both of these men hold world rankings and the bout is essentially a world title eliminator.
In a great support bout we'll see unbeaten men collide, with Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu (10-0, 5) battling Leonardo Padilla (16-0, 12) for the vacant WBA Asia Super Featherweight Title. Uulu is a Kyrgyzstan born Russian based fighter who has struggled at times but appears to be improving and has got the talent to go a long way, if he can correct some defensive flaws. Those defensive flaws could be a major problem here however as Padilla, like many fighters from Venezuela, can bang with 8 stoppages in his last 10. We'll be honest and admit we're unsure how the Venezuelan qualifies for a WBA Asia title but that can't take away from what looks like a really exciting match up.
Another battle of unbeaten men will see Uzbek hopeful Ravshanbek Umurzakov (2-0, 2) take on Georgian Merab Turkadze (5-0, 2). The Uzbek looks to be a natural prospect and was a solid amateur before making his debut at the end of last year. So far Umurzakov has fought only 2 rounds, taking both of his opponents out with brutal left hands to the body in the opening round. It's always hard to know what you get with a Georgian fighter but given that Umurzakov is scheduled to fight again in May it seems like his team are confident of another quick win here.
One other bout of note will see Russian novice Mekhdi Abdurashedov (1-0) take on the once touted Iwan Zoda (14-3-1, 13) of Indonesia. At one point Zoda looked like a star in the making, and his 2015 win over Petchchorhae Kokietgym was a sensational performance. Sadly though he has gone 1-2-1 in his last 4 and really is fighting an up hill battle to remain relevant. It's unclear how good Abdurashedov is, but this is a big step up for the Russian and hopefully Zoda will show of the skills that got many of us excited when he was younger
In Bangkok fight fans will get the chance to see a number of fights involving visiting Japanese fighters. Sadly their opponents, all of which are locals, are un-named at the present moment, but the show is worthy of note due to the quality of the Japanese fighters.
The main event will see the hotly tipped Hinata Maruta (5-1, 4) fight for the first time since he lost in an OPBF title fight against Hidenori Otake. The bout is expected to be a simple confidence builder for Maruta who will likely be seeking a rematch with Otake in 2018. Despite the loss last time out he's still one of the most naturally talented young fighters on the planet and it would be a huge shock to see anything but a win here from Maruta.
Maruta's stablemate Naoto Iwai (3-2, 1) will be on the show, and will be trying to end a 2-fight skid. The talented Iwai once looked like a prospect on his way through the ranks but losses to Ryosuke Nasu and Kenya Yamashita have slowed the 20 year old down. He'll be hoping for a win here and then a step up back in Japan in 2018 as he looks to rebuild his career as quickly as possible.
One other fighter of note on this card is former Japanese title challenger Takumi Sakae (17-2-1, 12). The talented Sakae has won his last 3 by stoppage but did have a frustrating 2016, in which he went 1-2-1, and will clearly be trying to string together another win before the start of 2018, as he continues to chase a second title fight.
The show of the the day, for us at least, is in Tokyo where we get a pair of OPBF title fights, both of which are well matched, and one of which could be the coming out party for one of the best natural talents in the sport today.
The headline bout sees the teak tough Hidenori Otake (29-2-3, 13) making his second defense of the OPBF Super Bantamweight title, as he takes on the hotly tipped youngster Hinata Maruta (5-0, 4). Otake, best known for going 12 rounds with Scott Quigg in the UK, will be viewing this bout as his next step towards a second world title fight and a chance to prove that he's still a top fighter despite being in his mid 30's. On the other hand Maruta is a young novice who has long been tipped as one of the Japanese stars of the future. The bout might be too much too soon for Maruta, or it could be the bout that sees him announce himself as being as good as advertised, and potentially a man who has the ability to go all the way to the top. It's going to be a special bout and something that deserves real attention.
The other title bout will see OPBF Flyweight champion Keisuke Nakayama (10-2-1, 4) making his first defense, as he battles once touted Filipino for Jobert Alvarez (17-2-1, 7). For Nakayama the bout is a really tough first defense, but a winnable one against Alvarez, who was stopped by Miguel Cartagena inside around a few fights back. Both of these can box, though we're expecting to see a bit of a battle, with the later rounds expected to be very exciting as both men put it on the line in an attempt to come away with the title.
San Juan, Argentina
Another title bout of note comes from Argentina, as Japan's Yunoka Furukawa (9-1-2, 6) challenges IBF female Flyweight champion Leonela Paola Yudica (12-0-3). The Japanese fighter, a current champion at Atomweight, will be moving up in weight for the bout and taking part in her first bout outside of Asia. The bout is a tough ask for the Japanese battler but she can't be ruled out, and certainly has the edge in power against the technically well schooled, but some what negative Yudica.
There's also set to be a very notable card in Australia featuring a number of Asian fighters, of various abilities.
One of the most interesting of the match ups on paper will see Joel Camilleri (14-4, 7) battle against China's Yao Yi Ma (15-2, 10). The local has had a mixed career, fighting against limited foe's and although he is riding a 5 fight winning streak a win here would be a career best. For Mathe bout is a chance to bounce back from last November's loss to Dennis Hogan, in what was Ma's last outing. On paper this looks competitive and we're expecting to see something really exciting here.
Another good looking contender on paper will see recent OPBF Lightweight title challenger Kaewfah Tor Buamas (25-2, 16) take on Australian hopeful George Kambosos Jnr (12-0, 6). Of the two men it's Kaewfah who is the more experienced, and more proven, having given Masayoshi Nakatani a decent test earlier this year and holding wins over the likes of Andrew Wallace and Jason Butar Butar. Despite a relative lack of experience Kambosos has looked really good and has wins of note over fighters like Brandon Ogilvie and Qamil Balla.
In a female bout we'll see Thai Petcharas Superchamp (7-5, 1) take on the excellent Susie Ramadan (26-2, 11). This will be a huge ask for Thai, who has lost 3 of her last 4, but she will be travelling knowing that this is a chance for her to put in a good performance on foreign soil. Aged 38 Ramadan has likely started on the downslope of her career but should still have too much for the visitor.
One other bout that looks good on paper will see the once beaten Tiger Tor Buamas (19-1, 14) take on the always exciting Joel Brunker (31-2, 18). Tiger is a limited fighter, but at 31 there is some live there and he does know his way around the ring, however he has spent much of his career fighting at a very low level. As for Brunker he was once eyed as possible world title challenger, but with 2 losses in his last 6 those hopes do look a long way from reality and at 31 years old his style is potentially set to catch up on him.
In Osaka we get the next Morioka gym card.
In the main event we'll see the sensationally gifted Hinata Maruta (4-0, 3) defending his WBC Youth Bantamweight title against Indonesian champion Hamson Tiger Lamandau (8-0, 5). The talented Maruta will be looking to record his second defense of the title and has openly stated that he has his eyes on more significant titles later in the year. Whilst Lamandau is relatively unknown it's clear that this will be a huge opportunity for him and a win would put him on the boxing map. The bout is an interesting one and another one for Maruta, who has really impressed throughout his career so far.
Another highly touted prospect on this card is unbeaten teenager Naoto Iwai (3-0, 1), who looks to score his first win against a domestic foe, as he takes on Ryosuke Nasu (6-2-2, 1). Although Iwai hasn't yet faced a domestic foe he has looked good against Filipino fighters, including Donny Mabao, and some are tipping him as a star of the future. In Nasu we have a fighter who is looking to bounce back from an opening round blow out to Masamichi Yabuki. Coming in Iwai will be the clear favourite but this should prove to be a good test.
Another notable fighter on this card is Middleweight Brandon Lockhart Shane (7-5-1, 6), who will be in against a Thai foe.
In Aichi we'll see the first round of the Central Japanese Rookie of the Year shows. The card doesn't have much in terms of name value but will feature some well matched, as the Rookie shows always do.
The best of the bouts will see once beaten Southpaw Masaki Sasaki (3-1, 1) battle the unbeaten Shuto Takase (3-0, 1) in one of two Featherweight bouts. Sasaki started his career with 3 straight wins but was beaten last time out, when Yudai Imada stopped him in 4 rounds. Takase, who is just 20, will be looking to continue his nice start, but did struggle last time out when he just squeaked past Japanese based Filipino Miguel Ocampo.
The other bout we'd like to make a note of is an all-debutant match up between Tatsuki Toyoshima (0-0) and Sadayuki Kai (0-0). Both fighters will be looking to get their careers off to a good start and this Super Bantamweight bout could be very entertaining.
New South Wales, Australia
There will also be a card in Australia where the unbeaten Haithem Laamouz (8-0, 3) battles against Indonesian veteran Roy Tua Manihuruk (19-16-2, 15). The unbeaten Laamouz will be faxing, arguably, his best opponent to date, but should have no issues at all in getting past the limited fighter from Bengkulu.
The best show of the week, and one of the best of the month, comes on Wednesday when Morioka and Mutoh co-promote a great show with 5 title bouts in Osaka.
The “main event” of the show will see OPBF Light Middleweight champion Takayuki Hosokawa (28-10-5, 9) look for his second defense of the title as he takes on fellow Japanese fighter Yutaka Oishi (13-5, 7). The bout will see Hosokawa looking for a much better performance than his last one, a hard fought struggle for a draw with Koshinmaru Saito, however there are some suggesting he is at the very end of his career with injuries and accumulated damage adding up. For Oishi this is a great opportunity to claim a major title, but he will be the big under-dog here.
The most exciting fighter on the card is 19 year old hopeful Hinata Maruta (3-0, 2), who looks to make his first defense of the WBC Youth Bantamweight. The talented Japanese youngster will be up against Filipino southpaw Joe Tejones (6-1, 2) in what should be a chance to Maruta to get rounds against a southpaw. From what we under-stand a win here will see Maruta progress towards either a Japanese, an OPBF or a WBO Asia Pacific title fight in 2017 with his team actively chasing tougher assignments. For Tejones the bout is a big step up and it's hard to see what he'll have to test Maruta.
The other OPBF title fight will see Middleweight champion Dwight Ritchie (14-0-0-4, 1) make the first defense of his title as he takes on the limited but heavy handed Japanese slugger Koki Tyson (10-2-2, 10). Ritchie won the title earlier this year in Japan, where he defeated Hikaru Nishida, and will be hoping for more success here. He is however up against a very different type of fighter here with Nishida being a basic pressure fighter whilst Tyson is a boxer-puncher, sadly for Tyson he is rather limited and comes into this on the back of a very poor performance against Joon Yong Lee.
In a WBO Super Flyweight Asia Pacific title bout we'll see former world title challengers face off as Japan's Hirofumi Mukai (12-4-3, 2) battles Thailand's Inthanon Sithchamuang (30-8-1, 18). Mukai has twice fought for world titles in Thailand, having a technical draw with Pongsaklek Wonjongkam and suffering a stoppage loss to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, and has struggled against other notable opponents like Shohei Omori and Mark Anthony Geraldo. Inthanon on the other hand is best known for losing to Kohei Kono earlier this year, and has suffered other losses in Japan, where he is yet to score a win.
At Flyweight we'll see the unbeaten, and genuinely promising, Masahiro Sakamoto (8-0, 4) take on the once beaten Sho Kimura (12-1-2, 6) for the WBO Asia Pacific title. Sakamoto has been unbeaten since his debut back in December 2014, and has won the 2015 Rookie of the Year and holds wins over Atsushi Aburada and Il Che. As for Kimura he was beaten in his debut but has gone 14 fights unbeaten since fighting 3 of those bouts in Thailand. This is the first title bout for both men and should tell us a lot about both fighters.
In a notable non-title bout on the card we'll see exciting prospect Naoto Iwai (2-0, 1) take on Filipino veteran Donny Mabao (22-27-3, 4) in a 6 rounder. The bout is a good step up for Iwai, who was last seen beating Juan Purisima in the Philippines, and a win here is likely to see Iwai move into 8 rounders in 2017, with the teenager already showing glimpses of real talent like stablemate Maruta