Shinjuku FACE, Tokyo, Japan
We turn our attention back to Japan to end the month, and we get treat very nicely thanks to A-Sign boxing who are putting on a live stream of their event from the Shinjuku Face in Tokyo. The event isn't a massive card, but it is a compelling card, featuring a nice mix of prospects, domestic hopefuls and the Japanese debut of a fighter who has, until now, been fighting entirely in the west.
In the main event we'll see veteran Shoki Sakai (23-11-2, 13) make his Japanese debut after more than 30 fights in Mexico and the US. The tough and rugged Sakai was once a fighter with a genuine hunger and ambition, but in recent years he has been used as a gatekeeper of sorts in the West. He has lost his last 4, though managed to ask questions of Genero Gamez, Eddie Gomez, Alexis Rocha and Gor Yeritsyan and has proven his value as a genuine trial horse. For his Japanese debut he is being matched some what easier than he has been in the West as he takes on Hironori Shigeta (6-1-1, 3), who is best known for winning the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year, at Welterweight, though he has failed to kick on since then and has fought just twice since that Rookie triumph. Shigeta is unbeaten in his last 7 but this is a serious step up in class for him.
One of the best prospects on this card is unbeaten teenage Jin Sasaki (7-0, 6), who turned 19 in July. The talented Sasaki will be taking a big step up, as he takes on Shun Akaiwa (5-1-1, 3), who answered what was essentially an open challenge by the promoters of the event. Sasaki has shown a lot to be excited about, including power, skills and timing, though unfortunately had to pull out of the East Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2019. The youngster is tipped for big things but this is expected to be a real test. Akaiwa enters the bout ranked #13 by the JBC at 140lbs and has won his last 3, which has seen him avenge his sole defeat and score a shock TKO win over Kenta Endo. This is a genuinely serious test for Sasaki and a win here will give him a huge boost after the disappointing end to his Rookie of the Year journey last year. A win for Akaiwa on the other hand will continue his great form and move him a step closer to a title fight. This is a real 50-50 type bout.
In a bout that could, potentially, be an explosive bout we'll see Ryugo Ushijima (3-1-2, 2) and Ryukyu Oho (6-3, 3) battle in a 6 rounder. We were impressed and frustrated by Ushijima last year. His bout with Shota Ogasawara was an instant classic, but he then went 0-1-2 for the rest of the year, and failed to show any real development. Aged 19 and stood at 5'10" he is very much a growing boy and not the complete product, but we do need to start to see some improvements from the youngster, who has the size and frame to be a genuine prospect, despite his current record. Oho on the other hand has struggled for form recently, losing 2 of his last 3 including a 2018 Rookie of the Year bout with Hikari Mineta. This has the potential to be the hidden gem on the card with both men desperate to get a win.
The 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year Super Featherweight king Hyoga Taniguchi (3-2-2, 1) will be up against Yoshiki Tatsukami (4-6-1), in what will be Taniguchi's first bout since his Rookie triumph in December. The 21 year old Taniguchi has got promise but his lack of power could be a major issue, unless he develops it in the coming years. Coming in to this Tatsukami has lost his last 3, but has generally asked questions of fighters, testing Mirai Naito and Hokuto Matsumoto. We expect Taniguchi to take the win, but this will not be easy for the youngster.
In an easy to over-look bout the limited but hard hitting Ken Koibuchi (5-4, 4) will be up against one of our favourite unheralded fighters Takuya Yamaguchi (4-11-2, 2). Coming in to this Koibuchi has lost 3 of his last 4 but two of those were razor thin decisions and he's certainly better than his record suggests. Yamaguchi on the other hand is a very likable loser, and the recent A-Sign documentary on him is brilliant, insightful and opens a door into the life of someone who has charmed us in recent years. We suspect Koibuchi will have too much for the 34 year old Yamaguchi.
In a Rookie of the Year bout we'll see the unbeaten and charismatic Kosuke Tomioka (2-0, 2) in action against Shota Hara (2-2-1). Although he's still only a boxing baby Tomioka has been receiving a lot of attention for his exciting style and unique in ring flair, which we hope to see more of here. Hara is the older man, but is very much coming into this bout as the under-dog and we suspect he will struggle, despite having an under-rated counter punchers game.
Attention turns to Tokyo this coming Saturday as we get a really interesting Kadoebi card at the Korakuen Hall, headlined by a Japanese title fight but also featuring numerous other notable fighters.
The main event of the card will see Japanese Light Welterweight champion Valentine Hosokawa (24-6-3, 11) defending his title against unbeaten mandatory challenger Koki Inoue (12-0, 10), the third member of the Inoue clan. For the 37 year old Hosokawa this will be his third defense of the belt, which he won in 2017 against Koichi Aso. As for Inoue this will be his first title fight, and comes after a relatively disappointing performance against Marcus Smith, though a performance that did see Inoue battling with injuries. A full preview of this bout can be read here Another Inoue goes for gold, as Koki takes on Valentine Hosokawa.
In the chief support bout we'll see former OPBF Middleweight champion Koki Tyson (13-3-2, 11) take on durable Thai Chaiwat Mueanphong (4-3, 2). For Tyson this will be his first bout since signing with the Kadoebi Gym and his first bout since losing the OPBF title to Yasuyuki Akiyama in December 2017. Chaiwat on the other hand comes into this bout on the back of 3 straight losses, but has proven to be tough and almost went 7 complete rounds with Kazuto Takesako last year. Tyson should win, but will have to work for it.
An excellent supporting bout will see Japanese-Brazilian Cristiano Aoqui (13-7-2, 9) battle against Anthony Marcial (24-3-1, 22) of the Philippines.The talented Aoqui isn't a world beater, but is an exciting and fun yo watch fighter who has a notable fan base. Marcial on the other hand has an impressive looking record, but has mostly been a can crusher on the Filipino domestic scene. This could be a much, much better bout than it looks on paper, though we're expecting Aoqui to be too good for the visitor.
Another supporting bout will see Tsuyoshi Sato (8-1-1, 4) take on Tetsuya Tomioka (5-3, 5) in a Japanese Youth Light Flyweight title tournament semi final bout. The exciting Sato is aggressive, all action and very fan friendly, whilst Tomioka is a big puncher, with questionable durability. This might end up being the bout of the show, and both are very fun to watch. It's worth noting that this bout will be a semi-final bout of a 4 man tournament to crown a new Japanese Light Flyweight youth champion, with the other semi-final taking place on April 11th.
Other supporting bouts will see Hironori Shigeta (5-1-1, 3) take on Mitsumasa Takahashi (9-5-1, 3) and Aso Ishiwaki (5-2, 3) battle Yoji Saito (1-1, 1). On paper neither of these bouts look amazing, but both promise a lot. Shigeta is a Japanese ranked Welterweight, and the 2017 Rookie of the year, whilst Takahashi is a very solid domestic level guy. Ishiwaki is the 2018 Lightweight Rookie of the Year whilst Saito is a former amateur standout, and despite having a loss on his record is very much a prospect to make a note of.
As well as the great show in Japan there is also a low key card in the Philippines. The headline bout here will see Eduardo Mancito (16-10-2, 9) battling against Nathan Bolcio (14-15-3, 4). On paper this is a pretty good domestic bout, it's nothing amazing, but should be pretty competitive and that's always a good thing!
This coming Sunday isn't a big day in Asian boxing but there are a number of bouts of note, with two Japanese eliminators in Fukuoka and a pretty interesting card in South Korea with Koreans, and Korean based fighters, taking on Japanese visitors.
The card in Fukuoka really is lacking in terms of depth, with just 6 total bouts on the card, but the top two bouts are mouth watering Japanese title eliminators, featuring local fighters taking on opponents from Tokyo for the right to compete at the 2019 Champion Carnival.
One of those two eliminators takes place down at 105lbs and will see the once touted Takumi Sakae (19-2-1, 13) take on recent OPBF title challenger Norihito Tanaka (16-7, 9). The 25 year old Tanaka debuted in 2011 and looked on the route to success when he claimed the Rookie of the Year crown in 2013. Sadly since that early success he has faltered, losing in a Japanese title fight in 2016 to Tatsuya Fukuhara, drawing with Lito Dante and losing to Ryoki Hirai. Sakae has won his last 5, but those wins have come against some very limited foes. The 33 year old Tanaka ran up a 14-5 (7) record before walking away from the sport in 2011. He returned to the ring in 2017 and has had mixed success, with a loss last time out to OPBF champion Tsubasa Koura. Given the need for both men to win, and look good, this could be very entertaining. A preview of this bout is available here Sakae and Tanaka face off in Japanese eliminator!
The other title eliminator bout bout will see heavy handed Yuki Beppu (18-0-1, 18) clash with Teiken hopeful Yuki Nagano (14-2, 11) in a Welterweight eliminator. Beppu, like Sakae, is a Rookie of the Year winner but at 27 years old it certainly feels like time for his to step up his competition, following 4 wins over terrible foes. The one time he really stepped, since his Rookie triumph, saw him fight to a draw with Charles Bellamy, and he seemed to bide his time whilst waiting for an opportunity like this. At 29 years old Nagano is slight older but also more tested. He comes into this bout on a 12 fight winning run, including a Rookie of the Year triumph in 2015 and a recent win over Riku Nagahama. Notably this will be Nagano's first bout outside of the Korakuen Hall, and that may be a problem with the crowd behind Beppu, but he'll be confident of continuing his good form. This has the potential to be very explosive. Our preview of this bout can be read here - Heavy handed Beppu and Nagano clash in eliminator!
There will be a second Japanese card, albeit a significantly less significant one.
The main event here will see Ryosei Hamaguchi (6-3, 2) taking on Chiharu Takasuka (5-4-1, 3), in what is a pretty low key bout if we're being honest, especially given the action in Fukuoka.
Daejeon, South Korea
In South Korea fans get a very interesting card, featuring several good looking international bouts and two BoxingM title bouts.
One of those Korean title bouts will see Doo Hyup Kim (10-6-1, 5) take on Gun Woo Gang (4-2-2, 1) for the Korean Light Middleweight title. This will be Kim's first defense of the title, and despite having been stopped in 2 of his previous 3 he will be the man with the champions mentality. On the other hand the 21 year old Gang will be having his third title fight, having come up short in two previous Korean title bouts.
The second title fight will be at 140lbs and will see Jin Soo Kim (3-1, 1) face off with Min Ho Jung (7-1-1, 1) for the vacant title. At 22 years old Kim is the younger, less experienced man but is a promising southpaw, who made an impact on his 2015 debut by scoring a brilliant KO of Andrew Silva. Jung will enter the bout as the older man, but will be the naturally smaller fighter. This could be an entertaining match up, but this will be the first title bout for either man.
On paper the most evenly matched of the international bouts will see unbeaten fighters collide as local Min Jang (6-0-2, 2) takes on Japan's Fumiya Fuse (6-0, 1). The 18 year old Jang debuted last year and has already racked up 8 fights, but this is a big step up for him. At 20 years old Fuse is tipped as one to watch on the Japanese scene, and was the 2017 Rookie of the Year, but this will be his first bout outside of Japan. With neither man being a puncher we are expecting a distance bout, but a very interesting one.
A potentially more explosive match up will see 26 year old Korean Dong Kwan Lee (8-2-2, 4) take on heavy handed Japanese fighter Arashi Iimi (6-1, 6). Coming into this Lee's record doesn't look too interesting, but his short term for has seen him going 4-1 (4) and he hasn't seen the final bell in any of his last 5 bouts. Iimi, the runner up for the 2017 Japanese Rookie of the Year has never seen the final bell, and has scored two wins already this year. Given their recent shows we're expecting to see both men go for the KO and to go for it early!
One other bout of interest will see Korean based Mongolian Batzorig Batjargal (3-0, 2) take on Japan's Hironori Shigeta (5-1, 3). We've been impressed by Batjargal since his debut and he's looked really exciting so far, but this is a notable step up in class for him. Shigeta hasn't fought since December, but was crowned the Japanese Rookie of the Year last year at Welterweight, and he has a very good win over Rikuto Adachi. We can't help but think this could be the best bout on the card.