We really are closing in on Christmas, and even though we're a few days away we are set for one of the annual treats boxing calendar, the All Japan Rookie of the Year final. As well as the Rookie of the Year's there's a lot of other stuff going on, with a title bout, an eliminator and a host of prospects in action. This Sunday is big for Asian boxing!
Our attention is obvious focused on the All Japan Rookie of the Year final from Korakuen Hall, with G+ airing the show live, and in full. For fans who want to know what makes Japanese boxing special at the lower end this is it. This is the culmination of a tournament that covers the whole country and takes the better part of a year. To get to the final you need to have won your regional final, and you don't get this far by chance. You get here on merit alone, and as a result we get some amazing match ups.
We won't be going through all 12 bouts, but we have picked out favourite match ups from the line.
It's always great to see all-unbeaten fights in the final and at Minimumweight we have one such bout, as Katsuki Mori (5-0, 1) takes on Takumi Chono (5-0, 3). This is a brilliant fight, with both men being young, having very similar records and both proving themselves to get this far. Mori is a sensational pure boxer from the Ohashi gym and will be looking to show case his skills, but Chono is not a push over, and has looked strong and powerful through out. The winner of this will really be one to watch in 2020.
At Featherweight we expect to see fire-works as Kyonosuke Kameda (5-1-1, 4) and Jinki Maeda (3-0, 2) face off. It's been an emotional year for Kameda, the cousin of Koki, Daiki and Tomoki, and only 2 weeks ago there was a a real chance he'd miss out on this bout due to the politics at the Kyoei gym. Now here the hard hitting 21 year old will be wanting to make the most of his opportunity. Maeda has quietly made his way to the final, blowing out his first two professional opponents before shutting out the then 4-0 Hikaru Fukunaga. We expect this one to be the standout bout of the day.
More fireworks are expected up at 140lbs where Kodai Honda (4-1, 3) and Yasutaka Fujita (5-0, 5) will face off. The 20 year old Honda lost on debut, more than a year ago, but has reeled off 4 wins since then, and he has stopped each of his last 3 opponents. Fujita on the other hand has been blitzing opponents and his 5 bouts have lasted just 10 rounds. Expect bombs to be thrown, and to be thrown early here!
Whilst the Rookie of the Year show is the biggest it's certainly not the only show of note, and at the Sumiyoshi Ward Center the Muto Gym will be show casing some of their brightest young talents, as well as a regional champion.
The main event of the show will see WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion Yuki Strong Kobayashi (15-8, 9) defending his title against Korean challenger Ki Chang Go (8-3, 4). This will be Kobayashi's first defense since winning the title in May with a minor upset against Ben Mananquil, and he'll be looking to go into the new year with some real momentum behind following a bizarre decision loss to Keita Kurihara at the end of 2018. It's really hard to see what Go offers here, and it was only last year that Go was stopped by career Flyweight Masahiro Sakamoto, a stablemate of Kobayashi's at the time. Our full and in depth previous of this regional title bout can be read here Kobayashi defends against Go in Osaka!
In supporting bouts we'll see a trio of Muto gym prospects taking on Filipino foes. The most notable of the trio is Yusuke Mine (2-0, 1), who takes a huge step up to take on veteran Ardin Diale (35-15-4, 17). This is a brilliant bit of match making from the Muto team, who know that Diale is on the slide, but still very live and has been in there with a who's who of the lower weights. A risky match up for their star prospect, but a win here will instantly launch him into the mix for regional titles. High risk and high reward for Mine here.
Another stellar prospect is Tulio Kuwabata (3-0, 2), who will be fighting as Deka-narudo Torio, who takes on hard hitting Pinoy Ken Jordan (8-1-2, 7). The 23 year old Kuwabata is tipped very highly by those in Japan and has been matched aggressively so far, with this being a pretty logical looking step. Jordan is unbeaten in over 2 years and recently claimed an ABF title, back in August. This is a bout between two youngsters each coming to win, and it should give us some very competitive action over 8 rounds.
The third prospect of note is Ryosuke Nishida (1-0, 1), who made his debut in Thailand back in October. Unlike his fellow hopefuls he won't be in an 8 rounder, but instead he'll be scheduled for 6 rounds against the tough Pablito Canada (7-17-4, 1), and will likely be taken the distance by Canada who has only been stopped twice in his 28 bout career.
A second Osaka, card, this time from the EDION Arena, will also be worthy of some attention.
The main event here is a Japanese Super Flyweight title eliminator, the final of the eliminators to take place this year, and will see former world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18-3, 11) clash with Yuta Matsuo (15-4-1, 8) for the chance to fight Kenta Nakagawa in the new year. At 34 years old a loss will likely send Kudaka into retirement, ending an incredibly interesting and often exciting career, so we expect to see him being fired up for this. Matsuo is no world beater, but he is better than his record suggests and is hoping to secure a second Japanese Super Flyweight title fight, following a loss to Takayuki Okumoto earlier this year. Our in depth preview of this eliminator is available to read here Kudaka and Matsuo to clash in final Japanese eliminator of 2019!
In an 8 round supporting bout Kenta Nomura (6-3, 3) will battle Ryo Suwa (11-2, 2), in a very interesting looking contest. Nomura is looking to bounce back from an August loss to Toshiki Shimomachi, in a Japanese Youth title fight, and although he's nothing special he does tend to make for good fights. Suwa on the other hand has won 4 of his last 5 and will see this as a chance to take a huge step towards a potential youth title fight of his own.
This show will also feature the debut of former amateur standout Kantaro Juri (0-0), who fought in the Asian and World Youth Championships back in 2014, who will be in a 6 rounder at a contracted 53KG's. Sadly his opponent here hasn't been confirmed, though we have been told it will be an Indonesian opponent.
As well as the Japanese action there is also a low level Indian card in Golaghat.
This card will be headlined by Sagar Narwat (9-1-1, 3) taking on Shiva (9-3, 3) in an 8 round bout. For Narwat this is a chance to get back to winning ways following October's loss to Troy O'Meley in Australia. As for Shiva he's now wheeled off 3 straight wins after he suffered a trio of losses on the road in 2017. Sadly this bout aside the card isn't really worth getting too excited about.
Christmas is creeping up on us and on December 24th we have a really intriguing card from Osaka, which features an OPBF title fight and two hotly tipped Japanese prospects.
The title bout promises to deliver explosive action, as the heavy handed Keita Kurihara (12-5, 11) take on the limited but hard hitting Yuki Strong Kobayashi (14-7, 8) for the OPBF Bantamweight title, which was vacated by Mark John Yap earlier this year. On paper the bout doesn't look like anything special, but given the styles of the two fighters we're expecting a very exciting brawl. Coming in Kurihara has scored 3 straight wins of note, stopping Ryan Lumacad, Tetsuya Watanabe and Kazuki Tanaka, all since a 5th round TKO loss to Hiroaki Teshigawara. As for Kobayashi he is himself riding a 4 fight winning run, including a win last time out against Vincent Astrolabio on the Manny Pacquiao Vs Lucas Matthysse under-card. Both of these guys are defensively flawed, but both can bang and that should make this fight very exciting. A preview of this bout is available here Kurihara and Kobayashi battle for OPBF title in Christmas Eve treat!
One of the prospects on this card is Rio Kuwabata (1-0, 1), who takes a notable step up in class to face off with Yosuke Taniguchi (7-5-1, 2). The 22 year old Kuwabata made his debut back in China, in a 4 rounder, and this is a notable step up for a man who is tipped to be a success. As for Taniguchi he has gone on a 5 fight unbeaten run, including a win over Shachihoko Dragons Keita last time out. Although this is expected to be another win for Kuwabata it's fair to say he's in with a live opponent here and should consider this a serious test.
The other prospect of note on this show is Riku Kunimoto (2-0), who has shown touches of genius, but really appears to be lacking just one or two things at the moment. Aged 21 Kunimoto is a Japanese Middleweight worth making a mental note of, though it could be a few years before we see him really being tested. Saying that however he's not being matched softly and his third bout will see him in with the experienced Toshihiro Kai (6-10-2, 2), who has gone 2-4 in his last 6 bouts but has scored a notable win over Yutaka Oishi.
One other bout of note on this card will see former Japanese Super Flyweight champion Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18-2, 11) take on Japanese based Filipino Jayar Estremos (11-14, 4). This is Kudaka's first bout since losing the Japanese title to Takayuki Okumoto in August and we do wonder what the highly experienced 4-time world title challenger has left in his 33 year old body, after what has been a relatively exciting yet over-looked career. Estremos on the other hand has won just 1 of his last 10 bouts, but he has been matched hard with bouts against notable foes in Thailand. If Estremos has found his desire to fight he could make for a tough opponent for Kudaka, but the reality is that Kudaka should be strongly favoured here, and should be able to come out on top of an exciting contest.
A second card will also take place in Osaka, albeit a much less notable card.
The main event of the card will see Tomoko Okuda (4-2-1) taking on Thai visitor Anchalee Mankong (2-3), in what looks like a very weak main event contest. It's hard to imagine Okuda losing, despite her limitations, but regardless it's not a main event that will draw much interest.
Despite not being the main event, the best match up, on paper at least, will see Hirokazu Okajima (8-6-2, 4) battle against the hard hitting Kazuaki Miyamoto (6-2, 5). The 33 year old Okajima has been out of the ring for over a year, following a 5th round KO loss to Masashi Wakita, and is more than 6 years removed form his last win, against Akira Shono in 2012. Miyamoto is limited himself, and both of his losses have been by stoppage, including one early this year to a very faded Seiichi Okada. This is one where we expect both men to have the power to stop the other in what could an entertaining lower level scrap.
They key show this coming Friday comes from Osaka, where we get a Japanese title fight, and several under-card bouts featuring notable fighters.
The main event will see Japanese Super Flyweight champion Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-17-2, 11) make his first defense, as he takes on Takayuki Okumoto (20-8-3, 10), a man fighting in his first world title challenge. Kudaka, a 4-time world title challenger, won the Japanese title this past April, when he out pointed Go Onaga for the vacant title. At 33 years old Kudaka will know that he can't really afford another set back, but will feel like he can pick up a straight forward defense. So far Okumoto is 0-2 in title fights, including a Japanese title fight last year against Ryuichi Funai, but he's a capable fighter who has gone 4-1-1 in his last 6 and will be riding some momentum here. We favour the champion, but suspect he will have to work hard for the victory.
The chief support bout will see 2017 Welterweight Rookie of the Year runner up Rikuto Adachi (9-1, 6) face off with limited Indonesian fighter Maxi Nahak (7-15-3, 3). Adachi lost to Hironori Shigeta in the Rookie final, but has bounced back with a 6th round KO of a Thai foe which he's looking to build on here. As for Nahak, he's 0-4 in Japan and has been stopped in 3 of his last 4, suggesting that Adachi should be able to pick up a win here with out too many problems here
Also on this card will be former OPBF Super Featherweight champion Masao Nakamura (23-3, 22),
who will be fighting for the second time since ending his retirement earlier this year, and former Japanese and OPBF Light Middleweight champion Yuki Nonaka (31-10-3, 10), who looks to bounce back from his recent loss to Takeshi Inoue. We've been informed that Nonaka will be facing a Thai whilst Nakamura will be up against Marbon Bodiongan (14-7-2, 11).
As well as the action in Osaka there will also be a show in Tokyo, though this card is lacking in the name value that the Osakan card has.
The main event will see Masanori Rikiishi (2-1, 1) look to bounce back from his recent loss to Kosuke Saka as he takes on limited Indonesian foe Egy Rozten (5-18-2, 3). Despite the loss to Saka it seems clear that Rikiishi's team have big hopes for him and despite this being a straight forward bout, at least on paper, the fact he is main eventing shows the belief that the Green gym have in him. Rozten comes into this on the back of 6 straight stoppages, and has gone 0-6-1 in his last 7 bouts, showing just how much of an easy opponent he should be for Rikiishi.
In the chief support bout fans will be able to see Japanese ranked Featherweight Yosuke Kawano (12-7-2, 6) take on Masajiro Honda (6-9, 4). The 29 year old Kawano has gone 2-3-1 in his last 6, but is better than that form suggests with his draw coming to Takenori Ohashi, who went on to claim the Japanese Featherweight title last year, and ran the likes of Dai Iwai and Ryuto Araya very close. Honda has been stopped in his last 5 bouts, and is without a win since November 2014. It's clear that Kawano has been matched softly here and should pick up a pretty simple win.
Another Japanese ranked fighter on this card is Takahiro Araki (11-7, 4), who will be facing off with Yoshiyuki Takabayashi (9-9, 4). Araki is nothing great, going 3-3 in his last 6, but should have more than enough to deal with Takabayashi, who has gone 1-6 in his last 7 bouts.
Staying in Asia there will also be a double title show in Jakarta.
One of the bouts will see the very experienced James Mokoginta (37-18-3, 23) take on hard hitting Filipino Jon Jon Estrada (11-4-1, 10), in what will be Mokoginta's first defense of the WBA Asia Featherweight title. Although Mokiginta has 58 career bouts he's only 27 years old and has the potential to be in some good fights. It is worth noting however that Estrada is a genuine banger, and has stopped usually durable fighters like Pablito Canada and Brian Lobetania in recent years. Given the power of Estrada we can
The other title bout will see the limited Ruben Manakane (24-17-1, 13) face off with the unbeaten Muhammad Ashiq (4-0, 3) for the vacant WBA Asia Super Bantamweight title. The 25 year old Manakane is limited but is currently riding a 5 fight winning streaking, having claimed several titles during that run. Ashiq is a bit of an unknown, only debuting last September, but looks like he could be a prospect worth following and a win here would put him on the map, at least domestically.
In California fight fans will be able to see unbeaten American Genaro Gamez (8-0, 5) take on Filipino foe Recky Dulay (10-3-0-1, 7) in a bout for the NABF Super Featherweight title. Gamez started his career slowly but has stepped up this year, beating Shoki Sakai in April to notch his best win to date. Dulay is coming into his prime has lost 2 of his 3 bouts in the US, including a stoppage to Gervonta Davies. We would be surprised by a win for Dulay, but he has surprised us in the past.
This Monday sees a pretty decent card coming from the Korakuen Hall, thanks to Dangan who will be putting on a Japanese title fight, a Japanese title eliminator and the return of a former national and OPBF champion.
The returning champion is the always to watch Takuya Kogawa (28-5, 13), who was last seen earlier this year losing his title in a rematch to Masayuki Kuroda. That bout seemed to show that Kogawa was on the slide, but he has had such a hard career, and his bouts against the likes of Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Suguru Muranaka, Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep, Hiroyuki Kudaka and the aforementioned Kuroda were all very entertaining and pretty damaging to the Tokyo man. Given the big bouts Kogawa has been in we can't begrudge him an easy one, and it does look like he has a very easy one here, as he takes on Naoto Fujimoto (9-7-1, 4), who is 2-4 in his last 6, and shouldn't pose any threat to Kogawa, unless the wars have really caught up with the former champion.
The chief support bout of the card will be a Japanese title eliminator, as the experienced pairing of Go Onaga (28-3-3, 19) and Hiroyuki Kudaka (25-17-1, 11) face off, in what really has the potential to be the Japanese fight of the year. Onaga is 1-1-1 in his last 3, and at 37 knows it really is now or never. He's seemingly obsessed with winning some sort of title before he ends his career and with the end coming fast he really needs a win here to remain relevant. Kudaka on the other hand is one of the rare fighters you watch just because of how entertaining he is. Kudaka is a 4-time world title challenger, and he has racked up a lot of losses, but rarely has he been in bouts that weren't thoroughly entertaining and well worth the price of admission. On paper this looks like a mismatch, but with youth on side we wouldn't be surprised if Kudaka managed to win a genuinely brilliant and action packed bout, and earn a shot at the Japanese title in 2018.
Talking about a title fight the main event of the card is a Japanese Super Flyweight title fight, and the winner is likely to face the winner of the Onaga Vs Kudaka bout. This contest will see defending champion Ryuichi Funai (28-7, 19) take on Shota Kawaguchi (21-8-1, 9). For the champion this will be his second defense, and he will likely be hoping to move towards a world title fight in 2018. For Kawaguchi this is a second title fight, following a loss in an OPBF title fight to Rene Dacquel earlier this year. Kawaguchi is a good challenger at this level, but is likely to look a level below Funai, who is a very capable fighter, with the potential to mix at a much higher level than just domestic title level.
This coming Wednesday in Japan fight fans have an interesting Ohashi card to look forward to. We'll be honest and not pretend that it's full of 50-50 bouts, but it keeps the gym's fighters busy, whilst a number them begin to move towards bigger and better bouts.
The main event of the card is the best looking contest on paper and sees Takuma Inoue (8-0, 2) return to the ring following almost a year out, to take on 4-time world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka (25-16-1, 11) in a solid test for the youngster. Inoue was supposed to fight for a world title at the end of 2016, but an injury forced that bout to be cancelled and now he's in need of a warm up bout before looking at bigger and better things. For Kudaka, previously known as Hiroyuki Hisataka, the bout is a chance to score a career defining win after some recent struggles in the ring, including losing 7 of his last 11. Kudaka's record isn't great but he's a tough out for most and should ask questions of rInoue.
Another relatively attractive bout will see Koki Inoue (8-0, 7), Takuma's cousin, step up to take on former Japanese title challenger Cristiano Aoqui (11-6-2, 7) in what is essentially a Japanese title eliminator. Inoue enters the bout ranked #3 and Aoqui is #8, with the winner almost certainly looking to get a crack before the end of the year. For Inoue the bout is a slight step up, but it's a logical step as he continues to impress and leave a wake of battered and beaten fighters in his wake. For Aoqui the bout serves as a chance to get back in to the mix after 3 losses in his last 4.
When it comes to fighters who are looking at bigger and better things, it's fair to say that Ryo Matsumoto (20-1, 18) is on the verge of a world title fight. As a result he's having a stay busy contest on this show against Indonesian foe Jason Butar Butar (25-22-1, 16), in what should be another straight forward win for the likeable Matsumoto, who is looking to put health issues well and truly behind him.
Another fighter looking for bigger things is Go Onaga (27-3-3, 18),who also faces an Indonesian journeyman as he takes on John Bajawa (13-14, 7). Onaga is looking to get himself a Japanese title fight in the near future, and the veteran cannot afford another set back. This should be a straight forward win for the Ohashi man, but he is now 37 and 18 months removed from his last victory.
Rounding out the notable fights on this show are two Ohashi novices tipped for big things. One of those is Kazuki Nakajima (1-0, 1), who looks for his second professional win as he takes on Resnu Sundava (2-1, 2) whilst the other is debutant Katsuya Yasuda (0-0), who faces Reno Arizona (1-2). Neither Ohashi man should worry here about winning, but both will want to impress Mr Ohashi, who we suspect wants to fast track both men following their impressive amateur careers.