Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
This coming Tuesday attention turns to Japan, as Korakuen Hall hosts a show featuring two title bouts and the debut of an excellent youngster.
The more notable of the two title bouts will see unbeaten youngsters collide as Andy Hiraoka (17-0, 12) takes on the hard hitting Jin Sasaki (11-0, 10) in a bout for the Japanese and WBP Asia Pacific Light Welterweight titles. We suspect plenty of international fans will be aware of Hiraoka, who has featured on several US cards due to a co-promotional deal with Top Rank, and of the two men he is the more polished and the experienced, however he has shown that he can be caught and he's only had 3 bouts in the last 27 months and we wonder if he will have some ring rust. Sasaki on the other hand is known by those who follow the Japanese scene, and will have seen him break out last year. He is a raw, crude, puncher, but he really does have dynamite in his hands, stopping his last 5 opponents in a combined 8 rounds, with 4 of those wins coming since the start of 2020. This one should be fire works, with both having very solid power, and having enough flaws for the other man to target. Our preview of this bout can be read here Hiraoka and Sasaki risk unbeaten records in double title fight!
On the subject of fire works we're also expecting them in the other title fight, as OPBF Bantamweight champion Kazuki Nakajima (10-0-1, 8) takes on former champion Keita Kurihara (15-6, 13). Both of these men are very flawed in their own way, with Nakajima being very upright and stiff and Kurihara being slow of foot and open, but both men can seriously bang and throw almost all of their shots with nasty intent. The bout is less likely to be a boxing contest, and more of a fire fight, with one a single power shot needed to light the touch paper. Of the two men Nakajima is the more technically polished and "correct" fighter, but Kurihara is the more proven and battle hardened. This really could be an explosive, and short, encounter between two men looking to move onwards and upwards towards a potential world title fight. Our full preview of this bout can be read here Fireworks expected as Nakajima defends against Kurihara!
In a supporting bout we'll see Japanese ranked Super Featherweight's clash as Katsunori Endo (7-3-1, 4) takes on veteran Ribo Takahata (16-9-1, 6). Aged Takahata is coming to the end of his career, and we wouldn't be surprised if he bowed out after this fight, win or lose. Whilst never a major star in Japan he has been a very good servant to Japanese boxing and his career really does get over-looked, as he has managed to perform at a good level at an age where most fighters retire. Aged 30 Endo is the much younger fighter, but also the man with a point to prove after a very disappointing draw last time out to Ken Koibuchi. This should be a solid fight, maybe not the most exciting, but certainly a competitive one.
One other bout worthy of some attention is the debut of Kaiyu Toyoshima (0-0), who went 60-20 (15) in the amateurs, captained his University team and looked like a star in the making. He'll be up against Shohei Horii (3-6-2, 2), who was last seen losing to Toyoshima's Ohashi Gym stablemate Ryutaro Nakagaki last year. It's hard to imagine anything but a Toyoshima win, but this is a great chance for the youngster to settle into the pro ranks before bigger and better things down the line.
Dhalpur Ground, India
As well as the excellent show in Tokyo we also have a small card in India. The card really is a very, very limited one with the main event being a bout between Suraj (2-2, 1) and the win-less Nawid Mohammadi (0-1), who battle over 6 rounds. It's hard to complain about bouts like this headlining in places like India, where professional boxing is in it's infancy, but it's also hard to care too much about such low quality cards. Hopefully, in the coming years, shows will be headlines by meaningful bouts between established local talent, but that seems a very, very, very long way off.
This coming Saturday is a big day for fight fans in Hachioji, as they get two shows at the Fujimori Gym. One of the shows an East Japan Rookie of the Year card, whilst the other is headlined by a mouth watering Youth title fight, with serious implications for later in the year.
Fujimori Gym, Hachioji, Tokyo, Japan
The first of the two cards, set to begin at 11AM, is an East Japan Rookie of the Year show featuring 7 bouts across a variety of weights. As with all these Rookie of the Year shows the fighters involved are all novices.
On paper the most interesting match up, at least in our eyes, is the Super Bantamweight bout between Ryusei Sasanoike (1-0) and Mizuki Isozaki (0-0). The 18 year old Sasanoike made his debut last December and will be looking to build on a victory in that bout. Isozaki on the other hand is a 29 year old debutant looking to kick off his career by avoiding a loss to a teenager.
One other bout that looks oddly compelling is a Lightweight clash between Keigo Nagata (3-3-1, 1) and Tsuyoshi Kato (2-2). Unlike most on this show both men have suffered losses, but together they should make for an interesting bout. Kato has won his last 2, and is unbeaten since running into Jin Sasaki in 2019 whilst the 39 year old Nagata will be returning to the ring after 13 years out of action. This is certainly an interesting bout, without being one that will get much attention.
Fujimori Gym, Hachioji, Tokyo, Japan
The second show is a much more notable one, featuring three bouts of genuine interest and will be streamed worldwide on YouTube, thanks to A-Sign boxing.
The main event will see the hard hitting Jin Sasaki (10-0, 9) battle against Kaiki Yuba (7-0-2, 5) in a bout between unbeaten men, who are fighting for the JBC Youth Light Welterweight title and a shot at the JBC senior title, against Andy Hiraoka later in the year. Although 2020 was a bad year for most fighters it saw Sasaki putting himself on the map with a string of solid performances, including a beat down of Aso Ishiwaki, and he has all the momentum coming into this bout. He's heavy handed, dangerous and has that "star" appeal about him. Yuba on the other hand is the JBC Youth champion at 135lbs, moving up in weight for this bout, and is a second generation fighter looking to following in his father's, Tadashi Yuba, footsteps. Sadly Yuba has little momentum coming into this bout, and hasn't fought in almost 18 months, something that could be a problem against a fast starter like Sasaki. The only thing that seems undeniable here is that this should be a slugfest, for as long as it lasts! Our full preview of this bout can be read here Sasaki and Yuba face off in clash of Youth Champions
One of the main undercard bouts here will see 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Hyoga Taniguchi (4-2-2, 1) take on the unbeaten Hiro Ichimichi (4-0-1, 3) in a 6 rounder at 130lbs. This isn't a huge bout, but it is good to see the technically skilled Taniguchi back in the ring after almost a year of inactive. Saying that it's worth noting that Ichimichi has also been out of the ring for close to a year and at 36 he can't afford to have a slip up here if he intends to have a bout of note in the future.
Another under-card bout will see the usually fun to watch Ryugo Ushijima (4-2-2, 2) battle against Reiji Murata (4-3-1, 2). The 20 year old Ushijima is not a star in the making, but he's a good, TV friendly fighter who right now needs a win after going 1-2-2- in his last 5. He was easily outboxed last time out and really needs a good performance here. Aged 25 Murata is someone we've not seen much of, but he'll know this is a great opportunity to show what he can do on a show that's set to be streamed worldwide.
KO Addiction Boxing & Fitness Center, Plant City, Florida, USA
As well as the action in Japan we're also expecting to see unbeaten Chinese fighter Fanlong Meng (16-0, 10) to return to the ring for the first time in almost 2 years as he takes on Victor Fonseca Calderas (18-10-1, 14). Meng was supposed to get a world title fight in 2020, against Artur Beterbiev, but Covid and travel issues prevented that from happening, and instead saw him waste more than a year of his career. With that in mind we won't complain too much about him shaking some ring rust here, but his next fight needs to be a meaningful one!
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.
For those who want a late Christmas present, we have one of those for you this coming Saturday as Japan put on two shows and China also put on a show. One of those Japanese shows is a mouth watering card from Tokyo, which is set to be streamed live on the A-Sign YouTube channel whilst the second, from Aichi, will be shown on delay on Boxing Raise.
Christmas might be over, but the gifts keep coming!
Sumida City Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
The more significant of the two shows is the Tokyo one, and it's a genuinely stacked domestic card that should give us a big of everything. The main event should be a fairly technical contest, the opening bouts should be competitive under-card bouts, and we get at least one, if not two, shoot outs on a genuinely fantastic show.
The main event will see former WBO Super Featherweight champion Masayuki Ito (26-2-1, 14) take on current OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (9-0-1, 3). Mishiro won't be risking his title here, in a 10 round bout at Lightweight, but the winner will certainly see their standing improve, and we could end up seeing the winner being just a fight or two away from a potential world title fight. Ito is, of course, the more well known fighter and the more established but he has only fought once since losing the WBO title to Jamel Herring in May 2019, and since then he has had a bout cancelled and has had surgery. Mishiro on the other hand is bit of advanced novice, who has been fast tracked to an OPBF title and already has several wins of note to his name, and other here would really boost his standing in the sport. We expect this to be a tactical early on, but will, sooner or later, descend into more of an exciting back and forth war.
Talking about wars we are really exciting about the Japanese Youth Light Welterweight title bout on this show, between Jin Sasaki (9-0, 8) and Aso Ishiwaki (8-2-1, 6), and this really should be a war. The hard hitting Sasaki has been creating a buzz with quick knockout and early wins, including a trio of success opening rounds wins, but Ishiwaki is the more proven man and a tough warrior. The 19 year old Sasaki really is a brutal boxer-puncher, and he's been swiping opponents aside with ease but has faced little in terms of competitive opposition. Ishiwaki has faced the much better competition, and has done so without much fuss, whilst creating a bit of an international following with his heart, energy, toughness and physical strength. This could be incredibly brutal war, and we do not expect it to go the scheduled 8 rounds. Our full preview of this one can be read here Sasaki and Ishiwaki clash for Youth Honours in potential Christmas Cracker!
On the subject of bouts not going the distance we don't imagine the 8 rounder between Kai Chiba (12-1, 8) and Haruki Ishikawa (8-2, 6) will see the final bell either. The hard hitting Kai Chiba was one looked at as a future regional champion, but a 2018 loss to Brian Lobetania, in a major upset, slowed his rise and he has only really began to rediscover his form in recent bouts, have now scored 5 straight wins. Ishikawa on the other hand is an explosive, heavy handed and wild fighter who comes into the ring with a war monger attitude and may well be too aggressive for Chiba to cope with. Interestingly this bout was delayed from earlier in the year following a positive Covid19 test for Ishikawa.
Former 2-time world title challenger Ryo Akaho (35-2-2, 23) looks to extend his current winning streak as he takes on youngster Yuto Nakamura (11-5-1, 8). The 34 year old Akaho has won his last 9 in a row though it does seem unlikely that he will land a third shot at a world title, following losses to Yota Sato and Pungluang Sor Singyu. At just 23 years old this is a great chance to Nakamura to show what he can do at a higher level following a short reign as the JBC Youth Super Flyweight champion. Sadly however it's hard to Imagine Nakamura coping with the power and strength of Akaho at Super Bantamweight.
One other bout worthy of attention is the second bout in Japan of "reimported boxer" Shoki Sakai (24-11-2, 13), who made his name in Mexico and the US. The exciting and rugged Sakai will be up against Takeru Kobata (8-4-1, 3). This really should serve as little more than a showcase for Sakai who should be too good, too strong and too powerful. Despite being the under-dog Kobata has some momentum coming into this, on the back of a solid win over Change Hamashima back in February. Even with that in mind it would still be a huge ask for him to be competitive with Sakai here.
Aioi Hall, Kariya, Aichi, Japan
The other show, the one from Aichi, is easier to over-look but does promise a very exciting main event between one of the biggest punchers at 108lbs and, strangely, just a single supporting bout.
The main event will see Japanese Light Flyweight champion Masamichi Yabuki (11-3, 11) making his first defense of the belt as he takes on veteran Toshimasa Ouchi (22-9-3, 8). The hard hitting Yabuki moved down to Light Flyweight last year, stopping Rikito Shiba in 4 rounds and then blasting out Tsuyoshi Sato inside a round this past July to claim the title. Originally he had made his mark at Flyweight, losing in the 2016 Rookie of the Year final to Junto Nakatani, but looks much more suited to the 108lb limit and could find himself fighting for a world title in 2021. Ouchi on the other hand is a 35 year old, potentially getting his last notable fight. Although no world beater Ouchi has shared the ring with some notable names, including going 12 rounds with Kenshiro Teraji in 2016, and facing Kenichi Horikawa, shin Ono and Ryoichi Taguchi earlier in his career. Ouchi is tough, but we do wonder what his 35 year old body will do when it's caught by the power of Yabuki. Our full preview of this bout can be read here Japanese champion Yabuki faces first challenger as he takes on Ouchi
The only under-card bout scheduled for this show will see Teru Nobita (5-3-1, 2) face John Yano (5-6, 2). Nobita went through a run where he won 1 in 5, going 1-3-1, but did win last time out and will look to build on the momentum that December 2019 win over Kenshin Megumi. Yano on the other hand is a Japanese based Filipino who has stopped 2 of his last 3 and will be looking to show that power against Nobita. Potentially a much better bout than it looks on paper.
TSSG Center, Qingdao, China
As well as the action in Japan we also get a show from China, which is set to be one of their best of 2020.
In a bout at 154lbs we'll see Tonghui Li (12-2, 6) take on Dacong Wang (7-1-1, 1) in a bout for the interim WBC Asian Boxing Council Continental title. This will be Li's third bout since a loss to Jung Kyoung Lee, and at 30 years old it really is now or never for him to move his career forward. For Wang this is a massive step up in weight, but he has momentum on his side and is riding an 8 fight unbeaten run, and a 6 fight winning run. On paper this looks interesting, though we suspect Li's power and higher level experience will prove to be the difference.
The second bout of note will be an IBO International Lightweight title bout, pitting the unbeaten Ju Wu (9-0-2) against Xiao Tao Su (11-1, 6), with Wu looking to defend his minor IBO title for the first time. The talented Wu is the more skilled man and the naturally bigger fighter, but we do wonder how he will cope with Su's power, which has seen him score stoppages in his last 3.
This coming Monday is a great day for those wanting to follow Japanese boxing, with free live streams available and shows in both Hyogo and Tokyo. The day might not be the biggest, but there is plenty to be excited about, and plenty of potentially thrilling match ups and action
Bunka Center, Sanda, Hyogo, Japan
The first of the cards will be from Hyogo on a Taisei promoted card in Sanda. This event will have 4 bouts on it, and may well have the bout of the week on it.
That potential bout of the week will see former multi-time world champion Katsunari Takayama (31-8-0-1, 12) take on former 2-time world title challenger Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7) in a bout that has the ingredients to be something truly special. For Takayama, who's now 37, the bout is a return to the professional ranks after a short lived flirtation with the amateur game, and he has eyes on getting another world title before hanging them up for good. For Konishi the bout is a must win following recent losses to Carlos Canizales and Felix Alvarado, another loss will be the end of his world title dreams. Given the styles of the two men expect this to be all action, bloody, thrilling and a bit of a war. The only real shame here is that this is scheduled for just 6 rounds.
Also on this show we'll see an 8 round bout we'll see Japanese ranked Flyweight Arata Matsuoka (9-6, 4) take on Hideyuki Watanabe (8-12-3, 6). On paper it's hard to see this being anything but a win for the 25 year old Matsuoka, who is a former Japanese Youth Flyweight champion. Although no world beater Matsuoka is much better than his record suggests and is 6-1 in his last 7. As for Watanabe he's actually 1-6 in his last 7, though has been competitive in a number of those losses, and could well be a banana skin for Matsuoka here. This is a much, much better bout than it looks on paper.
Bunka Center, Sanda, Hyogo, Japan
After the first card in Sanda we get another, at the same venue by the same promoter, who has essentially split the show in to two to deal with the on going guidelines on boxing in Japan. This only features 3 bouts but two of those are well worthy of attention.
The first of those two notable bouts will see former world title challenger Sho Ishida (28-2, 15) take on Japanese Youth Bantamweight champion Toshiya Ishii (3-0, 2), in what could be a genuinely intriguing and explosive encounter. The twice beaten Ishida is likely best known for his WBA world title bout with Kal Yafai in the UK, though was once touted as an outstanding prospect form the Ioka Gym, and the next star from the gym, following Kazuto Ioka. That promise has never been delivered on but he'll be aware that a loss almost certainly ends any dream of a second world title fight. Ishii on the other hand has been thrown in deep from the off, with his second bout coming against the then 8-0 Fumiya Fuse and his third but being a war with Haruki Ishikawa. A win for Ishii puts him straight into the domestic title picture. A brilliant, risky, and wonderful match up that we are really looking forward to.
The other bout on this second part of the event will see another former world title challenger in action as Riku Kano (16-4-1, 8), who has previously fought the aforementioned Katsunari Takayama, takes on Ryoki Hirai (13-6-1, 4) for the WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title. Kano was once regarded as a prodigy but with a 6-3 record in his last 9 he's fallen a long way short of expectations. Thankfully he is only 23, but it really does seem like he has got a lot of work to do to even come close to what was predicted for him. In Hirai we have an under-rated fighter who hasn't had much fanfare or success, but is in his prime and will see this as a great chance to make a mark on the sport around 8 years after his debut! A very interesting bout that will put the winner in the world title mix, and leave the loser with some serious questions to answer. Our full preview of this bout can be read here Kano and Hirai clash for WBO regional title
For fans wanting to watch the action from Hyogo it'll be streamed on TV Osaka's YouTube channel, who will be showing both parts of the event!
Shinjuku FACE, Tokyo, Japan
The other show is the latest in the A-Sign series of shows and will come from the Sinjuku FACE in Tokyo. On paper this is the less interesting of the 3 events from Japan, and sadly is another small show, with just 3 bouts on it.
In the main event we'll see emerging Welterweight star Jin Sasaki (8-0, 7) taking on Tatsuya Miyazaki (9-13-1, 9) in a 6 rounder. When we talk about prospects we usually consider their skills as the key factor, but with Sasaki we are looking at the full package, with the 19 year old having skills, power, charisma and the X-Factor. He looks like a genuinely bankable future star for Japanese boxing, and just needs to work on his defense and carry his destructive power up through levels. Sadly the 36 year old Miyazaki is unlikely to ask many questions of Sasaki, but if he lands clean he could end up giving Sasaki's chin a test.
In the chief support bout the exciting Ryugo Ushijima (4-1-2, 2) will be up against the light punching Hyuma Fujioka (10-10-1, 1). Although we don't see future world champion potential in Ushuijima he does make for fun fights and his 2019 bout with Shota Ogasawara was a real highlight and his 2020 bout with Ryukyu Oho was a fun one a few months ago. In Fujioka we have a tough but limited fighter, who should ask questions of Ushijima, but come up short in what should be a solid bout.
Sadly a bout between Hyoga Taniguchi (4-2-2, 1) and Hiro Ichimichi (4-0-1, 3), which looked excellent on paper, has had to be cancelled after Taniguchi was involved in a traffic accident. As a result the only other bout on this show will see Ken Koibuchi (6-4, 5) take on Tetsuya Kondo (4-2, 3), in what should be a very explosive, but lower level, bout.
For fans wanting to watch this show it will be shown on the A-Sign YouTube channel.
Dayao Walnut Culture Square, Chuxiong, China
We also have action in China, albeit at a much lower level, with 5 of the 6 bouts on the card being 4 rounders.
The one bout scheduled for longer than 4 rounds is an 8 rounder between Chunhua Yang (4-1-1, 2) and Jun Qi (2-1-1), who clash at Super Flyweight. Coming in to this Yang was beaten in September, in his only other bout this year, and his 4 wins have come against poor opposition and novices, with Qi will be facing his most experienced opponent to date.
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.
Our attention turns to Canada this Thursday for a card featuring a trio of Canadian based Kazakh's all looking to maintain their unbeaten records and move their careers forward.
The most notable of the Kazakh trio is the hard hitting Batyrzhan Jukembayev (16-0-0-2, 13) who isn't just the most notable of the Kazakh's on the card, but also the one in with the biggest test. The hard hitting Jukembayev will be up against former IBF Lightweight champion Miguel Vazquez (41-8, 15), who could ask really serious questions of Jukembayev. At his best Vazquez was an avoided fighter, even when he held a world title, but in recent years he has become a popular gate keeper and has found himself in with a list of prospects and contenders, and often given them a very good test. For Jukembayev this is a big step up, and a win could move him into the title mix however we would be massively surprised if he wasn't pushed hard here and really forced to dig deep to get past the experienced Mexican.
Another interesting looking match up will see the power puncher Nurzat Sabirov (10-0, 9) take on the experienced Bruno Sandoval (20-3-1, 16) The 25 year old Sabirov has stopped his last 4, and on paper they have looked like good wins, but we still have a lot of questions left to answer about the unbeaten man.On paper Sandoval is another opponent who looks good on paper, but is 2-2-1 in his last 5, including a loss in 2016 to Ryota Murata, he's a natural Middleweight, he's been out of the ring for almost a year, and he's 0-2 outside of Mexico. A good bit of match making on paper, but we suspect we'll get no new answers in regards to how good Sabirov really is.
The third Kazakh on this card is the least well know, and that's Aman Kazankapov (0-0-1), who fought to a draw on his debut earlier this year. The 21 year old Kazakh will be hoping for a much easier night as he takes on Mexican Jesus Arriaga (2-1, 1), but this is no gimme and Arriaga could well play the role of human banana skin. Arriaga came close to upsetting Abraham Juarez in May and is not a push over. A tough assignment for the Kazakh youngster.
As well as the Kazakh action in Canada we also get some Rookie of the Year action in Japan, as the East Japan Rookie of the Year tournament takes it's next step forward.
On paper the pick of the bouts on this card will see Tetsuya Kondo (4-1, 3) clash with Jin Sasaki (6-0, 5) in a Lightweight bout. The 22 year old Kondo lost on debut, almost 2 years ago, but has turned his career around with 4 straight wins. The 18 year old Sasaki on the other hand turned pro just over a year ago and has been a little wrecking ball since. Sasaki has only heard the final bell once, and that was with his latest opponent Hikaru Sato. We are expecting fireworks here.
Another decent looking bout will see Kosuke Ando (5-1, 3) and Yuki Kajitani (2-1, 2), clash in a Light Flyweight bout. Kajitani lost on his debut in February, but has stopped both of his opponents since, whilst Ando has been a professional for over 3 years, but has had a stop start career and a win here could help him get some momentum into his career, some thing he desperately needs.