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.