This coming Saturday is almost certainly the busiest day we've had this year with a number of world title bouts across the globe, as well as top prospects and a a highly anticipated return to the ring of a former 3-weight world champion. This is a crazy weekend it is one to get very, very excited about.
Coca-Cola Arena, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Arguably the most notable card, at least for us, is in Dubai where we see two Philippines Vs UK world title, as well as the next step towards a major bout for a Filipino icon.
One of the world title bouts will see hard hitting WBO Bantamweight champion John Riel Casimero (31-4, 21) make a mandatory defense of his title as he takes on Englishman Paul Butler (33-2, 15), himself a former IBF Bantamweight champion. Coming in to this Casimero is a huge favourite, though he has often blown hot and cold and Butler will go into the bout knowing that a loss here ends any hope he has of becoming a 2-time world champion. It's a must win for Butler, if he's to remain relevant, and a must win for Casimero if he's ever going to get a showdown with either Nonito Donaire or Naoya Inoue. Our in depth preview of this bout can be read here Casimero defends WBO crown against Butler in mandatory defense
The other world title fight on this show will see IBF Flyweight champion Sunny Edwards (16-0, 4) make his first defense, in a mandatory against unbeaten Filipino Jayson Mama (16-0, 9). Mama was supposed to get a world title shot at Moruti Mthlane last year, before the authorities in South Africa refused to sanction the event, he was then supposed to fight Edwards earlier this year, before Edwards pulled out. Coming in to this Edwards is the clear favourite, and the slippery English fighter will feel full of confidence for his first world title defense, however it's certainly not a foregone conclusion. Our preview of this bout, from the original date, can be read here Jayson Mama gets crack at IBF champion Sunny Edwards!
Another notable bout on this card will see Filipino icon Donnie Nietes (43-1-5, 23) battle against Norbelto Jimenez (30-9-5, 16), in what is essentially a must win bout for both men. At 39 years old Nietes is ancient for a Super Flyweight, but he has made it clear he wants a super fighter before he retires and wants to face the likes of Roman Gonzalez. For that to happen he needs to get past Jimenez. As for Jimenez, he is a multi-time world title challenger himself, and shouldn't be over-looked here, despite the fact he will be a very, very clear under-dog.
Dignity Health Sports Park , Carson, California, USA
Another major card will take place in California, where we see another world title bout, and a world title eliminator, in what could end up being a very, very explosive night of action.
The world title bout will see WBC Bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire (41-6, 27) defending his title against mandatory challenger Reymart Gaballo (24-0, 20) in a rare All-Filipino world title fight. Of the two men Donaire is the much more proven, and established fighter, however at the age of 39 he is well past the typical prime of a fighter, and that's ignoring the type of incredible career he's had, and the punishment he's taken at times, including his hellacious 2019 bout with Naoya Inoue. Gaballo on the other is a young up and comer who has got power and speed, but did look less than stellar last time out, when he took a controversial decision over Emmanuel Rodriguez, and he'll be desperate to show what he can do, and rip the title, and proverbial torch, from Donaire. Given the style of the two men involved, this should be a brutal fire fight. Our in depth preview of this fight can be read here WBC champion Donaire faces Gaballo in all Filipino world title bout!
Talking about fire-fights we're expecting another of those in a main supporting bout, as Japan's Hiroaki Teshigawara (22-2-2, 15) fights outside of Japan for the first time, and takes on former WBO Bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales (34-3, 17) in what could be the sleeper of the weekend. Teshigawara is known in Japan, and has carved out a successful career at Korakuen Hall, where he has built himself a cult following, and he'll know that a win here helps set him up for a potential world title fight in 2022. Tapales on the other hand is more well known, in part due to his amazing bout with Pungluang Sor Singyu and his two wins over Shohei Omori. Despite the past Tapales didn't look great in 2019, when he beaten up and stopped by Ryosuke Iwasa, and Teshigawara will be looking to score a repeat of that outcome here.
KRK “Uralets”, Ekaterinburg, Russia
We get yet another world title fight over in Russia, as we actually get quite an interesting card from Ekaterinburg.
The world title bout on this card is a really good looking bout which will see Dmitry Bivol (18-0, 11) defending his WBA Light Heavyweight "super" title against the once beaten Umar Salamov (26-1, 19). On paper this is a mouth watering match up, but sadly it's becoming harder and harder to get excited about Bivol bouts in recent years. It's clear he is an exceptional boxer, but like a handful of other world champions he's unwilling to roll the decide and put on a show, event against opponents that he should be comfortable seeing off. Salamov is an interesting challenger, who has shown some power, and a willingness to throw heavy shots, but he's also the sort of fighter that Bivol should be able to shine against. Salamov is hard hitting but open, crude, and there to be countered, something Bivol should be able to do at will, if he chooses to. Our preview of this fight can be read here Bivol defends WBA crown against Salamov!
In a major supporting bout former world title challenger Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0-1, 12) will be looking to bounce back from his frustrating draw with Jo Jo Diaz as he takes on the unbeaten Rilwan Oladosu (16-0, 8). Rakhimov showed he belonged in the mix at world level, and hopefully 2022 will bring him a second world title bout, potentially against Kenichi Ogawa. Oladosu on the other hand is a Nigerian fighter with a nice looking record, but one that doesn't really stand up to much scrutiny and this will be his first bout outside of Nigeria. Oladosu could be a rare Nigerian fighter to get excited about, but we suspect he's there to make Rakhimov look good instead.
Echo Arena, Liverpool, Merseyside, United Kingdom
As well as the world class men in action, we'll also be seeing a world class woman in action, as undisputed female Lightweight champion Katie Taylor (19-0, 6) defends all her titles against Kazakh challenger Firuza Sharipova (14-1, 8). On paper this one looks good, but in reality this should be little more than a public showcase for Taylor, one of the best female fighters on the planet, with Sharipova not fit to lace her boots. We know Taylor has beaten almost everyone of note at Lightweight, but they are really scraping the bottom of the barrel if they really think Sharipova will give her anything resembling a fighter. Our preview of this major female bout is available here Taylor defends unified crown against Sharipova
International Conference Hall, Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
Away from world title action we're set for a really good bout in Japan as former 3-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9) looks to bounce back from his 2020 loss to Kazuto Ioka, by taking on Ioka's former stable mate Sho Ishida (29-2, 15), himself a former world title challenger. This bout, being dubbed a "survival bout" in Japan, is a really interesting match up and will put the speed and aggression of Tanaka against the long and gangly frame of Ishida, with both men knowing they can't afford a loss, especially not if they intend to get a big fight any time soon. Tanaka will go into the bout as the favourite, though we do need to wonder what his loss to Ioka, and the loss of his unbeaten record, will have done to him. As for Ishida, a win here could potentially set him up for a second world title fight.
Staying in Asia we also get a compelling card in Kazakhstan, where we see some very highly touted prospects in action.
The most notable of the bouts on this card will be a Cruiserweight bout between the very highly touted Kamshybek Kunkabayev (3-0, 3) and Steven Ward (13-1, 4), who clash for the vacant WBA "Gold" Cruiserweight title. Kunkabayev, a former amateur stand out, has hardly put a foot wrong in his first 3 bouts, but this is a step up in class against someone who will be in the ring to win, rather than to collect a pay check or just survive. Sadly for Ward he is the naturally smaller man and he was stopped just 2 fights ago, however he will come in to this hungry and should be a genuine test for the promising Kunkabayev.
Also on this card will be a number of top Kazakh prospects, such as Talgat Shayken (6-0, 4) Sultan Zaurbek (11-0, 7) and Ray Seitzhanov (8-0, 5) who will all be looking to pick up wins and move their career forward.
February has been a worryingly quiet month for fans who follow Asian fighters. Thankfully however there is a real pick up in activity this coming Saturday with a host of Asian fighters in action all around the globe.
Bula Gym, General Santos City, Cotabato del Sur, Philippines
The most meaningful bout of the day comes from the Philippines where we get world title action from General Santos City. The bout in question will see IBF Minimumweight champion Pedro Taduran (14-2-1, 11) defending his title against Rene Mark Cuarto (18-2-2, 11), with Taduran looking to record his second defense of the belt.The aggressive and heavy handed Taduran has impressed in several bouts, notably his loss to Wanheng Menayothin and his title win against Samuel Salva, however he has been out of the ring since a technical draw against Daniel Valladares just over a year ago. Cuarto on the other hand lacks a real win of note, though is a hungry 24 year old challenger looking to make his mark on the sport. Sadly Cuarto hasn't fought since late 2019 and is 2-1-1 in his last 4, but is very much a live under-dog and is technically more rounded than the champion. A full preview of this bout can be read here Taduran takes on Cuarto in All-Filipino world title fight!
Tynyshpayev Academy of Transport and Communications, Almaty, Kazakhstan
Although the biggest bout of the day is in the Philippines the most interesting card is actually in Kazakhstan where we get the chance to see a number of exciting prospects in action.
The most notable bout on this show will see fast rising Kazakh standout Kamshybek Kunkabayev (2-0, 2) battle in his first title fight, as he takes on the once beaten Steven Ward (13-1, 4) for the WBO Asia Pacific Cruiserweight title. Kunkabayev was an amateur standout who has been hugely impressive since making his pro debut last year, and has notched two very solid wins in as many fights. In the opposite corner is Ward, a Northern Irish fighter who's record looks good, but under the surface his competition has been poor and his sole loss, an opening round TKO to Ricards Bolotniks, does not bode well for him here. On paper Ward is probably the first opponent who is coming to beat Kunkabayev, though we suspect he'll be taken out relative early on here. Our preview of this one can be read here Kunkabayev goes for gold as he battles Ward!
(Editor's note - Kunakabayev's opponent has been changed, he will now be facing Ukrainian fighter Server Emurlaiev (23-1, 8), unfortunately these articles are scheduled more than a week in advance, and the previews are written 2 to 3 weeks before a bout.)
In a much more interesting looking bout we'll see unbeaten Kazakh Nurtas Azhbenov (10-0, 4) take on once beaten Russian Evgeny Smirnov (13-1-3, 3). The 26 year old Azhbenov has shown some promise, but doesn't appear to be a star in the making, with a lack of power likely to be one of the things holding him back from the big time. He has also been matched relatively softly through his 10 bout career. Smirnov on the other hand has been matched harder, but has struggled and has gone 0-1-3 against unbeaten fighters. Smirnov is also win-less in his last 3, going 0-1-2 since late 2018. This one should be "interesting" but we suspect it will lack drama, as neither man is known for having much power.
Exciting youngster Talgat Shayken (3-0, 2) will be looking for his 4th professional win as he takes on Russian fighter Evgeny Pavko (18-3-1, 13). Although not the most talented or polished fighter out there Shayken is a very entertaining fighter, who comes to rumble, presses forward with a high intensity and really lets his shots fly when in range. He's a very fan friendly fighter who needs time to mature and develop, but should be on the radar for fans who follow the Central Asian scene. Pavko on the other hand is a very decent, well respected and experienced fighter who will be looking for a victory here, rather than rolling over and just losing. His 3 losses have all been struggles for the winners and we suspect Shayken will need to work hard for a victory here, though his natural size should be the difference here.
A potentially explosive bout will see once beaten Kazakh Abay Tolesh (6-1, 4) take on Russian Vasily Shtyk (2-2, 2). The talented Tolesh is looking to score his second win following a 2020 loss to Saparbay Aidarov and will be wanting to make a statement. Shtyk on the other hand is a limited but tough fighter who has heavy hands, as he showed last time out against Sergey Kozhukhar. We expect Shtyk to be a potential banana skin here for Tolesh.
Suamlum Night Bazaar, Ratchadaphisek, Bangkok, Thailand
Staying in Asia we'll also get the first Thai show of 2021 as TL Promotions give us a card in Bangkok.
The main event here will see former IBF Flyweight champion Amnat Ruenroeng (21-4, 6) take on the once beaten Arnon Yupang (6-1, 3). Despite now being 41 Amnat is proving to be a slippery and talented fighter, who is still putting in solid performances, as we saw last year against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Pungluang Sor Singyu. Aged 23 this is a big step up for Yupang, but also a great chance for him to put his name on the map. For Yupang the key is to outwork Amnat, but that is easier said than done.
On the under-card we're expecting to see the unbeaten Yuttapong Tongdee (5-0, 4), a wonderfully talented and highly promising Thai, take on Arthit Kaewbantid (3-1, 2). We regard Tongdee as on of the brightest hopefuls in Thailand but, and although this looks like an easy match up we're really just wanting to see Tongdee kept busy this year before bigger and better things in 2022.
London, United Kingdom
In London we'll see UK based Afghan fighter Quaise Khademi (8-0, 2) battle against Ijaz Ahmed (7-2) for the WBO European and the vacant IBF European Super Flyweight titles in a very good looking match up. For Khademi this will be his first defense of the WBO European title, which he won back in 2019, and will see him looking to build on a solid start to his professional career. As for Ahmed he'll be looking to bounce back from a close loss to Harvey Horn, at Flyweight. Khademi should have the edge in natural size and power, but Ahmed will not be there to suffer a second successive loss.
Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, Florida, USA
We also have action in the US as unbeaten Chinese Heavyweight hopeful Zhilei Zhang (22-0, 17) takes on Jerry Forrest (26-4, 20). The 37 year old Chinese fighter really has let his career slip away with father time and the promise he had following a successful amateur career is unlikely to ever be realised due to his age and relatively weak match making. Aged 32 Forrest is no push over, and despite having 4 losses is a live under-dog here, having pushed Jermaine Franklin and Carlos Takam close in recent bouts. Forrest is tough enough, experienced enough and good enough to test Zhang, and if Zhang is on the slide this may turn out to be a genuine banana skin for the big guy from China.
This coming Friday is a busy day in the world of Asian boxing with Asian fighters in action in the US, Kazakhstan and the Philippines. The day is also a really interesting one with world title bouts, prospects and contenders all in action making it a real great day to sit down and watch some fights.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Hollywood, Florida, USA
The biggest show of the day for Asian fighters is in Florida, where Matchroom and DAZN put on one of their final shows of 2020. It's not a massive show, but it's certainly a noteworthy one.
The main event of the card will see Kazakh Middleweight great Gennadiy Golovkin (40-1-1, 35) defending his IBF and IBO titles against unbeaten Polish challenger Kamil Szeremeta (21-0, 5). For Golovkin this will be his first defense of the titles since reclaiming them in October 2019, when he narrowly beat Sergiy Derevyanchenko, and we do wonder what the 38 year old Kazakh has left in the tank, especially given the 14 month break between fights. Sadly however it's unlikely that Szeremeta will ask him any real questions in what is a massive step up in class for the Polish man. Our full preview of this bout can be read here Golovkin returns against unbeaten Szeremeta
A second Kazakh on this show will be the unbeaten Ali Akhmedov (16-0, 12) who clashes with fellow unbeaten Carlos Gongora (18-0, 13) in a bout for the IBO Super Middleweight title. The exciting Akhmedov has been facing very poor competition so far, and this is, very clearly, a step up in class for him, and his team will know that a win puts him on the verge of a "real" world title fight. As for Gongora the Ecuadorian was a stellar amateur, competing in 2 Olympics and 3 World Amateur Championships, but at 31 this is his first real test. This is an excellent match up, and one that promises to be very, very interesting.
In a female world title bout we'll see Korean Hyun Mi Choi (17-0-1, 4) make her international debut and look to make her latest defense of the WBA Super Featherweight title. The hope was that she would be in with some sort of name opponent or at very least a live foe for her US debut but instead she is matched with late call up Calista Silgado (19-11-3, 14), from Colombia. On paper Silgado looks like she can punch, but her record against opponents of some quality has shown she is limit. Thankfully she is tough, but this should be a straight forward defense for Choi, who deserves better from Matchroom. Our preview of this bout can be read here WBA champ Hyun Mi Choi makes US debut as she takes on Calista Silgado!
Tynyshpayev Academy of Transport and Communications, Almaty, Kazakhstan
In Kazakhstan Tukeshov Promotions will be putting on an event with a staggering 22 bouts on it! Given boxrec currently list 132 bouts taking place anyone where on the globe on Friday it's amazing that a single show will have 22 of them! Of course we won't go through all of them, but there are 3 that have really got our interest.
The best of the bunch is a Cruiserweight bout between Kazakh amateur star Kamshybek Kunkabayev (1-0, 1), who has eyes on a medal at the Tokyo Olympics, and under-rated Ukrainian Serhiy Radchenko (7-6, 2). On paper a nothing bout, even for a 1-0 prospect, but this should actually be a legitimate test for Kunkabayev given that Radchenko has given the likes of Krzysztof Glowacki, Ruslan Fayfer, Adam Balski and Artur Szpilka real tests. We suspect the big man from Kazakhstan will be too good, but this is not the gimme it looks on paper.
Another potentially tough bout for an unbeaten Kazakh will see Sultan Zaurbek (9-0, 7) take on Vladyslav Melnyk (12-2, 7). Zaurbek has been needing a step up for a while, with MTK feeding him a lot of limited opponents early on and this is a much needed step up in class against a fighter who has proven himself and shown a desire to win. Zaurbek is very talented, but we don't yet know if he's very good. Melnyk is a 22 year old Ukrainian who will be coming in to this with belief and we suspect the hunger to test the Kazakh. Potentially a very compelling match up.
Another prospect worthy of real attention on this card is Talgat Shayken (2-0, 1), who will be up against Russian foe Maxim Churbanov (8-7-1-1). Shayken, who is now just 20 year's old, has got a lot of potential, but that potential needs work and he needs developing. The 34 year old Churbanov is well travelled and tends to be a good test for decent fights, asking questions of fighters like Michal Syrowtka. Shayken should win but bouts like this will help hone and develop his undeniable potential, so we've no issues with him being moved slowly.
IPI Compound, Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines
Over in the Philippines we get two shows thanks to Omega Sports who have split an event in two for Covid19 safety reasons.
The first of the two shows is Kumbati 6 and features two interesting prospects on it.
One of the prospects in question is unbeaten Light Flyweight Mark Vicelles (12-0-1, 6), who takes on veteran Arnold Garde (10-10-3, 4) The talented Vicelles comes into this bout with wins against Robert Onggocan and Jesse Espinas and is very talented, however it's understandable that his team are just looking to keep him ticking over here. Garde was once a a decent opponent, capable of asking questions of good fighters, but he has now lost 6 of his last 7, and been stopped in 4 of those bouts. We see this being another loss for him.
The other notable prospect on Kumbati 6 is the twice beaten Tomjune Mangubat (11-2-1, 9), who returns to the ring for the first time since is 2019 epic with Jong Seon Kang, which is a bout everyone should get around to watching. In the opposite corner to Mangubat will be the limited Reymond Empic (7-5, 3), who is looking to avoid a third straight loss. On paper this isn't an awful bout for Mungubat, coming in off a loss himself, but Empic has lost 3 of his last 4 and is unlikely to be a serious test for Mungubat.
IPI Compound, Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines
The other show from Omega Sports will be Kumbati 7, and this looks a more stacked one, with prospects and a couple of world title level in action.
The best bout on this show will see the once beaten Christian Araneta (18-1, 14) take on Roland Jay Biendima (15-6-1, 8) in what should be a sensational battle. Araneta is looking to score his second win since a 2019 injury TKO loss to Daniel Valladares, and is very highly regarded. He is however also the smaller man and Biendima showed his toughness earlier this year, when he went toe-to-toe with Kento Hatanaka back in February. This should be a real test for Araneta.
Sadly we don't expect to see Albert Pagara (32-1, 23) have any sort of issues at all when he takes on Virgil Puton (18-14-2, 9). Once up a time Puton was good regional level opponent, giving the likes of Shuya Masaki and Masayuki Ito questions to answer. Now a days however he looks about spent and has been stopped in 3 of his last 6. Pagara should be too quick, too powerful and far too good to go too many rounds here with the worn and weary Puton.
The once beaten Peter Apolinar (12-1, 8) looks to score his latest win as he goes up against the limited Danilo Tampipi (9-11-2, 5), who has been stopped in 3 of his last 4. Apolinar has won his last 7, including a very solid win over Jetro Pabustan in October, and shouldn't need to work too hard to pick up a win here.
One other man who should be picking up an easy win is the all action Carl Jammes Martin (15-0, 14), who fights for the first time since December 2019. The 21 year old sensation is one of the most fan friendly fighters in the Philippines and he should be looking at big bouts in the next year or two. Here however he's just looking to take over and shake some ring rust as he takes on Richard Rosales (14-13-2, 8), who has lost his last 4 and 7 of his last 8.
Please note - As we try to get all of these done well in advance we have been unable to get the full MTK Kazakhstan card which still wasn't announced a week before the event. As a result we've only been able to go on the one announced bout and some of the names announced for the card.
In Kazakhstan MTK will be putting on a card full of notable fighters, including a trio of talented debutants.
At the time of writing the only announced bout for the show will see 2-time World Amateur Championship Silver medal winner Kamshybek Kunkabayev (0-0) take on veteran Issa Akberbayev (20-1-0-1, 15). On paper this looks an extremely tough bout for the former amateur stand out but in reality Akberbayev isn't as good as his record suggests, he hasn't scored a win in close to 3 years, and was stopped last time out by Evgeny Tishchenko. This is one of those smart bits of match making where a prospect in a bout that looks tough, but really isn't, with Kunkabayev really expected to shine.
The other debutants on this card are the sensationally talented Tursynbay Kulakhmet (0-0), who looks like he could be fast tracked to the top, and the exciting but rather unpolished Talgat Shaiken (0-0). At the time of writing neither of these men have had their opponents named, but both are expected to take on solid domestic opponents.
Also scheduled for this show are Abay Tolesh (5-0, 3), Victor Kotochigov (11-0, 4), Ray Seitzhanov (2-0), Saparbay Aidarov (4-0, 2), Nurtas Azhbenov (9-0, 4), Nurdos Tolebay (2-0, 1) and Sagadat Rakhmankulov (6-1, 4). As with the debutants their bouts haven't been announced, though we suspect at least one of these fighters will take on one of the talented debutants.
Fenghuang street commercial plaza, Changsha, China
As well as the Kazakh card we also have a show in China. Sadly this is another of the new regular Chinese shows that feature nobody of note on it, and a lot of novices and debutants. In total we are expecting 6 bouts on this card, featuring a total of 6 debutants and 9 fighters with less than 3 bouts.
Despite most of the card being scheduled for 4 rounds we do have one longer bout pencilled in for the event. That bout will see the light punching pair of Dacong Wang (5-1-1, 1) and Yajie Ding (4-4-1) face off in a bout that appears set for 10 rounds. The 22 year old Wang has gone unbeaten in 6 but has been out of the ring since April 2019, when he beat Weizhen Ni. Ding on the other hand has lost 3 of his last 4 and it's hard to know what he really offers here. His last bout was a win, but that was way back in June 2019. Although this is the main event it's certainly not a bout that has us too excited.