This coming Thursday is an intriguing day for fight fans who will get a genuinely brilliant bout in the US featuring an unbeaten Kazakh, and the chance to see several notable Filipino's in action, over in General Santos City. It's not a huge day, but it is a very, very interesting one.
Wild Card Boxing, Los Angeles, California, USA
For once we'll start in the US where we expect to see the bout of the day as unbeaten men collide in this week's Ring City USA show.
In one corner will be unbeaten Kazakh Madiyar Ashkeyev (14-0, 7), taking a long over-due step up in class, as he takes on touted American fighter Charles Conwell (13-0, 10) in a mouth watering match up. The 32 year old Ashkeyev has struggled to get notable opponents in the ring with him and has pretty much floundered due to a real lack of notable competition. When he's been in the ring however he looks talented and strong. Just a shame he's not had the competition to prove it against. Conwell on the other hand might be the pick of the bunch in terms of unheralded US hopefuls. The 23 year old had an emotional 2019, with his bout against the well liked Patrick Day ending in tragedy, but he has bounced back well and looked very good last time out, stopping Wendy Toussaint in October. This is a really, really good match up and should push the winner towards a world title fight.
Sanman Boxing Gym, General Santos City, Philippines
Although the best single bout is in the US the card that has the most notable names in action is in the Philippines where we see three former world title challengers and a very highly regarded prospect in action.
The highly regarded prospect on the show is the sensationally talented KJ Cataraja (11-0, 9), who takes on former Bantamweight world title challenger John Mark Apolinario (20-13-3, 5). The brilliant Cataraja looked like he had the talent to be fast tracked but sadly he was stuck with ALA Promotions when they were on a downturn and was unable to get the fights he needed to progress his career. Now with ZIP it's expected Cataraja will be moved very aggressively in 2021. This should be a good way to shake some ring rust before big fights in the new year. As for Apolinario he's been in the ring with some solid names, including Koki Kameda and Roberto Vasquez, but he's very much looked like a fighter at the end of his career in recent bouts, and has been stopped in 3 of his last 5.
Another former world title challenger on this show is Jeo Santisima (19-3, 16), who will be expected to pick up an easy win as he takes on novice foe Marjon Piencenaves (6-1-1, 4). This will be Santisima's first bout since losing to Emanuel Navarrete in a WBO Super Bantamweight title and despite that loss we expect him to pick up a very straight forward win. However Piencenaves will come into this with an upset mentality and know he can really boost his career if he can get the shock win here.
Another world title challenger on this show is former WBC Minimumweight title challenger Melvin Jerusalem (15-2, 9), who has previously given Wanheng Menayothin an incredibly tough test. Jerusalem is currently very highly ranked by the WBC and will be looking at potentially getting a second world title bout in 2021, though he will need to get past fellow Filipino Jayson Francisco (5-2, 1) here. As with Cataraja's bout it's hard to see this as anything more than a tick over bout for the favourite who will be looking for bigger and better things next year.
Hotel Catalonia Malecon Center, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Over in the Dominican Republic we'll get action involving several Japanese fighters.
One of those is Masayuki Suwa (22-13-2, 14), previously known as Cobra Suwa, who takes on Jean Carlos Rodriguez (8-6, 4). The 40 year old Suwa has had a really interesting career seems to be just ploughing on with boxing well beyond the typical Japanese retirement age, with this being his third straight bout since his last Japanese bout in April 2018. Aged 28 Rodriguez is the much younger man, however he has been stopped in 4 of his 6 losses and has only beaten 1 opponent with a winning record. We wouldn't be surprised at all by Suwa picking up the win here.
Another is Naoki Inaba (7-5-1, 3), who takes on Angelo Munoz (18-17, 11). On paper this looks a relatively even match up, but Inaba has gone unbeaten in his last 4 whilst Munoz has lost his last 9, falling from 18-8 (11) to 18-17 (11), and has been stopped in 8 of those 9 losses.
Another was Japanese based Dominican Vladimir Baez (26-6-2, 24), also known as Vladimir Baez, who takes on Mario Beltre (17-6, 12). This will be Baez's first bout since losing to Mongolian sensation Tuguldur Byambatsogt back in January whilst Beltre will return to the ring for the first time since June 2018.
In Cebu we'll see the next ALA show, and it'll feature a number of Filipino prospects who are tipped for big things.
One of those prospects is the hard hitting, and once beaten, Virgel Vitor (12-1, 7). The 20 year old Vitor has won his last 8 bouts and will be looking to continue that winning run as he takes on the domestic journeyman Gerpaul Valero (22-20-4, 16). Vitor is coming into this bout on the back of defeat domestic wins against the likes of Michael Escobia and John Ray Logatiman but on paper this should be a better test. Valero was once 1-13-3 and has since gone 21-7-1 (16) and although no world beater is far better than his record suggests. This is a potential banana skin for Vitor, but one he should be able to over-come.
Another of the prospects in action is the excellent KJ Cataraja (7-0, 6), who faces off with Indonesian foe Frengky Rohi (5-5-1, 1) in a 10 rounder. Given that Cataraja turned professional with quite a bit of fanfare and hype it's frustrating to still see him fighting at this level almost 3 years after his debut. Cataraja is a sensational talent and really should be stepped up sooner rather than later. More annoyingly is that this bout is actually a step backwards for the unbeaten 23 year old, following an excellent win against Wiljan Ugbaniel last September. Rohi has lost his last 5 bouts, and is 0-4 outside of Indonesia. Amazingly Rohi has already lost 4 times in 2018 and it's hard to see him ending this run against someone as talented as Cataraja.
The third prospect in action will be Christian Bacolod (8-0, 6), the heavy handed 23 year old will be facing off against fellow Filipino Mervin Lulu (5-2-2, 2) in what looks likely to be the most interesting match up featuring a prospect. Bacolod has been really dangerous early in bouts, scoring all 6 of his stoppages in the first 3 rounds, but has shown the ability to fight over 6 rounds, having taken a couple of 6 round decisions. Lulu has been stopped twice, with one of those losses coming to recent world title challenger Vince Paras. Given his stoppage losses we don't see Lulu surviving with Bacolod here.
In Quebec fans will see exciting Kazakh hopeful Nurzat Sabirov (6-0, 5) fight for the third time this year. The promising Super Middleweight / Light Heavyweight will be taking on Guillermo Romero (12-6, 9) in an 8 rounder. On paper this looks a decent test for the touted Kazakh but should be a straight forward win given that Romero has been stopped in 5 of his 6 defeated, including a 5th roind stoppage last time out.