Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
This coming Tuesday fight fans at Korakuen Hall get an interesting card, with two solid title bouts and two interesting bouts featuring prospects.
The main event of the card will see hard hitting Lightweight champion Shu Utsuki (10-0, 8) take on the highly skilled Izuki Tomioka (7-5-1, 2), in what will be Utsuki's first defense. Utsuki won the title earlier this year, when he stopped Masahiro Suzuki in 9 rounds, and rather than taking on an easy opponent with a style that could make him look amazing he's taking on an awkward, quick boxer who has a style that could well make him look limited. As for Tomioka this is a third shot at a title, and whilst he's come up short in his previous two he has been very competitive, before being stopped, with Shuichiro Yoshino and Masayoshi Nakatani, suggesting he could be a nightmare for Utsuki as well. Our in depth preview of this bout Utsuki seeks first defense of Japanese title as he takes on Tomioka
The other title bout will see OPBF Light Welterweight champion Koichi Aso (25-9-1, 16) defending his belt against fellow veteran Akihiro Kondo (33-10-2, 18), in what could be a genuinely thrilling war. Both of these men are heading towards retirement, both have slowed and are edging towards 40 years old. However their styles, even at an advanced age, should gel with Aso being an aggressive pressure fighter letting shots go and using physicality whilst Kondo is a slower, more intelligent fighter who relied on timing and ring craft. The slowing feet of both men, and their styles should lead to something of an intense and thrilling action bout. Our preview of this bout can be read here OPBF king Aso takes on tough veteran Kondo!
In a notably supporting bout the once touted Go Hosaka (5-1, 3) looks to bounce back from his October loss to Ryo Nakai as he takes on the experienced Kazuma Sanpei (20-7, 9). When he turned professional, in the Philippines, Hosaka was tipped for big things and he looked like one to keep an eye on straight from his 2018 debut. Sadly however the closure of the ALA Gym and the pandemic really slowed his ascent and he hasn't looked good in either of bouts in Japan, a narrow win over Kanta Fukui and the loss to Sakai. As for Sanpei he's got a good looking record, but has lost his most notable bouts and is 1-2 in his last 3 with his last notable win coming back in 2019. He needs a win to remain genuinely relevant, but it's fair to say that he's been selected as the opponent here to give Hosaka's career the boost it needs. A loss for Hosaka really would be the destroy the expectation for him as a prospect.
Another supporting bout will see former Japanese amateur sensation Ryusei Baba (1-0) fight in his second professional bout, as he takes on the hard hitting Shugo Namura (5-1, 5). Baba, who really was a stand out amateur winning an All Japan crown and competing internationally, is expected to be moved quickly through the ranks with big bouts expected sooner rather than later. As for Namura, the hard hitting 27 year old has scored all 5 of his wins in the first 2 rounds, but has come up short against his only notable opponent, with Akira Hoshuyama beating him in the the East Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2020. If Baba can see out the opening two rounds, he should get the chance to shine here and take a controlled victory to move his career forward.
Kokugikan, Tokyo, Japan
The main action in a surprisingly busy Tuesday, comes from the Kokugikan in Tokyo as we get a world title double header, and in fact the last world title bouts to take place in Japan this year following numerous post-Christmas bouts being cancelled.
The first world title bout from the double header will see WBO Minmumweight champion Wilfredo Mendez (16-1, 6) defending his title against mandatory challenger Masataka Taniguchi (14-3, 9), in what could be a very interesting bout. This will be Mendez's third defense of the title, which he took from Vic Saludar in 2019, but he comes into the bout after almost 2 years of inactivity, and for his first bout in Asia. "Bimbito" is certainly a talented fighter, but he style may not have the success on the road as it has at home, and he can look very negative at times. Taniguchi has come up short at world level before, but he does seem incredibly focused on this bout, and has bounced back well from his last loss, to Vic Saludar, to score 3 notable domestic wins. His style could end up working against him at times, as Mendez is the much quicker man, but his physicality and power could be a major difference maker, especially with Mendez's recent inactivity. Our preview for this world title fight can be read here Taniguchi gets second WBO title shot as he takes on Mendez
The other title bout on this show, and the main event of the day, will see Japanese star Naoya Inoue (21-0, 18) return to a Japanese ring for the first time in over 2 years to defend his WBA and IBF Bantamweight titles against hard hitting Thai challenger Aran Dipaen (12-2, 11). Inoue and his team have made it clear they wanted a bigger name than Dipaen for this bout, but were turned down by a number of more well known names, and that can be dangerous if they are over looking the Thai and looking towards unification bouts in the new year. Dipaen isn't so much a threat to Inoue here, but Inoue could be a threat to himself if he's over-looking the challenger. As for Dipaen no one is giving him a chance, but he will know he has nothing to lose and he will be in there looking to put in the performance his career. We don't see this one lasting long, but it could be a genuine test of Inoue's focus given such a frustrating end to the year. Our preview of this bour can be read here The monster returns to Japan to defend against Dipaen!
As well as the two main bouts this card has several notable prospects on it, with youngster Keisuke Matsumoto (3-0, 3) taking on the much very experienced Takahiro Araki (12-10, 4), former Kickboxer Yoshiki Takei (2-0, 2) taking on Kazuhiro Imamura (2-0-1, 1), in what looks set to be his toughest bout to date, and the very exciting Toshiya Ishii (4-1, 3) taking on Takuya Fujioka (10-10-1, 1), in what looks to be a stay busy fight before bigger things in 2022.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
The show at the Kokugikan isn't the only one in Tokyo, with Koakuen Hall playing host to an OPBF title double header. The bouts here aren't huge, but both the title bouts do promise a lot of exciting action, and there is also a solid under-card match up as well.
One of those OPBF title bouts will see Light Welterweight champion Rikki Naito (23-2, 8) take on Japanese veteran Koichi Aso (24-9-1, 15). Naito has looked like something of a suspect champion since winning the title a few years ago, and was pushed hard in a number of defense, but there's no doubting his skills and ability with the main questions being about his power and stamina. As for Aso, the veteran is a former Japanese national champion, but is very much a fighter coming to the end of his career, and he no longer has the energy and aggression he did in his prime. This should be straight forward win for Naito on the cards, but Aso will make him for it. Our preview of this regional title bout can be read here OPBF champion Naito takes on Aso at Korakuen Hall
The other title fight promises violence as the hard hitting Kosuke Saka (21-5, 18) takes on the under-rated Yoshimitsu Kimura (12-2-1, 7) in a bout for the vacant OPBF Super Featherweight title. Saka has looked a brute in recent bouts, smashing up both Masaru Sueyoshi and Takuya Watanabe, in two very impressive back to back performances, though it's fair to say that he can be beaten and there are always question marks about his chin and his mental application in the ring. As for Kimura this will be his second shot at the title, having previously coming up just short against Hironori Mishiro, and he really has shown he belongs at this level. He will go in as the man with no momentum, but he has the skills and tools to spring the upset, in what should be a genuinely spectacular bout for those at Korakuen Hall. Expect a lot of heavy leather here, and some thrilling exchanges. Our preview of this bout can be read here Saka and Kimura battle for OPBF Super Featherweight title!
In one under-card bout worthy of some attention, we'll see boxing police officer Daisuke Sugita (6-2, 3) look to bounce back from a June loss to Ryo Akaho as he takes on youngster Ryuto Owan (7-1, 5). Sugita is a fun guy to watch, but he has been matched rather hand and losses to Akaho and Reiya Abe were both very one sided and showed he didn't belong in that company. Despite that he's a solid fighter and he has the tools to be a solid competitor on the Japanese domestic scene, albeit below domestic title level. Owan on the other hand is a promising and talented young fighter who seemed destined for big things until a loss in 2018 slowed his momentum, and a 2 year break from the ring followed. Since returning to action in October 2020 he has looked really impressive and he'll be looking to shine again here and move towards a potential title fight in 2022.
Outside of Japan there is also a very notable card in Thailand, headlined by WBA Minmumweight "Super" champion Knockout CP Freshmart (22-0, 8), who will be up against once beaten Filipino challenger Robert Paradero (18-1, 12). The talented Knockout is seeking his second defense of the year, after a long break from the ring following his 2020 win over Norihito Tanaka, and he'll be looking to end the year with an impressive performance here before moving onto a potential unification bout in 2022. As for Paradero he's looking to bounce back from his sole professional loss, which came earlier this year to Vic Saludar. The challenger showed plenty to like in that loss, but a lack of experience was an issue, and he'll be wanting to prove he has learned from that set back. It's always hard to bet against a Thai in Thailand, but it is worth noting that Filipino do historically have more success as challengers in the Land of Smiles than almost any other country and Paradero will not be there to make up the numbers. Or in deoth preview of this bout can be read here WBA champion Knockout takes on Filipino Challenger Paradero
FujisanMesse, Fuji, Shizuoka, Japan
For a second day running we get live streamed action from Japan, with the Suruga Boys Channel streaming a show from Shizuoka. The card isn't a huge one, but it is one we're really interested in, given it features a really fun to watch fighter, a prospect looking to bounce back from a brutal KO loss and one of the hottest young prospects in Japan
The most established name on the card I former Japanese Light Welterweight champion Koichi Aso (23-9-1, 15). The 34 year old Aso is certainly coming to the end of his career, and has lost 2 of his last 4, but will be looking to get another win on the slate here. In the opposite corner to Aso is the flawed Shogo Yamaguchi (12-5-3, 7), who has scored 1 win in his last 4, but that was a career best win over Shuhei Tsuchiya earlier this year. Given the styles of the fighters involved this could be a lot of fun!
The actual main event of the card will see Tsubasa Murachi (4-1, 3) looking to bounce back from a loss to Froilan Saludar, as he takes on domestic foe Ryotaro Kawabata (12-3-2, 6). The talented Murachi had won his firs 4 bouts with no real issues but was put in with Saludar way too early. He did have some success against the experienced Filipino, but was brutally knocked out in round 8 and it's now going to be interesting to see how he bounces back. Kawabata on the other hand isn't a gimme opponent and has shown what he can do with results like a draw against Rene Dacquel and a close loss to Mark John Yap. This is a genuine test for Murachi and could be a really, really tough out for the youngster.
Although not the main event it's hard not to feel that Rentaro Kimura (1-0, 1) is the star of the show. The talented youngster has been tipped as a future world champion, he looked great on his debut, scored a KO of the year contender and was a very accomplished amateur. Sadly his original opponent had to pull out and has been replaced by Takafumi Iwaya (4-3), who is unlikely to pose many questions to Kimura who will be looking to shin and make a statement. Given how impressed Kimura looked on debut we can't imagine anything but a destructive stoppage here, before his team strap a rocket on him and race him to a title.
As well as the Japanese action there is also set to be a card in Russia featuring a couple of Kazakh hopefuls.
One of the hopefuls on this show is teenager Dastan Saduuly (3-0, 3) who takes on Vildan Minasov (3-0, 2) in an 8 round contest at 135lbs. So far neither of these two men have faced any sort of a test, so this is a step up for both men. The press in Kazakhstan are excited about the 18 year old Saduuly, and have tipped him since he made his debut, aged just 16, but this is his first real test. As for Minasov the 23 year old Russian has got more rounds to his name, but his competition has been horrifically bad and it's hard to say how he'll fair against someone who hits him back.
In a much more interesting match up we'll see the unbeaten Bobirzhan Mominov (11-0, 8) battle against Vaghinak Tamrazyan (17-7, 5) in a contender for the IBF Inter-Continental Welterweight title. For the 28 year old Mominov the bout will be a chance to build on a win over Cameron Krael back in June, as part of the Top Rank Summer Series, and will also be his first bout in Russia. Aged 34, and heading to his 35th birthday, Tamrazyan has won just 1 of his last 4, but has been matched hard and should prove to be a good test for the bullishly strong Mominov. Although maybe not the highest level bout we'll be getting this Sunday this could end up being a very good contest between two real tough guys, both vying for some silverware.
The big headline bout this coming weekend sees us focus on Glasgow, Scotland, as the WBSS moves towards the final bouts. The bout of interest for us is the highly anticipated WBSS Bantamweight semi-final bout between WBA "regular" champion Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) and IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12). The bout is a clash between unbeaten world class fighters, who are both looking to move one step closer to proving they are the best Bantamweight on the planet. For Inoue this will be his first bout in Europe, and he will be looking to become the first Japanese fighter to win a world title bout in the continent, whilst Rodriguez returns to the country that he won the IBF title in, when he beat Paul Butler. Coming in both are in great form, though it should be noted that Rodriguez went 24 rounds last year, Inoue has only gone 20 rounds combined in his last 6 fights. If Rodriguez can survive the early going Inoue's lack of activity could be a problem here, as could history. A full review of this bout can be read here Inoue and Rodriguez go one on one in semi final!
Before the action in the UK there will be some action in Asia, including a notable show at Korakuen Hall in Toyko.
The main event of this show will see Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Ryoichi Tamura (12-3-1, 6) make his first defense, as he takes on former champion Yusaku Kuga (17-3-1, 11), in what will be a second bout between these two. Thee two men fought in 2017, with Kuga taking a narrow decision win over Tamura to retain the title, since then however Kuga has been stopped by Shingo Wake and Tamura has bounced back from losing to Kuga to win the title. Given their first bout was a brilliant and violent fight we're expecting something really special here. A full preview of this bout is available here Tamura and Kuga to meet again, potential war set?
In a major supporting bout we'll see Tatsuya Yanagi (15-5-2, 6) and Koichi Aso (23-8-1, 15) clash at Lightweight, in a bout that should be very fan friendly. Coming in to this Yanagi is unbeaten in 5 bouts, including a draw in a Japanese title eliminator last year with Accel Sumiyoshi, but this is likely to be a really tough bout for him. Aso, a veteran and former Japanese Light Welterweight champion, will be dropping down in weight but always brings intense pressure and will be looking to break down Yanagi. This could be an all out war if Yanagi can't keep Aso at range.
At Super Bantamweight we'll see ranked fighters clash, as Naoya Okamoto (13-7-1, 6) and Yosuke Fujihara (17-6, 4) face off in a bout that could well set up a future title fight with the winner of the main event. Okamoto narrowly missed out on a title fight, when he lost a technical decision in October in a Japanese title eliminator, and will be hungry here to shine. Fujihara on the other hand is someone who has challenged for a title before but has lost 3 of his last 4 and really needs a good performance here.
Another bout featuring domestic ranked fighters will see Kenta Nakagawa (16-3-1, 11) take on Ryosuke Nasu (10-4-3, 2). Nakagawa is a former Japanese Super Flyweight champion, holding the title in 2016-2017, and has won 3 in a row since losing the belt to Ryuichi Funai. Nasu on the other hand is a former Japanese Youth Super Flyweight champion who will know that a win here will prove to be a huge step towards a potential senior title fight later in the year.
Another name worthy of noting on this card is Kazuki Saito (6-1, 5), though our understanding is a planned bout has been cancelled and he will instead compete in a spar rather than an actual fight.
Bang Phun, Thailand
At the Workpoint Studio we'll former world title challenger Nawaphon Por Chokchai (44-1-1, 34) take on former champion Sonny Boy Jaro (45-14-5, 32), in what looks almost certain to be a fun fight. Nawaphon, at 27, is the much younger man and needs a big win, and a win over Jaro would be among his very best. Jaro, who is known in Thailand due to his shock win over Pongsaklek Wonjongkam back in 2012. At the age of 37 it's hard to know what Jaro really has left, though he was stopped in 2017 by Jonas Sultan, a none puncher, and surely has to be coming very close to the end of his career.
In Russia we'll see a couple of hard hitting Uzbek fighters in action.
One of those fighters is Ravshanbek Umurzakov (7-0, 7), who takes on Anthony Moloisane (11-3-1, 7) in a bout scheduled for 10 rounds. The talented Umurzakov has shown a lot of promise but isn't being moved up through the levels yet, sadly, and that shows again here, with South African fighter Moloisane, who isn't bad, but also isn't a clear step up for the Uzbek who should be taking on much better opponents now.
A second Uzbek on this show will see Elnur Abduraimov (4-0, 4) in action, as he hunts his 5th straight stoppage. He's stepped up in his last two bouts, but it's clear he needs a real test in the near future, so fingers crossed that happens sooner rather than later. He's too good to be wasting his time against limited opposition and would be served much better by take on someone to extend him some rounds and help prepare him for bigger and better bouts. At the time of writing the opponent for this bout hasn't been named, suggesting a limited and late notice opponent for the Uzbek.
Also on this card is unbeaten Kazakh youngster Stanislav Kalitskiy (7-0, 3), who will be stepping into his first 8 round bout. Sadly there is not currently an opponent confirmed for Kalitskiy, and as with Abduraimov it seems like he will be matched softly with a late notice foe.
Another Asian card will take place in Taiwan, though this is a very low level card, headlined by an 8 round bout between Chia Ching Hung (4-1-1, 4) and Anurak Madua (6-3, 4). Hung is a local to Taiwan, but hasn't fought in over a year, and is 1-1-1 in his last 3. Madua on the other hand was stopped in 77 seconds last time out, when he fought in Osaka against Kyosuke Tsutsumimoto.
The rest of this card is mostly novices bouts with debutants.
Misako gym put on their next show this coming Friday in what is a pretty weak card, with a very interesting main event, and only one under-card bout of real note.
The attractive main event will see the under-rated Noriaki Sato (5-4-1) take on former Japanese Light Welterweight champion Koichi Aso (22-8-1, 15). On paper it's hard to get excited about this contest but for once the paper is really off. Sato is a very under-rated fighter, who holds notable wins over Valentine Hosokawa and Cristiano Aoqui. Sadly whilst Sato is under-rated he has lost his last 3, including back to back stoppage losses to Woo Min Won and Hayato Ono. The always fun to watch Aso hasn't fought since losing the Japanese title to Hosokawa last December, but he seems to have a lot more in the tank than Sato.
The only supporting bout of note will be a contest between domestic journeyman Takuya Yamaguchi (11-12, 9) and Japanese ranked Super Bantamweight Jin Miura (10-3, 1). Coming into this Miura has lost 2 of his last 3, but has mixed in good company against the likes of Mark Uranov and Takafumi Nakajima. Miura is talented but needs to re-find his groove and we suspect that's why he's been matched with Yamaguchi here. Yamaguchi is dangerous at this level, but he has lost 3 of his last 4 and we suspect his poor form will be why he's been selected here to fight Miura. It is worth noting Yamaguchi is a natural puncher, and he has been fighting at Featherweight, so he could be a surprising threat for Miura, if the ranked fighter has over-looked his upcoming opponent.
The biggest card, at least for us, this coming Thursday is a doubler header at the Korakuen Hall, with a WBO Asia Pacific title fight and a Japanese domestic title fight, along with a supporting bout involving a former Japanese champion.
The main event will see former world title challenger Keita Obara (18-2-1, 16) defending his WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title against the exciting Shusaku Fujinaka (16-7-2, 11). The bout will be Obara's first defense of the title, which he won earlier this year when he stopped Saddam Kietyongyuth, and should be a relatively straight forward one, against a limited but aggressive Fujinaka. The challenger is best known for a his 2015 loss to Randall Bailey and has shown a questionable chin, with 3 stoppage losses. Saying that however he's an exciting warrior and his recent bout with Moon Hyun Yun is one of the best Japanese fights of 2017. We expect action and excitement, but a clear win for Obara here.
The other title fight will see Japanese Light Welterweight champion Koichi Aso (22-7-1, 15) taking on exciting challenger Valentine Hosokawa (21-6-3, 9). The bout is set to be one between two men who simply like to fight. They have styles that should gel, they have mentalities that should be made for each other, and it's hard to see how this bout will fail to be anything but thrilling. Aso, defending the title for the second time, is a high octane pressure fighter whilst Hosokawa is a bit more of a swarmer and the bout should be a balls to the wall war.
One other bout on this card worthy of note will see former Japanese Light Flyweight champion Kenichi Horikawa (33-15-1, 7) fight for the 50th time! The 37 year old veteran will be up against a limited Thai foe, and will be expected to pick up a win to mark his half century of bouts.
In Canada we'll see a couple of talented fighters from Central Asia.
One of those will be heavy handed Canadian based Kazakh Ablaikhan Khussainov (6-0, 5), who faces off with Mexican Jesus Silveira (8-4-2, 3). The talented Kazakh has quietly gone about business and looks like a real talent but does still need some seasoning and it looks like that's the purpose of this bout. Silveira's record might suggest that he's a very limited fighter but but he's mixed with quality fighters, like Jose Zepeda, and no one has managed to stop him yet, suggesting he'll be a durable foe for Khussainov.
A second Canadian based Kazakh on this card will be Nurzat Sabirov (3-0, 3), who will be looking to record his 4th win in just over 6 months. The talented 23 year old has just needed 6 rounds to dispose of his first 3 opponents and if he keeps ripping through low tier foes it won't be long until they push him into bigger and better bouts against stiffer competition.
New York, USA
There will also be some central Asian interest in the US, courtesy of American based Uzbek fighter Hurshidbek Normatov (4-0, 2), who risks his unbeaten record against fellow unbeaten Nicklaus Flaz (5-0, 4). So far through his short career Normatov has impressed, not losing any of his 13 professional rounds, and looks like a potential one to watch. However the 25 year old born in Andijan hasn't really faced a notable test and this bout with Flaz should serve as a test of sorts. Puerto Rican puncher Flaz is a 22 year old with genuine bang, having stopped his first 4 opponents in a combined 5rounds, but was taken the distance last time out by Elie Augustama and may be biting off more than he can chew here.
Attention in Japan this coming Thursday focuses on a Misako promotion in Tokyo, where fans get two title bouts.
The first of those title bouts will see Japanese Light Welterweight champion Koichi Aso (21-7-1, 14) making the first defense of his title as he takes on Yusuke Konno (11-3, 5), who comes into the bout as the #1 ranked challenger. Aso won the title earlier this year, in what was his third shot at the belt, and will be looking to keep a tight grasp on it given his long and hard career, though it's fair to say he has taken punishment during his career and it's hard to know how much he has left in the tank. This will be Konno's first title bout, and he'll come into the contest very hungry,but will be the under-dog. Interestingly the winner of this could be the next target for the really talented Koki Inoue.
The other title bout will see world ranked OPBF Featherweight champion Ryo Takenaka (16-3-1, 9) defending his title against Korean challenger Sa Myung Noh (10-3, 3). The under-rated Takenaka is a very talented boxer who has built from losses to good fighters, like Hisashi Amagasa, and looks to be one of the rising contenders in the packed Featherweight division, though he would be the big under-dog against any of the current world champion. Noh is a pretty good fighter, but his technical flaws should see him be easy pickings for Takenaka, who we suspect will box his way into control, before closing the show in the middle rounds.
In an interesting under-card bout we'll see the under-rated Yusuke Suzuki (7-3, 5) battle against the more experienced Keita Nakano (14-10-6, 4). On paper Suzuki might not look anything special but he's a genuine talent, and was a very good amateur before turning professional in late 2012. He has been matched hard through his career, losing to Yusaku Kuga, Ryoichi Tamura and Jeffrey Francisco, though could well have been 10-0 (5) with a bit of luck. Nakano, fighting for the 31st time as a professional has mixed at a good level and will be the under-dog here, but he is certainly a live under-dog.
In Thailand on the same day fight fans will see former world title title challenger Stamp Kiatniwat (16-1, 6) battle against Filipino foe Michael Enriquez (13-6-1, 9) in what looks like an interesting match up. The Thai youngster will be favoured, and he showed he was legitimate in his 2016 loss to Kazuto Ioka, but Enriquez will go to war with him and the bout could be very, very fan friendly, as Enriquez's bout against Rex Tso was back in 2015.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo
Title action returns to the Korakuen Hall on February 9th as we get a title double header, as part of a Diamond Glove card.
The main event of the card sees OPBF Featherweight champion Ryo Takenaka (15-3-1, 8) defending his title against fellow Japanese fighter Ryuto Araya (11-4-1, 3). The champion will be seeking his third defense here and is looking to build on recent wins over the likes of Vinvin Rufino, Akira Shono and Randy Braga. Although the OPBF champion Takenaka is relatively unknown outside of Japan, though may well be looking to break out this year and move towards a potential bout of international note. Whilst Takenaka is heading places the same can't really be said of Araya, who has won his last 3 but is 6-4 in his last 10, including stoppage losses to Daisuke Watanabe and Takuya Yamaguchi. This is a big opportunity for Araya but a huge step up in class and likely another loss for the struggling 29 year old.
A potentially thrilling co-feature will see the all action Koichi Aso (20-7-1, 13) face off with the heavy handed Kazuki Matsuyama (13-7-1, 7) for the vacant Japanese Light Welterweight title, a title that was vacated by Hiroki Okada last year. The under-rated Aso has lost in two title fights at this level, losing twice to former champion Okada, but does deserve to remain in the title mix and is one of the better Japanese fighters at 140lbs. For Matsuyama this will be his first title fight and gives him a great chance to claim a title, though recent stoppage losses to Shuhei Tsuchiya and Daishi Nagata don't bode well against a fighter like Aso who will come out swinging here.
A good looking under-card bout sees the under-rated Yusuke Suzuki (6-3, 4) take on Ken Kodama (8-2-1, 3). Suzuki might not have a great record but his losses have come to good fighters in the shape of Yusaku Kuga, Ryoichi Tamura and Jeffrey Francisco and he was a talented amateur who could well bounce back from this less than stellar start. As for Kodama he probably isn't quite as good as his record suggests and a win here would be the best of his career so far.
An interesting supporting bout will see veteran Norihito Tanaka (14-5, 7) end a 5 year break from the ring, as he takes on Yuto Takahashi (6-2, 4). Although inactive Tanaka was once a good fighter, and has shared the ring with the likes of Kenichi Horikawa, Ryoichi Taguchi and Akira Yaegashi. As for Takahashi he has bounced back from back-to-back losses to Tsubasa Koura and Naoyuki Tsukada and could prove to be too young and too fresh for Tanaka.
On the under-card we'll teenage hopeful Izuki Tomioka (1-0) take on Korean visitor Joon Woo Park (4-6, 2). Tomioka looked impressive in his debut, back in December against fellow debutant Tatsuki Shinozuka, and will be looking to impress against here. Park has lost 3 of his last 4 but hasn't been stopped since his debut, more than 8 years ago, and should prove to be sturdy if nothing else.
This coming Saturday is a busy day though it's exciting an important day with a really notable domestic card in Japan and notable bots in Mexico and Canada.
That Japanese card is a small one, but a very significant one as it's the Strongest Korakuen show and will establish 4 fighters who will fight for Japanese titles in the first half of 2017.
The highest weight to see action is the 140lb Light Welterweight division where we will see the exciting Koichi Aso (20-7-1, 13), who has come up short in previous Japanese title bouts, face off with talented novice foe Noriaki Sato (4-1-1). Aso has the advantages in power and experience but Sato is certainly no push over and he comes in the back of wins over Valentine Hosokawa and Kazuya Ito. This really could be an an excellent match up with very contrasting styles.
At Super Featherweight we'll see recent title challenger Satoru Sugita (11-3-1, 7) face off with the experienced Tsuyoshi Tojo (13-13-5, 2). Sugita was beaten last time out, when he he came up short against Japanese champion Kenichi Ogawa, though will clearly be looking to move into a second title fight. On paper this looks like an easy win for Sugita but Tojo is a much better fighter than his record suggests and he is a real potential banana skin for someone like Sugita.
The best of the bouts takes place at 122lbs where the highly experienced Japanese based Filipino Jonathan Baat (32-7-5, 14) takes on 25 year old puncher Yusaku Kuga (12-2-1, 8). Baat is tested at a high level and is a potential banana skin for every one below world class, and he's had solid showings against the likes of Liborio Solis and Rey Megrino recently. Kuga on the other hand came up narrowly short in his most notable bout, against Japanese champion Yasutaka Ishimoto, and will be looking for a rematch with Ishimoto if he wins here. This is a really mouth watering contest and potentially thriller between two men who are at different stages of their career and should put on something a bit special.
The lowest weight covered here is Light Flyweight where Tetsuya Hisada (26-9-2, 16) will face Hayato Yamaguchi (14-6-1, 2) in a really interesting fight. Aged 31 Hisada cannot afford a loss but is 8-5-2 in his last 15 bouts and has been inconsistent against his more notable opponents, he is skilled, and has developed some real sting on his shots, but is fundamentally flawed. Yamaguchi has come up short against his most notable opponents but has got the ability to give Hisada fits, unfortunately he too is inconsistent. This could be a great bout, or it could be a case that the fighter who turns up wins without needing to impress.
Also on this card is a stay busy bout for Ryuichi Funai (25-7, 17), as he faces Jomyuth Looktabthai (1-0) in what should prepare him for a bout with Kenta Nakagawa in 2017 when he competes in the Champion Carnival.
In Quebec we get 3 bouts of interest.
The most interest of those 3 bouts sees experienced Filipino Ricky Sismundo (30-9-3, 13) take on the once touted Canadian based Ghislain Maduma (18-2, 11). It was only a few years ago that Maduma was looking like a future world title challenger in the making but 2 losses in his last 4 have left him fighting for his career and he can't afford another loss. Although Sismundo has a less than stellar record he has been a surprising fighter with upsets against the likes of Shuhei Tsuchiya, Akihiro Kondo and Yoshitaka Kato and deserved wins recently over Jose Felix Jr and Dierry Jean. This looks like a mismatch on paper but certainly won't be when the men get in the ring.
In an interesting step up we'll see Canadian based Kazakh puncher Batyrzhan Jukembayev (5-0-0-2, 5) face the much more experienced Ivan Pereyra (20-7, 14). Jukembayev is a really promising prospect with serious power and looks to be one of the truly exciting punchers making their marks. In Pereyra we have an experienced Mexican but one who has been stopped in 3 of his last 6 bouts, and will likely struggle to see the final bell here, if Jukembayev is as good as he has looked so far.
Another Canadian based Kazakh hopeful on this card is Ablaikhan Khussainov (2-0, 2), who takes a notable step up in class to face Attila Csereklye (6-2, 4). So far Khussainov has been matched incredibly easily and although this is, technically, a step up Csereklye isn't expected to pose much of a threat, with Hungarians being notoriously bad when facing fighters who punch back.
In China we get a show from Yinchuan, for the second day running.
In the main event we'll see the experienced Xing Xin Yang (11-4-3, 8) battling against the once beaten Tong Hui Li (6-1, 4). Coming in to this Yang is 1-1-1 in his last 3, having been stopped by Jack Brubaker last year in that loss, but should be favoured over his countryman. Li is looking for his second win since a loss to Alimu Tuersun back in March but this is a step up in class for him.
In another bout on this card we'll see the once beaten Hu Li Fu (3-1, 2) battle Kazakh hopeful Viktor Kotochigov (2-0, 1). On paper this doesn't look the most interesting but Kotochigov scored a notable win over A Fu Bai last time out and a win here could solidify him as one to watch going forward. Interestingly the Kazakh will be fighting in China for the third time.
Baja California, Mexico
One of the more interesting bouts comes from Mexico as the unbeaten Luis Nery (20-0,14) takes on Filipino former world title challenger Richie Mepranum (31-5-1, 8). On paper this one looks like a step up for Nery but given the weight Nery has to be favoured and Mepranum has been stopped in his last two international bouts, with this likely to be another loss for the “Magnum” and a chance for Nery to further prove himself as a rising contender.
We get a Filipino show in Benguet which is headlined by a title fight, and features an interesting test for an unbeaten fighter on the under-card.
The title bout will see the once beaten Bener Santig (4-1-1, 1) face off against the unbeaten Dexter Eraya (2-0, 1) for the LuzProBA Super Bantamweight title in what looks like an intriguing match up between two men on the rise. Santig is looking to record a third win since his sole defeat, which came last November, whilst former Muay Thai fighter Eraya looks to record his best win as a boxer.
In another interesting bout Danny Tampipi (5-6-2, 3) will be looking to test the unbeaten Ralph Jhon Lulu (12-0-2, 5) in an 8 rounder. Lulu, if he wins here, should be stepped up in 2017 with the “Bomber” in need of a win over a notable foe.
Negros Occidental, Philippines
A second Filipino show is set to be held in Negros Occidental.
The most notable bout here will see the once beaten Raul Yu (8-1-2, 7) face off against Paul Varona (2-6-1), in what looks like a mismatch in favour of the promising and heavy handed Yu.
On the under-card of this show fans will be able to see the unbeaten Kenneth Paul Gentallan (4-0, 2) fight against the once beaten Ricardo Sueno (2-1-3, 1), in what could be a good test for the 20 year old Gallan.
In Australia fight fans will get the chance to see two limited Thai's in action.
One of those bouts will see Jamie Hilt (4-1-1) take on Aphichat Koedchatturat (1-8) in what looks like a recording padding bout for local fighter Hilt, who lost last time out whilst the other will see the win-less pairing of Mel Baker (0-1) and Monthida Rattanachai (0-1) face off in a female bout.
The action in Japan has been pretty none stop recently, and that continues this Sunday with a Kadoebi show at the Korakuen Hall.
In the main event of the card fans get a rematch as Japanese 140lb champion Hiroki Okada (11-0, 9) battles against the exciting Koichi Aso (20-6-1, 13). Okada narrowly beat Aso when the men first met, back in July 2014, though has since shown genuine improvement with back-to-back 3rd round TKO wins. Aso has bounced back from the loss to Okada with back-to-back stoppage wins of his own, but this is a bigger test than he has faced since the first Okada bout. Potentially this could be a thriller and we'd be genuinely shocked if the bout wasn't action packed.
In the chief support bout we have another intriguing match up as the world ranked Yukinori Oguni (16-1-1, 5) faces off against Thailand's Mike Tawatchai (38-8-1, 21). Both of these men have come up short against Shingo Wake however it's a great match up between two men who will both be viewing this as a chance to move towards a potential rematch with Wake, who could be the IBF champion by the time a rematch could be made. Oguni, a former JBC and OPBF champion, is a very talented boxer-move and should be too slippery for Tawatchai, however the Thai will refuse to to concede defeat and could be a very tricky assignment for Oguni.
In another bout of note former Japanese title challenger Gosuke Seki (16-2-2, 3) will be up against Keisuke Ota (9-9, 2) in a bout that Seki must win if he's to remain relevant on the Japanese domestic scene. Seki has lost 2 of his last 3 and although talented cannot afford an upset loss to Ota. As for Ota he's taking a big step up in class but will see this as his chance to move towards a Japanese ranking.
One final bout of note from this card will see the exciting Shuhei Tsuchiya (19-4, 16) in against against Thai visitor Ekarachan Mor Krungthep Thomburee (0-0) in what should be a straight forward win for the exciting, but flawed, Tsuchiya.