This coming Monday attention turns to Hiroshima, as we get an OPBF title fight and a very interesting supporting bout, featuring a Japanese Youth champion.
The OPBF title bout will see OPBF Light Flyweight champion Edward Heno (13-0-5, 5) look to defend his title against veteran Koji Itagaki (18-13-3, 7), in what is set to be Heno's third defense of the title. The unbeaten champion, from the Philippines, won title in Japan in 2017, stopping Seita Ogido, and has impressed since with wins against Merlito Sabillo and Jesse Espinas. Despite impressing it's clear he still needs some more experience and development before moving on to a world title fight, and we suspect the 26 year old will be looking to make those improvements this year, before a world title fight in 2020. At 35 years old Itagaki is a proper veteran, who debuted back in the summer of 2005. During Itagaki's career he has come up short in bouts for the Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific title, but he'll be perfectly aware that this is his last chance. There is do over. For Itagaki this will be the final shot at a title, and if he loses that could well end his career. Sadly for the challenger, it'd be a major surprise if he could over-come the excellent Heno. Our full preview of this bout can be read here Heno returns to Japan to defend OPBF title against veteran Itagaki
In the chief support bout Japanese Youth Bantamweight champion Tetsu Araki (12-1-1, 2) will be battling against domestic puncher Morihisa Iju (11-3, 9), with Iju returning to the ring for the first time since September 2017. Araki won the Youth title last time out, upsetting Ryuto Owan, and is riding an 8 fight unbeaten since losing in the 2015 Rookie of the Year to Tenta Kiyose. At the age of 24 Araki is showing genuine promise but this is a good step up and a good chance for him to show what he can do. Iju, as mentioned, has been inactive recently and actually lost 2 of his 3 most recent bouts. Despite limited Iju can bang and with this being his return to the ring we're expect to see him show some real hunger, which should make for a very interesting fight. Araki will be favoured, but Iju is certainly a live under-dog.
This coming Friday is a major day in Japan, despite not being a day that will get much international attention. The reason for this is that in Tokyo there will be an incredible 6 Japanese title eliminator contests, with the winners booking their place in the 2019 Champions Carnival.
At Light Flyweight we get a rematch between Kenichi Horikawa (37-15-1, 11) and Koji Itagaki (18-12-3, 7). These two are both veterans who have come up short in a recent Japanese title bout to Tetsuya Hisada and both are clearly and wanting another shot at the belt. The winner will get a title fight next year, meaning the reward for a win is huge, though the loser will likely be pushed into retirement. The full preview of this bout is here Horikawa and Itagaki rematch with a title fight on the line!
At Super Flyweight we see recent Japanese title challenger Yuta Matsuo (14-3-1, 7) take on Japanese based Filipino veteran Rey Orais (20-17-2, 5), who has only fought once in the last 10 years. The talented Matsuo came up short in 2017 against Masayuki Kuroda but has notched up a couple of wins since then and looks to be hungry for a second shot. Orais on the other hand is a boxer-come-trainer-come part time boxer, who looks to be rolling the dice for one final charge at a title. An in depth fight preview for this bout can be read here Matsuo and Orais battle for shot at Super Flyweight gold!
At Super Bantamweight we may be getting a small treat at Mugicha Nakagawa (23-5-1, 14) takes on Naoya Okamoto (13-6-1, 6). Both men are under-rated outside of Japan and both should make for a very interesting match up here. Nakagawa caught our eye in a 2017 loss to Yasutaka Ishimoto, and despite losing has since bounced back with a pair of stoppages. Okamoto on the other hand comes into the bout on the back of big wins over Daisuke Watanabe and Yuta Saito, who has since won the Japanese Bantamweight title. This could be the hidden gem on the card and technically the winner will be ordered to fight current champion Shingo Wake, though he is expected to vacate before the Champion Carnival. A fight breakdown for this contest is available here Nakagawa and Okamoto to fight in Japanese eliminator!
A second rematch on this card, this time at Super Featherweight, will see Ken Osato (14-2-1, 4) and Satoru Sugita (14-5-1, 9) face off for the second time inside a year. Interestingly these two fought last December in a Japanese title eliminator that Osato narrowly won. Sadly for Osato he would come up short in his eventual title fight, losing to Masaru Sueyoshi earlier this year. This should be a technically compelling match up, even if it fails to be one of the more exciting bouts on the card. A preview of this bout can be read here Osato and Sugita go again, in title eliminator!
Talking about exciting it's hard not to have pulses racing about the Light Welterweight bout between the unbeaten and heavy handed pairing of Koki Inoue (11-0, 10) and Marcus Smith (6-0-1, 6). Inoue, the cousin of both Naoya and Takuma Inoue, is one of the most avoided fighters on the Japanese domestic scene and with good reason, having left good good opponents battered and broken. Smith, the 2017 Rookie of the Year, is an American born Japanese fighter who has looked very destructive and heavy handed, but is taking a massive step up in class here. This is going to be something very fun and despite favouring Inoue we think this could be the bout of the show. The preview for this contest is available here Inoue and Smith clash in Japanese title eliminator!
The heaviest bout on this card will take place at Light Middleweight and will see veteran Koshinmaru Saito (24-9-2, 13) battle against Hironobu Matsunaga (13-1, 7), in what could be another very entertaining bout, and one that could see the winner join a mixed up situation in the Japanese Light Middleweight scene. The 39 year old Saito has come up short in 7 title bouts during his 35 fight career, but outside of title fights he is an impressive 24-3-1. Matsunaga comes in to this on the back of 7 straight wins, including notable wins over Sanosuke Sasaki, Je Ni Ma and Patomsuk Pathompothong. Saito will know he can't afford another set back, given that he turns 40 early next year, but Matsunaga won't be looking to lose his own career momentum. Our preview for this bout is available here Veteran Saito takes on Matsunaga for Japanese title shot!
The main show this coming Saturday comes from Osaka as Harada Promotions, along with reason Promotions, where we get a Japanese title double header.
One of those bouts will see Japanese Light Flyweight champion Tetsuya Hisada (30-9-2, 19) defending his title against mandatory challenger Koji Itagaki (18-11-3, 7). Coming in to this bout Hisada has made 2 defenses already and is working his way towards a world title fight, in fact at the time of writing Hisada is ranked in the top 10 by all 4 world title bodies and talking about getting a shot at a belt by the end of 2018. Itagaki got this shot on the back of a win over Koki Ono last October, but with 11 losses in 32 fights, and recent defeats to Kenichi Horikawa and Rey Loreto don't suggest he'll be a tough challenger for the in form Hisada.
The other title fight will be a rematch between Go Onaga (28-3-4, 19) and Hiroyuki Kudaka (25-17-2, 11), who fight for the vacant Japanese Super Flyweight title. These two fought to a technical draw last year, in what was a title eliminator, but both will be getting a shot following Ryuichi Funai vacating the belt. At 37, soon to be 38, it's hard to envisage Onaga having much left in the tank but this will almost certainly be his final shot at winning a title, following set backs in previous Japanese and OPBF title shots. For Kudaka, who is a 4-time world title challenger, this is a chance to add to his career honours, which includes a short reign as the World Boxing Council International Silver Flyweight champion back in 2010. Kudaka has lost 7 of his last 11, but has mixed at a very high level losing to the likes of Omar Andres Narvaez, Ryo Matsumoto, Mark John Yap and Takuma Inoue. It's hard to not think the 33 year old Kudaka will come out on top here.
As well as the title action in Japan there will also be a title action in Benguet, in the Philippines.
One of those bouts will see GAB Flyweight champion Ryan Rey Ponteras (21-12-1, 10) make his second defense as he takes on one the once beaten Genisis Libranza (14-1, 9). Although Ponteras' record isn't impressive on paper he's far from a push over and on his day can be a real night mare, as he showed against Rusalee Samor in 2012, and more recently against Renerio Arizala. The 24 year old Libranza looked like a very promising prospect before being thrown to the wolves last year and getting stopped in 4 rounds by the criminally under-rated Moruti Mthalane in South Africa. Since that loss he has picked up 3 confidence building wins but this is a step up from those victories.
Another fighter of note on this card is the unbeaten Jayson Vayson (5-0, 3), who not only had a great name but also an unbeaten record. The 19 year old Vayson will be fighting in his 3rd 6 rounder as he takes on Alvin Tayo (2-5-1, 2). On paper this is a mismatch but Tayo pushed Vayson all the way last September and is clear going to be up for this mismatch, whilst Vayson will be wanting to leave no doubt this time around.
In the US fans will have a chance to see Uzbek Heavyweight prospect Rustam Tulaganov (1-0) fight in his second professional bout, as he takes on the dangerous Martez McGregor (5-1, 4). The Uzbek, a bronze medal winner a the 2016 Rio Olympics, is a top talent and is one to watch going forward. Despite the Uzbek's amateur credentials this is a very tough test for a second professional outing and McGregor is very dangerous early on, with all 4 of his stoppages coming in the first 2 rounds. A win for Tulaganov is expect, but he could also be given a chin check here.
In India fight fans will see unbeaten local Vikas Singh (5-0-1, 4) battle against former OPBF Super Middleweight title challenger Kajornsak Sithsaithong (11-7, 10), in a bout for the WBC Asian Boxing Council Silver Cruiserweight title. The unbeaten Singh fought to a draw last time out, with the result ending a 4 fight stoppage run, but coming into this he's unbeaten and looks like he's taking a bit of a step up here, despite the fact the Thai is far from a natural Cruiserweight. The Thai is best known for his 2015 fight against Yuzo Kiyota, where he dropped the then OPBF champion before being stopped in the 10th round. At his best the Thai could be a nightmare for Singh, though he would need to be at his best to get the win in India, especially given that Kajornsak is 1-5 outside of Thailand. Despite his poor form away from home, Kajornsak did score an upset in his last fight, out pointing Yamato Fujinaka in Japan, and will be somewhat confident coming into this bout.
This coming Sunday is a relatively quiet day, despite a show in Japan and one in the Philippines.
In Japan the action comes from Hiroshima where we see two bouts of some note.
The more notable of those bouts sees two men fighting for the opportunity to challenge for the Japanese Light Flyweight title in 2018. The bout will see the talented Koki Ono (12-3, 5) take on Koji Itagaki (17-11-3, 7) in what looks likely to be a really solid fight, despite the men having very differing records. Coming in to this Ono has won his last 5, though his best wins have been over the likes of Ryoya Ikema and Aiki Koto. On the other hand Itagaki has been suffered losses in 5 of his last 11, though he has been fighting at a much higher level and come up short against the likes of Rey Loreto and Kenichi Horikawa. This could be a very good bout between a rising contender, and a true grizzled veteran.
The other bout of note on this show will see the once touted Takumi Sakae (16-2-1,11) continue his career rebuild as he takes on domestic foe Kenta Yokoe (6-12-2, 2). Sakae was once 13-0 and tipped as one to watch, but a 3-2-1 run has left his career in a bit of a mess and he is desperately seeking to right the ship. A win here would push him in the right direction, though much more will need to be done for him to really resurrect his career and get on with earning a second title fight.
Zamboanga del Sur, Philippines
In the Philippines the show is a small one, though the main event has the potential to be a really enticing contest as Jestoni Autida (9-7, 4) takes on Donny Mabao (22-32-3, 4). On paper that might not look even worthy of consideration but both are far better than their records indicate with Autida beating the likes of a then unbeaten Jeffrey Francisco, Xinghua Wang and Ratchasak Kokietgym and Mabao holding wins over Michael Enriquez, Mateo Handig and Florante Condes. We're not expecting a fight of the year contender, but a very competitive bout should be seen between two men seeking a win, and each believing they could get it here.
There is only one show in Japan this coming Sunday.
The main event of the card will see under-rated Filipino Rolly Sumalpong (10-2-1, 4) return to Japan for the first time since losing his unbeaten record to Ken Shiro. The Filipino youngster will be up against Japanese veteran Koji Itagaki (17-11-2, 7) in what looks like a really intriguing fight. Sumalpong is a real talent, but has lost 2 of his last 3 and needs a win of note now. Itagaki has mixed at a high level, but has lost in recent contests to Rey Loreto and Kenichi Horikawa, and will be hoping to use that experience here.
In an under-card bout of interest we'll see Taiyo Inoue (6-3-1, 4) face the experienced but light hitting Kenta Sugimoto (11-10-1, 1) in a good looking bout that won't set pulses racing, but should be a good fight all the same.
Metro Manila, Philippines
In the Philippines we have two shows, though very few bouts of actual note. Although the bouts aren't big one of the bouts will see the very promising Giemel Magramo (17-1, 13) battle against John Rey Lauza (13-13-4, 6), in what should be an easy win for the once beaten man. Last year we saw Magramo suffer a narrow loss to Muhammad Waseem, and he should bounce back with a win here.
The other Filipino show is very unexciting.
One of the main bouts will see Richard Rosales (11-4-2, 6) battle domestic journeyman Rey Morano (9-50-2, 1) whilst another will see the unbeaten Roldan Sasan (2-0, 1) face professional loser Reynaldo Buluan (3-12-2, 1).
In China we get a bizarrely interesting looking bout between two men who could, in all fairness, be called professional losers. The bout will pit local veteran Xinghua Wang (12-14-1), one of the most experienced fighters in Chinese boxing, up against Japan's Ken Achiwa (11-11-5, 4). Wang is likely to be the fan favourite, but has gone 2-6 in his last 8, and is clearly struggling for form. As for Achiwa he's actually in good form with a 3-0-3 run in his last 6 bouts, dating back more than 3 years.
The end the weekend attention turns to Hiroshima where Japanese fight fans get an easy to over-look card from Hiroshima.
In the main event of this show we see veterans colliding for the WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title. The match up sees former Japanese Light Flyweight champion Kenichi Horikawa (31-14-1, 7) taking on 33 year old Koji Itagaki (17-10-2, 7). It's fair to say that Horikawa is the more proven fighter, having been in with a variety of well known fighters, such as Akira Yaegashi to Florante Condes, Edgar Sosa, Yu Kimura Shin Ono and Ken Shiro, and has typically held his own with them. Although he has 14 losses to his name Horikawa has proven to be a very solid fighter during a very hard career. Itagaki on the other hand has been in good form, winning 5 of his last 6 bouts, with notable victories over Benezer Alolod, Michael Enriquez and Michael Landero. Although neither man will be in the running for a world title fight, this should be a very good match up and a real war between two men really fighting for their pride.
Whilst the main event is something we're excited about we also really like some of the supporting bouts. One of those bouts we like will see the heavy handed teenager Ryoya Ikema (11-2, 10) take on domestic foe Koki Ono (11-3, 5). Ikema debuted back in 2013, as a 15 year old, and although he was 4-2 at one point he has been impressing recently with a 7-0 (6) run, including an 8 round decision win over Jomyuthlek Sor Narongchai. Ono is currently riding a 4 fight winning streak and will feel confident here of upsetting the teenage hopeful, but he has been stopped before and it's clear that Ikema has got power.
Another supporting bout will see the once beaten Retsu Kosaka (7-1, 2) battle against the out of form Yuki Ozawa (10-5, 2). Last time out Kosaka suffered a competitive loss to fellow youngster Ken Osato and will be looking to get back to winning ways here. Ozawa will be looking to end a 5 fight slide here, and looking to make the most of a ring return following a sizeable break from the ring. On paper 5 losses looks terrible for the once 10-0 Ozawa but he has been matched hard with bouts against the likes of Masaaki Serie and Ryo Takenaka. If Ozawa is in form he could prove to be an excellent test for Kosaka and he is much better than the raw numbers suggest.
This coming Sunday is a busy day with several shows through Asia.
The most significant bout of the day comes in Osaka where Japan's once beaten Nana Yoshikawa (6-1, 4) faces unbeaten Korean Eun Hye Lee (8-0, 3) for the WBO female Flyweight title. Hye, the former WBO female Light Flyweight champion, is moving up in weight for this bout after having had troubles with funding when she was the champion and will be fighting away from home for the first time. For Yoshikawa the bout will be her second world title fight, after coming up short against Anabel Ortiz last year. The winner will be a target for several notable names and could see a potential show down with 3-weight world champion Naoko Fujioka in 2017.
In a supporting bout Shingo Kawamura (12-3-1, 6) will battle Takuya Yamamoto (7-4, 4) in an interesting looking 8 rounder at 122lbs. Although Kawamura will be favoured he has struggled recently and is 3-2-1 in his last 6, dating back more than 2 years. Kawamura has been mixing at a higher level than Yamamoto, who is stepping up, but he has been losing when he's been fighting the better competition.
In another supporting bout the once beaten Terumi Nuki (7-1, 4) will face a Thai foe, in what looks like to be a title prelude bout for Nuki.
Another Japanese card, from Hiroshima, will be headlined by veteran Koji Itagaki (16-10-2, 7) as he takes on former OPBF Minimumweight champion Michael Landero (18-13-4, 7). Landero, a Filipino veteran, will be looking to continue his 2 fight winning run, and scored a 3rd win on Japanese soil. For Itagaki the bout will be his first since being stopped by another Filipino visitor, Rey Loreto back in April.
In the chief support bout the Japanese ranked Ryuji Ikeda (11-3-1, 7) will face very highly experienced Filipino journeyman Mark Sales (22-40-3, 8). On paper this is a total mismatch but Ikeda is looking to bounce back from a loss last time out and will be looking rebuild his confidence rather than score a statement win.
Daejeon, South Korea
In Korea fight fans get an intriguing show with international implications.
The main event will see Korean-Russian Je Ni Ma (9-1-3, 8) battle against Japan's Hironobu Matsunaga (10-1, 5) in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Light Middleweight title. For both men this will be their biggest bout, though it's fair to say that Ma will be favoured given he's fighting at home and is currently riding a 12 fight unbeaten run. Despite Ma being the favourite Matsunaga will be confident and comes into this riding a 4 fight winning run.
On the under-card KBF 140lb champion Dong Hee Kim (5-1-1, 1) will be facing former OPBF Super Featherweight title challenger Ernie Sanchez (15-8-1, 6), with Sanchez being a late replacement for the aggressive Hyun Woo Yuh, who was originally stipulated to face Kim in a title fight.
One other bout of note on this under-card will see Japan's Chaoz Minowa (1-0, 1) battle Chan Mi Lim (2-1, 2). Minowa is tipped as the most promising Japanese female fighter since Naoko Fujioka and is returning to the ring just weeks after her debut. Although not well known Lim is exciting, heavy handed and aggressive and could well be the gut test Minowa needs before fighting for titles.
Their isn't a lot of action this Sunday but it's fair to say that one bout does stand out as being more intriguing than any other, and that is the headline bout of a show in Hiroshima.
That bout is one between world ranked Filipino banger Rey Loreto (21-13, 13) and the Japanese and OPBF ranked Koji Itagaki (16-9-2, 7). On paper this may not look like a great bout, especially give the 22 combined losses, but the reality is that these are both fighters with more ability than their records suggest. Coming in to this one Itagaki is on a 4 fight winning streak, including wins over Benezer Alolod and Michael Enriquez, whilst Loreto has won his last 5, including victories over Pornsawan Porpramook and Nkosinathi Joyi. Both are capable fighters and this really could be very exciting.
In the chief support bout Japanese ranked Ryuji Ikeda (11-2-1, 7) will be facing Kazuyasu Okamoto (10-4, 3) in a good looking 8 round affair. The 20 year old Ikeda has stopped his last 5 opponents since being stopped himself, by Kenta Onjo, and looks to be an emerging force at 140lbs on the Japanese domestic scene. Okamoto is nothing special but is a good test for the promising youngster, and could provide an upset if Ikeda isn't on his game.
The other card in Japan is a genuinely forgettable card on paper from Mie.
The main event of this show will see Japanese ranked Super Featherweight Yusuke Nakagawa (9-4-1, 5) risk his ranking against Yutaka Ekawa (7-4-1, 4). Although Nakagawa has a JBC ranking this bout could be a tough one for him, and it will be just his second bout since a KO loss to Rikiya Fukuhara last September. Notably however Ekawa was stopped in his last bout and has been beaten inside the distance 3 times.
Another Japanese ranked fighter on this card is Featherweight contender Shota Hayashi (26-5-1, 16), who looks to secure a stay busy win as he takes on Shohei Fujimoto (9-5-3, 8). Hayashi is very close to a Japanese title fight, and we suspect a win here could get him a shot at the Japanese title, with the division likely to have a genuine shake up in the near future.
There's also a card in Thailand which will see Japanese veteran Cobra Suwa (17-11-2, 9) attempt to claim the WBC Asian Boxing Council 154lb title as he takes on Thai local Ratchasai Sithsaithong (6-2, 5). Last year Suwa claimed the “Silver” version of the title, and the PABA belt, in bouts in Thailand and is now fighting his third successive bout in the country as he attempts to end his career with a collection of titles. As for the Thai he's facing his second Japanese opponent after losing a bout last year to current OPBF/JBC Middleweight champion Hikaru Nishida.
Also in Thailand fans will get the chances to see former world title challenger Shin Ono (18-7-2, 2). Ono is facing a Thai local, though unfortunately we don't have the Thai's name.
The most notable card of the day takes place in Hiroshima where we get the chance to see several ranked fighters.
The main event of the card is a 10 round contest between two OPBF ranked fighters. The lower ranked fighter is Japan's very own Koji Itagaki (15-9-2, 6) who likely to be viewed as the under-dog against the better ranked Filipino Michael Enriquez (11-3-1, 7). Coming into this one Itagaki is 3-4-1 though those 3 wins have come in his last 3 and he does hold notable wins over Palangpol CP Freshmart and Benezer Alolod. As for Enriquez he is 3-4 in his last 7 and is best known for his close and exciting loss, in March, to Rex Tso in what was a genuine FOTY contender. Given what we know of both fighters we have to favour the Filipino.
In a supporting bout we'll see recent OPBF title challenger Yuya Okazaki (11-8-1, 4) take on novice Noriaki Sato (2-1). This is a huge step up for Sato however a win could move him towards a title fight. For Okazaki this is his first bout since he was stopped by Keita Obara back in April.
Another supporting bout will see see the inform Tetsuya Morisada (6-3, 6) risk his Japanese ranking against Ryuji Ikeda (10-2-1, 6), who is looking to extend a 4 fight KO streak. On paper this looks like a bout where Ikeda should be favoured but Morisada would certainly feel that he deserves to be favoured given his ranking. Of the two men Ikeda has achieved more, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2013, but that was Lightweight whilst this bout will be closer to 140lbs which should favour Morisada.
A second Japanese show takes place in Shizuoka.
The main event appears to be a mismatch as Yuya Miyagi (18-4-3, 7) takes on Tienchai Sor Kanitsorn (1-4, 1). Miyagi has gone 3-2-1 in his last 6 but should be far too good for Tienchai who has been stopped in his last 4 bouts, all of which have taken place in Japan.
The co-feature of the show sees the unbeaten Shogo Yamaguchi (8-0-1, 4) in a good looking bout against the light punching Shota Suito (10-4-1, 1). On paper it's hard to back Suito however his edge in experience could help here against the younger and less tested fighter.
As well as the Japanese action there will also be an Indonesian show.
In the main event fans will see veteran James Mokoginta (28-17-3, 15) battle against novice foe Marten Kisamlu (3-5) in a bout for the KTPI/IBPC Featherweight title. Mokoginta is the more well known of the two men and has fought a relative who's who of the Asian fight scene, including Daiki Kameda, Dennis Tubieron and Sod Kokietgym, though has yet to pick up a win of note on the international stage. As for Kisamlu he has never fought outside of Indonesia and in all honesty a win here would be his best, by far.
In the chief support bout fans will get an all-debutant bout between Aris Larabi (0-0) and Felix Babel (0-0). This is scheduled to go 6 rounds and could well be a well matched bout, though given what we know about Indonesian records we may well see this being a total mismatch.