Kobe Municipal Chuo Gymnasium, Kobe, Japan
We get lucky this coming Sunday as Boxing Real are set to stream a solid card from Japan for free. It's certainly not a massive show, by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a solid one all the same with a former world champion, some solid domestic fighters and an enigmatic prospect all on the show.
The main event will see former WBA Super Bantamweight champion Shun Kubo (14-2, 9) taking on youngster Ruito Saeki (7-4-1, 1). The 30 year old Kubo has struggled to build any career momentum since his 2017 title loss to Danny Roman, and it seems his confidence is shot and he needs a few wins to rebuild that. Last year he picked up a relatively easy win over Takashi Igarashi and he's stepping up from that bout here. Saeki is no world beater, not even close, but he's tough and will come to win. Sadly Saeki has gone 0-3-1 in his last 4 and a win for him would be a big upset, but we suspect he will come to test Kubo, who has shown some real fragility in recent years.
In a supporting bout Japanese ranked Bantamweight Yuki Yonaha (8-3-1, 5) will take on Kenta Sakata (7-7-2). The talented Yonaha will be looking to build on a 2020 win over the once touted Motoki Osanai and will be expected to pick up a straight forward win here against the light punching Sakata, who is a natural Flyweight and has gone 1-4-1 in his last 6.
Arguably the best of the supporting card will see the enigmatic, switch hitting, stylist Takahiro Tai (1-0, 1) take on Koichi Wakita (7-2-3, 2), who is risking his JBC Bantamweight ranking. Tai was a joy to watch in his debut, last December, and although very much a work in progress has one of the most flamboyant styles of any Japanese fighter, with a cocky in ring personality, taunting, switch hitting and a style more akin to Emanuel Augustus than a Japanese fighter. Wakita on the other hand is a 31 year old veteran who is certainly no push over, but has a lack of power and often sees his bouts being super close decisions. We expect this to be a test for Tai, but a test he should pass.
Gyeongnam, South Korea
As well as the Japanese show there is also supposed to be a Korean card, under the KBA banner, taking place in Gyeongnam. Sadly details of this card haven't been forth coming, despite the KBA announcing the main event draws for the show way back in January. There is a very, very real chance this show has fallen though, or could end up being cancelled at late notice.
Sadly no bouts have been confirmed for this show at the time of writing, though the main event was announced as featuring Hee Jung Yuh (23-3, 12) defending her WBC International female Super Flyweight title for the first time, albeit against a yet to be announced opponent. The 41 year old Korean veteran is riding an 8 fight winning streak, since her 2015 loss to Naoko Fujioka, but those wins have come at a very, very low level. Sadly we can't say anything about her opponent, given no foe has been named, but it's fair to say that if the show goes ahead it won't be anyone too testing.
The chief support bout is supposed see see Young Gil Bae (30-7-2, 23), the husband of Hee Jung Yuh, fighting for the WBF Asia-Pacific Flyweight title. Sadly Bae, like Yuh, has no opponent listed for this event. For Bae this will be his first bout in more than 2 years and he comes into the contest on the back of successive wins. Although not a big name fans may recognise his names for his losses in Thailand, to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Wanheng Menayothin. Given his inactivity and the lack of opponent we wouldn't expect anyone even slightly testing here for Bae.
There is a very, very real chance this show has fallen though, or could end up being cancelled at late notice, so don't get your hopes up on this one folks!
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
For hardcore of the Japanese scene we get a live card from Boxing Raise and Dangan Aoki this coming Friday, and it’s the one card that genuinely standsout for the month of January. It’s a small card, with just 4 bouts on it, but all 4 of those bouts are meaningful ones, including two brilliant looking Japanese title fights, and it’s a show that looks like it will be worth watching every second of.
The show will begin with a B Class Tournament final at Super Bantamweight as the once beaten Koki Mioya (8-1-2, 2) takes on the unbeaten Tentaro Kimura (5-0-2), the cousin of the highly regarded Rentaro Kimura. The 23 year old Mioya has gone unbeaten in 7 bouts, including a draw in the 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year final, and has looked like an improving fighter in recent years, but is still very much a work in progress. Kimura, who will be overshadowed by his brother, is a relatively crude fighter, but a fun one to watch and his September battle with Wataru Yokoyama was certainly a treat from Suruga Boys. We don’t expect highly quality boxing here, but we do expect a really fun 5 round war here between two men with a will to win, and relatively little power.
In another 5 rounder we’ll see an A-Class tournament final as heavy handed Lightweight hopeful Shu Utsuki (7-0, 6) takes on the experienced Masashi Wakita (10-10-2, 5). Since turning professional Utsuki has been highly impressive, showcasing solid boxing skills, very heavy hands, and a fun aggressive style. He’s still a work in progress but the 26 year old is looking like a future star for the Watanabe gym. In the other corner is Wakita, a 24 year old who is very much a “win some, lose some” fighter, but generally makes for fun battles, and he could, if he can see out the first round or two, make for a fun war with Utsuki. Sadly however there’s a very real chance that Utsuki could make this look very, very easy.
The first of two title fights will see the heavy handed Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) defending the Japanese Super Featherweight title against the teak tough Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21), in what may well be an early contender for FOTY. Saka is a crude but aggressive and heavy handed fighter who, on his day, can be a nightmare for anyone on the regional and domestic scene. He looked fantastic in his title, though it should be noted he’s not fought since December 2019 and he has been inconsistent in his biggest bouts. Watanabe on the other hand is a true warrior, who appears to be made out of something they should be using to make tanks. His bouts are almost always action packed bouts and despite often relying on his toughness he is a solid boxer-fighter. He earned this show with his November 2019 win over Taiki Minamoto and despite being inactive for a year the break may well have done him a favour after a lot of very tough and punishing fights. Our in depth preview of this one can be found here Brutality awaits Saka and Watanabe in overdue Japanese title fight!
The other title fight on this show will see JBC Super Bantamweight champion Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) defending his belt against Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14). Kuga, as with Saka, is a crude fighter but a monstrous puncher who can box a bit and bang a lot. Sadly for Kuga he will enter this bout after a lengthy break from the ring, and was last seen suffering a KO1 loss to Jhunriel Ramonal in December 2019. That loss will still be on his mind given he wasn’t able to get a confidence building win in 2020. Furuhashi will be getting his third shot at a Japanese title, having previously come up short against Yukinori Oguni and Yasutaka Ishimoto. At 33 years old Furuhashi is very much a veteran and he will know this could be his final shot at a Japanese title. As with the other title bout this could end up being a legitimately thrilling war, with Furuhashi setting a high tempo and Kuga looking to land bombs. Our in depth preview of this bout can be read here Warriors Kuga and Furuhashi battle for Japanese throne!
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
For a second day running we get a show at Korakuen Hall, but this time it's a bit of a disappointing card as several bouts on the show were cancelled in the run up to the event due to injuries suffered in training.
The first of 3 bouts worthy of note will see veterans collide as Takuya Kogawa (30-6-1, 13) takes on Hayato Yamaguchi (15-8-1, 2). For the 35 year old Kogawa, who has been one of the very best servants to Japanese boxing, this will be his first bout since a brutal TKO loss last year against Jayr Raquinel. Sadly Kogawa has been on the slide for a few years now and retirement is beckoning him. As for Yamaguchi he's not been on Kogawa's level, however he's much fresher, less ring worn and could, very seriously, be a banana skin for Kogawa here.
In a potentially thrilling match up we'll see the crude but physically imposing Yoji Saito (1-1-2, 1) take on the Japanese ranked Masashi Wakita (10-9-2, 5). Saito turned professional in 2018 and has struggled to get going, but has been very fun to watch and his 2019 clash with Aso Ishiwaki was an absolute war. Following back to back draws Saito needs a win to give his career a shot in the arm. As for Wakita the 24 year old is a win some-lose some type who has just managed to squeeze into the JBC top 20. With 5 stoppage losses against his name Wakita's chin may not be able to survive the storm from Saito, but if it can, Wakita's experience ,may help him nick a decision. The big question mark over Saito is his stamina, and the question over Wakita is his chin. We expect this one to be a brilliant fight.
Talking about suspect chin's the main event will see Kazuki Saito (7-2, 5), who's chin has let him down before, take on veteran Tatsuya Yanagi (16-6-2, 6). The talented Saito looks the real deal when he's letting his shots go, but has been dropped several times during his career and appears to lack the size and durability to make the most of his wonderful skills. Yanagi on the other hand has an ugly looking record, but is always upset minded and has gone 5-1-1 in his last 7, including wins over Koichi Aso, Masashi Noguchi and Ryusei Nakajima. We expect this to be a very interesting match up, with both men and it's a hard one to call, especially with Saito having lot 2 of his last 4 and being low on confidence.
Interestingly this card will also feature a public exhibition between Teruya Iimura [飯村 樹輝弥] and Jun Ikegawa [池側 純], who will be hoping to make their professional debut's in the near debut. Both men passed B class tests in September and were solid amateurs on the Japanese scene, so hopefully we see them in live fights sooner rather than later.