Lake Event, Samut Prakan, Thailand
This coming Friday our attention turns to Thailand for an interesting card featuring two of the most promising Thai prospects, as well the ring of a former world title challenger, in what is very much a gimmie bout bout after more than a year out of the ring.
The main event is a genuine great one as unbeaten Thai hopeful Nattapong Jankaew (10-0, 6), one of the more naturally skilled Thai's out there, takes on under-rated Filipino Adrian Lerasan (11-4, 4). The bout will be for Jankaew's WBA Asia Super Flyweight title, which he will be looking to defend for the second time. The Thai has proven to be a truly skilled fighter with a lot promise, but someone who has, at times, not fully performed to his ability, and has gone through the motions at times, when really he should have been showing what he can do. If he looks to cruise here he could be in a lot of problems. On paper Lerasan is nothing special however he has won his last 4 by stoppage, including 3 wins in Thailand over much fancied prospects, stopping Tanes Ongjunta and Phongsaphon Panyakum, and he has already shown Thai hopefuls not to over-look him. This is a potential banana skin for Jankaew, who should win, but will have to take Lerasan seriously.
Another unbeaten hopeful on this card is the 20 year old Chaiyapong Phongwankittikun (6-0, 6) who will be stepping up massively, as he takes on veteran Aekkawee Kaewmanee (24-18, 12). The youngster is looking for his third win of the year, and is clearly making up for lost time having not fought at all in 2021, but to date his wins have come against very, very limited opponents, and he has taken them out early on, with no one lasting more than 4 rounds with him. Kaewmanee is a proper veteran, who has been around 2013, but he is now 40 and has lost 5 of his last 6. He's still racking in bouts, and this will be his 6 of the year, but he lacks any ambition and the real question is how long will be survive with the youngster
The former world title challenger on this card is Komgrich Nantapech (30-5, 21), aka Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking, who came up short against Donnie Nietes in 2017 and Juan Carlos Reveco that same year, but has reeled off an 8 fight winning runs since then. Sadly Komgrich has been out of the ring since March 2021, and rather than taking on someone testing he will be up against Thawi Chaisat (0-13), a very limited who has been stopped 13 times in just 32 rounds. Komgrich shouldn't break a sweat here, but sadly this is the 6th straight bout against a limited local foe, and we really hope he faces someone more meaningful next time out.
T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
This coming Saturday the attention of the boxing world is focused on Nevada for one of the biggest shows of the years, headlined by the face of boxing. Whilst the focus of the show will be the main event, the undercard has a number of Asian fighters on it, all of which are looking to move their careers forward.
The main event will see Kyrgyzstan born Russian Dmitry Bivol (19-0, 11) defending his WBA Light Heavyweight "super" title against Mexican megastar Saul Alvarez (57-1-2, 39). For Bivol this is the biggest fight of his career, by far, and a chance for the talented, but often frustrating, technician to announce himself on the wider boxing world. There is no doubting Bivol's ability, but he has frustrated fans, and opponents, in recent years with safety first performances and his bouts have often been dreary to watch. As for Canelo he seems to be getting better and better, an recent wins over Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant saw him putting on great performances and breaking both men down. Although Alvarez will go in as the big favourite, Bivol should ask serious questions of Alvarez with his footwork and good work at range. However Bivol needs to stick to his fight, needs to create space and do anything he can to prevent Canelo from getting close, where he's at his most dangerous. Our in depth preview of this one can be read here Bivol and Canelo clash in legacy defining bout!
Aside from the main event, the most notable supporting bout was supposed to be an IBF Heavyweight world title eliminator, between unbeaten Chinese fighter Zhilei Zhang (23-0-1, 18) and Croatian fighter Filip Hrgovic (14-0, 12). Sadly that Hrgovic was forced to pull out, and he has been replaced replaced by Scott Alexander (16-4-2, 8), in a massive down grade, though thankfully the card is still a strong one.
In a solid supporting bout unbeaten Uzbek fighter Shakhram Giyasov (12-0, 9) will be up against Mexican puncher Christian Gomez (22-2-1, 20), in a bout for the IBF North American Welterweight title fight. The 28 year old Giyasov has blown hot and cold at times, but the 2016 Olympic Silver medal winner is an undeniable talent, and when he's looked good he has looked really good, including his wins over Darleys Perez and Winston Campos, and looked like a fighter with the potential to win a world title. One day. As for Gomez the Mexican is a real danger man who has won both of his previous US bouts, and recently ended the unbeaten run of Jorge Perez Sanchez, who was 13-0 at the time. Given both of these men have heavy hands this could be explosive, exciting, and dangerous for both men.
Another Uzbek hopeful on this card is Elnur Abduraimov (8-0, 7), who returns to a US ring for the first time since 2018, as he takes on fellow unbeaten Manuel Correa (11-0, 7), a US based Cuban, in a brilliant match up. The hard hitting Abduraimov has long been tipped as one to keep an eye on, though sadly hasn't really raced through the ranks like many expected, instead deciding to flip-flop between the professional ranks and the amateur one, though hopefully his focus will now be on the pros. As for Correa, the 31 year old has a great looking record, but there really is no substance to his 11-0 record, and he was some what fortunate in February to squeak past Marcello Williams, a limited Brazilian fighter. This should be explosive, exciting and well worth tuning in early to the show for.
Suamlum Night Bazaar, Ratchadaphisek, Bangkok, Thailand
Whilst the biggest card of the day is in the US, by far, there is a reason to actually look at what's happening in Asia as Thailand plays host to a card featuring some of the country's top young talent.
The main event of the card will see WBA Asia Flyweight champion Tanes Ongjunta (9-1, 4) look to make his second defense, as he takes on the highly experienced Kongfah CP Freshmart (41-1-1, 20). The talented Ongjunta has rebuilt well since his 2020 loss to Adrian Lerasan, and has looked like a genuine prospect, though we will always wonder what happens when a fight sticks it on him, much like Lerasan did. In the opposite corner is a man who has bucket loads of experience, and has gone 28 bouts unbeaten, since a 2015 loss to Daigo Higa. That run has been, mostly, poor but has included wins over Samartlek Kokietgym and Ryoji Fukunaga and he is certainly a talented fighter, who should have done a lot more with his career. An indepth preview of this fight can be read here Tanes Ongjunta V Jakrawut Majungoen – Fight Breakdown and Prediction
Another title bout will see the talented Thitisak Hoitong (3-0, 2) take on the once beaten Kitidech Hirunsuk (8-1, 5) for the WBA Asia Light Flyweight title. We were impressed by Thitisak on his 2020 debut, when he beat Samartlek Kokietgym, and since then he has looked a real talent, though this is arguably the first time he's taken on a fighter looking to beat him. Kitidech on the other hand is a 19 year old, who won his first 8, against low level competition, but was beaten back in March, when Huu Toan Le took a very close 12 round decision over him in Vietnam. That loss in Vietnam showed Kitidech was a very capable fighter and he will not be fighting to just make up the numbers here.
One of the most skilled Thai prospects coming through the ranks is Nattapong Jankaew (9-0, 5), who has already notched notable wins against the likes of Samartlek Kokietgym, Petchbarngborn Kokietgym and Pigmy Kokietgym. Sadly for someone with a strong resume after 9 bouts, be really is competing in a nothing bout here, as he faces off with Worawatchai Boonjan (19-26-2, 16), who doesn't belong in the ring with Nattapong. Whilst Worawatchai is experienced he has been stopped 16 times in his career, including an opening round loss in 2019 to Andrew Selby, and this shouldn't be a test for the unbeaten hopeful.
One other top Thai prospect on this card is Yuttapong Tongdee (6-0, 4), who looks to secure his next win as he takes on Lerdchai Chaiyawed (6-7, 2). This should be a straight forward win for Tongdee, who was a top Thai amateur, but it should also be a case of him getting some much needed rounds, after fighting just once last year. Tongdee is a talent, but at the age of 28 he needs to be active, and his team needs to begin to move his career along. A win here needs to be followed by a notable step up in class later in the year.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
We also get some action at Korakeun Hall, as we see the next set of qualifying bouts for the East Japan Rookie of the Year. The stand out bout on this card will see Kenshin Hosokawa (2-0, 2) and Kota Araki (3-0, 2), who clash at Super Bantamweight. The 19 year old Hosokawa debuted in December, and has needed 6 rounds for his two wins to date, including one over the then unbeaten Kenshin Tomihira, whilst 22 year old Araki has got 7 rounds to his name, since making his own debut last August. This is the type of bout Rookie of the Year throws at us, and the type of bout we love to see, between two young hopefuls.
Blue Arena, Samut Prakan, Thailand
The main action this coming Sunday comes from Thailand where Tantelecom are putting in a very, very interesting card, and as with two shows on Saturday this will be free to view online, via the promoters website.
The main event will see the very promising Nattapong Jankaew (6-0, 3) take on former Naoya Inoue opponent Petchbarngborn Kokietgym (44-9, 20). We've been really impressed by Nattapong and see him as being among the best of the rising Thai prospects. Unlike most Thai's he's very much a boxer first and it's clear he has some solid amateur pedigree and very good boxing foundations. Petchbarngborn is a 35 year old who has been been a pro since 2009 and has faced a relative who's who, including Inoue, Kohei Kono, Sho Ishida and Amnat Ruenroeng. Sadly though he is well past his prime and we see him really struggling here with the very skilled Nattapong.
In a supporting bout we'll see the debuting Thitisak Hoitong (0-0) take on former world title challenger Samartlek Kokietgym (34-14-1, 12), who was last seen losing a decision to Nattapong. Sadly we don't know much about Thitisak, though it is known he fought as an amateur and is only 24 years old, but we do love the fact he's taking a test like Samartlek on his professional debut. Samartlek is past his best, but has proven to be a tough guy, who comes to fight ask questions of prospects and is a baptism of fire for someone making their debut. A very interesting fight, and a really tough debut for Thitisak.
Over in Japan we get the set of bouts from the Western Japan Rookie of the Year in Saga. Originally this show was supposed to have 10 bouts, but 3 of those bouts have been cancelled, including a Middleweight bout. Despite several bouts being cancelled there are still several worth talking about.
One of the more interesting bouts on this show is at Bantamweight, where Hiroki Kinjo (5-0, 4) takes on Fuya Tomita (3-2, 2), in a battle of 21 year olds. The unbeaten Kinjo made his debut in 2018 and has looked good so far, but has only faced absolute novices and his record lacks any sort of substance. In fact his 5 wins have come against opponents with a combined 1-3 record. Tomita's record is less impressive than that of Kinjo, but he has, on paper, faced better competition and was unfortunate in one of his losses. This might look like a mismatch but should be more competitive than it looks.
Another bout worthy of some attention is at Featherweight, where the 21 year old Hikaru Fukunaga (6-1, 4) takes on unbeaten 25 year old Masashi Tokihiro (1-0-1, 1). The talented Fukunaga lost around a year ago to the brilliant Jinki Maeda and since then has bounced back with two straight decision wins, though was run very close last time out out. Tokihiro made his debut in September 2019 with a win, but was held to a draw last time out. We expect this one to be explosive, and competitive.
This coming Sunday we get quite a bit of action with a televised card from Thailand and two shows from Japan, where we are well and truly in Rookie of the Year season!
Blue Arena, Samut Prakan, Thailand
One complain we've long had about the Thai scene is that we don't see enough good all-Thai match ups, with the country often relying on having a local fighter battle a limited foreign visitor. Thankfully that's not been possible recently and we have had some interesting all-Thai bouts in recent months as a result. We potentially get two more here.
In the main event of the card we'll see Campee Phayom (20-4-2, 12) defending his WBA Asia Super Featherweight title against former WBO Bantamweight champion Pungluang Sor Singyu (53-8, 35). The 22 year old Campee is no world beater in the making, but he's a solid fringe regional level fighter who is getter and is starting to get some attention in Thailand. He needs to be stepped up and given developmental fights and that's sort of what we see this as. Aged 30 Pungluang is a little bit long in the tooth, but isn't a shot fighter in terms of his age, he is however a fighter fighting well above their best weight, and that will likely be the difference here. We suspect Pungluang will ask questions of the youngster, but lack the physical traits to be a danger to the developing Campee.
In a second all-Thai bout on this show the unbeaten Nattapong Jankaew (5-0, 3) will be defending his WBA Asia South Super Flyweight title against Samartlek Kokietgym (34-13-1, 12). For the 24 year old Nattapong this will be his first defense as he looks to build on an solid win earlier this year against John Kenan Villaflor. The champion is the younger, unbeaten and naturally bigger man, but Samarlek has significantly more experience and has faced the likes of Naoya Inoue and Akira Yaegashi. We suspect Samartlek's experience will see him asking questions of Nattapon, but suffer a 5th straight loss here against a talented young who will be looking to launch himself towards bigger and better fights over the next few years.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
At the Holy Land of Japanese boxing we have an East Japan Rookie of the Year card. In total there are, 9 bouts set for this card.
From the bouts on this card the one that interests us the most is the Flyweight bout between Kei Fujita (1-0, 1) and Shugo Namura (2-0, 2). From the 3 combined bouts these two have had so far not one has gone beyond 2 rounds. We expect this to be a shoot out!
Another bout worthy of noting here will see 19 year old Aito Abe (1-0, 1) fight for the second time, as he takes on he 35 year old Kentaro Omori (2-2, 1). For Abe this bout will see him looking to build on his debut win in November whilst Omori will be returning to the ring more than 4 years after his last bout, was was a loss back in April 2016 to Satoshi Tanaka. Amazingly Omori's last win came in June 2015, at that point in time Abe was just 14!
Sun Rise Park Gym, Saga, Saga, Japan
Over in Saga we get a Western Japan Rookie of the year show, with just 4 bouts scheduled for this card.
The bout that stands out here will see 21 year old Featherweight hopeful Hikaru Fukunaga (4-1, 4) take on 36 year old southpaw Kohei Suzuki (1-0-1). Fukunaga competed in last year's Rookie of the Year, and was 1 win away from reaching the All Japan final, losing to the brilliant Jinki Maeda. Given his experience from last year, along with his power and aggression Fukunaga has got to be among the favourites for the tournament. As for Suzuki he impressed in August when he beat the more experienced Majisuka Kosaka and will feel the confidence of an unbeaten man who has twice gone the 4 round schedule. This could be a genuine highlight for fans at the Sun Rise Park Gym.
On the total opposite end of the spectrum we are interested in the match up between Yoshitada Shimogishi (0-1) and Ryoki Terada (0-3), who clash at 140lbs. With both men having lost all their bouts we have an interesting dynamic here with both know they can get off the mark. For Shimogishi this will be his first bout in more than 2 years, when he was stopped in 2 rounds by Sota Kohara. As for Terada he fought 3 times last year, and lost all 3 by decision. Whilst fights between win-less fighters aren't usually high quality they are usually entertaining and we see suspect that will be the case here.