Chang Arena, Buriram, Thailand
The Minimumweight division has been horribly quiet this year as Covid has pretty much derailed the division. Thankfully however we do get a huge bout at the division this coming Wednesday as we see the WBA "super" champion return to the ring for the first time since March 2020! Sadly though he's not expected to be given a real test.
The match up in question, originally planned for May, though pushed all the way back to October, will see unbeaten world champion Knockout CP Freshmart (21-0, 7) battle against fellow Thai Pongsaklek Sithdabnij (23-6-1, 13). On paper this isn't a great match up, and whilst most "Bloodline Battles" are good, we're not expecting anything too memorable here. We suspect Knockout, even with over a year of inactivity, should be too good, too skilled, and too smart in the ring for the naturally bigger, but much clumsier, Pongsaklek. Fingers crossed however that we do end up seeing Knockout being forced to earn a win here, rather than being able to cruise to victory like we've seen so many times before. Our full, in deoth, preview oif this one can be read here Knockout faces Pongsaklek in WBA title defense!
This coming Saturday is set to be a solid, if somewhat overlooked, day with two world title fights, a notable unbeaten Kazakh in the biggest fight of his career and a show in Uzbekistan.
Nakhon Sawan, Thailand
the earliest of the action comes from Thailand, where we'll see long reigning WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart (21-0, 7) defending his "Super" title against fellow Thai Pongsaklek Sithdabnij (23-6-1, 13) in what looks likely to be little more than a stay busy defense for Knockout. The talented yet highly frustrating, world champion is a man who could, and probably should, do so much more in the ring. He's probably the best in the division, but his performances often leave us feeling under-whelmed. Here his challenger will be a naturally bigger man, but also a man who is cruder, slower and more open. We suspect Knockout will win this one based on his extra class, and nous, but don't expect to be impressed by a man who needs renaming "Unanimous Decision CP Freshmart" sooner rather than later. Our full preview of this bout can be read here Knockout returns after more than a year out to defend WBA Super title!
Dignity Health Sports Park , Carson, California, USA
Thankfully we're expecting a much, much better world title bout in the US later in the day on a card that features a couple of notable Asian names.
Before we get to the world title fight on this show we'll talk about one of the supporting bouts, as it's a brilliant match up pitting unbeaten Kazakh Batyrzhan Jukembayev (18-0-0-2, 14) against bit punching Puerto Rican Subriel Matias (16-1, 16), in what could be a bit of a show stealer. Jukembayev has been wanting a big fight for years, and the technically sound boxer-puncher, who has been based in Canada, very much seems like the type of fighter who needs a big chance to show what he can really do. Matias on the other hand is a very dangerous fighter, who has seriously heavy hands, but can be outboxed. We expect this one to start pretty technically but break down into an all put war of attrition in the later rounds.
After the Jukembayev bout we'll then see WBC Bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali (17-0, 12) take on mandatory challenger Nonito Donaire (40-6, 26), with Donaire looking to add one more title to his amazing legacy. Originally this bout was supposed to take place late last year, but due to Covid19 the bout was cancelled, and as a result both men have now been out of the ring for well over a year. In fact the last time the men fought, they shared a card in Japan, which saw Oubaali beat Takuma Inoue and Donaire lose to Naoya Inoue. On paper this is one of the most interesting bouts the Bantamweight division will give us any time soon, and it's a chance for Oubaali to face a genuine legend of the ring, and a chance for Donaire to prove his performance against the "Monster" wasn't just a last hurrah. Whilst neither man has fought recently we are still expecting a brilliant match up here, and the winner could be in line for a major unification bout towards the end of the year with Naoya Inoue. Our in depth preview of this bout can be read here Oubaali faces Donaire in WBC mandatory title bout!
Universal Sport Hall, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
As well as the higher level action there is also a show set to take place in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent. This is a small card, but a pretty interesting one all the same.
The main event will see professional novice Islombek Pirmanov (2-0, 2) take a huge step up in class as he takes on experienced Afghan fighter Rauf Aghayev (31-7, 14), in a bout for the WBC CIS and Slovac Boxing Bureau (CISBB) Super Bantamweight title. Pirmanov only made his debut this past February and has fought just 7 professional rounds so this is a hugely dangerous step up for him. As for Aghayev the 37 year old "Lion" has been a professional since 2010, and has a good looking record, though is the naturally smaller man and a lot of padding to his record. On paper this is a big ask for Pirmanov but it's fair to say that he will be the favourite here.
Also on this card are promising prospects Abdulkhamid Khakimov (6-0, 4), Shukrulla Vokhidov (6-0, 4) and Bekhruz Rakhmonov (0-0). All three were solid amateur fighters and this will be a chance for all three to take a step forward with their careers. None are set to be matched hard, but given how early in their careers all three men hard the key is for them to pick up wins and develop their skills. Something all 3 should be able to do here.
Our attention to the US this coming Saturday with two different US shows featuring Asia fighters. One of those shows is in Nevada whilst the other is in Massachusetts, and interestingly both cards feature a major Middleweight title bout and a combined 3 Olympic gold medal winners!
For us the more significant card is in Nevada, with two Olympic gold medals winners from Asia on the show.
One of those Olympic gold medal winners is 2012 Middleweight gold medal winner Ryota Murata (14-1, 11) who takes on Rob Brant (23-1, 16). The Japanese fighter will be making his second defense of the WBA “regular” Middleweight title as he faces his first mandatory challenger. Murata has got huge plans for 2019, including a potential bout with Gennady Golovkin. We're really not sure how Brant has managed to work his way into a mandatory position but in his most notable bout to date he was clearly beaten by Juergen Braehmer, who was too good and too smart. We're expecting to see Murata being too power, too determined and too strong for the American challenger. A preview of this bout can be read here - Japanese star Murata takes on the challenge of Rob Brant
The other Olympic gold medal winner is 2016 Light Welterweight Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (5-0, 2), who takes a huge step up in class to battle American based Mexican Wilberth Lopez (23-9, 15). It's fair to say that whilst Gaibnazarov is a talented fighter he hasn't, yet, set the world on fire as a professional and there are worries that he won't live up to the expectations on his shoulders. This should be a great chance for his to prove his value as a professional. Lopez is no world beater, but is the sort of fighter that gives prospects a good test, and we expect to see him perform that duty again here, as he's done against the likes of Ivan Baranchyk, Alex Saucedo and Batyrzhan Jukembayev.
Amazingly we have another gold medal winner in action in Massachusetts as Kazakh fighter Daniyar Yeleussinov (3-0, 1), the 2016 Welterweight gold medal winner will be up against Matt Dougherty (8-5-1, 4). This should be a straight forward win for Yeleussinov, as he takes on a rugged but under-sized foe, though it's been a disappointing and uninspiring start to his professional so far given that former amateur rival Shakhram Giyasov is already fighting notable foes.
Notably this card in Massachusetts will be headlined by a WBO Middleweight title fight, though there is no direct Asian interest in that bout.
In Asia we get a card from Thailand televised by Workpoint. The main event here will see Pongsaklek Sithdabnij (16-5-11, 13) defending his WBC Asian Boxing Council Light Flyweight title against Japanese challenger Seita Ogido (12-3-3, 3). This isn't a huge bout, but it is a very interesting one and a well matched one, with the winner certainly boosting their chance of getting a notable fight in 2019.
Bang Phun, Thailand
The main show this coming Saturday for Asian fight fans comes from Thailand, where Workpoint will be televising two notable all-Thai bouts.
The main event will see former WBC Light Flyweight champion Kompayak Porpramook (59-5, 40) look to score his second win over Pongsaklek Sithdabnij (15-5-1, 13), and retain the WBC Asian Boxing Council Light Flyweight title. The veteran defeated Pongsaklek with a razor thin split decision back in March, to reclaim the regional title and to notch a win on his return to the ring after 18 months of inactivity. Pongsaklek will clearly be looking to avenge that loss and reclaim his title, and given his youth and relative freshness his team will be confident of their man getting revenge, and scoring his biggest win to date.
A second match will see the once beaten Rakniran Muadransarakam (13-1, 8) battle against former world title challenger Petchbarngborn Kokietgym (43-8-1, 20). Of the two men it's Petchbarngborn who is better know, though he is best known for losing in 8 rounds to Naoya Inoue back in 2016. Since that loss the experienced Petchbarngborn has scored 5 straight wins, though all 5 have come against very weak opposition. Rakniran on the other hand suffered his sole loss in October 2016, a technical draw against Shota Kawaguchi, and has only scored a single win since then. This is a real toss up, and should be very fun to watch.
As well as the relatively big Thai card there will be a small domestic show in the Philippines, featuring two really well matched bouts.
One of those bouts will see unbeaten 22 year old Denmark Quibido (6-0, 4) take on the once beaten Adrian Lerasan (6-1, 1), himself a 19 year old. The unbeaten fighter has impressed as he's stepped up in class, and his win over Ryan Torres this past March was a coming of age performance for the southpaw hopeful. The once beaten Lerasan can't be written off, his sole defeat was a 5 technical decision against the touted Jerven Mama and he does have the ability to get a win here. The winner will of this bout progress and the loser could also come out with an enhanced reputation.
The other excellent match up is a rematch between the unbeaten pairing of Joseph Ambo (6-0-1, 5) and Bienvenido Ligas (6-0-1, 4), who fought to a technical draw back in march when Ligas suffered a nasty cut from a headclash. Both of these men can punch, both are unbeaten and bother are young, with Ligas being 20 and Ambo being 21. Given the result of their first bout we're expecting both to come out fighting hard here, and not have an opening round feeling out session, and fans could be in for a real treat.