February has been a worryingly quiet month for fans who follow Asian fighters. Thankfully however there is a real pick up in activity this coming Saturday with a host of Asian fighters in action all around the globe.
Bula Gym, General Santos City, Cotabato del Sur, Philippines
The most meaningful bout of the day comes from the Philippines where we get world title action from General Santos City. The bout in question will see IBF Minimumweight champion Pedro Taduran (14-2-1, 11) defending his title against Rene Mark Cuarto (18-2-2, 11), with Taduran looking to record his second defense of the belt.The aggressive and heavy handed Taduran has impressed in several bouts, notably his loss to Wanheng Menayothin and his title win against Samuel Salva, however he has been out of the ring since a technical draw against Daniel Valladares just over a year ago. Cuarto on the other hand lacks a real win of note, though is a hungry 24 year old challenger looking to make his mark on the sport. Sadly Cuarto hasn't fought since late 2019 and is 2-1-1 in his last 4, but is very much a live under-dog and is technically more rounded than the champion. A full preview of this bout can be read here Taduran takes on Cuarto in All-Filipino world title fight!
Tynyshpayev Academy of Transport and Communications, Almaty, Kazakhstan
Although the biggest bout of the day is in the Philippines the most interesting card is actually in Kazakhstan where we get the chance to see a number of exciting prospects in action.
The most notable bout on this show will see fast rising Kazakh standout Kamshybek Kunkabayev (2-0, 2) battle in his first title fight, as he takes on the once beaten Steven Ward (13-1, 4) for the WBO Asia Pacific Cruiserweight title. Kunkabayev was an amateur standout who has been hugely impressive since making his pro debut last year, and has notched two very solid wins in as many fights. In the opposite corner is Ward, a Northern Irish fighter who's record looks good, but under the surface his competition has been poor and his sole loss, an opening round TKO to Ricards Bolotniks, does not bode well for him here. On paper Ward is probably the first opponent who is coming to beat Kunkabayev, though we suspect he'll be taken out relative early on here. Our preview of this one can be read here Kunkabayev goes for gold as he battles Ward!
(Editor's note - Kunakabayev's opponent has been changed, he will now be facing Ukrainian fighter Server Emurlaiev (23-1, 8), unfortunately these articles are scheduled more than a week in advance, and the previews are written 2 to 3 weeks before a bout.)
In a much more interesting looking bout we'll see unbeaten Kazakh Nurtas Azhbenov (10-0, 4) take on once beaten Russian Evgeny Smirnov (13-1-3, 3). The 26 year old Azhbenov has shown some promise, but doesn't appear to be a star in the making, with a lack of power likely to be one of the things holding him back from the big time. He has also been matched relatively softly through his 10 bout career. Smirnov on the other hand has been matched harder, but has struggled and has gone 0-1-3 against unbeaten fighters. Smirnov is also win-less in his last 3, going 0-1-2 since late 2018. This one should be "interesting" but we suspect it will lack drama, as neither man is known for having much power.
Exciting youngster Talgat Shayken (3-0, 2) will be looking for his 4th professional win as he takes on Russian fighter Evgeny Pavko (18-3-1, 13). Although not the most talented or polished fighter out there Shayken is a very entertaining fighter, who comes to rumble, presses forward with a high intensity and really lets his shots fly when in range. He's a very fan friendly fighter who needs time to mature and develop, but should be on the radar for fans who follow the Central Asian scene. Pavko on the other hand is a very decent, well respected and experienced fighter who will be looking for a victory here, rather than rolling over and just losing. His 3 losses have all been struggles for the winners and we suspect Shayken will need to work hard for a victory here, though his natural size should be the difference here.
A potentially explosive bout will see once beaten Kazakh Abay Tolesh (6-1, 4) take on Russian Vasily Shtyk (2-2, 2). The talented Tolesh is looking to score his second win following a 2020 loss to Saparbay Aidarov and will be wanting to make a statement. Shtyk on the other hand is a limited but tough fighter who has heavy hands, as he showed last time out against Sergey Kozhukhar. We expect Shtyk to be a potential banana skin here for Tolesh.
Suamlum Night Bazaar, Ratchadaphisek, Bangkok, Thailand
Staying in Asia we'll also get the first Thai show of 2021 as TL Promotions give us a card in Bangkok.
The main event here will see former IBF Flyweight champion Amnat Ruenroeng (21-4, 6) take on the once beaten Arnon Yupang (6-1, 3). Despite now being 41 Amnat is proving to be a slippery and talented fighter, who is still putting in solid performances, as we saw last year against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Pungluang Sor Singyu. Aged 23 this is a big step up for Yupang, but also a great chance for him to put his name on the map. For Yupang the key is to outwork Amnat, but that is easier said than done.
On the under-card we're expecting to see the unbeaten Yuttapong Tongdee (5-0, 4), a wonderfully talented and highly promising Thai, take on Arthit Kaewbantid (3-1, 2). We regard Tongdee as on of the brightest hopefuls in Thailand but, and although this looks like an easy match up we're really just wanting to see Tongdee kept busy this year before bigger and better things in 2022.
London, United Kingdom
In London we'll see UK based Afghan fighter Quaise Khademi (8-0, 2) battle against Ijaz Ahmed (7-2) for the WBO European and the vacant IBF European Super Flyweight titles in a very good looking match up. For Khademi this will be his first defense of the WBO European title, which he won back in 2019, and will see him looking to build on a solid start to his professional career. As for Ahmed he'll be looking to bounce back from a close loss to Harvey Horn, at Flyweight. Khademi should have the edge in natural size and power, but Ahmed will not be there to suffer a second successive loss.
Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, Florida, USA
We also have action in the US as unbeaten Chinese Heavyweight hopeful Zhilei Zhang (22-0, 17) takes on Jerry Forrest (26-4, 20). The 37 year old Chinese fighter really has let his career slip away with father time and the promise he had following a successful amateur career is unlikely to ever be realised due to his age and relatively weak match making. Aged 32 Forrest is no push over, and despite having 4 losses is a live under-dog here, having pushed Jermaine Franklin and Carlos Takam close in recent bouts. Forrest is tough enough, experienced enough and good enough to test Zhang, and if Zhang is on the slide this may turn out to be a genuine banana skin for the big guy from China.
This coming Friday is a really disappointing day in many ways as it's the first time this year, and the first time in a very long time, where we've been able to say there's a PPV in Japan. Thankfully however we suspect the promoter knows there won't be much demand for and that the numbers will be embarrassing. With that in mind lets look at the action.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
So the PPV comes from Korakuen Hall where Kawasaki Nitta put on a show featuring 5 bouts, headlined by a Japanese female title fight, with one of the other bouts of note being the debut of a promising former amateur.
The main event of this card will see Kimika Miyoshi (15-12-1, 6) battle against Yoshie Wakasa (6-2, 2), with Miyoshi looking to defend the JBC female Featherweight title for the second time. The 36 year old veteran has been a servant of Japanese female boxing and it's nice to see her having a run at the top of the domestic scene, but with the rise of global female boxing it's hard to see her getting another world title fight, win or lose here. As for Wakasa she began her career 6-0 and has struggled when she's fought at title level. This will be the challenger's third title fight, and we suspect it will also be her third loss at title level. Regardless we do expect this to be a pretty fun bout for those in the venue. Our in depth preview of this fight is available here Japanese champion Miyoshi clashes with Wakasa
In a supporting bout we'll see Mao Kawanishi (6-4, 2) clash with Katsunori Imai (6-12-3, 1) in an 8 rounder. Coming in to this Kawanishi will be the favourite, though he is 3-3 in his last 6 and has struggled for form in recent years. As for Imai he is 1-7-2 in his last 10 and it's hard to imagine him picking up a victory here. Despite that he is better than his record suggests and we do expect him to at least give Kawanishi something to think about.
Arguably the most interesting bout on this show will be the debut of Junki Shirasaki (0-0), who kicks his career off with a 6 rounder against Yuma Omine (0-2). As an amateur Shirasaki went 33-25 (3) and came 5th in a national Athletic meet, suggesting there is talent there, but probably not enough to make a mark above domestic level. Interestingly Omine was a pretty decent amateur domestically himself, going 32-16, and may well see this as his chance to pick up his first victory. One of those rare cases of paying much attention to the records, and just enjoying what should a very solid and competitive bout.
BT Sport Studio, Stratford, London, United Kingdom
Over in the UK British based Afghan born fighter Quaise Khademi (8-0, 2) will be looking to extend his perfect record as he takes on Ijaz Ahmed (7-2). The unbeaten Khademi will not just be looking to keep his perfect start going but will also be hoping to record his first defense of the WBO European Super Flyweight title and claim an IBF European title. Despite being unbeaten he is somewhat untested and, on paper, this looks like one of his toughest bouts to date. Ahmed on the other hand is a former British Midlands champion who gave the touted Harvey Horn all he could handle last year. This could end up being a genuine banana skin for Khademi if he's not careful.