The big focus this coming Thursday is on Korakuen Hall, where we get a very interesting Diamond Glove card featuring a rising a second generation hopeful, a former world champion and a Japanese title fight.
The main event is the Japanese title fight, which will see Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (11-0, 9) defending his title against Izuki Tomioka (7-2-1, 2) as part of the Champion Carnival. Yoshino, who holds the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles, will only be defending his national title, but a loss would seriously hamper his chance to advance to world level in 2020. As for Tomioka he's getting his second fight at the type of level, having previously lost to Masayoshi Nakatani in an OPBF title. On paper the stronger, heavier handed, and more powerful Yoshino should be favoured, but Tomioka certainly has the size and speed, both hand and feet, to make life very tricky for the champion. This bout has been previewed here Yoshino defends against mandatory Tomioka!
The former world champion on this show is former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (15-1, 15) who returns to the ring for the first time since his 2018 loss to Cristofer Rosales. The talented and aggressive Higa was given an indefinite suspension by the JBC following the Rosales loss, for his failure to make weight, with that suspension only being lifted late last year. On his return he's being matched with Filipino visitor Jason Buenaobra (7-4-3, 3), in what could turn out to be a rather solid test. Although Buenaobra is no world beater he has gone the schedule with Carl Jammes Martin, the only man to have heard the bell against the "Wonder Boy" and could prove to be a very durable test for the returning Higa. We really are looking forward to this one. Our preview of this bout can be read here Higa returns, but can he over-come the rugged Buenaobra?
Another bout of some note on this card is a contest between Japanese ranked Super Featherweight Kazuma Sanpei (18-5, 7) and Soreike Taichi (7-2, 5), who will know that a win here boosts their chance to get a Japanese title fight later this year. Coming in the 25 year old Sanpei is the more well established fighter and despite his record being blotted with losses he is 6-1 (3) in his last 7 and did show real promise early in his career, winning Rookie of the Year back in 2013. Taichi is less well known but has won his last 4, including good wins over Yusaku Sekishima and Masaki Saito. Interestingly Taichi's last loss was in 2014, when he was stopped in a round bye Reiya Abe.
The second generation fighter mentioned above is Shinba Yamaguchi (1-0, 1), the son of former world champion Keiji Yamaguchi, who takes a significant step up from his debut. The 19 year old Yamaguchi who won his debut in just 40 seconds last October, will be up against Filipino Luis Borje (5-1-1, 2) in what should be a very credible test. It's hard to say much about Yamaguchi's professional career so far but it is worth noting that both of Borje's set backs have come to John Mark Tihuk, who should be seen as one to watch going forward. A very tough test this early in Yamaguchi's career.
Las Vegas, USA
As well as the Japanese action there is also a bout of interest in the US, where we'll see an Uzbek fighter in action. The Uzbek on this show is 35 year old Ravshan Hudaynazarov (17-3, 13), who looks to end a 3 fight losing streak. The US based Uzbek began his career 17-0 before seemingly ending his career in 2014. He returned to the ring in 2018 and since then has gone 0-3, and been stopped in 2 of those 3 losses. On paper we would expect Hudaynazarov to turn things around here in what looks like an easy bout against Cameron Krael (16-15-3, 4), however Krael has a very misleading record and the kid can fight. We wouldn't be surprised at all by an upset here.
This same show will also feature Kyrgyzstan born American based hopeful Andrei Odintsev (4-0, 4) take on Britton Norwood (9-4-1, 7) in a 4 round Light Heavyweight contest.
The day we've all been waiting for is finally upon us and we finally get the WBSS Bantamweight final, in what is, by far, the most high profile card in Japan this year. In fact it's one of the highest profile cards in Japan in a very long time.
The Saitama Super Arena plays host to the biggest show in Japan this year, with more than 20,000 fans in attendance and international TV exposure as DAZN show the bout in the US. This is a card we've literally been waiting for since May and is a true highlight for the year.
The big bout will see Filipino legend Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26) take on rising Japanese mega star Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16) in what is not only the WBSS Bantamweight final but also a bout for the IBF and WBA "super" titles at Bantamweight. Entertaining the bout Donaire is the WBA "super" champion and is going through an unexpected late career surge, though one that has been helped with injuries to Ryan Burnett and Zolani Tete. Although not the fighter he once was Donaire is still a huge puncher and a massive through, if he lands clean. Inoue, the IBF and WBA "unified" champion, will know a win cements his place as one of the new faces of boxing, and the pressure really is all on him given the attention the bout is getting in Japan. If the "Monster" picks up a win here it really open up huge doors for him going forward, whilst a win for Donaire will almost certainly secure his place as a first ballot hall of famer. A full and very comprehensive preview of this bout can be read here The WBSS Final - Inoue Vs Donaire
In an excellent supporting bout we'll see the WBC Bantamweight title being unified as French-Morrocan Nordine Oubaali (16-0, 12) takes on Japan's Takuma Inoue (13-0, 4). Entering the bout Oubaali will be looking for his second defense of the title, whilst Inoue will be looking to become a full world champion after reigning as the WBC interim champion since December. Whilst the attention will be on the main event this is an excellent match up, and will see the calculated and intelligent pressure and power of Oubaali up against the intelligent boxing and movement of Inoue. This could have headlined a normal show and makes for a sensational supporting bout. An in depth preview of this bout can be read here Takuma Inoue goes up against Nordine Oubaali for WBC crown
Also on this show will be a couple of Teiken prospects. One of those will be Katsuya Fukui (1-0, 1), who goes up against Thai foe Chakkit Ratchakhot (2-3, 2) and the other will be Shokichi Iwata (3-0, 2), who will take on Mexican visitor Alejandro Cruz Valladares (5-1). Both of these bouts are scheduled for 6 rounds, with Iwata expected to be moved into title bouts in 2020, if he gets past Valladares here.
As well as the action in Japan there is also a bout of note for us in the US where the unbeaten Santiago Dominguez (19-0, 15) takes on Uzbek fighter Ravshan Hudaynazarov (17-2, 13). The unbeaten Dominguez has scored stoppages in his last 7 bouts and has looked destructive going through recent competition in the US and Mexico. Sadly Hudaynazarov has no form coming into this, following back to back losses, in 2018 to Ronald Cruz and 2019 to John Vera, in what are his only 2 bouts over the last 5 years. We really can't see the Uzbek picking up a win here.
Seoul, South Korea
Last year we saw a Korea Vs Japan card being announced. Sadly however that card had to be delayed and will now take place this coming Saturday.
One of most interesting bouts on this card will see the once beaten Woo Min Won (9-1, 5) take on under-rated Japanese visitor Noriaki Sato (5-2-1). The Korean is a former national Light Welterweight champion who is 2-0 (1) against Japanese fighters, having beaten Daiki Koide and Taisho Ozawa, though has been inactive since the win over Ozawa back in October 2016. Sato was stopped on debut, way back in 2008, but started a real running in 2015, and has gone 4-1-1, including wins over Valentine Hosokawa and Cristiano Aoqui. This should be a very entertaining and exciting action fight.
Another bout that promises a lot of action will see former Korean Welterweight champion Ma Roo Jung (7-4-1, 2) take on the tough and exciting Moon Hyun Yun (18-5-3, 4). Neither of these fighters are going to be world beaters, but both will be eager to win here, and claim a WBA regional title., and potentially open the doors to other good fights. Jun has won his last 3 and look like a man in form whilst Hyun has been inconsistent with results, but always makes for fun action fights.
We'll also see a number of Asian fighters in action in Russia, where there will be titles and prospects on the card.
The main event of the card will see Russian based Tajik prospect Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (11-0, 8) take on South African veteran Malcolm Klassen (33-7-2, 17) for the IBO Super Featherweight title. The 23 year old Rakhimov had an excellent 2017, going 3-0 (2) and winning the IBO title, which he'll be defending for the first time here. The 36 year old Klassen was in action this past September, when he ran Mikhail Alexeev close. Although Klassen might be past his best he will still serve as an excellent test for Rakhimov.
Another Russian based Tajik on this show will be Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov (10-0, 7), who takes on the once beaten Mark Urvanov (12-1, 6). Yaqubov was active in 2017, fighting 5 times and ended the year with 4 stoppages showing an improvement in power and he now looks like a real prospect going places. Urnaov is a Russian fighter who is riding a 12 fight winning run, but has failed to shine, and was very fortunate against Jin Miura last July. This should be a win for Yaqubov given recent performances, but certainly not an easy win for the unbeaten man.
In another title fight we'll see Filipino fighter Ardie Boyose (18-1-2, 14) taking on Russian fighter Zaur Abdullaev (7-0, 5) for the WBO Youth Lightweight title. Boyose lost last time he was in Russia, being stopped by Rustam Nugaev in December 2016, but that loss aside he has shown plenty of promise and at 22 years old the future is still pretty bright for Boyose. Whilst Boyose is still a fighter with hope it's fair to say that the unbeaten Abdullaev is seen as something a bit special. The Russian turned professional in March 2017 and racked up 7 wins last year, including a notable stoppage of Roberto Gonzalez which should fill him with confidence heading into this bout.
One other bout here will see Uzbek novice Ravshanbek Umurzakov (1-0, 1) take a massive step up to face Rustam Nugaev (29-8-1, 19). Aged 35 Nugaev is a fighter towards the end of his career, and was dominated last time out by Deiner Berrio. Despite that he is experienced and know his way around the ring. Umurzakov, who only debuted this past December, was a former amateur stand out but this is still a monster leap up in class. If Umurzakov can pick up the win here then he really will make a statement, but it's a very dangerous bout for such a novice.
Saint Petersburg, Russia
On a second Russian card fans get another really interesting match up as the unbeaten pairing of Ulugbek Khakberdiev (4-0, 2) and Aidos Yerbossynuly (7-0, 6) face off. Russian based Uzbek Khakberdiev only turned professional last year, and has made an impact on the sport already, stopping Dmitry Sukhotsky in September to really announce himself on professional scene. The Uzbek will be up against a Kazakh foe in the form of Yerbossynuly, who is himself a touted prospect tipped to go a long way. This really could be something very special, a real indicator of belief from both men.
Metro Manila, Philippines
In Metro Manila fans will see young puncher Jino Rodrigo (3-0, 3) look to build on his recent win over former OPBF champion Vinvin Rufino. Having dropped Rufino 3 times in round 4 of their clash Rodrigo will be full of confidence as he takes on Glenn Bismanos (3-1, 2), who has bounced back from his first defeat with 2 straight wins.
North Dakota, USA
In the US fans will see once beaten American Ronaldo Cruz (12-1, 10) takes on unbeaten American based Uzbek Ravshan Hudaynazarov (17-0, 13). Coming in to this one Cruz is riding a 10 fight winning run and will be full of confidence, but has been matched very softly with this looking like a huge step up in class for the 26 year old. Hudaynazarov on the other hand has been matched quite hard and will know that, at the age of 33, he can't afford any slip ups. It's hard to see past the Uzbek here, though it could be a case of just how impressive he can look, rather than just whether or not he can win.