Ota-City General Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
Over the last decade or so it has become tradition for Japan to host the last major boxing event of the year, with at least one big show on New Year's Eve. That's the case again this year, as we get a 4 fight card in Tokyo to close out 2021, and move us into what should, hopefully, be a much, much, much better year. The show isn't headlined by the bout we wanted, or even expected just a month ago, but as has been the case form much of the year, those in charge of the event have done the best with what they have to not just put on a show, but also give action that we want and that should, fingers crossed, end the year with some excitement.
The four fight card is a very top heavy one, and whilst the main event is clearly the highlight, there is one under-card bout want to put some attention on before discussing the main bout.
That under-card contest is an 8 rounder at a contracted 64.5Kg's, or 142.2lbs, between struggling veteran Akihiro Kondo (32-10-2, 18) and 22 year old Aso Ishiwaki (9-4-1, 7), who needs a win to build on his September victory over Yuichiro Kasuya. Kondo, best known for his IBF world title bout with Sergey Lipinets, is now 36 and has gone 1-3-1 in his last 5, but he has fought at a decent level, and fought to a draw in a Japanese title fight a year ago. Ishiwaki, one of the most fun to watch Japanese guys in and around 140lbs, on the other hand last back to back fights before his win over Kasuya and knows a win here will help re-establish him on the domestic scene. This might not be a huge bout internationally, but it should make for a thrilling domestic clash for the fans in attendance.
As for the main event that will see Kazuto Ioka (27-2, 15) defending his WBO Super Flyweight title against Ryoji Fukunaga (15-4, 14), who was a very late replacement for IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas. We were supposed to see a world title unification bout here, but that got scrapped after the Omicron variant emerged, and led to Japan closing it's borders, preventing Ancajas to travel to Japan. As a result Fukunaga got the call for the biggest fight of his career and, understandably, said yes. Although Fukunaga is a huge downgrade from Ancajas, the challenger is a former triple crown winner, having won the WBO Asia Pacific, OPBF and Japanese titles at 115lbs, and is heavy handed. Sadly though he is stepping up in class, massively to take on of the divisional elite. Ioka will have to fight off disappointment, seeing his unification with Ancajas fall apart, and if he does that he should dominate Fukunaga here, but there is, a chance, he could over-look Fukunaga, and if he does that this could be a very dangerous bout for him. Our in depth preview of this bout is available to watch here Ioka faces Fukunaga to end 2021
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
The big Asian card this weekend is from Tokyo, and will be aired as part of the Dynamic Glove series on G+. It's not a massive card, but it's a very good Dynamic Glove one, with a triple crown bout in the main event and a brilliant chief support bout which should be nothing short of a brutal war.
The title fight will see Super Flyweight triple crown champion Ryoji Fukunaga (14-4, 14) defending his WBO Asia Pacific, OPBF and Japanese titles against the unbeaten, and once very highly touted, Hayate Kaji (15-0, 9). The hard hitting Fukunaga has looked fantastic in recent bouts, winning his last 4, all by stoppage, including big wins against Froilan Saludar and Kenta Nakagawa to unify the triple crown. He does however have time against him and at 35 another loss ends any hope of him getting a world title fight. On the other hand a win here sees him continuing to knock on the door and he is currently ranked by the IBF and WBO. Kaji on the other hand sent excitement through the Japanese scene as a teenager, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year aged 18. Sadly though he has failed to develop like many had hoped, and he's looked less than great in a number of recent bouts. Hopefully, with this being a huge opportunity for him, we'll see the best of Kaji, and if we do we are going to be in for something very special here. Our in depth preview of this bout can be read here Fukunaga looks to defend triple crown against unbeaten Kaji!
Talking about very special the chief support bout will be the third meeting between Ryoichi Tamura (14-5-1, 7) and Yusaku Kuga (19-5-1, 13), which will serve as a Japanese title eliminator at Super Bantamweight. Kuga is winning the series 2-0, having won two brutal decisions against Tamura, but he's lost his last 2 by stoppage, and his career is perhaps coming to an end. He's taken a lot of punishment in recent years, being stopped 3 times in his last 6, and it's hard to imagine him having much left in the tank. Saying that however Tamura has also been in a lot of punishing wars himself, including the two with Tamura and as well as ones against Mugicha Nakagawa, Yusuke Suzuki and Gakuya Furuhashi. Tamura has never been stopped, but the accumulation of punishment through his career will be taking a toll on him. We expect this one to be a complete and utter war and we wouldn't be surprised by Kuga being stopped for the 4th time in his career.
Capio, Tsukuba, Ibaragi, Japan
As well as the show in Tokyo we also have a small Japanese card in Ibaragi. This is a small show but one that does promise some exciting action of it's own, with a really nice match up that should both be very fan friendly.
In the main event the always fun to watch, but very flawed, Tatsuya Takahashi (32-10-6, 21) will be up against the equally fun but flawed Shota Ogasawara (6-3-1, 3), who clash in an 8 rounder at 122lbs. Of the two men Takahashi is the much more well established and proven fighter, but the 32 year old hasn't looked good in recent bouts, and is 2-2-1 in his last 5, including a decision loss to Ryotaro Kawabata last time out. He will be the home town favourite, and this is his 15th bout at the Tsukuba Capio venue, but he's showing his age and signs that his career is coming to an end. Aged 26 Ogasawara is coming into his prime, though has struggled recently and know he can't afford another set back if he's to get into the title mix any time soon. Given the styles of the two men, we expect this to be a really good fight, and a genuine tear up, even if the skill level of both is rather limited.
Workpoint Studio, Bang Phun, Thailand
As well as the action in Japan we also get a card in Thailand as boxing finally returns to Work point, 6 months after their last show. The action in Thailand has been minimal this year due to the effects of Covid in the country, but it's great to see WP Boxing boxing, even if it does appear their relationship with DAZN is on the rocks once again. RAZN, really paying right!
In the main event the unbeaten Apichet Petchmanee (10-0, 2) will be seeking his 11th straight win as he takes on 21 year old Thai foe Phutthiphong Rakoon (8-4, 6), who is incredibly limited, and hasn't hasn't had a recorded bout in over 3 years. We'll be honest, we don't rate Apichet as a man going places, in fact the 31 year old seems to have rapidly regressed during his career, but he should still be far, far, far too good for Phuttiphong here.
A more well matched bout will see local puncher Suradech Ruhasiri (6-4, 5) take on Filipino fighter Adrian Lerasan (9-4, 2), in a bout for the WBC Asian Boxing Council Continental Super Flyweight title. This will be Lerasan's first bout since his big 2020 upset over touted Thai Tanes Ongjunta, and whilst he will be expected to show some ring rust he should still be favoured. Suradech has lost his last 4, and been stopped twice in that run, but he is fighting at home and is lively, so will be in the ring looking for a win, even if he is the under-dog.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Action returns to Korakuen Hall this coming Monday for the next show from Dangan. This isn't a particularly big show but it is one worthy of some interest with a title fight headlining the event and several interesting bouts featuring debutants.
The main event will see triple crown champion Ryoji Fukunaga (13-4, 13) defending his WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese Super Flyweight titles against the unheralded Takahiro Fujii (12-6-1, 3), who is stepping up massively here. The heavy handed Fukunaga had a brilliant 2020, with wins over Froilan Saludar and Kenta Nakagawa, but both of those bouts were punishing wars and it's probably a good thing that he's being matched a little bit more lightly here than we've seen for his last two bouts. Fujii really is a very limited, domestic level fighter and shouldn't pose too much if a threat to the champion, but it's a huge opportunity for him, and likely to be his only fight at this level. We expect Fujii to be hungry, fight to win, but then be broken down by the heavy hands of the champion. Our full preview of this bout can be read here Fukunaga defends two titles as he takes on Fujii!
In a brilliant chief support bout we'll see Jukiya Iimura (1-0, 1) take on Tomoki Kawasaki (0-0), in what we believe is the third of fourth date set for this fight. Iimura really impressed in his debut, back in January and we've been desperate to see him back in action. He looked really explosive, exciting and heavy handed in that bout and oozed charisma. Kawasaki on the other hand was a very decent amateur and will come into this bout with hunger to make a statement and shine in his first pro bout. These are the type of bouts that Japan gives us regularly, and others don't. Two young, talented, good amateurs facing off early in their careers, taking a risk and knowing that they can prove how good they are without waiting years. Something w would love to see in the UK and US.
Another debutant going in rather hard here is former amateur fighter Josuke Nagata (0-0), who went 38-20 in the unpaid ranks. Whilst not a stellar record he looked the part in the unpaid ranks and we're excited to see what he's going to do in the pros. He'll be up against the relatively decent Koji Tsurumi (5-3-1, 2), who comes into this bout on the back of an excellent win over the then debut Yugo Kon in January. Although his record looks poor Tsurumi is unbeaten in his last 3 and has shown some genuine ability, with wins against Kon, Kazusa Arai and Shion Yokoyama. This might look like a gimme for Nagata, but it's not and we expect him to be given a genuine test here.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
This coming Monday we get live action from Boxing Raise who have their streaming service show cases the latest event from the criminally under-rated Kaoebi Promotions, who have consistently been turning out great events under their "Slugfest" banner in recent years. This show features a triple title main event, a mouth watering support bout, a potentially compelling Super Bantamweight and several notable prospects.
The main event of the card is an excellent match up, which should end up being a very explosive encounter as Ryoji Fukunaga (12-4, 12) and Kenta Nakagawa (19-3-1, 12) clash at Super Flyweight. Coming into this Nakagawa is the JBC champion and Fukunaga is the WBO Asia Pacific champion, not only are their belts on the line, but so is the vacant OPBF title, meaning the winner is essentially the champion of Asia. Of the two Fukunaga is the certainly bigger puncher, and showed that last time out, when he beat Froilan Saludar, though it's fair to say that Nakagawa is the more proven fighter, has been in with tougher competition and is a 2-time Japanese champion. For us this is a true 50-50 type bout and the only thing we're confident about is the fact it won't go 12. We're anticipating a hard hitting, technical shoot out here. Our full preview of this bout can be read here Fukunaga and Nakagawa battle for the triple at Super Flyweight!
In an amazing support bout former Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific Light Welterweight champion Hiroki Okada (19-2, 13) will be up against the very talented Izuki Tomioka (7-3-1, 2), who has given Masayoshi Nakatani and Shuichiro Yoshino two of their toughest bouts. On paper Okada is the naturally bigger, stronger and more powerful fighter but with back to back stoppages losses against his name we do wonder what he has left in the tank, he has, arguably, been left with a lot of questions to answer. Tomioka isn't a puncher, but he is a quick, rangy, talented fighter and we wouldn't be surprised at all if he frustrates Okada with his jab and ends up simply out working the older man.
The first of two notable prospects on the under-card is the unbeaten Mikio Sakai (2-0), who takes on Toshihiro Kai (6-11-3, 2). The 27 year old Sakai is likely to be moved towards a Japanese title fight in the next year or two, but having been out of the ring since last December we can't begrudge him an easy one here. The 35 year old Kai is a veteran, but not a particularly sturdy one and he has been stopped in 4 of his last 6, and really never kicked off at reaching the 2014 All Japan Rookie of the Year. The focus here is on Sakai, and seeing him shake some ring rust and get the cogs whirring again before a bigger year in 2021.
On paper a really even match up in the show is a contest between Matcha Nakagawa (13-2-1, 5) and Ryo Suwa (11-3, 2), with Nakagawa looking to defend his JBC and OPBF rankings against the skilled, but light punching, Suwa. The 26 year old Nakagawa has been a professional since 2013 and did promise a good deal early in his career, winning Rookie of the Year in 2015, but losses to Ryohei Takahashi and Kai Chiba in his last 6 has seen him need a solid win. Suwa is also a man in need for a big win after losing 3 of his last 7 and his last 2. We suspect Nakagawa will be the favourite here, but Suwa certainly has the ability to cause him fits with his style and boxing brain.
The other notable prospect on this card is the OPBF and JBC ranked Masahiro Suzuki (4-0, 2), who takes on former OPBF title challenger Takahiro Oda (10-5, 8), who previously fought as Jumbo Oda Nobunaga Shoten Petagine. The talented Suzuki really impressed us on his debut, against Antonio Siemundo, though in fairness we've become less convinced by him since and this is a genuine step up in class for him following a 13 month break from the ring. Whilst Suzuki has been out of the ring for a while his inactivity pales in comparison to the inactivity of Oda, who was last seen in the ring in July 2017, when he lost to Ratchasi Sithsaithong in an OPBF title bout. Coming into this Oda has won just 2 bouts in 6 years and it's hard to imagine him winning here, but he certainly has the power to test Suzuki's chin.
Kadoebi are perhaps not one of the real big name promoters in the eyes of many but the Japanese stable consistently put on interesting shows in Tokyo, and this Friday they put on another at Korakuen Hall.
In the main event will be former world title challenger Froilan Saludar (31-3-1, 22) defending his WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title against Ryoji Fukunaga (11-4, 11). The experienced Saludar won the title last year, when he stopped the touted Tsubasa Murachi and he returns to Japan for this fight against the heavy handed Fukunaga, who is crude but dangerous. A win here will push Saludar one step closer to a second world title bout. Whilst Fukunaga may have home advantage he is very much the under-dog, but is the naturally bigger man. Our preview of this bout can be read here Saludar returns to Japan to defend regional title against hard hitting Fukunaga!
World ranked Japanese Flyweight Ryota Yamauchi (5-1, 4), who is bizarrely highly ranked by the WBA, will look to build on his 2019 Alphoe Dagayloan as he takes on MJ Bo (8-3-2, 4). It's fair to say that 2019 was a frustrating year for the talent Yamauchi, who lost a hotly contest decision to Wulan Tuolehazi in March, beat Dagayloan in August then missed out on a Japanese title eliminator due to injuries suffered against Dagayloan. We expect him out there to impress here. As for Bo the Filipino will be returning to Japan just 5 months after being stopped by Yuta Nakayama, and it's hard to imagine anything but another loss here for the Filipino visitor. We expect Yamauchi to go to the ring with the intention of making a real statement.
Foor us the real pick of the gems on this show is a potentially explosive bout between Yuki Nakajima (3-1, 3) and Shisui Kawabata (2-1, 2). Although on paper this might just look like a typical novice bout the reality is that both of these men were solid amateurs, and both are regarded highly by those in Japan. Nakajima is regarded very highly and racked up more than 50 wins in the amateurs whilst Kawabata fought for a Japanese youth title in just his third bout. We expect explosive action here in what is our "One to watch" for this week.
Over in the US we'll see fast rising Uzbek hopeful Bektemir Melikuziev (4-0, 3) take on his most notable opponent to date, as he battles former world title challenger Marco Antonio Periban (25-5-1, 16). The bout will be "Bek Bully's" 5th in just over 8 months, and it's clear he and his team have got their eye on the fast track to the top. After going 10 rounds with Vaughn Alexander in December we know the Uzbek can box, as well as bang. Periban is a long way removed from the fighter lost a razor thin decision to Sakio Bika and fought to a draw with Badou Jack, back in 2013, but is still a solid name and someone who could ask questions of Melikuziev. Whilst Melikuziev is expected to win, the real question will be how, and if stops Periban early it would be a genuine statement from the 23 year old.
Action returns to Korakuen Hall this coming Wednesday as we get the next stacked card from Kadoebi. The show features a former world champion, a former world title challenger and a very highly regarded prospect in what is genuinely a stacked card at this level.
The main event will see former IBF Super Bantamweight world champion Yukinori Oguni (20-2-1, 8) take on IBF world ranked ranked Bantamweight Sukpraserd Ponpitak (22-9, 14), aka Sukkasem Kietyongyuth. On paper Oguni should be strongly favoured, given he's the naturally bigger man and the fighter with the higher level of achievement, but this is only his second bout since losing the world title to Ryosuke Iwasa back in 2017, and is a huge step up in class from his win over Arega Yunian. The Thai is no world beater, but does seem more consistent than he was earlier in his career, and has had a couple of very close losses on his travels in the last few years, including a narrow loss in Japan to Kazuki Tanaka and another close one in China to Qiu Xiao Jun. This will likely be a lot more competitive than the records suggests.
In a main supporting bout we'll see former Japanese Flyweight and OPBF Super Flyweight champion Takuya Kogawa (29-5-1, 13). Kogawa, himself a former world title challenger looks like he is in soft here, as he takes on Hideyuki Watanabe (8-11-3, 6) in what should be an easy win for the veteran. Whilst Kogawa does have a habit of making things tricky for himself there shouldn't be any worries here. Watanabe has lost his last 5 and has just 1 win in his last 8, though does typically go rounds. We could see Kogawa shaking some ring rust here, but would be hugely surprised if he was tested.
Another former Japanese champion on this show is Takenori Ohashi (16-5-2, 10), who fights for the second time since losing the Japanese Featherweight title to Taiki Minamoto. The hard hitting Ohashi will not be getting a gimme, but should still manage to pick up a win as he battles Shun Wakabayashi (9-3, 2). It's worth noting that whilst Wakabayashi doesn't have an amazing record he has strung together 5 straight wins, with 2 of them coming on the road in China, and the most recent being a stoppage win over Xian Qian Wei, so he will have momentum and confidence coming into this one.
In other supporting bouts we'll see Ryoji Fukunaga (10-4, 10), Yuichiro Kasuya (11-2-1, 3) and the promising Yuki Nakajima (1-0, 1) all looking to pick up their next wins. All 3 will be expected to win, though all are taking steps up in class from their most recent bouts. Of the 3 men it's Kasuya who has the hardest on paper, taking on Toru Kiyota (9-2, 7) though we're mostly interested in seeing how Yuki Nakajima looks against Filipino Paolo Sy (6-3-1, 3).
This coming Thursday fight fans in Tokyo will get an interesting card with a world title eliminator headlining the show, and two undercard bout featuring Japanese ranked fighters.
The main event will be a Light Middleweight bout featuring former unified Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific champion Takeshi Inoue (12-0-1, 7) battling against former Japanese OPBF champion Yuki Nonaka (31-9-3,10), with the winner of this getting a #2 ranking with the IBF and taking a huge step towards getting a world title. The 28 year old Inoue, no relation to the likes of Naoya Inoue, has been incredible impressive turning professional in 2014 and has really began to shine in the last 18 months or so, with 2017 being a sensational year for the Tokyo fight. Last year Inoue defeated Akinori Watanabe, Koshinmaru Saito, Riku Nagahama and Ratchasi Sithsaithong and really put himself on the map. At 40 years old this really will be Nonaka's last chance, and unfortunately his only bout in the last 12 months was a clear 10 round loss to Dennis Hogan, which doesn't bode well for him here. Nonaka is a very skilled fighter, but with ring rust and age catching up to him this will be a big ask for the Osakan veteran.
The chief support bout will see Naoyuki Tsukada (8-3-5, 3) risk his Japanese ranking as he takes on Satoru Todaka (7-2-4, 3) in a Light Flyweight bout. On paper this is a really competitive looking bout, and it features two men with very similar records, but records which have come in very different ways. Tsukada began his career with 3 wins before falling to 3-3-1 after 7 bouts. Now Tsuakada is riding a 9 fight unbeaten run, including a win over Yuto Takahashi and a draw with Kenji Ono. Todaka on the other hand lost on his debut before running up a 9 fight unbeaten that ended last year against Hikaru Ota. This should be really competitive, and both men will see this as a chance to take a huge step towards getting a Japanese title fight.
Another supporting bout will see Japanese ranked fighters Yuta Matsuo (13-3-1, 7) and Ryoji Fukunaga (10-2, 10) face off in what looks like a really interesting match up. Last year Matsuo challenged Masayuki Kuroda for the Japanese interim Flyweight title and put up a good effort, though has since moved up to Super Flyweight where it seems he may well have more success. As for Fukunaga he's a very dangerous fighter, he's not beaten anyone of real note, even on the domestic level, but he's a heavy handed fighter who has scored his 10 wins in just 28 rounds. Fukunaga will have his power tested here but if it's as good as it looks on paper Matsuo will be in for real problems here.
This coming Saturday sees us turn our attention to G+ for the next live card to be aired on their channel
In the main event of the card we'll see former WBC Flyweight champion Toshiyuki Igarashi (23-2-2, 12) battle against upset minded American Miguel Cartagena (15-3, 6), with both men risking world rankings coming into this bout. Igarashi, who has had a stop-start career in recent times, will be looking to kick start his career which really has struggled to have momentum since losing the WBC title almost 4 years ago. Cartagena will be entering this bout 3-3 in his last 6, but does come into the bout on the back of a career best win over Joebert Alvarez, who he stopped inside a round last July.
The best of the supporting bouts will see the hotly tipped Shuya Masaki (6-0, 3) take on Shingo Eto (17-5-1, 9) in a delayed bout, that was originally scheduled for last year though had to be cancelled after Eto was forced to pull out of the bout. Masaki is tipped as one of the most promising fighters at the Teiken gym and is primed for big things, but this is a big step up for him and Eto, who has lost his last 2, will be looking to resurrect his career here. The bout is a key one for both men, and should be a thrilling one to watch.
Another supporting bout will see Yoshinobu Kakinaga (6-2, 2) take on 2016 Super Flyweight Rookie of the Year Ryoji Fukunaga (8-2, 8), one of two Super Rookie of the Year's on this card. The 30 year old Fukunaga will be fighting in his first 8 rounder and will be hoping that a win could move him, slowly, towards a Japanese title fight and we suspect that'll be where he and his team are looking for him to be in the next 24 months. As for Kakinaga the 23 year old will potentially see this bout as chance for him to move into the Japanese rankings and we're expecting a really exciting encounter here.
The other Super Flyweight Rookie of the Year on this card is 2015 winner Hayate Kaji (6-0, 5), who will be fighting in a relative stay busy fight against a Thai foe. We're hoping that Kaji will have a big 2017, but given he's a genuine youngster there is no need to rush him, and he's getting great gym time at the Teiken with the likes of Shinsuke Yamanaka. Sadly for Kaji fans it does feel like a second successive stay busy fight, a shame for someone with his natural talented and power.
American fans will see exciting Filipino Mercito Gesta (29-1-2, 16) return to the ring as he takes on the big punching Gilberto Gonzalez (26-3, 22) in a tough looking Lightweight bout. The once touted Gesta will be ending an 18 month break from the ring and his stop-start career has been a thoroughly frustrating one that promised so much, but has delivered so little. Gonzalez is beatable, and this is a must win for Gesta, but the Mexican has the power and size to cause Gesta real problems.
In the Netherlands we'll see Azeri Bakhtiyar Isgandarzada (11-10, 4) battle unbeaten Dutch hopeful Steve Suppan (6-0-1, 4). Suppan, the UBO Youth champion at 140lbs, should be far too good for the Azeri. Although a journeyman Isgandarzada has shared the ring with a number of respectable names, including Viorel Simion, and will look to make the most of that experience here.