Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
It's fair to say that February is set to be a very, very quiet month with less action scheduled for the month than there was in January, also a super quiet month. Thankfully however this coming Thursday there is a notable show taking place at Korakuen Hall, and it's a genuinely exciting card with a Japanese Youth title fight and Japanese title fight both set for the show. Better than that, is the fact both of the title fights look very, very even and very interesting on paper..
The show only has 4 bouts on it in total. The most interesting of those will see Shinnosuke Kimoto (6-4, 2) take on Shota Ogasawara (5-3, 3) in a 6 round Super Bantamweight bout. Incidentally this is their second bout, but more about that in a moment. Coming in to this Kimoto is looking to rebound from a majority decision loss to talented youngster Tom Mizokoshi, a loss than ended a 2-fight winning run for him. As for Ogasawa he'll be fighting for the first time in over a year, following his loss in the 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year. Although he lost last time out in a notable bout Ogasawara is better for a different loss, his thrilling 2019 loss to Ryugo Ushijima. As mentioned these two have fought before, with Ogasawara beating Kimoto back in 2017, in what was Kimoto's debut. Fair to say Kimoto will want revenge here!
The first of the two title fights on the show will see Ryu Horikawa (3-0-1, 1) clash with Yudai Shigeoka (2-0, 1) in a sensational looking Japanese Youth Light Flyweight title fight, for the vacant title. The 20 year old Horikawa impressed in his 2019 debut and impressed even more in his second professional bout, when he beat Yuki Nakajima, though was unlucky in his third bout when he was controversially held to a draw in China against Xiang Li. Horikawa is a very skilled and quick boxer-mover and will be looking to make the most of his slick footwork here. On the other hand Shigeoka, the older brother of Ginjiro Shigeoka, looked promising on debut and sensational in his second bout, as he calmly outboxed OPBF Lito Dante over 6 rounds. Shigeoka looks the more imposing fighter, the physically stronger and more polished, but also the man with the slower footwork. This should be a genuinely fantastic match up, and a really high level bout between two sensational youngsters. Our preview of this bout can be read here Horikawa and Shigeoka battle for Youth crown in Tokyo!
In the main event we'll see Japanese Featherweight champion Ryo Sagawa (10-1, 5) defend his belt against mandatory challenger Hinata Maruta (10-1-1, 8), in a bout that was originally scheduled for 2020 but was delayed due to Covid19. For Sagawa this will be his third defense since beating Reiya Abe for the vacant title in 2019 and he looks to continue an excellent 9 fight winning run which has seen him defeat Junki Sasaki, Ryo Matsumoto, Al Toyogon and the aforementioned Abe. The champion has looked fantastic in recent bouts, but there are question marks about his chin and durability. On the other hand Maruta, who turned professional with a lot of buzz, has failed to meet the expectations put on his young shoulders, however a win here would see that buzz return. Aged just 23 Maruta has the tools to go a very, very long way, but a 2017 loss to Hidenori Otake slowed his rise and a controversial draw against Ben Mananquil also slowed him down. Coming in this the challenger has won his last 3, and has shown a more aggressive side to his boxing than earlier in his career. Our in depth preview of this bout can be read here Sagawa and Maruta clash at last, in Japanese title bout!
Yoyogi First Gym, Tokyo, Japan
As well as the show at Korakuen Hall there will also be a special event at the Yoyogi 1st Gym in Tokyo. This however isn't one you'll find on Boxrec and is instead a charity event where we'll get 7 exhibition bouts, and nothing that will go down on a fighters record. Despite that it's something that is worth being aware of, in part due to the fighters featured on it, including several world champions, amateur standouts and genuine Japanese stars.
One of those will be an potential dream bout as WBA "Super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) shares the ring with the now retired Akira Yaegashi (28-7, 16), who himself held the IBF Light Flyweight title along with titles at Minimumweight and Flyweight. It's a shame the careers of these two didn't over-lap as this is a brilliant match up.
Another retired former world champion on this show will be former WBA Super Featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama (24-2-1, 20) who will be in the ring with current Japanese national Super Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka (21-5, 18). Although Uchiyama would be strongly favoured to win, had the two men clashed for real, this could be an interesting exhibition, especially given that Uchiyama is in fantastic condition.
A third former world champion included in the event is former WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (19-3-2, 12) who will be battling with former K-1 fighter Yoshiki Takei (0-0), who makes his professional boxing debut in March. Whilst not the greatest match up it will be a chance to see what Takei brings as a boxer, and we always love seeing Sho Kimura in the ring.
Former world title challenger Takeshi Inoue (17-1-1, 10) will be taking on amateur standout Yuito Moriwaki in one of several bouts between professional fighters and amateurs. Another of these will see 140lb hopeful Andy Hiraoka (16-0, 11) share the ring with Japanese Olympian Daisuke Narimatsu and the a third will see Japanese Youth champion Jin Sasaki (10-0, 9) [佐々木尽] face off with the very highly regarded Seon Okazawa.
We've saved the best until last, and that's a bout between WBA "super" and IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17) and former WBC Flyweight kingpin Daigo Higa (17-1-1, 17) [比嘉 大吾], in what should be a sensational exhibition bout over 3 rounds and something worthy of paying the hefty admission fee for. This is two big names, both in their primes, facing off in a bit of a dream fight, even if it is just an exhibition.
Capio, Tsukuba, Ibaragi, Japan
This coming Sunday we see two cards in Japan. Neither are big, though the most notable of those comes from Ibaragi.
The main event will see former Japanese title challenger Tatsuya Takahashi (31-9-6, 21) take on Hibiki Jogo (10-2, 5) in an 8 round match up. Aged 31 Takahashi is probably coming to the end of his career, but the teak tough and exciting Bantamweight may manage to have one more charge towards a title fight. Takahashi is currently in the JBC and WBO Asia Pacific rankings, but will know a loss here would likely see him being removed from those. Jogo on the other hand came runner up in the 2016 Rookie of the Year and despite a set back in 2018 has won 3 in a row to give him some momentum here. We suspect Takahashi will be the favourite here, but we do imagine he'll have to work for the win.
In a brilliant Light Flyweight bout we'll see 2018 Rookie of the Year winner Daiki Kameyama (7-4-1, 2) take on the very, very highly regarded and talented youngster Ryu Horikawa (2-0-1, 1). This has the potential to be the show stealing bout here. Since winning Rookie of the Year Kameyama has struggled for form, losing to Shokichi Iwata and Yuga Inoue, but will see this as a chance to end that slide. Horikawa on the other hand looked sensational in his win over Yuki Nakajima and was very unlucky last time out against Xiang Li, in a draw. This could be a very exciting bout.
The third bout of real interest here will see 2019 Rookie of the Year runner up Yuta Ashina (4-2) take on Yuya Nemoto (6-8-3, 1). Despite losing last December Ashina showed enough to want to follow him and it'll be interesting to see how he looks here, and he's incredibly exciting for those who haven't seen him. Aged 34 and with just 1 win in his last 7 it's easy to assume that Nemoto isn't won't be competitive, but Nemoto did score a win last time out and is unbeaten in his last 3. We suspect Ashina will be asked questions by the veteran, but should still take the win here with his aggression and work rate
Green Tsuda Gym, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
The other Japanese card is a West Japan Rookie of the Year show from the Green Tsuada Gym, with 9 bouts on this card. This is the second Rookie of the Year card at the Osakan gym in recent days, following one last weekend.
The most interesting of the bouts on this show, for us, is a Super Bantamweight clash between the unbeaten Sora Fukunaga (5-0, 2) and the stop of be stopped Shuya Kuwabuchi (2-1, 2). The 22 year old Fukunaga debuted in 2018 and since then has barely dropped a round, and shown improving power, stopping his last 2. Kuwabuchi on the other hand has yet to see the final bell, but was stopped last time out. We expect fireworks here.
Another Rookie bout on this card worthy of attention will be the debut of Daichi Morino (0-0), who takes on 20 year old Yasuhiro Kanzaki (3-1, 1) at Flyweight. Morino turns pro after running up a 2-1 amateur record and it'll be interesting to see how he looks here as he begins his professional career. As for Kanzaki he started his career perfectly, with 3 straight wins, but did lose last time out and will be desperate to get back to winning ways here.
The main action this coming Thursday comes from Shanghai in card that is essentially a China Vs Japan card. It's not a huge show, but it's certainly one worthy of some attention with a world ranked contender and a highly touted prospect involved.
The world ranked contender is China's awkward and tough Wulan Tuolehazi (12-3-1, 5), who will be defending his WBA International Flyweight title against Japanese challenger Satoshi Tanaka (7-5, 1). On paper this doesn't look like it'll be competitive, but the idea seems on be for Tuolehazi to just tick over whilst awaiting for a major title fight, following recent wins over Filipino Jayr Raquinel and Japan's Ryota Yamauchi. From what we can see the 28 year old Tanaka is simply there to make up the numbers.
In an excellent match up we'll see the WBO Youth Light Flyweight Xiang Li (7-2-1, 2) take on the very promising Ryu Horikawa (2-0, 1) from Japan. Li won the title on the road, beating the popular Raymond Poon Kaiching for the belt in Hong Kong, when he put up a great and energetic performance to over-come Poon and the crowd. Horikawa is a professional novice, but the 19 year old is regarded very highly in Japan and his win over Yuki Nakajima last time out showed just how skilled he was. For us this is the best fight on the card, and one that deserves the attention of fight fans.
Another bout worthy of note will see local fighter Ayati Sailike (7-8-2-1, 2) take on Japan's unbeaten Hiroki Hanabusa (6-0-2, 2). The 23 year old local isn't anyone special, but is experience, has taken on a number of unbeaten opponents and comes to win, though is technically quite limited. Hanabusa, who just 20, is looking to build on a good 2018, and a win here, in first 8 rounder, will likely see his team push him for a Youth title in 2020. Hanabusa is talented, but this is set to be a genuine test, even if Sailike's record suggests something else.
As well as the Chinese action there is also going to be a small card in the Philippines, featuring a former world title challenger up against a domestic journeyman.
The former world title challenger is Jerry Tomogdan (28-10-4, 15), who in a WBC Minimumweight title bout in 2015 to Wanheng Menayothin. Since that loss Tomogdan has had mixed success, going 12-4-1 (6) including a win over Riku Kano in Japan. His opponent will be Mike Kinaadman (7-11-2, 5), who really shouldn't give Tomogdan any issues here.
One of the great things about Japanese boxing is the fact that talented youngsters get in the ring against each other, rather than get protected in the hope of a bout marinating down the line. This type of match making is particularly in both the Japanese Youth title bouts, which regularly match top youngsters against each other, and the B class tournaments which usually match touted novice professionals against each other.
This coming Monday the Korakuen Hall place host to both, B Class tournament and Japanese Youth title tournament bouts, essentially Japanese Youth title eliminators, in what is set to be an excellent, but perhaps over-looked, show.
One of the Japanese Youth title eliminators will see Haruki Ishikawa (7-1, 5) and Atsushi Takada (6-1-3, 3) battle in a really interesting match up. The 19 year old Ishikawa lost in a very close bout against Yusei Fujikawa, in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, but has bounced back with a good win over Alvin Medura back in April and certainly has a lot of promise. Takada on the other hand was beaten in a Japanese youth title fight in April and will be looking to secure a second shot at the title in the near future. On paper this is finely balanced and should be a very compelling contest.
The other Japanese title eliminator on this card will actually find themselves up against the winner of the Ishikawa Vs Takada fight, in a bout for the vacant title. This match up., on paper, looks like a mismatch with former Rookie of the Year winner Fumiya Fuse (8-0, 1) taking on 18 year old novice Toshiya Ishii (1-0, 1). This doesn't look great until you realise that Ishii was a very capable amateur, coming runner up in the 2018 Inter-High school tournament and being earmarked for professional success straight away. Fuse is a very talented boxer but this is, in many ways, his toughest test so far, whilst Ishii is will be hoping to have not bitten off more than he chew. A brilliant match up, and one where the winner will really earn something from victory.
In a B class tournament bout, at Light Flyweight, we see novice professionals clash in what could be a really interesting contest. The match up in question is a 6 round bout between Yuki Nakajima (2-0, 2) and Ryu Horikawa (1-0, 1). On paper this might not look anything special to those who don't follow the Japanese scene but for those with a hardcore interest this is something special between two talented former amateur standouts. Nakajima went 52-21 in the unpaid ranks, and has looked fantastic in his first 2 bouts, as a professional whilst Horikawa went 37-8 was matched hard on debut and had to show his mettle. Despite only 3 pro bouts between them this should be a very, very good fight
The key show this coming Thursday comes from Korakuen Hall and whilst it's not a huge show it is with a former world title challenger, a national title fight and a couple of prospects.
The main event of this card will see former world title challenger Keita Obara (20-4-1, 18) take on Indonesian foe Yosmar Kefi (9-10, 8), in what should be little more than a confidence builder for Obara. Given that Obara has lost 2 of his last 3, including a loss last time out to Kudratillo Abdukakhorov, he does need an easy win and it's hard to imagine anything but an easy one here. Kefi is 0-4 in Japan, having been stopped 4 times in the Land of the Rising Sun, and we suspect there will be another stoppage loss for him here.
The main support bout will see Japanese Minimumweight champion Norihito Tanaka (18-7, 10) make his first defense, as he takes on Naoya Haruguchi (15-10, 6) in a rematch between the two men. Tanaka won the belt earlier this year, when he stopped Shin Ono, and will be looking to avenge a previous loss to Haruguchi. Whilst Haruguchi did win their first bout it was a controversial decision and he'll need to perform a lot better here, given he's fighting in Tokyo this time around, and not Kagoshima, where he has picked up most of his wins. A full preview of this bout can be read here Tanaka to make first defense, battles Haruguchi
In an interesting support bout we'll see once beaten men collide, with talented Japanese youngster Yoshimitsu Kimura (11-1, 6) taking on Filipino counterpart Jules Victoriano (9-1, 6). Both of these men are in their early 20's, both have suffered a solitary loss and both scored a solid win last time out, with Kimura stopping Allan Vallespin and Victoriano stopped Landy Cris Leon. This is a really interesting supporting bout and could end up being the bout of the show.
One other supporting bout on this card will see Ryu Horikawa (0-0) make his professional debut, as he battles Jun Ishimoto (5-6-1, 3). Whilst we've not been given Horikawa's full amateur record he did impress last year on the national scene and their is expectation on him to have a big future. Ishimoto is no world beater, but a good opponent for a debutant. Ishimoto has never been stopped, isn't much of a puncher and should give enough resistance to see what Horikawa is made of.
As well as the action in Tokyo, we're also interested in a card in California, as Filipino Gretchen Abaniel (18-10, 6) takes on the unbeaten Seniesa Estrada (16-0, 6) in a bout for the WBC silver female Light Flyweight title. The experienced Abaniel is a "win some lose some" fighter who has faced a relative who's who of female boxing, with bouts against the likes of Tenkai Tsunami, Cai Zong Ju, Ayaka Miyao, and Kumiko Seeser Ikehara. Sadly she is far too small for Light Flyweight, and it's a shame her career hasn't been spent fighting at Atomweight. The 26 year old Estrada is less well known than Abaniel, but is unbaten, powerful and very promising. Coming in to this Estrada has won her last 4 by stoppage, and we whouldn't be surprised to see that run continue here against the talented, but under-powered Abaniel.