Shinjuku FACE, Tokyo, Japan
We turn our attention back to Japan to end the month, and we get treat very nicely thanks to A-Sign boxing who are putting on a live stream of their event from the Shinjuku Face in Tokyo. The event isn't a massive card, but it is a compelling card, featuring a nice mix of prospects, domestic hopefuls and the Japanese debut of a fighter who has, until now, been fighting entirely in the west.
In the main event we'll see veteran Shoki Sakai (23-11-2, 13) make his Japanese debut after more than 30 fights in Mexico and the US. The tough and rugged Sakai was once a fighter with a genuine hunger and ambition, but in recent years he has been used as a gatekeeper of sorts in the West. He has lost his last 4, though managed to ask questions of Genero Gamez, Eddie Gomez, Alexis Rocha and Gor Yeritsyan and has proven his value as a genuine trial horse. For his Japanese debut he is being matched some what easier than he has been in the West as he takes on Hironori Shigeta (6-1-1, 3), who is best known for winning the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year, at Welterweight, though he has failed to kick on since then and has fought just twice since that Rookie triumph. Shigeta is unbeaten in his last 7 but this is a serious step up in class for him.
One of the best prospects on this card is unbeaten teenage Jin Sasaki (7-0, 6), who turned 19 in July. The talented Sasaki will be taking a big step up, as he takes on Shun Akaiwa (5-1-1, 3), who answered what was essentially an open challenge by the promoters of the event. Sasaki has shown a lot to be excited about, including power, skills and timing, though unfortunately had to pull out of the East Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2019. The youngster is tipped for big things but this is expected to be a real test. Akaiwa enters the bout ranked #13 by the JBC at 140lbs and has won his last 3, which has seen him avenge his sole defeat and score a shock TKO win over Kenta Endo. This is a genuinely serious test for Sasaki and a win here will give him a huge boost after the disappointing end to his Rookie of the Year journey last year. A win for Akaiwa on the other hand will continue his great form and move him a step closer to a title fight. This is a real 50-50 type bout.
In a bout that could, potentially, be an explosive bout we'll see Ryugo Ushijima (3-1-2, 2) and Ryukyu Oho (6-3, 3) battle in a 6 rounder. We were impressed and frustrated by Ushijima last year. His bout with Shota Ogasawara was an instant classic, but he then went 0-1-2 for the rest of the year, and failed to show any real development. Aged 19 and stood at 5'10" he is very much a growing boy and not the complete product, but we do need to start to see some improvements from the youngster, who has the size and frame to be a genuine prospect, despite his current record. Oho on the other hand has struggled for form recently, losing 2 of his last 3 including a 2018 Rookie of the Year bout with Hikari Mineta. This has the potential to be the hidden gem on the card with both men desperate to get a win.
The 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year Super Featherweight king Hyoga Taniguchi (3-2-2, 1) will be up against Yoshiki Tatsukami (4-6-1), in what will be Taniguchi's first bout since his Rookie triumph in December. The 21 year old Taniguchi has got promise but his lack of power could be a major issue, unless he develops it in the coming years. Coming in to this Tatsukami has lost his last 3, but has generally asked questions of fighters, testing Mirai Naito and Hokuto Matsumoto. We expect Taniguchi to take the win, but this will not be easy for the youngster.
In an easy to over-look bout the limited but hard hitting Ken Koibuchi (5-4, 4) will be up against one of our favourite unheralded fighters Takuya Yamaguchi (4-11-2, 2). Coming in to this Koibuchi has lost 3 of his last 4 but two of those were razor thin decisions and he's certainly better than his record suggests. Yamaguchi on the other hand is a very likable loser, and the recent A-Sign documentary on him is brilliant, insightful and opens a door into the life of someone who has charmed us in recent years. We suspect Koibuchi will have too much for the 34 year old Yamaguchi.
In a Rookie of the Year bout we'll see the unbeaten and charismatic Kosuke Tomioka (2-0, 2) in action against Shota Hara (2-2-1). Although he's still only a boxing baby Tomioka has been receiving a lot of attention for his exciting style and unique in ring flair, which we hope to see more of here. Hara is the older man, but is very much coming into this bout as the under-dog and we suspect he will struggle, despite having an under-rated counter punchers game.
This coming Friday is a really notable one, with a lot of exciting action, even with the biggest bout of the weekend, for us, being cancelled.
New York, USA
The bout that was cancelled, would have seen the unified Super Bantamweight champion Daniel Roman (27-2-1, 10) defending his WBA "super" and IBF titles against fast rising Uzbek amateur standout Murodjon Akhmadaliev (6-0, 5). Sadly this was called off due to an injury to Roman, however the plan seems to be to reschedule the bout for when Roman is 100%.
Despite the main bout being called off the card will still feature 2016 Olympic gold medal winner Daniyar Yeleussinov (7-0, 3), who has promised a lot but is yet to truly shine as a professional. The unbeaten Kazakh will be up against unbeaten American Reshard Hicks (12-0-1, 6). On paper this looks a good test for the Kazakh but in reality he shouldn't struggle with Hicks, if he's as good as many hoped he'd be.
Due to the world title fight being called off in the US, the best card appears to be in Japan where we see a former world champion, a Japanese title fight, a Japanese youth title fight and a Japanese title eliminator.
The main event will see former WBO Super Featherweight world champion Masayuki Ito (25-2-1, 13) fight for the first time since losing his belt to Jamel Herring. The talented Ito will be up against Indonesian foe Ruben Manakane (25-18-1, 14), who despite only being 26 will be fighting in his 45th pro bout. This is expected to be an easy win for Ito, who is flirting with the Lightweight division, but it's clear there is a lot to work on given before he returns to facing world class opposition, at least based on his performance against Herring. Despite this being a pretty obvious mismatch Manakane does enter as the Indonesian champion and is 7-1 in his last 8.
Despite the main event being a mismatch the supporting card is solid with the best of the bouts being a Japanese Featherweight title bout, with Reiya Abe (19-1-2, 9) and Ryo Sagawa (7-1, 4) battling for the title that Taiki Minamoto vacated earlier in the year. This has the hall marks of a very, very special bout with both fighters being very highly skilled but having different styles and mentalities. Abe is the more pure counter puncher, a sharp shooting, back foot fighter, whilst Sagawa is a more offensively minded boxer-puncher. These style really should gel and the two fighters will both be looking for their most significant win to date. This could be one of the most thrilling bouts of the month. Our preview of this bout is available to read here Abe and Sagawa battle to crown new Japanese Featherweight champion!
In what looks likely to be an exciting brawl we'll see Gakuya Furuhashi (25-8-1, 14) and Ryoichi Tamura (12-4-1, 6) battle in a JBC Super Bantamweight eliminator. The experienced Furuhashi is trying to secure a third Japanese title fight but will be the under-dog here against Tamura, who held the title earlier this year. Furuhashi is a solid national contender but he has been in tough bouts through his career and it's hard to know what he has left in the tank. On the other hand Tamura's last 2 bouts have been really hard wars, with his last bout being a brutal war with Yusaku Kuga, and they may well have added a lot of miles to his clock. A preview of this bout can be read here Tamura and Furuhashi to battle in eliminator!
A second title fight will see fast rising youngsters Rikito Shiba (3-0, 2) and Shisui Kawabata (2-0, 2) battle for the JBC Youth Light Flyweight title. Both of these youngsters are tipped for big things, and in fact Shiba is pencilled in for a Japanese title eliminator later in the year, so to see them clash at this point is rather surprising, despite the Youth title. So far Shiba has looked the better fighter, and he really does look the goods, however Kawabata has sparred with Naoya Inoue among others and is very highly regarded. This could be another thriller. Our preview of this contest is here Shiba and Kawabata face off for Japanese youth title!
The rest of the card is full of small but still interesting bouts. These include a battle between Japanese ranked fighters, as Kanehiro Nakagawa (7-6, 4) looks to build on a career best win against Seiichi Okada as he takes on Ryuto Araya (13-7-1, 4). Other smaller bouts on this card include Satoru Goto (4-4-2) taking on the unbeaten Ryugo Ushijima (3-0-1, 2) and the debuting Taison Morishita (0-0) battling Kojiro Nishikawa (5-1, 2) in a tough 6 round debut.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Another notable fighter pencilled in for the day is former world title challenger Muhammad Waseem (8-1, 6), who will be in action in Dubai. Sadly at the time of writing his opponent hasn't yet been announced.