Super Arena, Saitama, Saitama, Japan
This coming Saturday is set to be one of the biggest days in Asian boxing this year, as we get a hugely anticipated card from Saitama, headlined by a long over-due Middleweight unification bout between two fan friendly and aggressive fighters. Not only is the main event a great one, but the card in general is also a mouth watering one., with a second world title bout and a regional title bout.
The main bout on the card is the rescheduled bout between hard hitting Kazakh Middleweight star Gennadiy Golovkin (41-1-1, 36) and Japanese star Ryota Murata (16-2, 13), who were meant to clash on December 29th before the Japanese government made the bout impossible to stage due to covid regulations. The bout will see Golovkin enter as the IBF champion, seeking his second defense of this current reign. Although he will be the big favourite coming in to this bout, he is now 40 years old, with well over 400 bouts in total, as an amateur and professional, and he's been out of the ring since the end of 2020. It may well be the right time to face him, given his battle with father time. As for Murata, this is the bout he's been chasing for years, and at the age of 36 it really is now or never for him to show what he's capable of. Like Golovkin we've also not seen Murata fight recently, with his last bout coming at the end of 2019, and we expect him to be rusty, but he is so much younger than Golovkin. In regards to this one, it could be a very brutal, explosive, hard, tough and rough bout, which will likely see bombs thrown by both, with both likely needing to prove their toughness in what could be a very can friendly bout. Our in depth preview of this super clash can be read here The Middleweight Division gets a super fight as Golovkin and Murata face off!
In another world title fight we'll see WBO Flyweight champion Junto Nakatani (22-0, 17) make his second defense, as he takes on the heavy handed Ryota Yamauchi (8-1, 7) in an all Japanese title fight. The talented Nakatani, arguably the best fighter at 112lbs, won the title in 2020, with a brilliant win over Giemel Magramo, but he has a frustrating reign with his single defense coming last year against Angel Acosta in the US, in a bout marred by a brutal cut to Acosta. It's clear Nakatani is a special fighter, but the 24 year old needs to have a big year now and begin to really establish his reign, which has had a faltering start due to the pandemic. As for Yamauchi, the aggressive, heavy handed 27 year old is a really fun fighter to watch, but also a defensively flawed one, who was dropped in his 2019 loss to Wulan Tuolehazi, and although he's had some good wins so far this is a major step up in class for him. This should be a very entertaining bout, but one where Nakatani will enter as the clear favourite, though for those wanting a more in depth look at this bout our preview can be read here Nakatani seeks second defense as he takes on aggressive Yamauchi!
In another major supporting bout we'll see regional Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (14-0, 11) defending his WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF titles against former WBO Super Featherweight world champion Masayuki Ito (27-3-1, 15). As with the Golovkin Vs Murata bout this was scheduled to take place last year, before being postponed when the December 29th card was cancelled, and much like that bout this is one that has got a lot of expectations on it, with over a year of back story. Whilst we won't go into all the backstory of the bout, it is worth getting very excited about with Yoshino looking to throw his hat into the ring for a major Lightweight bout, with the likes of George Kambosos, Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia or Vasyl Lomachenko. For Ito the bout is about rebuilding his career after recent losses to Jamel Herring and Hironori Mishiro. Like the main event this should be a very, very compelling 12 rounder, and one that will see skills and power punching on show. Our preview of this bout can be read here Double champion Yoshino faces former WBO king Ito
In an interesting under-card bout we'll see former amateur standout Kazuki Anaguchi (1-0,1) take on the hard hitting Ryuji Yamamoto (6-1, 6). Anaguchi made his debut last year, and did so with a good win over Atsushi Takada, and it's clear from that performance, and his amateur pedigree, that he has the potential to be moved quickly and moved towards title fighters sooner rather than late. As for Yamamoto the 23 year old is a heavy handed youngster, who stopped his first 5 opponents before suffering a close decision loss in 2017. Notably he was out of the ring for close to 4 years after that loss before returning last year and stopping Takahiro Murai, in a very good win. It'll be interesting to see how Yamamoto deals with the skills of Anaguchi, and whether Anaguchi can handle the power of Yamamoto in a very good under-card fighter.
Abeno Ward Center, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Staying in Japan there is also set to be a show in Osaka, with this show being a West Japan Rookie of the Year event.
This show has 8 bouts set for it, between Light Flyweight and Welterweight. We won't go into too much details for this show, though one bout that did catch out attention was the all debutant bout between Yuichi Ikeda (0-0) and Jop Mustafa Jom (0-0), who will be facing off at Welterweight. We expect this one will be a wild, and open brawl, with both men being youngsters each looking to kick off their career with an eye catching win. Maybe not an amazing bout, but it should be a very fan friendly one.
Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas, USA
We're not just getting unification bouts in Japan, as we also get a female world title bout in the US as Japanese female boxing legend Naoko Fujioka (19-2-1, 7) takes on Marlen Esparza (11-1, 1) in a bout to unify the WBA and WBC female Flyweight titles. For Fujioka this bout comes following her US debut win over Sulem Urbina last year and given her age it really is now or never for her to to make a name internationally and a win over Esparza would see her improve her already very impressive resume and reputation. As for Esparza the bout will serve as her second defense of the title, and will see her looking to build on an excellent 2021, which saw her beating Ibeth Zamora Silva and Anabel Ortiz. Given the styles of the two women this could end up being a genuinely thrilling action bout. Our full preview of this bout can be read here Fujioka and Esparza clash in Flyweight unification!
Also on this card will be a bout between the unbeaten pairing of Katsuma Akitsugi (8-0, 1) and Gregory Morales (13-0, 8). Akitsugi is a US based Japanese fighter who debuted back in 2018 and has already ended a number of unbeaten streaks, beating Arnold Dinong (then 7-0), Eros Correa (then 10-0) and Rasheem Brown (then 11-0) in his last 4 bouts. Morales on the other hand is a Mexican born American fighter who beat former world champion Rodrigo Guerrero last year, but has been feasting on limited or smaller men and will be stepping up in class here.
Rizal, Laguna, Philippines
As well as the action in Japan there's also a notable show in the Philippines, with a regional title bout in the headline bout, and several other notable contests. The show is certainly not a monster card, but it's a solid domestic level show for Pinoy fight fans.
The main event will see ArAr Andales (13-2, 5) take on Joey Canoy (17-5-1-1, 9) in a bout for the WBO Oriental Minimumweight title, with Andales seeking his first defense of the title. Of the two men Andales is more well known, having challenged Knockout CP Freshmart in 2019, and he has bounced back from back to back losses, to win his last 3, including his title win in 2021 against Minh Phat Sam. Andales is still just 22 years old and seems destined for another world title fight down the line. As for Canoy, he is one of the many Filipino fighters who's record is misleading with numerous close and controversial losses and notable wins against the likes of Melvin Jerusalem and Toto Landero. Given what we know of the two men this should be a very good fight, with two men each looking to move towards a major bout later in the year.
In a main supporting bout we'll see the hard hitting Weljon Mindoro (6-0, 6) take on the limited Jerwin Mejes (4-6-6, 3), in a scheduled 8 rounder. Mindoro debuted in 2019 and has never been beyond round 3 in his short career, though in fairness he has only faced very low level competition and this is a notable step up in class for him. As for Mejes, who has one of the oddest looking records in the sport, he has gone 0-4-4 in his last 8 though has been stopped in 4 of his 6 losses and will need to be wary of Mindoro's power early on.
One other notable bout on this card will see the once touted Al Sabaupan (26-3-1, 21) face off with the very limited Jason Egera (24-23-3, 11), with Sabaupan looking to get his career back on track with just his second fight since 2017. He was once regarded as a genuinely bright hopeful for Filipino boxing, but losses to Marvin Quintero, in 2012, and Ricardo Dominguez, in 2013, ended much of the hype around him. Although he's been inactive in recent years, he should have too much for the very poor Egera.
Others on this card include unbeaten 25 year old Ryan James Racaza (11-0, 7), who takes on Monico Laurente (30-17, 7), and 26 year old Denmark Quibido (11-0-1, 6), who takes on Jovel Romasasa (10-19, 4), with the unbeaten men in these bouts expected to extend their unbeaten runs.