Ota-City General Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
This coming Wednesday we are set to get a huge show in Tokyo, with a card that is, for the most part, Japan Vs Philippines. The show is headlined by a brilliant world title bout, and then features some really interesting match ups on one of the best Japanese cards of 2022.
The main event is a brilliant match up between Japanese star Kazuto Ioka (28-2, 15) and legendary Filipino Donnie Nietes (43-1-6, 23), with the men clashing for the WBO Super Flyweight title currently held by Ioka. The two men know each other fairly well, having clashed at the end of 2018 with Nietes taking a razor thin decision. Since then however Nietes' career has gone down hill with poor decision making, inactivity, injuries and poor management all costing him. Now aged 40 this is potentially the last big bout for him, however a win could secure him a long awaited showdown with Roman Gonzalez. As for Ioka, he has bounced back from the loss to Nietes to climb into the pound for pound rankings, and enhanced his already legendary status as a lower weight fighter and one of the all great Japanese fighters. This is set to be high level chess, and the winner will look to move towards divisional super fights. As for the loser, it's hard to see them bouncing back and getting another fight of note any time soon. Our in depth preview of this bout can be read here Ioka seeks revenge in rematch with Nietes!
The main support bout will see former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (17-2-1, 17) look to bounce back from his second loss, a unanimous decision loss to Ryosuke Nishida last year, as he takes on former WBO title challenger Froilan Saludar (32-5-1, 22). The talented, exciting and hard hitting Higa has had a rollercoaster 4 years or so, which has seen him going 2-2-1 (2) and been stripped of the WBC Flyweight title. Despite his downfall Higa is still popular and is one of the most exciting fighters in the sport to watch, with an ultra aggressive pressure style That style, and his power, should be too much for Saludar, but the Filipino visitor is no push over. Saludar, once tipped to be a huge star himself, has had something of a bad rep in recent years for losing in notable bouts to the likes of Andre Moloney, Ryoji Fukunaga, Sho Kimura and Takuma Inoue, and unfortunately for him losing against top contenders has really harmed his reputation. Despite that he's a dangerous fighter, with a high level of experience and ambitions to secure himself a top fight in the near future. He'll know that a win here opens major doors for him, whilst a loss will almost certainly push him into the status of a journeyman. A lot on the line with this bout, which could be a very compelling 8 rounder.
In another supporting bout we'll see former WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight champion Musashi Mori (12-1, 7) take on once beaten Filipino puncher Presco Carcosia (10-1-1, 9). For Mori the bout will be his first since May 2021, when he lost to Satoshi Shimizu, and despite the lengthy lay off the 22 year old isn't expected to show any real ring rust after training alongside Ioka, in what was likely the best training camp of his career. If he has learned from that camp, and the Shimizu fight, he should feel confident of over-coming the little known Carcosia. The Filipino lacks wins of note, but has a much vaunted powerful right hand, and his only loss was a debatable one in Australia, against Jai Alexander. Given his power and size Carcosia could well be a banana skin for Mori, but he will go in as the under-dog.
The big talking point for the under-card isn't Mori or Higa. Instead it's the debut of former amateur star Hayato Tsutsumi (0-0), who is widely regarded as a special talent similar to Naoya Inoue, Kazuto Ioka or Kosei Tanaka. The talented 22 year old is set to debut in a baptism of fire as he takes on the upset minded Jhon Gemino (23-13-1, 13), who enters with a #5 ranking with the OPBF, in an 8 rounder. As an amateur Tsutusmi was the stand out Japanese fighter of his generation, and those in Japan are touting him as their next legendary super prospect. Gemino on the other hand has a record that is very misleading, and over his long career he has long been one to shock prospects and hopefuls, beating the likes of Arnold Alejandro, Carlos Ornelas, Sho Nakazawa and Toka Kahn Clary all on his travels. If Tsutusmi is as good in the pros as he was in the amateurs he should win here, but if there's any cracks or if he's over looking Gemino, he could in for a major set back on his debut.
Another debutant on this card is 31 year old female fighter Satsuki Ito (0-0), who begins her professional career with a bout against Thai veteran Saowaluk Nareepangsri (11-18, 5). As an amateur Ito really made a mark, winning the All Japan Championship in 2009 and remaining as an amateur until 2018 when she originally retired from the sport. Last year she decided to turn professional, and passed her B license test, with the Shisei gym. Given her amateur background we're expecting a very impressive debut. As for Saowaluk, she has won her last 3 by TKO, but has been fighting at a very low level, and when she has stepped up she has regularly been stopped. She will enter as the under-dog, and will need a career best performance to even be competitive with Ito.