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 Thursday fight fans in the US will get the chance to see one Asian fighters in action, with 2 different shows.
The most notable of the two contests features a Mexican based Japanese fighter taking on an unbeaten prospect. The unbeaten prospect is 21 year old American fighter Alexis Rocha (12-0, 8), who will be defending his WBC Continental Americas Welterweight title, as he takes on Japanese fighter Shoki Sakai (23-9-2, 13). The 28 year old Sakai has gone 0-2-1 in his last 3, but will be a live underdog here and could score his first win since beating Ashley Theophane in 2017.
The biggest card of the weekend comes form Cebu and is a stacked ALA card.
The main event of the card will see former world title challengers Milan Melindo (34-2, 12) and Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr (31-4-1, 16) face off to crown a new IBF “interim” Light Flyweight champion, and decide the mandatory challenger for current world champion Akira Yaegashi. Melindo, fighting in his third world title fight, should be favoured here but Fahlan has put in his best performances as the under-dog, and the Thai is of course best known for upsetting Ryo Miyazaki. The bout should be a really intriguing one given the match up, and the fact that the winner moves into a world title bout this is an incredibly significant bout.
In a support bout will see the world ranked Jason Pagara (39-2, 24) battle former world champion Jose Alfaro (28-10-1-2, 24) in an interesting 10 rounder. Alfaro is a long way removed from his short reign as the WBA Lightweight world champion, but still has power and could still hurt Pagara who has shown himself to be a genuine world class fight. Sadly for Alfaro his only chance is a puncher's chance.
Staying with the Pagara family another bout will see the once beaten Albert Pagara (26-1, 18), who was last seen being stopped by Cesar Juaez, take on the tough but limited Raymond Commey (16-3, 9), who we saw lose to Qiu Xiao Jun not too long ago. The bout is a big question of Pagara's mental state, and whilst he should be favoured there is some worries that he will be damaged goods given the way he couldn't see Juarez and was stopped himself as Juarez rode the storm and came back strongly. Commey appears to be very durable and could be a real nightmare down the stretch for Pagara.
A really interesting looking all Filipino under-card bout will see former OPBF title challenger Jimmy Paypa (18-3-1, 6) battle the under-rated Jerry Nardo (21-9, 11) in what could potentially help decide a future OPBF title challenger. On paper Paypa should be favoured, especially given that Nardo has gone 2-5 in his last 7, but Nardo can spring upsets at domestic level and this bout could be a banana skin for Paypa.
Another good looking all-Filipino domestic bout will see Jeo Santisima (11-2, 10) face recent OPBF challenger Rex Wao (11-3, 9) in what look like a potentially explosive bout between very well matched fighters, at least on paper.
One of the most promising Filipino fighters is Kevin Jake Cataraja (4-0, 3) who looks for win #5 as he takes on the more experienced John Kenan Villaflor (6-1-2, 2) on a minor step up, and will hopefully be Cataraja's final bout before being stepped up. Another unbeaten hopeful in action here is the big punching Melvin Jerusalem (10-0, 7), who takes on Bonjun Loperez (10-5-1, 5) in a bit of a stay busy bout for the unbeaten youngster.
A second Filipino card of the day comes from Batangas.
In the headline bout on this card we'll see a rematched between the experienced Roberto Gonzales (27-2, 17) and Ryan Sermona (19-8, 12), who fight for the GAB Lightweight title. On paper it looks like a straight forward first defense for Gonzalez, who has won his last and 7 bouts, however he was stopped by Sermona when the two men first fought back in May 2012 and Sermona will be confident of scoring a second win over Gonzalez.
In an interesting match up we'll see the experienced Al Sabaupan (25-2-1, 20) battle Jheritz Chavez (5-1-2, 3) in a real cross roads. Sabaupan had once been tipped as a world title contender but losses in 2012 and 2013 ended those hopes. Sabaupan has won his last 5 but hasn't shown his early promise in recent years and has only fought twice in he last 25 months. Chavez was beaten last time out but is unbeaten at home and could prove to be a total handful for Sabuapan.
Another bout on the show will see Glenn Porras (29-4, 17) battle against the very limited Jayar Estremos (10-12, 4). Porras was beaten just 2 fights back, though that was back in December 2012 and he has did return to winning ways last time out. Estremos is a very limited fighter and it would be a huge surprise for him to test Porras, even with Porras' recent lack of activity.
Icheon City, South Korea
In South Korea fans will see former world champion Eun Hye Lee (8-1, 3) battle against Thailand's Nongnun Mor Krungthepthonburi (5-3-1) in a bout for the WIBA Flyweight title. Lee was unlucky to not become a 2-weight world champion this year, losing a controversial bout to Nana Yoshikawa. The Thai will be the huge under-dog and we can't see how she wins here.
In Mexico we'll see Japanese born, Mexican based, Shoki Sakai (21-6-1, 13) face off with Jose Lopez (26-6-2, 15) in a really well matched bout. Sakai has suffered back-to-back setbacks, albeit controversial ones, and will be looking to score his second win of the year. Whilst Sakai has been unfortunate this year Lopez had been in a bad run of form, going 1-3-1 in his last 5 bouts over the last 14 months.
This Saturday sees a lack of action actually in Asia but there is a couple of Asian fighters in action making a note of.
One of those is upset minded Filipino Rey Labao (27-8, 18) who fights in Russia against the unbeaten Russian based Armenian born Petros Ananyan (6-0-2, 3). This an easy looking bout for Labao however Ananyan has been fighting at Welterweight and scored notable results over Vaginak Tamrazyanm Baxrom Oayazov and Uktamjon Rahmonov. Labao holds wins over Masao Nakamura, Daiki Koide and Jay Solmiano and so will be confident of picking up a win here, though has lost 3 of his last 4.
Distrito Federal, Mexico
In Mexico fight fans will be able to see Mexican based Japanese fighter Shoki Sakai (21-5, 13) battle against Luis Jesus Vidales Gutierrez (9-4, 5). On paper the under-rated Sakai should be favoured however Gutierrez has proven to be an upsetter himself with wins over the likes of Ernesto Ortiz, then 9-0, and Antonio Moran, then 16-0. Sakai is coming in to this one on the back of a win in his US debut and will be looking to secure his 5th straight win.
Recent weeks have seen a rise in fights of note, and that's certainly the case this coming Saturday with a host of fights featuring Asian fighters, 3 of which feature world title bouts.
The most notable of those world title bouts comes in California as Middleweight kingpin Gennady Golovkin (34-0, 21) defends his WBA “super”, IBF and WBC “interim” titles against IBF mandatory challenger Dominic Wade (18-0, 12). The bout pits unbeaten fighters together but the reality is that the bout is widely seen as a mismatch with Golovkin a clear favourite and a man who is simply destroying the contenders at 160lbs as he continues to hunt more titles and unifications bouts.
Another of the world title bouts headlines a card in the Philippines and, like the bout in California, this one is also viewed as a mismatch.
The world title bout in question will see WBO Super Bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire (36-3, 23) defending his title against the very unqualified Hungarian challenger Zsolt Bedak (25-1, 8). For Donaire the bout will be his first since reclaiming the title in December, winning a very competitive bout with Cesar Juarez, and it's an easy first defense if we're being honest. Bedak has only lost once, losing by 10th round TKO to Wilfredo Vazquez Jr, but has done nothing since that loss to deserve a world title fight.
Whilst the world title bout on this show is likely to be a exercise in pointlessness for the champion the show does feature a really tasty looking support bout as the touted Mark Magsayo (13-0, 10) battles former world title challenger Chris Avalos (26-4, 19) in a bout for the WBO International Featherweight title. Avalos has lost 2 of his last 3, by stoppage, but this should be a good test for Magsayo who is stepping up in quality fight by fight.
On the under card are several notable fighters, one of which is Light Welterweight contender Jason Pagara (37-2, 23) who faces off against Mexican Miguel Zamudio (35-8-1, 21), who is best known for his exploits down at Featherweight, where fought for a WBA interim title. Sadly given the natural size difference this looks to be another mismatch in favour of the local favourite who seems to be treading water.
Another undercard bout will see former world title challenger Rocky Fuentes (36-8-2, 21) ace off against Romnick Magos (12-5, 7, in what looks like a safe fight for Fuentes. The bout will be the “Road Warrior's” second contest since his stoppage loss to Roman Gonzalez in late 2014 and looks to be a case of staying busy rather than anything else. As for Magos the “Daredevil” will be looking for a career best result, though is unlikely to find it here.
The third world title fight to feature an Asian will see Filipino Richie Mepranum (31-4-1, 8) battle against WBC Super Flyweight champion Carlos Cuadras (34-0-1, 26). On paper this is a mismatch in favour of the Mexican champion, who is looking for his 6th defense of the title, but Mepranum has got experience at this level and holds a notable win over Hernan Marquez. Saying that however Cuadras should be too big and too good for the challenger. Notably however the winner of this will go into a mandatory title bout against Thailand's all action Srisaket Sor Rungvisai later in the year.
In the US fans will get their first chance to see Mexican based Japanese fighter Shoki Sakai (20-5, 13), who makes his US debut against Texan Carlos Villa (11-2-1, 6). The bout should be a win for the under-rated Sakai, though travelling to Villa's home state may make things difficult for Sakai,
Metro Manila, Philippines
Back in the Philippines fans get a low level domestic card, with the most notable bout being a contest between former world ranked fighter Renan Trongco (17-6, 10) and domestic journeyman Ricky Oyan (4-27-2, 2), in what should be a straight forward win for Trongco.