Super Arena, Saitama, Saitama, Japan
This coming Tuesday is one of the most anticipated days of the boxing calendar this year with a huge rematch taking place in Saitama, along with two other title bouts and notable bouts for two other prospects in what is a genuinely mouth watering Japanese show.
The main event of the card is a sensational match up as WBA "Super" IBF and Ring Magazine Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (22-0, 19) takes on WBC champion Nonito Donaire (42-6, 28) in a highly anticipated rematch. The two men had an instant classic in 2019, when Inoue dropped Donaire en route to a unanimous decision, in the WBSS Bantamweight final. That bout was however Inoue's toughest and the Monster suffered a number of serious injuries in the bout despite his win. Since then both men have looked destructive, with Inoue going 3-0 (3) and Donaire going 2-0 (2) and they come into this bout unifying 3 of the 4 major world titles. This is a bout that should have skills, fireworks and genuine excitement. Our in depth preview of this bout is available here The Drama In Saitama II - Inoue Vs Donaire "The Rematch"
In the chief support bout Andy Hiraoka (19-0, 14) will be defending his Japanese 140lb title against the hard hitting Shun Akaiwa (7-3-1, 5), in what is expected to be bit of a break out bout for Hiraoka. The talented, and world ranked, Hiraoka is expected to move towards major international bouts in the next year or two and a win over Akaiwa on a bit platform like this show is key to helping him build his profile. Although Hiraoka will be the favourite it is worth noting that Akaiwa is no push-over and he will be there looking to over-come Hiraoka and claim a career best win. Akaiwa will be dangerous, can hurt fighters, but we suspect his lack of overall polish will be the difference maker here. Our preview of this bout can be read here Hiraoka defends Japanese title against Akaiwa
Another major supporting bout will see former world title challenger Takuma Inoue (15-1, 3) face off with Gakuya Furuhashi (28-8-2, 16) in a bout to unify the WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese Super Bantamweight titles. Coming in to this Inoue, the younger brother of Naoya, will be the favourite, and is expected to have the skills, speed and energy to take home the win, however Furuhashi has been on a roll in recent years and comes into this looking to make a war and keep his career alive. The bout should be a brilliant clash of styles with a boxer against a swarmer, and it could, genuinely, be a brilliant tease for the main event, even if international fans aren't too familiar with Furuhashi, who is a genuine warrior. Our in depth preview of this bout can be read here WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese titles to be unified as Inoue faces Furuhashi
In a notable, and mouth watering, non-title bout we'll see the highly touted Toshiya Ishii (5-1, 3) take on Hikaru Fukunaga (9-2, 6) in what is a brilliant teaser for the three title bouts. Ishii is widely regarded within Japan as a special talent, and his sole loss was a very controversial one to Sho Ishida in Osaka, one that we felt he was very harshly treat by the judges. Since then he has scored two solid domestic wins and will know that another win here will put him well in the mix for a Japanese title fight. As for Fukunaga, who won Rookie of the Year in 2020, the bout comes on the back of a good TKO win over Dominique Kenshin, and he also proved his quality last year in a loss to the much touted Rentaro Kimura. This won't steal the show, but is an excellent 8 rounder between two young, talented, promising fighters willing to take on tough tests.
Another of the notable prospects on this card is the unbeaten 19 year old hopeful Kanamu Sakama (5-0, 4), who won the All Japan Rookie of the Year back in February, as he takes on Fuki Ishigaki (4-4, 2). The bout will be Sakama's first contest since he won the Rookie of the Year and see him coming in with plenty of momentum and a lot of expectation on his hard hitting shoulders. As for Ishigaki the bout will be his first since losing in December against Daisuke Sumita, who stopped him in 4 rounders. Sakama should be too good, and too big, but we do expect to see him being made to work for his win here.
This coming Thursday we'll see the next show from Misako, and although it's not a big show, it's an interesting one, with two ranked fighters, a several fights which could be exciting and explosive.
The first notable bout will be fought at a contracted 61KG's, around 156.5lbs, and will see Kentaro Miyamoto (4-2, 2) take on Eiki Kani (4-1-2, 1) in an interesting contest between two men at very different points in their careers. In one corner is a 35 year old southpaw, Miyamoto, who began his career back in 2009, and took a 10 year sabbatical, from 2011 to 2021, before starting something of a comeback late last year. The 20 year old Kani on the other hand debuted in 2019 and reached the All Japan Rookie of the Year final last year, losing to Katsuhiro Nakata in February. In his performances so far Kani has looked exciting, promising and fun to watch. As with most Japanese fights around the Middleweight division this should be low level, but fun, exciting and a bit of a brawl, and we suspect the youth of Kani will be the difference maker.
Talking about potential brawls, we could end up with an explosive one as the hard hitting Hayato Ono (8-4-1, 8) takes on JBC ranked Lightweight Kei Iwahara (10-7, 5). The heavy handed Ono has failed to win any of his last 3, though is hard hitting and will feel he has the power to take out the naturally smaller Iwahara. As for Iwahara he has lost his last two, and will know that if he comes up short here he will likely lose his Japanese ranking. Notably Iwahara has shown questionable durability and that could be a major issue here, though he is the more talented fighter.
Another Japanese ranked fighter on this card is Hokuto Matsumoto (7-4-1, 1), who takes on Shun Akaiwa (6-3-1, 4) in the main event of the card, at 140lbs. Matsumoto has struggled in recent fights, gong 2-3-1 in his last 6, but has shown his ability with a good win over Shinnosuke Saito last year and a good draw with Ryuji Ikeda, also last year. Sadly for him he lacks power and will find it hard against the top domestic fighters at 140lbs. As for Akaiwa he is upset minded, as we saw in 2020 against Kenta Endo, but he hasn't looked great in recent bouts and has lost 2 of his last 3. This one is is an interesting one, that could go either way, and is rightfully the main event of a decent lower level domestic card.
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.