Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
This coming Sunday we will see last year's All Japan Rookie of the Year tournament come to an end, ending a tournament that has seen it's final pushed back 2 months, from it's original December date, due to Covid19. Despite the delay the finals are still set to be something special, and will be shown live on G+, though sadly the event will be a fan-less one.
Rather than going through the full card, which will feature 12 bouts in total, we'll just talk about a few that we think will be the most fun to watch, or have the best long term prospects involved.
The first bout we think could be a little bit special is the Super Flyweight bout, which will see Shunpei Kubo (6-1-1, 4) clash with Taichi Sugimoto (6-0-1, 1). To reach this bout Kubo had to upset Kosuke Tomioka in the East Japan final, in what was a genuine surprise, and he'll be flying high here. Despite his loss, suffered in 2019, Kubo has gone 4 fights unbeaten and will feel a huge boost of confidence following the win over the highly fancied Tomioka. Sugimoto on the other hand is a 22 year old who drew his secnd professional bout, but has since bounced back with 5 straight wins, and has shown he's very comfortable with the 4 round distance.
At Super Bantamweight Yuki Yazan (7-2, 4) will battle the unbeaten Sora Fukunaga (8-0, 4) in a really good looking match up. The 29 year old Yazan has won his last 4 and was incredibly active last year, fighting 4 times in 2020. Despite that he did struggle in one of those bouts, but his route to the Rookie of the Year final did look rather easy, as he barely lost a round in his 3 Rookie bouts. Fukunaga on the other hand is 23 years old, has stopped 4 of his last 5 though did struggle against Ren Nishimura in November, and it's clear that if he can't take opponents out he might be well struggle.
In the Super Featherweight bout the heavy handed Tsubasa Narai (6-0, 5) will take on fellow unbeaten fighter Seika Fukuda (5-0, 1). The 21 year old Narai has been really impressive in the Rookie of the Year, reaching the all Japan final with 3 straight stoppage wins, and it's clear he'll enter with the confidence of a man in great form and self belief. Fukuda on the other hand is a 21 year old non puncher. Despite not having much in terms of power Fukuda looked very good last time out, and, as an unbeaten fighter himself, will also be full of confidence. This should be a very interesting match up.
Another match up pitting unbeaten men against each other will see Eiki Kani (3-0-2, 1) take on Katsuhiro Nakata (5-0, 4). The 19 year old Kani reached the final following a brilliant 4 round bout with Kenji Yoshino, and he has shown an aggressive, exciting style, but it looks like he can be hurt. At 19 he is still a kid, but he has a very, very fan friendly style and will mature into a better fighter in the years to come. Nakata on the other hand is 29 years old and is an out and out puncher, with 4 stoppages in his 5 career bouts. If Kani gets into a fire fight he could be in trouble but his tenacity could be a problem for Nakata, and this could be a very, very explosive match up.
For a third day in a row we get world title action this Sunday as South Africa plays host to an interesting match at world level. As well as the action in South Africa we also get Rookie of the Year action in Japan and a card in India in what a very nice Sunday for fight fans, coming off back to back busy days!
Olive Convention Centre, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
The would title bout in question will see IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (39-2, 26) looking to make his 4th defense as he takes on unbeaten Filipino youngster Jayson Mama (15-0, 8). The bout isn't just a normal defense for the well travelled Mthalane but will be his first professional bout in his home area of KWa-Zulu-Natal, and is set to be an emotional night for the veteran. Aged 38 it's hard to know how much longer Mthalane can go on, though he has rarely come close to losing since his 2008 defeat to Nonito Donaire. At 23 years old Mama is the much, much younger fighter, though their is perhaps some concern he is getting this fight too soon, and wins against the likes of Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr and Kwanthai Sithmoreseng haven't done enough to prepare him for someone as talented, experienced and battle hardened as Mthalane. Our full, in depth, preview of this bout can be read here Unbeaten Mama takes on South African great Mthalane for IBF title
*At the time of publishing there is RUMOURS that Mthalane Vs Mama has been cancelled - we are currently awaiting an official confirmation from the promoter of either man. Please keep an eye out for updates regarding this world title bout.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
As well as the high profile action in South Africa we also get the annual East Japan Rookie of the Year final over in the Japanese capital. Originally there was 12 bouts scheduled for this show, but the Light Flyweight bout has been cancelled, leaving us with just 11.
Before we get on to the bouts, it should be noted that any match up on this show where both fighters have at least 4 wins, will be fought over 5 rounds, and not 4 as listed on Boxrec at the time of writing.
The stand out bout on the show will be a clash between teenage sensation Kosuke Tomioka (4-0, 3) and Shunpei Kubo (5-1-1, 3), who meet at Super Flyweight. Since the tournament began Tomioka, a stylish and exciting youngster, has been tipped as the favourite and has barely lost a minute on route to the final. Kubo on the other hand wasn't given too much of a chance, but has impressed during the tournament and will go in there knowing that a win would really build his career. Potentially a very interesting bout, with Tomioka's counter punching and speed going up against Kubo's aggression and work rate.
Staying with the little guys we expect explosive action with a match up between Shugo Namura (4-0, 4) and Akira Hoshuyama (3-0, 2), who clash in a very good looking Flyweight bout. The heavy handed Namura, managed by former world title challenger Hiroyuki Sakamoto, has stopped all 4 of his opponents in the first 2 rounds and looks to be a really destructive and fun fighter. Hoshuyama has himself looked hard hitting, but also looked a solid boxer last time out and should make for a brilliant dance partner for Namaura. This could be a very violent and thrilling action bout.
At Lightweight we'll see American born Japanese based Dominique Kenshin (5-1, 2) take on unbeaten puncher Tsubasa Narai (5-0, 4). Kenshin caught our eye last year, but ended 2019 with an opening round loss to Hiro Ichimichi which took some shine off him. Since then however he has picked up 2 wins and does look a strong and powerful fighter. Narai on the other hand has been on a tear with 4 stoppages in 5 bout and will feel confident of repeating which Ichimichi did to Kenshin last year.
Marine Centre Club, Mumbai, India
We also get low level action in India, where most of the bouts will be 4 rounders. The one exception is the clash between the unbeaten pairing of Mohammed Zekria Zamani (4-0, 2) and Sagar Chaudhary (2-0, 1) at Welterweight. The 22 year old Zamani is an Afghan fighter who debuted in 2019, in India, and has also fought in Thailand, albeit against novices. Chaudhary on the other hand is a native Indian and in his last bout won a 4 rounder by incredibly wide margins, including 10 points on one card.