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.
This coming Sunday is a busy for Asian fight fans, with two shows in Japan and a show in Kazakhstan. None of the big names in action are big names, but there is a lot of talent in action across the three shows and a lot young, promising prospects in action.
Aioi Hall, Kariya, Aichi, Japan
For us the best of the action is expected to come from Aichi where Midori put on a show under the Green Dream banner. It's not a big show, but it should be a very interesting one.
The main event here will see the very well regarded Masanori Rikiishi (8-1, 4) look to continue his rise through the Japanese domestic scene as he takes on Soreike Taichi (7-3, 5). The very talented Rikiishi is one of the most promising Japanese Lightweights and it's going to be interesting to see where he goes next year, but for us this is very much a stay busy fight for him, before bigger and better bouts. As for Taichi he's a decent fighter, but it's hard to imagine him having success at Lightweight against someone as good as Rikishii.
In the main supporting bout Japanese ranked Flyweight Katsuya Murakami (8-2-1, 2) will be up against Kazunori Yorimasa (5-6-3, 2). Coming in to this Murakami will be looking to get his career back on track after a competitive loss last year to Yuga Inoue, and will be expected to pick up the win against a relatively over-matched Yorimasa. Although Yorimasa is unbeaten in his last 3 here's certainly no world beater and we don't see him being any kind of banana skin for Murakami.
Possibly the best looking match up on the show will see the hard hitting Mammoth Kazunori (6-2-1, 6) battle against Keisuke Iwasaki (4-2-1, 1) in a really good one. The hard hitting Kazunori scored a brutal KO last time we saw him, blasting out Lerdchai Chaiyawed, and he'll be looking to leave another mark here. Iwasaki is a much lighter puncher than Kazunori, but is the naturally bigger man, and his win over Ryuku Nagamine proved he had grit and determination. This could be a great bout between the power of Kazunori and the skills and toughness of Iwasaki.
This show is also set to feature a public work out from Japanese hopeful Mitsuro Tajima, who is expected to talk about his debut as well as show what he can do in the scheduled short work out.
EDION Arena Osaka, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
As well as the show in Kariya there is also a Japanese card in Osaka, as we move on in the West Japan Rookie of the Year. In total there 11 bouts set for this show, but we'll just quickly over a few of the more interesting ones.
At Flyweight we're going to be getting a 5 rounder between Hibiki Takano (4-2-1) and Yasuhiro Kanzaki (4-1, 1). The 22 year old Takano lost his first 2 of his first 3 bouts but has turned things around well and is 3-0-1 in his last 4 bouts, though he's yet to score a win against an opponent with a winning record. Kanzaki on the other hand has proven himself against better fighters, but was beaten last around a year ago and it'll be interesting to see how he fairs here, especially given his close win back in September against the debuting Daichi Morino.
In a Super Bantamweight bout Ren Nishimura (2-1) will take on the unbeaten Sora Fukunaga (6-0, 3), who many regard as one of the hot favourites for the All Japan Rookie of the Year crown. The 24 year old Nishimura was stopped in his debut, by Ryuya Tsugawa, and has since bounced back with two decision wins, including a razor thin one back in September. Fukunaga on the other hand debuted in 2018, won his first 3 bouts by decision and has started to find his power, with 3 success T/KO wins. A win for Nishimura here would be a genuine upset.
At Featherweight we'll see 22 year old Kakeru Mio (5-2, 3) look to build on a win in September as he takes on unbeaten puncher Takato Shibata (3-0, 3). After starting his career 3-0 Mio has struggled, and gone 2-2 in his last 4, however he did drop to Featherweight earlier this year and seems to be more suited to the lighter weight. Shibata on the other hand is unbeaten and has been destroying fighters, taking out his first 3 opponents in just 3 rounds. We suspect this will be a test for Shibata, but if his power is legit it's hard to bet against him here.
Up at Middleweight Mitsuyoshi Oshima (2-0) will clash with Katsuhiro Nakata (3-0, 2) in a bout between unbeaten 160lb fighters. Whilst Middleweight is rarely division that gets much attention in Japan it is a division where Rookie of the Year fighters can be moved quickly, and both men will know a win here and they could, potentially, be just 4 or 5 fights from a Japanese title fight. Going in Nakata will be the favourite, and he appears to have most of the advantages, however the 31 year old Oshima will know a loss here will likely end any hope he has for getting a big fight in the future.
Tynyshpayev Academy of Transport and Communications, Almaty, Kazakhstan
As well as the action in Japan there is also a show in Kazakhstan. The card is full of novices, but still manages, some how, to a quadruple title show, with 4 minor titles on the show.
At 154lbs we'll see Miras Ertanov (1-0) take on Daryn Imakhanov (1-0) in a bout for the WBC Asian Boxing Council Silver title. Whilst we love to see fighters on the fast track, we also like to see fighters doing something to earn a chance, and in reality neither of these men have done anything to deserve a title fight. Both won 6 round debuts on September 23, and are being rushed into the ring against each other to seemingly fill a vacancy. Something you'll see with all 4 of the title bouts here.
Another bout at 154lbs will see Nurbol Sultanbay (2-0, 1) and Yerasyl Akranbek (1-0) battle for the WBO Asia Pacific Youth title, which has never previously been fought for. Akranbek was another fighter who debuted on September 23rd, taking a split decision in his debut, whilst Sultanbay debuted in February and picked up his second win September. Despite the extra experienced Sultanbay's first two opponents were both debutants.
A second WBO Asia Pacific Youth champion will be crowned at Super Featherweight as Torgynbek Amirov (1-0) and Nurbolat Bekbauov (1-0, 1) both clash in their second professional bouts. We don't think anyone will be surprised by this, but both of these men debuted on September 23rd, and beat novices. Interestingly this particular title does have some history. In fact it dates way back to 2007 and has been held by the likes of William Kicket, Allan Tanada, Nathaniel May and Joe Noynay.
Amazingly the title bout with the most experience between the fighters is a bout between Nursultan Isakhan (1-0, 1) and Alimzhan Tursunov (3-0, 2), who will be battling for the WBC Asian Boxing Council Silver Super Featherweight title. The 20 year old Tursonov, with 3 bouts, is the second most experienced man on the entire show. Tursonov debuted in 2019, scored 2 wins before the year was over, and also on the September 23rd card. That September card was also the one that Isakhan made his debut on.
Whilst some of the fighters involved in the title bouts may have been good amateurs it's hard to understand how 8 men, with a combined 11 bouts, have all qualified for these minor, and currently vacant, titles. A bit of a farce for all involved.
Capio, Tsukuba, Ibaragi, Japan
This coming Sunday we see two cards in Japan. Neither are big, though the most notable of those comes from Ibaragi.
The main event will see former Japanese title challenger Tatsuya Takahashi (31-9-6, 21) take on Hibiki Jogo (10-2, 5) in an 8 round match up. Aged 31 Takahashi is probably coming to the end of his career, but the teak tough and exciting Bantamweight may manage to have one more charge towards a title fight. Takahashi is currently in the JBC and WBO Asia Pacific rankings, but will know a loss here would likely see him being removed from those. Jogo on the other hand came runner up in the 2016 Rookie of the Year and despite a set back in 2018 has won 3 in a row to give him some momentum here. We suspect Takahashi will be the favourite here, but we do imagine he'll have to work for the win.
In a brilliant Light Flyweight bout we'll see 2018 Rookie of the Year winner Daiki Kameyama (7-4-1, 2) take on the very, very highly regarded and talented youngster Ryu Horikawa (2-0-1, 1). This has the potential to be the show stealing bout here. Since winning Rookie of the Year Kameyama has struggled for form, losing to Shokichi Iwata and Yuga Inoue, but will see this as a chance to end that slide. Horikawa on the other hand looked sensational in his win over Yuki Nakajima and was very unlucky last time out against Xiang Li, in a draw. This could be a very exciting bout.
The third bout of real interest here will see 2019 Rookie of the Year runner up Yuta Ashina (4-2) take on Yuya Nemoto (6-8-3, 1). Despite losing last December Ashina showed enough to want to follow him and it'll be interesting to see how he looks here, and he's incredibly exciting for those who haven't seen him. Aged 34 and with just 1 win in his last 7 it's easy to assume that Nemoto isn't won't be competitive, but Nemoto did score a win last time out and is unbeaten in his last 3. We suspect Ashina will be asked questions by the veteran, but should still take the win here with his aggression and work rate
Green Tsuda Gym, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
The other Japanese card is a West Japan Rookie of the Year show from the Green Tsuada Gym, with 9 bouts on this card. This is the second Rookie of the Year card at the Osakan gym in recent days, following one last weekend.
The most interesting of the bouts on this show, for us, is a Super Bantamweight clash between the unbeaten Sora Fukunaga (5-0, 2) and the stop of be stopped Shuya Kuwabuchi (2-1, 2). The 22 year old Fukunaga debuted in 2018 and since then has barely dropped a round, and shown improving power, stopping his last 2. Kuwabuchi on the other hand has yet to see the final bell, but was stopped last time out. We expect fireworks here.
Another Rookie bout on this card worthy of attention will be the debut of Daichi Morino (0-0), who takes on 20 year old Yasuhiro Kanzaki (3-1, 1) at Flyweight. Morino turns pro after running up a 2-1 amateur record and it'll be interesting to see how he looks here as he begins his professional career. As for Kanzaki he started his career perfectly, with 3 straight wins, but did lose last time out and will be desperate to get back to winning ways here.
Osaka Teiken put on their next show this coming Sunday, and whilst it's not a big one it is one with a couple of bouts that have caught our attention.
One of those bouts will see Japanese ranked Featherweight Yuri Takemoto (7-1-1, 4) taking on Yoshiyuki Takabayashi (9-10-1, 4) in an 8 round bout. The talented Takemoto lost early in his career,m in his second bout, but has since gone 6-0-1 and won the All Japan Rooki of the Year last year, when he beat Hikari Mineta in the final. He's tipped as one to watch and should have the tools to shine here. Takabayashi on the other hand is a 30 year old veteran who has 20 bouts behind him, and has mixed with good company, including the likes of Shota Hayashi, Ye Joon Kim, Yuta Saito and Gakuya Furuhashi. Sadly for Takabayashi he has come up short against his most notable opponents and this is likely to continue here.
Unbeaten youngster Sora Fukunaga (3-0) is also worth making a note of here, and he to repeat his June win over Yuto Nonoguchi (3-4, 1). Although not very well known the 21 year old Fukunaga is a talented youngster who debuted just a year ago and is still really trying to find his footing. In June he did take a very clear win over Nonoguchi, but will be looking for an even clearer win this time out.