Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
The first Japanese show of 2021 comes to us this coming Thursday thanks to Hideyuki Ohashi who puts on the next show under the Phoenix Battle series. This is a card that has a brilliant main event, but really the key part of the card are the bouts below it, which are all intriguing bouts for touted prospects.
We'll start with the main event, which will see OPBF Bantamweight champion Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) defending his belt against former WBC "interim" Bantamweight champion Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3), in what is a puncher Vs Boxer bout. For the heavy handed Kurihara this will serve as his second defense, following his title win in late 2018 against Yuki Strong Kobayashi and a win here would likely see him taking huge strides towards a world title fight. As for Inoue this will be his first bout since losing to Nordine Oubaali in 2019. For Inoue a loss would be very hard to come back from, and he'll be incredibly focused here making for what should be an excellent match up. Our full, in depth, preview of this one can be read here Keita Kurihara Vs Takuma Inoue - The first big Japanese fight of 2021!
In an excellent looking 8 rounder we'll see the fast rising Katsuki Mori (7-0, 1) take on Sora Takeda (6-1, 1) in a battle between two Rookie of the Year winners. In 2018 Takeda won Rookie of the Year at 105lbs and since then has added two more wins to record, giving him a 6 fight winning streak since a loss on his 2017 debut. Mori won the Rookie of the Year in 2019, and has only fought once since then. Of the two men Mori seems to be the more promising man, who has shown more so far in his career, but this is certainly not a gimme either way.
One of two highly regarded novice prospects on this card is former Japanese amateur stand out Ryutaro Nakagaki (1-0, 1), who takes a huge step up in class from his debut to take on fellow southpaw Yuji Okinori (10-5-2, 3). The 21 year old Nakagaki is tipped as a future champion and was a stellar amateur on the Japanese scene before making his professional debut last year. When he turned professional the worry was about his power, but he showed he had plenty of pop on his debut. In Okinori we have we have a 27 year old who asks questions, and comes in with a bit of momentum following back to back TKO wins. We strongly favour Nakagaki, but this is a legitimate test.
The other highly regarded professional novice is Keisuke Matsumoto (1-0, 1), the son of former world title challenger Koji Matusmoto, who looks for his second win as he takes on Bejita Ishikawa (3-12-2, 1). Matsumoto was given a test on debut, and had to pull himself off the canvas to secure victory, though showed great composure and the mentality that should take him far in the sport. Ishikawa on the other hand is well known for his gimmick, of dressing up like Dragon Ball Z character Vegeta, hence his ring name of Bejita. Ishikawa is unlikely to provide much of a test, but it's going to be good to see Matsumoto back in the ring, as he is tipped as something special, despite the issues on his debut.
Through December every weekend seems to have something of note happening in the wonderful world of Asian boxing.
Thankfully for those who need a bit of a break this coming weekend looks like the best on to take some time to yourself, but is still a pretty interesting weekend with a female world title fight, a Japanese youth title fight and a GAB title fight all coming on Saturday!
The biggest of the shows takes place in Kagoshima, where we see a female world title fight, as well as domestic stalwart take on a Thai visitor and a Rookie of the Year winner taking on an unbeaten Thai puncher.
The world title fight will see Japanese veteran Tenkai Tsunami (26-12-1, 15) make her second defense of the WBO female Light Flyweight title as she takes on Filipino challenger Jessebelle Pagaduan (12-1-1, 5), who gets her third shot at a world title. The 35 year old Tsunami has held this title since March 2018, but has only defended it once due to challenging Naoko Fujioka for the WBA Flyweight title earlier this year, and fighting to a draw in a fantastic 10 round back and forth. Filipino fighter Pagauan, also 35 years old, has failed in 2 other title challenges, both in Japan. In the first she lost to Nao Ikeyama, in a bout for the WBO Atomweight title, before a headclash with Kumiko Seeser Ikehara saw her WBO female Minimumweight title fight end in a technical draw. Although Pagaduan will be hungry, she will be up against it here. Our preview of this bout can be read here Tsunami and Pagaduan clash in WBO world title fight!
In a supporting bout Naoya Haruguchi (15-11, 6), one of the most over-looked fighters in Japan, will take on Thai visitor Sanchai Yotboon (6-3, 6). Although Haruguchi's record is patchy at best his last 4 defeats have come to current Japanese champion Norihito Tanaka, current OPBF champion Lito Dante, former world champion Tatsuya Fukuhara and former world title challenger Riku Kano, and he wasn't embarrassed in any of those bouts. As for Yotboon he is 0-3 in Japan and was actually the debut opponent for Ginjiro Shigeoka in September 2018. Incidentally Yotboon was stopped by another fighter on this card, Sora Takeda, back in April.
Talking about Sora Takeda (5-1, 1) the 2018 Rookie of the Year winner is in an interesting bout of his own as he takes on unbeaten Thai puncher Phanuwit Siriwong (7-0, 6). Since winning Rookie of the Year last December Takeda hasn't really done much, with his sole bout being his 3rd round KO win over Yotboon. The 18 year old Siriwong on the other hand has notched up 6 stoppage wins this year and will be in Japan looking to score his biggest win to date.
A second Japanese show is headlined by a Japanese Youth title bout, as Kyohei Tonomoto (9-2, 4) looks to make his first defense of the Japanese Youth Featherweight title. The under-rated Tonomoto, who suffered early career losses to Shingo Kawamura and Reiya Abe, has won his last 4 and took the title last time out with a decision win over Hikaru Matsuoka. On the other hand the once beaten Ryotaro Motohashi (9-1, 2) is on a 7 fight winning run, including a credible win over Noboru Osato back in April. This isn't a bout that will get much attention but could end up being a very compelling bout for those in Kishiwada. Our preview of this bout can be read here Tonomoto to defend Youth crown against Motohashi!
As well as the action in Japan we're also set for some Filipino action, with the most notable of two Filipino cards coming from Cebu.
Sadly this card isn't a particularly strong one, with the only bout of real interesting being the main event, which will pit the hard hitting Jeo Santisima (18-2, 15) against former OPBF Super Flyweight champion Rene Dacquel (20-9-1, 6). This should be a good test for Santisima, but Dacquel has lost his last 3, and suffered his first stoppage loss last time out. Santisima will be favoured, but this is still a solid test for him at this stage in his career.
In the main support bout Peter Apolinar (10-1, 7) will take on former OPBF title challenger Lloyd Jardeliza (8-10-4, 6). Although Jardeliza did once fight for an OPBF title, way back in December 2015, he has gone 1-5-1 in his last 7 and appears to have essentially given up actually trying to win fights
On the under-card the unbeaten Regie Suganob (3-0, 1) will take on Rolly Dorong (1-1- 2) and Go Hosaka (4-0, 3) takes a good step up in class to battle Boyce Sultan (10-12-1, 5). These bouts will see Hosaka and Suganob fighting their third bout in the space of 5 months, though it's unclear on just how much ALA can really push them at this moment in time.
Metro Manila, Philippines
There will also be a small card in Metro Manila, which will be headlined by a bout between Cris Paulino (20-4, 8) and Mateo Handig (15-20, 9), who clash for the GAB Super Flyweight title. On paper this should be an easy win for Paulino. Although limited the 26 year old dubbed "The King" is a solid fighter on the Filipino scene, and all 4 of his losses have come to fighters above domestic level. On the other hand Handig has picked up just 2 wins since he upset Katsunari Takayama back in 2012, going 2-15 in his last 17. A mismatch to say the least.
This coming Sunday is an incredibly hectic day in Japan with 4 different shows across the country, and when we talk about them being across the country we do mean that with hundreds of miles separating some of the shows.
The most notable card, in many ways, is in Kumamoto in the South West of Japan, where Yakushiji Promotions will be putting on a very significant card.
The main event of this show will be a rematch between Musashi Mori (8-0, 5) and Richard Pumicpic (21-9-2, 6). These two fought last November, when Mori took a technical decision over Pumicpic to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title, and he will be looking to make his first defense of that national title here. Pumicpic, a real under-rated Filipino warrior, will be hungry to avenge his loss. This is set to be a very, very tough bout and will be shown live on local TV channel TKU. Sadly for those outside of Kunamoto this appears to be a bout we won't be getting. A full preview of this bout can be read here Mori and Pumicpic battle again!
Whilst the main event is brilliant it's not the only bout of note and the show features a number of notable prospects. Among those is the very highly regarded Ginjiro Shigeoka (2-0, 2) who steps into his first 8 round bout, and takes on once beaten Filipino Joel Lino (10-1-1, 3). Lino's only loss came to Shigeoka's stablemate, and recent world title challenger, Masataka Taniguchi. This is a very serious test for Shigeoka, but also a bit that gives him a chance to gain immediate comparisons to Taniguchi, whilst Lino gets the chance to perform in front of a notable Japanese crowd.
Another Japan Vs Philippines bout will see the aggressive Seiya Tsutsumi (4-0, 3) take on the tough Ryan Rey Ponteras (22-13-3, 11), in what could be a really fun war. Tsutsumi has one of the most fan friendly, aggressive and exciting styles out there whilst Ponteras is a criminally under-rated veteran, who has never been stopped and can be a banana skin for better known fighters. Thhis could be a very, very exciting bout.
Another notable fighter on this card was 2018 Rookie of the Year winner Sora Takeda (4-1, 1), who will be up against Sanchai Yotboon (4-2, 4), the man the aforementioned Shigeoka made his debut against. We suspect Takeda will have the skills to over-come the Thai visitor, but this could be a good test of Takeda's metal.
Another of the more notable Japanese cards comes form Hyogo, in a female orientated card.
The biggest match up here here will see former WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (17-6-1, 8) take on former WBO Atomweight champion Nao Ikeyama (18-5-3, 5) in what is a must win bout for both fighters, who both have suffered 2 recent losses. Kuroki is the younger fighter, and certainly the one with more upside, though at 49 Ikeyama has proven that age really is just a number and she will be looking to extend her career in to her 50's with a win. This should be a very interesting bout, though Kuroki should enter as the clear favourite. A full preview of this bout can be read here Kuroki and Ikeyama battle in must win bout!
As well as the Kuroki Vs Ikeyama bout, there will be two title bouts on this show. One of those bouts will see Japan's in form Shione Ogata (10-6, 2) face once beaten Filipino foe Charimae Salvador (4-1, 1) for the vacant OPBF female Light Flyweight title. Ogata has won her last 3, claiming a WBA Asia and WBO Asia Pacific title in her last 2 bouts, As for Salvador she was beaten last time out, at Atomweight, but will be fighting at her natural weight here. We're expecting Ogata to pick up another win, but this isn't going to be a walk in the park.
The other title bout on this card will be a bizarre KBM and JBC female title bout, the first since a new OPBF rule was brought into play. The bout will pit Japan's Tamao Ozawa (15-5, 6) up against Korean Hye Soo Park (5-7-1, 1). The winner will become a unified 2-nation champion, albeit temporarily, with the winner likely to immediately vacate the other nation's title. The idea to this is to create depth to thinner divisions, but leads to some odd situations like this.
At the L-Theatre in Osaka fans will see a small card with a few notable names involved.
The main event of this card will see OPBF, JBC and WBO Asia Pacific ranked fighter Dynamic Kenji (10-3, 7) take on a Thai foe, who we believe will be Sophon Klachun (4-2, 1). We don't see this being much of a test for Kenji, who is edging his way towards a title fight, and will look to take the visitor out as he advances his march towards a career defining bout.
In an 8 round supporting bout fans will see Noboru Osato (10-7-4, 2) and the once beaten Ryotaro Motohashi (8-1, 2) battle in a very interesting match up. Neither of these men are big names, but they should make for a very competitive contest, much more saw the than records suggest.
Another 8 round supporting bout on this card will see Daijiro Yuki (8-5-1, 4) battle against Japanese ranked Welterweight Kazuyasu Okamoto (14-6, 4). This will be Okumoto's first bout since losing to Japanese champion Ryota Yada, and he will be looking to end a 2 fight losing run. Yuki on the other hand will be seeking a career best win.
The least notable of the Japanese cards takes place in Tsu and will be headlined by a Japanese Youth Super Flyweight title bout, with Yuto Nakamura (9-5, 7) defending his title against Toma Kondo (7-4, 1). This should be a hotly contested bout, though it's hard to doubt Nakamura and his edge in power. A full preview of this bout is available here Nakamura seeks first defense of youth crown, faces Kondo.
A notable supporting bout here will see former OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Roli Gasca (24-8-1, 8), who recently signed with Osaka Teiken, take on the once beaten Shuma Sugawara (6-1, 4). This looks like a huge step up for Sugawara, but a win puts him on the title hunt, whilst Gasca will be fighting for the first time in well over a year.