Kokugikan, Tokyo, Japan
The main action in a surprisingly busy Tuesday, comes from the Kokugikan in Tokyo as we get a world title double header, and in fact the last world title bouts to take place in Japan this year following numerous post-Christmas bouts being cancelled.
The first world title bout from the double header will see WBO Minmumweight champion Wilfredo Mendez (16-1, 6) defending his title against mandatory challenger Masataka Taniguchi (14-3, 9), in what could be a very interesting bout. This will be Mendez's third defense of the title, which he took from Vic Saludar in 2019, but he comes into the bout after almost 2 years of inactivity, and for his first bout in Asia. "Bimbito" is certainly a talented fighter, but he style may not have the success on the road as it has at home, and he can look very negative at times. Taniguchi has come up short at world level before, but he does seem incredibly focused on this bout, and has bounced back well from his last loss, to Vic Saludar, to score 3 notable domestic wins. His style could end up working against him at times, as Mendez is the much quicker man, but his physicality and power could be a major difference maker, especially with Mendez's recent inactivity. Our preview for this world title fight can be read here Taniguchi gets second WBO title shot as he takes on Mendez
The other title bout on this show, and the main event of the day, will see Japanese star Naoya Inoue (21-0, 18) return to a Japanese ring for the first time in over 2 years to defend his WBA and IBF Bantamweight titles against hard hitting Thai challenger Aran Dipaen (12-2, 11). Inoue and his team have made it clear they wanted a bigger name than Dipaen for this bout, but were turned down by a number of more well known names, and that can be dangerous if they are over looking the Thai and looking towards unification bouts in the new year. Dipaen isn't so much a threat to Inoue here, but Inoue could be a threat to himself if he's over-looking the challenger. As for Dipaen no one is giving him a chance, but he will know he has nothing to lose and he will be in there looking to put in the performance his career. We don't see this one lasting long, but it could be a genuine test of Inoue's focus given such a frustrating end to the year. Our preview of this bour can be read here The monster returns to Japan to defend against Dipaen!
As well as the two main bouts this card has several notable prospects on it, with youngster Keisuke Matsumoto (3-0, 3) taking on the much very experienced Takahiro Araki (12-10, 4), former Kickboxer Yoshiki Takei (2-0, 2) taking on Kazuhiro Imamura (2-0-1, 1), in what looks set to be his toughest bout to date, and the very exciting Toshiya Ishii (4-1, 3) taking on Takuya Fujioka (10-10-1, 1), in what looks to be a stay busy fight before bigger things in 2022.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
The show at the Kokugikan isn't the only one in Tokyo, with Koakuen Hall playing host to an OPBF title double header. The bouts here aren't huge, but both the title bouts do promise a lot of exciting action, and there is also a solid under-card match up as well.
One of those OPBF title bouts will see Light Welterweight champion Rikki Naito (23-2, 8) take on Japanese veteran Koichi Aso (24-9-1, 15). Naito has looked like something of a suspect champion since winning the title a few years ago, and was pushed hard in a number of defense, but there's no doubting his skills and ability with the main questions being about his power and stamina. As for Aso, the veteran is a former Japanese national champion, but is very much a fighter coming to the end of his career, and he no longer has the energy and aggression he did in his prime. This should be straight forward win for Naito on the cards, but Aso will make him for it. Our preview of this regional title bout can be read here OPBF champion Naito takes on Aso at Korakuen Hall
The other title fight promises violence as the hard hitting Kosuke Saka (21-5, 18) takes on the under-rated Yoshimitsu Kimura (12-2-1, 7) in a bout for the vacant OPBF Super Featherweight title. Saka has looked a brute in recent bouts, smashing up both Masaru Sueyoshi and Takuya Watanabe, in two very impressive back to back performances, though it's fair to say that he can be beaten and there are always question marks about his chin and his mental application in the ring. As for Kimura this will be his second shot at the title, having previously coming up just short against Hironori Mishiro, and he really has shown he belongs at this level. He will go in as the man with no momentum, but he has the skills and tools to spring the upset, in what should be a genuinely spectacular bout for those at Korakuen Hall. Expect a lot of heavy leather here, and some thrilling exchanges. Our preview of this bout can be read here Saka and Kimura battle for OPBF Super Featherweight title!
In one under-card bout worthy of some attention, we'll see boxing police officer Daisuke Sugita (6-2, 3) look to bounce back from a June loss to Ryo Akaho as he takes on youngster Ryuto Owan (7-1, 5). Sugita is a fun guy to watch, but he has been matched rather hand and losses to Akaho and Reiya Abe were both very one sided and showed he didn't belong in that company. Despite that he's a solid fighter and he has the tools to be a solid competitor on the Japanese domestic scene, albeit below domestic title level. Owan on the other hand is a promising and talented young fighter who seemed destined for big things until a loss in 2018 slowed his momentum, and a 2 year break from the ring followed. Since returning to action in October 2020 he has looked really impressive and he'll be looking to shine again here and move towards a potential title fight in 2022.
Outside of Japan there is also a very notable card in Thailand, headlined by WBA Minmumweight "Super" champion Knockout CP Freshmart (22-0, 8), who will be up against once beaten Filipino challenger Robert Paradero (18-1, 12). The talented Knockout is seeking his second defense of the year, after a long break from the ring following his 2020 win over Norihito Tanaka, and he'll be looking to end the year with an impressive performance here before moving onto a potential unification bout in 2022. As for Paradero he's looking to bounce back from his sole professional loss, which came earlier this year to Vic Saludar. The challenger showed plenty to like in that loss, but a lack of experience was an issue, and he'll be wanting to prove he has learned from that set back. It's always hard to bet against a Thai in Thailand, but it is worth noting that Filipino do historically have more success as challengers in the Land of Smiles than almost any other country and Paradero will not be there to make up the numbers. Or in deoth preview of this bout can be read here WBA champion Knockout takes on Filipino Challenger Paradero
This Saturday promises to be a great day with a brilliant Japanese card being shown live on Boxing Raise, and a live show being streamed from the Philippines!
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
That Japanese card comes from Tokyo and features 4 bouts of note, none are world title bouts, but there are two less title bouts on the show, and a mouth watering domestic show down, as well as a bout featuring a former Japanese national champion.
In the main event OPBF Light Welterweight champion Rikki Naito (22-2, 7) will battle against fellow Japanese fighter Yusuke Konno (16-4, 9), with both Naito's OPBF title on the line. Coming in Naito will be the clear favourite, he's the more proven man, the Oriental champion and the quicker more skilled fighter. We shouldn't write off Konno however, and he's a big, strong, powerful fighter, with good stamina and he'll be desperate to force his will on Naito. This is very much a match up of skill Vs will and knowing that Konno will be pressing and pressuring through out we can't help feel that Konno is a very live under-dog here. Our full preview of this bout is available here Naito and Konno clash for OPBF title
The chief support bout is a mouth watering match up between youngsters as Yoshimitsu Kimura (12-2, 7) and Shuma Nakazato (10-1-2, 7) clash, in a truly brilliant match up. Kimura is coming in on the back of a split decision loss to OPBF 130lb champion Hironori Mishiro, which was a great clash last year, and he'll have given his standing and confidence a huge boost despite the lost. Incidentally Nakazato's sole loss also came to Mishiro, but since then he has gone 4-0-1 and will know a win here moves him to within touch distance of a title bout. We expect this to be highly technical but also really exciting with Kimura being the aggressor, applying calculated pressure and Nakazato looking to play the role of a puncher. We wouldn't be surprised if this was the bout of the week.
The other title bout promises to be just as good as the main event, with Japanese Youth Super Flyweight champion Suzumi Takayama (3-0, 3) defending his title against Hiroto Yashiro (2-0, 2), in what will be Takayama's first defense. Unlike most countries Japan matches their young up and comers against each other often and the Youth title has seen that happen more and more often in recent years. Prior to turning professional both of these youngsters had made their marks on the amateur scene and seeing them face off at this ultra-early point in their professional careers is really exciting. This is a hard one to call and we are expecting a brilliant, tactical, hard hitting battle here. A fantastic match up and credit to both men for accepting the bout. This should be something special. Our full preview of this bout can be read here Novices clash in Japanese Youth title clash!
Also on this card will be former Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Ryoichi Tamura (15-5-1, 7), who is always worth watching. The all action Tamura will be expected to pick up a relatively easy win here, as he takes on Ryu Oba (5-4, 3), though in fairness Tamura makes even mismatches fun and exciting with his action style and aggression. Although Oba is the under-dog he'll have some confidence having won his last 2 and will be here to win. This should be fun, even if it does have a very predictable winner.
The restart in Filipino boxing has been a slow one, though we do get another show in the country today as Sanman puts on a card with several notable names on it.
The main event will see former WBO Bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales (33-3, 16) battle against Eden Sonsona (36-11-2, 13) in a bout at a contracted 132lbs, well above Tapales' best weight. This will be Tapales's first bout since losing to Ryosuke Iwasa in an IBF "interim" Super Bantamweight title bout, and to see him going up the scales this much is a worry, though he should still have enough to beat Sonsona.
Another notable fighter on this card is 2-time world title challenger Aston Palicte (26-4-1, 22), who will be in action at Bantamweight, where he takes on Reymark Taday (10-12-1, 5), in what looks very much like a confidence builder for Palicte following 2 losses last year, including one to Kazuto Ioka.
Other notables involved on the show are Joey Canoy (15-4-1, 8) and the talented Dave Apolinario (13-0, 8), who are both facing domestic foes that they shouldn't struggle with.
This event is set to be streamed on the Sanman Facebook page for those wanting to enjoy some Filipino action.
Xi An, China
As well as the action in Japan there will also be a show in China. This is another low key Chinese card, as we still see the sport re-finding it's feet in the Middle Kingdom.
One of the few interesting bouts on this show will see Jin Ping Yang (2-0-1) take on Xiaokang Song (4-0) in a battle of unbeaten men, over 10 rounds. The 23 year old Yang made his debut in October 2018, with a 4 round decision, and stepped up to 6 rounders earlier this year. He's now leaping up to a 10 rounder in what is very, very clearly a step up in class. Song on the other hand is a 21 year old and has been a fighting in 4 rounders. This isn't an easy one to call, but is an interesting one on paper, and a somewhat compelling match up, given that the promoter is trusting the two men to headline the card.
In a second bout on this card Shichao Gao (5-1-1, 2) will take on JiZhong He (2-1, 1) over 8 rounds. We have been impressed by Gao in the past, and he seemed to be on the fast track to the top when he beat Koji Igarashi and Anurak Thisa last year, but a loss in June has slowed his rise. As for He it's hard to say anything at all about him given the very low level of competition he has faced so far, and this is a very, very big step up in class for him.
This coming Tuesday we see a really interesting card from Tokyo, as we get an OPBF title fight and a brilliant match up with a fast rising youngster against an rugged veteran.
The main event will see OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (8-0-1, 3) defending his belt against once beaten Yoshimitsu Kimura (12-1, 7). The unbeaten champion won the title in summer 2018 and has notched up 3 defenses already, including very good wins over Takuya Watanabe and Ryo Takenaka. Despite his run Mishiro still has area's to improve on and this a good bout against a talented and hungry fighter. For Kimura the bout is a second shot at a title, following a competitive loss in 2018 to Richard Pumicpic for a belt at Featherweight. Both of these men like a fight, and we're expecting a bit of a tear up here in what could end up being a bit of a hidden gem of sorts. Our full preview of this bout is available here Mishiro clashes with Kimura in next OPBF title defense
The chief support bout on this show is a mouth watering test for one of the most talented young fighters in Japan, who takes a huge step up and faces an OPBF champion, in just his second bout. The bout in question will see former Japanese amateur standout Yudai Shigeoka (1-0, 1) take on OPBF Minimumweight champion Lito Dante (16-10-4, 8), in a 6 round none title bout. On paper this looks like an easy win, but the reality is that Dante is a real dangerman, tough as old boots and is not an easy out for anyone, never mind a 1-0 novice. Shigeoka will likely be favoured, helped in part by the bout only being a 6 rounder, but this is a very real test for the youngster against a very rugged and determined Filipino foe. Our in depth preview of this bout can be read here Yudai Shigeoka takes on OPBF king Lito Dante in huge step up!
Another talented Japanese youngster on this show is the light punching Fumiya Fuse (8-1, 1), who faces off with fellow feather fisted fighter Melmark Dignos (9-3, 1). On paper this is not likely to end early, but it should be genuinely compelling. We've often been impressed by Fuse's skills, and he is a real joy to watch, but here's up against a similarly skilled fighter here and Dignos has shown no fear on his travels, picking up a win last time he was in Japan. We expect this one to be very interesting, even if it will lack in terms of dramatic action.
Several fighters from Asia are pencilled in to fight on a card from Russia.
Among those fighters is once beaten Filipino Garen Diagan (7-1, 3), who will be fighting outside of the Philippines for the first time. The 23 year old Diagan has won 4 in a row following a 2017 loss to Marco John Rementizo, and has taken the unbeaten records of Arvin Magramo and Jerry Francisco in recent bouts. The Filipino will be up against debuting Russian Bator Sagaluev (0-0) in an interesting 6 rounder.
Another Asian on this card will be Kazakh novice Nurzhan Makashbayev (0-0-1), who goes up against limited Russian Mikhail Lesnikov (4-4, 1). We saw Lesnikov score a brutal KO in January, against the over-matched Afrizal Tamboresi, but since the he has gone 1-2. As for the Kazakh this is a good chance to get his first professional win.
In Kiev fans will be able to see Iranian fighter Puneh Akhundtabarmazandarani (5-1, 2) in a 6 rounder. Since losing on her debut, to up coming world title challenger Li Ping Shui, Akhundtabarmazandarani has gone unbeaten, though she has only faced novices so far. Sadly at the time of writing her opponent for this card wasn't named, leading us to suspect it'll be another novice.
The key show this coming Thursday comes from Korakuen Hall and whilst it's not a huge show it is with a former world title challenger, a national title fight and a couple of prospects.
The main event of this card will see former world title challenger Keita Obara (20-4-1, 18) take on Indonesian foe Yosmar Kefi (9-10, 8), in what should be little more than a confidence builder for Obara. Given that Obara has lost 2 of his last 3, including a loss last time out to Kudratillo Abdukakhorov, he does need an easy win and it's hard to imagine anything but an easy one here. Kefi is 0-4 in Japan, having been stopped 4 times in the Land of the Rising Sun, and we suspect there will be another stoppage loss for him here.
The main support bout will see Japanese Minimumweight champion Norihito Tanaka (18-7, 10) make his first defense, as he takes on Naoya Haruguchi (15-10, 6) in a rematch between the two men. Tanaka won the belt earlier this year, when he stopped Shin Ono, and will be looking to avenge a previous loss to Haruguchi. Whilst Haruguchi did win their first bout it was a controversial decision and he'll need to perform a lot better here, given he's fighting in Tokyo this time around, and not Kagoshima, where he has picked up most of his wins. A full preview of this bout can be read here Tanaka to make first defense, battles Haruguchi
In an interesting support bout we'll see once beaten men collide, with talented Japanese youngster Yoshimitsu Kimura (11-1, 6) taking on Filipino counterpart Jules Victoriano (9-1, 6). Both of these men are in their early 20's, both have suffered a solitary loss and both scored a solid win last time out, with Kimura stopping Allan Vallespin and Victoriano stopped Landy Cris Leon. This is a really interesting supporting bout and could end up being the bout of the show.
One other supporting bout on this card will see Ryu Horikawa (0-0) make his professional debut, as he battles Jun Ishimoto (5-6-1, 3). Whilst we've not been given Horikawa's full amateur record he did impress last year on the national scene and their is expectation on him to have a big future. Ishimoto is no world beater, but a good opponent for a debutant. Ishimoto has never been stopped, isn't much of a puncher and should give enough resistance to see what Horikawa is made of.
As well as the action in Tokyo, we're also interested in a card in California, as Filipino Gretchen Abaniel (18-10, 6) takes on the unbeaten Seniesa Estrada (16-0, 6) in a bout for the WBC silver female Light Flyweight title. The experienced Abaniel is a "win some lose some" fighter who has faced a relative who's who of female boxing, with bouts against the likes of Tenkai Tsunami, Cai Zong Ju, Ayaka Miyao, and Kumiko Seeser Ikehara. Sadly she is far too small for Light Flyweight, and it's a shame her career hasn't been spent fighting at Atomweight. The 26 year old Estrada is less well known than Abaniel, but is unbaten, powerful and very promising. Coming in to this Estrada has won her last 4 by stoppage, and we whouldn't be surprised to see that run continue here against the talented, but under-powered Abaniel.
This coming Thursday we'll get another brilliant Japanese card, under the Diamond Glove Banner, with a number of fantastic bouts.
The main event of the card will see OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hiroaki Teshigawara (18-2-2, 11) make his first defense, as he takes on the under-rated Yuki Iriguchi (10-2-1, 4). The exciting Teshigawara won the title last year , when he moved up to the weight and stopped Glenn Suminguit. His title win completed a fantastic year, which has also seen him defeat Jason Canoy and Teiru Kinoshita. Although relatively unknown in the west Iriguchi has scored notable wins against Ryohei Takahashi and Takafumi Nakajima, though his 2018 was a frustrating one after he missed for a bout and only actually fought once all year. Our preview of this bout can be read here Teshigawara looks to defend OPBF crown against Iriguchi!
A second bout will see a new Japanese champion being crowned at Light Flyweight, as Kenichi Horikawa (38-15-1, 12) takes on the little known Satoru Todaka (9-2-4, 3), to fill the vacancy left by Tetsuya Hisada. The 38 year old Horikawa is looking to become a 2-time national champion here, but is certainly up against not just Todaka but also father time and may well himself getting old over-night, though he did look good in October when he faced Koji Itagaki. Little known Todaka is a 29 year old getting his first title fight. Todaka has shown nice speed and movement, but this is a huge up for him and if father time doesn't over-come Horikawa we believe that Todaka will really struggle. Our preview of this bout can be read here Horikawa and Todaka battle for vacant Japanese crown!
Former OPBF Flyweight champion Keisuke Nakayama (11-3-2, 5) will be up against former Japanese title challenger Yusuke Sakashita (16-8-3, 11), in a must win for both men. Both have suffered recent setbacks and will need to show that they still have enough in the tank if they are to move back into title fights. At 30 Nakayama is likely on the back end of his career, whilst Sakashita is just 27 but has had a hard career and has been stopped 3 times in his 27 bouts.
One other bout of note on this card will see Yoshimitsu Kimura (10-1, 5) face off with Filipino Allan Vallespin (12-3, 9). Kimura bounced back well from his loss to Richard Pumicpic and will likely see a win here as his chance to take a huge step towards another regional title bout. Vallespin, who is now 0-3 outside of the Philippines, is a live under-dog and he proved his worth in a narrow loss to Musashi More last July. This should be a really interesting match up, and stylistically it should be very exciting.
To kick off a new week attention returns to the Korakuen Hall where fans will get the chance to see a Japanese youth title fight and the next fight in the career of a very promising youngster.
The title fight will see the Japanese Youth Super Featherweight champion Kazuma Sanpei (15-4, 6) defending his title against the once beaten Yoshimitsu Kimura (9-1, 4). The talented Sanpei once promised a lot and was 11-0 but has subsequently gone 4-4 and struggled to get his career back on track. Saying that however Sanpei has won his last 3 bouts and now appears to be resurrecting his faltering career. On the other hand Kimura will be looking to get his career back on track, following a loss in April to WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight champion Richard Pumicpic. This is a step up in weight for Kimura but one he will feel he can make comfortably in what could be his break out performance. We are expecting something very exciting here.
In an under-card fight the unbeaten Ryuto Owan (4-0, 2) will take on Takuma Matsushita (5-4, 2). This isn't a step up for Owan as such, but is a chance for him to shake some ring rust after hang been out of the ring since February. Owan is very talented prospect, as wins over Alvin Medura and Jun Blazo have shown, but we're unlikely to see any new questions answered about him here. Matsushita has been stopped in 3 of his last 7, and is 2-5 during that 7 fight run and we'd be very surprised if he can survive the distance with Owan.
This coming Wednesday fight fans in Japan will get the chance to see a title double header at the Korakuen Hall, with both bouts being for WBO Asia Pacific titles, and pitting Japanese fighters against Filipinos. As well as the two title fighters there's also a Japanese ranked fighter and a very highly touted debutant.
The first of the two title fights is the more interesting as WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight champion Richard Pumicpic (20-8-2, 6) takes on the unbeaten Yoshimitsu Kimura (9-0, 4). The Filipino won the title last year, when he upset former world title challenger Hisashi Amagasa, and will be returning to the scene of that win. Although his record doesn't suggest he's anything great Pumicpic is a total nightmare to fight, and has given problems to fighters like Yohei Tobe, Ryosuke Iwasa and Cesar Juarez. As for Kimura this is a massive step up in class,and he's yet to fight anyone of any note. In fact the challenger is stepping up from low level domestic competition to facing one of the most tricky fighters on the regional scene. A win for Kimura would be both a huge statement, and a massive upset.
The other title fight will see former world title challenger Keita Obara (19-2-1, 17) take on Filipino foe Alvin Lagumbay (9-2, 8), with Obara seeking his second defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title. The heavy handed Japanese fighter is looking to move towards a second world title fight, now at a more natural Welterweight, but opponents like Lagumbay aren't going to help him get fights at the top level. For those unaware Lagumbay has fought in Japan before, and was stopped by the then 3-0 Lightweight prospect Kazuki Saito, which should sum up why he's such a terrible opponent for a Welterweight like Obara here.
In a domestic Middleweight bout we'll see Japanese ranked Shuji Kato (7-1-1, 5) take on Sosuke Sakata (5-4-1, 2). Kato won the 2017 Rookie of the Year, and is riding a 5 fight winning streak, to show that he deserves some attention. However this is a clear step up in class from the fellow novices he has been fighting, despite Sakata himself being a limited fighter. As for Sakata he has been plying his trade at Welterweight though could see the move up in weight give his career a new lease of life.
The debutant of real note on this card is former amateur stand out Daisuke Sugita (0-0), who went 110-31 (47) in the unpaid ranks before turning professional at the start of this year. The talented Sugita will be up against hard hitting Filipino visitor Jun Blazo (7-5-3, 6). The Filipino is 0-4 in Japan, but has fought very good competition, losing to Koki Eto, Daisuke Watanabe, Hayate Kaji and Ryuto Owan. This is a really tough debut bout for Sugita, but there is very high expectations on his shoulders and this sort of debut is a great statement of intent.
Originally there was also a Japanese Bantamweight title bout set for this card, between Yusuke Suzuki (9-3, 6) and Suguru Muranaka (26-3-1, 8). Sadly this bout has been cancelled, with Suzuki pulling out of the bout due to an injury suffered in training. From what we under-stand Muranaka will be fighting for the vacant title down the line, though this is understandably a cruel twist for Suzuki who already missed out on a title fight this past January when Ryo Akaho was forced to cancel a fight against him.
This coming Monday sees the next Dangan card taking place, and although not a huge show it does have a number of notable fighters involved, in what should be an entertaining card, and a chance to not only see a chance to see a new champion being crowned but also a lot of fun action.
The main event of the card will see the always fun to watch Kenya Yamashita (11-3, 8) take on Filipino foe Eranio Semillano (15-7-3, 5) in what should be a genuinely thrilling contest. The all action Yamashita has won his last two bouts, following a stoppage to Akinori Hoshino last November, comes into this bout on the back of a big win over Joe Tanooka in August. Semillano suffered back-to-back defeated in 2014 in Thailand, but has since gone 5-0-3 in his last 8, and has shown real self belief in those bouts. This could be something very exciting.
The only title bout on the card is a female title bout, as Jun Yabuki (8-0, 4) and Fuka Komura (5-0, 2) face off for the JBC female Minimumweight title. The bout will crown the title's first champion and will be a really interesting match up between two unbeaten fighters looking to extend their perfect records. On paper Yabuki will be favoured, given she has more experience and heavier hands, but Komura has impressed since her original test bout and will be coming in to this as a promising 20 year old with a point to prove.
Another unbeaten fighter on this card will see Yoshimitsu Kimura (8-0, 3) risking his record against Filipino Glenn Medura (8-3-1, 5). The 21 year old Japanese fighter fighter has shown some promise, and won the 2016 Rookie of the Year crown at Featherweight, but this is very much a step up for the unbeaten youngster. As for Medura he has lost his last two, being stopped in both bouts in Japan, but he can bang and should prove to be a dangerous foe, at least early on against Kimura.
One other bout of interest here will see the heavy handed Daiki Ichikawa (9-3, 7) make his ring return, following July's opening round loss in Russia to Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov. Ichikawa will be up against Kazumasa Kobayashi (8-7-1, 5), who is now more than 6 years removed from his last win and won't be expected to change that here.
Attention turns to Tokyo again this coming Thursday, ending a few days of quietness for the sport in the Land of the Rising sun.
The main event of the card will see the heavy handed Keita Obara (17-2-1, 15) take on Thai visitor Saddam Kietyongyuth (26-2, 21) in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title. For Obara this will be his first title bout since losing in a world title fight to Eduard Troyanovsky last September. It will also confirm that he is now a full time Welterweight, finally letting his body ditch the crippling limits of Light Welterweight. For Saddam this looks like a really tough contest, with the Thai scoring 3 low key wins in the last 6 years. Losses to Alisher Rahimov and Cole Smith don't bode well for Saddam and we suspect Obara will break him down in the middle rounds.
In the co-feature we'll see Japanese Light Middleweight champion Takeshi Inoue (10-0-1, 5) making the first defense of his title, as he takes on fellow unbeaten Riku Nagahama (7-0-1, 3) in a really mouth watering clash. Coming in to this Inoue is riding a 9 fight winning run, including notable wins over Chan Ho Lee, Akinori Watanabe and Koshinmaru Saito, who he beat for the title earlier this year. The champion is an exciting fighter who can box, or brawl, and is looking to make a statement by taking on such a tough challenger in his first defense. As for Nagahama, the #1 ranked contender, he comes in on a 7 fight winning run, including victories over Brandon Lockhart and Hideo Mikan, with his last 3 by stoppage. Given the recent performances by both men this should be a really fan friendly contest.
The most notable of the under-card bouts will see the fast rising Shuichiro Yoshino (4-0, 2) take on Thai visitor Katika Saithonggym (0-1), in what is a stay busy fight for the Japanese fighter. Yoshino will know that he's supposed to win here with not issues, but can't over-look the Thai as he has got a Japanese title eliminator bout with Spicy Matsushita lined up for October. If Yoshino suffers a cut here he will be kicking himself, so expect to see the talented youngster show some caution, but see off the visitor relatively early.
In another supporting bout we'll see the unbeaten Yoshimitsu Kimura (7-0, 3), who claimed the Rookie of the Year crown at Featherweight last year, take on Kanehiro Nakagawa (4-4, 3) in what looks like a decent for the unbeaten 20 year old. Nakagawa is a very beatable fighter, but he does have plenty of sting on his shots and should give the unbeaten man a chin check, at the very least.