Ota-City General Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
To end 2020 boxing gives the latest in the customary big Japanese show on December 31st thanks to Japanese broadcaster TBS. This year isn't one of the massive end of year shows like we have had some years but it's still a very solid show and feature a sensational main event and a potentially thrilling supporting bout, giving us a fun double header to close out the year.
The main event of the show, and the final main bout of 2020, will see WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) look to make his second defense as he takes on Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9). This will be the first time Ioka has faced a Japanese fighter since his historical 2012 win over Akira Yaegashi, to unify the WBA and WBC Minimumweight titles, and it's by far his most interesting challenger in years, possibly going back to his rematch Juan Carlos Reveco. Having won world titles at 4 weights Ioka is one of the big stars in Japan but a loss here would be a hard one to come back from. For Tanaka the bout will see him looking to become a 4-weight world champion in just 16 bouts, and build on his reputation as one of the best young fighters in the sport. Unlike Ioka he has been willing to face Japanese foes and 2 of his last 4 bouts have been against fellow Japanese, including his 2018 war with Sho Kimura. This is the perfect bout to put 2020 behind us and is set to be a genuine treat for fight fans. Our in depth preview of this one can be read here The end of year clash - Kazuto Ioka Vs Kosei Tanaka
The main support bout will see WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion Yuki Strong Kobayashi (16-8, 9) defending his title, for the second time, as he takes on former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (16-1-1, 16). For Kobayashi this is an amazing opportunity to get some exposure and make his name in front of a larger audience, with this bout being televised in the Kanto region of Japan. His 2019 title win against Ben Mananquil is a very under-rated one and his 2018 barn burner with Keita Kurihara is a sensation 12 round battle. As for Higa he's not yet looked settled since moving to Bantamweight, and he was certainly lucky last time out to only have a draw against his name when he went 10 rounds with Seiya Tsutsumi. This could be a genuinely fascinating match up, and a very fan friendly one. Our preview of this one can be read here WBO Asia Pacific champion Kobayashi takes on Higa as the year comes to an end!
One other bout worth talking about, though is unlikely to be televised even in highlights, will see Yuki Nakajima (4-1, 4) take on Toma Kondo (8-6, 1) in an 8 round bout. The 25 year old Nakajima is looking to score his third straight win since losing in 2018 to Ryu Horikawa and build on his thrilling victory over Shisui Kawabata. The youngster, who's older brother Kazuki Nakajima is regarded as a top prospect at the Ohashi Gym, has looked impressive but is, on paper, taking a step up in class here. Kondo on the other hand is coming into this with just 1 win in his last 5, though does tend to lost hotly contested bouts and could prove to be a very good test for Nakajima after a frustrating year.
Kadoebi are perhaps not one of the real big name promoters in the eyes of many but the Japanese stable consistently put on interesting shows in Tokyo, and this Friday they put on another at Korakuen Hall.
In the main event will be former world title challenger Froilan Saludar (31-3-1, 22) defending his WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title against Ryoji Fukunaga (11-4, 11). The experienced Saludar won the title last year, when he stopped the touted Tsubasa Murachi and he returns to Japan for this fight against the heavy handed Fukunaga, who is crude but dangerous. A win here will push Saludar one step closer to a second world title bout. Whilst Fukunaga may have home advantage he is very much the under-dog, but is the naturally bigger man. Our preview of this bout can be read here Saludar returns to Japan to defend regional title against hard hitting Fukunaga!
World ranked Japanese Flyweight Ryota Yamauchi (5-1, 4), who is bizarrely highly ranked by the WBA, will look to build on his 2019 Alphoe Dagayloan as he takes on MJ Bo (8-3-2, 4). It's fair to say that 2019 was a frustrating year for the talent Yamauchi, who lost a hotly contest decision to Wulan Tuolehazi in March, beat Dagayloan in August then missed out on a Japanese title eliminator due to injuries suffered against Dagayloan. We expect him out there to impress here. As for Bo the Filipino will be returning to Japan just 5 months after being stopped by Yuta Nakayama, and it's hard to imagine anything but another loss here for the Filipino visitor. We expect Yamauchi to go to the ring with the intention of making a real statement.
Foor us the real pick of the gems on this show is a potentially explosive bout between Yuki Nakajima (3-1, 3) and Shisui Kawabata (2-1, 2). Although on paper this might just look like a typical novice bout the reality is that both of these men were solid amateurs, and both are regarded highly by those in Japan. Nakajima is regarded very highly and racked up more than 50 wins in the amateurs whilst Kawabata fought for a Japanese youth title in just his third bout. We expect explosive action here in what is our "One to watch" for this week.
Over in the US we'll see fast rising Uzbek hopeful Bektemir Melikuziev (4-0, 3) take on his most notable opponent to date, as he battles former world title challenger Marco Antonio Periban (25-5-1, 16). The bout will be "Bek Bully's" 5th in just over 8 months, and it's clear he and his team have got their eye on the fast track to the top. After going 10 rounds with Vaughn Alexander in December we know the Uzbek can box, as well as bang. Periban is a long way removed from the fighter lost a razor thin decision to Sakio Bika and fought to a draw with Badou Jack, back in 2013, but is still a solid name and someone who could ask questions of Melikuziev. Whilst Melikuziev is expected to win, the real question will be how, and if stops Periban early it would be a genuine statement from the 23 year old.
This coming Monday focus heads to a Kadoebi card at Korakuen Hall, where we get an OPBF title fight, a really good looking novice pro bout, and several decent supporting bouts.
The main event will see OPBF Light Middleweight champion Akinori Watanabe (38-7-1, 32) making his first defense of the title, as he take on Thai challenger Sitthidet Banti (12-5, 6), in what looks like a very, very soft first defense. Watanabe has mixed against stiff competition through his career, and last December's war with Nobuyuki Shindo was truly sensational, so for him to have an easy bout isn't too bad, but it is a weak title defense. To show how weak it is, Banti was stopped by Japanese novice Takuma Takahashi back in August. Our preview of this bout can be read here Does Watanabe get an easy first defense of OPBF crown?
Whilst the main event is a mismatch there is some really interesting action on this card, including a brilliant match up between Ran Tomomatsu (1-0) and Mikio Sakai (1-0). Despite both men being professional novices both were talented amateurs and they both looked great, albeit in very different ways, on their debut. Of the two Tomomatsu looks the more physical and stronger fighter, but the less technical, whilst Sakai has a flash and speedier look to him. This is a huge risk bout for both, and something to get very excited about.
In another interesting support bout we'll see the talented Yuichiro Kasuya (13-2-1, 4) take on 2-time Japanese title challenger Satoru Sugita (15-6-1, 10). Since moving over to the Kadoebi gym we've seen Kasuya show more some real development, and belief in his punching, and with 3 wins already this year he does now seem to have some momentum behind him. As for Sugita this is a real must win after going 4-4 in his last 8, including his two losses in Japanese title fights. As his best Sugita would favoured against the best we've seen from Kasuya, though it's unclear what Sugita still has left and how much more Kasuya can improve.
Another bout worth noting here will see talented youngster Yuki Nakajima (2-1, 2) look to bounce back from his first defeat as he takes on Yasuhiro Tanaka (6-4-2) in a good looking comeback bout. Nakajima was beaten back in August, by the excellent Ryu Horikawa and although he was beaten it wasn't a loss to be ashamed by and he's certainly not having an easy blow out here, despite Tanaka's record. Tanaka has proven to be a competitive fighter at the lower levels of the Japanese scene and went 5 rounds with the excellent Rikito Shiba last year. That will be the target for Nakajima, and if he can beat what Shiba did then we'll be impressed.
As well as the action in Japan there is also a notable card in Kazakhstan, though one that appears to have gone through a number of changes in recent days. The card is being hosted to celebrate Kazakhstan Independence day, and should be a great show if you're a Kazakh with a great array of Kazakh talent on the show.
Former world champion Hekkie Budler was originally announced for main event of this show, but it now appears that the main event will see Viktor Kotochigov (10-0, 4) take on Javier Jose Clavero (27-5, 5). On paper this looks like a good test for the unbeaten 26 old Kazakh, but in reality Clavero should be seen as a clear under-dog against an unbeaten prospect fighting in front of his home fans. This is a step up for Kotochigov, but one he will be be expected to win with out too many issues.
A solid supporting bout will see the highly touted Sultan Zaurbek (8-0, 6) take on China's Leshan Li (16-3-2, 9), in what is Zaurbek's first title bout as they face off for the WBC Youth Super Featherweight title. We've been wanting to see Zaurbek take a step up for a while and this is exactly the sort of bout that should tell us more about the talented 23 year old. Impressive Zaurbek will be fighting for the 6th time in 2019. As for Li he's unbeaten in 3, but has yet to score a win of note in his 21 bout career.
Other fighters on this card include an array of Central Asian prospects and hopefuls. They include 22 year old American based Kazakh Iskander Kharsan (7-0, 6), 2-time Olympian Khurshid Tojibaev (3-0, 2) and 2016 Olympic champion Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (7-1, 4).
Eastern Cape, South Africa
In South Africa we'll see another bout in the excellent Philippines Vs South Africa rivalry. This time around it'll be unheralded Filipino Joey Canoy (15-3-1, 8) taking on South African Nkosinathi Joyi (28-5-1-1, 19) in a bout for the IBO Minimumweight title. On paper Joyi will be the favourite, the former IBF world champion is the more proven and more experienced man, however Canoy will be confident of picking up the win, in what is his third visit to South Africa, and he'll be boosted by John Riel Casimero's recent win against Zolani Tete.
One of the great things about Japanese boxing is the fact that talented youngsters get in the ring against each other, rather than get protected in the hope of a bout marinating down the line. This type of match making is particularly in both the Japanese Youth title bouts, which regularly match top youngsters against each other, and the B class tournaments which usually match touted novice professionals against each other.
This coming Monday the Korakuen Hall place host to both, B Class tournament and Japanese Youth title tournament bouts, essentially Japanese Youth title eliminators, in what is set to be an excellent, but perhaps over-looked, show.
One of the Japanese Youth title eliminators will see Haruki Ishikawa (7-1, 5) and Atsushi Takada (6-1-3, 3) battle in a really interesting match up. The 19 year old Ishikawa lost in a very close bout against Yusei Fujikawa, in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, but has bounced back with a good win over Alvin Medura back in April and certainly has a lot of promise. Takada on the other hand was beaten in a Japanese youth title fight in April and will be looking to secure a second shot at the title in the near future. On paper this is finely balanced and should be a very compelling contest.
The other Japanese title eliminator on this card will actually find themselves up against the winner of the Ishikawa Vs Takada fight, in a bout for the vacant title. This match up., on paper, looks like a mismatch with former Rookie of the Year winner Fumiya Fuse (8-0, 1) taking on 18 year old novice Toshiya Ishii (1-0, 1). This doesn't look great until you realise that Ishii was a very capable amateur, coming runner up in the 2018 Inter-High school tournament and being earmarked for professional success straight away. Fuse is a very talented boxer but this is, in many ways, his toughest test so far, whilst Ishii is will be hoping to have not bitten off more than he chew. A brilliant match up, and one where the winner will really earn something from victory.
In a B class tournament bout, at Light Flyweight, we see novice professionals clash in what could be a really interesting contest. The match up in question is a 6 round bout between Yuki Nakajima (2-0, 2) and Ryu Horikawa (1-0, 1). On paper this might not look anything special to those who don't follow the Japanese scene but for those with a hardcore interest this is something special between two talented former amateur standouts. Nakajima went 52-21 in the unpaid ranks, and has looked fantastic in his first 2 bouts, as a professional whilst Horikawa went 37-8 was matched hard on debut and had to show his mettle. Despite only 3 pro bouts between them this should be a very, very good fight
Action returns to Korakuen Hall this coming Wednesday as we get the next stacked card from Kadoebi. The show features a former world champion, a former world title challenger and a very highly regarded prospect in what is genuinely a stacked card at this level.
The main event will see former IBF Super Bantamweight world champion Yukinori Oguni (20-2-1, 8) take on IBF world ranked ranked Bantamweight Sukpraserd Ponpitak (22-9, 14), aka Sukkasem Kietyongyuth. On paper Oguni should be strongly favoured, given he's the naturally bigger man and the fighter with the higher level of achievement, but this is only his second bout since losing the world title to Ryosuke Iwasa back in 2017, and is a huge step up in class from his win over Arega Yunian. The Thai is no world beater, but does seem more consistent than he was earlier in his career, and has had a couple of very close losses on his travels in the last few years, including a narrow loss in Japan to Kazuki Tanaka and another close one in China to Qiu Xiao Jun. This will likely be a lot more competitive than the records suggests.
In a main supporting bout we'll see former Japanese Flyweight and OPBF Super Flyweight champion Takuya Kogawa (29-5-1, 13). Kogawa, himself a former world title challenger looks like he is in soft here, as he takes on Hideyuki Watanabe (8-11-3, 6) in what should be an easy win for the veteran. Whilst Kogawa does have a habit of making things tricky for himself there shouldn't be any worries here. Watanabe has lost his last 5 and has just 1 win in his last 8, though does typically go rounds. We could see Kogawa shaking some ring rust here, but would be hugely surprised if he was tested.
Another former Japanese champion on this show is Takenori Ohashi (16-5-2, 10), who fights for the second time since losing the Japanese Featherweight title to Taiki Minamoto. The hard hitting Ohashi will not be getting a gimme, but should still manage to pick up a win as he battles Shun Wakabayashi (9-3, 2). It's worth noting that whilst Wakabayashi doesn't have an amazing record he has strung together 5 straight wins, with 2 of them coming on the road in China, and the most recent being a stoppage win over Xian Qian Wei, so he will have momentum and confidence coming into this one.
In other supporting bouts we'll see Ryoji Fukunaga (10-4, 10), Yuichiro Kasuya (11-2-1, 3) and the promising Yuki Nakajima (1-0, 1) all looking to pick up their next wins. All 3 will be expected to win, though all are taking steps up in class from their most recent bouts. Of the 3 men it's Kasuya who has the hardest on paper, taking on Toru Kiyota (9-2, 7) though we're mostly interested in seeing how Yuki Nakajima looks against Filipino Paolo Sy (6-3-1, 3).
To kick off the month of October we get the next show in the “Slugfest” series of cards from Kadoebi. The card's the most exciting but is headlined by a former national champion and features 3 notable prospects in supporting bouts.
The main event of the card will see former Japanese Featherweight champion Takenori Ohashi (15-5-2, 10) taking on teenage hopeful Ruito Saeki (7-1, 1). The heavy handed Ohashi was totally manhandled earlier this year when Taiki Minamoto ripped the title from him in April in impressive fashion, stopping Ohashi in 7 rounds and ending his 4 month reign as champion. This will be Ohashi's first bout since that loss. The 19 year old Saeki competed in the 2016 Rookie of the Year and has has shown good skills, but a lack of power is likely to be a major problem, especially here, with Ohashi unlikely to show him respect.
Another fighter looking to return to winning ways is Kazuki Saito (5-1, 5), a talented former amateur stand out who was upset last time out by Amphol Suriyo, aka Pharanpetch Tor Buamas, who really showed how flawed Saito is defensively. The hard hitting Saito is being matched softly here, as he takes on Filipino Rey Ramos (8-9-2, 3), who has been beat in 5 of his last 7 with 3 career stoppage losses. This is clearly a confidence booster for Saito, and we can't begrudge him one those given the stoppage loss.
Another of the under-card bouts features super prospect Ryota Yamauchi (3-0, 3) in what looks to be a stay busy fight. The sensationally talented Yamauchi, who has really impressed us through 2018, will be up against Indonesian foe Rio Nainggolan (4-8, 3). Coming in to this Yamauchi has spent 2018 stopping both Lester Abutan and Yota Hori, to move into the OPBF and JBC rankings at Flyweight. As for the visitor he has fought just once this year, losing to Carlo Cesar Penalosa in 3 rounds. The Indonesian has had no luck at all on the road with losses to the likes of Petch Sor Chitpattana, Juiki Tatsuyoshi, Petch Kokietgym and Penalosa, and we would be massively surprised if Nainggolan managed to last more than 5 rounds with the Japanese wunderkind.
Another notable prospect in action here is the debuting Yuki Nakajima (0-0), the brother of Kazuki Nakajima. The 23 year old is tipped for huge success and will look to shine as he begins his professional career against Thai visitor Somphon Banyaem (3-1, 3), who's only bout of note was a 4th round KO loss to Takamori Kiyama in May, with Kiyama making his debut in that bout. We suspect Nakajima will stop the Thai, and will look to do so quicker than Kiyama, but this is an interesting debut given that it allows for a direct comparison between two young up and comers.