February has been a worryingly quiet month for fans who follow Asian fighters. Thankfully however there is a real pick up in activity this coming Saturday with a host of Asian fighters in action all around the globe.
Bula Gym, General Santos City, Cotabato del Sur, Philippines
The most meaningful bout of the day comes from the Philippines where we get world title action from General Santos City. The bout in question will see IBF Minimumweight champion Pedro Taduran (14-2-1, 11) defending his title against Rene Mark Cuarto (18-2-2, 11), with Taduran looking to record his second defense of the belt.The aggressive and heavy handed Taduran has impressed in several bouts, notably his loss to Wanheng Menayothin and his title win against Samuel Salva, however he has been out of the ring since a technical draw against Daniel Valladares just over a year ago. Cuarto on the other hand lacks a real win of note, though is a hungry 24 year old challenger looking to make his mark on the sport. Sadly Cuarto hasn't fought since late 2019 and is 2-1-1 in his last 4, but is very much a live under-dog and is technically more rounded than the champion. A full preview of this bout can be read here Taduran takes on Cuarto in All-Filipino world title fight!
Tynyshpayev Academy of Transport and Communications, Almaty, Kazakhstan
Although the biggest bout of the day is in the Philippines the most interesting card is actually in Kazakhstan where we get the chance to see a number of exciting prospects in action.
The most notable bout on this show will see fast rising Kazakh standout Kamshybek Kunkabayev (2-0, 2) battle in his first title fight, as he takes on the once beaten Steven Ward (13-1, 4) for the WBO Asia Pacific Cruiserweight title. Kunkabayev was an amateur standout who has been hugely impressive since making his pro debut last year, and has notched two very solid wins in as many fights. In the opposite corner is Ward, a Northern Irish fighter who's record looks good, but under the surface his competition has been poor and his sole loss, an opening round TKO to Ricards Bolotniks, does not bode well for him here. On paper Ward is probably the first opponent who is coming to beat Kunkabayev, though we suspect he'll be taken out relative early on here. Our preview of this one can be read here Kunkabayev goes for gold as he battles Ward!
(Editor's note - Kunakabayev's opponent has been changed, he will now be facing Ukrainian fighter Server Emurlaiev (23-1, 8), unfortunately these articles are scheduled more than a week in advance, and the previews are written 2 to 3 weeks before a bout.)
In a much more interesting looking bout we'll see unbeaten Kazakh Nurtas Azhbenov (10-0, 4) take on once beaten Russian Evgeny Smirnov (13-1-3, 3). The 26 year old Azhbenov has shown some promise, but doesn't appear to be a star in the making, with a lack of power likely to be one of the things holding him back from the big time. He has also been matched relatively softly through his 10 bout career. Smirnov on the other hand has been matched harder, but has struggled and has gone 0-1-3 against unbeaten fighters. Smirnov is also win-less in his last 3, going 0-1-2 since late 2018. This one should be "interesting" but we suspect it will lack drama, as neither man is known for having much power.
Exciting youngster Talgat Shayken (3-0, 2) will be looking for his 4th professional win as he takes on Russian fighter Evgeny Pavko (18-3-1, 13). Although not the most talented or polished fighter out there Shayken is a very entertaining fighter, who comes to rumble, presses forward with a high intensity and really lets his shots fly when in range. He's a very fan friendly fighter who needs time to mature and develop, but should be on the radar for fans who follow the Central Asian scene. Pavko on the other hand is a very decent, well respected and experienced fighter who will be looking for a victory here, rather than rolling over and just losing. His 3 losses have all been struggles for the winners and we suspect Shayken will need to work hard for a victory here, though his natural size should be the difference here.
A potentially explosive bout will see once beaten Kazakh Abay Tolesh (6-1, 4) take on Russian Vasily Shtyk (2-2, 2). The talented Tolesh is looking to score his second win following a 2020 loss to Saparbay Aidarov and will be wanting to make a statement. Shtyk on the other hand is a limited but tough fighter who has heavy hands, as he showed last time out against Sergey Kozhukhar. We expect Shtyk to be a potential banana skin here for Tolesh.
Suamlum Night Bazaar, Ratchadaphisek, Bangkok, Thailand
Staying in Asia we'll also get the first Thai show of 2021 as TL Promotions give us a card in Bangkok.
The main event here will see former IBF Flyweight champion Amnat Ruenroeng (21-4, 6) take on the once beaten Arnon Yupang (6-1, 3). Despite now being 41 Amnat is proving to be a slippery and talented fighter, who is still putting in solid performances, as we saw last year against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Pungluang Sor Singyu. Aged 23 this is a big step up for Yupang, but also a great chance for him to put his name on the map. For Yupang the key is to outwork Amnat, but that is easier said than done.
On the under-card we're expecting to see the unbeaten Yuttapong Tongdee (5-0, 4), a wonderfully talented and highly promising Thai, take on Arthit Kaewbantid (3-1, 2). We regard Tongdee as on of the brightest hopefuls in Thailand but, and although this looks like an easy match up we're really just wanting to see Tongdee kept busy this year before bigger and better things in 2022.
London, United Kingdom
In London we'll see UK based Afghan fighter Quaise Khademi (8-0, 2) battle against Ijaz Ahmed (7-2) for the WBO European and the vacant IBF European Super Flyweight titles in a very good looking match up. For Khademi this will be his first defense of the WBO European title, which he won back in 2019, and will see him looking to build on a solid start to his professional career. As for Ahmed he'll be looking to bounce back from a close loss to Harvey Horn, at Flyweight. Khademi should have the edge in natural size and power, but Ahmed will not be there to suffer a second successive loss.
Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, Florida, USA
We also have action in the US as unbeaten Chinese Heavyweight hopeful Zhilei Zhang (22-0, 17) takes on Jerry Forrest (26-4, 20). The 37 year old Chinese fighter really has let his career slip away with father time and the promise he had following a successful amateur career is unlikely to ever be realised due to his age and relatively weak match making. Aged 32 Forrest is no push over, and despite having 4 losses is a live under-dog here, having pushed Jermaine Franklin and Carlos Takam close in recent bouts. Forrest is tough enough, experienced enough and good enough to test Zhang, and if Zhang is on the slide this may turn out to be a genuine banana skin for the big guy from China.
It's fair to say this coming Saturday is mostly about one contest in the US, though surprisingly there is an incredible amount of action involving Asian fighters here, with bouts all over Asia. This is probably the busiest day we've had since boxing restarted back in the summer.
The Bubble, MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
It goes without saying that our attention this coming Saturday is in Las Vegas, where we get two Japanese fighters on action on a Top Rank show.
The main event here will see WBA "Super" and IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16) make his Las Vegas debut, as he takes on Australian challenger Jason Moloney (21-1, 18) in a much anticipated bout. For Inoue this will be his first bout since his World Boxing Super Series win against Nonito Donaire last year, and he has some questions hanging over him for once, such as whether or not his right eye is anything close to 100% following that Donaire bout. He also has questions hanging over him in regards rust and potentially being over-trained, given he was supposed to fight in March. As for Moloney he's the clear under-dog and this is a huge chance for him, though he will know that if he wins his career will change massively. Interesting Moloney was close to facing Inoue last year, and would have done so had he got the decision in the WBSS quarter final bout against Emanuel Rodriguez. Since his loss to Rodriguez, Moloney has racked up 4 wins and comes into this with momentum, despite being the big under-dog. Our full, in depth, previous of this bout can be read here The Monster takes on Moloney in Las Vegas!
The other Japanese fighter on this show is Andy Hiraoka (15-0, 10), who will be looking to extend his unbeaten record as he takes on Rickey Edwards (12-4, 3). For Hiraoka this will be his second bout in Las Vegas, where he fought last November. The Japanese Light Welterweight is being groomed for big things and he's expected to pick up an easy win here and more a step closer to a title fight, of some kind. Edwards on the other hand is struggling for form and has gone 1-4 in his last 5, and it unlikely to post any real questions to the talented Hiraoka. If you're tuning in for Inoue make sure to keep an eye out for Hiraoka, he's a genuine talent.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Staying with Japanese boxing for a moment it's worth noting that we are getting some East Japan Rookie of the Year bouts on the same day, as Korakuen Hall plays host to the first set of semi-finals bouts. In total there are 6 bouts set for this show, but due to all the action taking place through Asia we'll only really look at one of them.
The most notable is the Super Flyweight bout between unbeaten puncher Yota Sato (2-0, 2) and the very, very highly regarded Kosuke Tomioka (3-0, 2). This is the stand bout from this round of East Japan Rookie of the Year bouts, and will see Tomioka getting his first serious test against someone who looked devastating last time out. We are expecting big things here in a potentially explosive match up. If you've got tickets to this one, it's the one that you need to be in your seat for! If you're not in Tokyo, the bout is the one to watch when it becomes available online.
As well as the Sato Vs Tomioka bout, the show also pits unbeaten Flyweights against each other, with Teppei Saito (3-0, 2) facing Shugo Namura (3-0, 3), and Light Flyweights, and Light Flyweight, with Yota Mihara (3-0, 3) battling against Hayato Aoki (3-0, 2).
Yes this is gonna be a good one!
Suamlum Night Bazaar, Ratchadaphisek, Bangkok, Thailand
We also get a show of real note from Bangkok, where TL Promotions continue to make their mark on the sport, and bring through their range of talented and promising fighters.
The main event here will see Nonthasith Petchnamthong (1-0) drop down to Bantamweight to take on former Light Flyweight world champion Kompayak Porpramook (60-9, 41). We were impressed by Nonthasith on his debut, where he Arnon Yupang, where he won a WBA Asia title, and now appears to be dropping into a weight that is much, much more natural for him. Kompayak isn't the fighter he once was, not even close, but he does come to win, press, and is still a very good test for prospects. We expect to Kompayak trying to win, but be out boxed, out punched, and out muscled by the novice. Kompayaka, with his experience, is a live under-dog here, but he is clearly an under-dog.
Another bout on this show will see Anurak Thisa (24-2, 9), aka Nop Kratingdaenggym, take on Artid Bamrungauea (26-31, 24) in what looks like little more than a stay busy fight, and an easy win for talented Thisa.
Also on this card bouts between Tanes Ongjunta (4-1, 2) and Decha Puttaluksa (1-4), and a contest pitting the unbeaten Yuttapong Tongdee (3-0, 2) against the limited Kan Hamongkol (4-14, 1). Sadly these both look like formalities.
Singmanassak Muaythai School, Pathum Thani, Thailand
A second Thai show will come from Pathum thani and this really does look a lot less significant than the other show.
The main event here is set to be a clash between the unbeaten Kevin Gronlund (3-0, 1) and the limited, but heavy handed, Tanawat Ketsiri (5-6, 5), with the men clashing for the Thai Lightweight title. The 25 year old Gronlund debuted in June 2019 and has struggled in a couple of his wins. Ketsiri on the other hand is a 17 year old who debuted in 2017, has been matched hard and suffered a couple of losses to decent regional fighters, but has won his last 3 and will be hoping to carry on that momentum here.
Over in Kazakhstan we'll be getting the chance to see a number of very promising Kazakh's dip their toes in professional ranks, with the intention to remain amateurs and head to the Tokyo Olympics. This is thanks to Suleimen promotions who are putting on a 5 fight show.
One of those bouts will see Bek Nurmaganbet (1-0, 1) look for his second professional win, as he takes on experienced Tanzanian Abdallah S Pazzy (27-7-1, 24). After looking good against a very over-matched opponent on his debut this is a good step up in class for Nurmaganbet , and we should see the former amateur standout given a genuine test against a hard hitting fighter who beat Zulipikaer Maimaitiali last year. This is a genuinely dangerous test for the Kazakh novice.
Another Kazakh with some pro experience on this show is Yevgeniy Pavlov (1-0, 1), who also takes a massive step up in class as he takes on Tanzania's Goodluck Mrema (23-5, 13). Pavlov made his debut in July and looked decent against an over-matched opponent and, like Nurmaganbet, he is taking a huge leap up in class. Mrema isn't a world beater, nothing close in fact, but he has mixed with good company and has been in the ring with Marlon Tapales and Jason Moloney. We expect a win for Pavlov here, but it would be good to see him being tested.
The first of three debutants on this show will be Danila Semenov (0-0) who makes his debut against once beaten 36 year old Ghanaian John Napari (21-1, 15). Semenov is expected to make a big mark on the professional ranks in the coming years, and this is a very serious debut, against a man who's only loss came to the then 19-0-1 Apti Davtaev. A real risk and a real potential to make a statement from Semenov.
The second debutant will be Ablaikhan Zhussupov (0-0), who has booked a place in the Tokyo Olympics. He will be looking to keep busy here as he shares the ring with Tanzania's Meshack Mwankemwa (21-7-2, 13), who has faced a few notables names. Zhussupov is a brilliant talent, and our hope is that after the Olympics he will become a fully fledged professional and a debut like this shows the belief his team have in him. Mwankemwa has got 7 losses but they have come to some decent fighters, such as Teerachai Kratingdaenggym, Roman Zakirov and Walter Kautondokwa.
The final fight on the show will see 2019 World Amateur Champion Bekzad Nurdauletov (0-0) make his professional debut as he takes on Ibrahim Maokola (14-9-1, 9), who is the fourth fight fighter from Tanzania to be involved on this show. There are huge expectations on Nurdauletov's shoulders, not just for this bout but for the Tokyo Olympics, and we expect him to answer those expectations in style here, against the rather limited Maokola.
Rongchuang Mall, Chongqing, China
We also get action in China, albeit very low level action, as the Chinese boxing scene continues to tick over. Sadly this is a very, very low show with little of note, though it does have a 10 main event.
That main event will see Ruidong Zhou (5-1, 2) and Yong Shuai Luan (3-1, 1) battle in a Welterweight bout. The 26 year old Zhou is the more experienced of the two fighters in action here, bout his last 3 wins have come against terrible opposition as he's looked to rebuild following a 2018 loss in South Korea. Luan on the other hand is a 19 year old looking to get career going after a stoppage loss last year. Luan will be looking for his third win in a row, though his last two opponents have been very poor, and he struggled with one of those in September.
Of all the action out there on Saturday this is probably the least noteworthy card featuring an Asian fighter.
Delhi University North Campus Area, New Delhi, India
Another show that isn't worth too much attention comes from India, where we see a lot of novices in action.
The only real bout of note here is an 8 round mismatch between the very promising Sachin Dekwal (7-0, 5) and the win-less Pawan Kumar (0-0-1). The talented Dekwal is one of the very few Indian fighters worth making a mental of note, and he really should be facing better opponents that Kumar at this point in his career. He's a talent, but he's really wasting time, and chances to develop as a fighter with bouts like this.