Ota-City General Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
Over the last decade or so it has become tradition for Japan to host the last major boxing event of the year, with at least one big show on New Year's Eve. That's the case again this year, as we get a 4 fight card in Tokyo to close out 2021, and move us into what should, hopefully, be a much, much, much better year. The show isn't headlined by the bout we wanted, or even expected just a month ago, but as has been the case form much of the year, those in charge of the event have done the best with what they have to not just put on a show, but also give action that we want and that should, fingers crossed, end the year with some excitement.
The four fight card is a very top heavy one, and whilst the main event is clearly the highlight, there is one under-card bout want to put some attention on before discussing the main bout.
That under-card contest is an 8 rounder at a contracted 64.5Kg's, or 142.2lbs, between struggling veteran Akihiro Kondo (32-10-2, 18) and 22 year old Aso Ishiwaki (9-4-1, 7), who needs a win to build on his September victory over Yuichiro Kasuya. Kondo, best known for his IBF world title bout with Sergey Lipinets, is now 36 and has gone 1-3-1 in his last 5, but he has fought at a decent level, and fought to a draw in a Japanese title fight a year ago. Ishiwaki, one of the most fun to watch Japanese guys in and around 140lbs, on the other hand last back to back fights before his win over Kasuya and knows a win here will help re-establish him on the domestic scene. This might not be a huge bout internationally, but it should make for a thrilling domestic clash for the fans in attendance.
As for the main event that will see Kazuto Ioka (27-2, 15) defending his WBO Super Flyweight title against Ryoji Fukunaga (15-4, 14), who was a very late replacement for IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas. We were supposed to see a world title unification bout here, but that got scrapped after the Omicron variant emerged, and led to Japan closing it's borders, preventing Ancajas to travel to Japan. As a result Fukunaga got the call for the biggest fight of his career and, understandably, said yes. Although Fukunaga is a huge downgrade from Ancajas, the challenger is a former triple crown winner, having won the WBO Asia Pacific, OPBF and Japanese titles at 115lbs, and is heavy handed. Sadly though he is stepping up in class, massively to take on of the divisional elite. Ioka will have to fight off disappointment, seeing his unification with Ancajas fall apart, and if he does that he should dominate Fukunaga here, but there is, a chance, he could over-look Fukunaga, and if he does that this could be a very dangerous bout for him. Our in depth preview of this bout is available to watch here Ioka faces Fukunaga to end 2021
The post-Christmas return to boxing, at least in Asia, is rather slow this year, though we do have a show this coming Tuesday in Thailand.
Rangsit International Stadium, Rangsit, Thailand
The card, put on by Petpiya Fight is certainly not a big one, but is it headlined by someone who has got the potential to mix at a high level, as Petch CP Freshmart (62-1, 46) takes on Petchnamnung Sithsaithong (16-17, 9). The bout will see Petch make his third defense of the WBC Asian Boxing Council Silver Bantamweight title, as he continues to try and secure himself a world title fight. Whilst Petch was made to look second rate in his biggest fight to date, losing to Takuma Inoue, he has proven he has heart, determination, work rate and the tools to be a handful. As for Petchnamnung this really should be little more than his 18th loss, and likely his 11th by stoppage.
This coming Monday is the last scheduled day for fights in Japan and the Philippines before Christmas. Neither show is a big one, but it's something to enjoy as we move towards Christmas.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
The main bout of the Japanese show will see the usually fun to watch Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (12-7-1, 11) face off with Hideo Mikan (9-14-2, 2). Hosokawa, a former 2-time OPBF and former WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight champion, comes into this bout struggling for form. He has lost his last 3, and is 1-4-1 in his last 6, though he is very aggressive, exciting and heavy handed. He's coming to the end of his career, which has been great to follow, but he is now 37 and coming in to this we get the feeling he and his team want to let him go out with a win. Mikan is very much the perfect opponent for Hosokawa. Aged 36 Mikan is a veteran himself he lacks power, he's already lost to Hosokawa - losing inside a round back in 2017, and is the smaller man. This really does seem set up to let Hosokawa retire with a win.
Sadly there is little on the under-card worthy of much attention.
As well as the action in Japan there is also set to be a small card in in Cebu, headline by a clash between Jonathan Almacen (7-4-2, 2) and John Paul Gabunilas (4-1, 3), who face off over 8 rounds. The 22 year old Almacen isn't someone we expect to win world titles in the future, but he is someone who has shared the ring with some notable fighters, with losses coming to Hekkie Budler and Robert Paradero, among others. He's got some promise but we dare say his tough match ups and losses will age him worryingly quickly. Gabunilas on the other hand has been pretty softly matched, though he did face a then 2-0 Regie Suganob early in his career, and whilst he looks like a puncher it's hard to read much into his power given the quality of his opposition. Neither man is expected to be move aggressively to a world title fight or anything, but together they should make for a fun contest.
This coming Sunday is a big day in Japan, with 4 different shows, including a title bout in Osaka, several bouts with prospects and the East Japan Rookie of the Year final.
Sumiyoshi Ward Center, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
The show with the most important single bout takes place in Osaka, where we see several rising stars of Japanese boxing in action.
The main bout of the show will see WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion Ryosuke Nishida (4-0, 1) defending the title he won from Daigo Higa earlier this year. The talented, and really promising, Nishida will be up against fellow Japanese fighter Tetsuro Ohashi (8-2-1, 2), who is best known as a solid and promising young Super Flyweight. Ohashi is a very solid fighter, but this is a big step up for him, and he is very much like a smaller, less polished version of Nishida. As for the champion this is a solid first defense, even if it is a step down from his last two bouts, which saw him beating Shohei Omori and Daigo Higa. Unlike those bouts this will see Nishida up against a fellow boxer, as opposed to a fighter or puncher, and we could see him needing to answer some different questions here. Our preview of this one can be read here Nishida takes on Ohashi in first WBO Asia Pacific title defense
In a major supporting bout we'll see former Japanese title challenger Riku Kunimoto (4-1, 2) look to bounce back from his loss to Kazuto Takesako as he takes on the unbeaten Kazuki Kyohara (5-0-2, 3). On paper this looks a really even match up but in reality Kunimoto is the more proven and the more polished, and a very solid former amateur. Kyohara will know a win opens the door for a title fight of his in 2022, but he's meant to be little more than a game "opponent" here.
On the subject of good former amateurs we'll also see Kaito Yamasaki (1-0) fight in his second professional bout, as he takes on the experienced Takahiro Hamazaki (3-7-2, 1). Yamasaki was a very talented amateur and he looked like he could go a long, long way on his debut, but does have some questions to answer, including some about how he'll adapt to the professional ranks, and how his power will hold up. Hamazaki on the other hand is there to play the role of a veteran, and we suspect the 35 year old will ask some questions on route to a wide decision loss.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Over in Tokyo we get two shows, the most notable of which is set to take place at Korakuen Hall. The reason is so notable is because it's the East Japan Rookie of the Year Final, and is a platform for future stars. In total there is 12 bouts set for this card, with bouts taking place from 105lbs all the way up to Middleweight, with the exception of 154lbs which isn't competed in as part of the Rookie of the Year.
One of the most interesting match ups for this show is at Bantamweight, as Hiroto Sato (3-0-1) takes on Shori Umezu (5-0, 5) in a battle of unbeaten youngsters. Sato, aged 21, only debuted in July but has managed to squeeze 4 fights in already this year, prior to this one. Sadly he did fight to a draw on debut, has shown a lack of power, which could be a major issue here. Umezu, himself only 23, made his debut in August 2020, and has taken out his first 5 opponents in a combined 8 rounds. He has never seen round 3, and has really heavy hands. He'll be looking to show what his power can do here.
Another interesting bout between two unbeaten fighters will see Ryuya Kusamura (2-0, 2) take on Minori Okamura (2-0, 1), with this bout being the Middleweight bout, and for those not aware Japanese Rookie of the Year Middleweight bouts tend to be among the most entertaining as it's usually two big, somewhat unpolished, guys landing a lot of leather on each other. Interesting both these men debuted in September, both had their second pro bout in November and will be having this bout just 3 and a half months after their debuts. Kusamura is the taller man, and the harder hitter, and has looked really fun to watch in his first two bouts. Okamura on the other hand has had attention on him, with his debut coming against Eigoro Akai, the son of a popular former fighter, and he has gone 4 rounds, which he did last time out. This should be a very, very fun 4 rounder.
Arena Tachikawa Tachihi , Tachikawa, Tokyo, Japan
Staying in Tokyo, there is a small, but notable card in Tachikawa city. The card is certainly not a huge one but it does have a very solid main event, as JBC ranked Lightweight Shinnosuke Saito (8-4, 2) takes on Mirai Naito (8-3, 3). Coming in Saito is going to be the favourite, and he certainly is the more prove fighter, though Naito will be wanting to prove himself, especially with this bout coming less than a week after his brother's upset loss to Koichi Aso. Saito did lose last time out, with that loss ending a 5 fight winning run, but he'll be hungry to get back to winning ways here.
Aioi Hall, Kariya, Aichi, Japan
We'll also be getting rookies in action in Kariya as we get a show featuring only 4 rounders. Sadly it's always hard to get too excited about these shows, due to the lack of name value, but the 4 rounder format does tend to deliver some amazing action as two flawed novices put it all on the line. Despite the lack of notable names, we do like the look of these shows and this should be fun.
If pushed for a bout to make a note of, it's worth noting the nominal main event of the show will be a bout between Kenta Sugawara (2-2-1, 1) and Yuya Nakazato (5-12, 5), who is the most experienced man on the card, by far.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Over in Vietnam we're going to be seeing once beaten Vietnamese fighter Van Thao Tran (13-1, 8) take on unbeaten Thai puncher Boonrueang Phayom (9-0, 9) in what looks set to be a really interesting match up. Tran was tipped for big things, following a solid amateur career, but inactivity and a loss in 2019 to Billy Dib has cost his career and he's really not reached the level that many had hoped he would. Aged 22 Boonrueang is one of the more interesting Thai prospects, and a genuine puncher, but someone who has fought at a very, very low level. For Boonrueang this is a massive step up in class, and his first fight bout outside of Thailand, but a win here would help set him up for a very interesting 2022.
Nur-Sultan (Astana), Kazakhstan
The most notable card this coming Saturday for us is in Kazakhstan, where we see several promising Kazakh fighters in action. Sadly the bouts aren't the most attractive, but they do feature some noteworthy and promising fighters in action.
In one of the most notable bouts on the show the unbeaten Daniyar Yeleussinov (10-0, 6) will take on Juan Hernan Leal (15-1, 4), who appears to have been a late replacement for former world title challenger Dante Jardon (34-7, 25), in a bout for the IBF Welterweight title. The talented Yeleussinov, who won a gold at the Rio 2016 Olympics, is a man who should have been pushed hard by Matchroom over the last few years, but was really let down by Eddie Hearn and co. who instead pushed Josh Kelly as their big Welterweight hopeful. Yeleussinov may not be a threat to the divisional elite, but he's a very talented fighter who has shown a lot of development in recent bouts and we suspect he's going to try and make an example of Leal. As for Leal this will be his 4th bout of 2021, but his first bout outside of the South America, and a win here would be among his best.
Another fighter who was let down by his promoter, albeit not Matchroom this time, is Ivan Dychko (10-0, 10) who should have been well and and truly in the world title mix by now. Sadly Dychko's career has been among the most frustrating of any fighter in the sport, and it's been stop-start with more bouts being cancelled than actually going ahead. Here he's looking to shake some ring rust and score a win over a limited, but well known, name as he takes on the huge Aleksandr Ustinov (36-5-1, 27). This should be a straight forward win for Dychko who needs better fights in the new year. Thankfully this will be his second fight of 2021, and hopefully will be the final stay busy before taking on a contender level fighter in the new year.
Another unbeaten Kazakh hopeful on this card is Zhankosh Turarov (24-0, 17), who fights for the first time since July 2019. The talented Turarov, who's sadly had major issues with activity since 2017, will be up against 40 year old Egyptian fighter Abdumonem Said (22-1-1, 11). On paper this looks like an interesting match up, but Said is stepping up massively, has little on his record to suggest he can test Turarov, and is unlikely to last the distance with the Kazakh.
Over in Thailand we're expecting a small card, featuring a top teenager in one bout, and a 50 year old in another, as the wild west of boxing shows just how odd the sport can be at times.
The talented teenager is 17 year old Thai Phenom Phoobadin Yoohanngoh (11-0, 6) who will be looking to defend his WBA Asia Light Welterweight title as he takes on Filipino challenger Joepher Montano (11-5-2, 10). The talented Phoobadin came into the year with a lot of momentum, but inactivity has slowed his rise and allowed him to physically mature without fighting, which may actually serve him well. As for Montano the Filipino is no push over, but he has been beaten in 3 of his last 5, including a loss to Atchariya Wirojanasunobol, who was stopped by Phoobadin last year. This should be a straight forward win for Phoobadin, but it's still nice to see him in the ring again before 2021 ends.
The 50 year old on this card is Thai based British female fighter Denise Castle (3-2, 3) who will be up against Filipino Norj Guro (11-7-1, 4). Sadly Castle, who was a very good Muay Thai fighter, is well past her best and has hardly been active as a boxing since making her debut in 2014. Guro, although a long, long way from a major, is only 31 and will be hungry to continue a run of 4 straight wins. We don't expect this to be a great bout, but it's still very interesting to see a 50 year old in action.
We also get a small card in Indonesia, where fans will get a small domestic card with a couple of UBO title bouts.
One of those title bouts will be at Light Flyweight, as Silem Serang (18-22-3, 2) faces off with Frengky Rohi (7-11-1, 3) for the vacant title. This is a rubber match between the two men, with Rohi taking the honours in their first bout, back in 2017, before Serang got revenge earlier this year. Coming in Serang has won his last 3, and is unbeaten in Indonesia since 2017! Rohi on the other hand typically lost on the road, but is 5-11 on his last 16 bouts and has no momentum at all coming into this one.
The other title fight will see Stevie Ongen Ferdinandus (33-17-1, 19) take on a yet to be announced opponent for the UBO title at 154lbs. Despite his scratchy record Ferdinandus is enjoying a good run of form, winning his last 6 bouts, and he has rebuilt well since being blasted in a round by Tim Tszyu back in 2018. Sadly with no opponent named for this bout it's hard to imagine him facing anyone of any real quality.
EDION Arena Osaka, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
In Japan we get a show in Osaka, albeit a small show that is entirely focused on female boxing with 5 bouts in total. Sadly this isn't a big show, but it's still good to see the domestic Japanese female seen laying down it's foundations for the next generation.
The main event of the card will see 29 year old Kaoru Iga (4-2-1) battle against 25 year old Sarasa Ichimura (4-8-1), in a bout between two JBC ranked fighters. Iga is ranked #5 at Atomweight, and is the smaller fighter, whilst Ichimura is ranked #4 at Minimumweight. The winner of this would likely be on the verge of a Japanese title fight next year, with the two women having this bout at 105lbs
Another bout worthy of some attention on this card is the debut of Hinami Yanai (0-0), who went 20-6 (7) in the amateurs and is making her debut in a 6 rounder against JBC ranked #5 female Flyweight Michiko Abiru (3-5, 1). On paper Abiru doesn't look too testing, but it's clear that Yanai and her team, the Shinsei gym, are going to look to move her quickly, like they did with Kasumi Saeki, and a win here could be followed by a Japanese title fight next year, and potentially world title fights as early as 2023. Abiru should provide a test, but one that Yanai should pass with relative ease.
A third bout worthy of some attention is the one 4 rounder on the card, which will feature Sumire Yamanaka (3-0), the younger sister of former world champion Ryuya Yamanaka. The talented 20 year old southpaw will be up against the experienced Natsuki Tarui (4-7-2) in what is an intelligent step up in class for Yamanaka. This is the first time she's taken on someone with some real experience and we should see this as a genuine developmental fight for her.
Ayub Stadium, Quetta, Pakistan
We also get a small card in Pakistan, where boxing is still in it's formative years. The one standout bout on this card is one of the most interesting Pakistani domestic bouts we'll see as the unbeaten pairing of Akmal Khan (3-0, 1) and Tariq Ahmadi (7-0, 4) face off. These two are both young, both are 21, promising, and are looking to make a name for themselves domestically. They are, clearly, not going to be racing away to world title fights or anything like that, but it's still great to see this generation of Pakistani fighters slowly helping create a boxing scene there, and given the age of these two it could end up being a great Featherweight rivalry for the country.
The main focus for us this coming Friday is Uzbekistan, as Matchroom put on their second Uzbek card, and it's an interesting one with a great main event and several other bouts worthy of attention.
The main event is a world title eliminator at 154lbs as unbeaten, and highly touted, Uzebekistani fighter Israil Madrimov (7-0, 5) takes a huge step up in class and takes on the skilled and experienced French fighter Michel Soro (35-2-1, 24). Madrimov has been put on the fact track since turning professional in 2018 and despite some wobbles recently, notably in a tough one against Eric Walker last year, he has looked like a very special fighter. Albeit one that looks bored at times and looks like he is trying to entertain himself against lesser opponents. Soro on the other hand is a perennial contender who has one of the best resumes of any active fighter to have never won a legitimate world title. Aged 34 Soro won't get many, if any, more chances if he loses here and we suspect to see him put it all on the line here in what could be a really sensational 12 rounder. Sadly we're not sure either man would have the tools to dethrone WBA champion Jermell Charlo, but as a stand alone bout, this one is a very, very interesting one and the winner would, rightfully, deserve a shot at the champion.
In one of the main supporting bouts we'll see Olympic silver medal winner Shakhram Giyasov (11-0, 9) take on the tricky and awkward Cristian Rafael Coria (29-8-2, 13), in what should be a much tougher bout than it looks on paper. Giyasov, dubbed the "Wonder Boy", is a talented fighter but one who has shown some cracks during his professional career, and is certainly a work in progress. Saying that however he's talented, heavy handed, accurate and has the tools to go all the way to the top, in the future. We still feel he needs some seasoning, but he certainly has what's needed to be a champion. Coria on the other hand is a 39 year old journeyman who constantly looks for the upset, having given Hiroki Okada hell in 2018 and beaten Joel Diaz Jr in 2019. He was stopped last time out, by the awkward Alberto Puello, but he's tough and will be looking to make Giyasov pay for his numerous errors.
Another very notably fight in this card will be the return of Bektemir Melikuziev (7-1, 6), who looks to bounce back from his upset loss to Gabe Rosado. Interesting Melikuziev isn't being matched mega softly here, and instead of taking on a patsy after such a brutal KO loss he's up against the capable Sergei Ekimov (18-3, 9), who has never been stopped and pushed recent world title challenger Umar Salamov close in his most recent bout. This shouldn't be a problem for Melikuziev, but we suspect he will have to go rounds and this should serve him well given the loss to Rosado.
There also a number of other touted hopefuls on this card, such as 2016 Olympic gold medal winner Hasanboy Dusmatov (3-0, 3), who takes on tough Mexican journeyman Jose Rivas (18-12-4, 10). On paper this is a mismatch, but Rivas has only been stopped twice with the most recent of those coming to Jose Argumedo more than 6 years ago. He should extend Dusmatov a few rounds.
Likewise we expect to see Elnur Abduraimov (7-0, 6) have to work for a win over Filipino Jhon Gemino (22-12-1, 12), whilst former amateur standouts Ikboljon Kholdarov (1-0, 1) and Dilshodbek Ruzmetov (0-0) should both be taking home very easy wins as they they begin their professional journey's, and they are two men who have the potential to go very far, very fast.
Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
In Canada we'll see the talented Batyrzhan Jukembayev (18-1-0-2, 14) look to bounce back from his thrilling loss to Subriel Matias, back in May. The exciting Canadian based Kazakh showed lots to like there against one of the true dangermen at 140lbs, and will be given a chance to get a confidence building win here as he takes on limited Mexican Juan Jose Martinez (28-10, 20). It's fair to say that Jukembayev isn't world class, but he's certainly someone who can mix with the top 10 type of fighters and hopefully after this bout we see him mixing at a good level again in the new year.
Vysotsky Sports Palace, Samara, Russia
Over in Russia we'll see a couple of low level bouts with Central Asian fighters in action, playing the B-sides.
On such bout will see 25 year old Russian hopeful Rokhman Akhmetkhanov (2-0, 2) look to continue his impressive start to live as a professional boxer as he takes on Alexandr Zhuravskiy (13-8-1, 11), of Kazakhstan. Akhmetkhanov made his debut in March, has just 3 rounds to his name, but already looks like a genuine handful at Middleweight or Super Middleweight, and has two solid wins to his name. At his best Zhuravskiy was a tough, durable, reliable test for fighters, though he is now looking a bit shot and past his best. We expect Akhmetkhanov to win, but if he scores another quick win here it's going to be very, very hard to get him rounds over the next year or two.
A similar match up to the one above will see Chingiz Natyrov (2-0, 2), another hard hitting Russian hopeful, take on veteran Rauf Aghayev (33-12, 15), from Afghanistan. The 29 year old Natyrov looked tremendous last year, when he picked up two wins in the space of a few weeks including a stoppage of Oleksandr Hryshchuk, but with more than a year out of the ring he'll be hoping to get some rounds in here and move on to bigger things in 2022. The 38 year old Aghayev has amazingly fought 8 times this year! Though has sadly been stopped in 3 of those, and would be shocked if he avoided another stoppage loss here against someone as good as Natyrov.
A third bout of interest to us on this card will see Russian based Kazakh Ilya Ochkin (6-2, 2) look to bounce back from his 2020 blow out loss to Magomed Kurbanov, as he takes on Azeri fighter Elvin Akhundzada (4-8, 2). Coming in to this Akhundzada has been stopped very early in his last 3, and has lost 8 in a row. We do not expect him to put up much of an effort, but it'll be good to see Ochkin back in the ring after a length break from action, and after such a loss last time out.
Mielparque Hall, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
This coming Thursday attention turns to Osaka, as Midori Promotions, in association with 3150 Gym and Koki Kameda, put on a small but notable card with two noteworthy fights on it.
In the main event of the show we'll see Masanori Rikiishi (9-1, 5) take on Filipino veteran Roli Gasca (26-9-1, 9), who took the bout on short notice as Japanese border changes prevented Roldan Aldea (16-8-1, 9) from entering the country. Originally the plan was for Rikiishi, the brother of WBC world champion Masamichi Yabuki, to face Aldea and then move on to a title fight next year, but Omicron forced Japan to change it's rules on entry, the same ones that prevented Gennady Golovkin and Jerwin Ancajas from entering, the promoter made a large appear for someone to face Rikiishi. As a result Gasca, who hasn't fought since 2019 but does live in Japan, accepted the fight. Although Gasca is a solid fighter we suspect he'll be very under-sized here against Rikiishi, who's a Super Featherweight-come-Lightweight.
The other notable bout on this show will see former WBA Minimumweight champion Ryo Miyazaki (24-2-3, 15) take on Takayuki Teraji (9-19-1, 4). On paper this is mismatch, but it's not as simple as it looks. for Miyazaki this will be his first bout since 2016, when he lost a wide decision to Ryoichi Taguchi, and he's not scored a win of note since 2013, when he edged past Jesus Silvestre. He might have the pretty record, but inactivity and ring rust will be an issue for him here. As for Teraji he has proven to be an awkward customer giving the likes of Takeru Kamikubo, Seita Ogida and Ryoki Hirai good tests on the domestic level. Miyazaki is clearly the favourite, but this will not be a gimme for him, despite the records of the two men.
Mexico City, Mexico
As well as the action in Japan we'll also see Japanese fighter Shione Ogata (11-7-1, 3) on the road, fighting in Mexico against Rosa Olvera (5-2-1) in a scheduled 8 rounder. Olvera does have home advantage, but that's essentially the only advantage she has here as she less experienced, less proven, less powerful fighter. Ogata is no world beater, and we saw that back in April when she was dominated by Tenkai Tsunami, but she's a capable fighter who should be strongly favoured here.
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
L-Theatre, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
The most notable action this Sunday takes place in Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture as Taiho Promotions put on a card with two really interesting match up involving prospects stepping up in a notable manner.
The first of the two notable bouts will see former Japanese title challenger Dynamic Kenji (11-4, 7) battle against the unbeaten, very highly regarded, Yusuke Mine (4-0, 1) in a very good looking 8 rounder. Kenji hasn't fought since August 2019, when he lost to Takayuki Okumoto in a Japanese Super Flyweight title bout. That losses ended a 6 fight winning streak for Kenji, who has impressed against the likes of Futa Akizuki and Shota Kawaguchi. Sadly that loss, and inactivity, are hanging over him here, but he has shown he is a good fighter. Mine on the other hand was a very highly regarded amateur who turned professional with a lot of hype but has yet to live up to that hype. Mine is talented, accurate, skilled, but this is a big step up for him, and a chance to prove he is as good as his team claim.
The other notable bout will see Noboru Osato (13-8-4, 3) take on the once beaten Tulio Dekanarudo (3-1-1, 2). Osato isn't an amazing fighter, something that seems obvious given his record, but he is a talented one and he's on the run of his career with recent wins over Ryo Suwa and Retsu Kosaka, on paper this is a big step down from those bouts, but it's certainly not a gimmie. Dekanarudo was tipped to be one to watch, but was shocked in 2019, when Ken Jordan stopped him in a round, and failed to bounce back when he was last in the ring, suffering a technical draw with Yoshihiro Utsumi in October 2020. If Dekanarudo can show what he did as an amateur he has a real chance here, though he will, understandably, be the under-dog.
Sangyo Shinko Center, Sakai, Osaka, Japan
A second Japanese show, also in Osaka Prefecture, will be a 4 fight card promoted by Mitsuki Promotion. Sadly this really is a small show in Sakai City, but there is two bouts worth of some attention.
The first of those two bouts is an 8 rounder between Tomoya Kishine (7-4-1, 2) and Hironori Miyake (9-11-2, 1). Neither of these two men are going to go far in the sport, if we're being honest, but both men are better than their records suggest. Kishine has scored decent domestic wins over Masato Morisaki and Ryo Suwa in his last 3 bouts, and appears to be a pretty decent fighter, despite his record suggesting otherwise. Miyake on the other hand went the distance with Tomoki Kameda last time out, and actually dropped Kameda during that bout. He's no world beater, but Miyake will be there to fight and this could be end up being a very compelling 8 rounder.
The other notable bout on this card will see Yu Konomura (10-10, 2, 4) take on the JBC ranked Kimihiro Nakagawa (7-5-2, 3) in what will be an interesting Featherweight bout. Konomura is a win some, lose some, fighter. His last 6 bouts have all ended inside the distance and whilst did seem durable earlier in his career his recent bouts have have been exciting. Nakagawa on the other hand has one of the most misleading records in Japan, due in part to the fact he's gone 2-4-1 in his last 7. At his best Nakagawa is a rugged fighter, and his wins over Yosuke Kawano and Kanehiro Nakagawa are both very solid wins. This might not look great on paper, but it should be a good one in the ring.
Florence Day School, Liluah, India
Outside of Japan we also have action in India. Sadly this card is packed with debutants, though that's a good sign for the long term future of Indian boxing, with lots of fighters turning professional in the country.
The one bout of some note here is a 6 rounder, as 26 year old Dharamvir Singh (6-3, 5) takes on the win-less Deepak Kumar (0-2). Singh is limited, but he appears to be determined to make a mark on the Indian domestic scene throws heavy leather and could be one to watch longer term. As for Kumar, he's never been stopped and will be legitimately looking for his first win, rather than just making up the numbers against a fighter with a more impressive record.
Rebel Entertainment Complex, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Over in Canada we'll see Canadian based Iranian born Cruiserweight hopeful Salar Gholami (4-0, 2) back in the ring. The 6'4" "Saliwan" began his career in late 2018 and looked to be making a bit of a name for himself before the Pandemic slowed his rise, and he's been out of action since January 2020. Sadly we don't expect to see him tested here, but we are glad he's back in the ring after such a long lay off.
This coming Saturday is almost certainly the busiest day we've had this year with a number of world title bouts across the globe, as well as top prospects and a a highly anticipated return to the ring of a former 3-weight world champion. This is a crazy weekend it is one to get very, very excited about.
Coca-Cola Arena, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Arguably the most notable card, at least for us, is in Dubai where we see two Philippines Vs UK world title, as well as the next step towards a major bout for a Filipino icon.
One of the world title bouts will see hard hitting WBO Bantamweight champion John Riel Casimero (31-4, 21) make a mandatory defense of his title as he takes on Englishman Paul Butler (33-2, 15), himself a former IBF Bantamweight champion. Coming in to this Casimero is a huge favourite, though he has often blown hot and cold and Butler will go into the bout knowing that a loss here ends any hope he has of becoming a 2-time world champion. It's a must win for Butler, if he's to remain relevant, and a must win for Casimero if he's ever going to get a showdown with either Nonito Donaire or Naoya Inoue. Our in depth preview of this bout can be read here Casimero defends WBO crown against Butler in mandatory defense
The other world title fight on this show will see IBF Flyweight champion Sunny Edwards (16-0, 4) make his first defense, in a mandatory against unbeaten Filipino Jayson Mama (16-0, 9). Mama was supposed to get a world title shot at Moruti Mthlane last year, before the authorities in South Africa refused to sanction the event, he was then supposed to fight Edwards earlier this year, before Edwards pulled out. Coming in to this Edwards is the clear favourite, and the slippery English fighter will feel full of confidence for his first world title defense, however it's certainly not a foregone conclusion. Our preview of this bout, from the original date, can be read here Jayson Mama gets crack at IBF champion Sunny Edwards!
Another notable bout on this card will see Filipino icon Donnie Nietes (43-1-5, 23) battle against Norbelto Jimenez (30-9-5, 16), in what is essentially a must win bout for both men. At 39 years old Nietes is ancient for a Super Flyweight, but he has made it clear he wants a super fighter before he retires and wants to face the likes of Roman Gonzalez. For that to happen he needs to get past Jimenez. As for Jimenez, he is a multi-time world title challenger himself, and shouldn't be over-looked here, despite the fact he will be a very, very clear under-dog.
Dignity Health Sports Park , Carson, California, USA
Another major card will take place in California, where we see another world title bout, and a world title eliminator, in what could end up being a very, very explosive night of action.
The world title bout will see WBC Bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire (41-6, 27) defending his title against mandatory challenger Reymart Gaballo (24-0, 20) in a rare All-Filipino world title fight. Of the two men Donaire is the much more proven, and established fighter, however at the age of 39 he is well past the typical prime of a fighter, and that's ignoring the type of incredible career he's had, and the punishment he's taken at times, including his hellacious 2019 bout with Naoya Inoue. Gaballo on the other is a young up and comer who has got power and speed, but did look less than stellar last time out, when he took a controversial decision over Emmanuel Rodriguez, and he'll be desperate to show what he can do, and rip the title, and proverbial torch, from Donaire. Given the style of the two men involved, this should be a brutal fire fight. Our in depth preview of this fight can be read here WBC champion Donaire faces Gaballo in all Filipino world title bout!
Talking about fire-fights we're expecting another of those in a main supporting bout, as Japan's Hiroaki Teshigawara (22-2-2, 15) fights outside of Japan for the first time, and takes on former WBO Bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales (34-3, 17) in what could be the sleeper of the weekend. Teshigawara is known in Japan, and has carved out a successful career at Korakuen Hall, where he has built himself a cult following, and he'll know that a win here helps set him up for a potential world title fight in 2022. Tapales on the other hand is more well known, in part due to his amazing bout with Pungluang Sor Singyu and his two wins over Shohei Omori. Despite the past Tapales didn't look great in 2019, when he beaten up and stopped by Ryosuke Iwasa, and Teshigawara will be looking to score a repeat of that outcome here.
KRK “Uralets”, Ekaterinburg, Russia
We get yet another world title fight over in Russia, as we actually get quite an interesting card from Ekaterinburg.
The world title bout on this card is a really good looking bout which will see Dmitry Bivol (18-0, 11) defending his WBA Light Heavyweight "super" title against the once beaten Umar Salamov (26-1, 19). On paper this is a mouth watering match up, but sadly it's becoming harder and harder to get excited about Bivol bouts in recent years. It's clear he is an exceptional boxer, but like a handful of other world champions he's unwilling to roll the decide and put on a show, event against opponents that he should be comfortable seeing off. Salamov is an interesting challenger, who has shown some power, and a willingness to throw heavy shots, but he's also the sort of fighter that Bivol should be able to shine against. Salamov is hard hitting but open, crude, and there to be countered, something Bivol should be able to do at will, if he chooses to. Our preview of this fight can be read here Bivol defends WBA crown against Salamov!
In a major supporting bout former world title challenger Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0-1, 12) will be looking to bounce back from his frustrating draw with Jo Jo Diaz as he takes on the unbeaten Rilwan Oladosu (16-0, 8). Rakhimov showed he belonged in the mix at world level, and hopefully 2022 will bring him a second world title bout, potentially against Kenichi Ogawa. Oladosu on the other hand is a Nigerian fighter with a nice looking record, but one that doesn't really stand up to much scrutiny and this will be his first bout outside of Nigeria. Oladosu could be a rare Nigerian fighter to get excited about, but we suspect he's there to make Rakhimov look good instead.
Echo Arena, Liverpool, Merseyside, United Kingdom
As well as the world class men in action, we'll also be seeing a world class woman in action, as undisputed female Lightweight champion Katie Taylor (19-0, 6) defends all her titles against Kazakh challenger Firuza Sharipova (14-1, 8). On paper this one looks good, but in reality this should be little more than a public showcase for Taylor, one of the best female fighters on the planet, with Sharipova not fit to lace her boots. We know Taylor has beaten almost everyone of note at Lightweight, but they are really scraping the bottom of the barrel if they really think Sharipova will give her anything resembling a fighter. Our preview of this major female bout is available here Taylor defends unified crown against Sharipova
International Conference Hall, Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
Away from world title action we're set for a really good bout in Japan as former 3-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9) looks to bounce back from his 2020 loss to Kazuto Ioka, by taking on Ioka's former stable mate Sho Ishida (29-2, 15), himself a former world title challenger. This bout, being dubbed a "survival bout" in Japan, is a really interesting match up and will put the speed and aggression of Tanaka against the long and gangly frame of Ishida, with both men knowing they can't afford a loss, especially not if they intend to get a big fight any time soon. Tanaka will go into the bout as the favourite, though we do need to wonder what his loss to Ioka, and the loss of his unbeaten record, will have done to him. As for Ishida, a win here could potentially set him up for a second world title fight.
Staying in Asia we also get a compelling card in Kazakhstan, where we see some very highly touted prospects in action.
The most notable of the bouts on this card will be a Cruiserweight bout between the very highly touted Kamshybek Kunkabayev (3-0, 3) and Steven Ward (13-1, 4), who clash for the vacant WBA "Gold" Cruiserweight title. Kunkabayev, a former amateur stand out, has hardly put a foot wrong in his first 3 bouts, but this is a step up in class against someone who will be in the ring to win, rather than to collect a pay check or just survive. Sadly for Ward he is the naturally smaller man and he was stopped just 2 fights ago, however he will come in to this hungry and should be a genuine test for the promising Kunkabayev.
Also on this card will be a number of top Kazakh prospects, such as Talgat Shayken (6-0, 4) Sultan Zaurbek (11-0, 7) and Ray Seitzhanov (8-0, 5) who will all be looking to pick up wins and move their career forward.