It’s fair to say that 2017 has been a decent year for fight fans, though it sort of feels like things are only just starting to warm up. With that said the next week or so is red hot with notable fights featuring Asian fighters. From next Sunday, February 26th, to the following Saturday, March 4th, we have a genuinely stacked run of days.
The action kicks off, as mentioned, on Sunday with a WBO “interim” Minimumweight title fight. The fight will see all-action Mexican Moises Calleros (25-6-1, 14) battle with Japan’s Tatsuya Fukuhara (18-4-6, 7) in Kunamoto in what should be a truly thrilling contest. The bout was made due to the WBO’s regular champion, Katsunari Takayama, being injured and although I’m not a huge fan of interim title fight this should be a great fight, and Takayama against the winner will be brilliant, so there is little to really complain about here.
The only real problem with the bout between Fukuhara and Calleros is one of coverage, and it appears that the bout isn’t set for any notable TV coverage, with someone from the Honda Fitness Gym telling me that the bout was only set to be aired on “local” television, a real shame given the quality of the march up.
On Tuesday attention turns from Kunamoto to Tokyo as we get double header to end February and giving Boxingraise subscribers something to be excited by.
The main event of the card will be another “interim” title fight as Yuta Matsuo (12-2-1, 6) takes on Masayuki Kuroda (25-7-3, 15) for the “interim” Japanese Flyweight title, due to an ear injury to champion Takuya Kogawa. The bout looks likely to be an exciting one, with both men lacking power but having fun styles, but it’s fair to say I’m looking forward to seeing Kogawa return and face the winner.
The more interesting part of the double header will see the fast rising, and sensationally talented, Hiroto Kyoguchi (5-0, 5) take on Filipino veteran Armando dela Cruz (25-14-3, 11) for the vacant OPBF Minimumweight title. Without trying to sound too hyperbolic Kyoguchi is one of the most exciting prospects in world boxing and Watanabe gym look to be fast tracking him towards a world title fight in double quick fashion. Dela Cruz is limited but is tough and should give the youngster a bit of a test here.
To kick off March we see WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart (14-0, 6) take on Japanese challenger Go Odaira (13-5-3, 1). The bout, which was only announced in February, will be Knockout’s second defense of the title and should help him shine with Odaira, in all fairness, being a relatively limited challenger. The limit of Odaira has been seen in the past, with the Hanagata gym fighter coming up short in previous world title fights to Katsunari Takayama and Wanheng Menayothin, who have both stopped him, and I expect the same will happen again here.
For fans interested in the Knockout Vs Odaira bout it will be aired in Thailand on Channel 7.
Just a day later we see another world title bout as long reigning WBC Bantamweight champiopn Shinsuke Yamanaka (26-0-2, 18) defends his title against Mexican challenger Carlos Carlson (22-1, 13). Yamanaka, who holds the longest active world title reign, is just a couple of defense off tying a long standing Japanese record and will be expected to easily over-come the little known Carlson. Despite the the fact Yamanaka is the favourite he has shown some big flaws recently and has struggled in a number of recent bouts and Carlson comes in riding a 22 fight winning run!
The Yamanaka Vs Carlson bout will be aired live across Japan on NTV, and it’s affiliates, whilst the rest of the card will be shown on G+, seemingly on a delay. That under-card features a Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout between heavy handed champion Kenichi Ogawa (20-1, 16) and mandatory challenger Satoru Sugita (12-3-1, 7), with the two men meeting for the second, and under-card bouts featuring former multi-time world champion Brian Viloria (36-5-0-2, 22) and IBF Super Bantamweight mandatory challenger Ryosuke Iwasa (22-2, 14), himself a former Yamanaka victim.
After a 1 day break, Friday, the action returns on Saturday with another show in Tokyo. The headline here is another Japanese title fight as Lightweight champion Shuhei Tsuchiya (22-4, 18) defends his title against mandatory challenger Kazuhiro Nishitani (16-4-1, 8). The heavy handed champion won the title late last year and although this is a mandatory defense it’s fair to say that Nishitani isn’t the best of challengers.
Also on this card will be world ranked Light Welterweight Hiroki Okada (14-0, 10), who vacated the Japanese title last year to focus on winning regional titles. Unfortunately his upcoming bout is more of a stay busy contest as he takes on Filipino journeyman Rodel Wenceslao (11-13-1, 4), who should prove to be a straight forward foe for Okada.
For fans interested in that card it will be aired live on G+.
To end the busy period we actually go to Mexico where IBF female Light Flyweight champion Naoko Shibata (16-3-1, 5) battles Alondra Garcia (16-3-1, 1). These two are meeting in a rematch, and incidentally it was a win over Garcia back in 2013 and this will be the champion’s 6th defense of the title, whilst also being her first bout outside of Japan. For Garcia this will be a 4th world title bout, despite the fact she is only 21 years old, to put that into perspective she is 16 months younger than Gervonta Davis and month older than Kosei Tanaka, the youngest active male world champions.
Whilst the busy period next week does seem to be excessive it’s fair to say that the next few months are set to be busy for fight fans interested in the Asian scene, with the schedule already filling up for April and a series of announcements expected to be made for bouts set to take place in May. Few will be as busy as next week, but there is a lot of notable match ups on the horizon.
(Scott Graveson covers the Asian boxing scene for www.asianboxing.info)