The past week has been a busy one for me on a personal level, but thankfully the news in the Asian boxing world has been much quieter, with only a handful of news worth stories.
One of the biggest stories of the week was that 2016 Olympic gold medal winner Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (0-0) had become the 9th fighter from the Rio Olympics to sign with Top Rank. The Uzbek 25 year old had been one of the outstanding amateur fighters over the previous few years, not only claiming an Olympic gold but also Silver medals at the World and Asian championships in 2015. His debut is expected in late spring and with Egis Klimas as his manager it’s clear he’s going to be on the fast track to the top.
Probably the most interesting part of the week was the flurry of bout announcements that we had.
The most left field of those announcements was that former Japanese Flyweight champion Suguru Muranaka (25-2-1, 8) would challenge WBA Super Flyweight champion Khalid Yafai (21-0, 14) on May 13th. I’ll admit I love watching Muranaka, and his bouts against Masayuki Kuroda, Takuya Kogawa and Hiroyuki Hisataka were great, but he’s done nothing to deserve a world title bout. When the bout was announced Muranaka was outside of the world rankings, but then suddenly found himself ranked #10. It’s hard to see Yafai losing, but if he does then Muranaka will stamp his name in the record books as the first Japanese fighter to win a world title in Europe.
Also announced for mid-May is a WBO female Light Flyweight title bout, as Japan’s Tamao Ozawa (14-3, 4) will face off with former WBO female Minimumweight champion Su Yun Hong (14-1-1, 7). The bout, set for May 14th, will see Ozawa fighting in her first world title bout whilst Hong will look to become a 2-weight champion. Interestingly this title was vacated by Louisa Hawton, who had been lined up to face Japanese star Naoko Fujioka earlier in the year.
On the Japanese domestic scene we saw Yuki Nonaka (31-8-3, 10) vacate the Japanese Light Middleweight title, with Nonaka stating his intent was now on getting a world title fight. As a result of Nonaka vacating the title we’ll now see Koshinmaru Saito (23-8-2, 13) battle against the unbeaten Takeshi Inoue (8-0-1, 3) for the vacant title on April 25th. Interestingly that same card will also feature Hiroto Kyoguchi (6-0, 6) defending his OPBF Minimumweight title on the same show.
According to Korean sources a deal is close to being reached for a WBC Flyweight world title eliminator between Muhammad Waseem (5-0, 3) Oscar Cantu (14-1, 1). The sources suggest that AK Promotions, the Korean team behind Waseem, are looking to to get the bout in June in Korea. The winner of the bout would be in line for a WBC world title fight later in the year, and will be expected to be the second “mandatory” challenger for the title, following Daigo Higa (12-0, 12).
Talking about Higa there is now a lot of rumours suggesting that he will be fighting Juan Hernandez (34-2, 25) on May 20th in Japan. The date is also said to be the one set aside for the long rumoured Middleweight show down between Ryota Murata (12-0, 9) and Frenchman Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam (35-2, 21). It now looks like Teiken will announce a double header over the next 7-10 days to announce the show.
(Scott Graveson covers the Asian boxing scene for www.asianboxing.info)