Well what a week we’ve had with a host of big announcements at the start of the week!
The first bit of news from this past week was a bit of a disappointing story that fan favourite Minimumweight action man Katsunari Takayama (31-8-0-1, 12) had retired from professional boxing. The former grandslam winner stated that he was walking away from professional boxing to concentrate on qualifying for Tokyo 2020, in a remarkable move that could shake up the amateur ranks.
At Rio 2016 we saw some professional fighters turn their hand to the Olympic style of boxing, including Amnat Ruenroeng and Hassen N’Dam (more about him later) but they made the decision in the run up to the Olympics, and didn’t give themselves much time to adapt. For Takayama the move gives him a real amount of time to adapt to the amateur ranks.
Only hours after the Takayama news saw the announcement of a major world title triple header for May 20th. The headline bout will see 2012 Olympic gold medal winner Ryota Murata (12-0, 9) battle against the aforementioned Hassan N’Dam (35-2, 21) for the WBA Middleweight title, which was previously held by Daniel Jacobs. The bout had long been rumoured and could potentially see Murata become only the second Japanese fighter to win an Olympic title at 160lbs. Interestingly the new from Japan is that Frenchman will be dropping part of his name, and the promotional releases do list him as “Hassan N’Dam” and not “Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam”.
In the supporting bouts to Murata Vs N’Dam we’ll see WBC Flyweight champion Juan Hernandez Navarrete (34-2, 25) take on mandatory challenger Daigo Higa (12-0, 12) in a genuinely mouth watering clash, and we’ll also see WBC Light Flyweight champion Ganigan Lopez (28-6, 17) defending his belt against Ken Shiro (9-0, 5). Interesting Hernandez will be returning to Japan for the first time since suffering a loss to Kazuto Ioka whilst Lopez will be returning to the country when here won his title against Yu Kimura!
The following day saw another announcement of world title significance, set for May 21st, with Ohashi gym set to have a world title double header.
The main event of that card will see Naoya Inoue (12-0, 10) defending his WBO Super Flyweight title against Ricardo Rodriguez (16-3, 5) whilst the other bout will see Akira Yaegashi (25-5, 13) defending his IBF Light Flyweight title against interim champion Milan Melindo (35-2, 12). The announcement for this show came with Ohashi stating that Inoue was almost certain to make his US debut in September as he looks to become a real global star of boxing.
Interestingly both of these shows will be at the Ariake Coliseum and will be televised by Fuji TV who are set for a truly amazing weekend of boxing!
Another world title bout announced in Japan this week was that of Nana Yoshikawa (7-1, 4), who will defend the WBO female Flyweight title on April 29th against Monserrat Alarcon (8-3-2). That will be Yoshikawa’s first defense of the title.
Also on April 29th we’ll see Beibut Shumenov (17-2, 11) battle with big punching Cuban Yunier Dorticos (21-0, 20) in a WBA/WBA interim Cruiserweight title unification bout.
The WBC get a lot of stick, and have totally mishandled the Super Flyweight division in recent years, but this week they got it spot on with an announcement of a 4 man competition. One part of that 4 man event is a rematch between world champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (42-4-1, 38) and Nicaraguan great Roman Gonzalez (46-1, 38). The winner of that rematch will have to face the winner of a mouth watering match up between Carlos Cuadras (36-1-1, 27) and Juan Francisco Estrada (35-2, 25), who will battle for the interim title. Whilst Cuadras is said to have been annoyed by not getting an immediate title fight it should be noted that Srisaket had himself been forced to wait a long time for his second crack at the title, having long been the mandatory challenger.
It was revealed that OPBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (6-0, 6) will be making his first defense of the title on April 25th against 23 year old Filipino foe Jonathan Refugio (16-5-5, 4).
Staying on the subject of OPBF title defenses Heavyweight champion Kyotaro Fujimoto (16-1, 8) will make his first defense on May 8th as he takes on Herman Ene Purcell (12-5, 6) of Australia
Japanese Welterweight champion Toshio Arikawa (14-4, 12) suffered a broken jaw recently in training. Rather than waiting for him to be fully recoveed the JBC recently allowed a deal to be struck for an interim title fight, with #1 ranked Daisuke Sakamoto (13-8-3, 8) allowed to face off with #2 ranked foe Makoto Kawasaki (9-4-1, 2). That bout will take place June 30th and the winner will then have to face Arikawa on his ring return.
According to Puerto Rican sources a deal has been agreed for the the popular Japanese warrior Yoshihiro Kamegai (27-3-2, 24) to be the next opponent for Miguel Cotto (40-5, 33). Sources are reporting that a deal has been reached for the two men to face off on June 24th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
(Scott Graveson covers the Asian boxing scene for www.asianboxing.info)