Asian boxing scene: Ishimoto and Furuhashi go to war

Marcus Bellinger
19/10/2016 2:20pm

The always fun to watch Yasutaka Ishimoto was involved in yet another thriller as he successfully defended his Japanese super bantamweight title for the second time, eventually overcoming Gakuya Furuhashi at the Korakuen Hall on 1 October.

The pair met in August 2015 over eight rounds with Ishimoto winning a decision. The second encounter was a continuation from the first with a war breaking out very quickly - Furuhashi piling on the pressure and Ishimoto countering effectively. The champion was ahead on the open scoring after five rounds but this seemed to spur the challenger on even more as the pace increased and after eight rounds both men had put a huge amount in to the contest.

Round nine was a pulsating three minutes of boxing, sending the crowd in attendance in to a frenzy. With Ishimoto and Furuhashi both exhausted you could have been forgiven for expecting a quiet and sloppy final round but an attack from Ishimoto buckled the legs of Furuhashi, forcing the referee to stop the fight.

For Furuhashi a first stoppage loss will be a bitter pill to swallow and his hopes of domestic glory look increasingly slim. As for Ishimoto, the 34-year-old is highly unlikely to go beyond the Japanese or regional level but far less deserving fighters have been gifted a world title shot and whoever he faces he is 'must-watch' TV.

You can view the Ishimoto vs Furuhashi contest via the link below:

Much touted Filipino Mark Anthony Barriga picked up his second professional victory with an eight-round unanimous decision over Powell Balaba at the Strike Coliseum in Bacoor on 30 September with the scorecards reading 80-72 and 79-73 twice.

Jonathan Victor Barros booked his spot as the number one contender for Lee Selby’s IBF featherweight belt with a split decision victory over Satoshi Hosono at the Korakuen Hall on 3 October. Hosono was the man coming forward but the Argentine’s more varied attack got him the nod with the judges, whose cards read 117-111, 116-112 and 113-115.

Hosono had his moments of success but couldn’t sustain them for long enough and the Argentinian was a worthy winner despite Hosono’s best efforts to turn the tide in the second half of the fight.

Rex Tso kept his unbeaten record intact but the 29-year-old had to come through a punishing gruelling affair against Ryuto Maekawa on 8 October. In front of a crowd of around 5,000 at the Convention Towers and Exhibition Center in Hong Kong both men refused to back down, leading to a thoroughly absorbing ten rounds.

There were many sustained periods of action and, despite Tso’s best efforts, Maekawa refused to surrender and the 20-year-old’s stock will certainly have risen after this contest. The scorecards of 98-92 twice and 99-91 were extremely harsh on the visitor, but Tso had done just about enough to earn the win.

Tso is set to return in the first half of 2017 and a possible world title shot isn’t out of the question. Whether he can make the step up is another matter altogether, but the man known as ‘The Wonder Kid’ is never in a bad fight and has certainly opened up the Hong Kong boxing market, which is a feat that shouldn’t be underestimated.

The full ten-round contest between Tso and Maekawa can be viewed via the link below:

Later the same day, former unified flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada had to settle for a shut-out victory over ten rounds against Raymond Tabugon. Whilst the Filipino was game he was simply no match for the Mexican who was levels above in every department as expected.

After over a year out of the ring this was a good exercise for Estrada to shed some rust and hopefully the Mexican will now look to take on the cream of the super flyweight crop, although a reoccurrence of a hand injury could frustratingly delay things.

In the sort of match-up that is rarely made in the UK or US, 4-0 Masataka Taniguchi took on 11-0 Dexter Alimento in an eight-round contest at the Korakuen Hall on 13 October.

After a tight opening round Taniguchi dropped Alimento with a beautiful straight left hand in round two. The rest of the contest was a case of Taniguchi’s power and strength versus Alimento’s clever counter punching skills. The Filipino was the more technically adept but at the final bell the man from Japan took a split decision with scores of 77-75, 77-74 and 75-76.

After four easy wins Taniguchi will have gained much from the tough eight rounds and will only improve going forward, as for Alimento his reputation won’t have been harmed one bit and a rematch between the pair for some sort of belt on a bigger platform in the near future would be most welcome.

The fight between Taniguchi and Alimento can be viewed via the link below:

Kazakhstan are a genuine powerhouse in amateur boxing but although Gennady Golovkin is one of the most high profile boxers on the planet, domestic professional shows in the country have been few and far between.

On 29 October in the capital Almaty though, unbeaten light middleweight Kanat Islam headlines an interesting card littered with undefeated prospects. Islam takes on Patrick Allotey for a trio of minor belts but the most intriguing participant on the show is middleweight Zhanibek Alimkhamuly, who makes his professional debut against the experienced Milton Nunez.

Alimkhamuly reached the quarter finals of the Rio Olympics and also won a world amateur gold but he is still undecided whether to make the move to the professional ranks permanent.

Tatsuya Fukuhara defends his Japanese 105lb crown at the Foodpal in Kumamoto on 3 November versus the unbeaten Genki Hanai. Fukuhara has been in good form of late and, given his lofty WBO ranking, he could have easily sat back and waited for a world title opportunity. Hanai has long been tipped as a potential star of Japanese boxing and finally gets his first crack at a title, but the youngster will need to be at his best against an experienced champion who has home advantage.

In a previous column we brought you the news that Shun Kubo would be defending his OPBF super bantamweight title against Jin Wook Lim. At a press conference it was confirmed that Kubo vs Lim along with three other OPBF match ups would take place on a stacked card at the Central Gym in Kobe on 11 November.

At lightweight, Masayoshi Nakatani aims to make his sixth defence against Allan Tanada while Ryuya Yamanaka and Merlito Sabillo vie for the vacant crown at 105lb. At bantamweight, reigning titlist Takahiro Yamamoto squares off against the underrated Mark John Yap. There was talk in the Latin press of an IBF eliminator between Yamamoto and Omar Narvaez but the bout against Yap is a far more fan-friendly proposition.

18 November sees the return of the highly promising Iwan Zoda who takes on Jeronil Borres in Jakarta. This will be the Indonesian’s first defence of the IBF Youth flyweight crown which he won by stopping Szilveszter Kanalas in April. In between times Zoda has kept busy with two non-title stoppage victories. Borres is a fairly unknown quantity but he did push former world title challenger Richard Claveras close in an eight-round 112lb bout in September.

A day later Jonathan Taconing returns in a bout for the WBC International 108lb strap against Salatiel Amit. The big punching and exciting Filipino came up short against Mexico’s Ganigan Lopez for the WBC light flyweight crown in July and will aim to get his career back on track against Amit who is taking a big leap up in class.

With Akira Yaegashi unable to defend his IBF light flyweight belt due to injury, Milan Melindo and Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr will fight for the right to take on the Japanese warrior on 26 November in Sebu City in the Philippines.

Melindo has struggled of late, stuttering to wins over Maximino Flores and Victor Emanuel Olivo, and the 28-year-old will have to up his game significantly if he’s to secure a second world title shot at 108lb. Fahlan’s best two performances have come on the road, with the 23-year-old causing arguably the biggest upset of 2013 when scoring a third round KO of the then unbeaten world champion Ryo Miyazaki in Osaka and then being unfortunate in a challenge for the IBF minimumweight strap against Katsunari Takayama in April 2015. Both Pagara brothers - Albert and Jason - along with talented prospect Kevin Jake Cataraja are also set to feature on this show.

December is set to be a hectic month for Japanese boxing with many of the nation’s premier fighters set to feature.

On 3 December there’s a rematch for the Japanese super featherweight belt, as defending titlist Kenichi Ogawa faces Rikki Naito at the Korakuen Hall. Since claiming the title last December Ogawa has looked less than spectacular in his two defences against Satoru Sugita and Kento Matsushita and may be under some pressure to perform. Since the defeat to Ogawa, Naito has had two low level bouts at lightweight which revealed very little.

Boxing fans across the globe were set to get a pre-Christmas treat at the Forum in California on December 17 as Takashi Miura and Orlando Salido were slated to clash for the right to take on Francisco Vargas, but unfortunately the Mexican has had to withdraw due to a back injury. It’s hoped that Miura will still appear on the show but at time of writing there is no news as yet.

Since losing his WBC super featherweight strap to Vargas last November in the fight of 2015, Miura returned in May with a first round KO of Jimmy Borbon in a fight that can be seen via the link below.

We already know that Takuma Inoue will be challenging Marlon Tapales for his WBO bantamweight strap on December 30 and three more world title clashes have been announced for the post-Christmas Japan boxing bonanza.

Kosei Tanaka and Moises Fuentes clash for the vacant WBO light flyweight belt in Nagoya on 29 December. This bout was due to take place in September but a hand injury for Tanaka delayed proceedings.

IBF super bantamweight champion Jonathan Guzman heads back to the land of the rising sun to square off against Yukinori Oguni with the date and venue to be confirmed. Guzman returns to Japan where he won the vacant strap with an eleventh round stoppage over Shingo Wake in an exciting contest in July.

Oguni is a former national and OPBF champion with the best win on his record being a ten-round decision over Yasutaka Ishimoto. However, he was held to a draw by Gakuya Furuhashi and stopped in ten rounds by Shingo Wake back in March 2013 and the 28-year-old faces an uphill task against the heavy handed Dominican.

On the final day of 2016 Takashi Uchiyama has the chance for revenge versus Jezreel Corrales, who stunningly knocked him out in May. The bout will take place in Tokyo with Ryoichi Taguchi defending his light flyweight bauble on the same show.

Since Rio the number of Olympians transitioning from the amateur to the pro ranks has been a slow trickle but it was recently announced that Mexican Joselito Velazquez had signed with Teiken Promotions and would be managed by the well-known and respected Espinoza boxing.

Velazquez lost in Rio to eventual gold medallist Hasanboy Dusmatov and his form was patchy in recent times, but the 23-year-old has been a regular near the top of the light flyweight division in the amateur code for the last five years or so.

The grass isn’t always greener is an adage that can be true in all aspects of life and not just boxing. For former WBO bantamweight champion Tomoki Kameda this saying may hit home after relinquishing his WBO bauble, losing twice to Jamie McDonnell and seeing both his brothers retire from the ring in 2015.

Of course with the Kameda family having been banned from Japan the alliance with Al Haymon and move to the US was a welcome one but with the PBC seemingly ground to a halt for the time being this wasn’t a career strategy for the long term.

The 25-year-old returned to action on 15 October in Mexico though, blitzing Edgar Alfredo inside a round. Tomoki has signed with Kyoei who will now aim to regain his Japanese license and attempt to re-establish his name in the country.