Asian boxing scene catching fire

Marcus Bellinger
16/02/2016 12:48pm

First and foremost, I would like to send out my very best wishes to Thai strawweight Chanachai CP Freshmart who tragically collapsed in his corner after the eighth round of his WBC Youth bout with Dexter Alimento. Chanachai was carried out the ring on a stretcher and taken to hospital where it was discovered he had suffered a brain bleed. At time of writing, the latest update is that the swelling on the brain had eased and he had regained some feeling, but with injuries such as this things can change at any time and it will be a long road ahead.

Let’s just hope the youngster is okay and this situation is another demonstration of how dangerous the sport of boxing can be. The fight itself was an intriguing one with Chanachai applying his usual pressure tactics and Alimento replying with sharp crisp counters but, of course, subsequent events make the ring action rather insignificant.

After a horribly dull and dry January, we finally have some solid match-ups to look forward to in the upcoming weeks but before we get to those a brief summary of a few results from around the continent. 

It was a triumphant return for China’s boxing darling Zou Shiming who stopped Natan Santana Coutinho in the eighth round in front of a sizable crowd and a TV audience of 36.5 million at the Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai. The Brazilian put in a spirited effort but the 34-year-old former amateur standout proved too much in the end. Also on this card, middleweight contender Ryota Murata stopped Gaston Alejandro Vega in two rounds but much improvement is still required if he aims to fulfill the world title expectations placed upon him.

In a minimumweight rematch, Knockout CP Freshmart squared off against Carlos Buitrago in Thailand. Their October 2014 bout was a close encounter with Knockout taking a decision with all three scorecards reading 115-113, but the Nicaraguan was certainly deserving of a rematch. This time, however, there was no doubt about who was victorious with the Thai taking a unanimous decision with scores of 119-109 and 117-111 twice. Regardless of the spurious belt on the line for this contest, Knockout is now mandatory challenger for Hekkie Budler in what would be a terrific contest. The South African defends his title on 19 March at home against Byron Rojas.

Daud Yordan took on Yoshitaka Kato for a pair of WBO regional lightweight straps in Jakarta. This looked a good tussle on paper and the fight was pretty competitive with Yordan’s greater work-rate edging out Kato’s defensive prowess and good counters. Unfortunately, an accidental clash of heads in the ninth round left Yordan unable to continue and the Indonesian won a merited unanimous technical decision with scores of 88-84, 88-83 and 87-84.

Two men familiar to British fight viewers faced each other at the Korakuen Hall as Ryosuke Iwasa took on Dennis Tubieron in a contest fought at 124lbs. The extra weight certainly proved beneficial for Iwasa who produced a far more fluid display and the Japanese southpaw used a plentiful supply of sickening body shots.

It was these blows to the mid-section that eventually took their toll and Tubieron was eventually put out of his misery in the seventh round. Iwasa stated his intentions to challenge for a world title at super-bantamweight but there is a cluster of quality fighters in his homeland at the weight who would make for great fights.

In an ordered rematch that was on and off more times than a bickering couple, Stamp Kiatniwat once again narrowly overcame Gregorio Lebron to retain his interim flyweight belt with scores of 115-114, 115-113 and 114-114.

In an absorbing contest, Lebron’s more frequent output was countered with harder and more telling shots which saw the Thai get the better of most of the exchanges. Despite a late rally from the Dominican, he was left dejected at the final bell having probably known he hadn’t done quite enough to convince the three judges. At just 18, Stamp is nowhere near ready for the elite at 112lbs but if his career is guided correctly he can be a much-needed gem for the Thai boxing scene.

Finally, the WBO bantamweight title fight between Pungluang Sor Singyu and Jetro Pabustan was marred by multiple head clashes with both men wanting to trade on the inside. The champion was in control for the majority of the contest and, right at the end of the seventh round, another head clash left the challenger unable to continue with the judges all favouring Pungluang with scores of 70-63. On reflection, the outcome was not really a surprise with four of Pabustan’s last seven fights and 12 overall ending via a technical decision. The Thai champion now faces hard-hitting Filipino Marlon Tapales in a mandatory defence with both camps seemingly ready to fight tooth and nail to gain home advantage for their fighter.

Shingo Wake, who is mandatory challenger for the IBF super-bantamweight title owned by Carl Frampton, will, of course, have a keen eye on events in Manchester on 27 February, but the tricky southpaw has a bout of his own on 17 February against Waldo Sabu to stave off any ring rust.

Some updates to the show in the Philippines on 27 February as super-bantamweight hotshot Albert Pagara will now take on Yesner Talavera and flyweight Kevin Jake Cataraja faces Tony Rodriguez. There is also an interesting step up bout for unbeaten Melvin Jerusalem who squares off against lower weight stalwart Florante Condes.

On Thursday 3 March, Wanheng Menayothin makes the fourth defence of his WBC strawweight trinket against Go Odaira. Since impressively snatching the world title from Oswaldo Novoa back in November 2014, Wanheng’s opposition has been poor, scoring a unanimous points win over Jeffrey Galero and easily stopping the well overmatched Jerry Tomogdan and Young Gil Bae. 

Odaira, a former national champion, came up short in his previous world title attempt being stopped by Katsunari Takayama in their New Year’s Eve 2014 meeting for both the vacant IBF and WBO 105lbs titles. Despite possessing some lovely skills, the chances of Odaira becoming the first Japanese boxer to capture a world crown in Thailand look slim given the champion is a quality pressure fighter and the conditions will most likely be energy sapping which will most certainly play into Wanheng’s hands.

A day later, Teiken presents its first world title action of the year at the Shimazu Arena in Kyoto, which in recent times has become a bit of a boxing hub. WBC bantamweight titlist Shinsuke Yamanaka attempts the 10th defence of his belt against Liborio Solis. The champion should feel a lot more at home against the Venezuelan’s come forward style rather than the slick southpaw skills of Anselmo Moreno who troubled Yamanaka badly in their September 2015 encounter. Incidentally, Moreno takes on Suriyan Sor Rungvisai in a WBC final eliminator at the Arena Roberto Duran in Panama City on 30 April.  Solis will have fond memories of the land of the rising sun having taken the scalp of both Daiki Kameda and Kohei Kono and the 33-year-old is coming off a points victory over the more than capable Jonathan Baat in December.

On the same show, Yu Kimura makes the first defence of his WBC light-flyweight strap against Ganigan Lopez. Kimura caused one of 2015’s biggest upsets unseating then champion Pedro Guevara, coming from behind to grab a split decision win in November. Lopez was far more competitive with Guevara than I thought he would have been in their scrap last July and the Mexican will feel he has a very solid chance of becoming a world champion against the light-punching Kimura. 

Flyweight force and one of my fighters to watch Daigo Higa returns on 5 March at the Korakuen Hall against Romel Oliveros in the second defence of his WBC youth belt. OPBF champion Ardin Diale defends against Jonathan Francisco in the Philippines on 20 February and, if both come through their upcoming contests, fingers crossed a fight between Higa and Diale can be arranged.

The much talked about Hinata Maruta has his second outing on 20 March against debutant Krumgsing Kaolanlekgym. Given his debut against Jason Camoy, this is a disappointing next step but it seems his team want to establish whether the 18-year-old is comfortable at 118lbs before moving him on.

Nonito Donaire makes the first defence of his WBO super-bantamweight title on 23 April at the Araneta Coliseum against Zsolt Bedak. Donaire won the belt after surviving a second half rally from Cesar Juarez in their gripping December 2015 encounter. Bedak fell well short in his previous world title opportunity being stopped by Wilfredo Vazquez Jr in 10 rounds back in May 2010 and, unless there is a miracle, the Hungarian should pose no problems for ‘The Filipino Flash’. There is also speculation that Mark Magsayo could take on former Carl Frampton and Oscar Valdez victim Chris Avalos on the same card in a solid step up bout for the exciting young featherweight. 

The 2016 Champions Carnival, which is a yearly held event where the Japanese titlist make mandatory defences of their belts, has thrown up some interesting fights involving some of the country’s next stars. Here are a few highlights and there is also a bonus available for the winners.

It’s a clash of youth versus experience at the Korakuen Hall on 18 March as veteran Kentaro Masuda squares off against unbeaten but untested Yushi Tanaka who is a stablemate of WBO champion Kosei Tanaka.

On 26 March in Kumamoto, Tatsuya Fukuhara aims to keep hold of his 105lbs strap against the unbeaten and world-ranked Takumi Sakae and the victor has a very realistic chance of vying for a world title.

Kenichi Ogawa, who overpowered the talented Rikki Naito last December, could very well be the dark horse at super-featherweight for 2016. The big-hitting, Teiken promoted fighter makes the first defence of his newly acquired hardware against Satoru Sugita at the Korakuen Hall on 2 April. The classy Ken Shiro defends his national crown for the first time against former world title challenger Atsushi Kakutani on 14 April, also at the Korakuen Hall, in what is an excellent test for the young light-flyweight.

In what should be a real war at lightweight, Kota Tokunaga takes on Nihito Arakawa at the Shimazu Arena in Kyoto on 16 April. A day later at the EDION Arena in Osaka, talented super-flyweight Sho Ishida makes the fifth defence of his Japanese bauble against Ryuichi Funai

Sampson Boxing, headed by Sampson Lewkowicz, won the purse bid to stage the IBF super-flyweight contest between champion McJoe Arroyo and big-punching Filipino Jerwin Ancajas. Contracts have been sent out with the bout heading to the Strike Coliseum in Bacoor City in the Philippines on 16 April. With the winning bid of $25,000 Ancajas will earn a paltry $3,750 which really is a disgrace and the IBF needs to look at a fairer split between champion and mandatory challenger.

Sadly, for now, Takashi Uchiyama won’t be facing Nicholas Walters and instead has a mandatory defence against the rather suspect Javier Fortuna to contend with. The fight is expected to head to the US which was the intention of Watanabe, Uchiyama’s team, in the first place so not all is lost.

With revenues at a five-year low in Macao after a clamp down from the Chinese government, Top Rank has switched its Asian adventure to mainland China and Hong Kong with Rex Tso recently signing a three-fight deal with the Las Vegas based company. The exciting super-flyweight is expected to return on 14 May in Hong Kong with Young Gil Bae the likely opponent.

Sticking with China, CCTV5 recently held two shows to celebrate the Chinese New Year and the 12-round super-bantamweight fight between Qiu Xiao Jun and Raymond Commey was watched by an astonishing 200 million viewers. 

In the next edition, we should have official confirmation of Naoya Inoue and Akira Yaegashi’s next ring appearance and much, much more.