Asian Boxing Scene: Inoue eyes US, Higa vs Diale is on
Marcus Bellinger rounds up the latest news from the vibrant Asian boxing scene including a hat-trick of victories for the Inoue clan and a potential barnburner between Daigo Higa and Ardin Diale.
We begin at the Ariake Coliseum where Japanese superstar Naoya Inoue was taken the 12-round distance for the first time by David Carmona in their mandatory super-flyweight title bout. Despite not being in any danger of losing the contest, the WBO champion failed to deliver the power-packed performance that has grabbed the attention of boxing fans from outside of Asia.
Inoue hurt his Mexican foe on numerous occasions and scored a knockdown in the final round but going the full championship distance won’t do the youngster any harm. The scorecards read 118-109 twice and a rather generous 116-111. More worrying at the time was a reoccurrence of an injury to his right hand seemingly picked up in round six thus resulting in Inoue rarely using it for the rest of the fight. Thankfully, it seems the damage was less serious than first thought and the Ohashi protégé looks to be headed to the U.S. for his next ring appearance.
In what has become standard procedure, Akira Yaegashi retained his IBF light-flyweight strap overcoming Martin Tecuapetla via split decision in a thoroughly absorbing battle. Rounds 10, 11 and 12 produced some phenomenal action with both men engaging in close quarters bringing the crowd to their feet. The challenger arguably shaded the first few rounds with the champion taking the middle rounds and, at the final bell, the judges’ tallies read 115-113 Yaegashi, 115-113 Tecuapetla and 116-113 Yaegashi. No one would complain if a rematch took place and, at 33, we should enjoy Yaegashi for as long as his career allows him to continue with facial damage becoming a regularity occurrence.
It was a successful night for the Inoue family with Takuma Inoue easily dispatching the overmatched Afrizal Tamboresi in two rounds and cousin Koki Inoue blowing away Bimo Jaguar inside a round. There was a massive upset on the big Ohashi bill with touted prospect Ryo Matsumoto being stopped in the fifth round by Victor Uriel Lopez.
Over in Hyogo, Riku Kano took a big step up in class and claimed a split decision win over former WBO strawweight champion Merlito Sabillo with scores of 117-111 for Kano (twice) and 115-113 to Sabillo. Kano is now in a perfect position for a world title shot with the vacant WBO belt the most likely route for the 18-year-old.
Takashi Miura made a successful return to the ring hammering late replacement Jimmy Borbon in a round and on the same show former WBC flyweight champion Toshiyuki Igarashi won a wide unanimous decision over Joel Taduran with scores of 100-90, 99-91 and 99-92.
Indonesian talent Iwan Zoda stayed busy with a sixth round stoppage of Jack Langodi Tinor in a non-title contest in Jakarta.
Mongolian menace Tugstsogt Nyambayar made it five wins from five in California and also maintained his 100% stoppage ratio in the process. His opponent Juan Ruiz had taken Oscar Valdez and Gary Russell Jr the distance so was expected to provide Tugstsogt some valuable ring time but the veteran retired after four rounds and the Joe Goossen trained super-bantamweight is now in desperate need of a step up in quality.
Anselmo Moreno booked his spot as mandatory challenger for the WBC bantamweight title currently held by Shinsuke Yamanaka with a unanimous 12-round decision over Suriyan Sor Rungvisai in their eliminator in Panama. Moreno scored a knockdown in round two and showed flashes of his wonderful skills to thoroughly outbox his Thai opponent. The southpaw slickster beautifully negated Suriyan’s attempt to pressure and smother and piled up the rounds in front of a partisan crowd which included Roberto Duran and recently crowned world champion Jezreel Corrales. Suriyan’s effort cannot be questioned and he did have some success in the last third of the contest but at the final bel there was no doubt who the winner was with scores of 117-110 (twice) and 116-112. Moreno v Suriyan can be seen here.
Vijender Singh made it five wins from five with a fifth round stoppage over the game but rather limited Matiouze Royer. The 30-year-old showed a lovely variety of punches with the uppercut being extremely effective but Royer posed no offensive threat at all and it really is now time for a step up for Singh. A 13 May bout with Andrzej Soldra [won by Singh in the third] was hopefully his final fight before a much talked about homecoming touted for 16 July.
The recent world title tripleheader headlined by Takashi Uchiyama’s shock defeat to Jezreel Corrales in Japan was a hit with the viewers in the Kanto region with an average audience of around 3.3 million and, for the main event, that figure shot up to approximately 4.3 million. Despite the card being subject to delayed coverage to the annoyance of many it seems that Uchiyama’s loss had to be seen to be believed.
In an extraordinary story that emerged from Japan in recent weeks, female fighter Shindo Go announced that, after her bout with WBO bantamweight champion Naoko Fujioka on 13 June, she would be travelling to Thailand for sexual realignment surgery. Unlike others who have felt the need to suffer in silence, Go has been open about her issues with gender identity disorder being especially apparent from the age of 20. The Japan Boxing Commission have stated that Go can apply for a licence as a male boxer with a doctor to assess the situation, but honestly boxing really is a secondary issue and she should be applauded for her bravery and will hopefully be an inspiration for others dealing with the same struggles.
On 4 June in Liverpool, Paul Butler takes on Petchbarngborn Kokietgym in a bout to determine the No.1 spot in the WBO super-flyweight rankings. Given that reigning belt holder Naoya Inoue has served back-to-back mandatories and Omar Narvaez has a rematch clause, the winner may be waiting some time for a crack at the Japanese wonderkid.
Like many Thai fighters, Petchbarngborn’s record is littered with a who’s who of journeymen from across the Asian circuit and, in his last significant contest, he was crushed in two rounds by the talented Sho Ishida in September 2013. The 30-year-old does have a 12-round victory over Ardin Diale and he took Kohei Kono the full eight rounds in their September 2012 contest but a lack of power coupled with being away from home should give Butler very few problems.
China has had more downs than ups in recent times but two fighters under the radar of many could be hidden gems worth making a note of.
Heavyweight Zhang Junglong (13-0, 13 KOs) made a bit of a statement on 11 April by stopping the well-travelled George Arias in two rounds. The last time Arias was stopped came way back in 2005 when Juan Carlos Gomez took him out in four rounds. The Brazilian took Kubrat Pulev, Hughie Fury and Carlos Takam the distance so Junglong’s power certainly is to be reckoned with but whether the 34-year-old known as ‘Dragon Fire’ has the other necessary ingredients remains to be seen.
Bai Shan Bo (8-0-1, 4 KOs) recently retained his WBC Youth light-welterweight crown with a lopsided decision over Nelson Tinampay with the cards reading 99-90, 99-87 and 99-89. The Chinese youngster dropped Tinampay in round eight and the Filipino was also deducted a point. At just 21, Bo is definitely a work in progress and there is absolutely no need to rush him. His highlight reel first round KO of Tackie Annan to capture his WBC minor belt can be viewed here.
Sticking with China, Zou Shiming makes his US debut on 11 June as part of the card headlined by Vasyl Lomachenko’s challenge for the WBO super-featherweight strap versus Roman Martinez in New York’s Madison Square Garden Theater. Zou will face Josef Ajtai in a flyweight contest scheduled for 10 rounds. The double Olympic gold Medallist should have little trouble with the Hungarian teenager who was stopped in two rounds by Welsh prospect Andrew Selby. Ajtai’s only other defeat came via split decision to Szilveszter Kanalas who regular readers of this column may remember was thrashed in three rounds by Iwan Zoda in April.
A deal has been agreed for the mandatory strawweight encounter between newly-crowned champion Byron Rojas and interim titlist Knockout CP Freshmart with Thailand the destination for the fight with 29 June the potential date.
With Carl Frampton now officially moving up to featherweight to challenge Leo Santa Cruz, the vacant IBF 122lbs bauble will be contested by Japan’s Shingo Wake and Jonathan Guzman who booked his spot with a recent win over Daniel Rosas who was forced to retire after eight rounds in their exciting clash. Apart from a win over a completely shopworn Christian Esquivel, Guzman’s record is devoid of any notable scalps but Wake’s slick sharpshooting skillset should provide many more answers as to the quality of the Dominican puncher.
In January’s edition of this column, Daigo Higa was identified as one of my five fighters to watch from the Asian continent with a bout with Ardin Diale was at the very top of my wish list. Well, low and behold, the boxing gods have smiled down upon us for once as the pair will meet for the latter’s OPBF flyweight title on 2 July at Japan’s Mecca of boxing the Korakuen Hall. Diale has already fought at the prestigious Tokyo venue when he was stopped in a thriller by Higa’s stable mate Koki Eto back in June 2014. The experienced Filipino has strung together nine victories since that loss including recapturing the OPBF belt. For Higa, this is his toughest test to date and a chance to further his burgeoning reputation as one of boxing’s most exciting and ferocious young talents. The 20-year-old is coming off a second round stoppage of Romel Oliveros in a defence of the WBC Youth trinket.
Touted Korean-based Pakistani Muhammad Waseem takes a sizable step up in class when he faces former world title challenger Jether Oliva on 17 July in Singapore for the WBC Asian Boxing Council Continental flyweight belt. After debuting at bantamweight last October when he won the South Korean belt, Waseem has steadily come down in weight and the 28-year-old would be a fabulous addition to an ever-growing cluster of talent at 112lbs ready to take over when Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada inevitably move up. Oliva may have lost three of his last four outings but the Filipino has been mixing at the very highest level, taking Pedro Guevara and Zolani Tete the distance. He also lost a split decision to Moruti Mthalane in March 2014. His only stoppage defeat came to Luis Nery at 118lbs, a weight that Oliva simply didn’t belong at.