Asian boxing scene: New stars emerge from Japan

Marcus Bellinger
15/03/2016 8:38am

Shingo Wake avoided any disasters in his warm up bout versus Waldo Sabu eventually forcing the corner of the Indonesian to throw in the towel in the fifth round. It wasn’t a vintage performance by all means for Wake but the slick southpaw can now look forward to a crack at the IBF belt whether that’s against Carl Frampton or for the vacant title.

Wake v Sabu can be seen here.

On the same show, super-flyweights Katsunori Nagamine and Kenya Yamashita engaged in a three-round thriller in a bout (with Nagamine prevailing) that can be viewed here.

It was another successful show for ALA in Cebu City with the gym’s two brightest young stars picking up wins although both were forced to go the distance. Albert Pagara headlined the card but was frustrated for long periods by Nicaraguan Yesner Talavera who quickly retreated in to survival mode leaving very few openings. Despite a knockdown in round seven, Pagara had to settle for a decision victory with scores of 120-107 and 119-108 (twice). The super-bantamweight hot shot headlines ALA’S 9 July card at the San Mateo Events Center in San Francisco with Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr and Cesar Juarez being eyed as potential opponents.

Mark Magsayo did everything but stop Eduardo Montoya in their 10-round featherweight contest. Montoya tasted the canvas in the seventh round but managed to somehow see the final bell but the result was never in doubt with scorecards of 100-89, 97-92 and 99-90. Magsayo can see the red mist at times so his 23 April encounter with Chris Avalos on the undercard of Nonito Donaire’s world title defence against Zsolt Bedak in Cebu City should concentrate his mind fully. 

Melvin Jerusalem came through his biggest test taking an eight-round majority decision over Florante Condes with scores of 78-74 (twice) and a level card of 76-76 which didn’t reflect the nature of the bout at all. Jerusalem used his jab to great effect leaving the former IBF strawweight champion reduced to clumsy swings. With 105lbs in need of some new blood, the 20-year-old looks to be a very promising prospect worth keeping tabs on. 

Flyweight Kevin Jake Cataraja picked up some valuable rounds against Tony Rodriguez prevailing with scores of 80-72, 79-73 and 78-74 over eight rounds.

As expected, Wanheng Menayothin proved too hot to handle for Go Odaira in their WBC minimumweight title fight in Thailand. The first couple of rounds saw the challenger utilising plenty of movement with the champion’s offensive output being fairly minimal. Things changed in round three with the Thai turning up the heat and dropping Odaira who managed to see out the round. The contest was now becoming more and more one-sided with Wanheng pounding away on his hapless opponent who had no offensive arsenal to keep him at bay. Odaira was forced to take a number of hard shots in round five and Wanheng finished the job to successfully retain his world crown for the fourth time. Due to Odaira being bent over the final blow was to the back of his head but no complaints were made by him or his team as he had been overwhelmed by a much stronger and more powerful fighter. Another so-so defence against Saul Juarez or Oswaldo Novoa is slated to be next for Wanheng and it’s a real shame that Denver Cuello has stated he can no longer make 105lbs as a clash between the pair would have been something very special.

Shinsuke Yamanaka and Liborio Solis served up a dramatic encounter in front of a Kyoto crowd who certainly made their presence felt. After a quiet opening stanza, Yamanaka scored a debatable knockdown which seemed to anger the Venezuelan who dropped the champion twice with hard right hands in round three. The Japanese southpaw did well to regroup and boxed well over the next several rounds to deny Solis any openings. 

The champion dug in some hard left hands during the seventh but the bout was becoming more scrappy and holding and clinches were becoming more prevalent. Yamanaka was awarded another knockdown in round nine but the best of the action came in the last few seconds of the contest with both men trading blows. There was no qualms over the result with Yamanaka winning by scores of 117-107 thrice although some may have had it a touch closer. The WBC titlist may have made his 10th defence but there are definite signs of wear and tear on the 33-year-old who once again was heavily reliant on his booming left hand. There is talk of a unification with Lee Haskins and with both possibly having mandatories it could suit the interests of both parties.

Yamanaka-Solis was watched by just over four million people which is respectable given it was only shown in Tokyo and it faced competition from an Olympic football qualifying match between Japan and China.

I mentioned in the last edition of this column that Ganigan Lopez will feel confident going in to his world title shot versus Yu Kimura and the Mexican showed all of that confidence easily snatching the WBC light-flyweight strap. Apart from some success early on with the straight right hand from the champion Lopez firmly took control of the contest and dominated in every aspect leaving Kimura completely outgunned. The challenger coasted the last round and won with scores of 118-110, 119-109 and a woefully inadequate 114-114. Lopez has a nightmare first defence with the totally avoided Jonathan Taconing finally being made mandatory.

There’s no stopping the Higa Express as the 20-year-old flyweight force made it nine knockouts from nine outings against Romel Oliveros. Daigo Higa came out with bad intentions and found a home early on for his left hook to the body. In all honesty, Oliveros seemed like a rabbit caught up in the headlights and in round two the Filipino was dropped. Like a big cat smelling the blood of his next victim, Higa never let up and tore in to Oliveros putting him on the floor thrice more before the contest was mercifully brought to a halt in round two. Japanese and OPBF title opportunities should be round the corner for the Yoko Gushiken protégé and, with Ardin Diale successfully retaining against Jonathan Francisco, the dream flyweight match-up still lives on.

Former Pakistani amateur standout Muhammad Waseem makes his third professional ring appearance on 19 March in Seoul against John Bajawa. The 28-year-old has been training in both the US and Japan and is a man worth remembering.

This 2 April sees the return of flyweight talent Iwan Zoda who aims to capture the IBF Youth 112lbs strap when he squares off against Szilveszter Kanalas (8-0, 6 KOs) at the Pangsuma Stadium, Pontianak, on the Island of Borneo. Kanalas was a respectable amateur for Hungary and has been the 12-round distance but the 17-year-old faces an uphill battle against Zoda who is coming off a third round stoppage of Phupha Por Nobnom and is brimming with confidence at the moment.

The way Japan is churning out exciting young boxers at the minute is very reminiscent of the fast bowling production line from the Caribbean during the 1970s and 80s. The latest prospect to emerge from the land of the rising sun is Kazuki Tanaka (4-0, 3 KOs) who on 3 April takes on former world champion Denkaosan Kaovichit at the EDION Arena in Osaka in a contest scheduled for eight rounds. It would be remiss of me to say anything other than the Thai is well past his best having been stopped in three of his last four outings by TJ Doheny, Ryo Matsumoto and Kohei Kono in a battle for a vacant super-flyweight belt back in March 2014. Tanaka (shadowboxing in the accompanying video) went the distance for the first time last December scoring a points victory over the highly experienced Monico Laurente over eight rounds and the 23-year-old out of the Green Tsuda Gym will know a win over Denkaosan will provide a nice springboard to bigger and better things.

Keita Obara emerged out of the Asian regional circuit in 2015 and impressed all those who saw him against Walter Castillo in their IBF light-welterweight eliminator. Despite only securing a draw on the scorecards, Obara had announced himself on the world stage and with the Nicaraguan not choosing to take up a rematch the Japanese fighter will get a crack at the IBF belt sometime this year. He has a warm up contest against Petchdan Tor Buamas at the Korakuen Hall on 14 April 14th  but with current champion Eduard Troyanovsky’s rematch with Cesar Rene Cuenca scheduled for 8 April now cancelled it’s unclear when Obara will get his shot.

Those who are lucky enough to secure tickets are in for a treat when Yoshihiro Kamegai and Jesus Soto Karass meet at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles on 15 April. With neither man possessing much of a reverse gear we should be guaranteed fireworks over 10 rounds if it goes that long.

In a tasty looking featherweight match-up Josh Warrington takes on Hisashi Amagasa at the First Direct Arena in Leeds on 16 April. Whilst they have completely different styles both men have won their respective domestic and regional titles and this contest looks pretty evenly matched. Many will know of Amagasa because of his New Year’s Eve 2014 bout with Guillermo Rigondeaux and the tall featherweight has bounced back with two confidence boosting victories after that punishing loss.

In a rather bizarre turn of events, Takashi Uchiyama will now face interim belt holder Jezreel Corrales at the Ota-City General Gymnasium on 27 April as part of a world title treble header. Ryoichi Taguchi and Kohei Kono will defend their respective titles but as of writing no opponents have been confirmed for the pair.

Uchiyama had been ordered to face Javier Fortuna but with the Dominican’s handlers unable or unwilling to put up the cash to bring the man from Japan to the US and Fortuna’s monetary demands completely unrealistic to travel to the land of the rising sun Corrales has took the opportunity with both hands. The Panamanian won the interim super-featherweight strap last December forcing Juan Antonio Rodriguez to retire after 11 rounds. The 24-year-old southpaw has a six-round decision over gatekeeper Rene Alvarado but he was also caught taking marijuana following an eight-round contest versus Jonathan Perez back in August 2013.

Japanese teenager Riku Kano seems hell bent on becoming the youngest ever world champion from the country and the 18-year-old aims to make a statement of intent when he clashes former WBO strawweight champion Merlito Sabillo at the Bunka Center in Hyogo on 8 May. The OPBF 105lbs strap could possibly be on the line depending on the next move of current holder Xiong Zhao Zhong who will have to face the Kano-Sabillo winner if he elects not to vacate. Kano will be attempting to build on his excellent win over Pigmy Kokietgym last December and Sabillo is coming off two wins after losing his world title to Francisco Rodriguez Jr via stoppage and being shockingly knocked out by Ellias Nggemggo afterwards.

I must admit to being more than a bit sceptical when Vijender Singh turned professional but so far the 30-year-old has shown a tenacity and spitefulness which are ideal traits to succeed in the paid ranks. Whilst his opposition has been steady at best they have been dealt with, with a ruthless efficiency like a top fast bowler knocking over the tail end batsman. A third round victory over  Alexander Horvath brings a 11 June homecoming bout closer in a move that could open up a whole new world to the sport of boxing.

If boxing is promoted correctly there is no doubt in my mind that India could be the biggest revenue generator of any nation on the planet with massive stadiums and colossal advertising opportunities making it a tantalising prospect for any promoter. Apart from cricket, which is akin to a religion, there isn’t too much other sporting competition so whether it’s Vijender or another boxer  the potential for superstar status is more than a pipedream. 

Anyone who has watched the IPL or other sporting events will quickly realise that glitz, glamour, colour and raucous atmospheres are part of the culture so the fanfare and razzmatazz that come with big boxing events would be lapped up by the Indian public like a cat laps up milk. The country also has a solid amateur set-up which will be an important breeding ground for young fighters aspiring to eventually venture in to the pro game. If the sweet science does take off I can see some possible issues due to gambling being illegal but we are running before we’ve even started walking just yet discussing those potential pitfalls.

Lastly there is still no news on the next bouts for Naoya Inoue, Akira Yaegashi and Kosei Tanaka and hopefully we should hear something very soon.