Asian Boxing Scene: Shiming stutters, Inoue returns
Marcus Bellinger rounds up the latest news from the vibrant Asian boxing scene including a stuttering performance from Zou Shiming, Daigo Higa's continued emergence and a rematch for Shinsuke Yamanaka.
Whilst Vasyl Lomachenko lit up the Madison Square Garden Theater with a sizzling KO of Roman Martinez on 11 June the same certainly can’t be said of Zou Shiming who stuttered his way to a 10 round shutout of the completely skittish Jozsef Ajtai on the same card. The Hungarian teenager, who resembled a runaway sheep rather than a credible prize-fighter, had no intention of engaging at all, but Zou’s lack of adaptability and incapability to close distance and cut off the ring were again massively exposed, and it’s difficult to see where he goes from here.
The poor run for Chinese boxing continued on 24 June at the Capital Gym in Beijing, with Qiu Xiao Jun being thoroughly outclassed then stopped in the 12th round by Nehomar Cermeno for the WBA World super bantamweight title.
Mark Anthony Barriga’s expected debut on 24 June was unfortunately cancelled due to his opponent failing a medical. The Filipino is now slated to make his professional bow on 9 July.
29 June saw Knockout CP Freshmart upgrade his strawweight interim strap to full title status with a unanimous decision win over Byron Rojas in Khon Kaen Thailand, with all three scorecards reading 115-113. After a promising first couple of rounds with both men throwing plenty of leather and fighting at a furious pace. Holding, clinching and headbutts became the order of the day leading to an utterly forgettable affair. So far there has been no protest from the Rojas camp and whilst there may be grounds for a rematch, a second encounter is about as enticing a prospect as managing the England football team.
Daigo Higa firmly stamped his claim as not only the number one emerging flyweight, but as one of the premier young pugilists on the planet with a destructive four round drubbing of Ardin Diale for the OPBF crown at the Korakuen Hall on 2 July. From the opening bell Higa made his intentions clear, stalking Diale and landing some thudding shots. Round 2 saw the challenger go up another gear, applying intelligent pressure resulting in the champion going down and being lucky to survive the round.
By now the Filipino was struggling to keep Higa at bay and the Japanese youngster scored another knockdown in round 3, before a final brutal attack brought proceedings to a close in round 4. With the 112lbs class set to evolve over the next few months it’s going to take either a highly skilful and crafty boxer, or someone with an iron chin and genuine power to halt the Higa express whose stardom continues to grow fight by fight.
Later on that evening it was heartbreak for the highly avoided Jonathan Taconing who came up short in his attempts to win the WBC light-flyweight crown from Ganigan Lopez in Mexico City. Lopez fought a smart first three minutes before being hurt in round 2 by the hard hitting challenger. The champion used clever counters to claim the next two rounds, but the challenger then seemed to take control forcing Lopez on to the defensive on multiple occasions. A point deduction for Taconing in round 8 looked to have left the contest right in the balance. The opening scoring said otherwise with the Filipino only being given a single round on one card and just two on another.
Knowing only a knockout would win him the title Taconing gave it his all. But the Mexican boxed intelligently to stay out of harm’s way and take a unanimous decision with scores of 118-109, 119-108 and 115-112. Despite the first two cards being a complete injustice, full credit should be given to Lopez who at 34 is enjoying a late career renaissance. For Taconing, who saw numerous eliminators fall through and had to wait four years for his second title opportunity after being jobbed in Thailand, one can only hope the exciting 29-year-old isn’t frozen out of the world title picture altogether. For those who missed the bout it can be seen here.
Mongolian KO artist Tugstsogt Nyambayar returns on 15 July against Rafael Vazquez in a 10 round contest in Mississippi. At 38, and with no stand out opponents on his record, it’s questionable what challenge the Puerto Rican can pose to Tugstsogt who is in real need of a proper test.
Miguel Berchelt will make a defence of his interim WBO super-featherweight strap in Mexico on 16 July against experienced Thai Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo. Berchelt was impressive in dispatching George Jupp in six rounds in March and his 31-year-old opponent should provide a durable test, before the Mexican’s handlers even consider enforcing the mandatory shot against the outstanding Vasyl Lomachenko. Chonlatarn lost a complete shut-out whilst also being put down to the afore mentioned Ukrainian in November 2014, and was also comprehensively beaten on points by Chris John in November 2012. His opposition since the Lomachenko loss has been poor, but a stoppage victory for Berchelt would be a bit of a statement.
The flyweight contest between Muhammad Waseem and Jether Oliva has now been switched to the Hilton Hotel in Seoul, still on the original scheduled date of 17 July. The bout will now also have the vacant WBC Silver trinket on the line, and with kingpin Roman Gonzalez expected to move on to pastures new in the near future the victor will be right in line for a world title shot.
In yet another change of date Pungluang Sor Singyu will defend his WBO bantamweight strap against mandatory challenger Marlon Tapales in Thailand on 27 July.
Talented OPBF super-featherweight champion Masayuki Eto returns to the Korakuen Hall on 28 July to face Ernie Sanchez. The bout had been scheduled for April but Eto withdrew due to an injury.
In what looks an excellent matchup on paper, reigning WBC strawweight titlist Wanheng Menayothin makes a mandatory defence against Saul Juarez in Chonburi Thailand on 4 August. Wanheng stopped Go Odaira in five rounds in his last world title defence in March and his methodical pressure style make him a tough out especially on home soil. The challenger comes in to his first world title tilt in good form having defeated former champion, and Wanheng victim, Oswaldo Novoa via unanimous decision over 10 rounds, after the pair fought to a technical draw. The 25-year-old also has a stoppage and points win over former light flyweight champion Adrian Hernandez on his resume. The Mexican also has shared the ring with Milan Melindo and Jose Argumedo losing to both on points.
The 7 August contest between Ken Shiro and Toshimasa Ouchi will now have the vacant OPBF light-flyweight title on the line as well as the Japanese belt.
Kohei Kono and Ryoichi Taguchi will defend their respective world titles in Tokyo on 31 August with both facing their mandatory challengers. In what should be an all-out war Kono will defend his super-flyweight crown against Luis Concepcion. Taguchi will square off against countrymen Ryo Miyazaki for his light-flyweight strap. Rumours were also abound that Jezreel Corrales would be heading back to Japan to face the big punching Masao Nakamura as promoters Watanabe had an option on the Panamanian, but in a shock announcement the Japanese super-featherweight announced his retirement. The 28-year-old was a forma OPBF champion and was involved in a brilliant 10 round clash last year versus Daiki Kaneko which can be viewed here.
Takuma Inoue has vacated his OPBF 115lbs belt and it seems the 21-year-old is in pursuit of a world title. With Kono and WBC champion Carlos Cuadras seemingly having plans of their own, and his brother being in possession of the WBO bauble, the IBF avenue would be the logical route. Current titlist McJoe Arroyo pulled out of a mandatory defence against Filipino Jerwin Ancajas sighting an injury, but the sanctioning body have yet to clarify the legitimacy of the injury and word of when or if the contest is to be rescheduled hasn’t been forthcoming. The vacant OPBF 115lbs belt will be contested at the Prefectural Budokan in Okinawa on 21 August with Rene Dacquel facing Ohashi Gym fighter Go Onaga.
Sticking with the Ohashi Gym, Naoya Inoue and Akira Yaegashi are set to return in September with no opponents named as yet. Considering both suffered injuries in their last contests, such a quick turnaround wasn’t expected but is certainly most welcome. For Inoue a much talked about US debut doesn’t seem at all likely for 2016, but mercifully Omar Narvaez looks to be attempting to capture a world title at 118lbs so that rematch is now pretty much dead. There is also speculation that an eliminator between Japanese featherweight champion Satoshi Hosono and Jonathan Victor Barros could take place on the same show with the winner being in line to face IBF ruler Lee Selby in the future. Takuma Inoue is also expected to feature on the card. There has also been confirmation that 2012 Olympic Bronze Medallist Satoshi Shimizu will turn pro under the guidance of the Ohashi Gym.
WBC bantamweight king Shinsuke Yamanaka will also be returning to the ring on 16 September at the EDION Arena in Osaka when he rematches Anselmo Moreno. The pair fought last September with many observers feeling Moreno did enough to claim victory but the judges decided otherwise. Both have chalked up a single victory since then with Yamanaka climbing off the floor to outpoint Liborio Solis and Moreno decisively outboxing Suriyan Sor Rungvisai to become the mandatory challenger.
The other part of this world title doubleheader features a clash for the WBC super bantamweight strap between Hugo Ruiz and Hozumi Hasegawa.
Ruiz avenged his stoppage loss to Julio Ceja in capturing his belt and will be familiar with conditions in Japan, having lost a disputed decision to Koki Kameda back in 2012.
Hasegawa clung on to narrowly win a decision against Carlos Andres Ruiz Machuca last December, and unless the 35-year-old can miraculously turn back the clock a Ruiz win by stoppage is the only logical outcome.