Asian boxing scene: Zoda displays force

Marcus Bellinger
09/04/2016 11:16am

Japan has a new domestic bantamweight champion with Kentaro Masuda claiming the vacant crown with an eighth round stoppage over unbeaten Yushi Tanaka. It completes a terrific comeback for Masuda who was annihilated by Shohei Omori in three rounds last April for the same national title he now owns.

Tanaka, a stable mate of Kosei Tanaka, was never in the contest with the older more experienced Masuda dominating with the jab and straight right hand. A counter rocked Tanaka in round eight and the bout was stopped soon afterwards. On the same show, Takuya Kogawa successfully retained his Japanese flyweight belt overcoming Masayuki Kuroda via unanimous decision with scores of 98-92 twice and 97-93. Kogawa has eyes on a world title opportunity but he will surely be a target of ferocious flyweight prospect Daigo Higa.

Asia has many burgeoning talents from 115lbs to 122lbs but one of the lesser known prospects is former Pakistani amateur standout Muhammad Waseem who made it three wins from three stopping John Bajawa in the sixth round of a scheduled eight-round contest in Seoul. After a measured display in the opening several rounds, Waseem upped the tempo dropping the Indonesian in round four before finally finishing him in the sixth. Waseem is highly capable and could potentially be a dark horse around super-flyweight and bantamweight and it will be really intriguing where his Korean handlers take him next. You can watch Waseem vs Bajawa here.

In a massive upset, Hekkie Budler was unseated by Byron Rojas in their strawweight world title fight at the Emperors’ Palace in South Africa. All three scorecards read 115-113 and mandatory challenger Knockout CP Freshmart will not only be confident of securing home advantage but will feel he’s more than capable of overcoming the Nicaraguan.

As expected, Hinata Maruta easily swept aside Krungsing Kaolamlekgym in just 114 seconds with two right hands being enough to take out the Thai. The 18-year-old, who’s tipped by many in Japan as the next wonder kid, is hoping to return in July with the plan to fight for the WBC Youth strap at 118lbs which is one of the only minor belts recognised by the Japan Boxing Commission.

Once again, experience prevailed over youth as Tatsuya Fukuhara retained his Japanese strawweight title defeating the unbeaten Takumi Sakae via a unanimous decision. In a war where both men let their hands go, Sakae tried to take the initiative but the champion’s engine proved too much and, at the final bell, scores were 97-93 twice and 98-94 to Fukuhara who now could be in line for a world title shot in the ever evolving 105lbs division.

Once again, Iwan Zoda (pictured) impressed in his IBF Youth flyweight encounter stopping Szilveszter Kanalas in three rounds. After taking a look at Kanalas in the opening stanza, Zoda turned up the heat in round two forcing the Hungarian back on to the ropes and landing hard shots to both head and body. It was evident that Kanalas neither possessed the strength or the weaponry to live with Zoda and, in round three, two knockdowns sealed the bout for the 19-year-old sending the local fans home happy.

The contest gained plenty of coverage in the Pontianak region and let’s hope that the momentum continues to grow for the exciting youngster who is a much needed feel good factor for Indonesian boxing. If you missed it Zoda vs Kanalas can be viewed here.

Kenichi Ogawa retained his Japanese super-featherweight crown although he was stubbornly resisted by Satoru Sugita. The pair chose to only throw single shots for portions of the contest leading to a much less exciting affair than was expected. Ogawa had a big round six and seven but his one-paced nature and lack of defence had been exposed at times by the untested challenger. Thankfully, for the champion, his power bailed him out in round nine where, after a knockdown, a follow-up attack saw the towel come in from Sugita’s corner.

On the same card in a Korakuen Hall classic, Yasutaka Ishimoto successfully defended his domestic 122lbs strap winning on points against Yosuke Fujihara in a pulsating scrap that had the crowd at the prestigious Tokyo venue at fever pitch on numerous occasions. Fujihara brought it to the champion early on and, despite suffering a flash knockdown in round two, the challenger’s desire could not be questioned. The back and forth action continued with Ishimoto always one step ahead and a second knockdown in round nine really cemented the contest for the champion who won with scores of 98-90 thrice, but these certainly don’t reflect Fujihara’s contribution to a terrific bout. 

Kazuki Tanaka made it five wins from five stopping Denkaosan Kaovichit in two rounds at the EDION Arena in Osaka. After utilising a quality jab and terrific speed in the first round, a sickening body shot left the former world champion in agony and unable to continue in round two. Thankfully, the Thai announced his retirement afterwards and let’s hope it is a permanent decision. As for Tanaka, the future looks bright and a crack at some sort of title should be in the not too distant future.

This 15 April sees the welcome return of Randy Petalcorin who takes on Omari Kimweri at the Melbourne Pavilion. Despite having an interim strap at 108lbs the Filipino hasn’t fought since last April when he destroyed Yi Ming Ma inside a round in Beijing. Kimweri, a Tanzanian now based in Australia, lost a split decision versus Shin Ono back in January 2013 for the OPBF light-flyweight title and, while the 33-year-old might not be the ideal opponent, it is just good to see the man known as ‘Razor’ back in the ring.

In an unexpected turn of events, Carlos Cuadras will defend his WBC super-flyweight belt against Filipino Richie Mepranum on 23 April in Los Mochis, Sinaloa. A mandatory defence against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai had been ordered but the Thai’s handlers ask for a delay given the Mexican a chance to chalk up another defence.

Fans may remember exciting Filipino Rey Loreto who caused a huge upset by halting Nkosinathi Joyi in three rounds back in February 2014 in a card held in Monaco. The 25-year-old repeated the trick in March 2015 seeing off the South African inside a round but the talented southpaw hasn’t been able to build on that momentum only having one low-key bout since then. Thankfully, Loreto returns to the ring on 24 April when he faces Koji Itagaki in a 10-rounder in Hiroshima.

Opponents have been announced for Kohei Kono and Ryoichi Taguchi for the 27 April tripleheader and to say both leave a hell of a lot to be desired is the understatement of the century. Kono defends his super-flyweight strap against the woeful Inthanon Sithchamuang. The Thai southpaw has no wins of any substance and was dispatched in two rounds by Jerwin Ancajas, Mark Anthony Geraldo and Rocky Fuentes so this looks an absolute lay-up for the always fun to watch champion. 

Taguchi takes on the experienced Juan Jose Landaeta. At 37, the Venezuelan has done extremely well to stick around and he ran Koki Kameda close in one of their two encounters and he also went 12 rounds with Utaka Niida but these performances are in the distant past. Landaeta is coming off a ninth round stoppage of Walter Tello but this isn’t a victory that merits a world title shot and I’m afraid that Taguchi’s reign as world champion continues to massively underwhelm.

What’s even more ridiculous is that both men have interim belt holders beneath them and, if I’m Luis Concepcion and Randy Petalcorin, I’m pondering to myself ‘what the hell is the point of my interim strap and why do I continue to pay a sanctioning fee if a crack at the full championship won’t be enforced?’ The purpose of an interim titlist was if a champion was out of the ring with an injury or other issues for a prolonged amount of time but this process has been totally abused and bastardized by one sanctioning body, in particular, for the pure greed of extra cash.

The 7 May sees the return of former WBC 130lbs titlist Takashi Miura who features on a Teiken show at the Korakuen Hall. Former WBC flyweight champion Toshiyuki Igarashi is also on the card.

Ohashi finally announced their first world title bill of 2016 and, as expected, Naoya Inoue will defend the WBO super-flyweight crown against second mandatory challenger David Carmona at the Ariake Colosseum on 8 May. Akira Yaegashi makes the first defence of his IBF 108lbs trinket against Martin Tecuapetla. The Mexican pushed Milan Melindo all the way in their May 2014 clash losing a majority decision. The 29-year-old lost a 10-round decision to current IBF strawweight ruler Jose Argumedo and his come forward style should blend beautifully with the warrior mind-set of Yaegashi. Tecuapetla was stopped by former Yaegashi victim Oscar Blanquet in nine rounds back in March 2012 and the champion has already stated his intentions on hunting for a KO.

OPBF 115lbs titlist Takuma Inoue squares off against Afrizal Tamboresi in what should be a very easy night’s work and unbeaten prospect Ryo Matsumoto will also appear on the show against Victor Uriel Lopez in an eight-round contest. Koki Inoue, cousin of Naoya and Takuma, has his first eight-round bout against Bimo Jaguar of Indonesia.

The next fight for Rex Tso will take place at the Convention and Exhibition Center in Hong Kong on 14 May with Young Gil Bae being the opponent. A number of other Asian fighters will also appear on the card including Ryota Murata who is said to be facing Felipe Santos Pedroso in a 10-round middleweight attraction.

As part of the IBF Convention, an ordered rematch between Amnat Ruenroeng and John Riel Casimero will proceed in Beijing on 25 May. Their first bout last June was abysmally officiated by Larry Doggett who allowed Amnat to get away with constant fouling so let’s hope for a much more competent performance from whoever is in charge second time round.

Onesongchai won the rights to stage the mandatory defence of the WBO bantamweight championship contest between Pungluang Sor Singyu and Marlon Tapales with 17 June given as the date for the fight to take place in Thailand.