Asian Scene: Tepora shrugs off scare
Our Asian expert Marcus Bellinger rounds up all the latest action involving the continent's boxers, including wins for Jhack Tepora and Nonito Donaire and a fierce battle between Rex Tso and Kohei Kono...
Undefeated Filipino Jhack Tepora picked up an excellent win on the road, scoring a second-round knockout of Lusanda Komanisi in South Africa on 22 September. The 24-year-old claimed the WBO International featherweight bauble in the process and is a youngster worth remembering. The feat is even more remarkable given Tepora suffered an HIV scare before the bout which thankfully proved to be false.
A few hours later Genesis Servania gave WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez a real fright in their meeting at the Convention Center in Tucson Arizona. Valdez began well, showing a nice variety in his work and he looked to have more dimensions to his game. Servania was strong and pressed the action and looked to counter Valdez.
The champion dropped his hands in round four and paid the price as he was dropped by the challenger. Valdez repaid the complement in round five and by now we had a real firefight on our hands. Servania continued to land hard shots but as the bout moved in to the second half Valdez moved a lot more and attempted to keep his distance where possible.
The two traded in an exciting last stanza but it was the Mexican who retained his title by scores of 116-110, 115-111 and 117-109. Despite the fan-friendly nature of the contest Valdez showed defensive frailties that will need to be addressed if he’s to compete with the rest of the top fighters at featherweight.
As for Servania his reputation was massively enhanced despite the loss and he can certainly come again at either super bantamweight or featherweight. Also in Arizona Uzbekistan’s Fazliddin Gaibnazarov scored a shutout over eight rounds versus Victor Rosas.
Romero Duno won an eight-round decision over Juan Pablo Sanchez on 23 September on the undercard of Jorge Linares' bout with Luke Campbell at the Forum in LA. All three scorecards read 78-74.
On the same day over in Texas, Nonito Donaire claimed a unanimous ten-round points victory against Ruben Garcia Hernandez with scores of 100-90, 97-93 and 99-91.
Mark Anthony Barriga came through his toughest test to date with flying colours as he scored a shutout over ten versus Samartlek Kokietgym for the vacant WBO International strawweight strap in Beijing on 29 September. Also on this card unbeaten Filipino Ronnie Baldanado impressively halted Iwan Zoda in six and Chinese debutant Lu Bin vanquished Chatchai Or Benjamas in three.
Japanese southpaw Satoshi Shimizu captured the OPBF featherweight crown in just his fourth pro bout by destroying Sa Myung Noh in five rounds at the Korakuen Hall on 2 October. Shimizu established the distance from the off and his left hand was landing with regularity. The Korean tried to get inside but was met with some sickening body shots for his trouble. Shimizu scored a knockdown in the fourth and Noh did well to survive the round. There was no such luck for the champion in the fifth as Shimizu brought an end to proceedings. The Ohashi Gym fighter is now on the hunt for world titles in 2018.
Click here to watch Shimizu vs Noh
Super flyweights Rex Tso and Kohei Kono were expected to provide plenty of entertainment in their 7 October encounter at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center. The duo went at it from the opening bell with Tso’s extra youth and speed proving the difference in the first round.
A huge clash of heads occurred in round two, leaving Tso with a swelling. The injury seemed to drive Kono on and the man from Japan increased the tempo and the swelling was rapidly becoming worse and Tso’s left eye was also beginning to shut. The bout was called off in round seven with the injuries to the home man resulting in him being unable to continue.
After a ridiculously long delay we went to the cards. Unusually they weren’t read out by the MC but eventually they came in and Tso was ahead 68-66 on all three, thus giving him the technical decision victory. Hopefully a rematch can be arranged to settle the score conclusively as the fight was thoroughly enjoyable.
Click here to watch Tso vs Kono
A couple of hours earlier unbeaten Shuya Masaki scored a stunning opening round KO of Ciso Morales at the Korakuen Hall. The Filipino looked relatively comfortable until a crippling right hand to the body left him out for the full ten count and the Teiken super featherweight is now set for a title fight next with the OPBF route looking most likely.
Click here to watch Masaki’s KO of Morales
Hinata Maruta’s daring attempt to claim the OPBF super bantamweight strap in just his sixth pro bout didn’t pay off as he was outworked by the experienced Hidenori Otake at the Korakuen Hall on 13 October. The first four rounds were closely contested with Maruta looking to use his height and reach whilst Otake tried to make it an inside battle.
Otake took control between rounds five and eight, forcing the challenger in to his type of fight. Maruta responded well in the championship rounds and showed glimpses of the talent that has excited many in Japanese boxing but it was the champion who got the deserved points decision at the final bell with scores of 116-112 twice and 117-111. This will have been a great learning experience for Maruta though and he can certainly come again. As for Otake there are a number of interesting domestic bouts available to him.
Felix Alvarado ploughed through Fahlan Sakreerin Jr in three rounds in an IBF light flyweight eliminator that took place in Nicaragua on 14 October. The hard hitting Nicaraguan flew out of the gate immediately forcing the Thai on to the ropes and at the end of round one Fahlan was down. The ferocious attacks continued in round two and Alvarado finished proceedings in round three with a thumping right hand that left Fahlan flat on his back and needing attention. Alvarado recently gave both Kazuto Ioka and Juan Carlos Reveco all they could handle despite being outpointed by both and he is a genuine threat to all the champions at 108lbs.
A busy weekend of action involving Asian fighters kicked off on 20 October with a Japan vs China card which was held at the Korakuen Hall. Headlining the bill was Rikki Naito, who narrowly outpointed unbeaten Baishanbo Nasiyiwula over eight rounds by scores of 77-75, 77-76 and 75-79.
Still at the Korakuen Hall on 21 October we had a new Japanese lightweight champion crowned as Shuichiro Yoshino stopped Spicy Matsushita in seven rounds. Yoshino moves to 6-0 (4 KOs) and looks a promising fighter. He will make his first defence in February 2018.
A few hours later in Belfast Ryan Burnett and Zhanat Zhakiyanov put their respective bantamweight world titles on the line in the first ever unification clash to take place in Ireland. The Kazakh employed his usual pressure tactics, swarming all over Burnett from the outset. Burnett, a talented and smooth boxer was forced in to an inside tussle which lead to a rough, gritty, messy encounter which was full of holding and clinching during the first half.
As Zhakiyanov slowed down in the second half there was more space available for Burnett to land nice combinations which he duly did. The man from Northern Ireland did enough down the stretch to take it and judges' totals of 119-109, 118-110 and 116-112 gave him the victory. The 25-year-old has had a fantastic 2017.
The next day saw the focus switch to Tokyo as the rematch between Ryota Murata and Hassan N’Dam headlined a solid triple header. Murata was out for revenge after being on the wrong end of a dreadful decision to N’Dam in May. The first couple of rounds saw N’Dam throw more but Murata land with the heavier shots.
The man from Japan continued to apply educated pressure and he made a concerted effort to target the body and by the end of round four he was in full control. N’Dam took an absolute pummeling in rounds five and six and the French-based Cameroonian was coming apart at the seams. The beating continued in round seven and at the end of the stanza N’Dam was pulled out by his corner giving Murata the redemption he deserves The bout was a huge hit in Japan, leading on many of the sports pages and being watched by an average audience of around 13.7 million viewers.
On the same bill, Daigo Higa made it 14 wins from 14, maintaining his 100 per cent KO ratio in the process as he easily saw off Thomas Masson to retain his WBC flyweight belt. Despite having the height and reach advantages Masson was unable to make use of these attributes and Higa had no issues getting inside from the off. Round after round the champion chipped away at the challenger who was pretty resilient but that was about it. The Frenchman took a knee in round seven and was stopped by the doctor due to an eye injury soon afterwards. Next up for Higa could be a defence in Okinawa in January or February.
The third title bout on this card saw WBC light flyweight champion Ken Shiro face a tough assignment against Pedro Guevara. The Mexican got off to a really bright start and was ahead on the open scoring after four rounds. Knowing he needed to change things Shiro upped the ante and gave Guevara a cut eye.
After eight rounds there was split scoring with also one card level. Both men went for it in the last third of the contest but it was the champion who prevailed via majority decision with scores of 115-113, 116-112 and 114-114. Next up for Shiro is an ordered rematch with Ganigan Lopez, with no time frame specified at the moment.
There is still no word from the WBC regarding the failed drugs test of Luis Nery after his win over Shinsuke Yamanaka in August. The Mexican in the meantime takes on Arthur Villanueva in a non-title contest in Tiajuana on 4 November.
Wanheng Menayothin makes his latest WBC strawweight title defense on 24 November in Nakhon Ratchasima against recently deposed world champion Tatsuya Fukuhara. The Thai would move to 49-0 with a win and could reach the magic 50 if he were to overcome mandatory challenger Leroy Estrada sometime in 2018.
After being upgraded to full WBO champion due to the retirement of Katsunari Takayama, Fukuhara was outpointed by Ryuya Yamanaka in August in his first defence. Given their styles this should be a decent contest but Japanese boxers have an appalling record in world title fights in Thailand.
OPBF bantamweight champion Mark John Yap makes another defence of his title at the EDION Arena in Osaka against Seizo Kono on 3 December.
Also in December, on a date and venue to be confirmed at time of writing, Kenichi Ogawa squares off against Tevin Farmer for the vacant IBF super featherweight belt. Ogawa made five defences of the national 130lbs crown and showed inconsistent form during this period. He looked strong and powerful in his first encounter with Rikki Naito and against Hirotsugu Yamamoto but was pushed incredibly close by both Naito and Satoru Sugita in their respective rematches. Ogawa does have power but the 29-year-old has limitations and can look very one dimensional at times. He also isn’t the hardest to hit which could be his downfall against a slickster like Farmer.
Talking of the American, after going 7-4-1 at the beginning of his career he has strung together 18 straight wins and has defeated the likes of Gamaliel Diaz and Ivan Redkach in a remarkable turnaround. His last loss came five years ago to former super featherweight belt holder Jose Pidraza in a contest that Farmer took at late notice. The 27-year-old southpaw was shot earlier this year and was lucky not to be seriously injured but now has the big chance he has been craving for and should prevail in his first world title tilt.
Finally, WBC flyweight boss Srisaket Sor Rungvisai will square off against Juan Francisco Estrada on 24 February 2018 in Los Angeles, while IBF 108lbs champion Milan Melindo has been ordered to rematch Hekkie Budler after their exciting clash that took place in September.