Asian scene: Yamanaka steps up and Nakatani hammers Tanada
We begin this month's round-up with the results from a packed card at the Central Gym in Kobe on 11 November, including four OPBF contests.
At minimumweight we have a new champion after Ryuya Yamanaka out-boxed Merlito Sabillo, claiming a unanimous decision to capture the vacant crown. Sabillo managed to get off to a good start but his success was short lived with Yamanaka’s speed and movement quickly taking over. The Filipino managed to cut Yamanaka in round nine but the man from Japan kept his boxing together for the last three rounds. At the final bell the score tallies read 119-109, 118-110 and 117-111.
This was a big step-up for Yamanaka and the 21-year-old dealt with it admirably and is now in an excellent position to challenge for a world title sometime in 2017. As for Sabillo, the future doesn’t look so bright for the 32-year-old - he looked an old fighter in the ring and his world title winning effort back in 2013 seems a distant memory.
At bantamweight there was a notable upset as Mark John Yap unseated Takahiro Yamamoto in five rounds. Yap began by countering the marauding champion effectively, before pushing him back and completely nullifying Yamamoto’s offense. Yap scored three knockdowns in round five, sealing a major win for the 27-year-old. Yap is another Japanese based Filipino whose 25-12 record isn’t reflective of his capabilities and an eliminator, at least, for a world strap shouldn’t be out the question.
A weight division further north, Shun Kubo easily retained his title, stopping the over-matched Jin Wook Lin. The visitor attempted to get in Kubo’s face and cause some discomfort but the talented southpaw was simply superior in every department. The Korean was taken out in round four and this was a vast improvement from Kubo’s last ring appearance in May when he struggled somewhat against Benjie Suganob. However, the stable mate of Hozumi Hasegawa is still in need of some seasoning before moving on to world level.
Finally, at lightweight Masayoshi Nakatani hammered Allan Tanada to defend his OPBF crown for the sixth time. The lanky champion controlled the bout from range but was also happy to engage at close quarters and after six rounds the challenger was being worn down. Proceedings came to a halt in round seven. It really is time now for Nakatani to be moved on and face world-class fighters at 135lb. With his huge height and reach he will be a tricky proposition for many.
On 15 November, the very promising Hiroto Kyoguchi made it four wins from four, stopping Michael Camelion in just 33 seconds in their scheduled eight-round contest at the Korakuen Hall. This was meant to be a solid test for the Watanabe Gym youngster but a sizzling left uppercut dropped Camelion hard and, although he managed to clamber to his feet, he was in no position to continue. Kyoguchi returns on the big New Year’s Eve card in Tokyo in a six-round contest versus experienced journeyman Heri Amol. Also added to this bill is the exciting and unbeaten Masataka Taniguchi, who squares off against Silem Serang, also over six rounds.
Filipino Jake Bornea found Andrew Selby simply too hot to handle in their twelve round flyweight contest at Wembley Arena on 18 November. Bornea came in overweight so was ineligible to win the vacant IBF international belt. After a measured opening round Selby went to work, letting go with fast combinations and Bornea was simply unable to keep up with the Welshman. Bornea attempted to push Selby back in round five but was met with more rapid fire combos for his trouble and, by the end of round six, the 21-year-old was struggling to remain competitive. A cut above the left eye added to Bornea’s woes and Phil Edwards stepped in to bring the fight to a conclusion just before the end of the seventh round.
The next day saw Jonathan Taconing return to winning ways with a stunning tenth round KO of Salatiel Amit at the Elorde Sports Complex in Sucat, Paranaque City. Taconing was coming off a unanimous points defeat to Ganigan Lopez for the WBC light flyweight title but showed no ill effects and thoroughly dominated Amit throughout the contest.
After eight rounds it was announced via open scoring that Taconing was ahead 79-73 on all three scorecards but a pair of left hands in the final round send Amit out of the ring and needing oxygen afterwards. Thankfully Amit was OK and was eventually able to get to his feet. For Taconing this victory saw him claim the WBC 108lb international belt and manager Johnny Elorde informed Rappler.com’s Ryan Songalia that he would be requesting another title shot for his charge at the upcoming WBC convention in Florida.
Deep on the Sergey Kovalev vs Andre Ward undercard at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas highly gifted Kazak middleweight Meirim Nursultanov scored a six-round shut out on his professional debut against Henry Beckford.
In an all too frequent occurrence nowadays, Ryosuke Iwasa saw his 19 November IBF super bantamweight eliminator cancelled as Luis Rosa failed to make the weight. Rosa came in at 125lb on his first attempt and, even with some extra allotted time, he was not able to get down to the 122lb limit. For Iwasa this was hugely frustrating, having had a full training camp and taken the long flight from Japan to the US only to see it come to nothing.
Hinata Maruta successfully retained his WBC Youth 118lb bauble for the first time, stopping Joe Tejones in seven rounds at the Sumioshi Ward Center in Osaka on 23 November. Early on Maruta took his time in adapting to the Filipino’s southpaw stance but by round five Maruta had adjusted well and was breaking the visitor down. A vicious combination saw the bout come to an end two rounds later and domestic and OPBF titles should now be in the sights of the Japanese teenager for 2017.
Also on 23 November Iwan Zoda recorded his tenth straight KO victory with a fourth round stoppage of Solieng Souvannaphakdy in Jakarta.
Milan Melindo booked his third crack at a full world title after scoring a close unanimous decision win over Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr to claim the interim IBF light flyweight belt at the Cebu Coliseum on 26 November. Melindo began the bout brightly and, despite a cut to the nos,e the Filipino seemed to be in charge after six rounds. Melindo enjoyed a big round seven, rocking the visitor who managed to survive the round.
The Thai responded well, claiming the next two rounds and was clawing his way back in to the contest but a big final push in the twelfth and final stanza sealed the victory for Melindo, with the scorecards reading 117-111 and 115-113 twice. The win earns Melindo a shot at full IBF champion Akira Yaegashi but at time of writing it’s unclear whether the fight will take place on the end of year Ohashi show in Tokyo.
The undercard saw Jason Pagara dispatch Jose Alfaro inside a round with a body shot while Albert Pagara bounced back from his loss to Cesar Juarez by decisioning Raymond Commey over ten rounds with scores of 99-91 thrice. Melvin Jerusalem maintained his unbeaten record by outpointing Fabio Marfa with scores of 60-54 and 59-55 twice and undefeated Kevin Jake Cataraja blew away John Kenan Villaflor inside a round.
Muhammad Waseem retained his WBC Silver flyweight crown after narrowly staving off Filipino challenger Giemel Magrano at the Gwanakgu Hall in Seoul on 27 November. From beginning to end this was a highly competitive bout with the momentum constantly shifting. A pivotal moment came in round six when, under WBC rules, Magrano was deducted a point due to an accidental clash of heads. At the final bell the judges' scores read 117-111 and 114-113 twice, but the Korean based Pakistani had been made to work incredibly hard for the win.
At the conclusion of the contest Waseem’s promoter Andy Kim stated his intentions to push for a world title fight for his charge at the upcoming WBC convention and, whilst he may need a couple more fights before taking on any of the 112lb elite, Waseem will have gained plenty having been pushed all the way by Magrano. As for the Filipino youngster he also will have learned much and will certainly return in meaningful bouts for the future.
Looking ahead to December's action, Tugstsogt Nyambayar returns for his seventh fight on 8 December when he takes on German Meraz at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, California. Nyambayar is coming off a destructive first round KO of Rafael Vazquez in July and the Mongolian powerhouse badly deserves to be moved on in 2017. Meraz brings a wealth of experience after 95 pro bouts and the 30-year-old has taken Tomoki Kameda, Gervonta Davis, Juan Carlos Payano and Rau’shee Warren the distance. The Mexican has been stopped seven times, with Juan Francisco Estrada and Hugo Ruiz two of the men to have achieved the feat.
Riku Kano has had a change of Thai opponent for his 11 December bout, with Thoedkiad Weerachon stepping in instead of Pigmy Kokietgym.
105lb titlist Knockout CP Freshmart’s first defence takes place in Korat with Japan’s Shin Ono in the other corner on 14 December. Ono fought to a technical draw with Tatsuya Fukuhara in September but the 33-year-old’s form hasn’t been great of late. In his last two bouts of significance the southpaw was stopped in seven rounds by Kenichi Horikawa for the national light flyweight strap in September 2015 and out-pointed over twelve rounds by Katsunari Takayama for the IBF strawweight trinket in May 2014. Wanheng Menayothin also appears on the show in a tune-up bout versus Edo Anggoro.
Championship boxing returns to India as Vijender Singh defends his WBO Asian Pacific strap for the first time against Francis Cheka at the Thyagaraj Stadium in New Delhi on 17 December. Singh will be aiming to build on his points victory over Kerry Hope in July which saw him being taken the distance for the first time in his career. Cheka is an experienced operator but the 34-year-old has been found wanting when stepping up in levels. In his last bout of note the Tanzanian retired after three rounds against Fedor Chudinov in December 2013. Cheka was also defeated inside the distance by Robert Stieglitz and his most notable feat is taking Matthew Macklin the ten-round distance back in September 2008.
Ohashi have announced their big end of year show which is to take place at the Ariake Colosseum on 30 December. The card’s headliner is an all Japanese affair as Naoya Inoue defends his WBO super flyweight strap against former two-time world champion Kohei Kono. Kono gets a quick chance to reclaim a world title after being out-pointed by Luis Concepcion in August. As for Inoue, a win inside the distance against the 35-year-old who has never been stopped in his career would put down another serious marker to the rest of the 115lb division.
Takuma Inoue was due to face WBO bantamweight titlist Marlon Tapales but unfortunately an injury to the challenger’s right hand has seen the contest cancelled. Akira Yaegashi will defend his IBF light flyweight belt with the plan being to match him with the winner of the Melindo vs Sakkreerin Jr contest but, as previously stated, with the time frame between the bouts being only a few weeks it’s unclear if the bout will go ahead on 30 December or whether there is a contingency opponent in place.
Ryo Matsumoto returns from injury on the card in a rematch versus Victor Uriel Lopez who shockingly upset the 22-year-old back in May. Also featuring on the bill are Ryuji Hara, who takes on Hiroya Yamamoto and Koki Inoue, who squares off against Futoshi Usami. Satoshi Shimizu and Andy Hiraoka will also appear.
In a disappointing but not unexpected development, Kazuto Ioka will go up against Stamp Kiatniwat at the Shimazu Arena in Kyoto on New Year’s Eve. Ioka had been hoping to face either Juan Francisco Estrada or John Riel Casimero but will have to settle for a mandatory defence against the Thai teenager instead. Given the 26-year-old has made the EDION Arena in Osaka his home over the last few years it was a big surprise not only that he would be fighting in Kyoto but also that Woz Promotions would be the lead promoter of the card.
Stamp hasn’t fought since February and is coming off two close majority decision wins against Gregorio Lebron, but this opportunity looks to have come far too early for the 18-year-old and a man versus boy outcome is highly probable.
Yukinori Oguni challenges Jonathan Guzman for his IBF super bantamweight crown and, rounding off the world title triple header, Lee Haskins goes on the road to face Shohei Omori. The champion is coming off a hard-fought points win over Stuart Hall in September. This may be the reigning IBF 118 lb ruler’s first trip to Asia but Haskins has fought in Monaco, Belgium, Morocco and Spain during his career so travelling won’t be anything new for the 32-year-old.
For those unfamiliar with Omori the 23-year-old is a big, tall, rangy boxer with genuine power in his left hand who has built a decent following in Kyoto. A modest amateur record didn’t prevent Omori from winning the All Japan Rookie of the year final in 2012 and, in May 2014, the hard-hitting southpaw took out former world title challenger Christian Esquievel in four rounds in a performance that made hardcore aficionados sit up and take notice.
Domestic success followed in April 2015, with Kentaro Masuda being destroyed in three rounds. He made one defence of the Japanese title before embarking on a WBO bantamweight eliminator versus Marlon Tapales in December 2015. Unfortunately a defensively reckless display saw the young southpaw dropped four times and stopped in two rounds, leaving his world title aspirations up in smoke. Omori has since chalked up two victories but is moving up in class significantly to take on the unorthodox southpaw.