Asian Scene: Takahashi and Inoue fall short
Photo: Sarah Stier/Getty Images
Marcus Bellinger rounds up all of January's Asian action as Ryohei Takahashi and Takeshi Inoue come up short in world title challenges...
Meiirim Nursultanov kicked off his 2019 campaign in good fashion as he got rid of Ramon Aguinaga in two rounds on 11 January in California. Hopefully this year can be a big one for the quality Kazak.
Meanwhile, talented Filipino amateur Charly Suarez got his professional career off to a winning start as he stopped Ernesto Cagampang in two rounds on 16 January.
Vikas Krishan also got his professional career off to a positive start as he stopped Steven Andrade in two rounds in Verona, New York on 18 January. Krishan took his time in the opening round, using his southpaw jab to control proceedings. He then ramped up the pressure in round two, pummeling the body of Andrade who eventually went down. Although the American got back to his feet he was stopped moments later, capping a very successful debut for Krishan.
On the same show Fazliddin Gaibnazarov forced Ricardo Garcia to retire after four rounds of their scheduled eight-rounder. Gaibnazarov was sharp from the opening bell and was throwing spiteful shots. The lack of a jab will be a concern for future fights at a higher level but the Uzbek had great success with the right hook, left hand and punches to the midsection. Garcia was dropped in round three and despite showing more intent in round four he failed to come out for round five and Gaibnazarov continues to show solid improvement as a professional.
Filipino Jessie Cris Rosales found Shakur Stevenson far too hot to handle and succumbed in round four. Stevenson did as he pleased showing all facets of his game including his ability to fight on the inside. Rosales was pushed back regularly by the American and a short sharp shot floored the Filipino for the full count in the fourth as Stevenson continues to go from strength to strength.
On the same night also in New York over at the Theater in Madison Square Garden Ryohei Takahashi got a world title shot out of the blue but unsurprisingly came up short against IBF 122lbs titlist TJ Doheny in 11 rounds. The champion oozed confidence in the early stages and after the challenger went down in the third a knockout for Doheny in his first defence seemed probable.
Despite his poor technique, raggedness and lack of defence, Takahashi kept on coming forward and his pressure brought him some mild success as we entered the second half on the contest. Doheny was never in any danger though and he went up a gear in rounds nine and ten before rocking Takahashi in the 11th. Although he was a mile behind on points the timing of the stoppage was poor and the second dreadful stoppage on the card. Doheny can now move on to bigger and better things.
The next day at the Korakuen Hall Shingo Wake dominated Takafumi Nakajima, eventually stopping him in round six. Nakajima came out aggressively, trying to upset the rhythm of Wake but it wasn’t too long before the southpaw skills of Wake came into play. By round five Wake had gained full control and a counter dropped Nakajima in round six before a follow-up attack saw Nakajima down again and the bout rightly ended.
On the undercard Reiya Abe prevailed in a risky bout versus Daisuke Sugita via wide unanimous decision with scores of 79-71 and 80-70 twice. Abe dominated from the off, quite frankly making Sugita look like a complete novice in the process. Sugita was bamboozled by the movement speed and skills of Abe and two knockdowns in round five made it an impossible task for Sugita. Abe cruised through the next two rounds before going for the finish in the final stanza but Sugita bravely gritted his teeth and saw it through to the final bell.
Hours later over at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, while Manny Pacquiao made easy work of Adrian Broner, his countryman Jhack Tepora blew a massive opportunity as he came in five-and-a-half pounds overweight for his featherweight clash with Hugo Ruiz. Coming in so overweight is completely inexcusable and although there seems to be some issues within his team going on in the background the exciting Filipino needs to sort himself out if he’s to gain anymore such prestigious spots on big shows.
26 January was a busy day involving Asian fighters with the opening action coming from the Barclays Center in New York with Tugstsogt Nyambayar taking on Claudio Marrero in a WBC featherweight eliminator. After an even opening round Nyambayar found a home for the right hand, rocking Marrero on a couple of occasions in rounds two and three. The Mongolian remained patient and was happy to pick his spots but Marrero was beginning to have more success as we reached the halfway mark.
The Dominican built on that success in rounds seven, eight and nine as Nyambayar began to tire. Nyambayar then picked the pace back up in round ten and a point deduction for Marrero for hitting on the break left him needing a big last two rounds. After a rather messy penultimate stanza both men went for it in round 12 but it was Nyambayar who took the unanimous verdict via scores of 116-111, 115-112 and 114-113.
The Sadriddin Akhmedov train shows no signs of slowing as the Kazakh phenom claimed his first title, defeating Abraham Juarez via fourth-round knockout for the WBC Youth light middleweight belt over in Canada. Akhmedov remained composed throughout and the Mexican was dropped twice in round four with Juarez unable to stand up to the right hands.
Over in Texas WBO 154lbs champion Jaime Munguia got more than he bargained for with Japan’s Takeshi Inoue giving as good as he got over 12 rounds. From the off Inoue forced Munguia backwards, giving him no space to breathe and the champion was looking ineffective on the back foot. When Munguia did land good shots they failed to prevent Inoue from coming forward.
As the bout progressed the Mexican began to find more room but he only buzzed Inoue a couple of times and he was really being forced to think and adapt his usual strategy. At the final bell Munguia had done enough to retain his title but cards of 120-108 twice and 119-109 were an insult to the effort of Inoue who will have put himself in the shop window for more big fights with his performance.
The judges were in the firing line again as China’s Can Xu scored a significant upset over Jesus M Rojas. Rojas put the pressure on in the early going but Xu didn’t wilt and grew in confidence as the contest progressed. Xu then began to back up Rojas who was feeling the pace.
After a thoroughly enjoyable 12 rounds we thought we were in for a close decision but it was Xu who prevailed via totals of 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112 which really weren’t a fair reflection of what had occurred in the ring. Make no mistake this was a huge win for Chinese boxing even though it was only a regular featherweight bauble on the line.
The last day of January saw the final bout of significance as Aston Palicte booked a rematch with Donnie Nietes by crushing Jose Martinez in California. Palicte stalked his opponent in the opening stanza before taking advantage of the Puerto Rican’s aggression in round two, reining in big shots and simply overpowering Martinez. Palicte could have been awarded a count early on in the round but after downing Martinez twice officially the contest was halted by the referee giving the Filipino a spectacular victory.
We now have official confirmation that Hiroki Okada will be facing former WBO lightweight champion Ray Beltran on 10 February on the undercard of Jose Ramirez latest light welterweight world title defense against Jose Zapeda. The bout takes place in Fresno California with the winner possibly in line for a crack at Ramirez. Okada looked less than spectacular last time out on his US debut whilst this will be Beltran’s first ring appearance after being dethroned by Jose Pedraza.
The always exciting Hiroaki Teshigawara returns on 14 February in a defence of his OPBF super bantamweight crown versus Yuki Iriguchi.
We get an IBF super-bantamweight eliminator in the US on 16 February as Japan’s Ryosuke Iwasa goes up against Mexico’s Cesar Juarez. This will be Iwasa’s first fight since losing the IBF belt to TJ Doheny last August and another defeat here would leave him with a long rebuilding job.
The opening world title fight on Japanese soil comes on 26 February at the Korakuen Hall with Vic Saludar defending his WBO strawweight belt against Masataka Taniguchi. This clash had been rumoured for a while but the date and venue are now official with the Filipino making his first defence and his third appearance in Japan. The challenger lost two exceedingly close decisions to Reiya Konishi and Tsubasa Koura for the Japanese and OPBF titles respectively but he claimed the WBO Asia Pacific strap to set up this opportunity.
There had been much talk of Wanheng Menayothin heading to Japan for his next defence but those plans are on hold for now as instead the WBC 105lbs champion takes on former foe Tatsuya Fukuhara in Chonburi on 1 March. The pair met in November 2017 with Fukuhara giving Wanheng a very tough fight despite the wide scorecards.
In a fabulous match-up from the Gifu Memorial Center on 16 March Kosei Tanaka takes on former unified light flyweight titlist Ryoichi Taguchi. Tanaka attempts the maiden defense of his WBO 112lbs belt whilst Taguchi aims to become a two-weight world champion and bounce back from a points loss to Hekkie Budler last May. This bout had been in the works in 2017 with Tanaka unfortunately suffering injuries after a WBO light flyweight defence.
OPBF featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro defends his title on 27 March against Takuya Watanabe.
Musashi Mori makes the first defense of his WBO Asia Pacific featherweight crown against Richard Pumicpic in Kumamoto on 14 April. The pair met last November with Mori taking a split technical decision but both will be hoping for a more conclusive result and there is also some exciting young talent on the undercard including Ginjiro Shigeoka and Seiya Tsutsumi.