Asian scene: Murata back with a bang

Marcus Bellinger
31/07/2019 7:21pm

Photo: Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

Japan's Ryota Murata recpatured the WBA 'regular' title from Rob Brant in a busy month for Asian boxing action. Marcus Bellinger is here with his latest round-up...

Koki Inoue kicked off July in style as he hammered Ryuji Ikeda in five rounds to retain his Japanese light welterweight crown at the Korakuen Hall on the first day of the month.

The power of Inoue troubled Ikeda from the off and after being rocked in the opening stanza, Ikeda was held up by the ropes in the second resulting in the referee calling a knockdown.

A solid right hook in round three dropped Ikeda and the contest didn’t look like lasting much longer. The challenger managed to survive the fourth but an attack in the following round brought things to a close and Inoue suggested a fight with Hiroki Okada could be next which would be an excellent test.

You can watch Inoue vs Ikeda here

In a clash of hard-hitting featherweights, Tsuyoshi Tameda prevailed via second-round stoppage over Tae Il Atsumi and light flyweight prospect Taku Kuwahara stopped Kyomu Hamagani in four rounds.

Almaty on 5 July saw the welcome return of light middleweight contender Kanat Islam who wasted no time in blasting out Julio De Jesus in just a few seconds. There was also an opening round stoppage for regular member of the Kazakh amateur national team Armen Rysbek against Denys Checheta.

Staying in Kazakhstan, the following day in Nur-Sultan, Nordine Oubaali made a successful first defence of the WBC bantamweight crown, easily seeing off the challenge of Arthur Villanueva. From the off this was a clear mismatch with Oubaali rattling off combinations from the opening round with the Filipino looking lost and out of his depth.

The champion continued to dominate and do as he pleased with the challenger failing to come up with anything to alter the course of the bout. By the end of round five Villanueva was being beaten up and after being floored he retired at the end of the next round.

Oubaali now moves onto a mandated clash with Takuma Inoue whilst this is probably the end of the road for Villanueva, certainly at world level.

Over at the Korakuen Hall, Kenichi Ogawa avoided any slip-ups as he stopped Glenn Medura in four rounds to set up his IBF eliminator with Azinga Fuzile. Amongst the other results rising prospect Mikito Nakano took out Arvin Yurong in two rounds.

It was double delight for Japan at the EDION Arena in Osaka on 12 July as Ryota Murata and Ken Shiro saw off their respective opponents in magnificent style. After a listless display against Rob Brant last October Murata had it all to prove in their rematch.

The opening three minutes was the round of the year so far in 2019 with both men going for it as Brant worked in volume whilst Murata applied pressure but this time landed with authority.

After a breathless opening stanza Murata continued his momentum and a head shot hurt Brant and the home man poured on the pressure which eventually resulted in the American going down. Knowing this was his chance, Murata ripped home punches to both head and body and in the end referee Luis Pavon had to step in and call a halt to the contest.

This was redemption for Murata and its unclear what’s next but a showdown with Aussie Jeff Horn has been mentioned whilst Brant will probably have to go back to the drawing board.

You can catch up with Brant vs Murata 2 here

Ken Shiro continued to stamp his claim as the best light flyweight on the planet after he stopped contender Jonathan Taconing in four rounds. In a tight first round the champion made a solid start as he utilised the jab to good effect. Taconing was more aggressive in round two but he still ate some clean shots from the man from Japan who was having great success with the uppercut.

Ken Shiro upped the ante in the following round, going to town on the Filipino who was becoming more and more ragged but unfortunately an accidental head clash which left Taconing cut killed the momentum of the round. A fabulous counter right hand followed by a left dumped the challenger on the canvas and despite bravely getting to his feet the fight was over in the fourth and Shiro had made a real statement in stopping Taconing who had never been stopped before and had two previous world title tilts.

With the KO against Taconing, two wins including a stoppage of Ganigan Lopez, victories over Milan Melindo, Pedro Guevara and solid domestic and regional operators Kenichi Horikawa, Atsushi Kakutani and Katsunori Nagamine, Ken Shiro’s record cannot be questioned and fellow 108lbs titlist Hiroto Kyoguchi was ringside as that potential unification dust-up continues to gather momentum.

Ken Shiro vs Taconing can be viewed here

There was a sizable upset on the big Osaka show as unbeaten featherweight Satoshi Shimizu was hammered in six rounds by WBO Asia Pacific 130lbs champion Joe Noynay. In a nightmare first round for the Ohashi southpaw, Shimizu was dropped twice and his defences were non-existent.

Shimizu had some brief success in round three but Noynay continued to tee off on the challenger whose right eye was rapidly closing shut. Noynay scored a third knockdown in round six and with Shimizu’s eye now completely shut the fight was waved off and the Filipino scored his second big KO win in Japan. There are plenty of options now for him in the land of the rising sun.

Arguably Teiken’s best young prospect Shokichi Iwata took out Paolo Sy in five rounds to move his record to 3-0 (2 KOs) also at the EDION Arena.

Over at the Korakuen Hall on the same day, Andy Hiraoka scored his biggest win to date as he claimed a ten-round unanimous verdict over Akihiro Kondo. Kondo tried to make it a physical contest but the veteran was tagged repeatedly as Hiraoka used his speed and movement to prevail via totals of 98-92, 98-93 and 97-93.

It wasn’t to be for Tomoki Kameda as he lost a 12-round unanimous decision to Rey Vargas in a mandated contest for the WBC super-bantamweight belt in California on 13 July. As has become the norm, the Mexican champion used his jab and long arms to nullify his opponent and despite Kameda landing some flashy shots on occasions the challenger wasn’t able to sustain it for long enough.

Some of the rounds were close with Vargas managing to outwork Kameda who found it difficult to avoid the jab and get inside. The visitor was deducted a point for hitting on the break in the final three minutes and even though he went for broke the cards all read 117-110 to Vargas who certainly isn’t a particularly entertaining fighter to watch but his style is mighty effective.

Vijender Singh finally returned to the ring after an 18-month absence and he stopped Mike Snider in four rounds on his Top Rank and US debut also on 13 July.

Masayoshi Nakatani caused major issues for Teofimo Lopez in their IBF lightweight eliminator in Washington on 19 July. There was a feeling that Nakatani had stagnated but the Osakan started really positively, using his height and reach to negate the offense of Lopez in the first three rounds.

Lopez seem to wake up in the fourth, scoring with some solid combinations but the self-assured American, for the first time in his career, wasn’t having things all his own way.

Lopez began to counter fairly effectively but Nakatani was giving as good as he was getting and even pushed Lopez back on occasions. Nakatani briefly stunned Lopez with some terrific right hands in round ten but Lopez did just about enough in the last two stanzas to win what everyone assumed was a close fight.

The judges disagreed, turning in cards of 119-109 and 118-110 twice that were far too wide. Lopez will have to up his game significantly if he does go up against Richard Commey whilst Nakatani will hopefully use this as a springboard to bigger fights outside of Asia.

Over in Kariya on 20 July Kento Hatanaka scored a straightforward opening round victory versus Thomas Tope Hurek and will now take on Jaysever Abcede on the Tanaka Gonzalez undercard on 24 August. Also on this bill Koshin Takeshima won a hard -fought eight-round decision over Jon Jon Estrada with judges' tallies of 79-73 twice and 79-74.

The quarter-finals of the God’s Left bantamweight tournament took place at the Korakuen Hall on 23 July. First up Kazuki Nakajima swatted aside Kenichi Watanabe in the first round. Nakajima took control from the off and dropped Watanabe just over two minutes into the contest which brought proceedings to a close.

Next up Kenya Yamashita proved too powerful for Gaku Aikawa. Aikawa actually had a good opening round but his success was short lived and he was dropped by Yamashita in round two with Aikawa failing to beat the count.

What looked to be the most competitive last eight match-up on paper proved to be the case as Jin Minamide edged past Tetsu Araki over six rounds. Minamide was the aggressor but Araki countered intelligently and cut Minamide in the process. The final stanza saw both go at it hammer and tong but it was Minamide who took the decision with scores of 58-56 twice and 58-57.

The semi-finals take place on 9 November with Yamashita up against Seiya Tsutsumi in what will surely be an absolute tear-up whilst Nakajima and Minamida square off in a fascinating battle of well thought of undefeated prospects.

Four days later Hironori Mishiro impressively halted Ryo Takenaka in eight rounds to retain his OPBF super-featherweight crown. Both had their successes through the first four rounds but Mishiro began to turn up the heat and Takenaka’s face was showing signs of battle.

Takenaka was hurt in round seven with the bell coming at just the right time. Mishiro really upped the ante, pummelling Takenaka until he eventually succumbed under the pressure around halfway through round eight and his corner threw in the towel giving Mishiro another excellent victory.

Ginjiro Shigeoka looks to be the next rising phenom from Japan as the teenager blitzed Clyde Azarcon in just 72 seconds to capture the vacant WBO Asia Pacific 105lbs title in just his fourth professional bout. The 19-year-old from the Watanabe Gym made his intentions clear from the off, backing up Azarcon onto the ropes and the Filipino was forced into wild swings. A left hand to the body ended the contest there and then and Shigeoka firmly put the strawweight division on notice.

You can watch Shigeoka vs Azarcon here

It’s still unclear when Zolani Tete will return to the ring after getting injured just a few days before his WBSS semi versus Nonito Donaire. In the meantime John Riel Casimero captured the interim WBO bantamweight bauble. The Filipino takes what should be a keep busy contest in his homeland on 24 August against Cesar Ramirez.

Staying in the Philippines a week later, Mark Magsayo will square off against former WBO 118lbs titlist Pungluang Sor Singyu. The contest in Bohol will be the fan friendly featherweight’s first encounter at home for nearly two years and just his second fight since leaving the ALA Gym.

In a surprising move Deejay Kriel has vacated his IBF strawweight title leaving Filipino pairing Samuel Salva and Pedro Taduran to contest for the vacant belt with 7 September looking the likely date. Salva earned this opportunity defeating Rene Mark Cuarto in an eliminator whilst Taduran has his second world title crack after being out pointed by Wanheng Menayothin back in 2018 and he has also recently sparred with light flyweight king Kenshiro.

Masayuki Ito makes his return in Japan on 13 September in a ten-round lightweight contest with an opponent to be confirmed.

In a cracking looking clash, undefeated strawweight Kai Ishizawa takes on forma world title challenger Masataka Taniguchi in a Japanese title eliminator at the Korakuen Hall on 21 September. Ishizawa has looked powerful so far but this is a step-up in class whilst Taniguchi cannot afford another loss if he’s to stay in the title picture.

Unbeaten Junto Nakatani faces Milan Melindo on 5 October. Nakatani has vacated his national flyweight belt in pursuit of world honours and the Filipino is a decent gauge of his ambitions to be in the world title mix. Melindo is coming off back-to-back losses to Ryoichi Taguchi and Kenshiro and it will be interesting to see if the move up in weight has a positive effect.

In a rather bizarre turn of events, Wanheng Menayothin has signed with Golden Boy Promotions. It’s unclear apart from some novelty value why Golden Boy have signed him considering the US market has shown zero interest in the 105lbs division. There’s no news of a date or opponent for Wanheng’s next defense but number 1 rated South African Simpiwe Konkco could be in the running.

Finally Tatsuya Fukuhara has announced his retirement from the sport and finishes with a record of 21-7-6 (7 KOs). The 30-year-old reached the All Japan Rookie of the year final in 2009, claimed the Japanese minimumweight title and made three successful defenses, outpointed Moises Calleros for the interim WBO 105lbs title and after being upgraded to full champion was defeated by Ryuya Yamanaka and then lost two bouts on points to Wanheng Menayothin.