Asian scene: Hasegawa says sayonara

Marcus Bellinger
20/12/2016 9:08am

Marcus Bellinger with his final Asian Scene round-up of 2016 ...

Overshadowing all the boxing action this month was the news that Japanese legend Hozumi Hasegawa has announced his retirement from boxing, having stated that he has achieved everything he wanted to and had nothing left to prove or the desire to continue boxing.

The decision brings to an end a glittering 17-year career which saw the 35-year-old claim the OPBF bantamweight bauble and WBC titles at 118, 122 and 126lbs. Hasegawa's first world title success came in 2005, when he outpointed Veeraphol Sahaprom for the WBC bantamweight crown. During a reign which comprised ten defences he stopped Veeraphol in a rematch and scored wins over Simpiwe Vetyeka and Vusi Malinga.

In his prime Hasegawa was a beautiful boxer but his chin wasn’t made of granite as was demonstrated in his fourth round KO loss to Fernando Montiel in their April 2010 meeting.

After capturing the WBC strap two divisions north, Hasegawa was then stopped in four rounds by Jhonny Gonzalez in April 2011 and his career at the world class level looked to be over when he was taken out in seven by Kiko Martinez for the IBF super bantamweight belt in April 2014.

Going in to his September 2016 clash with WBC super bantamweight King Hugo Ruiz many, including this writer, feared for Hasegawa but the southpaw turned back the clock by forcing the Mexican to retire after nine rounds, giving the Shinsei Gym fighter a fairy-tale ending, something very few boxers end up with. He ends his career with a record of 36-5 (16 KOs) and everyone at Boxing Monthly wishes him the best in a well-earned retirement.

Meanwhile, back in the ring, Filipino Mark Anthony Barriga made it three wins from three in his professional career but had to settle for a fifth round technical decision over Rodel Kirk Pelenio at the Mandaue City Sports and Cultural Complex in Cebu on 2 December.

The top of the bill saw unbeaten super bantamweight Jack Tepora dismantle Galih Susanto in five rounds to claim a minor WBO 122 lb trinket. Tepora scored two knockdowns in round three and another in round five and thus extends his record to 19-0, with 12 KOs.

Kenichi Ogawa retained his Japanese super featherweight title after narrowly outpointing Rikki Naito at the Korakuen Hall on 3 December. The action was closely contested throughout the ten rounds and a late surge secured Ogawa the victory with all three scorecards reading 96-94.

Light flyweight contender Randy Petalcorin won a ten-round unanimous decision on 4 December against Arnold Garde at the Robinson’s Mall Atrium in General Santos City. Scores were 100-89 and 98-91 twice with the 24-year-old content to bank the rounds and capture the IBF Pan Pacific title in the process. The Filipino southpaw should return in the first quarter of 2017 and is targeting IBF champion Akira Yaegashi.

Also on 4 December talented unbeaten Japanese prospect Kazuki Tanaka easily disposed of Jomnekin Sithdabnid inside a round at the EDION Arena in Osaka to move his record to 6-0 with 5 KOs.

If they weren’t already on notice then boxers in the 108lb division were given another warning shot as Ken Shiro destroyed Lester Abutan in three rounds to retain his OPBF crown at the Korakuen Hall on 8 December. Early on Shiro was happy to box behind the jab and it was clear that he was the bigger and faster man in the ring. An uppercut rocked Abutan in round two and a straight right hand again had the challenger going in round three, with the Filipino on the floor soon after.

Despite managing to get to his feet a follow-up barrage of punches brought the contest to a halt and the champion stated his desire to challenge for a world title in 2017 and the 24-year-old is certainly capable of unseating any of the current belt holders.

Click here to watch Shiro vs Abutan

On the same day on the other side of the globe, Mongolian banger Tugstsogt Nyambayar maintained his perfect KO record after forcing the highly experienced German Meras to retire at the end of the fifth round of their scheduled eight-rounder at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, California. It’s clear that the 24-year-old possesses dynamite power and it really is a necessity in 2017 for Tugstsogt to be let off the leash and moved in to significant fights.

Click here to watch Nyambayar vs Meras

Riku Kano easily saw off Thoedkiad Weerachon, stopping the Thai in three rounds on 11 December in Hyogo.

Knockout CP Freshmart retained his minimumweight title for the first time by easily overcoming the challenge of Shin Ono on 14 December. The first two rounds saw very little action, with Ono happy to box on the back foot and Knockout barely throwing a punch. The champion picked up the pace in round though and rocked the Japanese southpaw at the end of the fifth.

Ono attempted to stand his ground in round six but some hard shots from Knockout sent the visitor back in to his shell. The Thai enjoyed a huge next stanza but was unable to put Ono away. After coasting through rounds eight and nine, a right-left combo dropped Ono in round ten but Knockout ran out of time to finish his man off.

Knowing he was well ahead on the cards, Knockout breezed through the last two rounds and at the final bell the scores read 118-109, 117-111 and 118-110.

Also on this bill reigning WBC 105lb titlist Wanheng Menayothin strolled to a six-round decision over Silem Serang in a non-title bout.

Indian Vijender Singh made it eight wins from eight, stopping Francis Cheka in three rounds to retain his WBO Asia Pacific super middleweight strap on 17 December in New Delhi. Early on Singh was extremely patient and happy to look for openings and by the end of round one he already had Cheka backing up.

Cheka was unable to get through with anything significant with the Indian’s defence proving to be pretty tight and Singh’s attacks were also beginning to take their toll on the challenger. In round three the Tanzanian was looking to hold and clinch at every opportunity and it wasn’t long before he wanted no more giving, Singh a stoppage win and sending the crowd in to a wild pandemonium.

The win caps an excellent period for Indian boxing with the national amateur championships recently taking place in Guwahati and Sachin Singh’s outstanding effort to claim light flyweight gold at the World Youth Championships in St Petersburg.

Some updates have been made to the end of year Ohashi show with Akira Yaegashi now due to make a voluntary defence of his IBF 108lb belt against Samartlek Kokietgym. Milan Melindo recently won the right to face Yaegashi by defeating Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr but due to facial damage the Filipino was nowhere near ready for the 30 December date, giving the champion time to squeeze in the encounter with Samartlek instead.

The challenger is best known for taking Naoya Inoue eleven rounds in their September 2014 WBC light flyweight clash. Since the loss to Inoue the 32-year-old has racked up 14 wins against a diet of journeyman and whilst he should be a durable foe the chances of him presenting Yaegashi any problems are slim to none.

There’s also a spot on the card for Ryota Murata, who takes on Bruno Sandoval in a ten-round middleweight contest. Murata is coming off a first round KO of George Tahdooahnippah in July and the 2012 Olympic gold medallist will be aiming to vie for world titles in 2017. Sandaval has only a loss and a draw on his 21-fight record but the 25-year-old hasn’t fought outside of Mexico so is a bit of an unknown quantity.

Also on the Ariake Colosseum bill, Satoshi Shimizu has a solid step-up bout against Carlo Demecillo over six rounds while Andy Hiraoka takes on Egy Rozten in an eight- rounder.

Unfortunately Lee Haskins has been forced to withdraw from his New Year’s Eve IBF bantamweight title defence versus Shohei Omori due to an injury suffered in training. Omori will instead take on Rocky Fuentes in an eight rounder. Whilst not ideal given that the Filipino is a career flyweight, he is a recognisable name for fans in Japan having fought there on a number of occasions including back in November 2014 when he took on Roman Gonzalez for the WBC 112lb strap.

For those interested in watching the vacant WBO 108lb clash between Kosei Tanaka and Moises Fuentes there is good news as the New Year’s Eve bout will be available on the link below.

January will see the welcome return of Takashi Miura who faces Miguel Roman at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio California. The hard-hitting super featherweight was last seen drilling Jimmy Borbon in a round in May but a proposed contest with Orlando Salido fell through after the Mexican withdrew due to a back injury.

Roman is a veteran of 67 fights and has stoppage wins over a faded Daniel Ponce De Leon and former world champion Juan Carlos Salgado. The 31-year-old’s only KO loss came back in March 2012 to Antonio De Marco for the WBC strap at 135lb. The Mexican has also gone the distance with Javier Fortuna and Jonathan Victor Barros.

Headlining the card is WBC 130 lb champion Francisco Vargas who takes on Miguel Berchelt with the intention to match the winners of the two bouts later on in the year.

We now have a date and venue for the vacant WBC flyweight title match-up, with Nawaphon Por Chokchai squaring off against Juan Hernandez at the National Stadium in Central Bangkok on 4 March. Whilst securing home advantage and most likely to be the bigger man in the ring Nawaphon’s record is sadly lacking in credible opposition and the 25-year-old is stepping up in class despite an unbeaten slate of 36-0 28 KOs.

Hernandez's last contest saw the 29-year-old force Dixon Flores to retire in three rounds in August and the Mexican has mixed in good company, scoring wins over Raymond Tabugon, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Saul Juarez, Moises Fuentes and Denver Cuello. However, he came up short to Kazuto Ioka back in August 2011 for the WBC minimumweight belt and will be up against it in Thailand where conditions are notoriously tough for visiting fighters.

It was confirmed at the 54th annual WBC convention in Florida that Daigo Higa would be the mandatory challenger for the winner of Nawaphon-Hernandez. A few other developments of note involving Asian fighters from the convention: a light flyweight eliminator between Filipino pairing Jonathan Taconing and Ray Loreto has been ordered for the right to face the winner of Ganigan Lopez vs Pedro Guevara, while whoever prevails between Roman Gonzalez and Carlos Cuadras in their March 2017 rematch must face Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai next. At super bantamweight a contest between Anselmo Moreno and Nonito Donaire was also ordered but it’s  doubtful that we see this fight come to fruition.

Finally, Ryosuke Iwasa would have been extremely frustrated having seen his world title eliminator come to nothing through no fault of his own but thankfully the Japanese southpaw will be granted a shot at the winner of the scheduled New Year’s Eve clash between current IBF super bantamweight champion Jonathan Guzman and Yukinori Oguni.

In January’s edition of this column we will round up all the post-Christmas action from Japan and name five fighters to watch in 2017 from the Asian continent.