Asian scene: title triumph for Kubo
Marcus Bellinger rounds up the continent's significant action from April, including a memorable WBA title triumph for Japanese super bantam Shun Kubo...
Shun Kubo grabbed the WBA regular super bantamweight belt from Nehomar Cermeno on 9 April at the EDION Arena in Osaka.
The challenger started brightly, mixing left hands to both body and head, but the champion was landing clever counters of his own and after four rounds it was anyone's fight. Having grown in confidence the Japanese southpaw upped the tempo and took the next two rounds, landing with some solid body shots but Cermeno hit back with the occasional shot to keep Kubo honest.
Things took a dramatic twist in round seven with Cermeno hurting then eventually dropping Kubo, who did well to survive the round. Still feeling the effects from the previous round the Japanese 27-year-old was very cautious but managed to navigate himself through round eight and then took back control in round nine. Knowing he needed to change things Cermeno came out with real intent in round ten and seemed to buzz Kubo, who to his credit shook off the slight scare and had his moments in the final portion of the stanza.
It proved to be the final stand for Cermeno with the veteran failing to come out for the penultimate round, giving Kubo a hard-earned victory and now he is in line for some big domestic clashes against the likes of Tomoki Kameda, Yukinori Oguni, Ryosuke Iwasa and Yusaku Kuga.
The bout was televised live on K TV in the Kansai region and in the first boxing broadcast for nearly 30 years the contest drew an outstanding figure of 8.7% which equates to just under 2 million viewers.
Click here to watch Kubo vs Cermeno
On the undercard, Reiya Konishi claimed the vacant Japanese miniumweight title with a narrow points win over Masataka Taniguchi. Taniguchi boxed really well in the first half of the bout and was in front but Konishi - despite being cut - upped his workrate thereafter to snatch the majority decision with scores of 96-94 twice cancelling out the third card of 95-95. Taniguchi can definitely come again and a rematch would certainly be warranted in what was an absorbing battle between two unbeaten men.
The third title clash on the card saw OPBF lightweight champion Masayoshi Nakatani labour to a 12-round decision over Kaewfah Tor Buamas. Nakatani used his huge height and reach to control things for the most part but Kaewfah really made it an awkward afternoon's work and the Thai frustrated Nakatani throughout. At the final bell the scores read 118-110, 116-113 and 115-113 and it’s abundantly clear that Nakatani has stagnated and is now in dire need of a bout beyond regional level.
Super featherweight Masayuki Ito continued to press his claims for a world-title tilt with a stoppage of big punching Lorenzo Villanueva in the first defence of his WBO Asia Pacific crown at the Korakuen Hall on 13 April. Ito was sharp from the off, dropping his Filipino foe in round two and, despite suffering a badly swollen right eye, the Japanese fighter remained composed and continued to pick his shots well.
Villanueva had minor moments of success but Ito poured on the pressure late on in rounds seven and eight and the challenger was down twice in round nine and was stopped soon afterwards. Ito later revealed on his twitter page that he’d suffered damage to his orbital bone so unfortunately the 26-year-old won’t be back in the ring for a while.
The rest of a packed Korakuen bill saw Keita Obara make his return after being stopped by Eduard Troyanovsky in September 2016 to record an eight-round decision victory up at welterweight versus Larry Siwu, while Kentaro Masuda saw off Romel Oliveros inside a round and now looks to be set to face OPBF bantamweight champion Mark John Yap in what is an exciting tussle. Meanwhile, in just his fourth pro bout Shuichiro Yoshino defeated perennial domestic and regional lightweight contender Yoshitaka Kato over eight rounds with scores of 80-72, 78-75 and 77-75. The 25-year-old Yoshino looks like yet another Japanese youngster worth keeping tabs on.
Gifted Kazak middleweight Meiirim Nursultanov notched up his second professional victory, stopping Javier Olvera in two rounds at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut on 15 April.
Meanwhile, in what was originally a final eliminator, the bantamweight contest between Zolani Tete and Arthur Villanueva that took place at the Leicester Arena on 22 April ended up having the interim WBO strap on the line due to circumstances which you can read more about a bit later.
From the off Tete established his long southpaw jab and a cut suffered due to a clash of heads further added to Villanueva’s problems. The Filipino needed to throw three and four-punch combinations to try and disrupt the rhythm of Tete but stinging southpaw lefts made him wary and hesitant to let his hands go. The bout fell in to a monotonous pattern with the South African controlling things and doing as he pleased. Tete scored a flash knockdown in round eleven but was happy to coast to a wide points victory with scores of 119-108 twice and 120-107. Subsequently, the WBO have elevated Tete to full champion status.
Later on that evening at the Stubhub Center in California, 2016 Olympic gold medallist Fazliddin Gaibnazarov made his professional debut versus Victor Vazquez over eight rounds. To the shock of everyone, including himself, Gaibnazarov was dropped just seconds in to the fight but the Uzbek kept his cool and used his expert boxing skills for the rest of the opening round. Gaibnazarov then took full command and knocked Vazquez out in round two to get his career off to a winning start.
The next day, Kazuto Ioka defended his flyweight belt against Noknoi Sitthiprasert at the EDION Arena in Osaka. Ioka began in measured fashion and was content to take his time. The champion was deducted a point at the end of round three for a low blow, although replays suggested it was a legal punch. Ioka then went through the gears, letting rip with combinations to both head and body but Noknoi refused to budge and even fired back on occasions. The onslaught continued but, despite Ioka’s best efforts to force a stoppage, the Thai managed to survive to the final bell. The judges' tallies were all in favour of Ioka, reading 117-110 twice and a far too close 116-111, which didn’t reflect at all the one-way traffic.
It was a weekend of real mixed fortunes for Marlon Tapales as the 25-year-old came in well over a pound overweight, subsequently being stripped of his WBO bantamweight title in the process before his rematch with Shohei Omori. Having been splattered in two rounds in their first encounter back in December 2015, Omori was highly cautious early on, looking to maintain distance with his jab.
Tapales was undeterred and applied pressure to Omori with both fighters having success after four rounds. The Japanese southpaw grew in confidence, hammering Tapales with some hard body shots in round five, but the Filipino’s resilience saw him retaliate in round six before Omori responded to turn the tide in round seven.
The pace dramatically decreased over the next two rounds with both men feeling the effects of a gruelling contest. Just as things were meandering, a monstrous Tapales uppercut dropped Omori and a far less forgiving referee would have brought proceedings to a close there and then. Instead Tapales got the finish just seconds into the eleventh. Unsurprisingly Tapales is eyeing a move to super bantamweight while Omori required surgery on his jaw after the bout so will be out the ring for some considerable time.
Click here to watch Omori vs Tapales 2
The world title doubleheader from Osaka drew outstanding TV ratings in Japan, with around 8 million viewing Ioka vs Noknoi and around 5 million tuning in for Omori vs Tapales 2.
After ploughing through his first six opponents, OPBF strawweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi was given a much-needed workout by Jonathan Refugio at the Korakuen Hall on 25 April. Kyoguchi came out with the intent of maintaining his 100 per cent KO streak but the stubborn Refugio refused to be intimidated and gave Kyoguchi plenty to think about. To his credit, Kyoguchi used his brain, picked his shots more wisely and the Watanabe youngster also showed good stamina in to the championship rounds. Kyoguchi attempted to take his man out in the final round but had to settle for a wide points win with scores of 117-111, 118-111 and 119-109.
Donnie Nietes was aiming to become only the third Filipino three-weight world champion when he tackled Eaktawan BTU Ruaviking for the vacant IBF flyweight crown on 29 April in Cebu City. Nietes started with a real air of confidence, using his vast amount of skills and experience to make Eaktawan look rather ordinary. The middle rounds were far more competitive with Nietes electing to stand his ground a lot more, bringing Eaktawan in to the contest.
The Thai was tough as nails and did bloody the nose of Nietes but the Filipino boxed his way home to earn a hard-fought unanimous decision with scores of 117-111 twice and 115-113. The main highlights of the undercard saw unbeaten featherweight Mark Magsayo drill Issa Nampepeche inside a round and Jeo Santisima record a ten-round decision win over Master Suro.
Looking to the future, minimumweight titlist Knockout CP Freshmart has been ordered to face dangerous Filipino Rey Loreto in a mandatory defence with no date or venue agreed at time of writing. Since outpointing Byron Rojas last June to become full champion in a forgettable bout, the Thai has defended the belt twice, easily beating the Japanese pair of Shin Ono and Go Odaira, but he will be up against a far stiffer challenger in the 26-year-old southpaw. Loreto’s messy looking record certainly doesn’t do him justice and most will know him for his two KO wins over Nkosinathi Joyi in February 2014 and March 2015 respectively.
Another man who’s been ordered to make a mandatory defence is IBF super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas with Japan's Teiru Kinoshita the opponent. As with Knockout vs Loreto, no date or venue has been agreed at the time of writing. After dethroning McJoe Arroyo last September in a fabulous display Ancajas has made one successful defence to date, a stoppage of Jose Alfredo Rodriguez in Macao and he’ll be looking to push on and secure a big fight in a loaded 115lb division. Since being thoroughly outclassed by Zolani Tete for the vacant IBF crown in July 2014 Kinoshita has scored six low level wins but the 31-year-old was rather fortunate to claim an eight-round split decision over Cyborg Nawatedani in August 2015.