Asian scene: Ancajas aces it

Marcus Bellinger
05/06/2019 3:54pm

Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Jerwin Ancajas was among the winners in a busy month of action involving Asian fighters. Marcus Bellinger rounds up all the action...

It’s been a special time for Japan in the last few weeks with a change in Emperor leading to the new Reiwa Era. The first boxing of this new era took place on the opening day of May as Taiki Minamoto and Reiya Abe clashed for the Japanese featherweight crown. We were treated to a cracker at the Korakuen with a fever pitch atmosphere which was arguably the best there’s been at the famous venue in recent times.

Minamoto got off to a dream start, dropping the challenger in both the first two rounds before Abe responded wonderfully to drag himself back into proceedings at the halfway point. Abe’s momentum continued in rounds six and seven before he was staggered by Minamoto in round eight. Abe pressed the action in the last two rounds and it was declared a majority draw with totals of 94-94 twice and 95-94 to Abe in what was a fabulous back and forth tussle.

On the same show Hinata Maruta breezed past Coach Hiroto as he won a shutout over eight rounds. Maruta didn’t get out of first gear, using an excellent jab and enough movement to cause Hiroto to fall short with his attacks. The youngster is now ready for a title bout at 126lbs.

We headed back to the Korakuen Hall three days later with yet more Japanese title action as Masaru Sueyoshi defended his super featherweight crown against Ken Osato. This was an ordered rematch with Sueyoshi prevailing by stoppage in their first encounter however, there were no knockdowns this time as the bout went the full ten rounds. It was highly competitive throughout, with very little to split them as the momentum switch between the pair but the champion took the last two rounds to squeak home via cards of 97-93, 96-95 and 95-95.

Teiken look to have a gem in light flyweight Shokichi Iwata who scored a six-round unanimous decision over Daiki Kameyama in his Japanese debut and his second professional bout. Kameyama had won the 2018 light flyweight rookie of the year competition and looked a serious test on paper for Iwata. However, it proved not to be the case as Iwata was too good for his southpaw opponent.

Iwata landed the left hook early on, dropping his man with a right hand in round three, and then used excellent footwork and movement to avoid the attacks of Kameyama. At the final bell the cards read 59-54 twice and 58-56 all to Iwata who looks to be one to watch going forward.

You can view Iwata vs Kameyama by clicking here

Over in the Philippines the good form of Ryo Sagawa continued as he took a unanimous decision victory over Al Toyogon for a minor WBC bauble in a really fan-friendly 12 rounder. The home man utilised his jab to good effect early on and was ahead on the open scoring after four rounds. Sagawa then really upped the tempo, landing right hands at will both to head and body. Toyogon tried his best to respond and he did have his fair share of success but the intensity of the visitor saw him come away with the victory via cards of 117-111, 116-111 and 115-113.

There was better news for Filipino boxing fans as Jerwin Ancajas retained his IBF super flyweight title with ease as he stopped mandatory challenger Ryuichi Funai in Stockton California. Ancajas had badly lost momentum with his recent performances but was sharp from the off against a man who was made to measure.

The champion landed at will through the first three stanzas with Funai offering no real threat. The challenger took an absolute pummelling in the fourth and did well to stay upright. The fifth was a quieter affair before Ancajas went to work once again in the sixth. At the start of round seven the ringside doctor called a halt to proceedings and now Ancajas really does need to try and take on one of the top dogs at 115lbs.

In a spluttering display, Yukinori Oguni took a unanimous points victory over Sukpraserd Ponpitak on 8 May at the Korakuen Hall. Oguni was down in round four and looked uncertain throughout but did just about enough to box and move through the rest of the contest but it’s clear he’s miles off challenging for another world title.

Fazliddin Gaibnazarov suffered his first professional loss, going down to a ten-round unanimous decision to Michael Fox on 11 May in Arizona. Fox had given fellow Uzbek Shohjahon Ergashev a tough time and after a promising start Gaibnazarov struggled with the huge height and reach of the American. Gaibnazarov was deducted a point in rounds six and seven and lost his way from then on. Fox got the win on the cards via scores of 96-92 twice and 95-93.

IBF flyweight titlist Moruti Mthalane and mandatory challenger Masayuki Kuroda went to war in easily one of the best fights of 2019 at the Korakuen Hall on 13 May. Kuroda made a really bright start, landing the best punches in the first couple of rounds before the champion came into things more in the next two rounds and we had a real fight on our hands.

Mthalane’s methodical pressure and inside work began to really pay dividends over the next four rounds and Kuroda was cut and showing facial swelling. The challenger had bursts towards the end of the rounds but couldn’t maintain it throughout the full three minutes and Mthalane’s consistency was proving to be key.

Mthalane further ramped up the pressure in round nine and a swollen right eye that was now completely shut added to Kuroda’s problems. Many would have surrendered but Kuroda’s sheer guts and bloody mindedness saw him take it to the South African and even buckle him at the end of the 11th. Realising he needed a massive finish Kuroda went all out but Mthalane remained composed and landed some terrific combinations in the final stanza of what had been an absolute treat for everyone in attendance or watching around the world.

On the cards the visitor held onto his title via a unanimous decision with scores of 117-111 and 116-112 (twice) and he can now move onto try and secure a unification bout. However, make no mistake the South African was pushed all the way by Kuroda, who may very well retire now. If so, the 33-year-old can bow out with his head held high.

Romero Duno and Juan Antonio Rodriguez engaged in an all-out tear up in their ten-round lightweight clash in California on 16 May. Neither wasted any time as both got down to work, landing power shots with Duno’s cleaner and harder punches seeing him take the first three rounds

Rodriguez then began to have success in rounds four, five and six as he backed the Filipino up with Duno showing a terrific chin to take the best the Mexican had to offer. A point off for Duno in round seven for low blows further added to the momentum of Rodriguez but a body shot from Duno resulted in a knockdown in round eight swinging things yet again. With it all to play for, a rather strange ending saw the referee bring the fight to a halt due to an accidental head butt and we went to the cards. It was a split verdict with a score of 85-84 for either man and 86-83 to Duno giving him a hard fought victory in a pretty brutal scrap.

Saturday 18 May was a busy day of boxing, beginning in Japan where Yusaku Kuga regained the national super bantamweight title in a gruelling ten-round war with Ryoichi Tamura in a rematch. The scores were 95-94, 96-93 and 97-92 all to Kuga. Elsewhere there were stoppage wins for Uzbek pair Elnur Abduraimov and Shakhobidin Zoirov and Nawaphon Por Chokchai.

It was then on to the big one in Glasgow as Naoya Inoue squared off against IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez for a place in the World Boxing Super Series final. The opening round saw Rodriguez land a few right hands and seem to gain some confidence with Inoue scoring well with the jab and a few fleeting right hands of his own.

Perhaps overconfident, Rodriguez elected to stand in centre ring but a short left hook dumped the Puerto Rican on the canvas and after getting up a thunderous body shot floored him again. A third knockdown completed proceedings for Inoue who continues to lay waste to the best in his division and display frightening power.

Given the time difference the bout was shown live on WOWOW, a satellite channel in Japan but a tape delayed Sunday night prime tine broadcast on Fuji TV, a terrestrial channel that shows all Inoue’s home fights, drew a staggering average audience of around 10 million as the popularity of the man known as ‘Monster’ continues to go through the roof. With the final now set speculation has already turned to the location of Inoue vs Donaire and the Kyocera Dome, a baseball stadium in Osaka which can hold over 40,000, has been mooted as a possibility.

The next day in Kobe, Felix Alvarado retained his IBF light flyweight belt as he took a unanimous 12-round decision over Reiya Konishi in a bout that didn’t quite deliver an all-out brawl as expected, but was a decent enough watch. Konishi applied incessant pressure from the off, trying to force Alvarado backwards and at times the plan from the challenger worked as the champion wasn’t allowed to land with power shots.

Konishi’s best period came in the middle rounds as Alvarado was forced onto the back foot as Konishi swarmed all over his man. Despite the effectiveness of the tactics Konishi needed a hell of a lot of energy to carry it out which proved to be his downfall down the stretch. The Nicaraguan dominated the last three rounds, hurting the man from Japan on a few occasions but the contest went to the judges, who all saw it in favour of Alvarado by tallies of 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112.

We have a new WBO super featherweight champion after Masayuki Ito was outpointed by Jamel Herring in Florida on 25 May. Herring outboxed Ito in the opening stanza before the man from Japan managed to have success with the right hand in round two.

Herring reverted to boxing and range, using movement to offset any attacks from Ito who had moments in the first half of the contest but was struggling with the fleet-footed American - the slow tempo also suited the challenger down to the ground.

Ito made a bit of a charge in rounds seven, eight and nine and got the better of the inside exchanges whenever Herring elected to stand his ground. However, a lack of a left hook to set up the right hand made things much tougher for the champion. Herring went back to his stick and move tactics and took the deserved unanimous decision with scores of 118-110 twice and 116-112.

On the same card Koki Eto versus Jeyvier Cintron ended after a round with the result changed to a no-contest after the Puerto Rican was knocked out as result of a head butt.

The following day in Fuzhou, China, Can Xu continued his terrific form as he stopped Shun Kubo in six rounds. The Japanese southpaw used his extra reach to decent effect in round one but his success was short lived as Xu walked through his offense.

The lack of head movement from Kubo resulted in him eating plenty of leather. After Kubo was dropped in round five the referee stopped the contest in the following round and the Chinese fighter’s career momentum continues to go upwards.

In a bout that promised fireworks Carlos Canizales produced a career best display to outpoint Sho Kimura. There was intrigue concerning how Kimura would look having come down from flyweight. Canizales dominated the early rounds with his volume whilst Kimura pressed forward and was making his opponent expend plenty of energy in the process.

Kimura had an excellent round five but the usual snap and intensity in his work simply wasn’t there as Canizales racked up the rounds and even hurt Kimura a couple of times.

Kimura never stopped trying but at the final bell there was no doubting the winner, with Canizales victorious via totals of 119-109 twice and 118-110. The light flyweight experiment for Kimura will surely be a one off but full credit should still be given to the Venezuelan who is now in line for some big fights at 108lbs.

Lastly, Wanheng Menayothin extended his perfect record to 53-0, scoring an eighth-round technical decision victory over Tatsuya Fukuhara in Thailand on the final day of May. Fukuhara gave Wanheng a tough encounter in their first meeting but the champion was far more assured this time as he landed regularly with his trademark right hand.

The challenger was cut in round two, but continued to try and make Wanheng work, but the home man’s greater quality of shots saw him rack up the rounds. A cut from another clash of heads in round 8 saw the contest being brought to a close and the Thai took the unanimous decision with cards of 79-73 and 78-74 twice.

Newly crowned Japanese light welterweight champion Koki Inoue makes his first defense at the Korakuen Hall against Ryuji Ikeda on 1 July with a number of other Ohashi fighters set to appear on the card.

The Osaka show on 12 July, which is headlined by the middleweight rematch between Ryota Murata and Rob Brant, is looking a really strong one with Kenshiro making the sixth defence of his WBC light flyweight belt against Jonathan Taconing.

Kenshiro makes his first ring appearance in 2019 and calls for an all-Japanese unification with Hiroto Kyoguchi grow ever louder and the possibility of facing IBF titlist Felix Alvarado is also there. For the challenger, this is his third world title crack and it may be his last shot after being avoided throughout large parts of his career.

Also on the card Satoshi Shimizu moves up from featherweight to challenge Filipino Joe Noynay for his WBO Asia Pacific super featherweight bauble. With all the belt holders at 126lbs tied up this move makes sense. The visitor won’t be a pushover and will be high on confidence after blasting out Kosuke Saka for the regional strap earlier this year and his only two losses came on points to Reiya Abe and Richard Pumicpic.

On the same day Andy Hiraoka got a needed step-up bout when he squared off against Akihiro Kondo. Hiraoka has performed well at Japanese Youth level but facing a former world title challenger should tell us more even though Kondo is coming off a knockout defeat to Downua Ruawaiking.

Tomoki Kameda finally gets his crack at the WBC super bantamweight title on 13 July in California when he faces champion Ray Vargas. This will be the Mexican’s fifth defence whilst the youngest of the Kameda fighting brothers will be aiming to become a two-weight world champion.

Having stated on numerous occasions that Masayoshi Nakatani needed a big fight, the tall rangy Osakan has just that when he travels to the US to take on Teofimo Lopez in an IBF lightweight eliminator on 19 July. Lopez has been blazing a trail of destruction and certainly isn’t backwards in coming forwards and has his eyes set on a showdown with unified champion Vasyl Lomachenko.

Nakatani has made an impressive eleven defences of the OPBF belt but has stagnated somewhat in recent times and really could have done with this sort of opportunity three or four fights ago.