Asian scene part 2: a Knockout defence
In the second of an epic two-part Asian Scene for this month, Marcus Bellinger rounds up the continent's significant action so far from March - including a successful world title defence for Knockout CP Freshmart - and previews all the action to come...
The March world-title action from Asia began in Chonburi on the first day of the month as Knockout CP Freshmart defended his minimumweight strap for the second time against Go Odaira.
Odaira attempted to counter-punch in the opening three minutes as the champion pressed forwards. The challenger stood more in range in round two but was tagged with hard shots repeatedly and it was clear that Odaira was simply outgunned. The Thai continued the bombardment and rocked Odaira right at the end of the third round.
Odaira was eventually floored in round four and by now Knockout was going all out for the finish and he didn’t have to wait long as a three-punch combination left the Japanese fighter out for the count in round five. This was a solid performance from Knockout but with a cluster of quality prospects coming through at 105lbs sterner tests should await the 26-year-old.
The next day saw bantamweight kingpin Shinsuke Yamanaka in full seek and destroy mode as he took out Carlos Carlson in his 12th WBC title defence in Tokyo. Carlson came out with a confident approach early on but was met with solid left hands for his trouble.
The Mexican was shaken in round two and again in round three and was being broken down bit by bit by the Japanese southpaw. It was clear at this point that the champion had total disregard for his opponent and was fighting as such. To his credit the challenger was semi-competitive in round four before being dropped twice in the very next stanza.
After the pair of knockdowns Yamanaka got careless and was tagged by a couple of punches near the end of round five. Another trip to the canvas for Carlson came in round six but he was let off the hook once again before two more knockdowns finally brought an end to proceedings in round seven.
Elsewhere on this card, Kenichi Ogawa retained his Japanese super featherweight crown, scoring a debatable points verdict over Satoru Sugita with scores of 96-94, 97-93 and 95-95, Ryosuke Iwasa warmed up for his shot at the IBF super bantamweight title with a third-round stoppage of Glenn Medura and the returning Brian Viloria was given a tough workout by Ruben Montoya, eventually taking an eight-round unanimous decision with scores of 77-75, 78-75 and 78-74. The main event of this bill was watched by around 4 million viewers in the Kanto region of Japan.
A new WBC flyweight champion was crowned in Bangkok on 4 March as Nawaphon Por Chokchai went up against Juan Hernandez Navarrete. The opening round was pretty uneventful but it was clear that Hernandez had an advantage in speed as Nawaphon seemed rather ponderous.
To his credit Nawaphon managed to cut off the ring a lot better in round two as both men engaged in an interesting three minutes of action. The Thai attempted to build on his momentum but Hernandez used his extra speed and vastly superior skill-set to counter and hurt the home man before putting him down.
Nawaphon clambered off the floor but the Mexican jumped all over his opponent and forced the referee to stop the contest in the third round. This was a highly impressive display on away soil from Hernandez and next up is a clash with Daigo Higa in what will be a fascinating and potentially explosive bout. Rather interestingly bantamweight contender Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, who it was recently reported returned an "adverse" VADA test result, appeared on this show, scoring a facile stoppage win over Tommy Seran.
Tomoki Kameda enjoyed a successful return to a Japanese ring, dominating Mike Tawatchai over ten rounds at the Korakuen Hall on 10 March. Kameda was intent on making a statement and in round six a body shot put the Thai down. Tawatchai showed plenty of grit and bravery and despite his best attempts Kameda had to settle for a win on the cards with scores of 100-88, 100-90 and 99-90. Also on this card, Ryo Akaho won the vacant Japanese bantamweight title by outpointing Yushi Tanaka and Hisashi Amagasa won a narrow majority decision against Kinshiro Usui over eight rounds.
Rex Tso and great fights go together like strawberries and cream and the 29-year-old was involved in yet another thriller versus Hirofumi Mukai at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center on 11 March. Tso flew out of the traps looking to land power shots and he scored his first knockdown of the fight in round two. He slowed down a bit in round three though and Mukai was enjoying plenty of success. although his punches simply didn’t have the same effect as his opponent's.
After a breathless round four Tso simply kept on coming and despite Mukai’s attempts to change things up he wasn’t able to stave off the home man. A second knockdown in round six added to the visitor's woes but Mukai retaliated and refused to give in as the pair waged war in a pulsating seventh stanza.
However, this was to be the Japanese southpaw’s last stand as an attack punctuated by a crunching straight right hand to the body brought things to a close in round eight, sending the crowd in to a fever of wild celebrations.
With box office records set at the gate creating a sensational atmosphere and over 100,000 viewing the bout on a provided live stream there is no doubt that Tso is a superstar in his homeland and a Tso world-title fight in Hong Kong would certainly be an event to savour.
Click here to view Tso vs Mukai
Looking ahead to the upcoming action in Asia, touted Japanese youngster Hinata Maruta will make his first ring appearance in 2017 when he faces Hamson Tiger Lamandau on 26 March at the Satsukiyama Gym in Ikeda, Osaka. Despite an unblemished record very little is known about the Indonesian visitor and if victorious Maruta is targeting national or OPBF honours for later in the year.
Saturday 1 April sees Teiken host a card at the Korakuen Hall headlined by a flyweight contest between Toshiyuki Igarashi and Miguel Cartagena. Since losing his WBC flyweight crown to Akira Yaegashi in April 2013, Igarashi’s career has been stop-start with three technical decision victories in amongst a string of low key wins.
At 33 the window of opportunity for the southpaw to return to world level is becoming shorter and shorter. Cartagena is coming off an impressive first-round stoppage of Joebert Alvarez but the Philly native's form before this has been patchy with KO losses to Emmanuel Rodriguez and Timur Shailezov in 2014. Also on this card is a rescheduled contest, as touted super featherweight Shuya Masaki puts his undefeated record on the line against domestic operator Shingo Eto.
A week later Zolani Tete and Arthur Villanueva vie for the right to challenge WBO bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales at the Manchester Arena. Since impressively halting Paul Butler in eight rounds back in March 2015 and vacating his IBF super flyweight strap due to a paltry purse offered in a mandatory defence against McJoe Arroyo, the South African has racked up four wins and has left UK boxing connoisseurs purring since signing with Frank Warren.
As for Villanueva, he came up short in his only previous world-title fight to date, losing a tenth-round technical decision to McJoe Arroyo in July 2015 for the vacant IBF super flyweight belt in a forgettable bout that was marred by some questionable judging in Texas. The Filipino has since rebounded with three victories, two of which came via KO over Juan Jimenez. However the first encounter was wrongly adjudged a KO as replays showed it was an accidental headbutt that brought an end to proceedings. The 28-year-old legitimately knocked out the Mexican in two rounds in their rematch but the ALA Gym fighter faces a much tougher task against the tall rangy southpaw.
Shun Kubo will aim to pass the biggest test of his career so far when he challenges WBA regular super bantamweight belt holder Nehomar Cermeno at the EDION Arena on 9 April. The 26-year-old southpaw is a former OPBF champion and is now the leading light of the Shinsei Gym since the retirement of Hozumi Hasegawa so it will be interesting to see how he copes with that added pressure.
Cermeno brings a wealth of experience to the table having campaigned at world level for well over half a decade and scoring wins over the likes of Cristian Mijares and Oscar Escandon. The Venezuelan was also involved in two extremely close encounters with Anselmo Moreno in 2010, losing both via split decision, while his only inside the distance defeat came at the hands of Fernando Montiel in 2011.
The 37-year-old has been in good form recently, picking up his WBA bauble with a 12th-round stoppage over Qiu Xiao-Jun in June 2016 and chalking up two defences against Nop Kratingdaenggym and Qiu in a rematch in December 2016. Also on this show is the much-anticipated clash between Reiya Konishi and Masataka Taniguchi for the vacant Japanese strawweight title while OPBF lightweight champion Masayoshi Nakatani squares off against Kaewfah Tor Buamas.
Masayuki Ito returns to defend his WBO Asia Pacific super featherweight strap on 13 April versus big-punching Lorenzo Villanueva at the Korakuen Hall.
Sunday 23 April is the start of a busy period for Japanese boxing as Shohei Omori challenges WBO bantamweight boss Marlon Tapales at the EDION Arena. Of course, the pair met at the back end of 2015 with Tapales obliterating Omori in two rounds and the Filipino subsequently went on to snatch the WBO 118lb strap from Pungluang Sor Singyu in July 2016. Omori has rebounded with three wins since the Tapales defeat, the last of these coming via a third-round KO of Rocky Fuentes on the final day of 2016.
Kazuto Ioka takes on Noknoi Sitthiprasert in the fifth defence of his flyweight belt on this show. Noknoi’s last loss came 12 years ago but his opposition since then has been poor with a points win over Kenichi Horikawa in 2013 being the most relevant name on his resume.
Donnie Nietes aims to become a three-weight world tilist when he squares off against Eaktawan Krungthepthonburi for the vacant IBF 112lb belt at a venue to be determined in Cebu City on 29 April. Having reigned at 105 and 108lbs Nietes would enter a select group of Filipino boxers to have captured world titles in three weight classes should he be successful against the Thai.
Eaktawan’s home ledger is unblemished but bouts on the road have seen the 27-year-old lose on points to Sho Ishida and Froilan Saludar in 2013 while Albert Pagara took him out in two rounds in 2012. Undefeated featherweight Mark Magsayo is also set to feature on this bill along with super bantam Jeo Santisima.
Riku Kano faces Jerry Tomogdan on 5 May at the Bunka Center in Sanda, Hyogo with the vacant WBO Asia Pacific strawweight title on the line. This will be Kano’s second bout since losing a technical decision to Katsunari Takayama last August and a win for the teenager against Tomogdan, whose results have been mixed of late, would put him back in the mix in a crowded 105lb division.
After running WBC strawweight ruler Wanheng Menayothin mighty close, Melvin Jerusalem gets his passport out again when he ventures to South Africa to face Simpihwe Khonco at the Emperor's Palace in Kempton Park on 10 June.
Despite his narrow defeat to the Thai champion, Jerusalem should have gained a huge amount of experience and be full of confidence after his impressive performance - indeed, a win for the 22-year-old would put him right back in line for a second world-title shot. After a sticky start to his career Khonco has claimed some notable wins over Nkosinathi Joyi, Siyabonga Siyo and Nhlanhla Ngamntwini and he put in a commendable effort in a points loss against Hekki Budler in September 2015.