Asian Boxing Scene: Sismundo shock and Islam still unbeaten
Marcus Bellinger brings us a bumper edition of his regular round-up of news and results from Asia ...
Apart from in Thailand - where at times the match making can leave a lot to be desired - protected boxers with padded records from Asia are a pretty rare commodity with fighters from the region either being fast tracked through the ranks at a rapid pace, being chucked in at the deep end almost immediately or having to ply their trade on the road as an opponent who is meant to lose.
One man who definitely falls in to the latter category is Japanese based Filipino Ricky Sismundo, whose messy looking record of 31-9-3, with 13 KOs doesn’t suggest anything worth speaking of, but is not at all a proper reflection of his ability or status as one of the top road warriors and most upset-minded pugilists in the sport.
These qualities were evident again on 22 October when the 29-year-old upset the odds with a ten-round unanimous decision win against Ghislain Maduma at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
The visitor got off to the perfect start, scoring a flash knockdown in the opening stanza and remaining right in the contest going in to the final three rounds. Sismundo scored a much heavier knockdown in round nine and Maduma was in total survival mode for the last three minutes. After the final bell thankfully the right man won the contest with the scorecards reading 97-91 and 95-93 twice. This victory follows on from a split draw and defeat to Dierry Jean and Jose Felix Jr earlier this year in contests which could have easily gone the other way.
Few would have predicted such a turnaround for the Filipino after he was stopped in seven rounds by Dante Jardon in September 2011 having already been beaten in eight rounds by Billy Dib, but a career relocation to Japan - beginning in September 2013 - had a really positive impact.
Despite a unanimous points defeat to the rangy Masayoshi Nakatani for the OPBF lightweight belt in May 2014, Sismundo then chalked up wins over solid domestic level operators Shuhei Tsuchiya, Akihiro Kondo and Yoshitaka Kato before embarking on trips to North America in 2016.
After the win against Maduma, Sismundo may find it difficult to secure fights as he is a dangerous opponent that offers little in the way of a risk to reward ratio, but there is no doubt he will give prospects, contenders and maybe even some world champions hell in the ring at either 135 or 140lbs.
Earlier on that day there was a card at the Korakuen Hall to determine several mandatory challengers for Japanese titles. The most intriguing bout on paper was at super bantamweight, with the battle hardened Jonathan Baat facing exciting puncher Yusaku Kuga.
From the beginning Kuga took the initiative and stamped his authority on the contest and, despite a head clash temporarily slowing him down, Baat was on the floor at the end of the first round. After dominating proceedings in rounds two and three a crippling body shot in round four secured the victory for Kuga and a guaranteed crack at the domestic 122lb belt in 2017.
For Kuga revenge could be on the cards as current Japanese champion Yasutaka Ishimoto out pointed the Watanabe Gym fighter last December for the vacant title. If a Kuga-Ishimoto rematch occurs expect fireworks.
For Baat this was only the third stoppage loss of his career with the other two coming at the hands of Rodrigo Guerrero and Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym and it could be time for the 36-year-old veteran to call it a day.
Also on 22 October, rising bantamweight Luis Nery scored an impressive second round knockout of Filipino Richie Mepranum. It was evident early on that the visitor was completely undersized and two knockdowns in round two brought a swift conclusion to the contest.
This latest win adds to Nery's unbeaten pro career thus far, which also includes recent knockouts of David Sanchez, John Mark Apolinario and Jether Oliva. The young Mexican is intent on securing a world title shot in the near future and any win over a solid bantamweight contender would now solidify his status as a genuine threat to any of the champions in the division.
On a card from the Almaty Arena in Kazakhstan that was streamed for free on http://nelsonspromotions.com/ on 29 October unbeaten super welterweight Kanat Islam won a twelve-round unanimous decision over Patrick Allotey with scorecards of 116-112 twice and 117-111.
In a solid but unspectacular display, Islam relied on multiple body shots but Allotey was never really in any danger of being stopped and Islam had to be content with going the twelve-round distance for the first time in his career.
In front of a crowd of over 14,000 there were a number of unbeaten prospects on show but the stand-out performance came from the debuting Zhanibek Alimkhanuly, who blasted away Milton Nunez inside a round. Coming in just over the super middleweight limit, Alimkhanuly was assured and relaxed from the start and some clubbing blows to the body resulted in three knockdowns which brought the contest to a swift halt.
Whilst Nunez was no world beater the Colombian was highly experienced and was a solid test for a debutant, but the way Alimkhanuly disposed of him was extremely impressive and also an indication that the gap between professional and amateur boxing is becoming narrower.
Tatsuya Fukuhara has enjoyed a quite fabulous 2016 and the 27-year-old booked his shot at a world title with a seventh round stoppage of the unbeaten and much touted Genki Hanai at the Foodpal in Kumamoto on 3 November. Hanai got off to a positive start but the Japanese champion took control and, early on in round seven, the challenger was pinned against the ropes and a barrage of punches forced the referee to wave off the contest.
After claiming the vacant Japanese strawweight crown last year, Fukuhara has taken the unbeaten records of both Hanai and Takumi Sakae and he has certainly earned his world title opportunity. At the recently concluded annual WBO convention it was stated that, due to injuries suffered in his last contest, Katsunari Takayama would be unable to defend his WBO 105lb belt so he would step aside, leaving Fukuhara to face Mexico’s Moises Calleros for the vacant strap in early 2017.
Saturday 5 November was a hectic day involving Asian fighters, with proceedings commencing at the Korakuen Hall with Daigo Higa retaining his OPBF flyweight crown for the first time against the stubborn Felipe Cagubcob. The champion came out with bad intentions but the challenger survived the early storm and landed some good shots of his own.
The southpaw stance of the Filipino was bothering Higa, who was less accurate than usual over the first two rounds. In round three Higa managed to cut off the ring though and Cagubcob was slowly broken down. Round four finally saw the resistance of Cagubcob being thwarted and, after a knockdown, the contest came to a close soon afterwards.
Whilst Higa maintained both his unbeaten record and 100% KO streak there are clearly weaknesses than can certainly be worked on. Nevertheless, the 21-year-old should still be in line for a world title shot sometime in 2017.
In a quite brilliant supporting bout Koki Eto survived a major scare before eventually overcoming Jun Blazo. The visitor flew out of the blocks, dropping Eto and hurting him multiple times in the opening stanza. Round two wasn’t much better for the man from Japan and it looked like we could have a major upset on our hands.
However, round three saw Eto come back in to the contest with some fantastic two-way action between the pair. Unfortunately the gas tank of Blazo was emptying rapidly and, despite a competitive round seven, a body shot saw the Filipino hit the canvas and two more knockdowns soon after saw Eto escape with victory in round eight.
Attention then turned to the Thomas & Mack Center with the action culminating in Manny Pacquiao capturing the WBO welterweight strap after winning a unanimous decision against Jessie Vargas, with the score totals reading 114-113 and 118-109 twice.
Elsewhere on this bill, China’s Zou Shiming claimed the vacant WBO 112lb belt with a dominant display over Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym. Zou planted his feet early on and dropped Kwanpichit in round two with a right hand. At this stage a stoppage was looking probable, but Zou then reverted to moving and boxing.
Going in to the championship rounds, the Thai was a dispirited and dejected figure. Despite being battered and bruised, Kwanpichit made it to the final bell but that was nothing more than a moral victory with Zou taking the win with the cards tallying 120-107 twice and 119-108. Zou is now only the second boxer from China to claim a world title after Xiong Zhao Zhong won the WBC minimumweight crown in 2012.
Whilst Zou's style doesn’t please everyone and he is derided by many, it’s fair to say that without the 35-year-old many doors would not have been opened, not just for Chinese boxers but also for fighters from across Asia and in the lower weight divisions. Hopefully we will see the return of big boxing cards to Macao in 2017.
We also have a new WBO super bantamweight champion after Jessie Magdaleno unseated Nonito Donaire. The opening stages were closely contested with very little to split the two fighters. Donaire was looking to land big shots but Magdaleno’s output was more consistent.
Magdaleno hurt Donaire in round nine, with the Filipino rallying later on in the round. The champion attempted to put his foot on the accelerator in the last three rounds but the challenger weathered the storm and at the final bell he had won via scores of 116-112 twice and 118-110.
The 118-110 card was ridiculously wide but Magdaleno had fought a smart and intelligent contest and was a deserved winner in most people's eyes. As for Donaire, he looked every bit his 34 years of age and it could be time for him to hang up the gloves and end what has been a superb career.
Oscar Valdez continued his rise, easily retaining his WBO featherweight title for the first time by defeating Hiroshige Osawa. The Japanese challenger was game but the difference in power and skill set was colossal. Valdez dropped Osawa in round four and it needed all the experience of the 31-year-old Osawa just to survive the round.
The Mexican then took his foot off the pedal, even switching to southpaw such was his dominance. The fight eventually came to a close early on in round seven with Valdez proving he was levels above Osawa. Of course, far tougher fights lie ahead for the undefeated 25-year-old.
Looking ahead now rather than to the past, the immensely skilful Andrew Selby takes on Filipino Jake Bornea at Wembley Arena for the IBF Intercontinental belt on 18 November. Bornea’s only loss came in 2014 on points to recent Juan Francisco Estrada opponent Raymond Tabugon. The 21-year-old also has a points win over recent Daigo Higa victim Felipe Cagubcob and a ten-round split decision victory over Michael Enriquez. The youngster has a good amount of experience of going in to the championship rounds but more importantly he should possess far more ambition than most of the Welshman’s opposition.
Elsewhere, a fourth professional opponent has finally been confirmed for Hinata Maruta, with the teenager to take on Joe Tejones on 23 November in Osaka. The 20-year-old southpaw has never been stopped but should pose a few problems for Maruta, who will hopefully have a more significant bout in early 2017.
Opponents have also been confirmed for both Albert and Jason Pagara as part of ALA’s 26 November show at the Cebu Coliseum, headlined by the IBF interim light flyweight clash between Milan Melindo and Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr.
Albert will take on Raymond Commey and will be aiming to rebound from his stoppage defeat to Cesar Juarez in July. Commey is a tough man and the Ghanaian went twelve rounds with China’s Qiu Xiao Jun earlier on this year and should test the resolve and psychological state of the younger Pagara. Meanwhile, Jason squares off against Nicaragua’s Jose Alfaro. Alfaro is a former world champion, but his form has been patchy at best in recent times so the elder Pagara sibling should prevail without too many issues.
OPBF light flyweight champion Ken Shiro returns to action at the Korakuen Hall on 8 December when he defends his regional belt for the first time against Lester Abutan. Shiro is coming off a twelve-round decision victory over Toshimasa Ouchi in August and the 24-year-old is closing in on a world title fight. Abutan has fought in decent company and has never been stopped throughout his career. The 25-year-old is a former Filipino 108lb champion and he also pushed Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr all the way in a split decision loss for a minor light flyweight trinket back in April.
Riku Kano returns on 11 December to face former foe Pigmy Kokietgym at the Bunka Center in Sanda Hyogo. The Japanese teenager will be aiming to bounce back from his world title defeat to Katsunari Takayama in August.
Minimumweight titlist Knockout CP Freshmart is set to make his ring return on 14 December. No opponent has yet been confirmed, although it’s thought that it will be a boxer from Japan in the other corner. There was talk of Go Odaira but he has been ruled out. The Thai will be hoping for a more aesthetically pleasing performance than his title-inning effort versus Byron Rojas which turned in to an absolute stinker of a contest.
We already knew that Takashi Uchiyama would be rematching Jezreel Corrales on New Year’s Eve with the fight to take place at the Ota-General Gymnasium in Tokyo and now we also know the opposition that night for Ryoichi Taguchi. The 108lb champion takes on Carlos Canizales in a very underwhelming bout.
Despite a glossy looking record of 16-0 the Venezuelan's opposition has been woeful and, after an excellent performance against Ryo Miyazaki, this is a huge step backwards for Taguchi.
A third title clash on this bill sees Masayuki Ito squaring off against Takuya Watanabe with both the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific super featherweight belts on the line.
Also on the final day of 2016 Kosei Tanaka and Moises Fuentes will clash for the vacant WBO light flyweight strap. The bout is set to take place at the Memorial Hall in Gifu.
Tomoki Kameda has officially regained his Japanese boxing licence and will aim to return before the end of the year. It has also been revealed that he will be campaigning in the super bantamweight division.
A purse bid was avoided for the vacant WBC flyweight strap with Nawaphon Por Chokchai due to square off against Juan Hernandez in Thailand. January is the expected date for the contest and as part of the deal the fight will take place in an indoor venue and also on a Saturday to suit Mexican TV.
Finally, in an interesting development, Brian Viloria is set to resume his career under the guidance of Teiken Promotions. The deal should be cemented in the very near future with Viloria hoping to be back in the ring in early 2017 in the land of the rising sun.