Asian scene: Abduqaxorov hammers Manyuchi
Boxing Monthly's Asian expert Marcus Bellinger rounds up the continent's latest action...
Talented unbeaten Filipino duo Jack Tepora and Christian Araneta scored facile first-round stoppage wins on 18 March in Cebu City. Tepora retained his WBO Oriental super bantamweight belt, blitzing Yon Armed and Araneta drilled Demsi Manufoe to gain the WBO Oriental light flyweight bauble.
These bouts will be broadcast at some point and given that TV dates for boxing are at a premium, awful mismatches like this won’t have done the fighters or the sport in the Philippines any good at all.
Asia can boast of a new WBC super flyweight champion after Srisaket Sor Rungvisai shocked many by outpointing pound for pound king Roman Gonzalez on 18 March at Madison Square Garden in a breathtaking battle. The Thai, who was shamefully written off by the bookies beforehand, got off to the perfect start by dropping Gonzalez in the opening round and a cut through a clash of heads in round three added to the Nicaraguan’s problems.
By now the fight had formed a pattern with Srisaket applying constant pressure over the first two minutes of the round with Gonzalez coming on strong and replying with classy combinations in the final 60 seconds. Srisaket was deducted a point for use of the head in round six and a big attack to the body made it a Gonzalez 10-8 round.
The challenger continued to pour forward and would not be denied and the champion was struggling to keep Srisaket at bay. The work rate of Srisaket never relented but Gonzalez dug deep in to his reserves to win round ten and with both men feeling the pace the penultimate round was probably just shaded by the Thai southpaw.
Thinking he had done enough to win already, Srisaket resorted to running, holding and clinching in the final stanza while, in a defiant stand of epic proportions, Gonzalez left every last ounce of energy he had in the ring showing just what a truly great champion he’s been. The scorecards read 113-113 and 114-112 twice and Srisaket had pulled off a sensational victory in an unforgettable contest.
The vast majority of the top talent at welterweight is based in the US but Qudratillo Abduqaxorov is quietly making a name for himself in Asia and scored a highly impressive win over Charles Manyuchi on 25 March in Singapore. Manyuchi went to Russia in May 2016 and upset home favourite Dmitry Mikhaylenko and he was highly confident coming into the bout with Abduqaxorov.
The Zimbabwean came out with a swagger in round one but his cockiness cost him dear as he was dropped and, although he got to his feet, Abduqaxorov never let his man off the hook and floored Manyuchi again to record a first-round stoppage to capture the WBC Silver welterweight strap and put himself in the mix for a significant fight next up.
On the same card at middleweight, fellow Uzbek Azizbek Abdugofurov pounded out a ten-round decision over tough Argentine Martin Fidel Rios and lightweight contender Daud Yordan stopped Thai teenager Campee Phayom in two.
Later on that evening Teiken's Jorge Linares put on a boxing masterclass to easily retain his world lightweight crown in Manchester versus Anthony Crolla. The Venezuelan put the challenger down in round seven and won on points with scores of 118-109 across the board.
Hinata Maruta maintained his unbeaten record by overcoming Hanson Tiger Lamandau in Osaka on 26 March. Maruta used his huge height and reach advantages early on and although Lamandau had a modicum of success, by round four the Japanese teenager was in full ascendancy. Maruta was content to take his time and box but in round six he hurt Lamandau and a big attack culminating with a right hand which finished off the Indonesian and ensured Maruta's sixth victory. A July return is being targeted for the gifted youngster with a Japanese or OPBF title being eyed up by his handlers at the Morioka Gym.
Attention stayed in Japan the next day as Ryo Matsumoto made a statement by vanquishing Hideo Sakamoto in less than two minutes at the Korakuen Hall. Now campaigning at super bantamweight and having recovered from some health issues, Matsumoto looks to be a force to be reckoned with having torn through a decent domestic operator in Sakamoto in devastating fashion. The rangy southpaw will hopefully face a top world contender next.
Also on the Ohashi promoted card, unbeaten light welterweight Koki Inoue saw off Japanese ranked Mitsuyoshi Fujita in five rounds and Ryuji Hara scored a sixth-round stoppage over Akiyoshi Kanazawa.
Click here to watch Matsumoto vs Sakamoto
The last day of March saw Wanheng Menayothin stretch his unbeaten record to 47-0 with a six-round points victory against Jaysever Abcede in a tune-up contest. According to the Thai media the reigning WBC strawweight champion - now just two short of Rocky Marciano and Floyd Mayweeather's fabled career stats of 49-0 - will make his next defence versus Omari Kimweri.
WBO number 1 rated flyweight Toshiyuki Igarashi took on Miguel Cartagena at the Korakuen Hall on 1 April. After an unexpectedly lively opening stanza heads began to clash in round two and proceedings were brought to a halt in round three with a no contest declared the result.
This is the fourth bout in Igarashi’s last seven that have ended early due to head clashes and with reports of a significant injury, the Japanese southpaw looks to be out the ring for a prolonged period and a world title tilt is off the table for now at least.
The main support bout on this card saw unbeaten Teiken hopeful Shuya Masaki take on domestic operator Shingo Eto. Masaki stepped up to the plate, dominating his more experienced foe throughout and the 23-year-old scored a knockdown in round four on the way to a unanimous eight-round decision with scores of 80-72, 79-72 and 79-73.
Undefeated Kazuki Tanaka narrowly came through his toughest test to date, claiming an eight-round majority decision over Sukkasem Kietyongyuth at the EDION Arena on 2 April. Tanaka started well using his jab to good effect but it wasn’t long before the Thai worked his way in to the fight. Despite putting his opponent on the floor Tanaka was pushed all the way by Sukkasem and at the final bell the cards read 78-74, 76-75 and 76-76.
Opponents have been confirmed for both Mark Magsayo and Jeo Santisima as part of the 29 April card in Sebu City headlined by the vacant IBF flyweight clash between Donnie Nietes and Eaktawan Krunptheponburi. Magsayo faces Tanzanian Issa Nampepeche in a scheduled ten-round contest while Santisima takes on Master Suro also in a ten-rounder. Both Pinoys should have no issues with their respective opposition.
It was announced that English super flyweight Kal Yafai would make the first defence of his world title on 13 May in Birmingham against Suguru Muranaka. The Japanese boxer is an all-action come forward fighter who can box when he wants to and the 31-year-old fights out of the Flash Akabane Gym in Tokyo. After two points losses in his first nine bouts Muranaka eventually claimed the national flyweight belt by outpointing Takuya Kagawa in December 2013. After KO victories over Masayuki Kuroda and Yusuke Sakashita he then ran in to weight trouble and was stripped of his domestic title and suspended by the Japan Boxing Commission. In his last contest Muranaka won a majority eight-round decision over Hiroyuki Hisataka in December 2016 in a very fun fight.
Click here to watch Muranaka vs Hisataka
Kosei Tanaka will make the first defence of his WBO 108lb crown on 20 May at the Takeda Teva Ocean Arena in Nagoya versus mandatory challenger Angel Acosta. The 21-year-old Tanaka, the youngest current world champion, will be aiming to back up his sensational display on the last day of 2016 which saw him destroy Moises Fuentes in five rounds. However he faces a dangerous assignment against the big-punching Puerto Rican.
Acosta is unbeaten in 16 bouts with all his wins coming inside the distance and the 26-year-old, who is under the Cotto Promotions umbrella, earned his shot at Tanaka with a tenth-round stoppage of Japhat Uutoni in February. However the challenger won’t have faced someone with the blistering speed of the Japanese champion.
The action from the land of the rising sun doesn’t end there as Teiken Promotions presents a superb treble header from the Ariake Coliseum with Ryota Murata vs Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam headlining.
Putting aside the bureaucratic title bullshit (which I won’t go in to or otherwise I’ll lose the plot...) this is an excellent middleweight match-up and a nice contrast of styles. Since capturing gold in the 2012 London Olympics, Murata has done all that’s been asked of him in his 12 professional contests and the 31-year-old has showed definite improvement but he’ll need to use his pressure style to the maximum effect if he’s to overcome the fleet footed N’Dam.
After an unsuccessful stint at the Rio Olympics, N’Dam returned to the professional ranks and scored one of the KOs of 2016 against Alfonso Blanco in December. The French-based Cameroonian possesses excellent boxing skills and good movement but a shaky chin has been his undoing, with the 33-year-old hitting the canvas a total of ten times in his bouts with David Lemieux and Peter Quillin.
On the same bill, Juan Hernandez Navarrete makes the first defence of his WBC flyweight strap against mandatory challenger Daigo Higa. Hernandez was highly impressive in stopping Nawaphon Por Chokchai in March to capture the vacant title and since a loss to Kazuto Ioka back in August 2011 the Mexican has defeated the likes of Jesus Silvestre, Ramon Garcia Hirales and Saul Juarez. Higa, meanwhile, has been tipped for big things by many in Japan and others including this writer for a while. The 21-year-old has dispatched all 12 opponents inside the distance with a four-round demolition of Ardin Diale in July 2016 being the highlight.
Ganigan Lopez hits the road to make the second defence of his WBC 108lb belt against unbeaten Ken Shiro. Despite being 35, the Mexican has been in good form having claimed the title in Japan, with a points victory over Yu Kimura in March 2016. Four months later Lopez produced an excellent boxing display to outpoint the much avoided Jonathan Taconing. In his nine fights to date, Shiro has faced a variety of challenges and has shown all the necessary attributes to become a world champion, having captured domestic and OPBF honours along the way.
Completing a bumper boxing weekend for fans in Japan, Naoya Inoue makes his return against Ricardo Rodriguez also at the Ariake Coliseum on 21 May. The reigning WBO super flyweight king is coming off a six-round stoppage of Kohei Kono and, with a trip to the US in the offing and a move up to bantamweight not too far away, any slip-ups against Rodriguez would be a disaster.
The challenger can boast of points wins over Miguel Cartagena and David Quijano but two of the 27-year-old’s losses came at the hands of former Inoue victim David Carmona. The other world title clash sees Akira Yaegashi tackle mandatory challenger Milan Melindo. The Filipino earned his shot at the IBF light flyweight champion with a hard-earned decision win over Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr last November. Yaegashi squeezed in a 12 round KO against Samartlek Kokietgym a month later with the Filipino not being ready in time after his bout with the Thai. Also confirmed for this bill is Satoshi Shimizu, who takes on Takuya Yamamoto in a featherweight contest scheduled for eight.
Top Rank's worldwide expansion continues to grow with the news that the company have signed of southpaw Fasliddin Gaibnazarov. The 25-year-old captured gold in the Rio Olympics defeating the technically excellent Lorenzo Sotomayor via split decision in the final. Among his other notable amateur achievements are silver medals at both the 2015 world and Asian championships and he is also a three-time national champion. The Uzbek will be managed by Egis Klimas and is set to make his professional bow sometime in the spring in an eight-round contest. He will be more than likely be moved along pretty quickly.
Romero Duno upset the applecart on 10 March, crushing lightweight prospect Christian 'Chimpa' Gonzalez in two rounds at the Belasco Theater as part of Golden Boy’s LA Fight Club series. Gonzalez, who was unbeaten in 16 bouts beforehand, was dropped in the opening stanza, never recovered and was flat on his back not long afterwards, handing Duno a vacant minor WBC bauble in the process.
So impressed were Golden Boy with the Filipino's performance that they have now signed him to a long-term deal. The win over Gonzalez extended the 21-year-old’s record to 13-1 (12 KOs) with his only defeat coming in Russia on points over eight rounds to Mikhail Alexeev in May 2016 in a fight where the scorecards didn’t tell the full story.