As 2020 begins Asian scene bids farewell
Photo: Ryosuke Iwasa of Japan celebrates his victory against Marlon Tapales of the Philippines (Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
Marcus Bellinger's Asian Scene column began in December 2015. Today we are sad to present Marcus' 57th and final column, which rounds up all the action from the final month of 2019...Thank you Marcus for your dedication to Boxing Monthly and the Asian boxing scene...
The first action in December took place on the second day of the month as Koki Inoue scored an impressive one-punch knockout of Jheritz Chavez to capture the WBO Asia Pacific light welterweight title at the Korakuen Hall. Inoue was clearly the quicker man but was cautious early on as the visitor presented a real threat. Any success that Chavez did have was smothered quickly and as the rounds progressed Inoue began to open up more offensively. A peach of a left hand left the Filipino out for the count at the end of round 7. This was the first stoppage loss in Chavez's career so far and 2020 should be an interesting year for Inoue.
Also on this Ohashi bill, Taku Kuwahara dropped and dominated Ricardo Sueno over eight rounds, winning via tallies of 80-71 twice and 79-72, while Ryo Matsumoto got a confidence building fourth-round stoppage of Jinya Ito.
There was much action involving Asian fighters on 7 December, commencing at the Korakuen Hall. Unfortunately the main event for the WBO Asia Pacific 130lbs title between Joe Noynay and Kenichi Ogawa ended in a fifth-round technical decision draw with cards of 48-47 Noynay, 49-46 Ogawa and 48-48. Noynay landed the most notable punch in the opening stanza before a clash of heads left the Filipino cut in round two. A further head clash left Ogawa badly cut in the third before subsequent head clashes left the visitor unable to continue and a bout that looked really good on paper sadly disappointed. Nevertheless both men have plenty of options for future fights.
We have a new Japanese super featherweight champion as Kosuke Saka overwhelmed Masaru Sueyoshi. From the get go Saka was all over Sueyoshi like a rash, giving him no space to work at all. The champion was struggling to keep the challenger at bay with round four his best round but at the halfway point he was well behind. Saka didn’t leave it to the judges and dropped Sueyoshi in the sixth and the referee wisely stopped the contest. Saka will now take on Takuya Watanabe sometime in 2020 in what should be an all-out war.
In a career-best performance Ryosuke Iwasa stopped Marlon Tapales in 11 rounds to claim the IBF interim super bantamweight trinket at the Barclays Center in New York. The two men exchanged right hooks in the opening couple of rounds before Iwasa dropped Tapales in round three, although it did seem a head clash had played a part. Tapales tried to score with big single shots and did have his successes but as we passed the midway point Iwasa visibly grew in confidence. A cracking southpaw left from the man from Japan then left the Filipino in no position to continue. Iwasa will at some point face either Danny Roman or Murodjon Akhmadaliev in 2020.
Over in Mexico, Jerwin Ancajas easily retained his IBF 115lbs bauble as he dispatched the out of his depth Miguel Gonzalez. Ancajas made a concerted effort to target the body of the Chilean and the challenger was shaken badly in round three but managed to survive. Ancajas continued to stalk his opponent and an uppercut once again shook Gonzalez to his core in the sixth, with proceedings coming to a close moments later.
In Canada Sadriddin Akhmedov finished 2019 with a bang as he knocked out Jose Antonio Villalobos in seven rounds. The Kazakh toyed with his foe throughout, slowly breaking him down round by round. The Argentinian began to take a bit of a beating until a thunderous right hand to the jaw brought a conclusive end to the contest. Make no mistake, Akhmedov is one of the very finest young talents across the globe.
Hours later in Osaka, Musashi Mori retained his WBO Asia Pacific featherweight belt with a 12-round points victory over Takuya Mizuno. The fight wasn’t a memorable one, with far too many clinches spoiling the action. Round five saw the pair exchange, bringing a lively EDION Arena crowd to its feet. Mori scored a knockdown in round 10 and the 20-year-old prevailed via scores of 117-110, 116-111 and 115-112.
In the clash of unbeaten light flyweights, it was Thanongsak Simsri who was victorious versus Christian Bacolod over eight rounds. The pair tried to establish their jabs early on but it was the Thai's extra strength and power in the second half of the contest that saw him earn the decision on the cards with scores of 76-75 and 77-75 twice.
Two days later Hironori Mishiro retained his OPBF super featherweight crown but was forced to dig deep by Yoshimitsu Kimura. The champion got the perfect start, flooring his man in the opening stanza. This seemed to only reignite the challenger who came roaring back into the contest. The two-way action continued throughout, with Kimura targeting the body whilst Mishiro scored with right hands, uppercuts and lefts to the body. We went to the cards and it was Mishiro who took the split verdict via tallies of 114-113 twice and 114-113 to Kimura.
In a strategic, risky gamble that paid off for the Watanabe Gym, 1-0 prospect Yudai Shigeoka scored a near shutout versus Lito Dante over six rounds with cards of 60-54 twice and 59-55. Dante has stopped Tsubasa Koura for the OPBF 105lbs title in March and the Filipino really is as tough as they come. Shigeoka landed with crisp shots from the off but quickly realised that the Filipino wasn’t going to be budged easily. Shigeoka used his extra speed to great effect and limited Dante’s successes and despite suffering a cut in round five the youngster remained calm and the future is extremely bright for him.
Hiroaki Teshigawara made the third successful defence of his OPBF super bantamweight belt as he breezed past Shohei Kawashima at the Korakuen Hall on 12 December. The champion found a home for his right hand and was in total control over the first four rounds with the challenger posing no threat at all. Kawashima tried to turn things around but a cracking left hook left him in no position to continue at the end of round five. Teshigawara is now eyeing a world title tilt for later this year.
Ryo Sagawa retained his Japanese featherweight belt for the first time, outpointing Ryo Hino. The first half of the contest was highly competitive, however the champion pulled away down the stretch to take a unanimous verdict with scores of 98-92 and 97-93 twice. He’ll now face Hinata Maruta in a mandatory defence in 2020.
In a quite brilliant up and down thriller, Toshiya Ishii eventually prevailed versus Haruki Ishikawa for the Japanese Youth bantamweight trinket. Ishii got off to the perfect start, boxing nicely and dropping his man at the end of round one. Ishikawa returned the favour, flooring Ishii early on in round two and the bout then descended into an all-out war with defence at a premium. Ishii got back to boxing in the third before he produce a sumptuous counter at the beginning of the fourth which left Ishikawa completely scrambled, bringing to a close what had been a quite brilliant little scrap.
In his biggest test to date, Bektemir Melikuziev dealt with it with aplomb, scoring a ten-round shutout over Vaughn Alexander in California on 13 December. The Uzbekh was able to land left hands to both head and body and will against the ponderous American during the first four rounds. A couple of right hands from Alexander were the extent of his success and frequent headbutts from him caused a minor issue to Melikuziev during the second half, but the Olympic silver medallist from 2016 didn’t lose his cool and he is now on the fast-track in 2020.
Daniyar Yeleussinov impressively halted Alan Sanchez in round five of their welterweight clash in the US on 20 December. Yeleussinov broke his man down, causing swelling on the left eye of Sanchez which progressively worsened and the doctor eventually stopped the contest due to the eye of Sanchez completely shutting. It is now time to step up the Kazakh Olympic gold medallist.
On 21 December the electric Carl Jammes Martin finished 2019 with a third-round knockout of Philip Luis Cuerdo and goes into 2020 with a very bright future ahead of him. Meanwhile, Vic Saludar made a successful comeback after losing his WBO strawweight title, stopping Mike Kinaadman after surviving an early knockdown himself. However, Jhack Tepora suffered a major setback as he was taken out with a body shot by Oscar Escandon inside a round.
As expected Daniel Dubois blasted out Kyotaro Fujimoto in two rounds in their heavyweight clash in London before Christmas. The visitor managed to avoid much damage in the opening stanza but was dropped from a jab in round two and a lethal right hand finished proceedings moments later. Dubois is certainly one of the leading young heavyweights on the planet.
Ryota Murata took care of Steven Butler in five rounds at the Yokohama Arena on 23 December in their middleweight clash. Butler tried to box and move whilst Murata came forward and pressured the visitor. The Canadian landed early on but his punches had no effect on the home man who continued to hunt down his man. Round three became rather messy with Butler needing to hold as the right hands of Murata were landing with more and more regularity. Murata sank in solid body shots in the fourth. Butler was clearly struggling to cope and was floored in the next round with the referee wisely halting the contest.
It wasn’t to be for Akira Yaegashi but the Japanese warrior went out on his shield against Moruti Mthalane in their IBF flyweight title clash. Yaegashi boxed and moved in the first couple of rounds but by the fourth the challenger reverted to type as the two men went to war in a thrilling three minutes of action.
There was more two-way action in rounds five and six but by the seventh Mthalane was beginning to wear down Yaegashi. The South African dominated round eight, varying his shots beautifully and the champion continued to hand out punishment before the bout was thankfully stopped in the next round. If this is the last we see of Yaegashi what a memorable and thrilling career it has been while Mthalane continues to impress and hold back father time.
Kenshiro Teraji was too hot to handle for late substitute Randy Petalcorin who succumbed in four rounds. The champion used his jab over the first two stanzas whilst the challenger had his moments. Petalcorin attempted to neutralise the jab of Teraji in the third but a switch to the body proved fateful for the Filipino, who was floored three times in the round. Petalcorin came out with intent in the next round but another attack to the midsection saw the WBC light flyweight titlist prevail and here’s hoping he can secure a unification fight in 2020.
The show also saw the return of Roman Gonzalez who faced Diomel Diocos in a scheduled eight-rounder. Chocolatito’s trademark combinations were fully on display from the start as he backed up Diocos in round 1. A right hand stunned the Filipino in the second and a follow-up attack saw the referee stop the bout. The Nicaraguan will now fight Britain's Kal Yafai for the WBA title in Texas on 29 February.
Murata proved once again to be a huge hit with his bout drawing an average audience of roughly 8.3 million whilst the Yaegashi Mthalane pulled in an average audience of around 3.7 million and peaked at 4.5 million in the Kanto region.
Sho Ishida once again came up short, losing a split decision to Israel Gonzalez in an IBF super flyweight eliminator on 28 December. Ishida tried to use his jab and extra speed early on but allowed himself to be outworked by the Mexican who had a handy lead at the halfway stage. Ishida managed to build some momentum in the second half of the contest but it wasn’t enough with the cards reading 116-112 Gonzalez, 116-112 Ishida and 115-113 Gonzalez, who at some point will be in line for a rematch with Jerwin Ancajas.
In the final world title clash of 2019, Kazuto Ioka overcame mandatory challenger Jeyvier Cintron to retain his WBO super flyweight crown at the Ota-General Gymnasium on New Year’s Eve. The early couple of rounds were more of a chess match with the challenger using his height and reach really effectively. Ioka began to get closer in rounds three and four but Cintron remained composed. The champion’s work to the body was beginning to pay dividends as we entered the second half of the contest.
The hurtful shots to the Puerto Rican’s midsection really sapped his energy and Ioka took full control in the middle rounds. The pounding to the body continued in rounds nine and ten and Cintron honestly looked in serious trouble but to his credit he rallied in the final two stanzas. It proved not to be enough though as Ioka took the deserved unanimous verdict with scores of 116-112 twice and 115-113.
Kosei Tanaka crushed Wulan Tuolehazi to retain his WBO flyweight title. Tanaka was sharp from the off, nailing the challenger with the jab and the Chinese fighter resorted to wild swings rapidly. The champion hammered away at the body in round two before a vicious double uppercut left Wulan flat on his back in round three. A defining bout is a must for Tanaka in 2020.
Ginjiro Shigeoka looks to be a world champion in waiting after the richly talented 20-year-old made a real statement in stopping Rey Loreto in five rounds in the first defence of his WBO Asia Pacific 105lbs belt. Shigeoka floored the Filipino in the opening stanza and despite the visitor’s best attempts to rough up the home man a vicious attack to the body saw him wilt in the fifth. Shigeoka thus cemented his spot as one of the very best young fighters in the sport.
Jhunriel Ramonal did it again, as he stopped Yusaku Kuga inside a round to win the vacant WBO Asia Pacific super bantamweight bauble. Both came out the gate with aggressive intent but a right hand dropped Kuga and left him in no position to continue. After also knocking out Shingo Wake this is now the second huge upset victory for the Filipino visitor who has had a 2019 to remember.
Ioka pulled in excellent viewership in the Kanto region on TBS with an average audience of approximately 3.9 million and a peak of around 4.75 million which completely dwarfed the rating for the Rizin show. The figures of Kosei Tanaka were also very respectable with an average audience of roughly 2.5 million in the Kanto region.
Murodjon Akhmadaliev will finally get his world title shot against Danny Roman on 30 January in Miami with the champion now fully recovered from a shoulder injury.
Pedro Taduran heads to Mexico for his first IBF strawweight world title defence where he will face Daniel Valladares on 1 February.
Former WBO 130lbs titlist Masayuki Ito heads to China to take on local undefeated super featherweight Yongqiang Yang as part of the Jose Ramirez Victor Postol undercard on 2 February.
Tugstsogt Nyambayar finally gets his shot at WBC featherweight titlist Gary Russell Jr on 8 February. The champion, of course, is known for his sporadic appearances but the Mongolian hasn’t been kept active himself with his last ring appearance coming in January 2019.
Kento Hatanaka returns on 11 February to defend his WBC Youth flyweight strap against Roland Jay Biendima.
Shuichiro Yoshino’s next bout will take place on 13 February when he squares off against Izuki Tomioka who is mandatory challenger for Yoshino’s Japanese lightweight crown.
This card also sees the welcome return of Daigo Higa in a contest at 119lbs against Jason Buenaobra who is the only man to have gone the distance with Carl Jammes Martin. Higa was suspended indefinitely by the Japan Boxing Commission after losing his WBC flyweight belt on the scales versus Christopher Rosales back in April 2017, the first boxer from Japan to have lost a world title after coming in overweight. Two days later Sho Kimura returns in the Philippines to face Merlito Sabillo at the Manilla Arena.