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Japan’s big day of boxing previewed

By Graham Houston

Japanese boxing fans have a fabulous day ahead of them on Dec. 31 with big fights taking place on major promotions in Tokyo and Osaka. I previewed the Takashi Uchiyama vs Bryan Vasquez fight for subscribers. (This is the only one of the Japanese fights that at time of writing has a wagering line available.) Here are my thoughts on the other fights that take place in Japan on Monday, and the odds I would consider appropriate.

YOTA SATO vs RYO AKAHO

Graham’s odds: Sato -400; Akaho +250 Over 9.5 -175; under 9.5 +145

Yota Sato defends his WBC super flyweight title against Ryo Akaho in an all-Japanese fight on the Uchiyama-Vasquez show in Tokyo. I’m picking Sato here. He’s fast, and flashy, a bit unconventional in his method but effective at what he does. Sato is unbeaten for seven years, he’s more experienced than Akaho and he’s met a higher standard of opponent. Akaho is unbeaten in 19 bouts and he’s a good puncher — five stoppage wins in his last six fights. I don’t make this an easy fight for Sato. Akaho is almost Lee Haskins-like in the way he wings punches from unexpected angles and I think he will give a good account of himself, but Sato simply looks the better fighter.

TEPPARITH vs KOHEI KONO

Graham’s odds: Tepparith -450; Kono +280 Over 10.5 -130; under 10.5 +110

Thailand’s Tepparith makes his fourth consecutive appearance in Japan when he defends his WBA “super” world 115-pound title against gritty slugger Kohei Kono on the big Tokyo show. Tepparith hasn’t lost in four years but he had a very close call against the tenacious and tough Nobuo Nashiro in September, winning on a majority decision. Tepparith started off impressively with an excellent jab and a sharp variety of punches, but Nashiro hurt him with hooks to the body and came on strongly down the stretch — Tepparith didn’t win a round on any of the judges’ cards after the eighth round. The way that Tepparith faded against Nashiro is a concern to me, making me wonder if he might be starting to get a bit tight at the weight. Kono, though, is looking a bit battle-worn at the age of 32 and he’s lost three of his last five fights. Tepparith is the more talented boxer and he is eight years the younger man. I’ll be a bit surprised if Tepparith becomes the first to stop the durable Kono but I do expect him to win, perhaps on a unanimous decision.

KAZUTO IOKA vs JOSE ALFREDO RODRIGUEZ

Graham’s odds Ioka -480; Rodriguez +300 Over 10.5 -145; under 10.5 +115

One of Japan’s most talented boxers, Kazuto Ioka, defends his WBA light-flyweight title against Mexico’s Jose Alfredo Rodriguez in the main event on a big show in Osaka on Monday. Although Ioka has had only 10 bouts he boxes with the poise of a boxer of far greater experience. Rodriguez, 23, has an excellent record — 23 wins in 24 bouts — and he’s boxed in Japan before, winning a decision in an eight-round bout in Kobe in February 2010. Rodriguez’s only loss was on a unanimous decision to the veteran Alberto Rossel on Rossel’s home ground in Lima, Peru. Rodriguez fought well but was essentially outboxed and outsmarted. The scoring was all over the place: one judge had Rossel winning by 118-110, another judge had this a close fight at 115-113 while the third judge saw the bout 116-112. It was possible to see any of these scores as acceptable because the fight was open to differing interpretations — Rodriguez was the aggressor and busy but Rossel moved, boxed, countered and piled up points with a stiff left jab, and he had the Mexican fighter missing wildly at times.

Rodriguez calls himself “Torito” but he seems to me to be more of a boxer-puncher than a slugger. He brings pressure and he has an excellent left hook to the body, and his bursts of punching can look quite impressive. However, Rodriguez does seem to be easy to hit with a left jab, and if Rossel could have him missing and getting frustrated then it is reasonable to expect something similar to happen when Rodriguez gets in the ring with Ioka, who is boxing in his hometown. This is an excellent match, though, between two young fighters. I’m expecting Ioka to win on points, but I think Rodriguez will be in the fight until the end.

RYO MIYAZAKI vs PORNSAWAN

Graham’s odds: Miyazaki -350; Pornsawan +240 Over 10.5 -145; under 10.5 +115

Thailand’s Pornsawan Porpramook took part in one of the most exciting fights of 2011 when he battled it out with Akira Yaegashi for the WBA 105-pound title in Tokyo. Although Yaegashi won in the 10th round, Pornsawan made a very game and determined showing and even looked like taking over the fight in the middle rounds before Yaegashi came back with some big shots to regain the initiative. Pornsawan is back in Japan on Monday when he meets the unbeaten Ryo Miyazaki on the Ioka-Rodriguez show in Osaka, with the WBA’s vacant interim 105-pound title at stake, and I think he will again be returning to Thailand as a loser.

Miyazaki, 24, is boxing in his hometown and I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen of him. He’s a fast, elusive boxer with a relaxed style. Miyazaki holds his hands low and is adept at slipping punches and using upper-body movement to make his opponents miss. The fight with ex-champ Pornsawan is a step up for Miyazaki but I think he is ready for it. Pornsawan is 34 and although he has won his last four bouts I have to wonder if the brutal fight with Yaegashi has taken something out of him. We will find out on Monday. Pornsawan’s nickname of “The Tank” is a fitting one. He will keep pressing forward and keep trying to impose his will, but I see Miyazaki being a bit too speedy and smart for him and I’ll go with Miyazaki to win a unanimous decision.

KYOTARO FUJIMOTO vs SOLOMON HAUMONO

Graham’s odds: Fujimoto -195; Haumono +145 Over 8.5 rounds -150; Under 8.5 rounds +120

Kyotaro Fujimoto is a rarity — a Japanese heavyweight who just might have international-class potential. We will find out a lot more about Fujimoto on Monday’s Osaka show when he meets Solomon Haumono, a heavy hitting Australian fighter of Tongan ancestry, in a 12-rounder for the vacant OPBF heavyweight title.

Haumono, son of a former Aussie heavyweight champ, was a top rugby league player in Australia before taking up boxing seriously, and he’s knocked out 17 opponents in 21 fights. Haumono belaboured the Australian-based Nigerian Franklin Egobi into defeat in the 10th round in his last fight. However, while Haumono hurt Egobi with right hands throughout the fight and dug in some good body blows he seemed to be the sort of boxer who fights in spurts. Egobi was doing well with the jab in several rounds, only to get caught and rocked when Haumono opened up. Haumono has an impressively muscled physique, but he’s 37 and I think it’s fair to say that he’s reached his level — dangerous but perhaps a bit limited technically.

Fujimoto, 26, has had only five bouts — all wins — but he’s a former K1 kickboxing star. Fujimoto comfortably outpointed the southpaw Chauncy Welliver in his last fight and while Welliver is a mauling type of fighter, he’s a big man and durable, and I thought that Fujimoto showed some ability in the way he landed punches and moved around his much more experienced opponent. Fujimoto seems to have good hand speed, and despite his limited boxing experience he seems to have good instincts, and it seems to me that Fujimoto has the well-balanced look of someone who knows how to fight.

I think that Fujimoto might be a bit too quick and too busy for Haumono. Haumono’s big right hand will be a threat, and if he can hit Fujimoto squarely on the chin he can hurt him and perhaps stop him, but I do believe that Fujimoto is ready for this, on paper at least, somewhat hazardous test. I do realise that one punch can wreck Fujimoto’s dreams of boxing glory but I will go with this flamboyant and confident Japanese prospect to win, possibly on points.

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