New Mexico fight fans will be pleased to know that one of our own is fighting on the undercard of the ESPN televised Lomachenko-Pedraza fight in New York City on December 8th. At the weigh in Denver based Daniel Calzada (16-19-3, 2 KOs) weighed in at a ready 147.6 for his four round welterweight fight against undefeated Brian Ceballo (5-0, 3 KOs). Ceballo weighed in at 147.8. Although Calzada lives and fights out of Colorado he was originally from New Mexico and was born in Dona Ana.
Albuquerque New Mexico’s Josh Torres made short work of last minute sub Jesus Alvarez Rodriguez, stopping him in the opening round after just 1:16 of action last night. The fight, which took place at the Manuel Lujan Exhibition Hall at Expo New Mexico, was widely expected to be a difficult one for the New Mexican before the opening bell. And when Rodriguez came in at 155.4 (8.4 pounds over the contracted weight) many wondered if the size advantage might be a substantial factor in the fight. But Torres ultimately had little trouble with the former Mexican prospect. With the win Torres improves to 19-6-2, 11 KOs while Rodriguez drops to 15-6, 11 KOs.
One of New Mexico’s most popular boxers will return to the ring today (December 1st) at the Manuel Lujan Jr. Exhibit Complex at the Expo New Mexico in Albuquerque as local boy Josh Torres (18-6-2, 10 KOs) looks to extend his three fight win streak against last minute sub Jesus Alvarez Rodriguez (15-5, 11 KOs) of Los Mochis, Mexico.
For Torres there is a recognition that it is now or never for the notoriously streaky boxer. Torres is a former WBC USNBC junior welterweight champion, having won the belt against Ranee Ganoy (a fighter who at one point in his career fought in an IBF world title fight eliminator). And Torres is perhaps best remembered for giving former WBO junior welterweight champion Mike Alvarado all he could handle back in 2016, losing a close majority decision to Alvarado in Texas. But his record is also peppered with inexplicable losses to fighters like Rufino Flores (2-5, 0 KOs), Cameron Krael (14-13-3, 3 KOs), Jose Marrufo (11-8-2, 1 KO) as well as a four round draw with Joel Vargas (4-16-2, 4 KOs). Nonetheless, despite these setbacks there is recognition by many boxing fans in New Mexico that when he is on point he can compete with many world class fighters in the welterweight division and can still make one more serious run for contention.
However, Torres can ill afford another setback and after his original opponent, Texan Mohamed Rodriguez (11-6-1, 4 KOs), was forced to drop out of the fight earlier this week due to a shoulder injury he may actually be in with a considerably more dangerous opponent. Torres’s new opponent, Jesus Alvarez Rodriguez, is a former undefeated prospect who is best remembered for his fight with Ruslan Provodnikov in 2015. Rodriguez entered that fight with an impressive 15-0 record, but he was ultimately dominated by the former WBO world champion, getting stopped in four rounds.
And unfortunately for Rodriguez he has had little opportunity to right the ship since then. Rodriguez was thrown in with the wolves, fighting (and losing to) four undefeated world class prospects since his loss to Provodnikov. His fight with Torres is widely recognized as a considerably more reasonable matchup for a young boxer looking to rebuild his career and much like Torres, he has his back to the wall. A loss to Torres would undoubtedly end his dreams of contention, something that is not lost on either fighter. Although Torres and Rodriguez is seen as an even matchup, many boxing insiders nonetheless recognize that it is hard to gauge exactly what sort of test Rodriguez would provide for the New Mexican. His losses were ultimately to undefeated world class prospects and one former world champion whereas his wins tended to come against little known journeymen. Whereas his first fifteen fights saw him defeat opponents with a combined record of 27-108-11 his last four fights saw him lose to fighters with a combined record of 49-0-1. It is this mystery surrounding Rodriguez that makes the Torres-Rodriguez match so interesting, and why many boxing fans regard Rodriguez as a much more dangerous opponent that his original foe.
The Torres-Rodriguez fight is scheduled for eight rounds in the welterweight division.
In the co-main event Aztec, New Mexico’s Joe Gomez (21-7-1, 10 KOs) looks to extend his three fight win streak as he takes on Moris Rodriguez (7-11-1, 5 KOs) of Sacramento in a six round junior middleweight fight. Gomez has once fought Alfredo Angulo in a WBC Continental Americas super welterweight title back in 2011 (losing in the opening round). However, he has seen limited action in the ring since then, fighting only six times in the last seven years. However Gomez has picked up the pace slightly in 2018, with his fight against Rodriguez being his second this year. Rodriguez was stopped in six rounds by main event fighter Josh Torres in his last fight in March of this year.
Rounding off the undefeated Matthew Esquibel (10-0-1, 5 KOs) of Albuquerque takes on journeyman Ricardo Fernandez (3-10-4, 0 KOs) of Juarez, Mexico in a six round junior middleweight fight. Although the fight doesn’t appear to be much of a contest on paper, with Fernandez coming in on the heels of an eight fight losing streak, the conventional wisdom is that the Mexican may still surprise some people. Esquibel struggled in his last fight, being held to a draw by lightly regarded Tavorus Teague back in June and if the same Esquibel that showed up against Teague were to show up tonight fans may be treated to a more competitive fight than expected.
Albuquerque’s Lorenzo Benavidez (0-1) looks for his first win against Michael Sanchez (2-2, 2 KOs) in a four round cruiserweight fight. Jose Luis Sanchez (7-1, 3 KOs) of Albuquerque takes on Oklahoma’s Anthony Hill (1-25, 0 KOs) in a six round junior middleweight fight. And in the opening fight of the night Las Cruces New Mexico’s Jamie Aguilera makes his professional debut against Levi Lucero (0-2) in a four round lightweight fight. Tickets for the event, billed “Expo Explosion II,” start at $25 for general admission and $80 for front row seating.
I’ve covered fights all across the globe and have sat ringside for some of the biggest fights in boxing history…but I think every boxing writer laments the one that got away. And for me that was the night of May 26, 2001.
I was just kicking off my career as a freelance boxing writer in Michigan. I had submitted some material to a few smaller boxing websites and was 11 days away from covering my first fight card for Fightnews.com: a club show in a VFW hall in Durand, Michigan. (for the record, Fightnews didn’t end up posting it, my first published fight report was from a show in Washington D.C.).
But even if I wasn’t a boxing writer at that point I was still a fight fan, which makes May 26, 2001 inexcusable.
That was the day that “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather Jr. defended his WBC Super Featherweight title in Grand Rapids, Michigan against Carlos Hernandez of Argentina. I don’t know why I didn’t make the drive out from Flint to Grand Rapids to see that fight. Floyd was already established as one of boxing’s best champions and although he would dominate Hernandez it would prove to be a historic night: the only knockdown of Mayweather’s career (for the record it wasn’t much of a knockdown).
I would go on to see Mayweather in action in the future…April 8, 2006, when he won a decision over Zab Judah in Las Vegas. But by then Mayweather was a superstar. In Grand Rapids he wasn’t the most recognizable fighter on the planet yet. Hell, he wasn’t even the most recognizable fighter in Michigan yet. He was talented…we all saw it. But somehow that talent wasn’t enough to motivate me to drive one and a half hours to see him in action live.
I guess I just didn’t appreciate how close to greatness I was back on May 26, 2001. And I guess that is why I often pay special attention to those four round fights on the undercard. You never know if that 3-0 kid on the undercard might just be something special. Admittedly they are usually in against a softer touch…but how many of you would say you wouldn’t drive up to Albuquerque to have seen a young Floyd Mayweather Jr. in action, even if it was against a journeyman? Sure the fight featuring that young prospect ends up being pretty lopsided, but you still get to see a young prospect in action…and sometimes that young prospect turns out to be something really, really special. You see the flashes of brilliance…and sometimes you even get to see the rough edges that you know will be polished out before he fights for his first world title.
Yeah, I may have May 26, 2001 as my missed opportunity to see greatness rising…but I am not alone. Just about every fight fan in New Mexico has a date they also have to carry with them: November 30, 1996. 22-years ago to the day.
Because on that day Floyd Mayweather came to Albuquerque.
In an ESPN televised fight card featuring then WBO Super Flyweight champion Johnny Tapia in a title defense, Floyd Mayweather Jr. stopped by for a four round clash with a little know journeyman from Indiana named Reggie Sanders. And if you are a fight fans from New Mexico who for whatever reason didn’t go to the Tingley Coliseum on November 30, 1996 then watching the fight now on YouTube will be painful. You will see hundreds of empty seats all around the ring. Sure we didn’t know that Floyd would become “Money” but it doesn’t change the fact that you missed this golden opportunity. You missed a chance to see an all time great in his only fight in New Mexico.
And interestingly enough, even though the matchup wasn’t exactly a major test for Mayweather, history was made that night at the Tingley Coliseum. Floyd Mayweather Jr. was taken the distance for the first time. Reggie Sanders was able to last the four-round distance with Mayweather and although judges Levi Martinez and William Gantt had Mayweather winning 40-36, one judge (Sandy Pino, a familiar face to fight fans in New Mexico) actually had Sanders winning one round and scored the fight 39-37. So another bit of boxing history occurred in Albuquerque 22-years ago today and New Mexico fight fans in attendance were able to witness it.
Albuquerque saw the first round Floyd Mayweather Jr. would lose as a professional.
Admittedly a lot of fans were probably not paying much attention to the then young boxer from Grand Rapids who was fighting as a professional for only the second time in his career. But those who did…well, they witnessed history in the making. They saw the Beatles with Pete Best on the drums. They saw Michael Jordan playing basketball in college. They saw a young Floyd Mayweather Jr. go the distance for the first time ever. And who knows, maybe they even realized they were watching something special.
There is a fight coming up this weekend in Albuquerque, and although I won’t claim that any of the fighters on that card will become the next Floyd Mayweather Jr. I have to admit…back in 2001 I didn’t think Floyd Mayweather Jr. would become the next Floyd Mayweather Jr. So what do I know? Maybe you shouldn’t take my word for it and you should head down to the Manuel Lujan Building in Albuquerque Saturday night just to make sure you don’t miss something special. A week after that show boxing will head to to Odessa, Texas where a pair of undefeated fighters in Desmond Hill and Abel Mendoza are slated to fight in two separate fights at the Ector County Coliseum. Are either of them the next Canelo Alvarez or Manny Pacquiao? Most people would say no. But those are the same people who didn’t buy these five empty ringside seats for Canelo Alvarez fight agaist Raul Pinzon in Miami back in 2008. Don’t be the five guys not sitting in those seats on Saturday in Albuquerque or on December 8 in Odessa.
And for those of you who missed Albuquerque’s brush with greatness on November 30th, 1996…for those fight fans in New Mexico who were old enough to have gone to that fight card at the Tingley Coliseum and for whatever reason didn’t…
New Mexico’s had no shortage of attractive prospects in boxing since the era of Danny Romero and Johnny Tapia…and for boxing fans in the Land of Enchantment Albuquerque’s undefeated featherweight Jason Sanchez (13-0, 6 KOs) was one of the best prospects the state had ever produced.
Well, it’s time to stop calling him a prospect.
Because now that the World Boxing Organization has released it’s November ratings earlier this week Sanchez graduated to something bigger.
After stunning fellow undefeated prospect Jean Carlos Rivera on October 31 in Panama City, there was little doubt that Sanchez was going to make some noise in boxing. After all, he had just beat one of the best featherweight prospects in the world in front of some of boxing’s biggest power brokers (the WBO annual Convention was taking place that week in Panama City at the same hotel where the fight card was held). He also captured the WBO Youth belt in the process, a belt that often is a precursor to a world ranking.
Sanchez’s hard work and dominant title victory was more than enough in the eyes of the WBO to propel the Albuquerque native into the world rankings at #15.
So where does Sanchez go from here? Well, he needs to continue to win if he is going to move into the top ten, but looking at some of the fighters ranked above him I have to admit, I like his chances against a few of them. I for one think that a fight with California’s Erick Ituarte (20-1-1, 3 KOs) would be a very good match up for Sanchez. Ituarte, the #5 ranked contender, struggled to beat Alberto Torres (11-1-3, 4 KOs) in an NABF Junior title fight back in August of 2017 (Ituarte won a split decision). He also struggled to defeat Isaac Zarate (16-4-3, 2 KOs) by split decision in his only other NABF Junior title fight in May of 2017. Sanchez may not be seen as a puncher but it was obvious that his had enough pop in his punches to give Jean Carlos Rivera a lot of trouble in Panama. And I think he could find similar success against Ituarte, who only has three knockouts in his 22 fights. In fact, one of the most impressive things about Sanchez’s performance in Panama was his relentless attack on Rivera…never letting up and never getting deterred. Against the light punching Ituarte I could see Sanchez duplicate his winning strategy from Panama: walking through Ituarte and manhandling him with relentless pressure. Ituarte was dropped by Zarate in their fight with a counter left cross in the third round, and although it was something of a flash knockdown it was clear after round three that the pressure of Zarate was giving Ituarte a lot of problems. But the underdog simply couldn’t keep the pressure up. By round five Ituarte was in control as the badly winded Zarate began to backpedal.
The thing is…I don’t think Sanchez would fade. He certainly didn’t in Panama, where his relentless pressure was a thing of beauty. Rivera tried to weather the storm but Sanchez never took his foot on the accelerator. Ituarte simply lacks the power to frustrate a determined Sanchez in my opinion. And unlike Zarate, who faded down the stretch, Sanchez will be in Ituarte’s face for all ten rounds. If the same Jason Sanchez who who went to Panama were to head to California for a fight against Ituarte I believe that the New Mexican would come home with the win.
And that could propel Sanchez into a world title fight in 2019…something every fight fan in New Mexico would be excited to see.
For boxing fans in Panama City, Panama there was little question that they were watching a pugilistic surgeon in the ring last night in undefeated Puerto Rican Jean Carlos Rivera. The only problem was that the surgeon was standing in front of a New Mexican freight train in Albuquerque’s Jason Sanchez. Sanchez, the prohibitive underdog going into the fight, refused to ever take a backward step against the undefeated prospect and never let Rivera derail his unrelenting pressure. Rivera seemed to have an effective strategy in the opening round, letting Sanchez come on strong but making him pay for his aggression with hard overhand rights. In round two it appeared that Rivera had even rattled the New Mexican when he landed a hard left that appeared to affect Sanchez’s balance. But even as he landed hard counter punches, Rivera could never get the New Mexican to ease up off of him, and soon the relentless pressure of Sanchez began to take its toll. Rivera began to wilt from the pressure by round four and by round six there was no question that Sanchez was now in control. Rivera, who was never able to keep up with Sanchez’s punch output even in the early rounds, continued to slowly fade in the late rounds as his picture perfect counter right became less pronounced and his punch output, always lagging Sanchez’s, began to drop off as well.
By round ten it appeared that Sanchez was ahead, but the Albuquerque fighter wisely elected to fight it out and not leave anything to chance. His aggression and perseverance paid off when he badly rattled Rivera with a left hook that sent the Puerto Rican stumbling into the corner where referee Ken Chevalier correctly ruled a knockdown, noting that the corner and ropes was the only thing that prevented Rivera from hitting the canvas.
But the freight train was not about to let up, even with the decision all but in the bag. Sanchez pressed forward for the knockout against his foe, winning over the Panamanian fight fans and closing the round in dominant fashion, All three judges has Sanchez the winner by scores of 96-93, 97-92, and 97-92. With the win Sanchez captures the WBO Youth Featherweight title, while also improving his record to 13-0, 6 KOs. For Sanchez, it was a perfect night that ended in a perfect victory. With the World Boxing Organization hosting their annual convention in Panama City, Sanchez’s fight was attended by some of the most important power brokers in the sport including Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran, Panama’s most famous citizen. Also, as the original main event fight fell through at the last minute, Jason Sanchez found himself now fighting for a WBO title in the main event.
The acquisition of the Youth title is expected to propel Sanchez into the WBO world rankings as well. Currently there are seven Youth Champions ranked by the WBO, with the highest Youth Champion being ranked #1 in the mini-flyweight division.
“This is a dream come true,” Sanchez said after the fight. “I’ve been waiting for this opportunity my whole life. I worked hard for it and thank God everything went good.”
Undefeated Albuquerque featherweight Jason Sanchez (12-0, 6 KOs) made weight for his WBO Youth title fight tonight after weighing in a half pound under the featherweight limit yesterday at the Hotel El Panama in Panama City.
Jason Sanchez made weight at 125 1/2. His opponent, Juan Carlos Rivera, also made weight coming in at 125 3/4. The fight will be for the vacant WBO Youth Featherweight title.
“I feel good, I feel strong.” Sanchez said after making weight. “Ready to bring the belt home. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity since I was a little kid. It finally came through and I’m going to take advantage of it.”
Retired six time minimumweight champion Katsunari Takayama (31-8, 12 KOs) was just approved an amateur boxing license by the Japan Amateur Boxing Federation, clearing his way to fight for Japan in the 2020 Olympics.
The move was hardly routine for the only Japanese fighter to win world titles in all four major sanctioning organizations. The 35-year old Takayama retired in 2017 in an effort to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics only to have his boxing license denied. This despite the fact that the International boxing Association (AIBA) allowed professional boxers to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics. The subsequent battle for his amateur license proved to be one of Takayama’s most difficult, but against formidable odds Takayama was able to weather the storm and prevail after allegations of misconduct led to the resignation of former JABF president Akira Yamane. Yamane’s opposition to granting the professional boxer a license was ultimately the biggest hurdle of Takayama’s dream of becoming the first boxing champion to win a gold medal at the Olympics.
“There has been many Olympic medalists throughout the world from many countries who have gone on to become world champions as professional boxers,” Takayama told Fightnews in an interview back in August of 2017. “But there have been no world champions in professional boxing who have gone on to win the gold medal in the Olympics.”
Although Takayama will probably be the most accomplished fighter in the 2020 Olympics and one of Japan’s most promising medal contenders, he still needs to qualify for the Olympics in an amateur tournament. Although Takayama is expected to resume his amateur career as early as April of 2019, there is a recognition by many in boxing that his path to a gold medal will still be a formidable one. In 2016 three professional boxers competed in the Rio Olympics, and all failed to win a medal despite concerns early on that their experience would give them an unfair advantage.
“I’ve fought all these amateur boxers before. I’m not surprised I lost to an amateur because I used to be one. ” former WBA and WBO middleweight champion Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam told SB Nation after he was shockingly upset in the opening round of the 2016 Olympics to little known Brazilian named Michel Borges. “Professionals don’t have an advantage because the characteristics of the fight are different.”
Scouting is an inexact science in sports and boxing is no exception. But with that being said, there are those can’t miss prospects…and usually they don’t miss.
Sure a lot of people are predicting a world title in the near future for 2012 Olympic bantamweight silver medalist Shakur Stevenson or welterweight gold medalist Robson Conceicao and I happen to think those are two really safe picks. Both men have shown absolute brilliance in the ring as professionals and I feel there is a better than 50% chance that both will have world title belts around their waist by the end of 2019 or 2020.
Recently MTK Global signed 2012 Olympic flyweight gold medalist Shakhobidin Zoirov to a managerial contract. Well, if I had any questions about Zoirov’s future as a pro I don’t now. Although a lot of fighters from Central Asia make a splash in the Olympics, many often elect to remain amateurs. This is one of the reason that so many Kazakh fighters don’t get the attention they deserve. And for the Uzbek gold medalist Zoirov, I think the main reason he isn’t considered #1 draft pick in boxing is because he’s Uzbek. Fighters from Central Asia just don’t get the attention they deserve unless they have the right team behind them. It isn’t fair, but hey, that’s boxing.
But when all is said and done, just because Zoirov is flying under the radar doesn’t mean he isn’t a future world champion, and now that he has the right managerial team behind him I am assuming he will start turning heads right away. Picking him to win a world title is still like picking a can’t miss prospect…just one that came out of some obscure European league as opposed to some high profile power forward from Duke
Now with that being said, the real challenge is trying to find a diamond in the rough when that diamond comes out of a club circuit and started off as a journeyman. It happens, but it’s rare. Perhaps the two most famous examples of fighters whose career started off in the club circuit and somehow, against all odds, became world champions were Freddie Pendleton and Mike Weaver. Weaver is probably best remembered for his war with Larry Holmes in a WBC world title fight back in 1979. He gave as good as he got but was ultimately felled by the undefeated champion in round 12. It wasn’t just that he rattled Holmes and kept the fight reasonably close on two of the judges scorecards going into round 12 that shocked fans. He was considered a very weak opponent by casual fans…the kind of fighter who an established champion gets to sharpen his blades on in between tough fights. Weaver stated his career 1-3 and two years into his professional career he looked like the farthest thing from a world class contender, having lost by knockout to Duane Bobick and sitting on a less than glamorous record of 6-6, 4 KOs. But a handful of boxing insiders predicted big things from Weaver and before long he was fighting for an NABF title…and soon after that he was brawling with Larry Holmes. In 1980 the Cinderella story finally hit it’s pinnacle when Weaver scored a knockout over Gerrie Coetzee, winning the WBA World Heavyweight title.
Pendleton had a similar story, although a lot of boxing fans got on the bandwagon before his world title victory over Tracy Spann in January of 1993. Pendleton started his career with a horrible record of 14-13-1, 6 KOs and he probably was hearing whispers of “hang ’em up, kid” from a lot of folks in the sport. But those who were really paying attention started noticing that Pendleton was actually getting better with each fight. In March of 1986 Pendleton was brought in as a sacrificial lamb for former super featherweight champion Roger Mayweather. After all, it was Pendleton’s first trip to Vegas and with a 14-13-1 record against the 24-year old former champion there was no reason to assume he would be able to pull off an upset. But some boxing insiders, such as ESPN commentator Al Bernstein, recognized that Pendleton’s record was somewhat “deceptive.” The end result? Pendleton scored a stunning sixth round knockout in one of the biggest upsets of the 1980s.
It was a nice moment but it didn’t turn around Pendleton’s career overnight. Still, it put him on the radar and although there were still setbacks, he continued to keep winning big fights. By 1993 he was seen as a slight favorite over Tracy Spann in their fight for the vacant IBF lightweight title and he looked all the part of a world champion in winning a twelve round decision over Spann.
So yeah, picking out a future world champion from the Freddie Pendleton/Mike Weaver circuit is a lot harder than picking one out of the Olympics.
So is there anyone I think could be another Freddie Pendleton/Mike Weaver in the making? A hard luck young kid who never raised an eyebrow as an amateur but who is starting to put it all together as a pro?
Shacks started his career in 2015 with a pair of losses in Ohio and Detroit respectively before winning his first professional fight in his hometown of Lansing, Michigan in 2017. His win came against a debuting fighter named Chad Coons and the fight had all the makings of pickup win for a club fighter en route to his next paycheck against a world class prospect. By the end of 2017 his record stood at 2-2-1 and nobody was taking about him.
And in 2018 he seemed to be following the club fighter script. He fought in hostile territory three times in 2018 against three undefeated fighters with a combined record of 20-0-1.
The thing is…he hasn’t lost any of those fights.
The club fighter from Lansing Michigan has been brought to California three straight times to lose, and he’s given it to the undefeated fighter all three times. In March he held undefeated Greek born prospect Stylianos Papadopoulos to a six round draw. Shacks followed that up with another draw against 4-0 Salvador Perez before deciding to take his next fight out of the judges hands on Saturday, September 29, 2018. Shacks crushed a touted prospect named Ricardo Valdovinos in the opening round. Valdovinos, a San Diego native, came into the fight with a 7-0 record and was needless to say a heavy favorite against Shacks. Sure it wasn’t exactly a knockout over a 24-year old Roger Mayweather…but it’s still a big win for a kid who wasn’t expected to be more than a regional club fighter. Shacks seems to have a good trainer but it is clearly time for him to get a manager and promoter behind him that can help him get to that next level. Back in the early 1990s Lionel Butler was earning a reputation as a tough journeyman with an emphasis on journeyman. With a 6-10-1 record and only three amateur fights he wasn’t really turning any heads in the heavyweight division but Butler turned his career around in large part due to the fact that he stumbled into Joe Goossen’s gym in California. Goossen helped turn Butler into one of the most unlikely heavyweight contenders in the 1990s and matched him perfectly en route to a top ten ranking (there was a lot of boxing drama involved in his reign as a contender which I won’t get into here, but the point remains, he went from club circuit to contender because of finding the right team). Maybe Shacks should pay Goossen a visit while in California…or someone else who can properly move his career.
Because he is on the cusp of something really special..contention.
Kumamoto Japan’s favorite son, former WBO mini-flyweight champion and current WBC #9 ranked minimumweight Tatsuya Fukuhara (20-6-6, 7 KOs), returns to action this Sunday (July 29th) as he takes on countryman Naoya Haruguchi (15-8, 6 KOs) in an eight round fight in his hometown of Kumamoto, Japan. Although ranked in the top ten by the WBC, the former WBO champion is not rated in any other sanctioning organization, something that a dominant win over Haruguchi could rectify. However, few are counting out the cagy 29-year old from Kagoshima. Haruguchi has won seven of his last eight fights, with his only loss coming by way of majority decision to former world title challenger Riku Kano back in November of 2017. Fukuhara, who is keen on positioning himself back into the WBO rankings for a potential clash with newly crowned champion Vic Saludar, also recognizes that a loss could effectively end his run as a contender and would almost certainly close the book on a potential clash with the young Filipino champion.
In the co-main event Dr. Tomoya Ikeda (5-2-1, 4 KOs) will take on one of his toughest opponents to date as he steps in with the undefeated 21-year old Kazuki Nakazono (3-0-2, 3 KOs). The 21-year old prospect is seen as the favorite over the medical doctor, who at 36-years old is admittedly running out of time for a serious run in boxing. But Dr. Ikeda’s compelling personal story, which included volunteer work with an NGO in Afghanistan, has made him one of the most popular fighters in Southern Japan. Even in Japan it is rare to find a prizefighter who co-authored a highly cited medical report such as Dr. Ikeda’s December 2016 report on “Age estimation by ossification of thyroid cartilage of Japanese males using Bayesian analysis of postmortem CT images.”
Rounding off the card is popular super bantamweight Yuki Hirashima (8-2-1, 2 KOs) squaring off against South Korean veteran Jong-Won Jung (5-6-1, 3 KOs). Jung will be stepping in the ring for the first time since April of 2013.
The fight card will take place at the City Sogo Gym in Kumamoto, Japan. Doors open at 11:30 with the fight fight kicking off at noon. Tickets start at 5,000 yen.