Japanese Fighters Emerging as Asia's Best, Pacquiao Etal Have to Step Up for PH Boxing
By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
Sun, 10 Jan 2021
Naoya Inoue (L) and Kazuto Ioka (R).
Though most their top fighters were not able to fight and show their wares on account of the coronavirus pandemic, Japan still emerged almost without dispute, as the best boxing nation in Asia.
Not only Japan has the most number of world champions with seven, it also boasts of two of the best pound for pound fighters in the world today in unified WBA-IBF and Ring bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue and WBO super flyweight titlist Kazuto Ioka.
Likewise it has two of the few recognized reigning universally recognized lineal world champions in Inoue at bantamweight and Hiroto Kyoguchi at light flyweight. The undefeated Kyoguchi (14-0, 9 KOs), the former IBF minimumweight titlist and current unified WBA and Ring light flyweight champion, was recently signed up by prestigious Matchroom Boxing of the UK joining the also unbeaten Inoue signed up by Top Rank, as Japan's emerging international boxing crossover stars.
The other Japanese world champions are Kenshiro Teraji WBC light flyweight; Junto Nakatani WBO flyweight; Ryosuke Iwasa, IBF super bantamweight interim and newly declared WBA middleweight super champion Ryota Murata.
Currently, Japan is also at least two-deep in many weight classes.
At minimumweight, it has Ginjiro Shigeaki (5-0, 5KOs) who is predicted by the Ring as a future world champion and Tsubasa Koura (15-1, 12).
At light flyweight, it has the undefeated pair of Kyoguchi and Teraji.
At flyweight, it has the still unbeaten Nakatani, Sho Ishida as well as former undefeated WBO champion Kosei Tanaka if he so decides to move back to 112 after a high profile loss to Ioka at 115.
At super flyweight, it has Ioka and Tanaka if he so decides to stay at 115.
At bantamweight, aside from Naoya and younger brother Takuma Inoue, it also has the comebacking once beaten former WBC flyweight champion and KO artist Daigo Higa.
At super bantam, it has IBF interim titlist Iwasa, former titlist Yukinori Oguni and Hiroaki Teshigawara.
At featherweight, it has former WBO bantamweight champion Tomoki Kameda and the promising duo of Musashi Mori and Hiroshige Osawa.
At super featherweight, it has former world champions Masayuki Ito and Kenichi Ogawa.
Finally at lightweight it has Yoshihiro Yoshino and the comebacking once beaten Masayoshi Nakatani who gave multi title lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez his toughest fight in 2019. Nakatani is seen as a dark horse in the new look, exciting lightweight division bannered by Lopez, Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia and Gervonta Tank Davis.
Significantly, Ioka, Inoue, Nakatani and Iwasa gained their world titles and honorifics at the expense of Filipinos, namely Aston Palicte, Nonito Donaire, Giemel Magramo and Marlon Tapales mostly in fights held in 2019. Teraji and Kyoguchi also victimized a number Filipinos in defense of their titles including Randy Petalcorin, Jonathan Taconing, Milan Melindo and Vince Paras between 2018-2019.
Ironically, Pinoy fighters were having the better of their Japanese counterparts in world title fights until the second half of 2018 with Vic Saludar beating two consecutive Japanese foes at minimumweight, Jerwin Ancajas knocking out his Japanese challenger and Donnie Nietes outpointing Kazuto Ioka for the WBO super flyweight title which he later vacated in an ill advised move.
Those proved to be our last major head to head wins as the tide has begun to turn in favor of the Japanese by the middle of 2019.
Clearly, our fighters led by our multi division world champion Manny Pacquiao have to step up to regain our reputation as the best boxing nation in Asia.
Manny though has to carefully evaluate if his planned fight versus non boxer Conor McGregor will help raise his stature and the cause of Philippine boxing internationally.
There was this fairly recent time when the Philippines has three of the best pound for pound fighters in the world in Pacquiao, Donaire and Nietes and we had as many as six world champions at one time.
Now we have none in the pound for pound top ten and just five world titlist, one just on interim basis.
There are a few saving graces, though. Pacquiao remains one of the top three welterweights in the world but he has to keep it by fighting credible opponents. Johnriel Casimero has emerged as a threat to Inoue's hold in the bantamweight in possible tag team with Donaire. And Ancajas is targeting a clash with Ioka at super flyweight.
But the others including IBF minimumweight champion Pedro Taduran and WBC interim bantamweight titlist Reymart Gaballo have to outdo themselves to help reelevate our international profile in this sport which Filipinos through Pancho Villa, Ceferino Garcia and Flash Elorde first put Asia to global prominence with their fistic exploits.
The author Teodoro Medina Reynoso is a veteran boxing radio talk show host living in the Philippines. He can be reached at email@example.com and by phone 09215309477.
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