The power of boxing has been changing in recent years and we’ve moved a long way from seeing almost every major fight taking place in the US. In fact in recent year’s we’ve seen the UK become a hot spot of boxing, with a huge rise in world champions, and we’ve also seen various places in Asia become more prevalent. No longer is Asia “the other side of the world” but instead it’s a place where top promoters are working and where fighters are getting more and attention. A lot of that has been due to the likes of the sensational Naoya Inoue, the explosive Shinsuke Yamanaka and the talented Kazuto Ioka, along with the rise of boxing in China and it’s special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.
With that in mind I’ve decided to take a look at 5 genuinely possible Asia Vs UK bouts that may well happen in 2017. These fights have either been spoken about publicly or make sense from a ranking perspective.
Zou Shiming (WBO Flyweight champion) Vs Kevin Satchell (WBO #4)
WBO Flyweight champion Zou Shiming (9-1, 2) is the biggest name in Chinese boxing and is potentially the fighter who can draw a bigger domestic TV figure than any one else on the planet. He’ll be looking to defend his title through 2017 and may well see Britain’s Kevin Satchell as a relatively safe opponent. Like Shiming Satchell lacks power and has been really inactive in recent times fighting just 5 times combines in 2014, 2015 and 2016, with just 15 combined rounds in the last 2 years.
Although not a bad fighter by any means Satchell would be an easier task for Shiming than than a number of the other WBO ranked contenders, such as Daigo Higa, Donnie Nietes or Francisco Rodriguez Jr. Potentially it could also work as one of three possible Top Rank Vs Queensberry Promotions fights, pitting Bob Arum fighters against Frank Warren fighters, on this list. Maybe as part of a super show in the East.
Rex Tso (WBO Super Flyweight #1) Vs Jamie Conlan (WBO Super Flyweight #3)
Another potential bout pitting a Top Rank fighter against a Queensberry fighter could see Hong Kong star Rex Tso (20-0, 12) battle against Northern Irishman Jamie Conlan (18-0, 11), potentially in a bout for the WBO Super Flyweight title if Japanese star Naoya Inoue vacates. Whilst neither Tso or Conlan are likely to emerge on any pound-for-pound in terms of their skills or achievements both are among the most exciting fighters to watch and together they should provide fireworks. In fact in terms of pure action there may be no better fight in boxing.
At the moment both men are ranked in the top 3 by the WBO, with the #2 ranked Juan Hernandez heading down to Flyweight for a world title fight. Essentially that would put these two men as the #1 and #2 ranked contender, meaning even if Inoue doesn’t vacate this year these two could fight in an eliminator. Fingers crossed about this one as it would be a thriller!
Khalid Yafai (WBA Super Flyweight champion) Vs Sho Ishida (WBA Super Flyweight #1)
Having just mentioned two fights involving Frank Warren fighters it’s maybe a good time to mention his big promotional rival Eddie Hearn, and Matchroom Sports. Hearn’s newest champion is Khalid “Kal” Yafai (21-0, 14) who claimed the WBA Super Flyweight title in December with a victory over an out of sorts Luis Concepcion. His #1 contender is the Ioka promoted Sho Ishida (23-0, 12), a stable mate of Kazuto Ioka and former world champion Ryo Miyazaki. Ishida isn’t well known outside of Japan but he was the national champion for close to two years before vacating.
The bout could well take place in the UK, where Hearn is backed by Sky TV, though it could set a bidding war of sorts with TBS strongly backing the Ioka camp in Japan and looking to raise the profile of another fighter, to have co-headline with Ioka. The money for this bout will be intriguing, especially if the bout is ordered as a mandatory by the WBA as some are expecting.
Lee Haskins (IBF Bantamweight champion) Vs Shohei Omori (IBF Bantamweight #14)
The bouts above on this list are ones that make sense from a ranking perspective, however an IBF Bantamweight title fight between champion Lee Haskins (34-3, 14) and Shohei Omori (18-1, 13) is one that actually came close to happening in 2016. The bout was originally announce for December 31st 2016 before Haskins suffered an injury, forcing him to pull out. Both teams are said to be open about rescheduling and the bout could now take place in April or May, to coincide with the Japanese “Golden Week” when TV viewing figures are huge. Haskins has shown a willingness to travel and again TBS are likely to put money behind Omori to get a high profile bout.
Although the bout makes a lot of sense neither fighter is tied into this and Omori is said have been in talks with WBO champion Marlon Tapales, to avenge his sole defeat, whilst Haskins may be made offers to face either British based South African Zolani Tete or Argentinian veteran Omar Narvaez.
Billy Joe Saunders (WBO Middleweight champion) Vs Ryota Murata (WBO Middleweight #3)
One of the reasons we see so few Asian Vs European fighters is typically the divide in the weight divisions. There are few European fighters competing in the lower weights and even fewer Asian fighters competing at the higher weights. One Asian fighter looking to buck that trend is 2012 Olympic Middleweight champion Ryota Murata (12-0, 9) who is said to be actively chasing WBO Middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders (24-0, 12). Murata’s team, which includes both Top Rank and Teiken, are said to have already made an offer in 2016 for the bout and will be set to make another one in 2017, with Teiken stating that Saunders is their target for the year.
This is the third Top Rank Vs Queensberry bout on this list and looks to be dependent on on a number of things. Notably seeing Saul “Canelo” Alvarez not invoke his mandatory status to face Saunders, instead facing Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, or Gennady Golovkin, but should be easy to make and bring big money to the table courtesy of Murata’s TV deal with Fuji TV, as well as Bob Arum’s relationship with HBO.
(Scott Graveson covers the Asian boxing scene for www.asianboxing.info)by