Happy New Year, everybody — boxing is back. But before we get ahead of ourselves, why not check out Gorilla Productions’ retrospective of 2013. It really was an amazing year. Some of the fights that hold the most promise this week are actually still in 2013. I think the Japanese have mixed up New Year’s Eve and Boxing Day because they always have lots of boxing on New Year’s Eve. All the better for us, though.
- Takashi Uchiyama vs. Daiki Kaneko, Tuesday, Tokyo. Uchiyama (20-0-1, 17 KO) is the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board’s #1 junior lightweight, a versatile guy who can box and punch, be tough and smart. Kaneko (19-2-3, 12 KO) is taking a huge step up in class and I think we’ll probably see an Uchiyama KO sooner rather than later. On the undercard, #5 junior lightweight Takashi Miura (26-2-2, 19 KO) takes on Mexico’s Dante Jordan (24-3, 20 KO) are set to do battle. Miura shouldn’t have too much trouble if he can use his boxing skills, but Jordan is a tough guy and managed to take out veteran Gamaliel Diaz faster than Miura did, so who even knows. Finally, #9 bantamweight Carlos Cuadras fights an absolutely disgraceful mismatch against Songseanglek Phosuwangym (1-9, 0 KO).
- Kazuto Ioka vs. Felix Alvarado, Tuesday, Osaka Though there are a lot of highly rated junior flyweights and junior lightweights in action in Japan this Tuesday, only one of the fights figures to be especially competitive, and it’s the junior flyweight clash between Kazuto Ioka (13-0, 9 KO) and Nicaragua’s Felix Alvarado (18-0, 15 KO). This one has a lot of potential to live up to the name of its venue, the awesomely named Bodymaker Coliseum. Neither of these guys is hard to hit, yet both are big punchers for the division. Alvarado hasn’t been tested like Ioka has in the past, so if things go into the trenches, his toughness is an unknown quantity. He can get wild, but so can Ioka, so the best case scenario is they both do and we have to awkwardly change our Fight of the Year picks on the last day of the year. On the undercard, fellow junior flys Ryo Miyazaki (20-0-3, 11 KO) and Fahlan Sakkreerin (22-2, 14 KO) are set to fight and I don’t figure it’ll be competitive. The only question is whether Miyazaki (no relation of animation genius Hayao) will get the decision or the knockout.
- Argenis Mendez vs. Rances Barthelemy, Friday, ESPN2, Minneapolis. This is a great season opener for Friday Night Fights, pitting the #4 junior lightweight, Mendez (21-2-1, 11 KO), against the #10, Barthelemy (19-0, 12 KO). It’s somewhat distasteful that both these men have “controversial” (and outright criminal, in the case of Barthelemy) wins over Arash Usmanee and he has to wait ‘til next week to fight. Oh well, let’s enjoy what we’ve got, two highly skilled and motivated guys fighting on neutral territory, which should avoid any funny business. Mendez is likely to be busier, but Barthelemy isn’t exactly your standard Cuban. He through over 800 punches in his loss to Usmanee, even if he looked to be tiring pretty badly towards the end. Both guys can punch a bit and know how to go to the body, so conditioning could be key. Hopefully they’ve both learned from their late fades against the Afghan and will be fully prepared to go down the stretch. Something tells me Mendez has got this, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. On the undercard Minnesotta middleweight fringe contender Caleb Truax (23-1-1, 14 KO) fights durable veteran Ossie Duran (28-11-2, 11 KO). Truax seems to be knocking at the door of bigger fights and premium cable, so he’ll be aiming to impress.
- The Rest. That’s pretty much it, actually.