Fightful Boxing Newsletter (12/29): 2017 In Review Part 2, Zou Shiming, Japan's Final Two Boxing Cards Of 2017

Boxing's 2017 will end with the traditional year-end world title fights that will take place in Japan, with five world title fights filling two boxing cards on December 30 and 31. The two main attractions are the WBO super flyweight title and WBA/IBF junior flyweight title unification fights.

In part 2 of Fightful's 2017 review, we look at the various television numbers in the United States and determine if the sport has improved viewership with signs pointing to yes except for one long-established boxing network, whose declining viewership is cause for concern. Despite that, several other networks saw vast improvements with their television ratings when broadcasting boxing, pointing to a positive step as we heads towards 2018. All in this and more is covered in this week's edition of the Fightful Boxing Newsletter.

Jake Paul vs Ben Askren: MMA Media Picks

Fightful Boxing Newsletter (12/29) Table Of Contents:

  1. 2017 In Review Part 2: Television In Numbers; HBO Suffer While Showtime And ESPN Prosper In 2017 (Pages 2-3)
  2. Zou Shiming Suffers Detached Retina; Potential Legal Battle Waiting To Happen (Page 4)
  3. Results From The World Of Boxing (Page 5)
  4. Fightful Boxing Pokemon (Page 6-7)
  5. News And Notes From The World Of Boxing (Page 8)
  6. Final 2017 Weekend Preview (Page 9)

2017 In Review Part 2: Television In Numbers; HBO Suffer While Showtime And ESPN Prosper In 2017:

If you ask most boxing fans, they would say 2017 has been an improvement for the sport over last year. Even by just looking at the numbers, television has benefited greatly from showing boxing in 2017

HBO, the sport’s longstanding television home for many of the biggest boxing telecasts in the United States, has been the leader in showcasing the best the sport has had to offer and for most of the 21st century, led the way in U.S. television viewership. It’s been rumored for quite some time that HBO would be focusing less on its boxing division and more into its other original programming such as Game of Thrones (reportedly costing the network as much as $15 million per episode in its latest season), Westworld and other shows.

As such, there has been a notable decrease in viewership between this year and last year, considered by many to be a failure within the sport. With the December 16 HBO Boxing telecast with Billy Joe Saunders vs. David Lemieux as the main event all wrapped up, the network finished up for the year in terms of live boxing.

Viewership for the Saunders vs. Lemieux fight averaged 716,000 viewers, good for eighth in terms of non-PPV replay main events the network has put out this year. For more on what viewership for HBO’s 2017 looks like, below is a chart of all the main events HBO had in 2017.

On the surface, it’s hard to figure out what those numbers mean. A look towards last year’s numbers reveal a startling truth.

  • 2016 HBO Average Viewership: 856,000 (13 Events)
  • 2017 HBO Average Viewership: 701,688 (16 Events)

Judging by those numbers, HBO suffered an 18.03 percent drop compared to last year, which is odd considering competing networks such as Showtime, ESPN, CBS and Bounce TV either set record viewership for boxing telecasts or had an overall increase in viewership from the year prior.

In terms of HBO vs. Showtime, thanks to a revitalized heavyweight division and greater emphasis on having major stars fight other major stars, Showtime has three of the top eight main event viewership numbers that aren’t PPV replays between HBO and Showtime. Looking at the numbers from last year, Showtime’s highest-watched fight under that criteria was Wilder vs. Szpilka, which did 500,000 viewers, good for just 14th between HBO and Showtime.

On the surface, the numbers (listed below) indicate that the premium cable networks had an objectively worse years in terms of viewership, it is actually HBO who is responsible for the significant drop in viewership while Showtime significantly improved from 2016 to 2017, having five different boxing events have a higher viewership than 2016's best viewership.

The numbers even become more startling for HBO if you decide to go back all the way to 2014. The network had an abundance of stars in 2014 and 2015, but that number dwindled as boxers either retired, lost their status as top draws or was a part of the mass Top Rank exodus of 2017. For HBO, viewership stats in 2014 and 2015 were significantly better across the board, regularly hitting milestones that HBO couldn't even reach once in 2017.

Breaking down HBO's numbers by quarter, it also showcases the rapid decline in viewership, especially when looking at the stark contrast from 2015 to 2017.

While boxing has entered the public eye more often this year, the television aspect is still trying to get back to its 2014-15 levels. In fact, those two years had nine of the 10 highest viewership numbers on the network with 2016 having just ine and 2017 failing to have a fight break a million viewers on average.

Top 10 Most Viewed HBO Boxing Main Events Between 2014-2017:

Rank Main Event (Date Of Fight) Viewership
1. Canelo Alvarez vs. James Kirkland (May 9, 2015) 2,100,000
2. Wladimir Klitschko vs. Bryant Jennings (April 25, 2015) 1,637,000
3. Miguel Cotto vs. Daniel Geale (June 6, 2015) 1,589,000
4. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Bryan Vera 2 (March 1, 2014) 1,390,000
5. Bernard Hopkins vs. Sergey Kovalev (November 8, 2014) 1,328,000
6. Gennady Golovkin vs. Dominic Wade (April 23, 2016) 1,325,000
7. Gennady Golovkin vs. Marco Antonio Rubio (October 18, 2014) 1,304,000
8. Gennady Golovkin vs. Willie Monroe Jr. (May 16, 2015) 1,300,000
9. Lucas Matthysse vs. Ruslan Provodnikov (April 18, 2015) 1,234,000
10. Terence Crawford vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa (June 28, 2014) 1,208,000

The sport of boxing had a bit of a resurgence in 2017 with a greater emphasis of putting on bigger fights on network television and it is hard to not look at this year as a success. In a business largely dominated by both HBO and Showtime as little as five years ago, network television has made 2017 its true triumphant return to boxing in the United States.

Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia became an overnight hit with their March fight, a welterweight unification, with the highest viewership for a fight shown on American network television since 1999 and Manny Pacquiao's return to ESPN kicked off a massive partnership between Top Rank and ESPN, averaging close to three million viewers for the July bout.

It was a welcome sight seeing the major television networks put more emphasis on showcasing the sport to fans in a year that sees main competitor UFC suffer through declining television ratings and a steep decline in pay-per-view buys compared to 2016.

In regards to how the overall television landscape looked like for 2017, here is a rundown of the ten most watched fights on American television that aren't pay-per-view replays.

Rank Main Event (Date Of Fight) [Network] Viewership
1. Keith Thurman vs. Danny Garcia (March 4, 2017) [CBS] 3,740,000
2. Manny Pacquiao vs. Jeff Horn (July 2, 2017) [ESPN] 2,812,000
3. Yordemis Ugas vs. Thomas Dulorme (August 26, 2017) [FOX] 2,438,000
4. Deontay Wilder vs. Gerald Washington (February 25, 2017) [FOX] 1,760,000
5. Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux (December 9, 2017) [ESPN] 1,730,000
6. Enrico Koelling vs. Artur Beterbiev (November 11, 2017) [ESPN] 1,487,000
7. Leo Santa Cruz vs. Chris Avalos (October 14, 2017) [FOX] 1,483,000
8. Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko (April 29, 2017) [Showtime+HBO] 1,425,000
9. Terence Crawford vs. Julius Indongo (August 19, 2017) [ESPN] 1,200,000
10. Terence Crawford vs. Felix Diaz (May 20, 2017) [HBO] 961,000

Notes From The Data:

1. 2017 was the only year since 2014 to not have a single main event have an average viewership of a million viewers. The year 2014 had seven fights do more than a million viewers on average, 2015 had 11 such fights and 2016 dropped down all the way to just three fights.

2. It's worth noting that nine of the 10 most watched boxing fights on HBO all came from 2014 and 2015 and what those fights actually were.

  • Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez, who now function as pay-per-view fighters, no longer fight exclusively on HBO television. Without the two biggest names in the sport on this side of the Earth fighting on free television, the network no longer has fights guaranteed to do more than 1.3 million viewers on average.
  • Miguel Cotto, Wladimir Klitschko and Bernard Hopkins all retired from the end of 2016 to late 2017, which further hurt the network's overall ratings.

3. Showtime stands to gain the most from having CBS as a parent company and vice versa. CBS doesn't do boxing as much as much as FOX, but CBS stood as the top network with the highest viewership for a boxing fight in the United States in 2017 with Thurman vs. Garcia. This fight actually bodes well should an Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder fight takes place in the United States and it doesn't happen on pay-per-view. Putting this potential superfight on CBS could bring in an even higher viewership number. Showtime has also become increasingly better with showcasing more star-studded fights and include established television draws such as Adrien Broner and Deontay Wilder.

4. This is the first year where they no longer have Top Rank fighters on call for fights and so many stars have either retired or moved on to fight on pay-per-view. HBO's roster has been severely depleted and at the moment, their biggest established television stars are: Sergey Kovalev and Daniel Jacobs. Other fighters, such as Dmitry Bivol and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, have the potential to be big stars, but as of this moment, the sample size is too small to make any call on them.

Zou Shiming Suffers Detached Retina; Potential Legal Battle Waiting To Happen

A little more than a year after winning a world title, Zou Shiming may be kissing his career goodbye after a freak accident gave him a serious eye injury all while potentially having to soon enter a legal battle against his agent, according to the boxer's wife.

According to a WBN report, Shiming suffered a detached retina during a flight from Shanghai to Beijing on December 23 and has reportedly lost sight in one eye. Prognosis for Shiming’s fight career looks grim as it appears that Shiming’s career is likely over. Further confirmation came from Sina Shanghai, which stated that Shiming is in the hospital receiving further evaluation.

“He will stay in hospital and things are not looking good. The check-up is still going on but his spirit seems to be OK,” Sina Shanghai stated.

Ran Yingying, Shiming's wife, wrote the following on the matter: “I can’t sleep. I will wait until the morning and start with a different check-up. Today is the worst day for me.”

Now there is a lot of controversy after Yingying made allegations against the boxer's agent. She made the allegations in private WeChat messages - but they were leaked to the media by Shiming's friends.

In those messages, she said that there were broken bones found in Zou’s eye socket and doctors also suspected his optic nerve was damaged. She says her husband suffered similar injuries in 2014 - but at the time Zou needed to fight as the bout had been arranged by his agent. After that match, the doctors had advised Zou to stop fighting or risked becoming blind.

She claimed the boxer's agent owed them millions, but never gave any specific details on the matter.

Seca, the Chinese sports marketing company that represents Shiming, reacted to the allegations. The two sides had originally entered a business relationship after SHiming won Olympic gold in the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Obviously, the company completely deny what Zou's wife had claimed in the messages. There is apparently also a legal battle brewing, because Seca is counter-claiming that Zou prematurely ended their contract and self-promoted the July fight against Japan's Sho Kimura - which saw the Chinese superstar suffer a shocking TKO defeat, losing his WBO flyweight title in the process.

When Shiming elected to self-promote the fight against Kimura, Seca publicly said it had maintained a good relationship with Shiming, but also strongly disagreed with Shiming's decision. Publicly, Seca was giving PR-friendly answers to an extent, but behind the scenes, the company was infuriated with Shiming's decision and had been planning to go forward with the lawsuit for some time. It now comes at an unfortunate time Shiming and his family that this lawsuit, which has yet to be officially and publicly filed, now looms large over the family when Shiming's long term health is at risk.

“Each boxer would need to go through a medal check up before they start and signed documents which have to be endorsed by all parties involved,” the agent said. “If Zou had been forced to fight, he could easily lodge complaints to the governing body. The fight (against Sho Kimura in July) has violated our agreement and damaged our legitimate right as his agent. At the moment, legal proceedings are in progress and the so-called reports on 'Seca owes Zou millions of dollars and has taken the capital of Zou’s office' are all groundless.”

Given the injury and the potential legal mess that will ensue, it's safe to assume Shiming's career is done. Shiming has been considering retirement for several months. Shiming's career ending means Chinese boxing will take a bit of a hit. Shiming was viewed as a major star inside the country and one of the boxers being looked at as a beacon to light the next generation of boxers inside the country.

Results From The World Of Boxing:

December 28: Wongwianyai, Bangkok, Thailand

  • Wanchai Nianghansa defeated Suphakit Khampha to win the vacant Thai Light Flyweight Title via UD
  • Yutthichai Wannawong defeated Wisitsak Saiwaew to win the vacant Thai Super Bantamweight Title via UD
  • Kobilbek Tulabaev defeated Phutthiphong Rakoon to win the Asian Boxing Federation (ABF) Continental Lightweight title: TKO, Round 7

December 26: Xi An, China

  • Xiwei Yang defeated Minghao Ye via UD
  • Lan Xiao​​​​​​​ defeated Li Chen via UD
  • Shan Wu​​​​​​​ defeated Zhengguo Luo via UD
  • Baolin Kang​​​​​​​ defeated Lifu Hu via UD
  • Jiayidaer Bierlike​​​​​​​ defeated Wengang Yu: TKO, Round 1
  • Yue Chang​​​​​​​ defeated Chuangyong Lu via UD
  • Yuan Nie​​​​​​​ defeated Huijiao Chen via UD
  • Fan Yin​​​​​​​ defeated Xianrui Lu via UD
  • Bingcheng Zou​​​​​​​ defeated Sun Lei via UD
  • Hongjun Shi​​​​​​​ defeated Wulasi Shahatihan via UD

December 26: Central Gym, Kobe, Hyogo, Japan

  • Reiya Konishi​​​​​​​ defeated Kenta Matsui to retain the Japanese Minimumweight Title via UD
  • Naotoshi Nakatani​​​​​​​ defeated Masashi Wakita: KO, Round 7
  • Ryo Kosaka​​​​​​​ defeated Kitsapon Kongkaew: KO, Round 1

December 26: Kursaal, Berne, Switzerland

  • Davide Faraci​​​​​​​ defeated Zura Mekereshvili via UD
  • Alain Chervet​​​​​​​ defeated Giorgi Abramishvili via UD
  • Aniya Seki​​​​​​​ defeated Judit Hachbold via UD
  • Bruno Tavares​​​​​​​ defeated Maisha Samson via UD
  • Svyatoslav Svirid​​​​​​​ defeated Shokran Parwani: TKO, Round 4

December 25: Stedelijke Sporthalle, Izegem, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium

  • Armen Ypremyan​​​​​​​ defeated Matingu Kindele via UD
  • Meriton Karaxha​​​​​​​ defeated Bernard Follea via UD
  • Hedi Slimani​​​​​​​ defeated Innocent Anyanwu via UD
  • Jill Serron​​​​​​​ defeated Amra Okugic: TKO, Round 6
  • Bassam Belkhir​​​​​​​ defeated Michael Pareo via UD
  • Enes Refik Ciftci​​​​​​​ defeated Joffrey Audenaert: TKO, Round 1
  • Hovhannes Martirosyan defeated Ivan Godor: TKO, Round 3

December 24: Joto Ward Center, Osaka, Osaka, Japan

  • Takuya Uehara defeated Takuya Yamamoto via UD

December 24: Towa Pharmaceutical Ractab Dome, Kadoma, Osaka, Japan

  • Hiroshige Osawa defeated Alexander Mejia via MD
  • Gaku Aikawa defeated Shohei Kawashima: KO, Round 6
  • Juiki Tatsuyoshi defeated Nongdear Sor Bangkharu: KO, Round 3

December 23: Escuela de Enseñanza Secundaria Nº 2 Genaro Pérsico, Ranchos, Buenos Aires, Argentina

  • German Argentino Benitez defeated Martin Antonio Coggi to win the vacant WBO Latino Super Lightweight Title via UD
  • Roberto Domingo Sosa defeated Carlos Ariel Farias via UD
  • Nicolas Pablo Demario defeated Erik Mariano Ibanez: KO, Round 3
  • Carlos Gaston Suarez and Cesar Alejandro Perez fight to a split draw
  • Federico Sebastian Pedraza defeated Omar Flavio Machuca via UD
  • Reuquen Cona Facundo Arce defeated Jonathan Hernan Godoy via MD

December 23: Boxhalle Marzahn, Berlin, Germany

  • Nenad Pagonis defeated Davit Gorgiladze: TKO, Round 2
  • Sven Elbir defeated Aliaksandr Dzemka via UD

December 23: Sawai Mansingh Indoor Stadium, Jaipur, India

  • Vijender Singh defeated Ernest Amuzu to retain the WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight and WBO Oriental Super Middleweight Titles via UD
  • Kuldeep Dhanda defeated Fateh Singh via UD
  • Dharmender Grewal defeated Harsh Nagar: TKO, Round 2
  • Pardeep Kharera defeated Nikhil Sharma via UD
  • Amandeep Singh defeated Manoj Kumar via MD
  • Kuldep Singh defeated Amrinder Singh: TKO, Round 2
  • Asad Asif Khan and Sunil Siwach fight to a majority draw

December 23: Nelson Mandela Forum, Florence, Toscana, Italy

  • Dragan Lepei defeated Jozsef Racz via PTS

December 23: Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan

  • Hironori Shigeta defeated Rikuto Adachi via UD
  • Kosuke Arioka defeated Takeru Kobata: KO, Round 2
  • Musashi Mori defeated Zirolian Riku via UD
  • Ren Sasaki defeated Shuto Takase: TKO, Round 4
  • Toshiki Shimomachi defeated Arashi Iimi: TKO, Round 4
  • Fumiya Fuse defeated Hiroki Tokuyama:TKO, ROund 1
  • Mirai Imagawa defeated Katsuki Matsuura via UD
  • Joe Shiraishi defeated Kento Yabusaki via UD
  • Shuji Kato defeated Junji Tokuyama: TKO, Round 4
  • Tsuyoshi Sato defeated Yusei Nagai: TKO, Round 1
  • Yuga Inoue defeated Retsu Akabane via UD

December 23: Enan Chiong Activity Center, Naga City, Cebu, Philippines

  • Vic Saludar defeated Lito Dante via UD
  • Robert Paradero defeated Ian Ligutan: KO, Round 2
  • Froilan Saludar defeated Rogen Flores: TKO, Round 1
  • Tomjune Mangubat defeated Jhun Ryan Quimbo via UD
  • Marjon Piencenaves and Jeffrey Stella fight to a split draw
  • Mark Vicelles defeated Ernesto Alera via UD
  • Christoval Furog defeated Jeco Suico via UD

Fightful Boxing Rankings:

20 51 4Pound-for-pound

  1. Vasyl Lomachenko
  2. Terence Crawford
  3. Gennady Golovkin
  4. Canelo Alvarez
  5. Mikey Garcia
  6. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
  7. Naoya Inoue
  8. Keith Thurman
  9. Guillermo Rigondeaux
  10. Sergey Kovalev

Heavyweight

  1. Anthony Joshua
  2. Deontay Wilder
  3. Joseph Parker
  4. Luis Ortiz
  5. Alexander Povetkin
  6. Kubrat Pulev
  7. Jarrell Miller
  8. Andy Ruiz Jr.
  9. Dillian Whyte
  10. Carlos Takam

Cruiserweight

  1. Oleksandr Usyk
  2. Murat Gassiev
  3. Krzysztof Glowacki
  4. Mairis Briedis
  5. Marco Huck
  6. Yunier Dorticos
  7. Firat Arslan
  8. Denis Lebediev
  9. Andrew Tabiti
  10. Krzysztof Wlodarczyk

Light heavyweight

  1. Sergey Kovalev
  2. Badou Jack
  3. Adonis Stevenson
  4. Oleksandr Gvozdyk
  5. Dmitry Bivol
  6. Sullivan Barrera
  7. Artur Beterbiev
  8. Eleider Alvarez
  9. Marcus Browne
  10. Joe Smith Jr.

Super middleweight

  1. Gilberto Ramirez
  2. George Groves
  3. Anthony Dirrell
  4. Andre Dirrell
  5. Chris Eubank Jr.
  6. David Benavidez
  7. Caleb Truax
  8. James DeGale
  9. Jose Uzcategui
  10. Tyron Zeuge

Middleweight

  1. Gennady Golovkin
  2. Canelo Alvarez
  3. Daniel Jacobs
  4. Billy Joe Saunders
  5. Jermall Charlo
  6. Ryota Murata
  7. Demetrius Andrade
  8. Andy Lee
  9. David Lemieux
  10. Sergiy Derevyanchenko

Light middleweight

  1. Erislandy Lara
  2. Jermell Charlo
  3. Jarrett Hurd
  4. Demetrius Andrade
  5. Julian Williams
  6. Austin Trout
  7. Sadam Ali
  8. Liam Smith
  9. Maciej Sulecky
  10. Kell Brook

Welterweight

  1. Keith Thurman
  2. Errol Spence Jr.
  3. Terence Crawford
  4. Danny Garcia
  5. Shawn Porter
  6. Jeff Horn
  7. Manny Pacquiao
  8. Lamont Peterson
  9. Jessie Vargas
  10. Lucas Matthysse

The rest of the rankings are in the next page.

Light welterweight

  1. Julius Indongo
  2. Viktor Postol
  3. Antonio Orozco
  4. Sergey Lipinets
  5. Terry Flanagan
  6. Eduard Troyanovski
  7. Regis Prograis
  8. Rances Barthelemy
  9. Kenichi Ogawa
  10. Tevin Farmer

Lightweight

  1. Jorge Linares
  2. Mikey Garcia
  3. Robert Easter Jr.
  4. Anthony Crolla
  5. Luke Campbell
  6. Dejan Zlaticanin
  7. Raymundo Beltran
  8. Denis Shafikov
  9. Ricky Burns
  10. Richard Commey

Junior lightweight

  1. Vasyl Lomachenko
  2. Miguel Berchelt
  3. Francisco Vargas
  4. Jezreel Corrales
  5. Alberto Machado
  6. Robinson Castellanos
  7. Miguel Roman
  8. Orlando Salido
  9. Jason Sosa
  10. Jhonny Gonzalez

Featherweight

  1. Leo Santa Cruz
  2. Gary Russell Jr.
  3. Abner Mares
  4. Lee Selby
  5. Oscar Valdez
  6. Carl Frampton
  7. Scott Quigg
  8. Jesus Cuellar
  9. Joseph Diaz
  10. Claudio Marrero

Light featherweight

  1. Guillermo Rigondeaux
  2. Jessie Magdaleno
  3. Nonito Donaire
  4. Moises Flores
  5. Rey Vargas
  6. Danny Roman
  7. Hugo Ruiz
  8. Marlon Tapales
  9. Julio Ceja
  10. Yukinori Oguni

Bantamweight

  1. Jamie McDonnell
  2. Luis Nery
  3. Ryan Burnett
  4. Juan Carlos Payano
  5. Shinsuke Yamanaka
  6. Zolani Tete
  7. Lee Haskins
  8. Zhanat Zhakiyanov
  9. Takoma Inoue
  10. Liborio Solis

Light bantamweight

  1. Naoya Inoue
  2. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
  3. Jerwin Ancajas
  4. Khalid Yafai
  5. Juan Francisco Estrada
  6. Carlos Cuadras
  7. Roman Gonzalez
  8. John Riel Casimero
  9. Rau'shee Warren
  10. Luis Concepcion

Flyweight

  1. Kazuto Ioka
  2. Donnie Nietes
  3. Daigo Higa
  4. Juan Carlos Reveco
  5. Kosei Tanaka
  6. Sho Kimura
  7. Moruti Mthalane
  8. McWilliams Arroyo
  9. Francisco Rodriguez Jr.
  10. Zou Shiming

Light flyweight/Strawweight

  1. Milan Melindo
  2. Knockout CP Freshmart
  3. Jose Argumedo
  4. Ken Shiro
  5. Wanheng Menayothin
  6. Ryoichi Taguchi
  7. Angel Acosta
  8. Tatsuya Fukuhara
  9. Hekkie Budler
  10. Pedro Guevara

News And Notes From Around The World Of Boxing:

Europe:

1. British bantamweight prospect Sean McGoldrick will make his return to the ring at the Sky Sports-aired card on February 3 at the O2 Arena in London. An opponent has been announced for McGoldrick. That card will be headlined by Isaac Chamberlain vs. Lawrence Okolie.

2. According to Showtime Sports Executive Vice President Stephen Espinoza, the network is interested in televising the planned fight between Carl Frampton and Nonito Donaire, scheduled to take place on April 7 in Belfast, Ireland. Donaire has undergone changes to his team. He signed with Richard Schaefer's Ringstar Sports this year after a long run with former HBO partner Top Rank. If Showtime elects to broadcast the fight, it may not necessarily be on television. The network has experimented as of late with showing fights live out of the U.K. on YouTube and on Facebook and the fight could be another test run for Showtime's still growing online streaming experiment.

3. WBA super welterweight interim champion Brian Carlos Castano will return to France in March, according to netboxe.com, and defend the title against former EBU titleholder Cedric Vitu. Vitu won an IBF eliminator in May and has been waiting since then for his chance to fight Castano.

4. The WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight unification clash between Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker looms closer with each passing day. According to Parker's team, both sides have agreed to the purse split, which will give Parker around 30-35 percent of the purse. The fight is very close to being signed and some minor details need to be ironed out, but for all intents and purposes, the fight is a done deal. The date and venue has not been decided yet, but sources say that there is a strong likelihood that the fight will take place between March 31 and April 14. A venue has yet to be decided, but if Joshua's past fights are any indication, this fight will be at one of the United Kingdom's many stadiums.

5. The undercard information for the January 5 card in Copenhagen, Denmark has been revealed. A total of four title fights will take place on the card, currently headlined by a super middleweight bout between Lolenga Mock and Dmitrii Chudinov. The top undercard fights are the following:

  • Sven Fornling (c) vs. Jeppe Morell: IBF Light Heavyweight Baltic title
  • Danish fighters (c) vs. Jonas Madsen: IBF Youth Light Heavyweight title
  • Enock Mwandila Poulsen vs. Guadalupe Acosta: Vacant IBF super lightweight title
  • Ditlev Rossing vs Miguel Angel Peralta: Vacant WBC Youth World cruiserweight title

Asia:

1. T.J. Doheny defeated Mike Tawatchai via unanimous decision in an IBF junior featherweight world title elimination bout in Bangkok, Thailand. Doheny won 117-111 and 116-112 on two scorecards while one judge had it 115-113 for Tawatchai. With the victory, Doheny earned a mandatory shot at the 122-pound world title held by Ryosuke Iwasa.

2. During a special signing ceremony in Japan, the officials for the Ken Shiro vs. Gilberto Pedroza WBC junior flyweight title bout have been announced. Lawrence Cole will serve as the referee, with the judges being Ed Pearson, Hubert Minn and Timothy Cheatham.

North and Latin America:

1. Not much has been discussed regarding the likely WBA unification fight between "super" champion Leo Santa Cruz and "regular" champion Abner Mares. Schaefer said in an interview that he hopes to have the fight take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles sometime in April or May. Schaefer also said making the fight at Staples Center would be hard considering the high number of professional sports teams that compete at the venue.

2. A deal has been reached between WBC super featherweight world champion Miguel Berchelt and Cristian Mijares. The two will fight in Cancun on February 10 at a venue to be determined. The event will be promoted by Max Abraham's Max Boxing, Fernando Beltran of Zanfer Promotions, Pepe Gomez of Cancun Boxing, and Boxing Time Promotions by Guillermo Rocha.

3. El Matador Management, Inc. has signed middleweight contender, Lamar "The Boxing Que" Russ. Felipe Gomez will now be managing the career of Russ, who hails from Wilmington, North Carolina. Gomez will work closely with DiBella Entertainment (Russ' Promoter) as they jointly look to keep Russ busy, while guiding him toward a potential world title fight within the next couple of years.

4. Evander Holyfield's Real Deal Sports and Entertainment promotional company will hold the Jose Sulaiman World Invitational, a tournament contested by boxers in the welterweight division who are eligible to qualify for the governing body's top 40. The tournament will be an eight-man, single elimination tournament set to start in 2018. This tournament will experiment with several new ideas mostly untested in the professional ranks. For starters, fights in the first two rounds will be 10-rounds, experiment with open, standardized scoring, and five judges will be scoring the bout: four at ringside and a fifth one watching the fight via television monitor with that judge not being able to listen to any audio commentary. If the fight goes the distance and it is still declared a draw, then an 11th round will be contested to declare a winner. The field has yet to be determined with applications running through January.

Puerto Rico:

1. WBA ranked #13, Alfredo 'Ojo' Santiago and highly touted prospect, Subriel Matias Matthew, both from Fajardo, Puerto Rico, will be seeing action on February 17, 2018 at the Fajardo Municipal Equestrian Park. Opponents will be announced soon by Fresh Productions. This card would be one of the first fight cards in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria ravaged the island back in September.

2. According to a report, there is currently work going on for WBO junior flyweight champion Angel Acosta to make his first defense in early April, and the opponent they are looking at facing is WBO mandatory challenger Ryuji Hara. It seems the original plan was to face a voluntary, with Hara stepping aside though Hara has shown a willingness to travel to Puerto Rico for the fight, and it sounds like that decision has opened the door to the contest taking place in early 2018.

Final 2017 Weekend Preview:

Boxing in North America has died down in the last two weeks of 2017 as end-of-year award, recaps 2018 fight announcements fill the news landscape, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world has followed suit.

Over in Japan, the traditional year-end boxing cards will feature as many as five world title fights in the span of two card taking place on December 30 and 31. On the December 30 card Naoya Inoue defending his WBO super flyweight title in the main event while the December 31 card will have Milan Melindo and Ryoichi Taguchi unify the IBF and WBA junior flyweight titles.

In terms of fight intrigue, the Melindo vs. Taguchi fight is definitely one of the biggest non-American and non-European fights all year. Melindo is coming off quite possibly the toughest win of his career by narrowly defeating Hekkie Budler on September 16. It is a shame this fight is, or any of Melindo’s last few fights for that matter, do not get more attention from fans because his fights are not only slugfests but also highly entertaining in terms of storytelling inside a fight.

Should Melindo beat Taguchi, it would be a crime to not think Melindo as someone who should be in the 2017 boxer of the year competition. Outside of a handful of fighters, Melindo accomplished about as much as anyone can in 2017 and certainly no boxer has accomplished more in multiple fights in a seven-month span than Melindo. Melindo knocked out Akira Yaegashi in May and then had the outstanding match against Budler in September and unifying titles against Taguchi could make Melindo a top 10 pound-for-pound boxer, depending on his performance against Taguchi.

On the flipside, Taguchi has his work cut out for him. Although Taguchi has been the most stable champion at 108 pounds. At six successful title defenses, Taguchi has been the WBA’s top junior flyweight champion since Yuh Myung-woo defended the title a record 17 consecutive times throughout the 1990s. Taguchi has held the title since 2014 and has done a good job at dismantling most of his competitors, but several of those boxers aren’t even near Melindo’s level, such as Luis De La Rosa, or shortly retired after losing to Taguchi, such as Ryo Miyazaki and Alberto Rossel.

On December 30, Inoue will be reportedly making his last super flyweight title defense against Bordeaux after an Instagram post by Inoue appears to indicate the Japanese star is moving up to bantamweight. This comes as a bit of a minor surprise give how close he was to fighting on HBO’s “Superfly” 2 card in February in a potential unification fight against Kal Yafai, who holds the WBA title. That fight fell through and then it seemed highly unlikely that Inoue would fight on the card with Yafai likely to make an optional defense of the title on that card, but that fight hasn’t been made official. Inoue has made waves across the world with massive knockouts in Japan and a scintillating performance in his U.S. debut on the first “Superfly” card on September 9.

If Inoue does go through on a move to bantamweight, Inoue can use the WBO rules to his favor to immediately challenge for the bantamweight world title. The WBO does afford a champion the opportunity to become the mandatory challenger for the WBO title at the next weight up. Terence Crawford and Terry Flanagan did it earlier this year when they vacated the lightweight and junior welterweight titles, respectively. Inoue would then likely be the mandatory challenger to the winner of the Zolani Tete vs. Omar Narvaez fight taking place on February 10 in London as the main event of the BT Sport card at Copper Box Arena.

In regards to the other title fights this weekend, Ken Shiro will be defending his WBC 108-pound on December 30 against Gilberto Pedroza, who is a bit of a step down in competition from Shiro’s last two fights against Pedro Guevara and Ganigan Lopez, both of which Shiro won by majority decision. Shiro is regarded as the best junior flyweight boxer in the world by many who heavily follow boxing in Asia and the feeling around Japan is that 2018 could bring a superfight of sorts featuring Shiro unifying titles against the winner of the Melindo vs. Taguchi in a three-belt unification (WBA, WBC, IBF).

Under that scenario, Shiro fighting Taguchi would bring massive media coverage from Japanese sports outlets, but a fight against Melindo is a better fight. The one main issue that could prevent this fight from happening in the first six months of 2018 is the fact that the IBF ordered a rematch between Melindo and Budler. WHoever wins on the December 31 unification fight will likely have to fight Budler next, leaving Shiro without an opponent in 2018.

The undercard of the December 31 card has Hiroto Kyoguchi making his first defense of his IBF strawweight title against nine-year veteran Carlos Buitrago and Sho Kimura facing Toshiyuki Igarashi in Kimura’s first WBO flyweight title defense as well. Kimura is coming off a shocking win over Zou Shiming to win the title earlier this year and given how things look, Kimura may be Shiming’s final opponent.

Below is the rundown on all the title matches taking place in Japan on December 30 and 31.

December 30 in Yokohama:

  • Naoya Inoue (c) vs. Yoan Boyeaux: WBO super flyweight title
  • Ken Shiro (c) vs. Gilberto Pedroza: WBC junior flyweight title

December 31 in Tokyo:

  • Milan Melindo (c) vs. Ryoichi Taguchi (c): IBF/WBA junior flyweight unification
  • Hiroto Kyoguchi (c) vs. Carlos Buitrago: IBF strawweight title
  • Sho Kimura (c) vs. Toshiyuki Igarashi: WBO flyweight title
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