Tuesday, March 28, 2023  |

By The Ring

World Beat

Above: Tim Tszyu in training camp ahead of his fight against Terrell Gausha in March 2022. (Photo by Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions)

By Anthony Cocks

It wasn’t the fight they wanted, but Team Tszyu 2.0 landed a pretty impressive consolation prize when former WBC 154-pound titleholder Tony Harrison (29-3-1, 21 KOs) agreed to travel to Australia to face Tim Tszyu (21-0, 15 KOs) with the WBO’s interim title on the line on March 12.

Original opponent Jermell Charlo (35-1-1, 19 KOs), who holds the Ring Magazine championship along with all four major sanctioning body world title belts, was forced to withdraw from their scheduled January 28 bout after suffering a hand injury in sparring in late December.

The news came as a shock to Team Tszyu, but after a mad scramble to find a replacement, they were able to secure the signature of the only man to defeat Charlo to date.

“It was 6 a.m. on Christmas morning when [promotor] Matt Rose rang and gave us the bad news,” Tszyu’s manager, Glen Jennings, told The Ring. “Once the shock had passed, you then have to face the commercial reality of two things: Firstly, this is the biggest fight of Tim’s life; and secondly, Tim is having his dream fight taken away from him. 

“Matt and I went straight into overload to try to find a replacement fighter for that date. Right from the get-go when it was announced that Charlo was out, Tony Harrison put his hand up. I think it was the very same day he said ‘I’ll take the fight to stop Tim Tszyu hanging around for a month.’”

After negotiations with the team representing the WBO’s No. 3-ranked Bakhram Murtazaliev (21-0, 15 KOs) fell through, Team Tszyu turned their attention to the WBO’s No 4-ranked contender, Harrison.

From there, things moved along at a rapid pace.

“We went to Tony Harrison’s people and they said, ‘We’ll take it,’” Jennings said. “And literally it was like a three-day turnaround. It was amazing. Credit to Tony’s people. We had some conditions on it, one of them being that we needed a contract signed and we needed to see their team’s passports to make sure what we were doing was valid, then the visa process could start. It all happened in probably just over 48 hours.”

Harrison, of course, is no mug. In December 2018, he boxed a clever fight against Charlo to lift the WBC crown by unanimous decision. He was not so lucky in their rematch one year later, going down three times en route to an 11th-round knockout loss in what was otherwise a competitive fight. 

Tony Harrison (left) created an Upset of the Year contender when he outpointed Jermell Charlo in 2018. (Photo by Anthony Geathers/Getty Images)

Jennings sees similarities between Charlo and Harrison and says they didn’t have to alter their camp too much to accommodate the new opponent.

“We have had to make a few little changes, but they are not too dissimilar in styles,” Jennings said. “They are both very fast, they are both very slick, they both have good ringcraft and good ring IQ. It’s a top one percent fight, this, and Tim is going to have to be at his very best to combat Tony Harrison.”

After the cancellation of the Charlo bout, the 28-year-old Tszyu remained in camp in the U.S., initially training out of the Ten Goose Boxing Gym in Van Nuys, California before upping stumps and moving to the Split T Boxing Club in Las Vegas. He returned to Australia in the first week of February, bringing with him two American sparring partners to finish off his preparation.

“Tony Harrison is a gunfighter, we know that,” Jennings said. “He also has this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because he holds very dear to his heart a sense of unfinished business with Charlo. There probably weren’t many other opportunities or pathways for Tony to get back at Charlo. This has fallen into his lap for him. It’s all in or nothing for him. He said he only wants this fight, to beat Charlo and then retire.” 

Despite the challenge they face, Jennings remains confident that it will be Tszyu’s hand raised at the end of the bout.

“What these Americans don’t realize is how much of a pressure fighter Tim is and how physically strong he is,” he said. 

“I think the Tim Tszyu you will see on March 12 will be a much more improved and a much more accomplished boxer for his age from the experience of being away overseas in camp for so long.”



Liam Wilson might have come up short in his ambitious bid to win the vacant WBO junior lightweight belt against two-weight world titlist Emanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete earlier this month, but he won over a lot of fans.

Navarrete was originally scheduled to face Oscar Valdez, who was forced to withdraw due to injury, and Wilson stepped up to the plate.

In a game and gutsy performance at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona, on February 3, “Mr. Damage” lived up to his nickname as he became the first boxer to drop Navarrete in the Mexican veteran’s 38-bout pro career.

(Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Late in the fourth round, Navarrete was caught with a powerful left hook that he never saw coming. Wilson closed in for the kill, battering him along the ropes until Navarrete submitted to the canvas.

That’s when the drama really began.

As Navarrete rose to his feet and draped his arms over the top rope, he spit out his mouthpiece at the count of seven. A veteran move to be sure, but one that could only be described as intentional. After referee Chris Flores completed the mandatory eight count, he asked Navarrete to step towards him to check that his balance was OK. Flores then picked up the mouthpiece and put it in Navarrete’s mouth before the boxer pushed it back out and appeared to engage in dialogue with the referee.

This sequence of events, from the time Navarrete hit the canvas until the fight was allowed to continue, took 27 seconds off the clock. Wilson was unable to close the show with the 20 seconds remaining in the round.

The fifth round belonged to Wilson, who stalked a still injured Navarrete but failed to put him away. Navarrete regained his senses in the sixth but was caught by a Wilson right cross that dazed him late in the frame.

It proved to be Wilson’s last hurrah.

Navarrete took control in the seventh with a show of power punching. In the eighth, both boxers took their foot off the gas, but while Navarrete appeared to be taking a round off, Wilson looked like he was fatiguing from the pace.

In what ended up being the final round of the bout, Navarrete nailed Wilson with a peach of a right hand early in the stanza, toppling the underdog backwards to the canvas. Although Wilson beat the count, Navarrete could smell blood in the water and went in to finish the show. Wilson did his best to survive, but with more than two minutes left on the clock, the odds were against him.

Navarrete threw everything he had at Wilson, forcing referee Flores to step in and halt proceedings at the 1:57 mark. 

At the time of the stoppage, Navarrete was up on all three cards. Judge Dennis O’Connell had it 76-75, while judges Pat Russell and Chris Wilson both saw it 77-74. Navarrete moves to 37-1 (31 KOs).

The knockdown wasn’t the only controversy associated with the fight. A day earlier at the weigh-in, allegations of scale-tampering were leveled against the Arizona Boxing and MMA Commission after an unnamed official was seen on video appearing to touch the scales twice shortly before Wilson weighed in.

Wilson, who had never weighed below 129 pounds in his five-year pro career, was reported as weighing 126.3 pounds. The 28-year-old Navarrete, who has a history of struggling with the scales and was making his junior lightweight debut, weighed in at 129.2 pounds. The numbers look suspicious. 

“After reviewing footage from the weigh-ins, we want to know why that guy touched the scales at least twice,” Wilson’s manager, Steve Scanlan, said to Fox Sports Australia.

“Who is he? What is his role?

Watch the official on the right-hand side of the screen:

“I want to know why he touched the scales twice when it doesn’t appear to have happened [that often on any of the other weigh-ins] before it.”

Wilson immediately suspected something was wrong.

“There is something wrong with those scales,” he said. “I came in under by four pounds. That’s not normal.

“I’ve never been that light in my whole life, or not in 10 years. So something went wrong with those scales, because I checked the scales 20 minutes before [weighing in] and I just made weight.

“So then to be four pounds under? Something has happened there. I think [Navarrete] hasn’t made weight and they’ve tampered with the scales.”

Despite the loss, there is plenty of upside for the 26-year-old from Caboolture in Queensland who is now 11-2 with seven knockouts. With his promoter, No Limit, recently signing an exclusive two-plus-one year deal with local cable network Foxtel to provide boxing content, it is expected he will headline nationally televised shows at home while also seeking other opportunities abroad.

One opponent we would like to see him in with for his comeback fight is The Ring’s No. 8-ranked junior lightweight Kenichi Ogawa of Japan, who holds a record of 26-2-1 (18 KOs).



Promoter Eddie Hearn continues his expansion into Australia with the signing of red-hot heavyweight prospect Justis Huni (7-0, 4 KOs) to a multi-year promotional deal.

The 23-year-old Huni, who was previously promoted by Dean Lonergan, was last in action in November when he scored a clear-cut 10-round unanimous decision victory over hard-hitting Kiki Leutele after taking the undefeated record of Joseph Goodall on points in June, also over 10 frames.

Justis Huni punches Kiki Toa Leutele on November 04, 2022, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

“I’m extremely proud to announce I’ve signed with the world’s premier promoter,” said Huni. “Many thanks to Mick and Fran at Tasman Fighters. Let’s get it!”

Matchroom Boxing held their first card down under in October, when Liam Paro knocked out Brock Jarvis in the opening round of their all-Australian bout. Their plan is to host another show in the antipodes in the coming months. 

“I’m delighted to welcome Justis Huni to the Matchroom Boxing team,” Hearn said. “Justis has already become one of the biggest names in Australian boxing and is ranked in the top 15, but now we look forward to boxing him around the world and leading him to a shot at the world heavyweight title. 

“The signing also continues to strengthen our Australian roster with more additions expected in the coming months. We look forward to our return to this important market in the first half of 2023.”

Speaking on Matchroom Boxing’s YouTube channel, Hearn said he is already putting together a global schedule for Huni that would see him box on three separate continents this year.

“Justis knows he has to make his move if he wants to become a major name in the heavyweight division. He has to be boxing in America, he has to be boxing in the U.K. and of course Australia,” Hearn said.

“We are looking to get him out early April. His fight could even land on a Canelo Alvarez card, which would be huge for him. We want him to box at least three times this year and start positioning him for a shot at the world heavyweight title.”

By Yuriko Miyata

Japan has experienced a junior flyweight boom in recent years, culminating in a brilliant champion-vs.-champion showdown between Kenshiro Teraji and Hiroto Kyoguchi in November. 

Teraji has announced his next fight, a unification showdown with Jonathan Gonzalez on April 8. Meanwhile, the newly crowned Ring champion’s rival (and the only man to defeat him) Masamichi Yabuki made a big statement in Nagoya on January 28 when he stopped once-beaten Venezuelan Ronald Chacon in the 11th round of their scheduled 12-round bout to gain a No. 2 spot in the IBF rankings. 

Yabuki (15-4, 14 KOs) dismissed the retirement thoughts he had right after his rematch loss to Teraji last March, ending a six-month WBC title reign, and returned to the ring in September against sanctioning body-rated Thanongsak Sims, whom he stopped in seven rounds. 

Masamichi Yabuki (right) tags Kenshiro Teraji during their September 2021 fight, in which Yabuki pulled off a shocking upset by stopping Teraji in the 10th round. (Photo by Naoki Fukuda)

“I just want hard fights,” said Yabuki, who scored one of the biggest upsets of 2021 when he stopped Teraji in the 10th round of their battle of attrition. “I don’t want to waste my time. I want to be a world champion again and more.” 

Yabuki, who was the IBF’s No. 8-rated junior flyweight, was approved by the American sanctioning organization to be in the first of a two-bout title eliminator against No. 7-rated Chacon (28-2-1, 20 KOs), who fought outside of his home country for the first time. The Venezuelan had good speed, solid skills and determination, but the much taller Yabuki worked sharper with his signature jabs and found time to counter with right hands, which scored two knockdowns in the seventh and once again in the eighth. Chacon accumulated facial damage as he stuck in there, looking for chances to drop left hooks. However, Yabuki charged in the 11th round, forcing the referee to halt the contest. 

Masanori Rikiishi (BoxRec.com)

“The fight went long, as he was tough and strong, and both my hands hurt on the way,” Yabuki said. “So I was happy to finish him.” 

This year looks like a big one for Yabuki, as well as for his younger brother (by two years) Masanori Rikiishi.

Rikiishi (13-1, 8KOs), the Oriental and Pacific 130-pound titleholder, proved his superiority among domestic junior lightweights by knocking out Yoshimitsu Kimura (14-3-1, 9 KOs) in the fifth round of their much-anticipated encounter for Kimura’s WBO Asian Pacific belt in Osaka on January 6. 

A tall southpaw, Rikiishi took advantage of his long range to twist the momentum of power-hitter Kimura, who came into the contest with back-to-back impressive KOs. Rikiishi used Kimura’s aggression to line up straight lefts that produced knockdowns in the first and third rounds. Rikiishi decked him again with a right hook in the fourth and delivered a clean finish at 2:52 in the next frame when his left uppercut floored Kimura for a 10 count. 

“I’d shout ‘Bravo!’ for me,” exclaimed Rikiishi after the fight. “Staying cool after I dropped him for the first time was crucial for that big KO. It means a lot to beat the frontrunner ahead of me like this.”

The brothers named themselves Yabuki and Rikiishi when they turned pro, after the main characters of a masterpiece boxing-themed anime called Ashita no Joe (Tomorrow’s Joe). Their real family name is Sato. 

The Ashita no Joe manga celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The classic series finished its original run in the pages of weekly Shonen Magazine in 1973 with a legendary scene of Joe Yabuki smiling on his stool after a loss. Today’s Yabuki and Rikiishi are in their prime.


The first show of the New Year was promoted by former three-division world titleholder Koki Kameda and his younger brother Daiki, a former two-division beltholder. It was the fourth show of their “3150 FIGHT” series in their hometown Osaka on January 6   and it included the above-mentioned Rikiishi-Kimura fight.

The main event saw a shockingly quick ending as WBO 105-pound titleholder Masataka Taniguchi lost his belt to Filipino challenger Melvin Jerusalem via second-round TKO. Taniguchi (16-4, 11 KOs) looked sound and composed in the first round, but he was dropped by a perfect straight right from Jerusalem (20-2, 12 KOs) that left the champion staggering so badly it prompted the referee to stop the fight early. Jerusalem’s triumph was huge, as it was his second attempt to regain a world title since he lost to WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin in 2017. Taniguchi failed in his second defense of the title that he captured from Wilfredo Mendez via dominant stoppage in the 11th round in December 2021. 

via Santoryu on YouTube:

The co-main event to the 3150 FIGHT card also resulted in an unexpected quick ending, this time via no-contest. Short southpaw Ginjiro Shigeoka (8-0-0, 6 KO) was in good position to work his heavy left hands soon after the opening bell and seemed on track to snatch the IBF title from Daniel Valladares (26-3-1, 15 KOs), but the fight was abruptly discontinued when an accidental head clash impaired the Mexican’s vision. Valladares (26-3-1, 15 KOs) claimed he was unable to fight further, and the bout was stopped at 2:48 in the third round. Talk of a rematch immediately ensued. 

A special heavyweight attraction featuring Satoshi Ishii (1-0-1), a judo gold medalist from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, vs. Korean Chang Soo Han (1-0-1, 1 KO) was just as disappointing as the co-main events, ending in a draw following four colorless rounds. 

The show was stolen by Rikiishi and a 20-year-old flyweight prospect named Ayumu Hanada. 

Hanada (9-1-1, 7KOs) went toe-to-toe with Azael Villar until he stopped the WBA’s No. 4 contender in the seventh round of a scheduled eight. 

Villar (19-2-3, 15 KOs) knocked out former WBA 105-pound titleholder Ryo Miyazaki in 103 seconds in the same venue last summer. But the taller Hanada never took a backward step against the skilled and hard-hitting Panamanian, often targeting Villar’s body. In the fourth round, Hanada decked Villar two times with his sharp right crosses. Villar recovered quickly and tried turning the table with solid combinations that damaged the young one’s face. However, Hanada found openings during the busy exchanges to land a beautiful right straight to the head that hurt Villar. A follow-up attack forced the referee to cut in at 0:46 of the seventh round. 

“It was my plan to hit right when his left hand dropped, and it worked out,” said Hanada. “I am glad I could pass this test to keep going for my goal, a world title.”

Hanada can fight and he can talk. He is a very unique prospect who is building a career in both Japan and Mexico, where he moved alone and made his pro debut at the age of 16. “Chingon” is fighting next in Monterrey, Mexico, in March.


The Japan Boxing Commission announced its official Annual Awards for 2022, along with the Japan Pro Boxing Association and Boxing Section of Tokyo Sports Writers Club, on February 8.

Naoya Inoue receives his award from Olympic champion hammer-thrower Koji Murofushi. (Photo by Naoki Fukuda)

Male Fighter of the Year: Naoya Inoue (awarded for the sixth time)

Technique Award: Kenshiro Teraji (first time)

Outstanding Performance: Junto Nakatani (second time)

Fighting Spirit Prize: Reiya Abe (WBO Asia Pacific featherweight champion, first time)

Mizuki Hiruta, Reiya Abe and Junto Nakatani (Photo by Naoki Fukuda)

KO artist of the Year: Naoya Inoue

Prospect of the Year: Yoshiki Takei (OPBF super bantamweight champion, first time)

Fight of the Year (world): Gennady Golovkin-Ryota Murata 

Kenshiro Teraji and Ryota Murata (Photo by Naoki Fukuda)

Fight of the Year (regional): Shuichiro Yoshino-Masayoshi Nakatani (WBO Asia Pacific lightweight championship)

Award of Merit: Kazuto Ioka, Naoya Inoue, Hiroto Kyoguchi, Masataka Taniguchi, Kenshiro Teraji, Junto Nakatani        

Special Award: Masayuki Ito, Tamao Ozawa, Shun Kubo, Ayaka Miyao, the late Sadao Yaoita

Mizuki Hiruta (Photo by Naoki Fukuda)

Female Fighter of the Year: Mizuki Hiruta (WBO female 115-pound titleholder, first time)

Female Fight of the Year: Mizuki Hiruta-Kanako Taniyama (WBO 115-pound title bout, December 1)

(Photo by Naoki Fukuda)

By Droeks Malan

The new year started off on a sad note with the passing of former WBA heavyweight titleholder Gerrie Coetzee at the age of 67 on January 12.

Coetzee was part of a golden age in South African boxing, drawing a recorded crowd of 83,000 to Loftus Versfeld Stadium for his fight with John Tate in 1979. The man known as “The Boksburg Bomber” lit up the country when he knocked out Michael Dokes in the 10th round in Richfield, Ohio, in 1983 to capture the WBA belt in his third world title attempt. His victory was also The Ring’s “Upset of the Year.” Along with Corrie Sanders, he is one of only two South Africans to have captured a world heavyweight title.

Coetzee faced eight world titleholders during his career, including Leon Spinks, Mike Weaver, Pinklon Thomas, Greg Page and Frank Bruno.

On a happier note, there are some big fights in the pipeline for South Africans, two of them in the junior flyweight division.

Former Ring champion Hekkie Budler earned the mandatory position in the WBC with his excellent victory over Elwin Soto in Mexico last June. That sanctioning body’s champion, Kenshiro Teraji, has recently taken the Ring and WBA titles from countryman and Budler conqueror, Hiroto Kyoguchi. Teraji has the goal of becoming undisputed champion and has asked for an exemption to face WBO titlist Jonathan Gonzalez next. Teiken Promotions has paid Budler a step-aside fee to allow that fight to happen, with the understanding that the Teraji-Gonzalez winner will face Budler next.

Film on the life of Gerrie Coetzee set to start shooting (Jan 2022)

That would effectively mean that Budler will not only have the chance to regain his old WBA and Ring belts, but also win the WBO and WBC titles. It is a high mountain to climb, but the diminutive “Hexecutioner” has upset the apple cart before.

Then there is Budler’s stablemate and IBF beltholder, Sivenathi Nontshinga. He won the vacant title against Hector Flores Calixto in a 12-round war that was nominated by the BWAA as “Fight of the Year.” He is entitled to make a voluntary defense. “We will do everything in our power to make his first defense a homecoming in East London,” says manager/trainer Colin Nathan, who was also nominated by the BWAA as “Trainer of the Year.”

There has not been a major world title fight on South African soil since March 2016.

That brings us to another East London fighter, strawweight Ayanda Ndulani, who has been mandated to fight a WBC eliminator against undefeated Mexican Luis Castillo. At the time of writing, his promoter, Ayanda Matiti and BXSTRS Promotions, who represent Castillo, are in talks, each wanting the eliminator to be staged on their fighter’s home turf. “The fight will definitely take place, whether in Mexico or South Africa,” says Matiti.

Cruiserweight contender Thabsio Mchunu has been ordered by the WBC to fight an eliminator against Badou Jack but seems to be hanging in limbo. “We talked to Jack’s people, but they don’t seem to be interested. I think they are looking to go another route. I have even talked to Mauricio (Sulaiman) and asked him, ‘What is the use of eliminators if the fighters won’t comply?’” says manager/trainer Sean Smith. “Sergey Kovalev is next in line, so we are trying to set up something with them.” Mchunu dropped a somewhat controversial split decision in a challenge of champion Ilunga Makabu last year and would love another shot at the title. 

After coming up short at heavyweight against Daniel Dubois, former top cruiserweight contender Kevin Lerena has decided to drop down to the WBC’s 224-pound bridgerweight division. The weight class is not recognized by The Ring or anyone else, but that does not bother his promoter, Rodney Berman. “The cruiserweight division was also a Cinderella division before Holyfield came along,” says Berman.

With champion Oscar Rivas retiring with eye trouble, Alen Babic and Lukasz Rozanski will fight for the vacant belt, with Lerena slated to meet Ryad Merhy in an eliminator to face the winner. Berman is trying his best to bring the fight to South Africa in March, but as always, the exchange rate presents an obstacle. The 31-1 Merhy is on a seven-fight win streak since suffering his only loss against Arsen Goulamirian and will present a formidable challenge.

Droeks Malan is on Twitter: