Over the last few years we've seen Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) go from schooling Yuki Sano one handed in just his third professional bout to claiming the WBC Light Flyweight title, the WBO Super Flyweight title and the WBA "Regular" Bantamweight title. He has looked sensational since announcing himself on the world stage, stopping Adrien Hernandez, and really turned heads when he blitzed Omar Andre Narvaez, in a bout that made him an international name but also saw him badly bang up his hands. In 2018 he again showed his destructive ability by stopping Jamie McDonnell and Juan Carlos Payano, both inside a round.
One question that has often been asked is just how high can he go? Can he be the next Asian fighter to climb through the weights like Manny Pacquiao, who won world titles in 8 divisions, or is his limit going to be rather lighter than that?
To begin with we should look at history. Throughout the history of the sport only one man has ever won world titles to bridge Light Flyweight and Super Bantamweight. That was Mexican warrior Jorge Arce (64-8-2 49).
Arce's first 2 titles came at Light Flyweight, winning the WBO title in 1998 and the WBC title in 2002. Unlike Inoue he did compete at Flyweight, winning the WBC interim title, but never got a shot at the full title before moving up in weight. He would have a few shots at 115lbs before finally winning the WBO Super Flyweight title in 2010 before skipping a division the following year to claim the WBO Super Bantamweight title. He would then head down to Bantamweight to pick up the vacant WBO Bantamweight title. In total he would compete in 20 world title fights, going 14-6 (9) from December 1998 to October 2014, when he lost in an attempt to win the WBC Featherweight title from Jhonny Gonzalez.
Arce's career began when he was just 16. He was 19 when he took the WBO Light Flyweight title from Juan Domingo Cordoba, in his 22nd bout, 22 years old when he claimed his second Light Flyweight title, defeating Yo Sam Choi in his 34th bout. He came up short in his first 3 Super Flyweight world title bouts, before getting a vacant title fight with Angkly Ankotta and winning to claim his third world title, in his 60th professional bout. His next title was the Super Bantamweight title, which came when he stopped Wilfredo Vazquez Jr in his 65th fight at the age of 31. He would rematch Angkotta, again for a vacant title, at Bantamweight title after defending the Super Bantamweight title once.By the time he was a 4 weight champion Arce had notched a 59-6-2 (45) record. He was 32, and had grabbed vacant titles at Super Flyweight and Bantamweight, by beating Angky Angkotta.
So we do have a precedent of a fighter climbing successfully from Light Flyweight to Super Bantamweight. Interestingly Arce was similar in size to Inoue as well, with Inoue being ½″ taller and 1½″ longer, in terms of reach.
Notably there is also one fighter who has gone from winning world titles at Flyweight, a division Inoue famously missed out on, to Featherweight. That's Nonito Donaire who claimed the IBF Flyweight title, the WBC Bantamweight title, the WBO Super Bantamweight title and the WBA Featherweight title, before dropping back down to Bantamweight last year to claim the WBA "super" Bantamweight title. We won't go into Donaire too much, though like Inoue and Arce he missed out on the division above the one he won his first world title at.
Donaire is more notable in a way due to his natural size. He was huge at Flyweight and Bantamweight, and still a big fighter at Super Bantamweight, standing at 5′ 7½″ and boasting a 68" reach. Like Inoue he's heavy handed, but in ways became a fighter who depended on his power, rather than the skills to set that power up. When he and Inoue have been pictured together you can clearly tell they are not the same size, despite both currently competing at Bantamweight, and as you can see in the picture he physically dwarfs Inoue.
Given that I've just mentioned size, it's worth considering how Inoue stacks up with current Super Bantamweights.
Inoue is a muscular 5′ 5" fighter with a 67½″ reach. His frame will certainly be capable of adding 4lbs with no real issue, but how does he stack up with the Super Bantamweight champions?
WBA champion Danny Roman (26-2-1, 10) is the same height as Inoue and only has a slight edge in reach, at 68"
WBO champion Emanuel Navarrete (26-1, 22) is taller than Inoue, at 5'7", but looks huge at the weight and his time competing at 122lbs may not be that long
WBC champion Rey Vargas (32-0, 22) is a wiry fighter at 5′ 7½″ with a 70½″ reach
and IBF champion TJ Doheny is (20-0, 14) is 5′ 5½″ with a 68" reach.
It should be noted however that Isaac Dogboe (20-1, 14) was recently the WBO champion and he's significantly smaller than Inoue, standing at around 5'2" with a 66" reach. He had success despite being small, and Inoue's size doesn't seem as much of a disadvantage as that of Dogboe.
Whilst all 4 champions are bigger than Inoue the Japanese fighter was physically dwarfed by both Jamie McDonell and Yoan Boyeaux, and Inoue has shown an ability to get inside on bigger men.
Inoue's father has suggested his son will, one day, fight at Featherweight. It's not something in their immediate plans, and they will certainly more to Super Bantamweight first, but it is worth considering how he would fair at Featherweight.
At Featherweight we again see fighters naturally bigger than Inoue, though the reality is that the Featherweights don't appear much bigger than their Super Bantamweight counter parts.
WBA champion Leo Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19) is 5′ 7½″ with a 69" reach, though he carries the weight well he does regularly give up his reach
Oscar Valdez (24-0, 19) is almost the same size as Inoue, standing at 5′ 5½″ with a 66" reach
IBF champion Josh Warrington (28-0, 6) stands at 5'7" and although being tall isn't a powerful fighter, who instead relies on speed and a very high work rate
and WBC champion Gary Russell Jr (29-1, 17) is actually smaller than Inoue, listed at 5′ 4½″ with a 64" reach.
If Inoue does indeed take a Super Bantamweight title, to become a 4 weight world champion, and a Featherweight title, to become a 5 weight champion, there will clearly be some thoughts towards another title at Super Featherweight. That's despite the fact that Inoue would be one of only a handful of fighters, including Tommy Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar Delay Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao, to win titles in 5 weights.
Through history we have only had men winning world titles in 6 divisions, De la Hoya and Pacquiao. If Inoue was to win a world title at Super Featherweight, as well as the other 2 divisions as mentioned, he would put his name in a very select list.
Currently the Super Featherweights are a mixed bag in terms of size. A couple of title holders are similar in size to Inoue.
Champions bigger than Inoue at the weight are
WBC champion Miguel Berchelt (35-1, 31) is 5'7" with a 71" reach, both significantly bigger than Inoue, and he too is a huge puncher
WBA champion Alberto Machado (21-0, 17), who stands at 5'10" and has a 72" reach
WBO champion Masayuki Ito (25-1-1, 13), 5′ 8½″ and has a 70½″
The outliers here however are Gervonta Davis (20-0, 19), the WBA "super" champion, who is 5′ 5½″ with a 67½″, and Tevin Farmer (28-4-1, 6), who is 5'6" with a 67" reach. Both of these are similar in terms of reach and height to Inoue, though Davis is built like a "Tank", excuse the pun, and has the body type to carry more weight with little issue.
So back to the original question. How high can Inoue go?
We don't imagine him having problems at Super Bantamweight, he has the skills, size, speed and power to compete at Super Bantamweight tomorrow. He will be giving away a bit of size, but not too much against many of the champions.
At Featherweight he will certainly come across some problems, but does regularly spar with Featherweights, and more than holds his own. He can certainly make a mark there in the future, and could do so against a recognised champion.
It's at Super Featherweight where we start to think he will totally struggle and would be very lucky to win a world title. He could, potentially, nip up and take a vacant title against a weak opponent, like we saw Arce do, but against an actual top Super Featherweight we think he'd struggle.
It is worth noting that we have only used the current champions for size comparisons, with Inoue now 25 years old it's going to be years before he heads to Featherweight, if he ever does, and by then the title scene will have changed drastically. If he ever ends up at Super Featherweight we wouldn't expect the title scene to be anything like it is today, and would be genuinely surprised if any of the current champions are still title holders at the weight in 3 years time.
(Images courtesy of Ohashi Gym, boxingnews.jp)
By Eric Armit
-Caleb Plant scores upset win over Jose Uzcategui to win the IBF super middle title
-Devin Haney marches on with win over previously unbeaten Xolisani Ndongeni
-Guillermo Rigondeaux returns with a first round win in a poor match against Mexican Giovanni Delgado
- Prospect Brandon Figueroa impresses as he destroys Moises Flores in three rounds
-Venezuelan veteran Jaider Parra outpoints Fabian Maidana to ruin the night for Marcos Maidana who was staging his first promotion on the same show former IBF super light champion Cesar Cuenca loses to Jonathan Eniz on his comeback
- Eric Armit returns to work!
World Title Shows:
Los Angeles, CA, USA: Super Middle: Caleb Plant (18-0) W PTS 12 Jose Uzcategui (28-3). Feather: Brandon Figueroa (18-0) W TKO 3 Moises Flores (25-2,2ND). Light Heavy: Ahmed Elbiali (19-1) W TKO 3 Allan Green (33-6).Super Feather: Guillermo Rigondeaux (18-1) W KO 1 Giovanni Delgado (16-9). Welter: Ryan Karl (16-2) W TKO 5 Kevin Watts (12-3). Super Light: Lindolfo Delgado (8-0) W KO 3 Sergio Lopez (22-13-1).
Plant vs. Uzcategui
The IBF super middleweight title changed hand as the relevantly unknown Plant outboxed and floored champion Jose Uzcategui twice on the way to a unanimous decision. Plant was giving away height and reach but boxed on the outside being quicker to the punch and using good movement to negate Uzcategui’s power and aggression. In the first round Uzcategui kept marching forward but was not throwing enough punches and unable to land anything of consequence or deal with the jab and move tactics of Plant. Early in the second Plant landed a quick left hook to the chin which put Uzcategui down. It was not a heavy knockdown and Uzcategui was up quickly and back on the prowl but Plant was just too quick and slick for him. Plant outboxed Uzcategui in the third but in the fourth was cut over his right eye in a clash of heads. That spurred Uzcategui into attacking fiercely but as he shaped to throw a left hook Plant fractionally beat him to it and dropped Uzcategui for the second time. Again Uzcategui was up quickly and taking the fight to Plant but he was just too slow to hunt Plant down. Plant took the fifth as he constantly pierced Uzcategui’s guard with his jab. Uzcategui finally won a round in the sixth. He let his punchers go more and did a better job of cutting off the ring forcing Plant to stand and trade. That proved to be a false dawn for Uzcategui as Plant outboxed him and outlanded him in the seventh and eighth to extend his lead. Finally the pace he had set began to tell on Plant and in the ninth he was no longer moving but standing in close and trading and Uzcategui had Plant reeling with some of his trade mark left hooks. Uzcategui had Plant hurt again in an exciting tenth rocking him with a terrific right cross. Plant saw the danger signs and went back to his boxing moving and jabbing and he edged the eleventh. With the fight won Plant was just looking to stay out of trouble in the last and Uzcategui never really threatened to find the knockout he needed. All three judges had Plant a clear winner with Max DeLuca and Zachary Young both scoring it 116-110 and Lou Moret 115-111. It was a very emotional victory for Plant. When his 19 months old daughter Alia died two years ago Plant promised he would win a world title and he fulfilled that promise here. Plant 18-0 (10) was a huge underdog but with the IBF title is now a major player in the super middleweight mix. In the amateurs Plant, 26, won a gold medal at the 2011 National Golden Gloves but failed to progress throught the US Olympic Trials for the 2012 Games. He made one appearance for the USA Knockouts, a winning one, in the World Series of Boxing. Mexican-based Venezuelan Uzcategui, 28, was a huge disappointment. He had impressed in 2018 with wins over Andre Dirrell and Ezequiel Maderna looking strong and dangerous. In this fight he was exposed as being one-paced and that pace was slow.
Figueroa vs. Flores
Young Figueroa may be a new name on the block but he showed in this fight that he is definitely a fighter for the future as he overwhelmed and destroyed the former interim WBA and IBO champion Flores. “The Heartbreaker” from Texas holds the CompuBox record for the most punches thrown in a round and he lived up to that No 1position here. In the first he bombarded the more experienced Flores with a whole array of punches shaking Flores time and again with shots to head and body. Flores looked as though he had aged overnight as he was blown this way and that. He tried to stand and trade but Figueroa was constantly switching guards and scoring with jabs, hooks and uppercuts from both hands. It was more of the same in the second with Figueroa on top of Flores for the whole three minutes. Flores had a bit more success than in the first and Figueroa was marked around his left eye but again he had outpunched Flores all the way. Heads clashed a couple of time in the third and Figueroa was now cut over the left eye. That made no difference to the outcome as a huge overhand left from Figueroa crashed onto the side of Flores head and sent him down heavily. He made it to his feet but Figueroa jumped on him and stunned him with a long right. A series of punches rounded off by a big right cross sent Flores down again and the referee immediately waived the fight off. It was a few minutes before Flores recovered. Figueroa is still only 22 having turned pro at 18. Last time out in September he moved up to ten rounds for the first time and stopped former interim WBA champion Oscar Escandon in the last round. He is already rated WBA 5/IBF 9(7). Flores was 25-0, 2 No Decisions until losing to Daniel Roman for the WBA super bantam title in June last year. He was knocked out by Guillermo Rigondeaux in June 2017 but the kayo punched was ruled to have been delivered after the bell to end the first round so it was a No Decision.
Rigondeaux vs. Delgado
Rigondeaux returns with a win that provides no satisfaction for anyone. His Mexican opponent was too poor to provide any sort of useful work for the Cuban star. Rigondeaux just padded after the ever retreating Delgado who never took a forward step and hardly threw a punch. Just a few seconds before the bell to end the first round Rigondeaux landed a strong straight left which then saw Delgado take a couple of steps back and go down on his knees., The referee indicated to the timekeeper that the punch had landed before the bell and that he was going to apply a count and he tolled out the ten. This is the first “fight” for 38-year-old Rigondeaux since his loss to Vasily Lomachenko in December 2017. He weighed 122 ¼ lbs so can make super bantam if that is his plan. Poor Delgado has now lost 7 of his last 8 fights but in fairness they have been against a high standard of opposition such as Diego De La Hoya, Emmanuel Rodriguez and Brandon Figueroa.
Elbiali vs. Green
Elbiali destroys oldie Green inside three rounds. The Miami-based Egyptian sent Green to the canvas in both the first and second rounds. He ended the fight in the third putting Green down again with a right and the referee waived the count. The 28-year-old Elbiali won his first 16 fights before being stopped in six rounds by Jean Pascal in December 2017. This is his second win since then and his fifteenth win by KO/TKO. Green, 39, was looked upon as a possible world champion as he went 29-1 in his first 30 fights. He had scored wins over Carl Daniels, Carlos De Leon Jr and the 25-0-1 Tarvis Simms but then lost every round against Andre Ward in a WBA super middle title fight in 2010. He then went 3-3 in fights against good level opposition before being inactive from October 2013 until returning to the ring with one fight in 2018.
Karl vs. Watts
Sweet revenge for Texan “Cowboy” Karl as he punches too hard for previous conqueror Watts. It was an entertaining scrap while it lasted. Despite suffering a cut over his left eye Karl gradually punched the resistance out of Watts until the fifth round when with Watts shipping heavy punishment in a corner the referee halted the fight. When these two met in April last year Karl was in front on points until he was knocked down and stopped in the fifth round. Tenth win by KO/TKO for Karl. “Playboy” Watts has now lost 4 of his last 5 fights.
Delgado vs. Lopez
Mexican Olympian Delgado makes it eight from eight as he stops Lopez in the third round. Delgado was always in control in this one until a body punch sent Lopez down in the third and he was unable to beat the count. Eighth win by KO/TKO for the 24-year-old Mexican prospect. He was a top level amateur winning silver medals at both the Pan American and Central American and Caribbean Games and competing at the 2016 Olympic. He fought in the World Series of Boxing for four seasons ending with a 9-4 record. The experienced Lopez suffers his eighth loss by KO/TKO.
Shreveport, LA, USA: Light: Devin Haney (21-0) W PTS 10 Xolisani Ndongeni (25-1). Heavy: Frank Sanchez (11-0) W KO 2 Willie Jake Jr (8-2-1). Feather: Ruben Villa (15-0) W PTS 8 Ruben Cervera (10-1,1ND).
Haney vs. Ndongeni
Another scarily impressive performance from Haney as he floors and outpoints previously unbeaten Ndongeni. The South African tried to establish his jab in a speedy first round but Haney had quicker hands and feet. Ndongeni tried some long punches but Haney closed the round by raking Ndongeni with a left hook, an overhand right and a vicious straight right. Ndongeni made a fast start to the second firing jabs and overhand rights and showing some sharp movement but as he moved across the front of Haney he was nailed with a right hook that sat him on his rump. Ndongeni was up quickly and for the rest of the round he used clever footwork and upper body movement to frustrate Haney’s attempts to catch him again. In a close third Ndongeni scored with a couple of good rights and a left hook but Haney finished the round strongly with jabs and rights of his own. A low key fourth also went to Haney as he was getting his punches off first and dodging Ndongeni’s. Haney upped the pace in the fifth. He hounded Ndongeni for three minutes firing more combinations than in the earlier rounds. The pressure was forcing errors from Ndongeni and Haney made him pay for them. The sixth was closer. Again Haney did the pressing and was landing lightning quick jabs and strong rights but Ndongeni did some good work to the body. Haney had been taking the close rounds but Ndongeni had a good seventh. He was able to take Haney to the ropes and work to the body. Haney was coming up short with his jabs-apart from one that jarred loose Ndongeni’s mouthguard-and he outworked Haney to edge the round. It had been Ndongeni’s tactics to make a strong start to each round and he did that in the eighth. He rattled Haney with a couple of long rights to the chin but then Haney began to move inside cutting down Ndongeni’s space and landing short vicious shots inside. He rocked Ndongeni with a left hook and the South African began to hold for the first time in the fight. Haney ended the round with a series of right to the head with Ndongeni looking to be in trouble and tiring. Haney dominated the ninth. He stalked Ndongeni around the ring getting inside and working the body with Ndongeni relying on wild rights but always missing. After a slow start to the last Haney forced Ndongeni to the ropes and just kept firing hooks with both hands and kept Ndongeni there to the bell. Scores 100-89 twice and 99-90 for Haney. Although the highest rating Haney had before this fight was No 8 with the WBA the 20-year-old “The Dream” is on his way to a world title shot either by the end of 2019 or early in 2020. He has prodigious talent. A natural with moves you can’t teach a fighter so there are exciting times ahead for Haney. Ndongeni “The Wasp” was set an impossible task for his second fight in the USA but he showed enough to indicate he is capable of giving most rated fighters a tough night and will be in some big fights in the future.
Sanchez vs. Jake
Sanchez dismantles Jake inside two rounds. Sanchez forced the fight hard in the first with the heavier Jake not quick enough with his punches or his movement to compete as Sanchez connected with some powerful rights. There was then a delay for a problem with the ropes Sanchez then continued pressing the heavier Jakes who tried to tie-up the unbeaten Cuban on the inside. Sanchez shook himself loose and landed a crunching right to the head. Jakes backed into a corner and then under a series of punches from Sanchez he slid down the ropes and ended face down on the canvas. The referee started to count but then waived the fight off. The one big right that Sanchez did throw in that series landed on the left glove of Sanchez and it looked like Jakes was taking the easy way out. The 26-year-old 6’4” has nine wins by KO/TKO. His No Decision came when he bundled his opponent through the ropes and he was unable to continue. Sanchez was an elite level amateur. He won a silver medal at the Pan American Youth Championships and thrice won a bronze medal in the Cuban Championships. His best result was a victory over Erislandy Savon in taking a gold medal at the Cuban Giraldo Cordova Cardin tournament. He looks powerful and is one to watch. Southpaw Jakes had won his last five fights but against inferior level opposition and this is his second loss b y KO/TKO.
Villa vs. Cervera
Villa wins every round against Colombian Cervera. Villa controlled the action with his sharp, accurate right jab. He was just too quick and slick for Cervera. The Colombian connected with a good right in the first and was pressing forward for most of the fight but Villa was slotting jabs through too quickly for Cervera to block and then following with hard and accurate straight lefts. Villa used good movement to change angles and was firing rapid combinations with Cervera often a step or two behind and swishing air with his punches. On the down side despite his total dominance even when Villa sat down on his punches he never really had Cervera in trouble. Scores 80-72 for Villa from all three judges. The 21-year-old Salinas southpaw was National Golden Gloves champion in 2014 and 2015. He scored two wins over Shakur Stevenson but lost the chance to go to the Rio Olympics when Stevenson beat him in the US Olympic Trials final. He has won 8 of his last 9 fights on points so could be short on power. Former Colombian featherweight champion Cervera was having his first fight outside of Colombia and his first fight since February 2018.
Santa Ynez, CA, USA: Super Welter: Maditar Ashkeyev (11-0) W PTS 10 Luis Hernandez (16-7). Middle: Meiirim Nursultanov (10-0) W KO 2 Ramon Aguinaga (13-2).
Ashkeyev vs. Hernandez
Kazak Ashkeyev outpoints Hernandez. After a shaky start when he was buzzed by a punch from Hernandez in the first Ashkeyev took over the fight and outboxed Hernandez all the way despite various infractions by Hernandez as he tried to rough up Ashkeyev. The Kazak fighter was already on his way to a wide points win when he dropped Hernandez in the last but just could not get Hernandez out of there. Scores 98-91 twice and 99-90. Ashkeyev, 30, was in his first fight scheduled for ten rounds. He is based in Oxnard, California alongside Sergey Kovalev, Oleg Usyk, Olexandr Gvozdyk and Vasyl Lomachenko. Puerto Rican Hernandez has lost 5 of his last 6 fights but all against good quality opposition.
Nursultanov vs. Aguinaga
Nursultanov, another member of the Oxnard outfit flattens Mexican Aguinaga with a brutal right. Nursultanov prowled after Aguinaga in the first looking to land his destructive right but Aguinaga made it the bell without too much danger. In the second a straight right from Nursultanov crashed onto Aguinaga’s chin. He sagged and then fell back into the ropes and bounced off ending face down on the canvas out cold. The 25-year-old Kazak now has eight wins by KO/TKO. He won a gold medal at the Asian Championships and was 13 -1in fights in the World Series of Boxing including two victories in the semi-final matches against the British Lionhearts. Aguinaga had won 8 of his last 9 fights but the loss was in his last fight in July against French hope Christian Mbilli.
Tacoma, WA, USA: Super Feather: Giovanni Mioletti (15-0) W TKO 3 Antonio Escalante (29-10).
Mioletti rolls on with win over experienced Escalante. After a tentative start to the first round Mioletti started to find the distance with his jab and Escalante had no real answer to it. In the second Mioletti put Escalante down with a left hook but Escalante got up and made it to the bell. In the third a right staggered Escalante and a following left floored him again. He made it to his feet but when the eight count was finished so was Escalante who indicated he wanted out. Born in Seattle but based in Chicago Mioletti , 24,gets his sixth win by KO/TKO. He has had five fights and five wins under the banner of Brian Halquist Productions “Battle at the Boat” series at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma. In those five wins is a victory over unbeaten Ray Lampkin the son of the former WBA lightweight title challenger of the same name. El Paso-based Mexican Escalante was 24-2 before losing to Daniel Ponce De Leon in WBO featherweight eliminator but has fallen away and was inactive for over three years before returning with a loss in October.
Mar Del Plata, Argentina: Light Heavy: Walter Sequeira (22-5) W PTS 10 Facundo Galovar (10-5-1).
Sequeira continues his run of form with majority decision over Galovar. This was a war. Not much evidence of skill but entertaining for the fans. Sequeira made a slow start conceding the first round to a busier Galvan but Sequeira landed enough accurate punches to edge the second and had Galovar hurt by a right in the both the and fourth rounds. Galovar came back into the fight in the fifth and sixth as Sequeira’s work rate dropped. Sequeira had a good seventh once again shaking Galovar with a right but the eighth and ninth could have been scored either way but a left from Sequeira in the last put him in control and he emerged a clear winner. Scores 96-94 twice for Sequeira and 95-95. Now 31, Sequeira makes it five wins in his last six fights and collects the vacant WBC Latino title. His National title was not on the line. His loss in those last six fights was a fourth round stoppage against unbeaten Anthony Yarde in October. Three losses in a row now for Galovan.
Mar del Plata, Argentina: Super Light: Jaider Parra (33-2-1,1ND) W PTS 10 Fabian Maidana (16-1).Super Light: Jonathan Eniz (23-11-1,1ND) W PTS 10 Cesar Cuenca (48-3) . Bantam: Fernando Martinez (8-0) W PTS 6 Abel Silva (5-3-3).
Maidana vs. Parra
On a mixed night for the Maidana family Marcos stages his first promotion and younger brother Fabian loses for the first time as a pro in a clash of younger brothers”. Parra, the younger brother of former WBA flyweight champion Lorenzo, proved too experienced and clever for Maidana. The visitor took a round to get into his stride but then proceeded to outbox Maidana. Parra was able to penetrate Maidana’s defence with jabs and sharp rights and was ducking under and around Maidana’s punches and took the third. Maidana managed to trap Parra on the ropes and land some hooks in the fourth but a right in the fifth opened a cut on Maidana’s left eyelid and Parra did most of the scoring in the sixth and seventh. With brother Marcos climbing into his corner Maidana finally landed some heavy punches in the eighth and rocked Parra with a left in the last but by then it was already a lost cause. Scores 98 ½-94, 98 ½-94 ½,97 ½-95 ½ all for Parra. The 36-year-old Venezuelan lost inside the distance in challenges for both the WBA super feather and interim lightweight titles and had won 10 of his last 11 fights. It would have been 11 out of 11but after he stopped Spanish prospect 20-1 Nicolas Gonzalez in January 2017 he tested positive for Clenbuterol and the result was changed to a No Decision. This win over Maidana will generate more work for Parra. Maidana, 26, had scored wins over Johan Perez and Andrey Klimov and was rated No 9 by the WBA. He was looked upon as one of the best prospects in Argentina but even though his trainer Manny Robles was flown down to be in his corner he was flat and flummoxed by the more experienced Parra.
Eniz vs. Cuenca
With Eniz only rated No 9 in the National ratings he looked a comfortable opponent for the return to the ring of former IBF lightweight champion and fellow southpaw Cuenca. This was Cuenca’s first fight since April 2016 and not surprisingly the young Eniz dominated the first two rounds. Cuenca began to find the target in the third and was expected to pick up the pace and kick on from there. That did not happen. Using a focused body attack and some vicious hooks Eniz put himself in front over the middle rounds. There were plenty of fierce exchanges with both landing heavily but although Cuenca finished strongly he was well beaten. Scores 98-94, 98-94 ½ and 97 ½-94for Eniz. The 24-year-old from Dolores was 2-2 in 2018 scoring two low level wins but being knocked out in seven rounds by unbeaten Kazak Batyrzhan Jukembayev in Montreal before performing above expectations in losing a split verdict to unbeaten Luis Veron. This win will boost his profile way up. Cuenca, 36, lost his IBF title to Eduard Troyanovsky in 2015 and was stopped in seven rounds in a return match in 2016. No talk of retirement from Cuenca.
Martinez vs. Silva
Olympian Martinez extends his 100% record to eight fights with unanimous decision over feisty Silva. This was a battle all the way. Martinez had the harder punch but Silva refused to back up and despite shipping heavy punishment banged back with some heavy punches of his own. Martinez ‘s power was decisive and he poured on the punishment as Silva tired to take the decision. Scores : 59 ½ -55 ½ , 59-56 and 59 ½ -56. Martinez, 27 represented Argentina at the World Championships and the 2016 Olympics and was a member of the Los Angeles Matadors team in the World Series of Boxing. Third loss in a row for Silva.
Perez, Argentina: Light; Gustavo Lemos (20-0) W TKO 4 Galvis Guerra (16-3-3).
Lemos dismantles overmatched Colombian. Lemos was piling forward connecting with hooks and overhand rights to the head. Guerra lacked the power to compete and had a leaky defence so Lemos was driving him back and rocking him with punches in close. Guerra survived a brutal third but it was all over in the fourth. A straight right from Lemos saw Guerra tottering back across the ring to the ropes where he dropped to one knee. He beat the count but suddenly without Lemos landing another heavy punch Guerra turned away from the action and again crossed the ring to the ropes and knelt down and the referee stopped the fight. Tenth win by KO/TKO for the 22-year-old “El Electrico” from Tres Arroyos and his fourth defence of his IBF Latino title. He is Argentinian No 1 and IBF have him at No 14. Second loss by KO/TKO for Guerra who is now 0-3 in fights outside of Colombia.
Tokyo, Japan: Super Bantam: Ryoichi Tamura (12-3-1) W PTS 10 Mugicha Nakagawa (24-6-1). Minimum: Norihito Tanaka (18-7) W TKO 8 Shin Ono (23-10-3).
Tamura vs. Nakagawa
Minor upset as Tamura wins the vacant National title at the second attempt . With 14 wins in his last 15 fights Nakagawa was the favourite but Tamura was off the mark quickly attacking strongly and scoring well to head and body. Nakagawa answered the pressure with some strong jabs and uppercuts but Tamura outscored him and at the half way mark was up 50-45, 49-46 and 48-47 on the three cards. With his greater experience Nakagawa was expected to claw back the deficit over the second half of the fight and although he landed some sizzling rights it was Tamura who was stronger blunting Nakagawa’s attacks and emerging a comfortable winner. Scores 99-91 twice and 97-93 for Tamura. He was 3-2-1 at the start of his career but has turned things around with 9 wins in his last 10 fights with the loss being in a challenge for this title in 2017. Nakagawa, 30, had won 14 of his last 15 fights but this was only his second fight scheduled for ten rounds. To his credit he is canvassing with some success for cloud funding to help children in the Philippines
Tanaka vs. Ono
Another surprise here as Tanaka halts Ono to lift his Japanese title. Despite Ono having the edge in height over tiny Tanaka the challenger punched his way inside negating southpaw Ono’s greater skills. He shook Ono in the second and floored him with a right in the third and after five rounds all three judges had him ahead 49-45. Ono had the better of the action in the sixth using his reach to collect the points. Tanaka was getting past the jab in the seventh and a harried Ono was deducted a point for holding. Tanaka’s attacks overwhelmed Ono in the eighth and he was battered to the floor with the referee immediately stopping the fight. Tanaka was winning a title at the third attempt. He was outpointed by future world champion Akira Yaegashi for this same title in April 2011 and was inactive from November 2011 until returning to action in February 2017. In his second shot at a title he lost to unbeaten Tsubasa Koura for the OPBF crown in April last year. Former WBA and IBF title challenger Ono was rated in the top 15 by all four sanctioning bodies so this was a severe blow to his hopes of a third world title fight.
Fight of the week (Significance): Caleb Plant as is win over Jose Uzcategui will open many doors for him.
Fight of the week (Entertainment) Plant vs. Uzcategui supplied plenty of action
Fighter of the week: Has to be Plant but with honourable mention to Devin Haney
Punch of the week: The right from Meiirim Nursultanov was a real thunderbolt and the right that gave Brandon Figueroa his first knockdown against Moises Flores was special.
Upset of the week: Plant beating Uzcategui was unexpected as was Jaider Parra’s victory over unbeaten Fabian Maidana, Parra vs. Maidana
Prospect watch: Plenty on show this week with Brandon Figueroa, Meiirim Nursultanov and Frank Sanchez all impressing
By Marcus Bellinger (@marcusknockout)
2018 was another interesting year for Asian boxing with the usual ups and downs but it was one that saw the seeds planted for what can potentially be a golden era for the sport throughout the continent.
2018 was a disappointing 12 months for Japanese boxing at world level but with a core of elite pugilists and a plethora of outstanding youngsters on the rise, the future is still very bright for boxing in the land of the rising sun.
Long reigning WBC bantamweight boss Shinsuke Yamanaka quite frankly deserved so much better than to go out at the hands of the disgraceful Luis Nery who failed a drugs test after their first encounter then came in 5 pounds overweight on first attempt before their rematch. Yamanaka can hold his head up high and will go down as one of Japan’s best after a terrific career.
After losing his WBO strawweight belt to Vic Saludar, Ryuya Yamanaka was unfortunately forced to retire due to a serious head injury and stalwarts Kohei Kono and Yoshihiro Kamegai also hung up the gloves after exciting fan friendly careers. Katsunori Nagamine, who was always guaranteed to provide thrills and spills was also forced to retire due to injury which was such as shame as the flyweight became a favourite of mine.
Daigo Higa and Kenichi Ogawa will not want to be reminded of having the arduous distinction of being the only Japanese fighters to lose their world titles on the scales and for failing a drugs test respectively and both will hope for much better results in 2019. Ryota Murata has it all to prove after floundering against an inspired Rob Brant and Ryoichi Taguchi, Kazuto Ioka, Ryosuke Iwasa and Reiya Konishi will aim to return to world level after losing close decisions that could have easily gone the other way.
In what you could easily call the awesome foursome Naoya Inoue, Kenshiro, Kosei Tanaka and Hiroto Kyoguchi are as good a quartet of fighters anywhere on the planet and will be aiming to establish themselves as the number 1 in their respective divisions. Inoue blasted away both Jamie McDonnell and Juan Carlos Payano inside a round and claiming the World Boxing Super Series prize is the goal for 2019. Kenshiro enjoyed a rather fruitful 2018, impressively halting both Ganigan Lopez and Milan Melindo before scoring a wide points victory over Saul Juarez to cap off the year and hopefully the WBC light flyweight champion can secure a unification in 2019.
Kosei Tanaka became a 3-weight world champion in just his 12th bout but had to go through the meat grinder to do it as he took the WBO flyweight strap from Sho Kimura in undoubtedly the fight of the year. A rumoured clash with Ryoichi Taguchi is in the works for this spring and if it’s half as good as the bout with Kimura then we’re in for another classic. Hiroto Kyoguchi made a real statement as he broke down Hekkie Budler and became the first man to stop the South African and his heavy hands make him a force to be reckoned with at 108 pounds.
Finally Masayuki Ito deserves more than a mention after winning a world title away from home, something very few Japanese boxers accomplish. Ito was far too seasoned for Christopher Diaz and after a one-sided beat down of mandatory challenger Evgeny Chuprakov, the WBO super featherweight champion has options aplenty for 2019. Tomoki Kameda and Takuma Inoue will get cracks at full world titles this year after winning interim trinkets in 2018.
Overall 2018 was an excellent year for Filipino boxing with 3 of the nation’s favourite sons scoring notable victories. Donnie Nietes prevailed in a close and thoroughly absorbing contest with Kazuto Ioka, making him a 4-weight champion and let’s hope he defends against similar calibre of competition as there is no shortage of top challengers at super flyweight.
After defeat to Carl Frampton and moving down to a division which he hadn’t fought at in 7 years, few if anyone gave Nonito Donaire a prayer when he entered the World Boxing Super Series but the Filipino Flash defied the odds to beat Ryan Burnett and set up a semi-final contest versus Zolani Tete. It should be noted that a freak back injury left Burnett unable to continue but Donaire was highly competitive in rounds 3 and 4 so a win against Tete isn’t out of the question.
Manny Pacquiao knocked out Lucas Matthysse to keep his career going and he has a very winnable bout with Adrien Broner coming up shortly but the biggest winner in Filipino boxing in 2018 was visibility, with not only ESPN5 providing much needed coverage for boxing globally but other streams were provided for domestic cards making the sport far more accessible than it has been in previous years. Vic Saludar produced an excellent display to capture the WBO strawweight title in Japan but IBF 115 lb champion Jerwin Ancajas failed to shine in 2018 and will need to up his game if he’s to compete and overcome the elite of the division.
The 2 all Filipino world title fights between Jerwin Ancajas and Jonas Sultan and Donnie Nietes and Aston Palicte unfortunately completely underwhelmed but if the myth that these kind of bouts shouldn’t be happening is slowly being dispelled then that’s a positive and we saw other such good clashes at domestic and regional level between Jonathan Taconing and Vince Paras and Edward Heno and Jesse Espinas take place.
The biggest negative was the disappearance of exciting featherweight Mark Magsayo who failed to fight at all in 2018 and Mark Antony Barriga will also have to rebound after his first loss. Jhack Tepora and Reymart Gaballo enjoyed breakout years and are leading the charge of the next generation of young Pinoys, Romero Duno should continue to provide plenty of entertainment and KJ Cataraja and Dave Apolinario are 2 gems worth getting excited about.
Boxing in Thailand ticked over quite nicely in 2018 with all 3 world champions holding onto their titles and the country has 2 interesting prospects in Apichet Petchmanee and Downua Ruawaiking both at light welterweight. The Workpoint series was also a nice edition and saw much improved match making and some solid domestic bouts that delivered including the 2 encounters between Kompayak Porpramook and Pongsaklek Sithdabmij and the clash between Nawaphon Por Chokchai and Amnat Ruenroeng.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai scored a majority decision over Juan Francisco Estrada in a thoroughly enjoyable contest in the US to kick off his 2018 and after a stay busy bout he made history as he headlined a One Championship card in front of a raucous home crowd. The WBC super flyweight champion scored a wide point’s win over game Mexican Iran Diaz and heads into 2019 with numerous available options with a unification with Jerwin Ancajas looking a distinct possibility.
Wanheng Menayothin made his own history as he took his unbeaten record to 52-0 by the end of the year. The WBC strawweight titlist reached the magic 50-0 mark in style as he destroyed mandatory challenger Leroy Estrada before taking a unanimous decision over solid challenger Pedro Taduran. If the reports are to be believed and Wanheng does venture outside of Thailand then tougher challenges could lay ahead for the 33-year-old with a bout against the undefeated Tsubasa Koura mentioned as a possibility.
Despite making 3 defenses of his strawweight crown the stock of Knockout CP Freshmart dramatically dropped with 3 very poor performances and the fights against Xion Zhao Zhong and the rematch with Byron Rojas were honestly dire viewing. Knockout will need to dramatically up his game in 2019 if he’s to keep hold of his belt as he looks to be there for the taking.
Along with Cuba, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are now well established as the leading forces in amateur boxing and now both nations are making their presence felt in the professional ranks with Daniyar Yeleussinov, Murodjon Akhmadaliev, Shakhram Giyasov, Sadriddin Akhmedov and Israil Madrimov just a selection of names who are looking to make an impact. Expect the Kazak/Uzbek take over/invasion to ramp up even further in 2019 with so much strength in depth in both countries.
Finally any action that took place inside the ring in amateur boxing was completely overshadowed by a tumultuous struggle between AIBA and the IOC which has left boxing’s place at the Tokyo Olympics hanging by a thread. After being made interim President, controversial Gafur Rakhimov who is described as "one of Uzbekistan's leading criminals" by the United States Treasury Department was elected permanent President under farcical proceedings which saw certain delegations fail to vote and the electronic voting system fail to work.
Repeated warnings from the IOC regarding Rakhimov’s potential election as permanent President clearly were not heeded and coupled with governance and financial concerns, this lead to the planning for boxing in Tokyo being frozen therefore leaving everyone in total limbo. 2019 is without doubt a defining period in amateur boxing but the signs are bleak and a boxing tournament in Tokyo without AIBA’s involvement is a solid possibility which could lead to a messy split within the federations and in all of this the boxers are the ones who suffer due to the arrogance, selfishness and incompetence of those at the top.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
-Zhilei Zhang (20-0): WBO #5
The undefeated Chinese giant and Olympic Silver Medalist beat Don Haynesworth (15-3) this past September in his first WBO Oriental title defense.
-Meng Fanlong (14-0): IBF #8 / WBA #12
Meng stopped the former British & Commonwealth champion Frank Buglioni (22-4), on November 24th, to defend his IBF Intercontinental title for the first time.
Super Lightweight / Jr Welterweight:
-Apinun Khongsong (14-0): IBF #7
The current IBF Asia & Pan Pacific champion has fought 4 times in 2018, all stoppage victories. Khongsong will face Akihiro Kondo (31-7) in an IBF World title Eliminator, on February 18.
-Daud Yordan (38-4): WBA #5
Yordan’s latest success came in April, when he knocked out Pavel Malikov (14-1) to become the WBO Intercontinental champion. He later put on a good performance against former World champion Anthony Crolla (34-6) in a WBA World title eliminator, but it wasn’t enough to get the win.
-Mercito Gesta (32-2): WBO #2
After unsuccessfully challenging Jorge Linares (45-4) for the WBA World championship, Gesta defeated Robert Manzanarez (36-3) for the vacant WBO-NABO title, which he will defend on January 26 at Golden Boy’s first boxing card on DAZN. No opponent has been named as of yet.
-Can Xu (15-2): WBA #2
The reigning WBA International champion will be facing Jesus Rojas (26-2) for the WBA “regular” title on January 26.
-Genesis Servania (32-1): WBO #1 / WBA #3 / IBF #5
Servania has knocked out all of his opponents, since losing to WBO World champion Oscar Valder (24-0) in 2017, including world title contender Carlos Carlson (23-5) in September. He’s now looking for another shot at a World championship, either at Featherweight or at Super Bantamweight. His next confirmed opponent is Carlos Castro (21-0), whom he’ll face in California, on February 10.
-Mark Magsayo (18-0): WBC #1 / WBO #8
The reigning WBO International champion is the number 1 contender for the WBC World title. A match with Gary Russell Jr. (29-1) could be in the works for 2019.
Super Bantamweight / Jr Featherweight:
-Albert Pagara (31-1): WBO #2 / IBF #6
Pagara stopped Laryea Gabriel Odoi (20-4) this past June, to become the WBO Intercontinental champion. He successfully made his inaugural title defense against George Krampah (14-4) on November 24.
-Juan Miguel Elorde (27-1): WBO #3
The WBO Asia Pacific champion marked his third successful title defense in February against Likit Chane (16-8). After dispatching Ratchanon Sawangsoda (12-3) in July, he returned to the ring once more before the year is over, on December 16, and defended his belt against Artid Bamrungauea (21-25).
-Marlon Tapales (31-2): WBO #6 / IBF #7
The former WBO Bantamweight World champion made short work of Goodluck Mrema (22-4) this past September. It’s not certain if Super Bantamweight or Featherweight will be the division Tapales sticks with. His next fight will take place in February, under the MP Promotions banner.
-Jeo Santisima (17-2): WBO #10
The Filipino won the vacant WBO Oriental title, after defeating Likit Chane (16-8) this past summer. In November, he made his first successful defense, against Victor Uriel Lopez (13-10).
-Kenny Demecillo (14-4): IBF #3
Demecillo has fought only once in 2018, scoring a KO win over Vyacheslav Mirzaev (11-1) in Russia. His next scheduled appearance is in March of 2019 as he takes on Michael Dasmarinas (28-2) in an IBF World title eliminator, in Singapore.
-Michael Dasmarinas (28-2): IBF #4 / WBC #11
Dasmarinas knocked out former EBU European champion Karim Guerfi (28-4) this past April to earn the IBO “world” title. His latest fight against Manyo Plange (17-0) came to a draw. He will square off against Kenny Demecillo (14-4), as mentioned above, for a chance at the IBF World title.
-Carl Jammes Martin (11-0): WBO #10 / WBA #14
2018 has been a breakout year for the Filipino, winning 4 fights in the span of only 6 months, plus the WBO Oriental Youth & WBA Asia titles.
-Arthur Villanueva (32-3): WBO #8
The former WBO Asia Pacific champion and world title contender has 1 win and one draw in 2018.
-Tasana Salapat (48-1): WBC #2
“Petch Sor Chitpattana” lost his first fight when he fought Takuma Inoue (13-0) for the interim WBC World championship, on December 30, in Japan.
Super Flyweight / Jr Bantamweight:
-Aston Palicte (24-2): WBO #2 / WBC #6
Palicte will be involved in a WBO World title eliminator with Jose Martinez (20-0) on January 31st.
-Giemel Magramo (23-1): WBO #6 / WBC #7 / WBA #8 / IBF #9
The Filipino captured the vacant WBO Oriental title on March of 2018 and successfully defended it in October, against Petchchorhae Kokietgym (17-2). Magramo kicked off 2019 with a bang as he stopped Wenfeng Ge (11-1) for the WBO International title on January 5th, in China.
-Teeraphong Utaida (38-6): IBF #8
Utaida went 4-0 in 2018, moving up to Flyweight only recently and soon became the IBF Pan Pacific champion.
-Sarawut Thawornkham (20-1): WBA #1
The former WBA Asia champion has fought twice in 2018 and has knocked out both of his opponents.
-Nare Yianleang (68-5): WBA #2 / WBC #5
Since losing to Kazuto Ioka in 2017, “Noknoi Sitthiprasert” has been undefeated in his last 6 fights, but none of them was against a credible opponent.
-Komgrich Nantapech (25-5): IBF #3
Nantapech became the IBF Pan Pacific champion in 2018, when he earned a decision win over Naoki Mochizuki (15-3). He was supposed to face Masayuki Kuroda (30-7) in an IBF World title eliminator bout on November 21st, but due to a sudden injury, he wasn’t able to compete. Komgrich later had to vacate his belt but still managed to pick two more victories before the year was over.
-Wenfeng Ge (11-1): WBO #9 / IBF #13
The former undefeated Chinese prospect took the unanimous decision victory over Ivan Soriano (19-2) as well as the vacant WBO International championship, this past August, before losing it to top ranked Flyweight Giemel Magramo (23-1).
-Sirichai Thaiyen (51-4): WBA #7
The former WBA interim World champion failed the recapture the crown this summer in Ukraine when he fought Artem Dalakian (18-0).
-Jayr Raquinel (10-1): IBF #6
Raquinel won the OPBF title from Keisuke Nakayama (11-3) in March and in 2 months time, he successfully marked his first title defense over Shun Kosaka (15-5). However, he failed to capture the vacant WBC Silver championship, when he boxed with Chinese rising star Wean Tuolehazi (9-3), in September.
-Jonathan Taconing (28-3): WBC #1 / WBO #1 / WBA #2 / IBF #8
Taconing defended his WBC International championship, for the second time, this past September against former world title contender Vince Paras (13-2). A match with Angel Acosta (19-1), for the WBO strap, could be in the works for this coming Spring.
-Edward Heno (13-0): WBO #3 / WBC #4 / WBA #6 / IBF #6
Heno marked 2 successful title defenses of the OPBF championship, within 2018, over Jesse Espinas (19-3) as well as former World champion Merlito Sabillo (27-6). His third OPBF title defense will take place in Japan, against Koji Itagaki (18-13), on February 11.
-Jing Xiang (16-4): WBO #6 / WBC #13
2018 was a quite successful year for Xiang as he, not only captured the vacant WBO Intercontinental title in January, but also earned a huge victory after defeating former World champion Merlito Sabillo (27-6), this past September, to become the WBC Silver champion. 2019 already brought another major test for the Chinese rising star as he successfully defended his WBC Silver title against 2 division World champion Suriyan Satorn (59-7), on January 5th, in China.
-Christian Araneta (17-0): IBF #4 / WBA #9 / WBC #10 / WBO #11
Araneta added 3 more wins to his perfect record, in 2018, including a stoppage victory over former world title contender Jerry Tomogdan (26-10), in August.
-Rey Loreto (24-14): WBC #5
After a failed attempt to dethrone Thammanoon Niyomtrong (19-0) in 2017, Loreto returned this past February and knocked out journeyman Arnold Garde (10-6).
-Pongsaklek Sithdabni (17-6): WBC #8
The WBC Asia champion finished 2018 with a 3-2 record.
-Robert Paradero (17-0): WBO #1
Paradero is supposed to face Wilfredo Mendez (11-1) in a WBO World title eliminator this coming January. The winner will be next in line to challenge Vic Saludar (18-3) for the gold.
-Chaozhong Xiong (27-8): WBA #9
Xiong tried to become a 2 time World champion when he fought Thammanoon Niyomtrong (19-0) in July, but it wasn’t meant to be. No news yet if that was his last match or not.
-Rene Mark Cuarto (16-1): IBF #7 / WBO #8
Cuarto won his first championship in August after he fought Clyde Azarcon (14-2) for the vacant WBO Oriental title.
-Samuel Salva (16-0): IBF #5
The Filipino prospect remained undefeated in 2018 as well, thus adding 4 more victories to his record.
-Pedro Taduran (13-2): IBF #10 / WBC #12
Taduran began 2018 very promising as he dropped former world title challenger Jerry Tomogdan (26-10) in the fifth round, but couldn’t capitalize on that momentum in his World championship bout against Chayaphon Moonsri (52-0). He beat Jeffrey Galero (17-6) on December 7.
-Mark Anthony Barriga (9-1): IBF #3 / WBA #5
Barriga failed to capture the vacant IBF World Championship in December.
-Joey Canoy (14-3): WBO #10
Canoy recently challenged Simpiwe Konkco (19-5) for the IBO “world” title but the fight ended in a no contest.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
-Kyotaro Fujimoto (20-1): WBO #6 / WBA #11
The former K-1 champion and the unified OPBF & WBO Asia Pacific title holder recently defended his belts twice in 2018.
-Ryota Murata (14-2): IBF #6 / WBC #6 / WBA #7
The 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist lost his WBA world title to Rob Brant in October, and once again finds himself in the position of the title chaser.
Super Welterweight / Jr Middleweight:
-Takeshi Inoue (13-0): WBO #3
The undefeated 4-year veteran and the unified OPBF & WBO Asia Pacific champion will challenge Jaime Munguia (31-0) for the WBO World title, on January 26, in Texas.
-Keita Obara (20-3): IBF #6 / WBO #15
After avenging his shocking loss to Alvin Lagumbay (10-4) and regained the WBO Asia Pacific championship, Obara was set to takes on the undefeated former WBC Silver champion Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (15-0), on January 4th, in an IBF world title eliminator, but the match never happened. No updates yet if it will be rescheduled or not.
Super Lightweight / Jr Welterweight:
-Hiroki Okada (19-0): WBO #2 / WBA #3 / IBF #5 / WBC #9
The former Japanese & WBO Asia Pacific champion made his US debut this past September, against Cristian Rafael Coria (28-7), winning via unanimous decision. Okada is rumored to face the former WBO Lightweight World champion Raymundo Beltran (35-8) on February 10.
-Akihiro Kondo (31-7): IBF #4
Since losing to Sergey Lipinets (14-1) in 2017, Kondo has won his last 2 fights against the debuting Rikhit Thunritsa and Tatsuya Miyazaki (9-12). He will meet the undefeated IBF Pan Pacific champion Apinun Khongsong (14-0), on February 18, in an IBF world title eliminator.
-Masayoshi Nakatani (18-0): IBF #5 / WBC #7 / WBO #10
Nakatani marked his 11th successful OPBF title defense recently, when he stopped the WBC International champion Hurricane Futa (25-8) in round 6. He is rumored to face former EBU European & WBA Intercontinental champion Edis Tatli (31-2) in an IBF world title eliminator.
-Nihito Arakawa (31-6): WBO #4
The former Japanese, OPBF & WBO Asia Pacific champion is looking for his second world title opportunity in 2019.
Super Featherweight/ Jr Lightweight:
-Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1): WBO #6
Sueyoshi has defended his Japanese title thrice this year. His next one will probably be a rematch with Ken Osato (15-2) in early 2019.
-Satoshi Shimizu (8-0): IBF #3
The 2012 Olympic Bronze Medalist has marked 3 successful title defenses of the OPBF crown in 2018, against Kyung Min Kwon (6-5), Shingo Kawamura (16-5) and Takuya Uehara (16-1).
-Reiya Abe (18-2): IBF #4 / WBC #12
Abe is the number 1 contender for Taiki Minamoto’s (16-5) Japanese title. These 2 will collide at the 2019 Champion Carnival, on May 1st, but before that the young lion has another match set first against Daisuke Sugita (4-0) on January 12.
Super Bantamweight / Jr Featherweight:
-Shingo Wake (25-5): IBF #4 / WBC #4
The 12 year veteran has re-established himself at the top of the division after stopping Yusaku Kuga (17-3) in July to win the Japanese title. However, Wake recently vacated his belt and he is rumored to face a world champion in 2019. Until then, he will square off against Takafumi Nakajima (29-11) on January 19.
-Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3): IBF #3 / WBC #14
Iwasa lost his IBF world title to DJ Doheny (20-0) this past August. Rumor has it that he maybe fighting Cesar Juarez (23-6) in an IBF world title eliminator in the near future.
-Ryohei Takahashi (16-3): IBF #10
Takahashi won the IBF Pan Pacific championship from Pipat Chaiporn (45-12) back in June and defended it against Shingo Kusano (11-7) in September.
-Yukinori Oguni (20-2): WBA #6
After losing his World title in 2017, Oguni has picked only one victory in 2018.
Super Flyweight / Jr Bantamweight:
-Kazuto Ioka (23-2): WBO #3
Ioka debuted at the Super Flyweight division this past September, defeating McWilliams Arroyo (17-4) to become the WBC Silver champion. In December, he fought Donnie Nietes (42-1), for the vacant WBO Super Flyweight World title, losing a very close decision.
-Koki Eto (23-4): WBC #5 / WBO #8 / WBA #8 / IBF #12
The former interim WBA Flyweight World champion has fought and won twice in 2018 against lesser opponents.
-Ryuichi Funai (31-7): IBF #1 / WBO #6 / WBC #10
Funai stopped Victor Olivo (15-3) in an IBF world title eliminator, this past November, to become the number 1 contender. However, if the rumored Jerwin Ancajas (30-1) vs. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4) fight takes place, Funai might have to wait for a few months more before he receives his opportunity.
-Sho Ishida (27-1): IBF #4 / WBO #7 / WBA #7 / WBC #13
Since losing to the WBA world champion Khalid Yafai (25-0) in 2017, Ishida has won all of his 2018 bouts, against Ratchanon Sawangsoda (12-3), Richard Claveras (18-6), as well as former world title contender Warlito Parrenas (26-9).
-Daigo Higa (15-1): WBA #6
The former WBC Flyweight World Champion has been suspended for the majority of 2018, since failing to make weight in his last title fight. Recently though, there have been rumors of his upcoming return, including training videos of him, and with his inclusion to the WBA rankings, it’s almost a certainty that we will see Okinawa’s favorite son back to the rings this year.
-Junto Nakatani (17-0): WBC #4 / WBO #10
The unstoppable Japanese prospect has fought 4 times in 2018 and has won all of his bouts, 2 of them via KO. He will finally compete for a championship belt when he faces Naoki Mochizuki (15-3), on February 2nd, for the vacant Japanese crown.
-Sho Kimura (17-2): WBO #5
The former WBO World champion lost his title to Kosei Tanaka (12-0) this past September, in a FOTY candidate. Already ranked at the top 10 of the WBO, he will probably find himself in a championship match again very soon.
-Masayuki Kuroda (30-7): WBC #3 / WBO #3 / IBF #4
Kuroda has recently vacated his Japanese title as his has set his sights on the World championship. He is rumored to meet Moruti Mthalane (37-2) for the IBF title in 2019.
-Tetsuya Hisada (33-9): WBA #1 / WBO #2 / WBC #2 / IBF #11
Hisada recorded a 5th successful Japanese title defense in November, before vacating the belt. Ranked at the top of the division all year long, it will be a surprise if he doesn’t fight for a World championship in 2019.
-Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3): WBC #3 / WBA #3 / IBF #7
Taguchi could be challenging Kosei Tanaka (12-0) for the WBO World title this Spring.
-Reiya Konishi (17-1): IBF #3 / WBA #4 / WBO #4 / WBC #14
After losing a decision to Carlos Canizales (21-0), for the WBA world title, Konishi came back in July and knocked out Orlie Silvestre (12-5) to become the new WBO Asia Pacific champion. His first successful title defense took place on December 1st, against Richard Rosales (13-8).
Kenichi Horikawa (35-18): WBC #6
Horikawa ends 2018 with a 4-0 record.
-Tsubasa Koura (14-0): WBC #3 / IBF #4 / WBA #10 / WBO #9
Koura defended his OPBF title, for the 3rd time, against Daiki Tomita (12-1) in September. He is now set to face Simphiwe Khonco (19-5) in a WBC World title eliminator (date TBA).
-Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6): WBO #3 / WBC #6 / IBF #14
Fukuhara has been victorious in both of his 2018 bouts.
-Shin Ono (23-9): WBO #5 / IBF #12 / WBA #13 / WBC #13
Ono marked his first successful Japanese title defense against former world title contender Riku Kano (14-4) in August. He will make his second one against Norihito Tanaka (17-7), on January 12.
-Masataka Taniguchi (11-2): WBO #2 / IBF #6
Taniguchi recently defeated Joel Lino (10-1) for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific title. It’s almost certain that he will take on Vic Saludar (18-3) on February 25th for the WBO title.
(Image courtesy of World Sport Boxing)
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