Earlier this year we did a number of “Divisional Overview” pieces before taking a hiatus with the Bantamweight division due to the fact there was a number of big bouts lined up one after the other the space of a few weeks. Now we've had those bouts and we can finally let loose with out “Divisional Overview-The Brilliant Bantamweights”.
To begin we look at 9 of the best from Asia, then we take a look at some lesser figures from the Asian boxing scene and then some international fighters. Hopefully we'll help to show just how interesting the division is right now.
Other notable Asians-
Malcolm Tunacao (35-5-5, 20)-Former Flyweight champion Tunacao is 37 and father time will certainly end his career shortly but he's still a real threat in the division and the 2-time OPBF champion still can't be forgotten about given his ability and experience. In fact he gave Yamanaka one of his toughest fights so far back in 2013.
Hideo Sakamoto (16-1-2, 5)-Japanese 29 year old Sakamoto isn't a world beater by any means but he is one of the divisions most over-looked fighters and he is currently on a 6 fight winning streak, dating back 4 years, since losing a close one to Eita Kikuchi. Among those wins are stoppages against Hiroki Shiino and Kazuyoshi Niki.
Yu Kawaguchi (23-6, 10)-Current OPBF champion Kawaguchi isn't the best fighter in Asia but he's a feel good story and his recent win over Takahiro Yamamoto was certainly career defining. We suspect he may be a target for fighters like Omori or Matsumoto if they can't secure bigger fights next time out.
Kazuki Tanaka (2-0, 2)-Japanese prospect Tanaka is viewed as one of the most exciting young fighters in Japan and his team are suggesting he could go all the way. Whilst it's hard to say for now we don't expect to need to wait too long with the view being that he will fight a JBC ranked opponent next time out.
Petch Sor Chitpattana (30-0, 19)-Unbeaten Thai youngster Petch is only 21 but has been racking up wins at an alarming pace since his 2011 debut. His competition so far has been poor to say the least but he already has a WBC world ranking.
Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym (47-2, 27)-Thai veteran Panomroonglek is best known for losing to Koki Kameda though it seems he now has every intention of making a move towards a WBA title fight.
Jamie McDonnell (26-2-1, 12)-Englishman McDonnell recently defeated Tomoki Kameda to retain his WBA "regular" title and it now seems like we could describe him as the #2 in the division. His title might only be a "secondary" title but the win over Kameda was a big one.
Juan Carlos Payano (16-0, 8)-Dominican fighter Payano is the current WBA "super" champion and is the man who eventually defeated Anselmo Moreno, albeit it in controversial circumstances. Payano is "the man" in terms of the WBA but he's yet to defend his title and has done nothing to inspire us into believing he'll be a long term title holder.
Randy Caballero (22-0, 13)-IBF champion Caballero made a splash in Japan last year when he stopped Kohei Oba in an IBF eliminator. A fight later Caballero claimed the IBF title though unfortunately suffered a serious injury before his first defense. On his return he's expected to face Ryusoke Iwasa or...
...Lee Haksins (31-3, 13)-Haskins is another Englishman and will be fighting Iwasa on June 13th. He's a tricky southpaw who holds notable wins over McDonnell and Stuart Hall and has done everything but fight for a world title.
Julio Ceja (29-1, 26)-Big punching Mexican is a serious threat and has spoken of fighting Shinsuke Yamanaka in the past. On paper he's a major threat and a really good boxer-puncher, though he has been beaten by McDonnell and was surprisingly taken the distance by Oscar Blanquet last time out.
Yesterday we announced our Fighter of the Year of 2014 as Naoya Inoue, and today we are doing second award for 2014, that of prospect of the year.
To keep things simple we have decided that for us a prospect is someone who hasn't yet fought on the world stage. They could well be a qualified “contender” but for us the terms aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.
As with the Fighter of the year we felt one man was a rclear winner, and although several contenders did emerge, including two men who fought on December 30th, no one really put on a performance as impressive as our winner did in their most notable win.
Ryo Matsumoto- The clear “top runner up” was OPBF Super Flyweight champion Ryo Matsumoto 4-0 (3) who had a massive year and would have won this award easily were it not for the eventual winner. Matsumoto began the year with a decision over former world title challenger Hiroyuki Hisataka, it was a tough win for the youngster but one that served him well down the line. A quick blow out of Zun Rindam followed before another blow out, over former world champion Denkaosan Kaovichit, really put the youngster on the map. To end the year he would then stop Rusalee Samor in 12 rounds after a dominant performance. It was as good a year as he could have hoped for.
Takuma Inoue- Another good contender was teenager Takuma Inoue who went 3-0 (1) for the year, with notable wins against Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, back in April, and Nestor Daniel Narvaes, in December. The talented youngster was tipped for the top when he turned professional and wins over Fahlan and Narvaes have proven just how good he is. Despite his ability he has yet to fight in a title bout though we suspect that will change next year and we imagine he will be chasing either a Japanese or OPBF title in his first bout of the new year, from what we've seen it's hard to see him losing to any of the domestic or Asian champion at either 108lbs or 112lbs. It was an outstanding year but again his year paled in comparison to our winner.
Albert Pagara- Filipino 20 year old Albert Pagara had himself a very memorable year which saw him going 4-0 (3). The problem in some ways is that only one of those wins really made us say “wow”, but it was a win that put him in the mix for a world title bout. Stoppage wins against Isack Junior and Skak Max were both expected, to say the least, and although he did dispatch Hugo Partida quicker than we expected, it was his near shut out against Raul Hirales that blew us away. That win told us more about Pagara than his previous 21 wins combined. It showed that he was a patient, intelligent boxer, he could counter, set traps and not need to depend on his thunderous power. It was the sort of win that tells the boxing world “I'm ready” and we really do believe that Pagara could win a world title in the next 12 months.
For us the Prospect of the Year was current OPBF Minimumweight champion Kosei Tanaka, who went 3-0 (2) for the year including an exceptional win over Ryuji Hara to claim his OPBF title. The 19 year old kicked off his year in March with a 8 round decision win over the then world ranked Ronelle Ferreras, he gave away a round but ran away with the fight and showed why his promoter Kiyoshi Hatanaka was so excited about him. A fight later he decimated Crison Omayao in just 115 seconds to show that he had power to go with his skills and speed. It was, however, the victory over Hara that broke him away from the pack. Hara was 18-0 (10), a former Japanese champion and the reigning OPBF champion, he was also a highly ranked contender and ranked in the top 10 by all 4 title bodies. Tanaka however showed he could do it all by boxing with Hara for 8 rounds before turning the screw as he entered uncharted territory and stopped Hara in the 10th. It seemed as if Tanaka could have stopped it earlier but was wanting to test his stamina, wanting to go beyond 8 rounds and wanted to see if he could it on as and when needed.
A year ago we knew Naoya Inoue was on the fast track to the top, coming into 2015 we suspect Tanaka will be on an even fast track and it's now expected that he will be fighting for a world title in April. If he manages to do that, and win, he will break Inoue's Japanese record for fewest fights to a world title. Is he manages that then we'll likely be talking about Tanaka as a contender for the 2015 Fighter of the Year.
For those who haven't seen Tanaka feast your eyes on his win over Omayao.
(Image courtesy of Kyodo News)
With 2015 quickly approaching we've decided to do out look at the 15 prospects to watch in 2015. Here we bring you the top 5. Hopefully you'll put them on your radar for the next of the year.
For people who missed part 1 of this list, it can be found here and part 2 can be found here.
A second Filipino in the Super Bantamweight division to get a mention is the talented Genesis Servania (25-0, 11). Servania is a 23 year old who has looked like a star in the making for the last 3 years. Unlike some fighters he's not just popped onto the scene but has carved through world class foes for fun and already holds notable wins over the likes of Gerson Guerrero, Genaro Garcia, Angky Angkotta, Konosuke Tomiyama, Rafael Concepcion, Alexander Munoz and Jose Cabrera. That list alone should have helped make him a top contender.
Blessed with speed, stinging power, great work rate and fantastic ability there is little holding Servania back other than the fact he's in a relatively tough division. If however ALA are willing to break the bank he could reach the top in the next year or so. If they aren't willing to break out the money quite yet than we suspect he'll be competing against other contenders and continuing to reinforce himself as a top contender
We don't think ALA will break the bank nor do we suspect that ALA will throw him to the wolves. There it talk about Servania getting WBO interim world title fight but that's now looking like it's off the table. If ALA can get the youngster some sort of interim title fight then there is a great chance he could end the year as a champion. What we suspect however is that Servania will end the year and a mandatory for one of the champions. He may need to wait until 2016 for his chance at the big time but we think he's pretty much ready as it is.
The third Ohashi gym fighter listed here is Ryo Matsumoto (13-0, 11) who recently won the OPBF Super Flyweight title. Matsumoto was expecting to be moved into title fights in 2015 though has found his progress being moved along a little bit quicker than expected. Sometimes it can seem rash to rush a prospect but Matsumoto has already scored wins over world class opponents such as Hiroyuki Hisataka, a multi-time world title challenger, and Denkaosan Kaovichit, a former world champion, as well as Rusalee Samor, himself a world ranked fighter
Matsumoto is tall for a Super Flyweight and we suspect his future will, long term, be at Bantamweight and not Super Flyweight. For as long as he can make 115lbs however he is a genuine threat to almost anyone in the division. We know he'll want to make a defense, if not 2, of the OPBF title before stepping up to a world title fight. Those bouts will serve as seasoning and will be done in the hope of making sure his stamina is good enough for a world title bout. It could well be that they already feel he is ready such an opportunity
We're assuming that Matsumoto will defend the OPBF belt early next year. After that, and after building up his experience and stamina he'll then being moved into world contention. We're going to guess that he does get a world title bout in late 2015 and it could well be that he manages to get a shot at WBA champion Kohei Kono, if he does we'll see Matsumoto and stablemate Naoya Inoue both holding world titles in the same division
We all know about Naoya Inoue, the “Monster”, and we suspect that his brother, Takuma Inoue (4-0, 1) isn't going to be far behind him in terms of success in the next year or so. We're already pretty confident that Takuma is seeking an OPBF title fight next year and although we confess he's not even close to ready for a world title fight there is little doubt that this youngster has everything needed to be a star in his own right.
Takuma looks freakishly strong for a teenager though we suspect he's still not physically matured yet to be put in with a genuinely big test. What he seems to have however is real speed, a genuine understanding of boxing, a toughness and maybe importantly people to look up to. It's not just Naoya that he can turn to for advice but also the likes of Hideyuki Ohashi and Akira Yaegashi two of the most respected men in Japanese boxing. The guidance offered there is huge and will be massively beneficial for the Japanese youngster.
We don't think 2015 will be “his year” per se but we do suspect he'll win his first title in, or around, summer and then move towards climbing the world rankings to open up several routes. We're unsure which way he will go but suspect 2016 ill see him in his first world title bout, however if he is rushed we'd not worry about him against too many fighters out there,
The Super Bantamweight division has seen several fighters look like they want to avoid real opposition and instead of fighting the best they've done what they can to take on light touches. One man who appears happy to change that is Filipino youngster Albert Pagara (22-0, 15). Dubbed “The Prince” we suspect that Pagara will be wearing a crown sooner rather than later and there is little doubting his ability or team.
Aged just 20 Pagara has shown real world class ability and his performance this past November, when he shut down down the very competent Raul Hirales with genuine ease, was nothing short of exceptional. Not only did Pagara completely dominate the bout but he also went the championship distance of 12 rounds for the first time and never looked to have any issue with the distance. That bout with Hirales was Pagara's 4th of the year with the other 3 lasting a combined 5 rounds and if he does something similar next year he will end the year on the verge of a world title fight.
Pagara doesn't quite look ready for a world title fight as of yet though we suspect by October or November he will be looking for a world title eliminator. Odds are he could hold his own against all the fighters at Super Bantamweight, bar Guillermo Rigondeaux. This kid really is special.
The most obvious name on this list is Kosei Tanaka (4-0, 2) a man who has been on the fast track to a world title since he debut in November 2013. Originally some fight fans may have been apprehensive to believe a young prospect was going to rise through the ranks quicker than Naoya Inoue though that's exactly what Tanaka has done under the guidance of former world champion Kiyoshi Hatanaka.
Blessed with insane speed, a clever boxing brain, freakish physical strength and a team that have full confidence in him it's hard not to see Tanaka reaching the very top in this sport. The only limitations we can see is that he may be too good for his own good or be over-confident. As long as Tanaka remains focused and doesn't become complacent then he's going to become a star.
By the end of summer 2015 we suspect Tanaka will be a world champion at Minimumweight and may even be looking at getting himself Light Flyweight world title before the year is out. If he's not in the mix for Fighter of the Year 2015 we will be shocked.
(Image courtesy of http://www.sankei.com)
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features