The Long Term Champion
Donnie Nietes (34-1-4, 20)
The clear stalwart at Light Flyweight is a Donnie Nietes. The Filipino has really been quietly going about his business whilst also managing to forge one of the most impressive resumes of any active fighter in the lower classes. All the while others have passed in and out of the division with out creating much of a legacy.
The 32 year old WBO champion is the longest reigning active champion in the division by a long way and has held the title for more than 4 years whilst notching up 5 title defenses. Whilst on paper it doesn't sound like a lot they have been impressive defenses including 2 against Moises Fuentes and others against Felipe Salguero and Sammy Gutierrez.
In the ring Nietes is a highly skilled, defensively sound boxer who thrives against fighters bringing the fight to him. Although a counter puncher by trade Nietes has shown an ability to force the fight when he needs to, as he did against Carlos Velarde last time out.
It seems likely that Nietes will, some day soon, head towards the Flyweight division though it's also clear that he still has unfinished business at 108lbs and he'll likely be here for another fight or two as he continues to develop his legacy in the division.
Jonathan Taconing (20-2-1, 17)
The Light Flyweight division isn't really associated with big punchers. Even historically it's not known for it's true bangers. At the moment however the division has a really vicious puncher in the form of 28 year old contender Jonathan Taconing who has an amazing stoppage rate of 73.91%, and has stopped his last 7.
Taconing's opponents haven't been great overall but he has notched a few notable scalps, including Vergilio Silvano, who he stopped in 11 rounds last year, and Warlito Parrenas, who he stopped back in 2010.
Blessed with devastating power, serious toughness and an insanely aggressive manner Taconing is one of the lower weights real danger men and he's also become an avoided fighter with no one giving him a shot at the big time since he was controversially beaten by Kompayak Porpramook back in 2012.
Although an avoided fighter Taconing has impressed and the WBC have got him set for a final eliminator with a world title fight against Pedro Guevara up for grabs for the winner. Being honest a bout between Taconing and Guevara could be a runner for the FOTY, if it gets made.
Ryo Miyazaki (22-1-3, 13)
Boxing has a number of insanely fun to watch fighters and luckily for the Light Flyweight division, it has one of them in in Osakan fighter Ryo Miyazaki, a former WBA champion at Minimumweight. As a fighter Miyazaki is flawed and limited but he is a fighter and brings excitement into the ring as well as the willingness to go to war and the toughness to often come out on top in a war.
Better known as “Kazuto Ioka's best friend” Miyazaki is a world class warrior who has done more than most. He has claimed Japanese and OPBF titles at Light Flyweight as well as the WBA Minimumweight title and is now on the hunt for a Light Flyweight title fight.
Although his resume isn't a who's who he does hold notable wins over the likes of Junichi Ebisuoka, Jerson Mancio, Pornsawan Porpranook, Carlos Verlarde and Jesus Silvestre. The one big mark against him however is his shock upset loss to a then unknown Fahlan Sakkreerin in late 2013, since then however he has rebuilt with back to back stoppage wins.
At the moment the road map for Miyazaki isn't clear though it's expected that he will be moving towards a WBA title fight with Ryoichi Taguchi later this year. That would certainly be a great fight to watch given the styles and abilities of the two men.
The Recently Crowned Prince
Ryoichi Taguchi (21-2-1, 8)
The Light Flyweight division has a lot of new title holders title holders at the moment. For many the most under-rated of those is Japan's Ryoichi Taguchi who has shown a lot to like in his career, even if he's only really come to the attention of fans in recent years. In fact Taguchi was a man who came to the attention of fans in his loss to Naoya Inoue, a loss the proved how tough and game Taguchi was.
In terms of his best win Taguchi beat the then WBA champion Alberto Rossel last year and added Rossel's scalp to those of Yu Kimura, Yuki Chinen and Florante Condes, all of whom are really good fighters.
In the ring Taguchi is a hard working fighter who has a lovely variety of shots, guts, aggression and freakish size for a man at 108lbs. His reach and height alone make him a tricky opponent and his experience of being in with a number of top domestic fighters will certainly help him bow that he's fighting at the top level.
Taguchi's next move is unknown though it's though he will be defending his belt either in April or May with Ryo Miyazaki and Alex Diaz both being rumoured as possible foes for the Watanabe gym fighter.
The Myth, The Man, The Questions
Ali Raymi (24-0, 24)
Yemeni fighter Ali Raymi has become a bit of an internet sensation and his record is, clearly, one of the most perfect in the sport. Sadly for Raymi he is without a win of international renown and has been on the back end of jibes by the international boxing community.
Exciting to watch and blessed with one of the most aggressive mindsets in boxing Raymi is a colourful character who seems able to get the type of attention that the division generally lacks. Sadly however for many fans he is little more than a myth.
In the ring Raymi is all about offense with his attack often depending, almost entirely, on body shots which come in massive volume. It's hard to say how damaging these really are given his competition thus far but they have stopped all of his opponents up to now, something that very few fighters have managed.
From what we understand Raymi's next bout comes against another unbeaten Yemeni fighter, Hani Ansi, in March. The bout pits two very colourful fighters against each other and the winner probably does need to be taken semi-seriously however the lower will almost certainly be seen as a joke.
The Thai Teen
Stamp Kiatniwat (12-0, 5)
The real young gun of the division is Thailand's promising Stamp Kiatniwat who, despite only being a teenager, is tipped to be a major star in the future. Not only is he tipped as something special but he is matched like he's something special and is being pushed hard despite his age.
Stamp made his debut back in 2013 and hie early opponents were the usual selection of novices and limited imports. Last year however he stepped it up massively and took on former world champion Kwanthai Sithmorseng. The win Kwanthai wasn't easy, Kwanthai of course wanted to so defeat the youngster, but the win really showed just how talented the youngster was.
Although a talented boxer-mover we have seen Stamp troubled with his recent win over Espinos Sabu being particularly tough. This bout showed that the youngster needed time to develop from a boy into a man. Once he does that we suspect we'll see him in bigger and better fights against strong opposition.
At the moment there is no opponent lined up for Stamp's next bout though we have a feeling he'll return to action in April or May, probably against a Filipino or Indonesian foe.
The interim Champion
The Philippines have several other notable fighters in this division including WBA interim champion Randy Petalcorin who is a much touted southpaw with venomous power and an exciting style. “Razor” is exciting fighter though one who hasn't yet scored a major win with his best scalp to date being against Walter Tello. Hopefully this year we will find out a lot more about the 23 year old southpaw and find out if he has the ability to claim a “real” world title.
Milan Melindo will be the next Asian fighter to fight for a Light Flyweight title when he steps up to take on IBF champion Javier Mendoza on April 25th. Melindo is a fabously talented fighter but one who seems to struggle when he steps up a level and he has struggled with both Jean Piero Perez and Martin Tecuapetla in recent bouts. He's talented but lacks the power and consistency to be genuinely world class.
The notable none Asian (I)
Having just mentioned the IBF champion it makes sense to talk about him a little bit. The heavy handed Javier Mendoza is a wonderfully fun fighter to watch with serious power, aggression and pressure. He's not the most technically capable nor the fastest but it may well take a very good fighter to beat him. Melindo, in our eyes, lacks the style to get the job done in Mexico but it will be fun when the two collide.
The notable non Asian (II)
Mexico's Pedro Guevara may well be the best fighter in the division and yet the 25 year old is generally over-looked by many in the division. Part of the reason he is over-looked is that he lost his first step up bout, coming up short against John Riel Casimero, however since then he has scored 4 straight wins including notable victories over Raul Garcia, Mario Rodriguez and most recently Akira Yaegashi. This kid is extremely talented and appears to have all the tools to be a star.
WBO Boxing (Nietes)
Essam Sanbani (Raymi)