By Rene Bonsubre
The home fans tried to propel Raymond Poon Kai Ching to victory. But Li Xiang’s hand speed and ring generalship made him the superior fighter Sunday night at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center.
Li, from mainland China, piled up the points using angles . Poon was aggressive and tried to land a homerun punch in almost every round. But he had trouble putting his punches in bunches on many occasions. His single shots were negated by Li’s accuracy. As they grew tried in the later rounds, both were willing to throw defense out of the window and just brawl. But Li’s poise pulled him through.
The scores of the three judges – Edward Ligas (Philippines) – 96-94, Mark Leong (Macao) – 99-91, Mekin Sumon (Thailand) – 97-93. The referee was Surat Soikrachang from Thailand. Li was awarded the vacant WBO Youth light flyweight title as well as taking Poon’s WBC ABCO and ABF belts.
Poon is now 7-2,4KO’s while Li goes up to 7-2-1,2KO’s.
But there was more at stake than just the three belts in the card’s main event. DEF Promotions lost Rex Tso, Hong Kong’s main draw, last year. Tso, after recovering from his eye injury he sustained in a bout against Japanese Kohei Kono in 2017, decided to seek a slot in the 2020 Olympics. This left a void in Hong Kong boxing. The crowd that witnessed the Sunday night card was a far cry from the sell-out, multi-million dollar gate that Tso used to bring at the Hong Kong Convention Center. Poon got the crowd’s admiration for his courage. The Hong Kong fighters on the crowd came up with impressive wins. But it remains to be seen if they can sustain fan interest here in Hong Kong and neighboring Macao where pro boxing is relatively new.
The Japanese contingent finished with 1W-2L. The eye-catching female bout between Japanese Nanako Suzuki and Filipina Renz Dacquel had Suzuki on the canvas in round one. Dacquel held on to her lead with volume punching and came up 39-36 on all cards.
Nibesh Ghale, a Nepalese residing in Hong Kong, battered and bloodied Shogo Yamamoto and stopped him round four. Ren Sasaki, Japan boxing’s 2017 Rookie of the Year, was impressive in the supporting main bout and pummeled a bloody Ma Ge An, from mainland China, forcing the referee to call a halt in the sixth.
Macao’s Cheong Lap Cheong kept his unbeaten record by winning all the rounds against Indonesian Muhamad Wahid in a six rounder. Cheong is now 6-0,4KO’s and has a fan friendly style that could make him a future local attraction.
Lennon Tsoi, a Hong Kong native born in the Philippines, beat Thai Wichet Sengprakhon who quit in his stool at the end of round four. British born Tom Taw avenged his lone career loss by unanimous decision against Jeremy Lee Tsun Yin. In the opening bout, Zhuo Zhiqiang, from mainland China, won his pro debut against Taiwanese Hong Chuan Hsun by unanimous decision. Hong was decked in rounds one and four.
The camp of Chinese promoter Liu Gang celebrated Li Xiang’s win. Li’s two losses came at the hands of Filipinos last year – Miel Fajardo by majority decision in Qingdao, China and Johnathan Almacen by unanimous decision in Pasay City, Philippines. Liu Gang also promotes WBA featherweight champ Xu Can, China’s only world title-holder at the moment. There are Filipino trainers now working in their camp and they will continue to work on Li’s improvement now that he will move up the rankings with this victory.
Photo - Li Xiang celebrates winning three belts
By Rene Bonsubre,Jr
Jerwin Ancajas successfully defended his IBF junior bantamweight title in Stockton, California for the seventh time against Japanese challenger Ryuichi Funai. Ancajas did what was expected. He was a 7-1 betting favorite going into the fight. The Filipino southpaw also needed to bounce back after a lackluster draw against Mexican Alejandro Santiago Barrios last September.
Ancajas in his pre-fight TV interview said that he trained in seclusion in a camp of the Philippine Marines to escape from all the distractions that hounded him in his recent title defenses. This was quite fitting considering that he won his title in 2016 in a fight held inside a Marine and Naval base in Taguig City, Metro Manila against Puerto Rican McJoe Arroyo. Ancajas also formally enlisted in the Philippine Navy reserves last year.
The 27 year old Ancajas rocked Funai in the fourth round. The hail of heavy hooks was enough to cause concern for the ring doctor who checked on Funai at the end of the round. To Funai’s credit he stayed on his feet but the punishment was too much and at the start of the seventh round, the ring doctor recommended to the referee, Edward Collantes of the U.S., that the Japanese has had enough.
This was the 33 year old Funai’s US debut and first world title attempt. He drops to 31-8,22KO’s while Ancajas moves up to 31-1-2,21KO’s.
This performance would have been good enough for Filipino fight fans two decades ago. But Filipinos got spoiled by the unprecedented success of Manny Pacquiao. Now, they demand more from their champions.
With this victory, the question now is will Ancajas get a fight against the other champions or big names in the division?
Another Filipino, Donnie Nietes, who gave up his WBO junior bantamweight crown a few months ago, is also seeking a big money fight with any of the division’s elite.
The Superfly fight cards started in 2017 in California and it brought out the likes of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (Wisaksil Wangek) of Thailand, Roman Gonzalez of Nicaragua, Naoya Inoue of Japan and Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico.
Nietes, even when he fought in the second Superfly card in 2018, seemed to have missed his chance to face any of aforementioned three fighters. Inoue would move up to bantamweight. Gonzalez lost to Sor Rungvisai twice and lost his luster in the process. Nietes had to endure a controversial draw against countryman Aston Palicte when they fought for the vacant WBO junior bantamweight title in Superfly 3.
Ancajas travelled to Thailand in October of last year hoping for a showdown against Sor Rungvisai. But with Estrada getting a revenge unanimous decision win over the Sor Rungvisai last month, the Mexican is now the top dog in the 115 lb division.
Last New Year’s Eve in Macao, Nietes faced his most accomplished opponent in the person of Japanese Kazuto Ioka. Both were veteran three division champions. It was a tight back and forth contest but Nietes’ smarts and ability to make in-fight adjustments got him the split decision victory and the WBO junior bantamweight crown.
This win enabled Nietes to join Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire as the only three Filipino champions to win four or more division titles. Nietes has fought at the world championship level since 2007. He holds the record for being the longest reigning Filipino world champion. Nietes broke the seven year record of the great Flash Elorde when he was a WBO light flyweight champion, his second division belt. For the record, Elorde reigned in only one division, junior lightweight, and was an undisputed champion.
Nietes gave up his WBO title in search of a bigger, career-defining fight. This June, Ioka and Palicte will be fighting for that belt in Chiba City, Japan.
Nietes (42-1-5,23KO’s) will turn 37 this May 13. He has yet to make an announcement as to who he will fight next. In casual conversations, Filipino boxing pundits are wondering if giving up the WBO belt was actually the right move. Now, that he has no belt to offer, the other champs who want unification are not calling him out.
Moving up to bantamweight is a future option for Ancajas but maybe not for Nietes, who would be too small for 118lbs. Time is also not on the side of Nietes. But even if he retires at this point in time, Nietes will be remembered as one of the best boxers produced by the Philippines.
Aside from WBC champ Estrada and ex-champ Sor Rungvisai, the other belt-holder option at 115lbs is Khalid Yafai of the U.K., who has the WBA title. The winner of Ioka-Palicte will be added to this fan-friendly mix.
Photo- Jerwin Ancajas (Left) and Donnie Nietes
These articles are submitted by guest writers and sites. They aren't submitted by the usual folk behind Asian Boxing and don't fall in line with our editorial stance, giving a fresh view on various boxing issues from the Asian boxing scene.