With 2018 coming to a close we're already excited about the coming year and what the sport may have in store for us in 2019. Here we look at 5 potential bouts involving Asian fighters at world level, we'll be doing a similar article at Oriental/Asia Pacific level in the coming days.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) Vs Kal Yafai (25-0, 15)
The Super Flyweight division is one of the most packed at the moment, with a good handful of fighters who could all mix in some interesting fights. Among those possible fights is a WBC/WBA unification bout that would pit Asia Vs the UK. The match up in question would see murderous puncher Srisaket Sor Rungvisai take on unbeaten boxer Kal Yafai, in a bout that could go some way towards sorting out the division.
In theory it's not the out and out best bout the division could give us, or even the most obvious, but we would love to see this bout, and suspect it could end what has been a poor reign from the Englishman. It would also leave Juan Francisco Estrada available to have a long awaited rematch with Roman Gonzalez and a potential WBO/IBF unification with the winner of Donnie Nietes Vs Kazuto Ioka taking on Jerwin Ancajas.
Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) Vs Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9)
The Minimumweight division is particularly exciting right now with a lot of young talent emerging to challenge the champions at the top of the division. The longest reigning champion in the sport right now is Thailand's unbeaten Wanheng Menayothin, who has held the WBC Minimumweight title since November 2014 and already ran up 10 defenses. One of the most promising of the emerging contenders is Japan's Tsubasa Koura, who is exciting, skilled, hard hitting and one of the brightest youngsters in Japan.
This bout has been mooted for Spring 2019, and seems almost certainly a done deal to our understanding. It would be a big step up in class for Koura but he's really looked tremendous so far and if he can lure Wanheng to Japan he has a great chance. For Wanheng it'd be another bout against a young upstart, but one that could see him silencing more of his doubters and further extending his impressive unbeaten record.
Tomoki Kameda (36-2, 20) Vs Shingo Wake (25-5-2, 17)
Back in November Tomoki Kameda claimed the WBC "interim" Super Bantamweight title, he's expected to face "regular" champion Rey Vargas in 2019, however there is some talk that bout may not be next for either man, with Vargas expected to face WBA champion Daniel Roman. If that happens it could open the door for Kameda to defend the interim title before facing Vargas. There's one man who has been very public about fighting him, and that's Shingo Wake, who has publicly called Kameda out, a number of times.
If this All Japanese Super Bantamweight clash was made it would pit two skilled fighters against each other in a mouth watering bout that could end up deciding the #1 Japanese fighter in the division, though Ryosuke Iwasa and Yukinori Oguni could also involve themselves in that argument. It would however have to wait until late Spring given that Wake will be fighting on January 19th and would need time to prepare for Kameda, who doesn't seem to have been excited about facing Wake in the past.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) Vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7)
Filipino fighter Vic Saludar travelled to Japan earlier this year to rip the WBO Minimumweight title from the hands of Ryuya Yamanaka, and sadly retired Yamanaka in the process. A return to Japan to defend the title against Masataka Taniguchi would be a potential FOTY candidate with Saludar and Taniguchi both being heavy handed fighters, with solid boxing skills, a good amateur pedigree and exciting, free flowing attacking styles. It's rare to get two solid punchers up against each other at 105lbs and this bout would give us just that.
This bout had been rumoured for New Year's Eve but didn't come off, it could however end up taking place in 2019, with Taniguchi having won the WBO Asia Pacific title since the bout was first rumoured. This could be put on a bumper card in the Golden Week and would make for a great supporting world title bout.
Angel Acosta (19-1, 19) Vs Jonathan Taconing (28-3-1, 22)
It's hard to say what the best bout possible to make at Light Flyweight really is, with a number of match ups that could end up being FOTY contenders featuring many of the top fighters in the division. Not only are there a lot of fantastic fighters at 108lbs but there are a lot that stylistically match up for great fights. One such fight would see WBO world champion Angel Acosta taking on Filipino slugger Jonathan Taconing, who would be getting his third world title fight. This wouldn't be a mega skilled bout, but would be ultra exciting, with both being heavy handed, tough, and having solid stamina.
On paper this is a real possibility, given that Taconing is ranked #2 by the WBO, though Acosta is pencilled in to make a mandatory defense against Ryuji Hara in Spring. If the bout takes place in Summer 2019 then we'd be ecstatic and looking forward to some real unbridled violence. This really would be something special, though either man could be replace with Felix Alvarado, Carlos Canizales, Hiroto Kyoguchi or Christian Araneta and we'd still get a very special bout!
Having gone through the champions and contenders at Light Flyweight our final look at the fighters comes from the prospects in the division. There isn't a huge amount of “name value” here, but for the long term success of the division these are among the guys that really should have fans keep an eye one. They might be 2 or 3 fights from a world title fight, or might be much further away, but these are some of the fighters who are likely to make a mark on the division in the near future.
If you missed part 1 that's available here - The Depth at Light Flyweight - Part 1 - The World Champions
If you missed past 2 that's available here - The Depth at Light Flyweight - Part 2 - The Contenders
Masataka Taniguchi (10-2, 7)
One of the few prospects of note with a loss against his name is Masataka Taniguchi, a 24 year old fighter from the Watanabe gym. As an amateur Taniguchi was a top domestic talent, the captain of his university and someone marked for professional success. As a professional he has been ultra busy, fighting 12 times in 24 months, and has been matched hard already.
The thing that stands out, on paper, about Taniguchi is his two defeats. They have however been to Reiya Konishi and Tsubasa Koura in title fights at Minimumweight, and both were razor thin majority losses. In both of those defeats Taniguchi showed that he was class, with all the skills needed to go all the way. We'd keep him in mind when talking about the best prospects in boxing, never mind the best at 108lbs.
At the moment it's unclear when he will be back in the ring but we are expecting him to fight in May and he will likely find himself in a title fight before the end of 2018.
Abraham Rodriguez (22-0, 11)
Unbeaten 23 year old Abraham Rodriguez is finely balanced between being a prospect and a contender, and with 22 bouts under his belt he is already racking up the experience to be ready for a title fight. Amazingly, given his age, he has already been a professional for over 5 years and in recent bouts has been stepping up.
Rodriguez's record isn't just impressive in terms of numbers but there is also some substance there, with wins over Saul Jaurez, Mauricio Fuentes and and Jose Alonso Nunez Lopez. Sadly removing those names does leave his record looking thin for a fighter with around 20 wins, but for a 23 year old that's a trio of solid wins and he is looking like a fighter who will push his team to give him more and more tests.
After fitting in 3 fights last year Rodriguez has been quiet thus far in 2018, and really hasn't built on a December win over Saul Juarez. Hopefully he'll be back in action shortly and hopefully will be able to get another good win to begin the year.
Christian Araneta (15-0, 13)
Filipino puncher Christian Araneta is a brutal 23 year old from Cebu who has looked fantastic on the domestic scene and already looks like he could be mixing at a higher level. He has been a professional since September 2013 and has already claimed the PBF and WBO Oriental Light Flyweight titles. Not only has he claimed titles but he has also scored several wins of note, including a very big one over Jessie Espinas.
With his power Araneta looks like the next great puncher in the division, a division that already boasts punchers like Jonathan Taconing, Felix Alvarado, Angel Acosta and Carlos Canizales, and with his youth there is a lot of time to develop the skills to match his power.
Araneta fought earlier this month, stopping Ian Ligutan in 2 rounds, and given the quick nature of that blow out he will likely be back in action in the summer and may well fit 3 more fights in this year, making up for a frustrating 2017 in which he just once.
Rene Mark Cuarto (15-1-1, 9)
Another man with a loss on his record, but can't be over-looked, is 21 year old Pinoy hopeful Rene Mark Cuarto. The youngster suffered an earlier career set back to Jerald Paclar, though has since avenged the loss and has now beaten every fighter he has faced. Not only that but he is riding a 6 fight winning run and has managed to pick up a win on foreign soil, winning in China last year. Just as impressive is his activity, which saw him fight 5 times last year.
Although rising through the ranks Cuarto is still lacking a win of note, even on the domestic scene. Whilst that can certainly be held against him he is, as mentioned, only 21 years old and is likely to get that notable win in the near future. In fact it could well come later this year, if his team can afford to get him a good enough foe.
Given that Cuarto fought 5 times last year we are expecting him to be busy this year. So far he has fought just once, scoring a 3rd round KO over the highly experienced Rodel Tejares back in March, though we expect him back out in the ring in the Summer before potentially getting a notable opponent in the fall, if not the winter.
Vince Paras (13-0, 11)
Another Filipino puncher is Vince Paras, a teenager who is really getting fans excited. Aged just 19 the belief is that Paras is something something, and that belief has been there for a while with his handlers debuting the youngster at just 16 years old! Of course he was matched very easily early on but has been progressed well, and and last year he scored an excellent domestic win over Jimboy Haya for the WBO Asia Pacific Youth Light Flyweight title. That win over Haya showed that Paras could go 10 rounds and he looks like his potential is huge.
Although really promising Paras was dropped last time out, though did recover. He might be lacking in the toughness department though that's one of a number of questions that could make following Para really exciting, though the big question is how long he will remain at 108lbs.
Haya hasn't fought yet this year, though we suspect that he will be back in the ring in the Summer, potential moving towards a national title fight. There is however no need to race him, and he can have time to develop, even if he does mature into a Super Flyweight or Bantamweight.
Christian Bacolod (8-0, 6)
It really does seem like thee is a Filipino take over at 108lbs, and Christian Bacolod is yet another young Filipino rising through the division. At 23 he's older than some of the other's but has already began to come close in terms of achievements. His career only consists of 8 bouts but already features good domestic wins over Marlou Sandoval, Mike Kinaadman and Ryan Makiputin.
Bacolod was relatively inactive last year, fighting only twice, and he's not fought so far this year. At his age he can get away with some inactivity but won't want to waste too much time, especially given how many other good Filipino's are in his weight class. If he only fights twice this year there is a good chance he will get left behind.
In the ring Bacolod is a little rough around the edges but with his age there is time to smooth those edges off and add to what is a promising fighter with naturally heavy hands and some lovely combination punching. It's also worth noting that he has fought in front of the big lights on a ALA card and won't be worried about fighting on TV in the future.
Dave Apolinario (6-0, 4)
A final Filipino of note here is another 19 year old in the form of Dave Apolinario. The “Amazing” southpaw made his debut last June with an opening round TKO and has been managed well so far, with 6 fights in 10 months. Not only has he been busy but he has been stepped up and was last out in an 8 rounder, proving he had stamina to go with his power and skills. With that in mind it may be long until he's fighting in 10 rounders and even title bouts.
Apolinario has looked sensational so far and has shown glimpses of his amateur pedigree, skills that have allowed him and his team to be so aggressive with his development. That is likely to continue, and perhaps even step up a level as he continues to mature and physically develop.
Apolinario has already fought twice this year and will likely continue to be busy through the rest of 2018. We don't see him fighting for titles this year, but he will almost certainly break into the OPBF rankings before the year is over. A title fight at that level will be too much for him, for now, but in the next 24 months or so he should be looking Oriental titles.
Kai Ishizawa (4-0, 4)
Japanese youngster Kai Ishizawa is an over-looked 21 year old puncher who debuted last June but already looks like a sensation in the making. He debuted, like many Japanese prospects, against a Thai novice and looked great on debut. In his second bout he destroyed a domestic opponent before another Thai foe. Those first 3 opponents lasted just 5 rounds with Ishizawa. In his most recent bout Ishizawa stepped up and stopped Tatsuro Nakashima in an outstanding performance to further solidify his standing as one of Japan's most over-looked prospects.
Having already shown good power, a good boxing brain and a stiff hard jab Ishizawa is already showing the tools needed to go a very long way. His team have matched him hard already, with two good domestic opponents already on his record, and a good 42 fight amateur career behind him. There work to be done, but he really does look like he could be a diamond in the rough.
Ishizawa is expected to return later in the year in a Japanese Youth title fight. That will be a chance for him to prove himself, claim a title and begin to show he belongs to be fighting at title level. If he wins that belt we expect to see him bang on the door of a Japanese ranking soon afterwards.
Lu Bin (1-0, 1)
The division's wild card in some ways is Chinese sensation Lu Bin. The 23 year old from Jinan is an amateur stand out, who like very few other fighters seems to be a fighter who has made his professional debut, but is also fighting as an amateur. His amateur career seems to be standing in the way of his professional development, which is a huge shame as Bin has the ability to become the star that Chinese boxing want Zou Shiming to be. The novice professional is a true talent with speed, power, skills, defense and a really high ring IQ. Not only that but he already has a world ranking, a regional title and the skills to make an immediate impact on the professional scene.
If Bin can commit to being a professional fighter he can almost choose his rate of progress. He has the tools to be something very special, but a question can be asked of his desire and hunger.
Bin recently won the Chinese National Amateur crown, no big surprise given his pedigree, but the decision to chase professional glory doesn't seem like one he's in a rush to make. His debut professional bout looks like it's going to be an anomaly for now, and it could be a while until he's unleashed on the professional ranks again. Sadly.
(Image courtesy of Watanabe Boxing Gym, Boxrec and Boxmob.jp)
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