Although not many fights for 2019 have been officially announced there are numerous contests rumoured and others that are thought to be in the pipe line, such as mandatory title challenges. Here we take a look at some of those fights.
Hiroki Okada (19-0, 13) [岡田 博喜] Vs Raymundo Beltran (35-8-1-1, 21)
Supposedly set for February 10th in California is a bout between former Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific Light Welterweight champion Hiroki Okada take on former WBO Lightweight champion Raymundo Beltran. The bout would have fireworks written all over it, and push the winner onto a potential title fight, with Jose Carlos Ramirez likely be an option. It now seems like the bout won't be taking place in February, but could end up happening later in the year.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) Vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7) [谷口 将隆]
Rumoured to be set for February 25th we'll be seeing WBO Minimumweight champion Vic Saludar return to Japan to take on Japanese challenger Masataka Taniguchi. Both of these men are hard hitters in the lowest class, both have under-rated skills and this should make for a really exciting match up. The champion would, rightfully, be favoured, but it is a very dangerous first defense and could be a potential FOTY candidate, given the styles of the two fighters.
Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] Vs Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9) [小浦 翼]
WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin is rumoured to be making his international debut later in the year, to take on unbeaten Japanese fighter Tsubasa Koura in Tokyo. This bout began to be rumoured after Wanehng's last bout, and has excited fan much more than a previously rumoured contest between the Thai and Japanese national champion Shin Ono, in a bout that didn't really get the juices flow. Koura would be the under-dog, but would be a very live challenger for the unbeaten Thai champion.
Angel Acosta (19-1, 19) vs Jonathan Taconing (28-3-1, 22)
Considered as a possible world title fight for Spring we could see WBO Light Flyweight champion Angel Acosta defending his belt against Jonathan Taconing, who is highly ranked by all of the 4 world title bodies. Taconing had been ordered to fight in a WBC world title eliminator, and may go that route, but a shot at the WBO champion certainly shouldn't be ruled out given he is ranked highly by the Puerto Rican organisation. This has the potential to be a very special bout, and something to get very excited about given that both men are hard hitters who fight with bad intentions.
Carlos Canizales (21-0-1, 17) Vs Tetsuya Hisada (33-9-2, 19) [久田 哲也]
WBA "regular" Light Flyweight champion Carlos Canizales has twice fought in the Land of the Rising Sun and put on a show in both, fighting to a draw with Ryoichi Taguchi and taking a win over Reiya Konishi. He's now expected to return for a third visit to defend his title against veteran Tetsuya Hisada, who is the WBA's #1 contender for the title. Hisada vacated the Japanese title in late 2018 and is expected to make the most of his top ranking with the Panamanian outfit. He would be a very clear under-dog against the Venezuelan puncher, but at 34 years old it really is now or never for the Osaka.
Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-2, 20) Vs Ryuichi Funai (31-7, 22) [船井 龍一]
If a much anticipated showdown between IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas and WBC counterpart Srisaket Sor Rungvisai can't be made in the coming weeks Ancajas is expected to be ordered to make a mandatory defense of his title against Ryuichi Funai, who earned his mandatory shot by stopping Victor Olivo in November. The Filipino champion would be favoured, but has under-delivered in recent bouts and Funai will be fully aware that this could be his one and only shot at a world title. This all Asian bout is likely to be pushed for hard by Funai's team, at the Watanabe gym, though Ancajas does have other options on the table including a move up in weight.
The second half of November is fast approaching and it's set to be a busy one for fans who follow Asian boxers. We have a nice mix of Youth, world, regional and female title fights coming up over the next 2 weeks or so
Tetsuya Hisada (32-9-2, 19) Vs Akihiro Toya (8-4, 1) - Japan
We kick off the second part of the months with a Japanese Light Flyweight title bout, as defending champion Tetsusya Hisada seeks his 5th defense, and takes on the unheralded Akihiro Toya. On paper this should be a mismatch, in favour of Hisada who is approaching a world title fight, but he can ill afford any sort of set back right now. The champion is now 34 and will know that even a serious cut here could end his dreams of a world title fight. For Toya this will be an unexpected chance, given he has lost 2 of his last 3, but he could pull out the upset if Hisada over-looks him.
Chaoz Minowa (6-1, 5) Vs Ibeth Zamora Silva (29-6, 12) - Mexico
On November 17th we'll see Japanese fighter Chaoz Minowa challenge Mexico Ibeth Zamora Silve, for Zamora's WBC Female Flyweight title. This will be Minowa's second shot t a world title, and another loss really will harm her hopes of ever winning a world title, despite her strong amateur credentials. Silva won the title earlier this year, and this will be her first defence, though she is a world class fighter and had a prolonged reign at Light Flyweight. A win for Silva will establish her reign, though she'll likely be looking for bigger and more notable fights, if she can over-come the aggressive but flawed Minowa.
West Japan Rookie of the Year Finals- Japan
The All Japan Rookie of the Year finals gets the second set of fighters as the West Japan representatives are decided on. The show's winners will be back in action just before Christmas as they take on their East Japan representatives in the crucial All Japan final. The regional final has a number of really good bouts on it, and if they manage to claim bot only the West crown but the All Japan one they will be expected to be moved into title fights in the relatively near future. This is a key show on the Japanese calendar, and is a very significant show for fans on the domestic scene.
Ryuto Oho (11-4-1, 3) Vs Yuta Nakayama (6-1-1, 3) - Japan
Just a day after the West Japan Rookie final we see youngsters colliding in a Japanese Youth Light Flyweight title bout. The bout will see 2013 All Japan Flyweight Rookie of the year Ryuto Oho making his first defense of the Japanese Youth title as he takes on the once beaten Nakayama, who is riding a 5 fight winning streak into this bout. Oho won the title back in April, stopping Tetsuya Tomioka, and looks to be a better fit at 108lbs than he was at 112lbs. Nakayama on the other hand looks to be stepping up a level, and may well face his stiffest test to date in what looks like an excellent match up.
Ayaka Miyao (22-7-1, 6) Vs Nao Ikeyama (18-4-3, 5) III - Japan
It's not often that we support WBA "Interim" title bouts but with WBA “regular” Atomweight champion Monseratt Alcaron suffering an injury we can't help but support an “interim” title here as Ayaka Miyao and Nao Ikeyama face off in an excellent rematch. The first bout between these two came in 2016, when Ikeyama beat the much younger Miyao due to a nasty knee injury that kept Miyao out of the ring for over a year. That win for Ikeyama was her last victory, and she would lose the WBO Atamweight title this past July. Aged 49 a win for Ikeyama would be a massive statement whilst a win for Miyao would see her getting revenge for the loss a few years ago. A brilliant match up, and a rare example of the WBA using their “interim” titles properly!
Kudura Kaneko (8-0, 5) Vs Toshio Arikawa (15-5, 13) - Japan
Not every great match up needs a title, and we can't help but get very excited about the Japanese Welterweight bout between rising youngster Kudura Kaneko, a Japanese-Afghan prospect, and former champion Toshio Arikawa, fighting for the first time since losing the title. Both of these men have real belief in their power and this could end up being a shoot out, as well as a potential passing of the torch on the Japanese domestic scene. The bout won't get much attention globally, but that doesn't take away from the interest the bout has from us, and Japanese domestic fans.
Dmitry Bivol (14-0, 11) vs Jean Pascal (33-5-1-1, 20) - USA
Outside of Asia the biggest fight with an Asian as we get towards the end of the month will see Kyrgyzstan born Russian Dmitry Bivol defending his WBA Light Heavyweight title against Canadian based Haitian Jean Pascal. The talented Bivol, now widely regarded as one of the top Light Heavyweights on the planet, had looked at other opponents but due to various issues ended up with the 36 year old Pascal. The Canadian regularly makes for exciting bouts, due to his style, and he is still popular but he is 4-3 in his last 7 and has twice been stopped by Sergey Kovalev in the last 4 years. This should be fun, but comfortable for the champion.
Richard Pumicpic (21-8-2, 6) vs Musashi Mori (7-0, 5) - Japan
Filipino fighter Richard Pumipcic makes it 3 in a row in Japan as he returns to defend his WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title against teenager Musashi Mori. Pumicpic won the title when he defeated Hisashi Amagasa in Tokyolast year. His only defense of the belt saw far saw him defeat Yoshimitsu Kimura, in a clear but competitive bout, and now he returns to take on one of the country's best teenager. Mori has impressed, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year, but this is a monstrous step up in class and if he wins he could find himself on the verges of the world rankings. It's a big risk with a huge reward for the challenger, but he is clearly the under-dog.
Knockout CP Freshmart (18-0, 7) Vs Byron Rojas (25-3-3, 11) II - Thailand
The final bout of note for the month comes from Thailand, as WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart defends the WBA title against former champion Byron Rojas, the man he actually beat for the belt back in back in June 2016. Since beating Rojas we've seen Knockout make 5 defenses, including wins over Shin Ono, Rey Loreto and Xiong Zhao Zhong, but he's failed to really impress on a consistent basis. He's a solid champion, but one who doesn't seem to look spectacular. Rojas is 8-0 since the loss to Knockout, but has only been fighting at the Nicaraguan domestic level and it's a little bit unclear on how good he's been since losing the belt. In saying that however he's incredibly hungry for this bout and does seem determined to take the title back to Nicaragua. This could be a great way to end what looks to be a fantastic month of action.
Over the last few days there have been a number of stories that have linked together to suggest that the Light Flyweight division, arguably the best division in the sport right now, is set to be shaken up. So rather than cover all the news pieces individually we've decided to roll a number of them into one and look at the possible knock on effects to the division.
Hiroto Kyoguchi heading up
The first bit of news is that hard hitting Japanese youngster Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0, 7) [京口 紘人] will be vacating the IBF Minimumweight title. There had been talk about the Watanabe gym fighter remaining at Minimumweight for a potential unification bout at the end of 2018 but it now seems like those plans have changed and he is set to vacate the IBF title and move to Light Flyweight.
The exciting 24 year old had made 2 defenses of the title, stopping Carlos Buitrago and taking a decision win over Vince Paras, but had spoken about weight struggles and suffered cramps from weight loss during the bout with Paras in May.
Ryoichi Taguchi returns
Former WBA "super" and IBF champion Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12) [田口良一], who is a stablemate of Kyoguchi at the Watanabe Gym, returned to the gym recently. Although he hasn't set his flag out on what he's going to be doing going forward he is certainly back in the gym and getting back into fighting shape. Originally it seemed like he was going to return at Light Flyweight, but it now seems to be for Taguchi to move up in weight and compete in the Flyweight division, which is going through a lot of changes at the moment.
Hekkie Budler vacates IBF
The man who beat Taguchi for the WBA "super" and IBF titles was Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10), who is now set to vacate the IBF title rather than defend the title against mandatory challenger Felix Alvarado (33-2, 29). This is likely to lead to a bout between Budler and Kyoguchi for the WBA "super" title, in what will be a very exciting and action packed bout as Kyoguchi looks to become a 2-weight champion.
The knock on of the IBF title becoming vacant is that the heavy handed Alvarado will fight for the vacant belt. At the moment Alvarado is ranked #1 by the IBF with the #2 ranking being vacant and the #3 position being held by Filipino fighter Randy Petalcorin (29-2-1, 22), in what would be an incredibly good fight for the vacant title. Another possible option to be Alvarado's opponent would be Japanese national champion Tetsuya Hisada (32-9-2, 19) [久田 哲也], who is ranked #4 by the IBF.
Over the last few weeks we've looked at the Light Flyweight world champions, the key contenders and a number of prospects. So to end this feature we'll look at one more thing that Light Flyweight has going for it, the match ups. And if we're being honest this is where the division really comes into it's own as it's set to give us some amazing bouts in the coming weeks and months. These include bouts for all the world titles!
Ryoichi Taguchi (27-2-2, 12) vs Hekkie Budler (31-3, 10)
On May 20th we get the first of 4 mouth watering world title bouts. This bout will see WBA “super”, IBF and Ring Magazine champion Ryoichi Taguchi defending his collection of title as he takes on former WBA Minimumweight champion Hekkie Budler. For Taguchi the bout will be his 8th defense of the WBA title and his first defense of the other two belts as he looks to build on a big win over Milan Melindo last year. As for Budler this will be his second shot at a Light Flyweight title, after a thrilling 12 round split decision loss to Melindo last September. The winner of this bout has a strong claim to be the divisional number #1 but given the depth in the division things aren't really that clear.
We're expecting this to be a really thrilling war as the gangly and hard working Taguchi takes on the quick and gritty determination of Budler. We're expecting something very exciting here, and wouldn't be surprised by the bout being a very thrilling 12 round war.
Ken Shiro (12-0, 6) vs Ganigan Lopez (29-7, 18) II
Less than a week after the Taguchi Vs Budler bout we get another fantastic match up, with WBC champion Ken Shiro defending his title against Ganigan Lopez, the man he took the belt from just over a year ago. Since winning the title Ken Shiro has made a couple of defense, beating Pedro Guevara and Gilberto Pedroza and has physically matured. At the age of 26 the champion is just coming into his prime and has the opportunity to become one of the faces of Japanese boxing. Lopez on the other hand is 36 years and this will be likely be his final big bout, if he loses, so will not be travelling to pick anything but a win and the title. As we saw in the first bout these two are well matched and this should be a compelling match once again.
Notably the winner of this will also have a great claim to be the best in the division. The champion has already scored notable wins over Lopez, Guevara and Pedroza whilst the challenger holds wins over the likes of Mario Rodriguez, Yu Kimura and Jonathan Taconing.
Angel Acosta (17-1, 17) vs Carlos Buitrago (30-3-1, 17)
On June 16th it's the turn of WBO champion Angel Acosta, with the huge punching Puerto Rican defending his title for the first time, and battling against Nicaraguan Carlos Buitrago. The champion won the title last year, when he stopped Juan Alejo, and looked back to his destructive best following a May 2017 loss to Kosei Tanaka. As for Buitrago the 26 year old challenger has lost 3 of his last 6 and will have to look at this bout as potentially his last chance, especially given how badly he was beaten last time out by Hiroto Kyoguchi. For Acosta this bout is a chance to score a win over a well known name, and prove that he really belong to remain in the world title mix whilst Buitrago will almost certainly see this bout as a do or die opportunity.
With Acosta's power this could be over early, especially given that Buitrago was simply broken into submission by Kyoguchi, however the Nicaraguan has always seemed more suited to the Light Flyweight division and may well see the recent success of Cristofer Rosales as something of an inspiration. This isn't likely to be the best bout coming up, but should be very exciting.
Carlos Canizales (20-0-1, 16) vs Bin Lu (1-0, 1)
WBA Regular champion Carlos Canizales will be making his first defense of the title that he won this past March, when he beat Reiya Konishi. Despite being the champion the Venezuelan won't actually be the focus of the bout, instead that will be China's Lu Bin, who looks to create history and become the first man to win a world title in just his second professional bout. The task is a huge one for Bin but if he can come out on top here he will get his name written into the record books and set a record that we don't imagine will be beaten any time soon, if ever. The Chinese fighter is a former amateur stand out, a break out success of the APB and someone willing to chase greatness. Canizales enters as the unbeaten champion, but won't have the pressure associated with being a champion for this bout.
With the winner in line to face Taguchi, by virtue of the WBA title, this bout is not only a major one between a defending champion and total novice, but also indirectly with the winner potentially getting such a big opportunity later. We expect Bin to play safe, use a lot of movement and try to move his way to a win, but Canizales can box and bang and may be a bit too powerful and experienced for Bin's history chasing moment.
As well as the bouts that have been signed there are also some great match ups we could see later this year, as the contenders look to eliminate each other and force themselves into a title fight. Here are some that we really would love the look of, and really hope get made.
Felix Alvarado (32-2, 28) Vs Jonathan Taconing (27-3-1, 22)
A bout between two crude but tough and huge punching fighters would sure deliver fire works, and that's exactly what we'd expect if Nicaragua's Felix Alvarado fought Filipino Jonathan Taconing. Both of these men have fallen short in 2 world title fighters and are chasing a third crack at a title and what a better way to get that fight than by going through another of the division's monster punchers.
Tetsuya Hisada (31-9-2, 19) Vs Reiya Konishi (15-1, 5)
Japanese boxing is well known for it's warriors and exciting back and forth wars. A bout between Tetsuya Hisada and Reiya Konishi would certainly deliver us another war with both fighters loving to let their hands go and have a fight. We wouldn't expect anything too explosive or defensively impressive here, but it would be a toe-to-toe war with both men looking to out work, out land and out punch he other. Both fighters would be looking to impress and with their style's we would get something enthralling.
Milan Melindo (37-3, 13) Vs Randy Petalcorin (28-2-1, 21)
We don't get enough top tier all-Filipino bouts, though we would like to see more and a bout between former IBF champion Milan Melindo and former WBA “interim” champion Randy Petalcorin would be just that. Both fighters will be looking to move towards getting a world title fight later in the year and both will know that a win over the other would put them forward as one of the leading Filipino contenders. Not only that but this would be a highly skilled, fast paced chess match.
Christian Araneta (15-0, 13) Vs Jesse Espinas (18-2, 11) II
Another all Filipino bout that makes a lot of sense is a rematch between Christian Araneta and Jesse Espinas. These two met back in 2015 with Espinas being stopped in 8 rounds of a fantastic bout in Danao City and with a few years since that bout a rematch does make sense. From what we under-stand both men have shown interest in a rematch and it would really push the winner towards a world title fight. High risk, high reward and high potential for an exciting bout.
Edward Heno (12-0-5, 5) Vs Rey Loreto (24-14, 16)
Yet another potentially thrilling all-Filipino bout, really showing how strong the country is at 108lbs, would see OPBF champion Edward Heno take on former world title challenger Rey Loreto. Heno is a rising contender who has made his mark over the last 12 months or so with notable results against Cris Ganoza, Seita Ogido and Merlito Sabillo but really could do with one more testing bout before looking at a world title fight. Loreto on the other hand has been matched hard through his career but has proven his ability some excellent fighters and could see a win over Heno as his chance to move towards a second world title bout, and bounce back from a loss to Knockout CP Freshmart.
If there is a boxing god out there we'll get some of those extra bouts to go alongside the currently scheduled contests as the Light Flyweight division continues to impress and make it's mark.
If you missed the other parts of this series
Part 1 is available here - The Depth at Light Flyweight - Part 1 - The World Champions
Part 2 is available here - The Depth at Light Flyweight - Part 2 - The Contenders
Part 3 is available here - The Depth at Light Flyweight - Part 3 - The Prospects
(Image of Acosta courtesy of www.promocionesmiguelcotto.com)
The argument over which division in boxing is the best is an interesting one and is often one where there is a number of divisions of real consideration. For me however one division currently stands out above all the others due to a combination of talent, depth of competition and the match ups we've been getting in recent times, along with the bout scheduled to take place in coming months.
The division is the Light Flyweight division, which is scarily deep right now, has a brilliant mixture of talent and styles and is delivering top quality bouts on a regular basis. It also has one of the sports few unified champions and is a division with so many exciting contenders that it's almost inevitable that some top fighters will miss out on big opportunities.
For part 2 of this 4 part series we'll begin by looking at the division's most notable contenders, ranging from veterans and former champions to rising hopefuls looking to get a chance at breaking through. The depth here really is incredible and although we've made a solid effort to include a big number of contenders, we know we've missed some, the problem is the division really is too deep for it's own good.
For those who missed part 1 that's available here - The Depth at Light Flyweight - Part 1 - The World Champions
Ganigan Lopez (29-7, 18) – Former WBC champion
Mexican veteran Ganigan Lopez is the division's stalwart. Aged 36 he is certainly an old fighter for the weight class, but he lives up to his moniker of “El Maravilla” and is one of the most rounded fighters in the division. He's a 15 year veteran of the sport who has really improved with age and taken on a who's who whilst fighting all over the world.
Among the fighters Lopez has faced include Juan Palacios, Adrian Hernandez, Denver Cuello, Luis Ceja, Mario Rodriguez, Pedro Guevara, Yu Kimura, Jonathan Taconing and Ken Shiro. Whilst he has come up short against some of those, including a loss to Ken Shiro last year, he is still very much a leading contender who has not only got experience and ring craft but under-rated power and stamina and he really is a fighter who controls the ring like very few men in the division.
Sadly his single world title reign was a short one, with his title win coming in March 2016, his sole successful defense in July of that year before losing the title the following May to Ken Shiro. With a rematch against Ken Shiro due in May it could be do or die for Lopez who is getting on in year is probably looking at his last chance to make a big mark on the sport before retirement. A win in the rematch Ken Shiro would however open some big doors for the veteran.
Pedro Guevara (30-3-1, 17) – Former WBC Champion
Another former WBC champion who remains as a contender is Pedro Guevara, who just 28 but already a 10 year veteran of the sport. Guevara is a brilliantly intelligent boxer who is incredibly smart both in and out of the ring. It's his brain which has helped him make the most of his talent, and he really does have a lot of natural boxing ability as well as a very experienced team around him. Added to that is his experience, which includes fights around the likes of Mario Rodriguez, John Riel Casimero, Raul Garcia, Akira Yaegashi, Yu Kimura, Oswaldo Novoa and Ken Shiro.
Guevara's most notable win was his 2014 win over Akira Yaegashi for the WBC title, which he defended against Richard Claveras and Ganigan Lopez, before losing in a upset to Yu Kimura 11 months after winning the belt. Since then he has gone 4-1, with the loss being to Ken Shiro. The worrying thing for Guevara is that his last 7 bouts have gone to the score cards, and there are question marks about his power. Although he does have the skills and ring craft to not need to rely on paper, the lack of it at world level is somewhat a problem for him and could prevent him from reclaiming a world title.
Interestingly, at the time of writing, Guevara is pencilled in to fight his next bout on May 5th against Roman Gonzalez at Super Flyweight. If that bout does take place then it's very unlikely we'll see Guevara back at 108lbs. However until we see what Guevara's future holds he is still widely regarded as a leading contender at Light Flyweight.
Milan Melindo (37-3, 13) – Former IBF Champion
The division's most recently deposed world champion is technically excellent Filipino boxer Milan Melindo, who lost the IBF title in December 2017 to Ryoichi Taguchi. The Filipino made his debut way back in September 2005 and has racked 40 fights into his career already, yet is only 30 years old. Sadly though for Melindo his future is probably a little bit limited as he's a very old 30 with 300 professional rounds already under his belt and some very draining fights, including recent wars with Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, Hekkie Budler amd Taguchi.
Melindo, like the aforementioned Guevara, is a thinking man's boxer. His understanding of range, tempo and timing are brilliant. At his best Melindo is razor sharp, a perfect punch picker and has the ability to throw some of the best combinations in the division. Sadly, like with many smart fighters, he can be found to be lazy and can struggle when the pace moves up a gear and he has also shown issues with cuts in recent bouts, suffering bad cuts against Fahlan and Budler.
At the moment it's unclear when Melindo will be back in action but it's hard to imagine him being out for too. It's likely going to be a case that he will be given time to totally heal up after some very hard bouts, then look to retain later in the year.
Hekkie Budler (31-3, 10) – Former WBA Minimumweight Champion
One other former world champion in the Light Flyweight title mix is South African speedster Hekkie Budler, who claimed his world title at Minimumweight where he had a pretty solid run as the WBA champion. His wins at the lower weight include victories over Nkosinathi Joyi, Pigmy Kokietgym, Xiong Zhao Zhong, Jesus Silvestre and Simphiwe Khonco. His most notable bout at 108lbs was a razor thin less last year to Melindo for the IBF title and due to the competitive nature of that bout he's stayed well and truly in the mix.
Budler is a gutsy warrior who lacks power but has a great engine, throws a lot of punches and is quick. On paper he's likely to have a hard time with almost anyone in the top 10, but they are also going to have a hard time with him. His determination is really impressive and his output is amazing, even at the lower weights. Sadly he does look like he can be out powered, and he was dropped in the final round by Melindo.
Budler will return to the ring on May 20th to take on Taguchi in a bout for the IBF, WBA and Ring magazine titles. The bout comes just 2 days after his 30th birthday and although he does still have quite a bit left he has been in some wars and will likely know that his shots at the top are numbered, with the Taguchi bout likely to be one of his last.
Edward Heno (12-0-5, 5) – OPBF Champion
One of the more notable rising Filipino's in the division is OPBF champion Edward Heno, an unbeaten fighter who has began to shoot up the rankings and is on the fringes of getting a world title fight. Unlike many on this list he isn't a former champion but already holds a number of notable wins, including stoppages against Cris Ganoza and Seita Ogido as well as a decision over Merlito Sabillo. Whilst those wins don't mean a massive amount on the world stage they are solid wins for a fighter who just moved from a prospect to a contender.
Heno's record is littered with draws and close decisions but 3 of those draws came in his first 3 bouts and he is certainly improving with every fight, as he showed by stopping two of the fighters who have held him to a draw. He is a powerful fighter who is building on his strengths and is becoming a real threat in the division.
Heno is probably 12-18 months away from being truly ready for a world title fight, but all 4 world title bodies rank him in the top 15 and he could be a voluntary defense for any of the champions later in the year. With his youth, power and development he could well be a real nightmare for any of the top handful of fighters and should be viewed as one to watch, even if he does lack the name value of some of the former champions.
Tetsuya Hisada (30-9-2, 19) – Japanese Champions
Another lower level champion looking to get a world title shot this year is Japanese national champion Tetsuya Hisada, who at the age of 33 really doesn't have the time to waste if he intends to make the next step up in class. It's worth noting that he hasn't got a pretty looking record, but he is better than those numbers suggest, and is in great form, having remained unbeaten in almost 3 years. His current 9 fight winning run has seen him go 9-0 (8) and score really good domestic wins over the likes of Shun Kosaka, Kenichi Horikawa, Atsushi Kakutani and Takeri Kamikubo.
Hisada, like many on this list, has got his next bout organised already, an April 14th title defense against fellow Japanese veteran Koji Itagaki, and if he comes through that he, and his team, do seem likely to chase a world title fight and ditch the Japanese title. It's worth noting he is in the top 10 with all 4 world title bodies and seems open to facing any of the world champions.
In the ring Hisada is a real battler. He throws a lot of shots, seems to get stronger as bouts go on and although not a monster puncher he's a heavy enough handed fighter to wear opponents down from sheer accumulation. At 33 his ability to keep coming in the later rounds might begin to wane, but for now he's a fighter full of confidence and with a serious point to prove, especially given that Ken Shiro gave up the Japanese title to fight for the WBC belt, just weeks before a scheduled 2017 bout with Hisada. That along gives Hisada a clear hunger to face the current WBC king.
Felix Alvarado (32-2, 28)
The Light Flyweight division has some massive puncher, in fact Angel Acosta and Carlos Canizales are world champions mostly due to their incredible punching power. They however probably don't have the heaviest hands in the division, instead that honour is probably with Nicaraguan terror Felix Alvarado, who in all honesty is the division's real boogey man. The 29 year old from Managua has 14-0 (13) since suffering back to back defeats to Kaztuo Ioka and Juan Carlos Reveco and he is a nightmare to fight.
Although Alvarado has lost his two biggest bouts he has remained a contender with notable wins over fringe contenders like Luis de la Rosa, Larluis Diaz, Jose Antonio Jimenez and most impressive Fahlan Sakreerin Jr. Not only is he a big puncher but he is an ultra aggressive fighter who appears to take a really hard shot very well, and is always swarming opponents looking to take them out as early as possible, with 15 opening round T/KO's already.
Alvarado's next bout isn't set yet, but he's in line for an IBF title fight, having scored his win over Fahlan in eliminator for the IBF title, and is looking like a fighter who wants to stay busy rather than just waiting for his shot. In 2017 he fought 6 times, and he already has two bouts under his belt this year. With that in mind he may well fight in the coming weeks and continue to tick over until getting his third world title shot.
Jonathan Taconing (27-3-1, 22)
Another of the division's tough guys with a serious punch is the limited, and some what crude, but wonderfully hard hitting Filipino Jonathan Taconing, who is also a 2-time world title challenger. The 31 year old “Lightning” debuted back in 2007 and looked like a savage puncher straight away, stopping his first 3 foes in a combined 4 rounds. A couple of set backs on the domestic scene slowed his ascent but he would go on to climb the rankings quite quickly and get a shot in 2012 against Kompayak Porpramook, losing a very controversial technical decision in Thailand. That loss put Taconing on the map but made him a fighter to avoid.
A4 year unbeaten run would follow for Taconing, who would go on to claim the OPBF title and score notable wins over Vergilio Silvano and Ramon Garcia Hirales before he would lose his second shot, a clear defeat to Ganigan Lopez in 2016. Since that defeat Taconing has gone 5-0 (4). He;s not as naturally talented as Alvarado, and doesn't quite set up his shots as well, but is hard hitting and teak tough and not many fighters will engage him in toe-to-toe war.
Taconing last fought back in March, in a domestic bout against Robert Onggocan, in what looks to have been a surprisingly competitive bout. It's worth noting, like many on this list, he is ranked by all 4 world title bodies, with 3 of the 4 having him in the top 5, and it's clear that he is on the verges of another world title fight. That fight might come this year, though we doubt any of the champions will be in a rush to face him.
Rey Loreto (24-14, 16)
Yet another puncher in the division is Rey Loreto, another of the talented Filipino fighters plying their trade at Light Flyweight, though also capable of fighting at Minimumweight. Loreto has the most messed up record of any contender in the division, if not the sport right now, but is a true nightmare of a fighter to face. Aged 27 Loreto is in his prime, but is already a 10 year veteran and and a fighter who has developed from a 0-4 teenager to being danger man and a true contender.
Loreto's career turned around in 2013, when he beat Pornsawan Porpramook in Thailand, and then had a huge show in the arm the following year when he scored a monster upset against Nkosinathi Joyi, something he repeated the following year. Sadly for Loreto he saw a 7 fight unbeaten run come to an end last year, losing to Knockout CP Freshmart in a Minimumweight title bout, but that set back may well have served as a blessing in disguise and a chance for Loreto to realise that his best weight is Light Flyweight.
Having fought in February Lerot may not fight again for a while, but is world ranked by the WBC, at Light Flyweight, and the WBA, at Minimumweight, and is certainly a fighter who has time on his side to rebuild and work on getting a second world title fight. It's unlikely he'll get a shot thus year, but 2019, or 2020, could well be his year.
Randy Petalcorin (28-2-1, 21) – Former WBA “interim” Champion
Another Filipino in and around the world title scene is former WBA “interim” champion Randy Petalcorin, who once looked like he was right in the mix before his career stalled, massively. Back in 2014 Petalcorin claimed the interim crown and defended it once, blitzing Ma Yi Min in Beijing. Sadly though he has gone 5-1 since impressive display, over 4 years ago. Worse than the inactivity is the quality he has been fighting, and from being on the edge of a world title fight he has found himself fighting regional journeymen.
As a fighter Petalcorin is a natural talent. He's a wonderfully crisp boxer-puncher and despite having been a professional for 9 years he is still only 26 and whilst it does feel like he is wasting his time at the moment he does have a lot of youth on his side. Hopefully that won't give him and excuse to waste more time, as he really is such a pure joy to watch.
Whilst it's easy to look at Petalcorin's record and see two losses one of those was a very early career defeat to future world champion Marlon Tapales whilst the other was a hotly disputed split decision loss to Omari Kimweri 2 years ago. That loss to Kimweri has been followed by 5 straight wins, and it's now time Petalcorin showed his skills are against more testing opponents than he's been up against in recent times.
Tibo Monabesa (17-0-2, 8)
Indonesian boxing has lacked a star since the retirement of Chris John though they may be on the verge of having a new one thanks to the talented Tibo Monabesa. The 27 year old southpaw has been a professional for a little under 6 years but has already progressed far beyond domestic level and is the current WBC International Silver champion, having already notched two defenses of the belt and become a bit of hit at home.
To date his best wins are only over regional opponents, but still they have come against decent fighters, such as Rene Patilano and Lester Abutan. Those wins, along with his title, have helped him creep into the world rankings without getting much international fan fare. At the time of writing he is in the top 15 with the WBA, WBO and WBC and although not quite ready for a world champion he's certainly not far off a title fight.
With one fight already under his belt in 2018 we're expecting to see a busy and eventful year for the man from Jakarta and we suspect he'll fight progressively better opponents through to the end of the year as he and his team prepare for a world title fight, possible as early as 2019. Sadly though for his growing local fanbase it's unlikely he and his team will manage to secure home advantage and he will likely be on the road when a world title fight is offered to him.
Reiya Konishi (15-1, 5) Former Japanese Minimumweight Champion
Former Japanese Minimumweight champion Reiya Konishi is another in the long line of young Japanese fighters making a mark in the lower weight classes. The 24 year old from Kobe made his mark on the domestic scene by winning the Rookie of the Year in 2014 before claiming the Japanese title in 2017. As the Japanese Minimumweight champion Konishi impressed with wins against Shin Ono and Kenta Matsui before moving up in weight and vacating the title. Sadly for Konishi he lost earlier this year, coming up short to Carlos Canizales.
Despite losing to Canizales, in a bout for the WBA “regular” title, we were impressed by Konishi who gritted his teeth after being knocked down early on and really gave Canizales problems with his fantastic work rate and desire. It may have been a loss but it was a “good loss” in many ways and showed that he really does belong in the title mix going forward.
Konishi's loss to Canizales was less than a month ago so it's unlikely he'll be racing back into the ring, but he will likely be back in last summer as he looks to bounce back and rebuild. That could well see him fighting another contender, or drop down to domestic level and really get used to the weight. At 24 he really has time on his side and there is no need to rush him until he's ready, especially given that his style is one that could burn him out if he has too many wars too soon together.
As well as the 12 fighters mentioned above other notable contenders include:
Palangpol CP Freshmart (14-2, 8) - Thai fighter Palangpol CP Freshmart is best known for challenging Kosei Tanaka in 2017 and dropping the then WBO champion before being stopped himself in round 9. It's unclear when Palangpol will return, but he is a genuine threat to the division
Jesse Espinas (18-2, 11) - Jesse Espinas is an in-form Filipino who is climbing up the rankings thanks to a 7 fight winning streak, which included a big upset win on the road over the then unbeaten Paipharob Kokietgym in 2016
Ryuji Hara (23-2, 14)-Japanese speedster Ryuji Hara has been linked to facing WBO champion Angel Acosta and despite his two stoppage losses, to Kosei Tanaka and Katsunari Takayama, the Ohashi fighter is a talent, and could ask serious questions of the Puerto Rican puncher if that bout manages to take place.
(Images courtesy of boxrec and boxmob.jp)
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