Although the Filipino scene seemed to sleep walk though much of 2019 the country has a lot of excellent fighters, who are only a win or two away from getting a big fight. One of the most promising is the unbeaten Jade Bornea (14-0, 10), who is the focus of this week's "Who are you?" ahead of his US debut at the end of the month.
The talented Bornea has been known on the Asian scene for years. Well before his 2014 professional debut, following a very notable and successful amateur career. That amateur career saw him turn professional with big expectations on his shoulders, and he is, step by step, getting close to the big nights that the Filipino fight fans have long been anticipating for him.
The young Bornea really burst on the the scene in 2012, when he claimed a bronze meal at the 2012 AIBA World Youth Championships, losing to Murodjon Akhmadaliev in the semi-final. That had followed a runner's up place in the final of the junior's at Philippines National Championships.
In 2013 Bornea claimed gold at Kuala Lumpur City Day Boxing Tournament, in January, he then impressed by winning the Asian Youth Championships in March of that year, beating Kosei Tanaka in the final. Bornea's amateur success continued in 2014, when he took home a bronze medal at the Agong Cup in Malaysia and a bronze at the Philippines National Games.
In late 2014 Bornea turned professional and after 3 low key wins he stopped up, beating the then unbeaten Salatiel Amit just 9 months after his debut. His team seemed unsure whether they wanted to fast track him, or give him time to mature, and after the good win of Amit he was matched with two over matched opponents who were both blown away. Thankfully Bornea stepped up again in early 2017, beating Raul Yu for the IBF Youth Super Flyweight title. It seemed like his team were ready to push him, but instead the rest of 2017 was filled with mismatch, and Borenai would stop his next 3 opponents in a combined 8 rounds.
With his career continuing to be a case of getting a big win, then facing some limited opponents, it seemed hard for Bornea to really build much moment. That was seen again in 2018, when he beat Danrick Sumabong, for the WBO Oriental Youth Super Flyweight title then faced back to back limited opponents. Things got even more frustrating in 2019 when he fought just once, stopping Jonathan Francisco inside a round. Thankfully whilst he was inactive in terms of fights he was getting good ring time in sparring, and sparred with Naoya Inoue in August when Inoue was preparing for Nonito Donaire.
At the end of January, on January 30th, Bornea takes on his most interesting test to date, as he battles the unbeaten Ernesto Delgadillo in a bout for the NABF Super Flyweight title. A win there will boost Borena's world title hopes significantly as we head deeper into the year. At the time of writing he is already world ranked, but needs a big win to make some noise, after what has been a rather frustrating run at home so far. A win over Delgadillo is not a given, but it's a chance, at last, for the "Hurricane" to really kick start things.
For those who haven't seen Bornea in action the Filipino is a talented and technically solid fighter, who has a tight guard, throws a nice variety of shots and has shown the ability to fight out of either stance. Although technically sound we don't think we've really seen the best of of Bornea yet, who hasn't had the competition, or the level of activity against good competition, to really know how good he is. One thing we have seen however is that when he's under pressure he does know how to fight offf the back foot and looks like he has very solid balance and combinations. Just a shame he's not had the competition to truly show what he can do...yet.
It could be be seen as being harsh to feature a 3-time world champion in our "Who are you?" series but when it comes to female boxing most female fighters are pretty unknown, even the ones who have stood out as being among the best over the last decade. One example of the is Japan's Etsuko Tada (19-3-2, 6), who has held WBA, IBF and WBO titles during her career, and she hunts another WBO belt on January 28th, when she faces Ayaka Miyao.
Tada took up boxing after being involved in a number of street fights during high school, and quickly excelled. Within just a few years of her taking up the sport, she had claimed a bronze in the 2001 Asian Championships and would lose only a handful of her 50 amateur bouts, including domestic losses to future world champions Naoko Fujioka and Momo Koseki.
In 2008 Tada turned to the pro ranks, signing up with the Futur Gym and debuting in May 2008. Her ability was obvious and in just her second pro bout she set a Japanese record for the quickest win in a female fight, stopping Nonglek Sithsornpichai in just 31 seconds. Within just 5 months of her debut Tada had moved to 3-0 (2) and was racing towards a world title fight.
To kick off 2009 Tada took a 6 round decision over Hye-Min Kim and then, in just her 5th bout, got a shot at the then WBA female Minimumweight champion ChoRong Son. Although Son was an unbeaten world champion with a 10-0 record she was easily beaten by Tada, who took a very clear decision to claim the title.
Tada did what few wanted to do at the time and took on top competition straight away. Her first defense was against an unbeaten Thai, Yani Kokietgym, who was also the PABA champion, who she beat in a very competitive bout. Her second defense was in a unification bout with fellow Japanese world champion Naomi Togashi, in a bout that ended in a draw, before she travelled to Trinidad and Tobago and fought to another draw with Ria Ramnarine.
Tada's reign as the WBA champion went from strength to strength as she notched notable wins over Ibeth Zamora Silva, Maria Salinas, Naoko Shibata and Yuko Kuroki, all of which look better now than they did at the time. Sadly though it did come to an end in 2013 we she lost the first of two bouts with Mexican starlet Anabel Ortiz. This was hotly contested through out with Ortiz getting a razor thin split decision, despite the bout being held in Tokyo. A return match the following year saw Ortiz take a second split decision over Tada, to retain the WBA title she had taken from Tada.
Despite the loses to Ortiz it wasn't long until Tada recaptured gold, winning the IBF title in December 2015, when she beaten Kareli Lopez. Despite the win it was clear Tada wasn't the same fighter she had once been. She was slower, less busy, less sharp and at 34 years old was certainly not the fighter who had burst onto the scene 6 years earlier. Sadly her reign he wasn't one to remember, and after a stay busy fight 6 months after winning the title Tada would lose the belt in China in January 2017 to Cai Zong Ju.
The loss to Cai Zong Ju seemed like a passing of the torch fight. The Chinese fighter was a rising star, and looked too young, too fresh, too fast for Tada, who was showing signs of her age. Sadly Though Cai never managed to kick on with her career whilst Tada has continued on, and bounced back from the loss by claiming the WBO Asia Pacific female Minimumweight title in November 2017.
In 2018 Tada took her third step towards becoming a grandslam champion, a champion who has won all 4 major world titles, by beating Kayoko Ebata to claim the WBO Minimumweight title. Sadly she vacated this title, rather than defend it, to allow stablemate Kasume Saeki to win the belt and turn her own focus to a WBC title fight. The WBC shot never came, and instead Tada will look to become a 2-time WBO champion on January 28th when she takes on former WBA Atomweight champion Ayaka Miyao, in a mouth watering match up between two world class veterans of the Japanese scene.
During her career Tada has moved from the Futur Gym to the Shinsei gym, she has changed from being a speedy boxer-mover, to more of a brawler-fighter, making up for her ageing legs. She's still world class, but there is a clear gameplan to beat her. It's not an easy gameplan to carry out, but it's a clear one. Few will have the tools to do it at the moment, but in a year or two, with Tada slowing down further she'll be there to be beaten.
Although Tada is a faded force, she is still someone fans should be aware of. She's talented, she's fought a who's who, and she's always come to fight!
With so many fighters out there it can be easy to lose track of who's who and to know who is worth following, who is worth knowing about and who fans should pay a little bit more attention to ahead of their upcoming bouts.
That means that every week in 2020 we will pick one fighter in a notable bout and give them the "Who are you?" Treatment, trying to look at that fighter in detail ahead of their next bout.
This week we look at female hopeful Chaoz Minowa (6-2, 5) who looks to claim a "world" title at the third time of asking.
Minowa was once touted as a major force in women's boxing by those in Japan, though has yet to come close to reaching the lofty goals she set herself. Despite that her career isn't over and on January 18th she has the chance to get herself back on track when she takes on Kenia Enriquez in Jalisco. But who is Chaoz Minowa? And why should you care?
Born Ayako Minowa in Utsunomiya, Tochigi in 1987 Minowa was brought up in a gorgeous area of Japan best known for it's Gyoza, something she has associated herself with through her career.
Prior to turning professional Minowa was a notable amateur fighter, fighting under her birth name of Ayako Minowa rather than the "Chaoz Minowa" name she adopted when she turned professional. She ran up an impressive 37-15 (19) record in the unpaid ranks competing not just nationally but also internationally, and with success. On the national stage she claimed several national titles whilst internationally she took home bronze medals at the 2012 and 2015 Asian Women's Championships and she also competed in 4 World Women's Championships.
Given her extensive amateur background huge things were expected when Minowa signed with the Watanabe gym in 2016 and signalled her intention to turn professional. She was in her late 20's at the time, but the background she had was expected to allow her to be fast tracked and adopting the "Chaoz" name before her debut made it seem like that she wanted attention straight away.
On debut, in September 2016, Minowa stopped Thai foe Khwunchit Khunya in 3 rounds as part of an all female card. Just weeks after her debut she travelled to Korea for her second bout, stopping the crude but dangerous Chan Mi Lim in 3 rounds in her international debut. The intention form Watanabe was clear, they were going to push her, and push her quick, with an OPBF title fight coming less than 3 months after her debut. In that OPBF title bout Minowa was taken the distance for the first time in her career, as she was unable to stop Filipino Carleans Rivas. Despite failing to get the stoppage Minowa took a clear win over the Filipino to claim the OPBF female Flyweight title, the first title of her career.
After a really exciting start to her career Minowa then slowed down, fighting just once in 2017, against a limited Thai foe, and then picked up a low key win to begin 2018. That was where her problems began. She was having things too easy and when she stepped up, in March 2018 to take on Tenkai Tsunami for the WBO Light Flyweight title, she was was seemingly expecting another easy bout. Tsunami, a rugged veteran and a world class fighter in her own right, saw off the early storm of Minowa and gave her a genuine lesson, before Minowa was save at the end of round 8 by her team. She had looked exhausted, was being beaten up and had slowed drastically against Tsunami, who was getting stronger and stronger as the bout went on.
The loss was a major set back to Minowa, who was talking about winning world titles all the way up to Lightweight at one point, but she got back on the horse quickly, and picked up a low key win in Thailand to help rebuild her confidence. Lessons were clearly learned from the loss, and rather than quitting the sport, she seemed to realise she couldn't just steam roll everyone. Those lessons were put into effect in her final bout of 2018, when she travelled to Mexico and faced Ibeth Zamora Silva for the WBC female Flyweight title.
Against Zamora we were really impressed by the sharp boxing, the movement and ring IQ of Minowa, who started fantastically. Sadly though the incessant pressure of Zamora and the altitude in Puebla were too much for Minowa over 10 rounds and in the final stages her output had dropped as Zamora came on strong. It was a hotly competitive bout, but one where the local took the clear and fair decision.
That bout with Zamora was back in November 2018. Since then Minowa has been out of the ring, but returns on January 18th to face off with the exceptionally talented Kenia Enriquez, in a mouth watering bout for the WBC "interim" female Light Flyweight title. The fight, the first "world" title fight for an Asian fighter this year, is must win for Minowa if she's to pick up a world title. Now aged 32 she cannot afford a third loss in 4 bouts, but she will be the under-dog and knows she will be up against it in Mexico.
With the ability to box or brawl Minowa is a versatile fighter, with solid power. Her flaws however seem to be her stamina and her self belief. Self belief isn't a bad thing, but Minowa fought like she could rip through anyone at one point. She now seems a lot more realistic and this should serve her well going into the Enriquez bout.
Whilst it seems unlikely that Minowa will ever achieve the heady heights she predicted for herself, she is certainly a female fighter worthy of your attention leading into a must win bout for her, and her career.
In 2019 one of our favourite weekly series was the "introducing" feature, which saw us look at a fighter every week. These tended to be focused on prospects, though the original idea wasn't supposed to be prospects, just a fighter of some interesting. This year we are focusing the "introducing" series on prospects, but to go alongside them are doing a new weekly series looking at fighters who are between prospects and world champions. "Who are you?" This is a chance to shine a limelight on a fight fighters who don't get much attention, but deserve some. This is where we look at fighters like contenders, national champions or regional champions, who deserve a chance to be more well known by an international fan base.
Our first fighter to be featured in this new series is Uzbek Light Welterweight Shohjahon Ergashev (17-0, 15), an exciting, yet very flawed, fighter who promises fire works every time he steps in the ring. The 28 year old is unlikely to ever become a dominant force as a top level fighter, but we'd be surprised if he didn't fight for a world title down the line, and potentially win a belt.
Ergashev, like many notable Uzbek fighters, first made his name in the amateur ranks. He notched a reported 202-14 record in the unpaid ranks, and whilst those numbers are questionable what can't be denied is the fact that he fought a lot in the unpaid ranks, with numerous appearances at the Sidney Jackson Memorial tournament, named after the American trainer who essentially founded organised sport in Uzbekistan.
It was at one of the Sidney Jackson Memorial tournaments that Ergashev scored a very notable win over fellow Uzbek Shakhram Giyasov, who would later win an Olympic gold medal in 2016.
In December 2015 Ergashev made his debut, doing so on a relatively small club show in Russia. It was there that he took out Arzu Aliev inside a round. Ergashev would then build momentum with 8 more blow out wins in Russia before making a low key US debut in 2017. That US debut saw him stopping Marquis Hawthorne in 2 rounds to move to 10-0 before finally landing a bout that helped him announce himself to a wider audience.
In January 2018 the then 10-0 (10) Ergashev took on a then 18-0 (12) Sonny Fredrickson. The bout was supposed to be a win for Fredrickson but instead it turned into a showcase for Ergashev, who out boxed, out fought, out though and and outshone Fredrickson, who was stopped in round 3. It was an almost perfect performance for the Uzbek who caught the eye of everyone tuning in to the show.
Sadly Ergashev failed to really shine in his next bout, and his stoppage run came to an end with a 10 round decision win over Zhimin Wang. Whilst the bout answered some questions about Ergashev, such as whether or not he could do 10 rounds, and what happened when he couldn't blow opponents out, sadly though it took the glass off the excitement we had seen in his win over Fredrickson.
Thankfully Ergashev would get back to destroying over-matched opponents soon afterwards, beating Juma Waswa, Zack Ramsey and Nazareno Gaston Ruiz all before the year was over, with Ruiz lasting just 18 seconds.
Following 3 quick wins Ergashev then took another step up, taking on the 19-0 Mykal Fox. On paper this looked like a great match up, but unfortunately it ended up being an absolute stinker of a fight between two men who's styles didn't gel at all. Fox tried to keep Ergashev at range, using his size, and Ergahsev looked completely limited in tried to cut the distance and fire off his powerful left hands. As a result this ended up a total mess of a fight. Despite the ugly nature of the bout Ergsahev did enough to take the decision, but lost a lot of the momentum and fanfare that he had had going in.
Thankfully the Fox bout was an easy one to forget and 6 months later Ergashev had got back to stopping fighters, taking out Abdiel Ramirez in 4 rounds, in August 2019.
Now lined up to fight Adrian Estrella on January 17th a win there is likely to move Ergashev towards a world title fight later in the year.
In the ring Ergashev is a heavy handed southpaw slugger. He's aggressive, he's exciting, he's very handed handed. But he's also very predictable, very straight forward, and if a fight can either neutralise, or take, his over hand left he looks like he's got nothing else in his arsenal. He's very much a one-trick pony. Thankfully for him, that 1 trick is a solid one, but he needs to add a lot more if he's to reach the top of the sport. Adding a jab, learning to double it, and varying the way he uses his left would be a great start.
Win or lose Ergashev is going to be fun to watch, but there is no denying that he is very, very flawed.
To answer who he is, Ergashev is a crude but heavy handed Uzbek southpaw contender.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces