In 2018 the Flyweight division has had a rather weird year in which all the titles have ended in the hands of new champions, as we mentioned in The state of the Division - Flyweight - The Champions, and for the most part the top contenders really haven't made their mark. Instead of the top contenders fighting each other for a shot we've seen them essentially queue up, suffer from frustrating management and not compete in the great fighters that made the Flyweight division so great just a few years ago.
Thankfully there is a lot of interesting fighters looking to get a shot at a Flyweight title in 2019, so without any further stalling lets look at some of the divisions top contenders, two of which will get a shot before the end of 2018.
Masahiro Sakamoto (13-1, 9)
Japanese 27 year old Masahiro Sakamoto is a bit of an unknown, though will be challenging Moruti Mthalane for the IBF title on New Year's Eve in what is a major step up in class for the Osaka. Despite being a step up in class Sakamoto's only loss was a close decision to Sho Kimura and since then he has claimed the WBO Asia Pacific title and scored wins over a pair of Thai veterans. He's an intelligent man outside of the ring and the a smart inside it, but if we're being honest a win over Moruti Mthalane would be considered a massive upset if he achieves it on December 31st.
Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16)
Japanese veteran Masayuki Kuroda is set to fight for the IBF title in 2019, against either Masahiro Sakamoto or Moruti Mthalane, and is one of the more experienced contenders in the division. His career has been a strange one, with the 32 year old looking like his career was coming to an end a few years ago before going into a surprisingly run of form which has sene him become a 2-weight Japanese champion and climb up the world rankings. Kuroda has fought for a world title before, losing to Juan Carlos Reveco back in 2013, and has shown a real hunger for a second shot at a title.
Andrew Selby (11-0, 6)
Talented Welshman Andrew Selby, the brother of former world champion Lee Selby, is arguably the most gifted fighter at 112lbs, though also one of the most frustrating. Selby is a real talent, but appears to have no love for boxing, or a desire to really make the most of his talent and fought just once in 2018. He holds notable wins over Cristofer Rosales and Jake Bornea but there is a real question mark about his hunger and desire, and his team don't appear to have the financial power to get him the challenges that will light the fire in his belly. An excellent fighter, but one we suspect will never live up to his undeniable potential.
Sho Kimura (17-2-2, 10)
Japan's Sho Kimura came out of nowhere in 2017 to stop Zou Shiming, in China, to claim the WBO Flyweight title. Prior to the win only the most ardent of Japanese fans knew anything about him and he had gone into the bout with Shiming as a 9/1 under-dog. Despite travelling for that bout he would stop Shiming, in China, to claim the title that he would successfully defended against Toshiyuki Igarashi and Froilan Saludar, before being dethroned this past September in a FOTY contender by Kosei Tanaka. In the ring Kimura is tough, heavy handed and has great stamina, though is technically flawed. He's a handful for anyone in the weight class, and a rematch with Tanaka would deserve a lot of attention.
Wenfeng Ge (11-0, 6)
Scoring a win over a former world champion in your 10th professional bout is typically a good achievement, and is exactly what China's Wenfeng Ge did to put himself on the map, beating Amnat Ruenroeng in 2017. Sadly the Ruenroeng victory is one of just 2 notable wins that Ge has, along with a win over Ivan Soriano, though he will be looking to change that in January when he faces Giemel Magramo in a major clash, that could put the winner of the verge of a WBO title fight. Ge looks to be an incredibly strong fighter, but a technically raw one, who may struggle to win at the highest levels, but is likely to be a physical nightmare for anyone at 112lbs.
Giemel Magramo (22-1, 18)
Having just mentioned Ge it's worth noting that his opponent in January, Giemel Magramo, is himself a top contender who's only loss has been a razor thin one to Muhammad Waseem in Korea. The 24 year old boxer-puncher is a frighteningly good fighter who looks like he could be one of the next big stars of the Filipino fight scene, especially if he can upset Ge. "Pistolero" is sharp, accurate, quick and powerful with a wonderful array of punches, fantastic combination work and a real air of confidence. The sort of fighter who every fight fan should be getting excited by, and given his age he still has a long time to reach the top.
Muhammad Waseem (8-1, 6)
Once regarded as a true top prospect Muhammad Waseem's career has been a frustration of massive proportions. The Korean based Pakistani fighter looked like he could be something very special but a lack of financial backing from the Pakistani government, a lack of a promotional power house, has really seen him fail to hit the heights expected of him. In terms of talent he's an exceptional boxer-puncher, and ran Moruti Mthalane close in an IBF title bout in July, and holds a win over Giemel Magramo, but at 31 time is ticking on the career of the very talented "Falcon". Sadly for Waseem his performance against Mthalane may well have seen him put in the "Who needs him?" club and cost him a second shot. Like Andrew Selby we think Waseem will be a man who will fall short of what he could do, albeit for very different reasons.
Vincent Legrand (29-0, 17)
Unbeaten French southpaw Vincent Legrand is a huge Flyweight, at over 5'8", and has been one of the few real successes in Europe having won the European title twice, and the European Union title once. He has been ordered to face Andrew Selby in the past, only to see the bout fall through, though has racked up a few decent names on his record. Those include Andrea Sarritzu and Valery Yanchy. Sadly for the 27 year old Legrand there is a huge gulf between European class and World class, and he will have to take that step before stagnating, something that looks likely to happen given his recent competition. Hopefully Legrand's team break open the purse and get him the match ups he needs to develop, rather than just padding his record.
Penya Pradabsri (25-1, 14)
Once beaten Thai hopeful Panya Pradabsri, also known as Petchmanee Kokietgym, is a 27 year old Thai contender who has proven to have more about him than the typical Thai's we see racking up wins at home. He's been a professional since 2014 and although, mostly, his opponents have been the same typical Indonesian journeymen we see Thai contenders battle against he does hold a very good regional level wins over Jaysever Abcede and Dexter Alimento and was very unlucky in his 2017 loss to Xiong Zhao Zhong. Since his loss he has moved up to the more natural Flyweight division and reeled off 7 straight wins to move into being a contender. He's also the current OPBF silver champion and in line for a big fight due to that title alone.
Dennapa Kiatniwat (20-1, 15)
Another once beaten Thai is Dennapa Kiatniwat, who is also known as Sarawut Thawornkham. He lost on his 2014 debut but has reeled off 20 straight wins since then. Sadly Kiatniwat lacks a win of any real note, with his competition being a mix of limited Indonesian foes and Thai novices, though has climbed up in the rankings and is a leading contender with the WBA right now, in part due to his reign as the WBA Asia champion. With 20 straight wins, 15 of which have come by T/KO he can certainly punch at the lower level, though it will be interesting to see if he can take the big step up and keep his power at the higher levels. If he can punch at true regional level he could end up being a genuine threat, sadly however it seems like we might need to wait a while to find out, if he can't get a shot at Artem Dalakian in the new year.
Charlie Edwards (13-1, 6)
Englishman Charlie Edwards has been touted as one to watch by those in the UK and is a very confident young fighter who managed to get an IBF title fight back in 2016, losing to John Riel Casimero. Against Casimero we saw Edwards show something to like, including plenty of grit and determination, but it seemed like the bout came far too early for him. Since then he has scored 5 more wins and will be getting a second world title fight this coming weekend, when he faces WBC champion Cristofer Rosales. A win over Rosales will be a major shock, however one can't fault the young man for his confidence. Sadly another loss, which is likely against Rosales, would leave his career in tatters even at this early stage.
In recent years we've seen the Flyweight division really shine with great talent, incredible depth and fantastic match making. Right now however it's a division that's a bit of a mess and between the 4 world champions we don't have anyone with a lengthy reign, in fact all of the champions won their title this year, and one of the current champions has spoke about leaving the division in the near future.
Artem Dalakian (18-0, 13) - WBA (2 defenses)
As mentioned none of the champions has held their title long, in fact the longest reign only began in February when Azeri born Ukrainina Artem Dalakian claimed the WBA title, with an upset win over Brian Viloria. Since then he has defended the title twice, beating Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep and Gregorio Lebron, both by stoppage. Dalakian is a big, strong, powerful fighter who is surprisingly tricky and combines his heavy hands with some unorthodox fighting. He's 31 already, but hasn't had a hard career and is a "young" 31, if we can say such a thing.
Cristofer Rosales (28-3, 19) - WBC (1 defense)
Nicaraguan fighter Cristofer Rosales shocked the boxing world back in April when he stopped the then unbeaten Daigo Higa, who had been stripped of the WBC title on the scales. Since beating Higa for the belt we've seen Rosales defend the title once, stopping Paddy Barnes in Northern Ireland with a brilliant body shot. He's now set to make his second defense later this month, as he takes on Charlie Edwards in London. Rosales is a brilliant boxer-puncher who has developed from losses earlier in his career, to forge a good standing as a world champion. Sadly though his reign is expected to end shortly, win or lose against Edwards, with Rosales stating he intends to move up to Super Flyweight in the near future.
Moruti Mthalane (36-2, 24) - IBF (0 defenses)
South African Moruti Mthalane is currently enjoying his second reign as the IBF Flyweight champion, having won the title back in July when he beaten Muhammad Waseem. At 36 years old he is the division's senior citizen, but is a young 36 and is someone with a lot of world class experience. Mthalane is going to be defending his title on New Year's Eve against little known challenge Masahiro Sakamoto. Mthalane is a wonderfully talented fighter with the best ring IQ of any champion in the division, he's surprisingly quick, has a good steady work rate and under-rated power.
Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7) - WBO (0 defenses)
The newest if the champions in the division is Japan's Kosei Tanaka, who claimed the WBO title in September, to become a 3 weight champion in just his 12th professional bout. The talented Japanese youngster claimed the title in thrilling 12 round war against Sho Kimura and is expected to make his first defense of the title in Spring 2019 against Ryoichi Taguchi. Tanaka is a highly skilled, lighting quick boxer puncher who already has an incredible record, with wins against Ryuji Hara, Vic Saludar, Moises Cuentes, Angel Acosta, Palangpol CP Freshmart and Kimura. Sadly for Tanaka he often lets the warrior inside dictate how he fights, giving up his skills to have a fighter, something that has seen him being dropped in the past and suffering notable injuries. If he can use his brain more going forward he could be an incredibly tough fighter to dethrone, that however is a big if.
The Light Flyweight division is a division that is developing quickly at prospect level with a lot of exciting, young, new talent in the division. Some of those fighters are perhaps a little early in their career but are expected to be fast tracked, as we often see in the division. Here we look at some of those prospects, following on from our look at the champions in the division, The state of the Division - Light Flyweight - The Champions, and the leading contenders,
Christian Araneta (16-0, 14)
The Light Flyweight division may be stacked with punchers, but there are more coming through. One of whom is Filipino 23 year old Christian Araneta, who is rising through the ranks an living up to his nickname of "The Bomb". The youngster has stopped 13 of his last 14 opponents, and scored notable wins over domestic foes such as Jesse Espinas, Jerry Tomogdan, Philip Luis Cuerdo. He can be out boxed, and has been at times already, but is certainly a puncher who knows he can rely on his power, when he needs it.
Jesse Espinas (19-3, 11)
Another Filipino prospect, on the verge of being a contender, is the aforementioned Jesse Espinas. Espinas was last seen losing to OPBF champion Edward Heno, in a bout that showed Espinas still has a lot to learn, but the 26 year old has got a lot of promise and should be regarded as one to following in the division. Sadly though he is relatively low down the picking order in the Filipino domestic scene, which could end up being a blessing in disguise giving him extra time to develop from prospect to contender, whilst the others get shots before him.
Taku Kuwahara (3-0, 2)
Japanese 23 year old Taku Kuwahara was a fantastic amateur who only debuted in May of this year but has already shown touches of genius and could well end up being the next Ohashi star to break out. He's intelligent in the ring, has fantastic timing and speed and very solid power. His first 2 bouts were opening round blow outs, but he proved he do more than blow opponents away last time out, taking an 8 round decision over another highly touted Japanese hopeful. Kuwahara is perhaps the dark sheep among the prospects, as he looks likely to be fast tracked into contendership very quickly, but for now, at least, he's just a very exciting prospect.
Jesse Rodriguez (8-0, 4)
American teenager Jesse Rodriguez is only 18 years old but is already one of the most promising prospects at 108lbs, and not just because he's a rare American hopeful at the weight. He was a stand out amateur, who claimed a silver medal at the 2015 World Junior Championships and has been touted as a potential star of the little men. The unbeaten southpaw debuted early last year and is developing well, with great skills, an exciting style and impressive patience for such a youngster. Although not a massive puncher he is accurate and picks his shots well, and looks like he could develop power when he gets his man strength
Shokichi Iwata (1-0, 1)
American based Japanese fighter Shokichi Iwata is a bit of a prospective wildcard in the division thanks to his link ups in the West. It's still very early in his career, but he was a stand out amateur before deciding to turn professional and is now looking to go a route of his own in America. Notably he appears to be learning English, something that could really help him increase his fan base in the West, and he looked really exciting on his debut. Maybe not as technically developed as countryman Kuwahara he's still a fantastic addition to the division and could be someone who has a real impact in the West
Takamori Kiyama (2-1, 2)
One final Japanese prospect worthy of note is Takamori Kiyama, who battle Taku Kuwahara earlier this year and lost a decision to the Ohashi man. Kiyama is a very promising southpaw, who lost to a sensationally prospect, but shouldn't be written off for his early career loss. At 22 years old Kiyama has the potential to go a very long way, he's proven he's tough, skilled, his hard and is willing to be tested, having faced 3 successive unbeaten fighters. The fact he's already gone 8 rounds bodes well for the southpaw who has a lot to be excited about.
The Light Flyweight division is one of the most interesting in the sport right now, with a lot fantastic fighters in an around the world level, some really interesting prospects and some fantastic match ups being put together.
Earlier we looked at the champions, The state of the Division - Light Flyweight - The Champions, and now we'll take a look at the contenders. These aren't ranked in a specific order, other than the top fighters who listed first and second due to upcoming title bouts later this year.
Saul Juarez (24-8-2, 13)
Mexican 28 year old Saul Juarez has been a professional for close to 9 years and has become known as world class fighter who can give problems to very good fighters, even if he does come up short against the better opponents. His only stoppage loss came way back in 2011, to Martin Tecuapetla, and since then he has lost to the likes of Jose Argumedo, Juan Hernandez Navarrete, Milan Melindo and Wanheng Menayothin. Despite having a good record he is very much out of form, going 1-4-1 in his last 6, and will have to be at his best on December 30th when he challenges WBC champion Kenshiro.
Hiroto Kyoguchi (11-0, 8)
The heavy handed Hiroto Kyoguchi burst on to the pro ranks in 2016, following a successful amateur career, and raced away to a world title, winning the IBF Minimumweight title just 15 months into his career. His reign as a world champion at 105lbs saw him record 2 defenses before out growing the division. In the ring Kyoguchi is an aggressive fighter, with under-rated inside skills, very heavy hands, good speed and a killed instinct. He'll be looking to become a 2-weight champion on December 31st when he challenges WBA "super" champion Hekkie Budler in Macau.
Tetsuya Hisada (33-9-2, 19)
Japanese veteran Tetusya Hisada recently vacated the Japanese national title, which he had defended 5 times, as he intends to move into world title fights in early 2019, with the rumour being that he will face Carlos Canizales in the Spring. At the age of 34 Hisada hasn't got time to waste, and he also doesn't have the glamour looking record, but he comes into his next bout, whoever it's against, with a lot of self belief and 12 fight winning run. He's not a big name in the division but is world ranked across the board and certainly deserves a chance before his career comes to an end.
Jonathan Taconing (28-3-1, 22)
Filipino puncher Jonathan Taconing is a 2-time world title challenger, having lose decisions to both Kompayak Porpramook, a technical decision, and Ganigan Lopez. Despite those losses he has remained a very live contender in the division and will be hoping to get one more title shot before his career is over. At 31 years old he doesn't have long left, but with his toughness and his power he is a nightmare to face, as Vinca Paras found out earlier this year when Taconing over-came him. At the moment Taconing is ranked by all 4 world title bodies and is likely to get another shot in the near future.
Edward Heno (13-0-5, 5)
The current OPBF champion is unbeaten Filipino Edward Heno, who was touted for a shot at IBF champion Felix Alvarado but appears to accept he needs more experience before a fight at that level. Heno has impressed in recent years, scoring notable wins over Cris Ganoza, Seit Ogido, Merlito Sabillo and Jesse Espinas. Strangely he began his career 0-0-3 but has really come a long way since then, and will be looking to continue his development on February 11th, when he defends the OPBF title against Japanese veteran Koji Itagaki.
Reiya Konishi (17-1, 7)
Japan's Reiya Konishi is an All Japan Rookie of the year, a former Japanese Minimumweight champion and is the current WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight champion. Despite his success he's actually best known for his competitive decision loss to Carlos Canizales earlier this year, where he was dropped but came bout and gave Canizales hell. Konishi isn't much of a puncher, and is technically pretty flawed, but he has a high work rate, he's a proper battler and he comes to fight for every minute of every round. He was expected to fight for a world title in early 2019 but it sounds like plans have changed and that he'll push a title fight back to make some technical improvements first.
Randy Petalcorin (29-3-1, 22)
Filipino fighter Randy Petalcorin is one of the division's better pure boxer's, with sharp movement and punching and the ability to punch on the move. Sadly for him his last out saw him face off with Felix Alvarado for the vacant IBF title, and he was broken down by the Nicaraguan monster, who fought like a man possessed. Despite the loss to Alvarado the Filipino remains a top contender, and could well find himself getting another world title fight in the near future, especially given that loss. At the age of 26 he's still got a lot of his career left, but will need to be given more backing to secure the fights he needs to, something that has been lacking at times.
Palangpol CP Freshmart (16-2, 9)
Former world title challenger Palangpol CP Freshmart, also known as Rangsan Chayanram, is a heavy handed fighter who is in and among the better Thai contenders in the sport. He's technically a little stiff, but is tough, hard hitting and a nightmare to face. His only world title fight saw him come up short against Kosei Tanaka in 2017, though he did drop Tanaka and fractured both of Tanaka's orbitals. Sadly his recent competition hasn't been great, though in fairness he seems like a fighter itching to face better competition, and just fighting low level foes to stay busy, rather than boosting a ranking. Fingers crossed he gets another shot in 2019, as he's already 33 and going to be on the slide.
Milan Melindo (37-4, 13)
Filipino veteran Milan Melindo is a former IBF champion who has scored big wins over Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, Akira Yaegashi and Hekkie Budler. Despite those big wins the 30 year old has had a string of tough bouts, including a TKO loss last time out to Kenshiro and damaging battles with Budler and Ryoichi Taguchi. At his best he was a fantastic fighter, but right now it's unclear what he has left to offer. Until he returns to the ring he'll still be, rightfully, considered a top contender, though that could all change with a loss, or a poor showing, next time out.
Vince Paras (13-2, 11)
Another Filipino contender is Vince Paras, who lost in an IBF Minimumweight title fight to Hiroto Kyoguchi and has also lost to Jonathan Taconing. Despite those set backs the 20 year puncher has shown enough to be considered a top contender, and he'll likely be competing at world level again in the future. He's beyond the typical "prospect" stage, and is a former title challenger, but still needs development to get over the line in a big one, and we expect to see him really come into his own in 2019, and work on the flaws that Taconing and Kyoguchi both exposed. Those losses could turn out to be vital for his development.
We began our "State of the Division" series by looking at the Minimumweight division, which we feel is actually pretty strong at the moment with a good mix of champions, contenders and prospects. Amazingly however it looks poor when compared to the division just 3lbs north. In fact most divisions look weak in comparison to the incredible depth at Light Flyweight.
Again we'll start out look at the division by going through the current world champions.
Kenshiro (14-0, 8) - WBC (4 defenses)
Regarded by many as the division's premier fighter is Japan's unbeaten Kenshiro, who is the longest reigning active champion in the division, having held the title since May 2017. He won the belt with a narrow decision over Ganigan Lopez and his first defense was also a close win, over Pedro Guevara, but since then the Kyoto man has looked amazing, stopping Gilberto Pedroza, Ganigan Lopez, in a rematch, and Milan Melindo. Kenshiro is a pure boxer, and the best boxer in the division. He'll be looking for his 6th defense on December 30th against Saul Juarez.
Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10) - WBA "super" (0 defenses)
Whilst Kenshiro is regarded by many as the "best in the division" it's fair to say that South African veteran Hekkie Budler has the next best claim to that, following his huge win earlier this year over Ryoichi Taguchi. The 30 year old has been a professional for over 11 years and has had a tough career but his win over Taguchi was one of his very best. He's a bit of a brawler who first made his name at Minimumweight and is now a 2-division champion. Notably he will be defending his title on December 31st against Hiroto Kyoguchi as he looks to strengthen his claim as the best in the division.
Felix Alvarado (34-22, 30) - IBF (0 defenses)
One of the great thing about the Light Flyweight division right now is that, despite the fighters being small, a lot of them are pure punchers with aggressive mentalities. Perhaps the heaviest handed champion there is Nicaraguan Felix Alvarado, who took the IBF title earlier this year by stopping Randy Petalcorin in the Philippines. Alvarado has been beaten by Kazuto Ioka and Juan Carlos Reveco, but neither of those tried to go to war with Alvarado, and in fact we suspect no one in the division will ever want to go toe-to-toe with him. A real thunderous, yet rather crude, puncher.
Angel Acosta (19-1, 19) - WBO (2 defenses)
Another major puncher in the division is Puerto Rican Angel Acosta, who came up short in his first world title fight against Kosei Tanaka then took the title Tanaka vacated. Acosta is more of a boxer-puncher than Alvarado, who is a much cruder puncher, and at 28 years old could have a lengthy reign here. Through his career he has rarely had to go long in fights, but has shown good stamina, scoring 3 of his 19 wins in round 10 or later. His reign has seen him scoring stoppage wins over Carlos Buitrago and Abraham Rodriguez and he's expected to return in the Spring to defend the title against Ryuji Hara.
Carlos Canizales (21-0-1, 17) - WBA "regular" (1 defense)
The third huge punching champion in the division is Venezuelan Carlos Canizales, known as "CCC". The Venezuelan has not faced the best competition, but when he's been put in with good fighter's he's looked fantastic holding Ryoichi Taguchi to a draw and scoring notable wins in Asia over Reiya Konishi and Lu Bin. Canizales has a fantastic engine, brutal power and under-rated skills, as he showed against Konishi. Sadly you take out his 3 bouts in Asia and there is next to nothing of note on his record. Interestingly the 25 year old is expected to return to Japan in the new year to face off with former Japanese champion Tetsuya Hisada.
The Minimumweight division is the focus of our first look at the divisions as we head in to the new year. Over the past day or so we have looked at the world champions, "The state of the Division - Minimumweights - The Champions" and the leading contenders, The state of the Division - Minimumweights - The Contenders now we look at our final part of the division, the prospects, and other notable fighters.
Kai Ishizawa (5-0, 5)
Unbeaten Japanese 22 year old Kai Ishizawa has been a professional for about 18 months but already appears to be one to watch. He's a pretty basic pressure fighter, but his flaws make him a must watch fighter, with his attitude being to stop opponents no matter what. He can be out boxed, as we've seen in the past, but his power is thudding and consistent. Potentially a real danger man of the future.
Samuel Salva (16-0, 10)
Samuel Salva is another, from the many, Filipino fighters who is making their mark on the division. The 21 year old has done his stuff relatively quietly, with out making a lot of international buzz, but is rising through the ranks and will hopefully begin taking on international opponents in 2019. He's young, active, heavy handed and building up his experience, he just needs to share the ring with better opponents now.
Daiki Tomita (12-1, 4)
The once beaten Daiki Tomita made his debut in 2015 and went on to win the Rookie of the Year the following year. In 2017 he scored his biggest win to date, defeating Desierto Nagaike and proved his ability in a loss, losing in September 2018 to Tsuaba Koura, who made it into the Contenders section. He's only 21 but has shown plenty to be excited about and he has the potentially to take his loss and really build on the lessons Koura gave him
Yuga Inoue (7-1-1, 1)
Another once beaten Japanese youngster looking to be a big success is 19 year old Yuga Inoue, who isn't related to the Ohashi promoted Inoue clan. Yuga made his debut in 2016 and won the 2017 Rookie of the Year. His sole loss has come to the aforementioned Kai Ishizawa, and prior to being stopped he looked the better fighter. Young, skilled and promising, the one thing Inoue needs is a but more physical development.
ArAr Andales (8-0, 1)
Filipino teenager ArAr Andales has only just turned 19 but has already fought in a couple of 8 rounders and looks to be developing quite nicely. He has a lot of work to do before getting a major international bout, but by the time he steps up in class there is a chance he will develop his punching technique, power and physical strength.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1)
Another 19 year old prospect looking to make their mark at 105lbs is Ginjiro Shigeoka, who was a Japanese amateur stand out, and who looked sensational on debut this past September. He looks like something very special, with power, speed, skills and at only 19 he is already a physically imposing fighter. Possible the best prospect in Japan right now.
Leroy Estrada (16-3, 6)
Panamanian southpaw Leroy Estrada is a former world title challenger, who is regarded by some as a top contender. For us however he's more of a "wildcard" entry in the division. He was stopped this year by Wanheng Menayothin, and made to look like a boy against the champion, but is ranked highly due to a big win over Saul Juarez. We tend to see him as someone who isn't likely to be a major player in the division, despite the high regard that some hold him in.
Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (10-0, 4)
Unbeaten Thai Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart is seen by some in Thailand as the future of the division, though his performances as a professional boxer suggest other wise. He's been matched mostly in soft matches as a professional, but was pushed all the way last time out by Marco John Rementizo and we suspect that performance tells us more than his other 9 bouts. He might be unbeaten but we don't see him as being good enough to carry the flag at the top of the division any time soon, if ever.
Shin Ono (23-9-3, 6)
Japanese champion Shin Ono is one of the division's elder statesmen, with his 36th birthday coming later this month. He's been a professional for close to 18 years and is a 2-time world title challenger. We don't expect him to win a world title, though he does have a place as a gate keeper and only very good fighters will beat him at the weight. It's worth noting that he defends the Japanese title in January, against Norihito Tanaka, and if successful he may get one more shot at a title. A loss to Tanaka would likely spell the end of his career, but a win keeps him on the fringes of another title shot.
The Minimumweight division is a criminally over-looked division, due to the fact many fans, especially those in the west, don't have the access to know who's who, and instead see the fighters as under-sized and lacking the power and skills to be worthy of watching. The reality however is that the division, right now, is a very interesting one.
We recently looked at the champions in the division, "The state of the Division - Minimumweights - The Champions", which range from the under-powered IBF champion Carlos Licona to the dangerous WBO champion Vic Saludar to the longest active reigning world champion in boxing.
Now we have a look at a number of the leading contenders in the division.
Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9)
OPBF champion Tsubasa Koura is expected to fight for the WBC title in Spring and has so far been very impressive. He won the Rookie of the Year before becoming the OPBF champion and is now widely regarded as a leading contender. He's skilled, quick and heavy handed but now needs to show it at the highest level
Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6-6, 7)
The 29 year old Tatsuya Fukuhara is a former Japanese and WBO champion who is technically a bit limited, but has an amazing work rate, a real toughness and a willingness to travel for big fights. It's expected that he'll get another world title shot in 2019, and he'll be a handful for any champion.
Simphiwe Konkco (19-5-0-1, 7)
South African fighter Simpiwe Konkco is a tricky fighter with a good work rate and proven world class skills who has lost just once in the last 8 years, with that loss coming to Hekkie Budler. Despite that good form it is worth noting Konkco has had a hard career and has racked up a lot of tough rounds in recent years. Perhaps he's just on the slide now.
Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7)
With 2 losses in 13 bouts it would be easy to write Masataka Taniguchi off, however his losses have both been razor close and have come to the aforementioned Koura and Reiya Konishi. He's a handful for anyone and is really chasing a world title fight, with the WBO title likely to be his target following his recent victory for the WBO Asia Pacific title.
Mark Anthony Barriga (9-1, 1)
Highly skilled Filipino Mark Anthony Barriga is one of the sports most natural boxer's, regardless of weight, with fantastic timing and a very high ring IQ. Sadly though what Barriga has in defensive movement and he lacks in power and every bout he has is likely to go long. If he can't hurt his opponent, or stop them coming forward, as we saw against Licona, he leaves himself open to losing close bouts.
Robert Paradero (17-0, 11)
The unbeaten Robert Paradero is one of the many Filipino fighters on the verges of a title fight, in fact he was supposed to get a world title eliminator earlier in December. The unbeaten Filipino is a 4 year pro, despite only being 22, and seems ready for a big step up in class, which hopefully we see next year.
Joey Canoy (14-3-1-1, 7)
Filipino 25 year old Joey Canoy doesn't have a perfect record but has had a very, very interesting career so far. He's a 6 year pro who has scored very notable wins over Toto Landero and Melvin Jerusalem, dropped Simpiwe Konkco en route to a No Contest and only lost to decent fighters like Hekkie Budler, Jessie Espinas and Jerry Tomogdan. A very interesting contender.
Pedro Taduran (13-2, 10)
Another young Filipino to consider at Minimumweight is Pedro Taduran, who gave Wanheng Menayothin hell earlier this year in a really hotly contest 12 round bout. At 22 Taduran is a boxing baby, but the southpaw has a great work rate, solid power and a real hunger. He just needs to work on his technical skills and if he does that he could go all the way.
Byron Rojas (25-4-3-1, 11)
It's unclear if former WBA champion Byron Rojas will fight at 105lbs much longer, as he looked huge in his recent loss to Knockout CP Freshmart, but if he can make the weight then the 28 year old Nicaraguan does remain a top contender. He has lost twice to Knockout but holds a massive win over Hekkie Budler. A key player in the division if he doesn't move up.
The Minimumweight division is one of, if not the, most maligned division among Western fight fans due to the small size of the fighters and the perceived lack of power among the little men. Right now however the division is a really interesting one, with a great combination of champions, contenders and prospects. There's great variety in the styles in the division and, for once, the division has a good number of punchers as well as high out put guys.
We start our look at the state of the divisions by looking at the champions at Minimumweight. With the contenders and prospects to be looked at in the coming days.
Wanheng Menayothing (52-0, 18) - WBC (10 defenses)
The unbeaten Wanheng Menayothin, from Thailand, holds a lot of records right now. Among those are the fact he's got the longest active winning run, 52 fights, and he's the longest reigning male world champion, having held the WBC Minimumweight title since November 2014, when he dethroned Oswaldo Novoa. Although he's really only gotten attention due to surpassing Floyd Mayweather's 50-0 record Wanheng is an accomplished fighter with an exciting style, who comes forward behind a tight guard and works well on the inside. Sadly however his competition at times has been dire.
Knockout CP Freshmart (19-0, 7) - WBA (6 defenses)
Another unbeaten Thai world champion at 105lbs is Knockout CP Freshmart, who often fails to shine, despite being very talented. He has one of the best monikers in the sport but sadly had failed to live up to the name in recent years, winning 7 of his last 8 by unanimous decision. Overall his competition has been better than that of Wanheng, but he has struggled to really show what he can do since fighting at world level and it feels like he's perhaps not going to hold the title for as long as his compatriot. At the moment the WBA rankings are a bit weak and he could well hold the title in to 2020 with no issue.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) - WBO (0 defenses)
One of the division's biggest punchers is Vic Saludar, who hits like a mule despite just being a touch over 5'2". The Filipino suffered an early career set back, losing in his third bout, but has rebuilt pretty well and showed what he could do in late 2015, when he dropped Kosei Tanaka before being stopped himself in what was a real test for Tanaka, Since then he has gone 7-1 and was last seen taking the WBO title from Ryuya Yamanaka, who sadly had to retire following the bout due to a brain injury suffered against Saludar. The Filipino lives up to his nickname of "Vicious" and is very dangerous.
Carlos Licona (14-0, 2) - IBF (0 defenses)
The lightest punching champion in the division is Mexican-American Carlos Licona, who won the IBF title when he defeated Mark Anthony Barriga at the start of December. The win over Barriga really is the only one of note on his record, and even that was a close one so we're not totally how good Licona is, though even holding his own with Barriga is pretty impressive. Licona will probably be the odd man out in the division, unless someone can lure him over to Asia, as the other 3 champions are based in the East though that may well leave a bullseye on his back for the Latin American fighters.
In "A look at fighters from "non boxing countries part 1" I looked at Cambodia, North Korea, Mongolia, Hong Kong and Macau. So now I'll have a look at some more fighters from countries not traditionally known for boxing.
Tran Van Thao (11-0, 8) - Vietnam
Vietnamese fighter Tran Van Thao, dubbed "the trigger", is a 26 year old who debuted back in 2015 and has got himself a genuine name back home in Vietnam, despite only fighting professionally there once, on his debut. He's been compared in Vietnam to Floyd Mayweather Jr and has received a lot of coverage in his homeland for a 2017 win over George Lumoly for the "interim" WBC Asian Boxing Council Super Flyweight title. That win is one of a few notable ones for Thao who has also beaten Yo Han Bae, Wulan Tuolehazi and Richard Rosales, who are all great wins for a fighter with 11 bouts.
Sadly a lot of footage of Tran has vanished from the internet, including his first 2 bouts, and he's not fought as a professional since June this year, when he fought his 8th straight bout in Thailand. The hope, from us, is that he will be back in the ring sooner rather than later, as he seems like a genuine prospect for Vietnam, and he could be one of the big winners from the OPBF being involved in the country.
The footage of Thao that remains online makes him look like a sharp puncher, who's defensively patient and mixes his shots well. Sadly however there is so little footage that it's hard to know just how much potential he has, and how far he can really go. His competition has been decent, at times, but there are a lot of questions that will need answering, if and when he fights again.
Nadir Baloch (4-0, 4) - Pakistan
When we talk about boxing in Pakistan we really only think of Pakistani-British fighter Amir Khan. That however may change in the coming years with the rise of Nadir Baloch, who is a 29 year old Featherweight who is actually fighting in Pakistan and is slowly, but surely, making a mark of his own. He looks to be pretty well schooled, and was reportedly a good amateur, but there are a lot of question marks about him, his actual record, which is thought to differ from the reported 4-0, and his hunger.
There's lots to enjoy about watching Baloch, who can fight like a bit of an eccentric clown when he wants to, but there competition he has faced has often looked like it's there to lose. It also needs to be mentioned that he appears to be short for a Featherweight and despite some lovely touches to his boxing he can be rather overly aggressive and open.
With Pakistan boxing just getting off the ground Baloch looks like he will be a key figure for the countries scene. Sadly though it seems like if, or when, he faces stiffer competition hey may end up being found out. In theory a win over Juma Fundi looks good, but Fundi was beginning to roll over every time he left Tanzania and it hardly looked like he threw a punch of note at Baloch.
Sachin Dekwal (4-0, 2) - Indian
We suspect that Indian boxing will be big news in 2019. Bob Arum has recently signed two notable Indian fighters, India had a good 2018 in terms of amateur results, and we suspect that if the 2020 Olympics doesn't have boxing then a number of Indian fighters will turn professional. One of the few Indian fighters already making a mark on the Indian scene, and hasn't abandoned the country yet.
Aged 23 Dekwal is a Lightweight who debuted at the start of the year and is slowly making his mark. He began his career on the road, winning his debut in the Philippines before notching his second win in Thailand. Since then he has twice fought in India, and recently stopped veteran Francis Miyeyusho. Against Miyeyusho we were impressed by Dekwal who looked very competent for such a novice, with a good understanding of the ring and his movement. There is clearly a lot of work to be done but there is promise here.
With the Indian boxing scene set to boom Dekwal may well see a lot of attention put his way in 2019. Hopefully that will lead to better training and getting a real team behind him. We like what we've seen, given his novice status, but he certainly needs a professional team to develop his skills, his name and standing in the sport.
Muhamad Farkhan (7-0, 7) - Malaysia
Over the last few years Malaysia has become a notable, but small, player for fights with a number of Uzbeks fighting in then country and generating buzz there. When it comes to Malaysian fighters themselves however there's not been much said at all, with Muhammad Meeraj probably more attention than anyone else. For us however the man we'd like to raise attention to is Cruiserweight Muhamad Farkhan, who is hard hitting, exciting, flawed but fun.
Farkhan isn't going to win a world title, in fact if he even wins a notable international belt we'd be very surprised, however there is a real enjoyment in watching the rather our of shape, slow and clumsy Malaysian taking out limited opponents whilst raising attention of Malaysian boxing. He's the sort of fighter who is very basic, very straight forward but looks to take opponents out early on and that alone does generate some attention.
The likeliness of Malaysia creating a superstar any time soon is slim, and that's being polite, but having someone like Farkhan on the scene will not harm the boxing culture there. Instead having someone who appears to be looking to knock opponents out will genuinely help Malaysian boxing to build a fan base.
Kudura Kaneko (9-0, 6) - Afghanistan
I'm going to finish this list by cheating a little bit and mentioning a Japanese fighter, though it's someone who is originally from Afghanistan, and looks like he could be one of their more notable fighters. Kudura Kaneko, also known as Kudura Tura, is someone who left Afghanistan at a very young age with his family to leave the war torn country of his birth. Since living in Japan he has become a bit of a minor boxing star, having already claimed the Japanese Youth Welterweight title and, more recently, stopping former Japanese national champion Toshio Arikawa.
The 20 year old is expected to fight for a Japanese title in the next year or two, and whilst he will be the under-dog at the moment there is a real chance that he will develop quickly enough to be favoured over a champion by the end of 2019, especially given how much he's developed this year.
Afghanistan has had other fighters of note, most obviously the Canadian based Arash Usmanee, but it's quite possible that Kaneko could well go further than any other Afghan born fighter, and with growing popularity in his adopted country we're really enjoying his journey and development. He really is a unique fighter, and someone we've been constantly impressed by.
One of the things that has always interested me about boxing was just far scoping it was around the world. We all know there's some "boxing countries" and some "non-boxing" countries, with places like Japan, Philippines and Thailand being dominant places for boxing in Asia. At the moment however we do feel like boxing in traditionally non-boxing countries is about to come alive, and that there are seeds being planted for other countries to develop notable professional scenes.
With that in mind we've decided to do a list of interesting "active" fighters from non-boxing countries. By that we mean countries with no real professional scene, though they may have a small handful of fighters. We've tried to keep to fighters where we've managed to get some footage, but for some fighters that turned out to be impossible, despite our best efforts. Still we felt even those without videos to show deserved a mention as they certainly have some sort of an interesting story to tell, even if we're not totally sure of their story.
This is part 1 of this series, with part 2 to be posted in the coming days.
Raymond Poon KaiChing (6-1, 3) - Hong Kong
When we think of boxing in Hong Kong we immediately think of Rex Tso, the exciting Super Flyweight contender who's career has fallen off the map in the last 12 months or so. Despite Tso being away from the ring, to recover from an eye injury, the sport isn't dead in the country and instead it's come down to his "brother" Raymond Poon KaiChing, to carry the flag. He's not the talent that Tso is but he's getting a fair bit of media attention at home and looks to be the best they have, in Tso's absence.
The 22 year old Light Flyweight made his debut back in May 2016 and won his first 2 bouts before suffering a loss to Tat Fai Yu, in what is Yu's only bout so far. Since then he has rolled off 4 straight wins, taking the unbeaten record of Frengky Rohi and claiming the a pair of regional titles. He ceiling doesn't appear to be as high as that of Tso, but for now he's the one beacon of boxing hope in Hong Kong, at least until Tso's return.
KaiChing is set to be part of the December 31st card in Macau, in a scheduled 10 round bout to defend his regional titles. At the moment his opponent hasn't been announced though we're not expecting anyone too testing for the youngster, with a limited regional foe seeming highly likely.
Lap Cheong Cheong (4-0, 3) - Macau
Another fighter scheduled for the New Year's Eve Macau card is Macau local Lap Cheong Cheong. Lap is a 22 year old Flyweight who looks likely to fill the void left by Kuok Kun Ng, who was once tipped to be the local face of the Macau boxing scene. Lap made his professional debut just over a year ago in Macau, beating fellow debutant Zhenwu Xie with a 4 round decision, and since then has racked up 3 stoppages, including 2 in Thailand. Given his local support, young age and style there is actually real potential here for Lap to develop into someone significant to the region.
The youngster has shown an exciting and aggressive style. He's still certainly raw around the edges, offensively flawed, but very exciting, with a lot of self belief good power and a natural aggression that does make him someone we want to follow. Sadly however without a good trainer to make the most of his skills his flaws, and limitations, may well hold him back.
Fingers crossed than Lap does get the chance to develop, and maybe even spends prolonged stints in Japan, Thailand and the Philippines to develop his skills.
Tsendbaatar Erdenebat (1-0) - Mongolian - Olympian
The most recognisable name on this list, we think, is former Mongolian Olympian Tsendbaatar Erdenebat, who is really one of 3 Mongolian's worthy of any attention right now. He's not the "stand alone" fighter like some on this list but he is certainly someone worth knowing about, just like the more well known Tugstsogt Nyambayar and exciting but limited Korean based Mongolian Batzorig Batjargal.
Although some way behind Nyambayar in terms of potential, power and skill Erdenbat is a talent himself and is a very exciting fighter who only made his debut earlier this year but impressed, defeating Chinese based Filipino Joseph Omana over 6 rounds. Given his amateur pedigree there is a lot to be excited about, though Mongolian fighters have typically found it hard to make a mark on the professional scene, with only a small number of notable fighters coming from the country.
If Erdenbat can either fight out of China, Korea or Japan on a regular basis there is a real chance that the 22 year old Lightweight could make a mark on the professional ranks, though the fear is that his career ends up in unfortunate obscurity.
Nak Roeum (1-0) - Cambodia
Cambodia is yet to really develop a fighter that has ever made a name in the professional ranks, in fact they also lack in terms of notable amateurs unlike Mongolia who have developed strong amateurs even if they professional success. With that in mind we're really interested in Nak Roeum, a Cambodian fighter who made his professional boxing debut earlier this year, defeating Fahpetch Singmanassak over 6 rounds in Thailand. It's hard to read much into that result, but maybe Roeum could be the guy to put Cambodia on the boxing map.
Sadly Roeum's debut was in May and he's not yet returned to the ring as a boxer, suggesting this could just have been a 1-off bout for him. We think that may be the case as he's actually better known for his Muay Thai fights, and has since returned to other combat sports, rather than professional boxing. It's a shame, but not a surprise to see him not committing to professional boxing.
On his debut Roeum looked exciting, confident and like someone who could be a strong fighter, with some training. He showed traits not associated with fighters from a strong amateur backgrounds, which is a concern, often leaning over his front foot, over-stretching, and leaving himself open to counters, but he could certainly work on those flaws.
Kwang Myong Kim (1-0) - North Korean
To us North Korea has been a morbid curiosity, and North Korean boxing has always been something to have an interest in, in the hope that a professional fighter breaks through and begins to carve out a career. We know that seems unlikely to happen any time soon, but with the rise of Hyun Mi Choi it certainly seems like it COULD happen for a refugee from the country.
The 29 year old Kwang Myong Kim is one of only 2 North Korean men to have had a professional bout this year, along with Chung IL Hong (0-1), with both fighting on the same obscure Chinese card in October. He would go on to win his debut, a 6 round bout with 20 year old Chinese debutant Runyu Liu, and potentially leave the door open to another bout in China in the future.
We've always been curious as to what Chol Su Choi COULD have done had he been committed and allowed to fully pursue a career so we're hoping that Kwang will get the opportunities and will be allowed to develop as a fighter. Unfortunately at 29 years old, and without much in terms of an amateur background, that we could find at least, it doesn't seem like he's going to be more than just a curiosity.
Sadly footage of Kim's debut doesn't appear to exist, which is a real shame, but we certainly would love to see him back in the ring and see what he can do.
For those interested in Cho Su Choi we did an article on him in 2016 which can be read here Choi Chul Su, the North Korean enigma
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.