Earlier today, July 21st, Shingo Wake (17-4-2, 10) recorded the 4th defence of his OPBF Super Bantamweight title by stopping South Korea's Jaesung Lee (17-4-2, 9). Lee, who entered as the #1 ranked OPBF challenger, was the 5th successive stoppage victim of Wake who has been on a real roll in the last 2 years with 7 successive wins.
Following the victory over Lee we heard Wake announce his intentions to fight for a world title. He mentioned it in the ring immediately after the fight and then mentioned it again on his blog a few hours after the fight re-affirming his intention to chase a world title and prove himself as not just the best in Asia but one of the best in the world.
Wake's focus on a world title made us wonder who would be next for the sharp shooting Wake? Which champion did he have his eyes on? And who would we like to see him fight the most.
The man widely regarded as the best in the 122lb division is unbeaten Cuban sensation Guillermo Rigondeaux (14-0, 9) who currently holds the WBO and WBA "super" titles in the division. Like Wake Rigondeaux is a sharp shooting southpaw though he's a man many are avoiding as the risks outweigh the rewards for fighting him. The Cuban is an exceptionally well schooled and gifted fighter and although many fans will complain about the ending of his recent fight with Sod Kokietgym it's likely that Rigondeaux would have eventually seen off the Thai.
On paper Wake would be a considerable under-dog against Rigondeaux though the queue to fight the Cuban is short and one would assume that if Wake's team from Koguchi and Kyoei made a decent offer to the Cuban then the fight could be made, in fact it could be made before the end of the year.
Whilst Rigondeaux is the toughest fight in the division the most exciting champion is probably the unbeaten Leo Santa Cruz (27-0-1, 15). Santa Cruz is the current WBC champion and is an exciting pressure fighter that Shinsuke Yamanaka had spoken about fighting though unfortunately a bout between the two never materialised.
Santa Cruz does seem to have several other suitors and is scheduled to fight on September 13th. That date, around 8 weeks away, would be far too soon for Wake to prepare for a world title bout though he could chase the winner of Santa Cruz Vs whoever he ends up fighting for early next year, especially when you consider that Santa Cruz has often fought regularly in the last few years.
A third option would be Britain's Scott Quigg (28-0-2, 21), the current WBA regular champion. Like Santa Cruz we will see Quigg in the ring on September 13th though, as with Santa Cruz, no opponent has yet been named and it's unlikely to be anyone too tough. The date, just like with Santa Cruz, is likely to be too soon for Wake to prepare but this is certainly an "easier" assignment if the Japanese fighter could possibly make the date. Odds are however that he can't.
As with with Santa Cruz the option of fighting Quigg in 2015 is certainly there and Quigg did struggle with the last boxer-mover he fought, Yoandris Salinas. With that in mind Wake may like the idea of fighting Quigg, especially as Salinas has just been beaten by a journeyman named Enrique Quevedo proving that Salinas really wasn't a world class foe.
As for getting the fight in Japan, Quigg isn't a bankable star in the UK despite a solid following and he may be lured easier than Santa Cruz who would be demanding a considerable payment to fight in Japan
The fourth option would be chasing the IBF title which at the moment is the longest route to a title by quite some margin .
The IBF champion Kiko Martinez (31-4, 23), known to Japanese fans for his fight with Hozumi Hasegawa earlier this year, is set to face the unbeaten Carl Frampton (18-0, 13) on September 6th. Following that fight the winner is expected to take on the hard hitting Chris Avalos (24-2, 18) in an IBF mandatory defence. That would put any possible IBF title challenge from Wake on ice for at least 6-8 months and clearly makes it an unattractive option.
As for those 3 men in the IBF picture Martinez would certainly travel if the money was right, he showed that against Hasegawa. Frampton, who has a huge fan base in Belfast, wouldn't travel unless the money on offer was ridiculous and Avalos would travel if the money on offer was acceptable, in fact Wake Vs Avalos could plausibly have been made on a Macau show with Avalos having fought Yasutaka Ishimoto in Macau earlier this year.
Depending on how quickly it'll take Wake to return to action could help decide his next opponent, as could knowing how much backing Kyoei are willing to give him financially to lure an opponent over. If he can return by September 13th and be 100% fit then he could step in to face either Quigg or Santa Cruz. The odds of him being 100% for that date however are slim and we probably should rule that out.
If Wake's wanting a title fight this year, barring blow outs for Quigg or Santa Cruz, that leaves only Rigondeaux as an option. It's a tough ask though could be made relatively easily if Kyoei are happy to put enough money at the Cuban especially given that Rigondeaux has no promoter at the moment and could be an easy man to deal with.
If a deal cannot be worked out with Rigondeaux we'd expect Wake's team to make offers to both Quigg and Santa Cruz, or if the men lose on September 13th who ever beats them. It's clear that whilst Wake would love to avenge Hasegawa's loss to Martinez that's going to be off the books for the better part of a year and it's not worth pursuing that avenue for now and if Martinez loses to Frampton then Martinez's value drops dramatically.
We'd suspect that over the next week or Wake's team are going to get in contact with Gary Hyde, the manager of Rigondeaux, as well as the teams at Golden Boy, the promotional outfit behind Santa Cruz, and Eddie Hearn, the promoter of Quigg. They will likely make offers to all 3 teams and see what comes back in regards to dates and purse demands. Hopefully the demands won't be ridiculous and a date can be later this year.
(Images courtesy of Koguchi Gym and Shingo Wake's own blog)
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.