The Super Bantamweight division is a bit of a strange one when it comes to prospects, with very few fighters being fast tracked, and more of the prospects having records that, on paper at least, are similar to those of contenders. Despite that is does show the depth of talent in the division, and in many ways is actually notable for showing just how deep the division is today.
If you missed our previous articles from this mini series they can be read below:
The state of the Division - Super Bantamweight - The Champions
The state of the Division - Super Bantamweight - The Contenders
Hiroaki Teshigawara (18-2-2, 11)
OPBF champion Hiroaki Teshigawara is a 28 year old verging on being a contender. His last loss came in October 2016, to Ryo Akaho, and since then he has gone 6-0 (5) and scored notable wins over the likes of Keita Kurihara, Jetro Pabustan, Jason Canoy and Teiru Kinoshita. Although not the most rounded fighter Teshigawara is an aggressive, hard hitting, tough and exciting fighter who will be a handful to anyone just below world level. He's a very exciting Japanese fighter.
Yusaku Kuga (17-3-1, 12)
Another exciting Japanese fighter is Yusaku Kuga, a former Japanese national champion who lost the Japanese title in 2018 to Shingo Wake. The loss to Wake is Kuga's only defeat since losing to Yasutaka Ishimoto in 2015, a loss that was later avenged. Kuga is a hard hitting and exciting fighter who has a rugged crudeness to him. He can certainly be out boxed, as Wake showed, but few fighters will look to have a war with him. As with Teshigawara there is an argument that Kuga is more of a fringe contender than a prospect, but we do feel that both would be highly unfancied against world-class opponents.
Jeo Santisima (17-2, 14)
With 19 fights under his belt, Filipino 22 year old Jeo Santisima is a very advanced prospect, who has managed to secure good wins over Rex Wao and Victor Uriel Lopez during his current 15 fight winning streak. With power, speed and stamina Santisima has the tools to go a long way. At the moment Santisima needs to work on his technical ability, but if he can sort out his technical flaws then there is a lot that the youngster can go on to achieve and he could end up being a very notable contender over the years to come. Before he reaches to the top however there is a fair bit of work to do.
Ye Joon Kim (16-1-2, 8)
Korean boxing has really lacked notable fighters in recent years, however they do have a real natural talent on their hands in the form of Ye Joon Kim, a gifted boxer-puncher. The 26 year old "Pacquiweather" was inactive for just over 2 years before returning this past November and stopping Waldo Sabu. Before his break he had beaten the likes of Vergil Puton, Yoshiro Utsumi and Yuki Strong Kobayashi. Kim had gone 4-1-2 in his first 7 bouts, losing to future OPBF champion Sa Myung Noh, but has since reeled off 12 straight wins and proven himself as the most promising Korean native.
Arnold Khegai (14-0-1, 9)
Interestingly, having just mentioned Ye Joon Kim, it's worth noting that 26 year old fighter Arnold Khegai is a Ukrainian prospect born to Korean parents who is now based in the US. He's also one of the most promising fighters in the division and has recently beaten the likes of Jorge Diaz and Adam Lopez. There's a long way for Khegai to go, but he's a confident, experienced fighter with a lot of potential. Given he's now in his 20's we're expecting 2019 to be a huge year for him and perhaps a world title fight will follow in 2020 or 2021.
Joseph Landeros (15-0, 15)
At just 17 years old American fighter Joseph Landeros looks to be a prodigy. Amazingly, given his age, he has already crammed 15 fights into his career, which remarkably began when he was just 15. Despite that level of activity he has only had 31 rounds as a professional. Given his average length of bout and his young age it's clear he has yet to be tested really, but his competition has been stepping up, and his last 3 opponents have all had winning records. We suspect Landeros will be a long term "one to watch" but he is certainly one to keep an eye on.
Antonio Russell (12-0, 10)
The unbeaten Gary Antonio Russell is one of Gary Russell Jr's many boxing brothers and is rising prospect at Bantamweight/Super Bantamweight. At 25 years old he is just starting to reach hi physical peak and really that seems to have shown in recent results, stopping his last 5 opponents and 8 of his last 9. Despite his solid form he has lacked a big win, and a step is likely to come in 2019. Hopefully stiffer competition will draw the best from Russell, though given how his more famous brother has fought there is a worry that Russell will have bouts of inactivity when, or rather if, he reaches the top.
Wasiru Mohammed (10-0, 9)
Ghana's Wasiru Mohammed appears to be one of the division's hidden gems. He's a heavy-handed fighter who made his debut in April 2017 and is already the WBO Africa champion, and the Ghanaian champion. Mohammed came to the attention of many fans for his win over Isaac Sackey, a win that was followed by a riot at the Bukom Boxing Arena in Accra. The stoppage over Sackey was very questionable, however his KO win over Raymond Commey was very impressive. We'd love to see Mohammed fighting outside of Ghana and he looks like a handful, even if he is a bit of a wild slugger. With dynamite power and exciting style there is real potential for him to move on to the world scene in the years to come.
Carlos Caraballo (9-0, 9)
Unbeaten Puerto Rican puncher Carlos Caraballa is a 24 year old who made his debut back in 2016 and took make steps forward in 2018, with a notable win over Jesus Martinez, on his US debut. The footage available of him makes him look speedy, intelligent and heavy-handed, with a stiff jab and a calm demeanour in the ring. Although clearly confident in his power. Caraballo doesn't seem to rush his work and is instead a calm and calculated pressure fighter. With Golen Boy now involved in his career it's going to be fun seeing how far Caraballo goes in 2019.
Alberto Ezequiel Melian (3-0, 2)
Argentinian fighter Alberto Ezequiel Melian is a 28 year old prospect on the fast track to the top. He made his debut in December 2017, in an 8 rounder against former world title challenger Deigo Ricardo Santillan, and since then has fought back-to-back 10 round bouts whilst taking the Argentinian title, beating Julian Evaristo Aristule in just his second professional bout. Given his age it's clear that 2019 will be a big year for Melian who will be making his US debut on January 26th against Edgar Ortega, a win there will likely set up a potential world title eliminator later in the year.
Yuki Yamauchi (2-0, 1)
Japanese 23 year old Yuki Yamauchi made his debut this past July and is already being touted as a potential star. The southpaw stopped Jimboy Rosales on debut before taking a step up and out classing Alvin Medura in October. He's managed by the powerful Shinsei gym and is a former amateur standout, who will likely be pushed hard by a gym that has been signing up young talent in the Hyogo area. Given his age he probably won't be put on a similar fast track to Melian but will certainly be moved aggressively over the next few years, potentially in a similar fashion to stablemate Shun Kubo, who fought for an OPBF title in his 9th bout and a world title in his 12th bout.
Currently the contenders in the Super Featherweight division are some of the most interesting, with a large number of former champions along with a good mixture of upcoming talent and recognised contenders.
If you missed our look at the division's champions that's available to read here - The state of the Division - Super Bantamweight - The Champions
Isaac Dogboe (20-1, 14)
Former WBO champion Isaac Dogboe had a huge 2018, stopping Cesar Juarez, Jessie Magdaleno and Hidenori Otake before losing the WBO belt in December to Emanuel Navarrete. At the age of 24 the British based Ghanaian has a long time to bounce back and may even find himself moving down a weight class, as he is small, but very powerful, at 122lbs. Dogboe is an exciting and likable fighter, but he really did take a beating to Navarette and it could be a while before we see him fighting at the top-level again.
Jessie Magdaleno (25-1, 15)
From one former WBO champion to another, Jessie Magdaleno was the man that Dogboe took the title from in April in what was a pulsating 12 round fight that saw both men being dropped. Although Magdaleno started well, dropping Dogboe in the first round, he was eventually broken down himself. The Nevada resident was one tipped as a future star, but he seems to have fallen short of reaching super stardom. He is, however, a talented fighter who will likely rebuild towards a second world title fight in the near future.
Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3, 18)
Staying with former champions Japan's hard hitting Ryosuke Iwasa is a former IBF champion, who lost the belt in August to TJ Doheny. Iwasa is a hard hitting southpaw who is managed by the Celes gym in Tokyo and is expected to climb back up towards a world title fight in 2019. Iwasa is an exciting puncher, but failed to really shine after winning the IBF title, going through the motions against Ernesto Saulong and then losing the belt to TJ Doheny. If he can perform like he did in his title winning effort he could be very hard to beat, but we've only seen glimpses of that talent.
Yukinori Oguni (20-2-1, 8)
The man Iwasa ripped the IBF title off was fellow Japanese fighter Yukinori Oguni, whose reign was a short one but had seen him defeat Jonathan Guzman for the belt. After losing to Iwasa in 2017 Oguni retired, before returning in December 2018, having had surgery and a good rest. He didn't look amazing on his return, with a lot of ring rust showing, but looked excellent with his body shots and it's clear that he's looking to progress quickly through 2019 and may well end up finding himself getting another world title fight by the end of the year.
Shingo Wake (25-5-2, 17)
Another talented Japanese fighter at Super Bantamweight is sharp shitting Shingo Wake, a charismatic boxer-puncher who is best known for being stopped by Jonathan Guzman in an IBF title fight. Despite the stoppage loss to Guzman, which forced Wake to have considerable time away from the ring to recover, he has looked great on his return to the ring and stoppage Yusaku Kuga in 2019, to claim the Japanese national title. Wake has publicly called for a fight with Tomoki Kameda, but will likely have to wait for a shot at the top. His next bout is scheduled for January 19th, against Takafumi Nakajima, as he attempts to avenge one of his 5 defeats.
Shohei Omori (20-2, 15)
One more Japanese southpaw at the weight is Shohei Omori, a former world title challenger at Bantamweight who moved up in weight following his second loss to Marlon Tapales. The talented and exciting Omori looked like a future world champion before running into Tapales the first time, but bounced back and had a rematch, that saw him being broken down in a damaging less that saw him suffering a bad facial injury. Since moving up he's looked fantastic, with the same speed and power that he had at Bantamweight, and potentially more durability. It's going to be very fun to see how he is at the top-level of the division.
Franklin Manzanilla (18-4, 17)
Little known Venezuelan Franklin Manzanilla is pencilled in for a world title fight with the WBC champion Rey Vargas in February, in what will be a huge bout for Manzanilla. He's got his shot following an unexpected win over Julio Ceja back in May 2018, that win aside he really doesn't have any wins of note and has lost to the likes of Belmar Preciado, who was recently stopped by Hiroshige Osawa. We'll learn a lot about Manzanilla when he takes on Vargas, though we can't see him putting up much of a test to the Mexican world champion.
Deigo De La Hoya (21-0, 10)
Unbeaten American hopeful Deigo De La Hoya has proven that he's not only known because of his relationship with Oscar De La Hoya, but also because he's an excellent fighter himself. The 24 year old Mexican has been banging on the door of a world title fight for a while, and has picked up very credible wins over Luis Orlando Del Valle, Randy Caballero and Jose Salgado, albeit a Salgado who was fighting well above his best weight. He's talented, quick, has a good boxing brain and could go a long way, it's just a case of seeing whether the 24 year old can add some power to his game before he challenges for a world title.
Lodumi Lamati (14-0-1, 9)
As with many South African contenders Lodumi Lamati looks to be a potential hidden gem. Dubbed "9mm" Lamati has already scored notable wins over Luis Melendez and Alexis Boureima Kabore. Sadly he's yet to fight outside of South Africa, though hopefully that happens in the new year and he continues his development. Footage of Lamati is limited, but he looks sharp, accurate and quick and is expected to have a big fight early in 2019.
Cesar Juarez (23-6, 17)
Mexican veteran Cesar Juarez is a 27 year old contender who really deserves a lot more attention than he gets. He first came to the attention of the hardcore fans in 2015, with notable wins over Cesar Seda and Juan Carlos Sanchez, before pushing Nonito Doinaire all the way in a thrilling FOTY contender. Since losing to Donaire Juarez has gone 6-2, including notable wins over Albert Pagara, Richard Pumicpic and Jorge Sanchez, as well as losing to Isaac Dogboe.
Albert Pagara (31-1, 22)
Having just mentioned Cesar Juarez it makes sense to talk about Albert Pagara, who suffered his only loss to Juarez and is likely wanting to avenge that loss one day. The talented Pagara looked like a future world champion in the making early in his career, but the loss to Juarez really slowed his assent. Since the loss Pagara has won 5 bouts in a row, but has been in with limited competition and now needs a step up in class. At 24 he has time to develop but shouldn't be given any more knock over jobs, he's simply too good for that level of competition.
Abigail Medina (19-4-2, 10)
Spanish based Dominican Abigail Medina recently lost a clear, but competitive, decision to Tomoki Kameda in a bout for the WBC "interim" title. The early part of the bout saw Medina look unable to cope with Kameda's speed, but later gave Kameda hell, showing that he belonged to stay in the title mix. Medinina had been on a good run before the bout with Kameda, including wins over Jeremy Parodi, Martin Ward and Anthony Settoul. He's not an elite level fighter, but certainly deserves a second shot, if he can continue to pick up decent scalps.
Murodjon Akhmadaliev (5-0, 4)
Last, but certainly not least, is 24 year old Uzbek Murodjon Akhmadaliev. The talented, exciting and hard hitting Akhmadaliev only turned professional earlier this year but has raced off to winning the WBA Inter Continental title and is ranked #1 by the WBA. A world title shot is expected in 2019, and we can't help but feel that Akhmadaliev has the potential to win a win a belt as early as his next fight. Unfortunately for him we think the champion he seems to be targeting, Danny Roman, is the toughest champion in the division and the one who could pose him the most problems. He's powerful, hard hitting, fast and unorthordox, and incredibly exciting to watch.
The Super Bantamweight division is unlike most divisions in the sport right now. It has a WBC "interim" champion, which most don't but also lacks in fast rising prospects, with one or two exceptions, and it also has a huge wealth off contenders, many of which are proven at world level having been former champions, or have earned shots at the top.
We'll start by looking at the champions.
Emanuel Navarrete (26-1, 22) - WBO (0 defenses)
The newest champion in the division is Mexican fighter Emanuel Navarrete, who upset Isaac Dogboe for the title in December, in one of the notable upsets from the final part of the year. The 23 year old proved against Dogboe that he was tough, hard working, had very good power and was very physically imposing at the weight. Navarrete's sole defeat came way back in July 2012, when he lost in the Cinturon de Oro XVIII final, though was crowned the champion due to Argueta not making it to the weigh in. Since that loss, when Navarrete was 17, he has gone 21-0 (17). The win over Dogboe aside it's fair to say Navarrete hasn't got much on his record in terms of quality, but that one win is genuinely huge and showed that the Mexican youngster is a real handful, for anyone.
Rey Vargas (32-0, 22) - WBC (3 defenses)
The longest reigning active champion in the division right now is WBC champion Rey Vargas, who looks like a wonderfully talented fighter, with brilliant outside boxing skills. Sadly the 28 year old hasn't really shined since winning the title, which he did in the UK against Gavin McDonnell, and his 3 defenses have all lacked in terms of action and drama. He's talented but doesn't seem to have the mentality to become a star, or the style to really excite. Able to box off the back foot Vargas is a fighter who doesn't have a typical Mexican style, but is incredibly skilled, and knows how to use the ring and his size really well. At the time of writing he's pencilled in to defend his title on February 9th against Franklin Manzanilla in California.
Daniel Roman (26-2-1, 10) - WBA (3 defenses)
WBA champion Daniel Roman really has had a strange, and very impressive, career. He was 2-1-1 after his first 4 bouts and 8-2-1 after 11 bouts, but has since reeled off 18 straight wins and beaten the likes of Christopher Martin, Daniel Noriega, Christian Esquivel, Shun Kubo, Ryo Mtasumoto, Moises Flores and Gavin McDonnell. The American hasn't just done it on his own door step, but has scored two good wins on Japanese soil, winning the title from Kubo in Kyoto and then defeating Matsumoto in Tokyo. Roman isn't a heavy handed fighter, or the quickest fighter, but he's a fighter who is very consistent, does everything behind a high work rate and is incredibly accurate. Watching him you don't see a special fighter, but the truth is that you see a fighter who is so good in so many ways that there's not a clear gameplan to use against him. A really impressive fighter who is technically solid, as opposed to physically gifted.
TJ Doheny (20-0, 14) - IBF (0 defenses)
Irish born Australian based southpaw TJ Doheny scored a career best win back in August to take the IBF title from Ryosuke Iwasa. He's not defended the belt since, though will now be expected to make his first defense in early 2019. Against Iwasa we saw Doheny show that there was a lot to his game, as he battled through a cut to neutralise Iwasa and clearly out box him, despite some atrocious commentary suggesting the bout was a robbery. At 32 Doheny is unlikely to have a long reign, but he could either take an easy first defense, or look to take the best pay day on offer. It's going to be very interesting to see what he does next, and he certainly looks to be the weakest of the champions at the moment.
Tomoki Kameda (36-2, 20) - WBC "interim" (0 defenses)
Japan's Tomoki Kameda picked up the WBC's "interim" title in November, during a time when Rey Vargas was out of the ring with health issues. The talented Kameda, best known for his reign as the WBO Bantamweight champion as the youngest of the 3 fighting brothers from the Kameda family, looked great for 6 rounds in his title win against Abigail Medina but, as he slowed down he began to look human and Medina certainly had his moments in the second half of their fight. At his best Kameda is a razor sharp boxer-mover, though he has almost no power at world level, despite his memorable KO win over Pungluang Sor Singyu, and as a result he's always going to have to rely on his skills, toughness and stamina to get over the line. A talented fighter without a doubt, but one who certainly seems unlikely to have a long reign here.
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.