Over the last few days we've covered the champions and contenders in the Super Featherweight division. Whilst there is plenty to be excited about in those 2 groups of fighters there is also a lot of frustration with them. The champions have been inactive and had politics play a major part in their titles and the challengers are, on the most part, under-whelming.
For those who want to know about the divisions champions we have covered those here - The state of the Division - Super Featherweight - The Champions and the contenders have been covered here The state of the Division - Super Featherweight - The Contenders
Thankfully, the prospects in the division are actually exciting, busy, active, charismatic and a great mix of fighters from across the globe.
Eduardo Hernandez (27-0, 24)
At the age of just 21 Eduardo "Nino Artillero" Hernandez has already had 27 fights. He turned professional at the age of just 16 and like many Mexican's he has developed his experience by being active at a young age. In 2018 he fought 3 times, stopping Drian Francisco, Marlyn Cabrera and Luis Diaz Pastrana in a combined 5 rounds, to extend his current KO streak to 21 straight stoppages. Whilst his competition is still only at fringe level he may well be the next fighter to follow Jamie Munguia and Emanuel Navarrete by jumping from notable Mexican prospect to world champion. He's aggressive, hard hitting, young, exciting and has all the hall marks of being a big hit when he leaves Mexico, which could well be in early 2019.
Ryan Garcia (17-0, 14)
Arguably the most marketable prospect in the division is American 20 year old Ryan Garcia, dubbed "King Ry" and "The Flash". He's already gotten huge media attention, a massive amount of followers on social media, and is being given opportunities to shine by promoter Goldn Boy. He's got the "pretty boy" looks which has helped interest female fans but has shown he can really fight, as shown in a recent win over Braulio Rodriguez. At times he has been a little bit lucky, but he recently changed his trainer and it now appears he's taking things more seriously than he was. With his personality, million dollar smile, good looks he has the potential to be a cross over star, like promoter Oscar De La Hoya, but will need to deliver in the ring to have that platform. His promoters are smart and know that they can't rush Garcia, but they also know they have a very marketable young man on their hands and need to protect him whilst he develops his skills and physical strength.
Abraham Nova (14-0, 10)
Aged 24 Abraham Nova, aka "El Super" is a Puerto Rican born American who is already filling his passport with various stamps. During his 14 fight career, that began in 2016, he has fought in the US, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Uruguay and Belgium, in fact 4 of his last 7 fights have been in Belgium. Although yet to really step up in class he has won the NABA USA Super Featherweight title, gone 10 rounds, and had been an accomplished amateur. He's probably best known for fighting on a PBC show early in his career, being trading knockdowns with Wilfredo Garriga, but since then has developed significantly and shouldn't be written off due to that performance.
Shakur Stevenson (9-0, 5)
American fighter Shakur Stevenson is one of the mostly regarded prospects in the division, if not in boxing. The 21 year old shined as a teenager at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, taking a silver medal, and has shown real promise as a professional, despite some problems when he first turned professional. He struggled to show real power in his first few bouts, but a sensational stoppage of Romanian veteran Viorel Simion in October showed that he can punch and is developing his man strength, as he matures from a boy to a man. With Top Rank behind him, an abundance of confidence, a fantastic and appealing look and a feel good story Stevenson looks like one of the biggest potential stars in American boxing, and he may well be fighting for a world title sooner rather than later. Potentially the best prospect in the division.
Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu (13-0, 6)
One of the few gems in the RCC stable is Russian based Kyrgyzstan fighter Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu, who had a solid 2018 with wins over the likes of Leonardo Padilla and Jon Jon Estrada. He's 28, so will need to make a move in 2019, but has been impressive without being spectacular and looks like he's learning with every fight. He has an exciting style, and a pretty unique look, but has been dropped a few times and does appear to be a bit on the reckless side. Uulu is unlikely to reach the very top, but his journey to an eventual world title fight will be exciting and well worth watching.
Michael Dutchover (12-0, 9)
"West Texas Warrior" Miichael Dutchover is a 21 year old American fighter who has been a professional for a little over 2 years and took some notable steps up in class during a busy 2018, which saw him fight 5 times. His biggest tests to date have seen him going the distance, but there is certainly power there, with multiple knockdowns in many of his wins. He's promoted by the excellent people at Thompson Boxing Promotions, who have helped guide Daniel Roman to a world title, and appears to be building a following in California. Even at the age of 21 there's a lot to like about Dutchover and with such a good team behind him we don't see any reason for him not to be moving towards contendership by the end of 2019. If he keeps his head on his shoulders then there is real promise for this young man.
Michel Rivera (14-0, 9)
Dominican 20 year old Michel Rivera began his career in early 2016 and has fought entirely on the domestic scene, where he has beaten the likes of Marco Acevedo, Manuel Botis and Yankiel Leon. His next bout is however set to take place in Uruguay as he looks to expand his name and his profile. Footage of him shows a pretty nice looking fighter, who's relaxed, composed and judges distance well. There are question marks, as there is always, about how he'll fight when he travels but from what we've seen we're really excited about his potential, his style and his flair. Like many Dominican fighters it does look like he wants to have fun in the ring as well as win and that is something we'd like to see a touch more of from fighters.
Robson Conceicao (10-0, 5)
At 30 years old Brazilian hopeful Robson Conceicao is on the old side for a prospect, but is a fighter who we suspect will be raced from "prospect" to "contender" in 2019, perhaps even ending the year in a world title fight. The unbeaten fighter from Salvador made his name in the amateurs, winning gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics after failing to shine in the 2008 and 2012 games. He turned professional after winning Olympic gold and has fought 10 pro bouts since November 2016. Fighting under the Top Rank banner Conceicao will be moved on to bigger and better fights and is scheduled to fight later this month. An old prospect, but someone worthy of some attention.
Sam Bowen (14-0, 10)
Englishman Sam Bowen is the current British and WBO Inter-Continental champion at 130 and he already has notable wins over Lorenzo Parra, Maxi Hughes and Horacio Alfredo Cabral. He's supposed to be back in the ring on February 23rd against the under-rated Ronnie Clark, in what should be a great test for the 24 year old "Bullet". He's tall and powerful at the weight but still needs to work on a few technical aspects, though has a lot of potential and has shown a great ability to fight on the inside with great body shots. He's certainly one to keep an on.
Shu Utsuki (3-0, 2)
Japan's Shu Utsuki was a former amateur standout who has been who debuted in March 2018 and notched 3 wins during the year, with the latest coming as the headline bout of a notable Japan Vs China card. He's proven to be highly skilled, very composed and has solid power. At the moment it's probably too soon to get too excited about him, but he's promoted by the Watanabe gym who fast tracked their former Super Featherweight star Takashi Uchiyama and look to have current hopeful Hironori Mishiro on a fast track as well. With that in mind we suspect Utsuki will be in notable bouts by the end of 2019.
The Super Featherweight division is an interesting one at the moment, with out being one stacked with well known contenders. In fact most of the leading contenders are older fighters, who have moved up in weight or on the slide whilst others are much more obscure hidden gems of the boxing world.
For those who want to know about the divisions champions we have covered those here - The state of the Division - Super Featherweight - The Champions
Francisco Vargas (25-1-2, 18)
One of the top contenders is former WBC world champion Francisco Vargas, who is certainly a fighter on the slide following a hard career. The 34 year old Mexican warrior holds notable wins over the likes of Will Tomlinson, Takashi Miura, Juan Manuel Lopez, Abner Cotto and Stephen Smith. Sadly, he is very much a man at the end of his career and the wars have certainly began to catch up on him, as we saw in 2017 when he lost the title to Miguel Berchelt. Vargas might have 1 more big bout in him, though until he returns and we see what he has he is still a top divisional contender.
Scott Quigg (35-2-2, 26)
Englishman Scott Quigg is a former WBA Super Bantamweight champion who has out-grown the 122lb weight class, and in 2018 seemed to out grow the Featherweight division too, failing to make weight for a WBO title fight against Oscar Valdez. The 30 year old looks to have regressed in recent fights, relying just on his toughness, size and stamina rather than skills. If Quigg can put it together he could be a handful for some of the champions, and with Eddie Hearn behind him there will be opportunities, but the feeling is that he's also on the slide, and he was given a lot of punishment earlier this year, suffering a broken nose against Oscar Valdez.
Jason Sosa (21-3-4, 15)
American fighter Jason Sosa is a former WBA champion who is just hanging on to being a contender, though will need a good 2019 to be taken seriously as a threat to the champions. He made his name on the back of a massive 2016 upset win over Javier Fortuna and successfully defended the belt once, beating Stephen Smith, before vacating the belt to fight WBO Champion Vasyl Lomachenko, who toyed with him. Having retired after 9 rounds against Lomachenko Sose has gone 1-1, losing a close dcision to Yuriorkis Gamboa and scoring a low key win over Reynaldo Blanco. It's hard to see where he goes from here but he will be back in the ring on January 18th in what looks to be a stay busy fight.
Jamel Herring (19-2, 10)
American fighter Jamel Herring is a 33 year old who has been strongly linked to a fight with WBO champion Masayuki Ito. The former amateur stand out, who competed at the 2012 Olympics, is a long rangy southpaw who had long fought at Lightweight before dropping down in weight last year and stringing together a few wins to establish himself at 130lbs. Although not the biggest name Herring is a talented fighter, who could be a nightmare given his size and frame, though isn't known for giving us much excitement and is very much a safety first fighter. At 33 it's fair to say that 2019 has to be a big year for him.
Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (13-0, 10)
One of the few rising young contenders is 24 year old Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov, a Tajik born Russian boxer-puncher. The southpaw has had a couple of very good years recently, without getting much attention. Althoigh he's only had 13 fights he has beaten the likes of Rogelio Jun Doliguez, Jimmy Paypa, Malcolm Klassen and Robinson Castellanos. Rakhimov is likely to be moved towards a world title fight in 2019 and we'd not be surprised to see him in big fights by the end of the year. A real gem in the division and a brutal natural puncher.
Azina Fuzile (13-0, 8)
Another of the division's hidden gems is South African fighter Azina Fuzile, who has been making a bit of a buzz in South Africa without too many fans outside of his homeland knowing much about him. He's a talented boxer-puncher with a relaxed style in the ring, a huge frame, freakish reach and a lot of skill. Dubbed the "Golden Boy" the 22 year old Fuzile has already scored wins against the likes of Macbute Sinyabi and Malcolm Klassen, and claimed some regional IBF titles, hence his current IBF ranking. It might be a touch too soon for a bout at world level, but by 2020 we would be very surprised not to see him in with another contender.
Miguel Roman (60-13, 47)
Another of the old guard is the insanely tough Miguel Roman, who has a long and hard career. With 73 bouts on his record Roman has legitimately fought a who's who of who in and around the division. Sadly the 33 year has been stopped twice in recent years, and both of those losses came in extremely punishing bouts, that his toughness really worked against him in. Until we see Roman back in the ring, or officially hanging them up, he will remain a contender, but there is a worry that he may now be damaged goods and not the fighter he once was.
Jono Carroll (16-0-1, 3)
Unbeaten Irish southpaw Jono Carroll is a 26 year old battler who sets a high tempo and looks to make every fight into a war. He has great stamina a fantastic work rate and an exciting style, though is technically flawed, defensively questionable and lacks the power to make the most of his style. He's expected to fight Tevin Farmer in 2019, and we'd find it very hard to back Carrol against the IBF champion. Whilst he'd be the under-dog against Farmer it's hard to dislike Carroll, his all action style or his passionate fan base.
Guillaume Frenois (46-1-1, 12)
Once beaten French veteran Guillaume Frenois recently fought Jono Carroll in an IBF eliminator and earned a draw, a draw that many felt Frenois should have won. At 35 years old the French fighter won't want to waste time and will likely try to get a shot at Farmer before Carroll, does. Frenois is a tall boxer with long reach, a defensively smart style and a tricky southpaw stance who has gone unbeaten since September 2013, when he lost in a European title fight to Devis Boschiero in Italy. Since that loss he has gone 15-0-1 and forced his way into world title contention.
Masao Nakamura (25-3, 24)
Hard hitting Japanese fighter Masao Nakamura is the current WBO Asia Pacific champion and is a feared fighter in the East. He's had a strange career, having debuted back 2006 and won the OPBF title in 2010. His OPBF reign was a short one, losing the belt in his first defense, in 61 second to Ronald Pontillas, before rebuilding through to 2014, when he would then suffer back-to-back losses to Masayuki Ito and Rey Labao. More rebuilding lead him in to the world title mix, before he retired in 2016, citing health issues. He returned in 2018 and has looked a force, going 3-0 (3) and taking the Asia Pacific belt. Although not currently ranked by any world title body Nakamura will likely change that in 2019 and will almost certainly be wanting a rematch with Ito.
Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1-1, 11)
Japanese champion Masaru Sueyoshi is highly ranked by the WBO and is climbing up the rankings one step at a time. The 28 year old is not a major name outside of his homeland but is unbeaten in 16 bouts, with his sole defeat coming back in July 2012 to current world champion Masayuki Ito. Since then we've seen Sueyoshi grow into a frustrating boxer, who sets a unique tempo in the ring and controls distance with subtle nuances, and smart footwork. He's not the prettiest fighter to watch but he's extremely hard to beat, and his KO against Nelson Tinampay in 2017 showed he could bang, despite not having a reputation as a puncher. Interestingly, he was last seen fighting to a draw with the OPBF champion Hironori Mishiro last October.
Hironori Mishiro (6-0-1, 2)
Having just mentioned the OPBF champion it makes sense to talk about him in a bit more details. The Watanabe promoted 24 year Hironori Mishiro was a top amateur before making his debut in 2017 and racing through the ranks to win the OPBF title in just his 6th professional bout. He's impressed regularly since his debut, but has shown areas of clear improvement that need making, and we suspect those areas something his team will be wanting to develop on whilst he's holding the Oriental title. He's quick, a shap boxer and can fight aggressively with a pressure style. There's a lot to like about Mishiro, but a lot for him to still work on.
The Super Featherweight division is a really interesting one right now, with a nice selection of fighters at the top. We have destructive punchers, a stylist and some really amazing possible match ups. We also, sadly, have massive amounts of politics with the WBA causing a mess, as we see all too often, and other niggling issues. We also sort of lack depth in the division, which may end up helping force the top fighters to fight each other sooner, rather than later.
So lets take a look at the champions, which as usual aren't in a set order, but we do group the WBA title holders together.
Masayuki Ito (25-1-1, 13) - WBO (1 defense)
Japan's Masayuki Ito has been a professional for almost 9 years, but has only just come to the public's attention in 2018, winning the WBO title in the US, by beating Christopher Diaz, and defending at the end of the year, stopping Evgeny Chuprakov. Despite taking a while to reach the top Ito has really done things in an impressive fashion. His first major triumph was in the 2012 Rookie of the Year, he would later go on to win a WBC Youth title, an OPBF title and a WBO Asia Pacific title. In the ring he's a boxer, though who has started to develop some spite, something we didn't earlier in his career. Early in his career he was a pretty pure boxer mover but has started to stand and hold his feet, scoring 10 stoppages in his last 15 fights and only 3 in his first 12. He's certainly not unbeatable, but he's going to be a hard man to dethrone.
Tevin Farmer (28-4-1-1, 6) - IBF (2 defenses)
Another fighter who has had a long battle to the top before getting recognition recently is American Tevin Farmer. He's been a professional since 2011 and actually lost on debut and was 4-3-1 (1) after 8 bouts. His career really has been a hard slog but he's really shown what he can do and he's one of the best pure boxers in the division, with fantastic natural boxing ability, great movement, sharp punching and a high ring IQ. He won his world title in August 2018 and managed to rack 2 defenses in the following 4 months, but they haven't come against the greatest of challengers and it's going to be interesting when he does step up in class. He's talented, without a doubt, but his bouts aren't the most exciting and he does lack real quality wins, with his best results coming against Ivan Redkach, Daulis Prescott and Billy Dib. Hopefully he slows his activity in 2019 and takes on better competition.
Miguel Berchelt (35-1, 31) - WBC (4 defenses)
One of the best boxer-punchers in the sport right now, and one of the most criminally over-looked, is Mexican Miguel Berchelt. Berchelt has held the WBC title since January 2017, when he stopped Francisco Vargas, and has scored 4 defenses. On paper he has the strongest record in the division with wins over Vargas, Takashi Miura, Miguel Roman, Cristobal Cruz, Oliver Flores and Jonathan Victor Barros. Berchelt can pretty much do it all, bang, box, brawl and fight. The one loss on his record is a real freak defeat to Venezuelan Luis Eduardo Florez, almost 5 years ago, and shouldn't really be considered when looking at his future bouts. He caught clean and failed to recover, but has since proven his chin. For us he's the most dangerous fighter in the division.
Gervonta Davis (20-0, 19) - WBA "super" (0 defenses)
Although we think Berchelt is the most dangerous man at 130lbs he does stiff competition in the form of Gervonta Davis. "Tank" is one of the many American fighters who are clearly talented, but simply lack the activity needed to show that talent, the exact opposite of Tevin Farmer. Davis won the IBF title in January 2017, stopping Jose Pedraza, to announce himself on the world stage and defended it once before being stripped for failing to make weight ahead of a bout with Francisco Fonseca. He has since won the WBA "Super" title, in what was clearly a WBA political decision to create a title to give Davis, rather than recognise their "regular" champion as their top guy. Davis is a fantastic boxer, with scary power, a fantastic ability to mix things up and a real attitude in the ring. Sadly he's also the worst managed and promoted fighter in the division, and only fought once in 2018. He's set to defend his title in February against Abner Mares, in a bout that has been widely criticised, and the worry is that he will again fail to be active enough to remain in the memories of fight fans.
Alberto Machado (21-0, 17) - WBA "regular" (2 defenses)
Puerto Rican punches Alberto Machado is another monster puncher at 130lbs, and has a very solid claim to being the WBA's most legitimate champion, despite only being the "regular" champion. Machado beat Jezreel Corrales, who was stripped on the scales before facing Machado. Corrales had ended the long reign of Takashi Uchiyama and should really have been regarded as the fighter with the strongest line at the time, but the WBA didn't really follow any logic, knowing the money that was behind Davis. Since beating Corrales Machado has defended his belt twice, beating both Rafael Mensah and Yuandale Evans. Although not the best boxer he is a dynamite puncher, and puts fighters on the back foot with that power.
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.