The Super Flyweight division has a host of contenders, many of whom seem to be in a queue to get a title fight. That's taken a lot of pressure off the prospects, who don't need to be rushed into title fights, though there are a lot of good prospects in the division.
If you missed our previous pieces on the Super Flyweight division they can be read here:
The state of the Division - Super Flyweight - The Champions
The state of the Division - Super Flyweight - The Contenders
KJ Cataraja (9-0, 7)
For us the stand out prospect at Super Flyweight is 23 year old Filipino sensation KJ Cataraja, who appears to have it all. He's quick, a wonderfully sharp puncher, heavy handed, throws wonderful combinations, has a fantastic work rate, has proven his stamina by going 10 rounds recently and can take a shot when he needs to. In 2018 we saw him score his biggest win, defeating Victor Hugo Reyes, and it seems like he's ready to make a big step up in class in 2019. He's probably a year or two away from a world title shot, but that's not going to be a problem given the amount of contenders that are in front of him, and in fact really gives him time to prepare fully for a world title fight.
Jeyvier Cintron (9-0, 4)
Puerto Rican prospect Jeyvier Cintron is a second generation fighter, following in the footsteps of father Javier, and is a 2-time Olympian, fighting in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, becoming the first Puerto to fight at 2 different Olympic games. He turned professional without too much fuss but the 23 year old did impress as an amateur and those in the know did tip when he made his debut in the Spring of 2017. So far he's impressed and has already notched good wins against Gregory Vera and Marvin Solano, done 10 rounds and made a march up the rankings. There's still a lot for him to do, but he's showing enough to be excited about.
Judy Flores (6-0, 3)
Another Filipino prospect in the division is 20 year old Judy Flores, who has just turned 20 years old and actually made his debut days after his 19th birthday. Given he's only been a professional since November 2017 it's obvious that he's not been tested too much, but impressed in September, stopping Wiljan Ugbaniel, and looks like he could end up being a real threat in the division, in the long term. He's already fighting in 8 rounders and looks likely to be kept busy through 2019 before stepping up his competition in 2020 or 2021. He's younger than almost everyone on this list, but could end up being a rela diamond in the rough.
Dynamic Kenji (10-3, 7)
At 27 years old, and soon to be 28, Japan's Dynamic Kenji is on the older side for a prospect but really only began to prove himself in 2017, before building on that success this past year. He's been a professional since late 2013 and struggled early on, losing 2 of his first 4 and 3 of his first 8. Now he's seemingly found his groove and has scored 5 straight stoppage wins, and over come the likes of Futa Akizuki and Shota Kawaguchi. He's proven to be a fighter who has developed, hits hard, and has the skills to back up his power. Sadly his age is a worry and he may well fall short of fighting for a world title, though we'd be very surprised if he doesn't mix it up at the top of the regional scene.
Dylan Price (7-0, 5)
Mayweather Promotions may not have a great track record of developing talent, and keeping it busy, but they have a real prodigy on their hands in the form of youngster Dylan Price. The American ran up an excellent 112-12 amateur record and now looks like he could be a real future star of the lower weights. He made his debut in early 2017 and whilst he's not been matched hard, at all, yet he has already completed a couple of 6 rounders and looks like he combines skills, speed and power. We're waiting to see him step up, but there is real hope that he could be one of the few "smaller" Americans to leave a real mark on the sport.
David Cuellar (10-0, 4)
Touting teenagers as something special is always risky, but 17 year old David Cuellar looks like he's a risk worthy of noting. The youngster, dubbed "El General", debuted at the age of 15 and after a string of low level wins stepped up this year with a victory over Victor Trejo Garcia. It's unclear if his future is at Flyweight, Super Flyweight or Bantamweight, yet, but we suspect he'll be fighting as a fully fledged Super Flyweight sooner, rather than later. The footage of Cuellar shows a decent boxer-puncher, but someone who needs to improve technically, with flawed defense and a lack of man strength. There's a lot to like about Cuellar, even at this very early stage in his career.
Ernesto Delgadillo (11-0-2, 2)
Whilst Dylan Price looks likely to be the biggest name prospect in the US he's some way behind Ernesto Delgadillo in terms of development. The unbeaten Delgadillo has impressed in 2017 and 2018, beating the likes of Bryan Aquino, Oscar Mojica and Nate Green and looks to be marching up towards the rankings. Although Delgadillo isn't fighting at a particularly high level he is worthy of some attention and looks like he could smash into the WBC rankings in the new year.
Alexandru Marin (17-0, 11)
American based Romanian 26 year old Alexandru Marin isn't a big name in the division but has slowly built himself into prospect with wins against the likes of Michael Ruiz Jr, Bruno Escalante and Juan Palacios, albeit a shot and out of shape Palacios. With 17 fights under his belt he's an advanced and experienced prospect, but still a prospect and one that maybe a year or two from a a bout with a top contender. His career has a lot of potential, but he seems likely to be moved slowly through the ranks and not given too many risks for the time being.
The Super Flyweight division is a really notable one due to the depth in the division, and the wonderful mix of recognisable top tier names, former champions and rising hopefuls. It's not the best division in the sport right now, but it is certainly a good one for the contenders, even if the champions have failed to shine recently.
For those who missed our look at the champions, that's available to read here The state of the Division - Super Flyweight - The Champions
Kazuto Ioka (23-1, 13)
Japanese star, and former 3 division world champion, Kazuto Ioka is one of the biggest names in the lower weights, and is one of the biggest attractions in Japanese boxing, despite having only fought twice since the start of 2017. Ioka has won titles at Minimumweight, Light Flyweight and Flyweight and will be looking to become a 4 weight champion on December 31st when he faces Donnie Nietes for the WBO title. Ioka is a brilliant boxer-puncher, one of the best body punchers in the sport and a smart fighter. Although he took time to grow into the Flyweight division he now looks like a very strong Super Flyweight and really impressed in September when he dominated McWilliams Arroyo. At 29 he's still relatively young, and hasn't had a hard career, so could well a lengthy reign if he defeats Nietes
Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23)
Having mentioned Kazuto Ioka it makes sense to go stright to Filipino fighter Donnie Nietes, the man Ioka will be facing. The 36 year old "Ahas" has also won world titles at Minmumweight, Light Flyweight and Flyweight and will be getting his second shot at a Super Flyweight title when he faces Ioka. The Filipino veteran has been a professional for over 15 years and his record reads like a who's who of the lower weights, with wins against the likes of Pornsawan Porpramook, Jesus Silvestre, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Moises Fuentes, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Edgar Sosa Juan Carlos Reveco. Technically Nietes is an excellent fighter, but given his age, his relatively small size and long career it's unclear how long he will remain in the sport, win or lose at the end of the year.
Roman Gonzalez (47-2, 39)
With Ioka and Neites both fighting to become 4 weight champions at the end of the year it's worth noting they would join Roman Gonzalez in achieving the feat. The Nicaraguan great, who we like many others regarded as the pound for pound #1 before his first loss to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, is still a major name in the division and was one of the few fighters in the lower weights who really helped prove what the little men could do. Sadly at Super Flyweight Gonzalez looks under-sized, but he is still a very dangerous fighter, with great speed, hurtful power and fantastic combinations. If Gonzalez picks his opponents carefully he can reclaim a world title at the weight, but will need to avoid the big Super Flyweight fighters, like Srisaket, in the future. At 31 years old he still has time to come again, but it's unclear what his body has left after a very tough career.
Juan Francisco Estrada (38-3, 26)
Mexican boxer-puncher Juan Francisco Estrada is one of the few truly elite level fighters in the sport, to not currently hold a world title. He's a former unified Flyweight champion, judges distance and tempo excellently, puts punches together fantastically and has an amazing resume. His record includes close losses to Roman Gonzalez and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, and rematches with either man would be welcomed in 2019, as well as wins against a who's who including Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr, avenging his first career loss, Brian Viloria, Milan Melindo, Giovani Segura, Carlos Cuadras and Felipe Orucuta. Although he's not the biggest Super Flyweight he is strong at the weight and is a very technically rounded fighter.
Aston Palicte (24-2-1, 20)
Filipino fighter Aston Palicte is best known for his debatable draw with Donnie Nietes form back in September, in what was a bout for the vacant WBO Super Flyweight title. That's the one mark against the hard hitting, physically imposing and under-rated Filipino boxer-puncher. Palicte hasn't had much coverage in the US but has proven to be a very capable fighter with very heavy hands. His best wins are against the likes of Ismael Garnica, Vergilio Silvano, Oscar Cantu and Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, but he looks like he will be a fixture on the world stage for years to come. There are some technical improvements for Palicte to make, but if he can make them he will become very hard to beat.
Ryuichi Funai (31-7, 22)
Japanese veteran Ryuichi Funai is a relative unknown outside of Japan, though he recently became the IBF mandatory title challenger with a TKO win against Victor Emanuel Olivo. That win was Funai's 7th straight win, and followed short reigns as both the Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific champion. He's been a professional since 2005 and lost a number of early bouts, but is 23-3 (17) since losing to Shinsuke Yamanaka way back in 2009. Funai is a hard hitting fighter, who's not the quickest or the sharpest, or has the highest work rate, but really can bang with his right hand. We suspect that he'll come up short at world level, but certainly deserves a shot given his recent form.
Andrew Moloney (18-0, 11)
Naoya Inoue isn't the only fighter going by the "Monster" moniker, and another is Australian Andrew Moloney, a very talented boxer-puncher, and the brother of Bantamweight hopeful Jason Moloney. The unbeaten Andrew Moloney is a 27 year old who has been ranking up good wins in recent years against the likes of Renoel Pael, Rene Racquel, Richard Claveras and Luis Concepcion. He's made it clear that he wants a world title fight but is perhaps going to have to wait until the end of 2019 to get one, given how fighters are now queuing up for shots in the division. He would be the under-dog against any champion, but would be a very live under-dog.
Daigo Higa (15-1, 15)
Japanese exciting boxer-puncher Daigo Higa was stripped of the WBC Flyweight title earlier this year, due to failing to make weight, and suffered his first loss a day later, being stopped by Cristofer Rosales. Following his failure to make weight he was given an indefinite suspension by the JBC but it now seems likely that suspension will be lifted in 2019. In the ring Higa is an incredibly exciting fighter, who is still a boxing baby at the age of 23, and we're looking forward to seeing him back in the ring. Whether he stays at 115lbs for long is unclear, but we wouldn't be surprised at all to see him make a mark there with his style and aggression. A bout between Higa and either Roman Gonzalez or Srisaket Sor Rungvisai would have FOTY potential.
Sho Ishida (27-1, 15)
Former WBA title challenger Sho Ishida lost in a competitive, but forgettable, bout against Kal Yafai in 2017. Since then he has reeled off 3 wins, including a stoppage victory over Richard Claveras and a decision over Warlito Parrenas, to get himself back in the title mix. Although a talented fighter, with wins against the likes of Yohei Tobe, Ryuichi Funai and Hayato Kimura, Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking and Petchbarngborn Kokietgym there has long been a feeling that Ishida doesn't quite fight to his best, and we're still waiting to really see how good he actually is. He's certainly a leading contender, but it's hard to know if he's a future world champion still, or someone who's just going to bang on the door a few times.
McWilliams Arroyo (17-4, 14)
Former amateur standout McWilliams Arroyo is a heavy handed boxer-puncher who has lost 3 of his last 5 but is a real notable contender who is much better than his record suggests and will only lose to the top men. He's fought for the IBF Flyweight title, back in 2014 losing a split decision to Amnat Ruenroeng, and would lose in a WBC Flyweight title fight to Roman Gonzalez in 2016. In 2018 we saw Arroyo upset Carlos Cuadras before losing to the returning Kazuto Ioka. He's certainly someone who belongs in the title mix, but at the age of 33 it's hard to really know what he has left in his career.
Norbelto Jimenez (29-8-4, 16)
Tricky Dominican fighter Norbelto Jimenez is best known for a 2014 draw with Kohei Kono in a WBA title bout. Since then he has gone 9-0 (6) to run up a 30 fight unbeaten run, going 27-0-3, since May 2011. Although relatively unknown he is ranked #1 by the WBA and is expected to be their next mandatory challenger for Kal Yafai. The bout with Kono is the only one that has seen Jimenez share the ring with a world class opponent, but he is certainly a contender, courtesy of his WBA ranking, and hopefully he does get a big shot sooner or later. If he loses at the top level then we can remove him from the mix, but by not giving him a chance he remains a contender and as someone who really is being over-looked, something we've seen since the Kono fight.
Yanga Sigqibo (12-1-1, 3)
The South African boxing scene currently has world champions at Light Flyweight, Flyweight and Bantamweight. They also have a very interesting Super Flyweight contender in the form of Yanga Sigqibo, who is a relative unknown but is racking up decent wins in the last year or two and is to be considered a genuine contender. Footage of Sigqibo is hard to come by, but wins over Rene Dacquel and Keyvin Lara have seen him pick up minor WBC and WBO titles and shoot up the rankings. It'd be nice to see him travel outside of South Africa for a bout in 2019, allowing him so notable exposure, but for now he seems happy to develop his skills and record at home. He's a bit of a divisional dark horse, but certainly deserves a bit of attention at the moment.
Jonas Sultan (15-4, 9)
Earlier this year we saw Filipino fighter Jonas Sultan challenge Jerwin Ancajas in an IBF title fight. Sultan looked poor in that bout, but is a genuine contender at Super Flyweight despite the loss. He holds notable wins over Brian Lobetania, Rene Dacquel, Makazole Tete and John Riel Casimero. Sultan is a technically solid fighter, but is an uninspiring one, who seems to lack a higher gear and can be a frustrating fighter to watch. He's good but not exciting and certainly needs someone else to force the action so that he can show what he can really do. Interestingly when he is facing more aggressive fighters he does look better, so it could be that he needs to be matched against fighters who can make him look good, rather than expect Sultan to make the fight.
Francisco Rodriguez Jr (29-4-1, 21)
Former unified Minimumweight champion Francisco Rodriguez Jr seems to have been around for years, but is only 25 and is proving himself to be a very credible fighter at Super Flyweight, where he's been fighting the last few years. He naturally outgrew the Minimumweight division, where he beat the likes of Merlito Sabillo and Katsunari Takayama, and never really found success at Light Flyweight, but looks to be a perfect fit at Super Flyweight. His recent bouts at 115lbs have seen him stopping the likes of Hernan Marquez, Yohei Tobe, Pablo Carrilo and Ronald Ramos, and he looks to be a very strong and very powerful fighter at the weight.
As we write this today only 3 of the world title bodies have a world champion at Super Flyweight, and in fact there is no WBA shenanigans to give us interim, regular or super champions. The WBO title will see it's vacancy filled on December 31st when Kazuto Ioka (23-1, 13) faces Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23).
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) - WBC (3 defenses)
Thailand's Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, also known as Wisaksil Wangek, is enjoying his second reign as the WBC Super Flyweight champion. The 32 year old southpaw came to the attention of the international boxing world in 2017, when he surprised everyone and upset Roman Gonzalez. For many that was the first they had seen of the rugged, heavy handed Thai, but he had actually first won the WBC title way back in 2013, when he had stopped Yota Sato, and had shown his value with another notable win against Jose Salgado. Since reclaiming the title Srisaket has beaten Gonzalez a second time and Juan Francisco Estrada. Although not the most technical fighter Sriskaet is a total handful due to his physical strength, power and work rate. We're expecting Srisaket to have at least one monster bout in 2019, either a rematch with Estrada or a unification bout with Ancajas, so 2019 could be another huge year for the Thai.
Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-2, 20) - IBF (6 defenses)
Filipino fighter Jerwin Ancajas is a fighter who seems unlikely to remain at Super Flyweight for low, but the Southpaw has already had a lot of success whilst there. He won the IBF title in September 2016 and has already notched 6 defenses, including wins against Teiru Kinoshita, Jamie Conlan and Jonas Sultan. Sadly however Ancajas' last couple of results, an uninspiring decision win over Sultan and a fortunate draw against Alejandro Santiago Barrios have taken a lot off gloss from his career. On paper his current run of 17-0-1 (15) looks fantastic but the performances haven't always matched up to his ability and his match making at times has been dreary to say the least. The hope is that better competition will draw a better performance from Ancajas. The talk is that he will either defend his title against in a unification bout with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai or will make a mandatory defense against Japan's Ryuichi Funai next time out.
Kal Yafai (25-0, 15) - WBA (4 defenses)
Unbeaten Englishman Khalid "Kal" Yafai is highly regarded by the British media but the 29 year old has to really live up to the expectations that many have for him. He won the WBA title in December 2016 and has defended it against the likes of Sho Ishida, David Carmona and Israel Gonzalez. For a reign that's already over 2 years long that's awful competition. He's supposedly wanting to face Roman Gonzalez in the new year, though he may instead have to settle for a mandatory defense against Norberto Jimenez, in what would again be a disappointing defenses. Although clearly talented questions remain as to whether Yafai has already peaked, has started to slide or may even be needing to move up in weight. He's shown a lack of power at world level, and not the most fun style either. He's clearly a very good fighter, but we've been genuinely disappointed by his reign.
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.