By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On October 20, Olympic Gold Medalist Ryota Murata will make his second defense of the WBA Middleweight World Title against Rob Brant, in the States.
Ryota Murata (14-1 / 11 KOs) is one of Japan’s biggest boxing superstars. Names like Naoya Inoue, Kosei Tanaka, Hiroto Kyoguchi, Kazuto Ioka (and more), who all are now (current or former) world champions, have had quite the accomplished amateur careers, but none like his. It could take an entire article of its own so I will try and keep this as short as possible. Murata managed to win the prestigious All Japan Championship 5 times, in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011, as well as earning the bronze at the 2005 Asian Championships, the silver at the 2005 King’s Cup in Bangkok and the silver again at the 2011 World Championships. In 2012, he finally realized his dream of becoming an Olympic champion, thus making history on multiple fronts, as he became Japan’s only second boxer to win a gold medal at the Olympics, the other being Takao Sakurai in 1964, almost half a century ago, and the first ever Japanese boxer to win it in the middleweight division. During his illustrious amateur run, which lasted nearly a decade, he fought and beat several major names like Abbos Atoev, a gold medalist at the 2007 & 2009 World Championships and Esquiva Falcao, a silver medalist at the 2012 Olympic Games, who turned pro in 2014 and has amassed a record of 21 wins and zero losses (currently ranked #6 by the WBA at the middleweight division). Murata’s amateur record is 119-18, with 89 referee stoppages.
Murata made his much anticipated pro debut in 2013 against former Japanese & OPBF champion Akio Shibata (21-7*) at the Ariake Colosseum. He proved his dominance by knocking Akio down in just the first round and causing the referee to step in the second after putting a beating on the veteran fighter. After despatching Dave Peterson (13-1*), in a one sided beat down, he faced former world title contender Carlos Nascimento (29-3*). In the third round, Murata landed a lighting fast uppercut, followed by a nice combination of punches that floored Carlos. The punishment continued throughout the fourth as well, leading to the TKO win.
Basically Murata’s pro run can be described with one word: Destruction! Besides 3 decision victories, he has stopped everyone who has been in the ring with. Jesus Angel Nerio (12-4*) fell victim to his patented right straight, much like Gaston Alejandro Vega (24-10) and Felipe Santos Pedroso (13-1). Douglas Ataide (13-1*) actually gave Murata one competitive round, but in the end, he shared the same fate as the rest. His fights with George Tahdooahnippah (34-2*) and Bruno Sandoval (19-1*) weren’t even close. Possibly his two most dominant wins to date.
On May 20 of 2017, the Olympian was ready to make history once more when he met interim champion Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam (35-2*) for the vacant WBA Middleweight World Title. The Japanese challenger scored an early knockdown in the fourth round, courtesy of a right straight to the jaw of Hassan, much to the delight of the fans in Tokyo. He almost dropped him again in the next but Hassan held his ground and came back firing shots. The fight turned out to be a back and forth affair, with Murata turning the heat up in the later rounds, catching the interim champ flash on numerous occasions. Both men went from punch to punch until the closing bell. Everyone was expecting for Murata to be crowned the new world champion, as he was always a step ahead of Hassan, for the majority of the bout. However, 2 of the judges didn’t see it that way, since they awarded the French fighter with the split decision and the title. The crowd started booing heavily, which it’s not something we see very often in Japan, unless there’s a dubious decision or any unprofessional conduct from the fighters’ side.
The rematch was set for October of the same year. Murata, much like in their previous encounter, had the upper hand, as he kept rocking the champion constantly with his right straight punches and body shots, all the time. It quickly became like every other Murata fight, where his opponent was practically helpless against his power and speed. After the seventh round, Hassan simply gave up, refusing to continue the fight. As a result, Murata was declared the new World Champion. 5 years later after winning gold in London, Ryota Murata wrote history again as not only he became just the second Japanese to win a middleweight world title in boxing (Shinji Takehara won the WBA belt back in 1995) but also the very first Japanese boxer to win both an Olympic Gold and a World Championship.
His first defense took place this past April, when he stopped former EBU champion Emanuele Felice Blandamura (27-2*), in the eight round. Also a historic win as he became the first Japanese Middleweight World Champion to successfully defend the belt atleast once (Shinji Takehara lost the title in his one and only defense).
Murata’s next challenger will be American fighter Rob Brant (23-1 / 16 KOs), this Saturday in Las Vegas. It’s obvious that Brant is nowhere near the Olympian’s level. His brawling style will not work here against Murata, who can fight you in a phone booth or can knock you out with a right straight, which you probably won’t even see it coming. At this point of his career, Murata needs bigger challenges like David Lemieux (40-4), Kamil Szeremeta (18-0), Esquiva Falcao (21-0) which will be intriguing given their history, or the former world champion himself Gennady Golovkin (38-1) who had expressed interest in fighting Murata in the past.
Actually, a battle with GGG would make more sense, especially now that Murata is the sole WBA Middleweight World Champion (the super champion Canelo vacated the belt when he decided to move up a weight class). Considering that his 2 fights with Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam drew close to 30 million viewers, in Japan alone, a clash with the former middleweight kingpin at the Tokyo Dome, would be one of the ages. Plus, if that match is to take place, it will be the first time a Japanese boxer has main evented the Big Egg. But for all that to happen, Murata must finish with this mandatory challenge first, which in my opinion, shouldn’t be that hard. The best is yet to come for Japan’s favourite son!
*Fighter’s record prior to the fight mentioned.
This coming Sunday we see the Bantamweight version of the World Boxing Super Series kick off, with Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (16-0, 14) facing off with former world champion Carlos Payano (20-1, 9) in the inaugural bout. Not only will it kick off the next weight at the WBSS but it will also serve as Inoue's first defense of the WBA “regular” Bantamweight title, a belt that he won earlier this year when he blitzed Jamie McDonnell.
The tournament, which features Inoue and Payano, alongside Ryan Burnett, Zolani Tete, Emmanuel Rodriguez, Jason Moloney, Nonito Donaire and Mikhail Aloyan, is expected to see 3 titles unified and have global interest. The weight is the lowest to be featured in the WBSS and is expected to give the Bantamweight division the spotlight it deserve, and a spotlight that had previous been shone on the Cruiserweight division, helping Oleksandr Usyk become a major name.
In Japan “Monster” Inoue is already a massive star. He's not only one of the most significant men in Japanese boxing but is popularity is up there with the biggest names in Japanese sport in general. The young sensation was hyped ahead of his debut, with promoter Hideyuki Ohashi proudly telling the boxing world how good Inoue was, and the fighter has since delivered, proving elite level prospects don't need to be matched softly. Within just 16 fights, and 92 rounds, he has already notched up wins against Ryoichi Taguchi, Adrian Hernandez, Omar Andres Narvaez, Kohei Kono and Jamie McDonnell. In scoring those 16 wins he has claimed the Japanese, OPBF and WBC titles at Light Flyweight, the WBO title at Super Flyweight and the WBA regular title at Bantamweight.
In the ring there is very little Inoue can't do. He's lighting quick, very physically strong for such a big man, scarily heavy handed, brilliant at cutting the ring off and improve all the time. Early in his career there was some defensive issues, sometimes he dropped his concentration and there was a little bit of over-confidence but that now seems to have vanished and he's about as perfect of an offensive machine we currently have in professional boxing. There are still some defensive things to work on, but he's not as defensively naive as he once was, and when he chooses to box on the move there are few fighters with the skills or speed to connect on him.
At 34 years old American based Dominican fighter Juan Carlos Payano is pretty much in last chance saloon. A loss to Inoue likely spells the end of his hopes of becoming a 2-time champion. He is however a pretty notable fighter in his own right. As an amateur he is a 2-time Olympian, fighting in both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, a 2-time World Amateur Championship competitor, competing in 2005 and 2009. As a professional he is a former WBA “super” champion at Bantamweight, and has notable wins over Anselmo Moreno and Rau'shee Warren to his name at world level. Sadly though he would lose the WBA belt to Warren in a rematch and since then scored 3 relatively low key wins, including one over Filipino prospect Mike Plania who dropped Payano back in March.
At his best Payano was a pretty good fighter, you don't beat Moreno and Warren without being good, but there was fortune in both of those wins. The victory over Payano came from a technical decision, which many watching seemed to feel went the wrong way, whilst the win over Warren was a messy foul-fest with multiple deductions and saw Payano being dropped in the final round. Given those wins were several years ago now and he's 34 years old he's a long way removed from his prime. Despite being such a good amateur he's sloppy, wild and doesn't have much power on his shots.
The southpaw stance of Payano is expected to be the biggest issue for Inoue, but is something he's been working hard on in preparation for this contest. The Japanese fighter should be too quick, too sharp, too powerful and too intense for Payano. Inoue might take a shot or two whilst cutting the distance but it's hard to see anyway in which Payano survives with the Monster, never mind upsets the star from Kanagawa. Inoue by stoppage seems almost a foregone conclusion as he looks to add the WBSS' Muhammad Ali trophy to his collection of professional crowns.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On October 6 at the Yokohama Arena, Kenshiro defends the WBC Light Flyweight World Championship against Milan Melindo.
Ken Shiro (13-0 / 7 KOs) belongs in the bright new generation of Japanese boxers like Naoya Inoue, Ryota Murata and Kosei Tanaka. He was introduced to the sport, from a very young age, by his father Hisashi Teraji, a former OPBF light heavyweight champion. Shiro’s amateur career lasted 7 years, from 2007 to 2014, accumulating a record of 58-16. His most significant accomplishments were winning the 68th National Sports Festival (light flyweight division), which is considered to be Japan’s premier sports event, as well as placing second at the All Japan Championships.
Turned pro in 2014, he displayed his fighting spirit early on by taking on fighters, way more experienced than him, such as Heri Amol (36-17*), Katsunori Nagamine (10-0*), Takashi Omae (13-4*) and Rolly Sumalpong (9-0*). On December of 2015, Shiro was in a thrilling encounter with Kenichi Horikawa (30-13*) for the Japanese Light Flyweight Title. Despite having only 5 pro fights under his belt, Shiro went toe to toe with the veteran for 10 rounds, which kept the fans at Korakuen on their feet, applauding the effort of both men. When the fight was over, the young lion left the victor and the new Japanese champion.
After that breakout performance, Shiro made his inaugural defense over one time world title contender Atsushi Kakutani (17-4*). The “Smiling Assassin” was absolutely dominant, knocking Atsushi down thrice, in just the first round, for the TKO win. On August of 2016, he also acquired the vacant OPBF crown when he defeated Toshimasa Ouchi (20-8*), as well as defended it once against Lester Abutan (11-5*), who he crushed with a lethal flurry of punches in the third round.
The unstoppable Japanese superstar eventually earned his big opportunity, on May of last year, as he challenged Ganigan Lopez (33-6*) for the WBC Light Flyweight World Championship, at the Ariake Colosseum. Both challenger and champion fought valiantly, in a very close encounter, which undoubtedly was the biggest test of Shiro’s career. “El Maravilla” had won the belt a year before, from Yu Kimura, and was determined to leave Japan once again with it. Shiro on the other hand, wasn’t going to let his moment go to waste. It was a hard hitting contest that saw the Japanese fighter took on a heavy beating but kept on coming back with strong offense of his own. During the last round, Lopez and Shiro left it all in the ring, as they engaged in a wild brawl, which was the perfect conclusion to this bout. In the end, the judges scored the match in favor of Ken Shiro, thus declaring him the new world champion, at the age of 25.
Shiro proceeded to defend his title, the same year, twice. His first challenger was former world champion Pedro Guevara (30-2*). It was a slow and methodical contest which turned into a slugfest during the last 4 rounds. Shiro showcased his incredible hand speed and body work, which led him getting the majority decision. His second one was Gilberto Pedroza (18-3*). It was a one-sided affair that ended violently in the 4th round, when the champ stormed Pedroza with a plethora of body shots.
On May of 2018, the rematch between Shiro and Lopez was set to take place at Ota-City’s General Gymnasium. Many fans and critics alike believed that the Mexican was robbed in their previous encounter and expected him to regain his championship. In a stunning turn of events, Shiro stopped Lopez in just the second round after he landed a well calculated right hook to the body, leaving the former champ unable to answer the referee’s 10 count, plus putting any doubts of his legitimacy to rest. His fourth title defense will take place this weekend against Milan Melindo.
Milan Melindo (37-3 / 13 KOs), a 13 year professional as well as a one time IBF World Champion, has faced top competition almost his entire career. He holds notable victories over former world champions, including Hekkie Budler (also current WBA Light Flyweight World Champion), Muhammad Rachman and Carlos Tamara. His most significant win was against 3 division world champion Akira Yaegashi who he TKOed in less than 3 minutes, on May of 2017. Even his losses are to former world champions (Juan Francisco Estrada, Javier Mendoza, Ryoichi Taguchi) and all of them have come via decision. He may not be a knockout artist but he’s known for his fast combinations, much like Shiro is.
Stylistically this is a great match-up. Both men have fought and beat some of the best boxers in the division and have displayed a fast paced but technical style of fighting. Since neither Shiro nor Melindo have ever been stopped during their careers, it’s difficult to make a prediction. What will be the difference maker ? Will it be the experience factor of the Filipino challenger or will it be the slickness and deadly bodywork of the Japanese champion, which has kept him undefeated until now ? These questions will be answered this Sunday.
*Fighter’s record prior to the fight mentioned.
The second set of WBSS tournaments begin this coming weekend in Yokohama.
The first bout in the competition is mouth watering clash at 140lbs as we get pressure fighter against puncher with Kiryl Relikh (22-2, 19) facing off with Eduard Troyanovsky (27-1, 24). On paper this has the potential to be a very explosive encounter, with both fighters being aggressive, both fighters looking for earlier finishes and both men wanting to advance in the WBSS. Not only is this a WBSS bout but also a contest for the WBA Light Welterweight title and a chance for both men to shine in front a Japanese audience in the arena.
Relikh, a Belorussian 28 year old, is the defending champion and the betting favourite. He's an aggressive pressure fighter dubbed the “Mad Bee” because of his aggression. He was a very good amateur before turning professional in 2011. As a professional his career was a bit of a slow burner, with no massive backing in Belarus for boxing. Despite the slow burn he was developing well in his homeland and stayed busy during the formative years of his professional career. He would begin to get chances outside of Belarus in 2014 and linked up with Ricky Hatton. Hatton would guide Relikh to his first major international fight in 2016, a narrow and ultra-competitive loss to Ricky Burns. Despite being a loss it put Relikh on the boxing map and has since lead to two bout with Rances Barthelmy. The first of them was a very controversial loss for the Belorussian who avenged the defeat in clear fashion when the two men had their rematch earlier this year.
In the ring Relikh lives up to his “Mad Bee” moniker. He's incredibly busy, buzzing around his opponents and throwing a lot of heavy leather. He's not a big hitting single punch KO artist, despite his 19 stoppages, but he's a busy fighter with every shot taking it's toll on his opponents. His work rate is a bigger issue than his power and at 28 years old he is just getting fitter and stronger. Sadly though is defensively not the tightest and he was dropped in the first bout against Barthelmy. So he can be hurt, especially to the body, and can find himself taking shots that her perhaps doesn't want to take. It's actually, also, worth noting that despite his average bout being just over 4 rounds he has got great stamina to do 12 rounds, which he's done in his last 3 bouts.
At 38 years old Troyanovsky is an older fighter but he hasn't had too much wear and tear. In fact if anything the Russian has done really well in avoiding taking any sort of prolonged damage due to the fact he is a frightening puncher. His 24 stoppages in 27 wins has seen him average just 3.4 rounds a fight and has seen him score some sensation victories, including his memorable stoppage win over Japan's Keita Obara in 2016. He's been a professional since 2009 and made an impact after just a year of being a professional, stopping veteran former world title challenger Matt Zegan in December 2010. He would later score notable mid-level wins over the likes of Walter Estrada, Jose Alfaro and Aik Shakhnazaryan before fighting unbeaten IBF champion Cesar Rene Cuenca in 2015. He would stop Cuenca in 6 rounds then defend his belt against Cuenca and Obara the following year before suffering an upset loss in 40 seconds to the unheralded Julius Indongo. Since then he has bounced back with notable wins over Michele Di Rocco and Carlos Manuel Portillo.
Whilst Relikh is a pressure fight Troyanovsky is a pure puncher. His boxing skills are very limited but his power is really a game changer and even talented boxers need to be wary of him connecting, just once. At 38 years old he is still very dangerous due to his limitations. There isn't much speed or defense but he's not a fighter you should take risks against. If he clips you you're either going down, or going to be serious buzzed as he tries to finish you off. Despite hitting hard his ability to take a shot is questionable. Whilst his loss to Indongo did come to a peach of a punch, he has been rocked a few times, in fact Obara seemed to hurt before being stopped himself. Coming in he will know that this will be his last chance, and a loss here likely spells the end of his career, at least as leading contender in a division that has warmed up a lot in the last 12 months or so.
It's clear that Relikh will look to get inside, grind down the older man and take him out whilst Troyanovsky will be trying to load up his big right hand and take him out with a single shot. We suspect Relikh will be fully aware of how Troyanovsky sets up his power and will be tactically avoiding it, whilst grinding down the dangerous challenger. There is always going to be a sense of risk for Relikh, but we suspect he will come out on top in the middle rounds, with Troyanovsky's 38 year old body simply being worn out and beaten down.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On October 6, in a historic event for combat sports, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (46-4 / 41 KOs) defends his WBC Super Flyweight World Championship, against Iran Diaz (14-2 / 6 KOs), at ONE “Kingdom Of Heroes”, in Bangkok, Thailand.
Unlike most world champions, Srisaket didn’t have a long and successful amateur career. He had to move to Bangkok, when he was only 13 years old and worked as a trash collector at a department store in order to feed himself. Life was so difficult for him that he sometimes had to eat leftovers that he collected from the garbage, just to survive. He began boxing in 2009 and in just 2 years he won the WBC Asia title, which he defended 4 times.
In 2013, Sor Rungvisai (with a record of 18-3 at the time) challenged Yota Sato (26-2*) for the WBC Super Flyweight World Title. Sato, with victories over the likes of Kohei Kono, Suriyan Kaikanha and Ryo Akaho, was the clear favorite to win this fight. The Thai boxer shocked the world when he dominated the champion in every single round, leaving him almost no room for an offense of his own, continuously punishing him until the referee had to step in and stop the fight in the 8th. Srisaket was crowned the new world champion, at the age of 26. Sato had never been stopped prior to this match.
Srisaket made his first defense against Hirofumi Mukai (9-2*) in what was a one sided beatdown. He lost his belt to Carlos Cuadras (29-0*) in controversial fashion, after Cuadras suffered a cut over to his left eye from an accidental clash of heads and was awarded the technical decision. In just a few months after that loss, he reclaimed the WBC Asia title and mostly fought journeymen until he faced 2 time world title contender Jose Salgado (34-2*). Sor Rungvisai blasted the Mexican with a couple of strong left punches and one mean right cross in the 4th round to get the TKO win and the WBC Silver championship.
His biggest challenge came on March 18 of 2017, when he fought Roman Gonzalez at Madison Square Garden, for the belt he never truly lost. Chocolatito, 88-0 as an amateur and 46-0 as a pro, had never lost a single match in his entire career. As a 4 division world champion, with notable wins over Yutaka Niida, Katsunari Takayama, Juan Francisco Estrada, Akira Yaegashi, Edgar Sosa, Brian Viloria and Carlos Cuadras, it was no secret that Srisaket was once again the underdog. Much like the Sato bout, the Thai phenom stunned everyone when he scored a knockdown, in the very first round, as he connected with a thunderous uppercut. During the 3rd, Roman was cut in his right eye, which caused massive bleeding as the fight progressed. Both men went back and forth, in an exciting affair that saw them delivering furious exchanges. Gonzalez put on a strong offense, mostly in the later rounds, but Srisaket was dominating the majority of the match. When the last round came, they left it all in the ring, bringing the fans at the Garden on their feet. After the dust had settled, Sor Rungvisai got the majority decision and reclaimed the WBC Super Flyweight World Title.
The rematch was set in September, at the initial Superfly show in California. The fight was a slugfest as champion and challenger went toe to toe, trading bombs with one another for 3 consecutive rounds. However this time, the ending came abruptly, when Srisaket knocked Gonzalez out with a massive right hook in the 4th. This bout, not only marked Chocolatito’s second ever defeat (both at the hands of the same opponent), but also his first (and thus far only) KO loss in 136 outings.
In 2018, Sor Rungvisai has defended his belt once against former 2 division world champion Juan Francisco Estrada (36-2*) and has also scored a TKO victory over WBC Asia and WBO Asia Pacific champion Young Gil Bae (28-6*). His next opponent, as well as his third title defense, will be against former WBC Latino champion Iran Diaz, who has broken out to the world scene (#6 by the WBC – August rankings) after defeating 2 former world champions in Hernan Marquez and Luis Concepcion. His only 2 losses are to Juan Hernandez Navarrete (former flyweight world champion) and Nordine Oubaali (accomplished amateur and number 1 contender to the WBC Bantamweight title).
From collecting trash to co-main eventing Madison Square Garden, the story of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai is inspiring to say the least. After years of hard work, he returns to Bangkok, this time to defend his world championship at the Impact Arena, which is considered to be the 2nd largest exhibition and convention venue in all of Asia. Both men will look to prove a point. For Diaz, it’s a chance to finally realize his dream of winning the big one. For Srisaket, it’s to come back home and say “I finally made it”.
ONE Championship’s Kingdom Of Heroes will be a groundbreaking event as they aim to bring 3 of the most popular martial arts in the world (boxing, kickboxing & MMA) all in one stage. The rest of the fights are:
Shinya Aoki vs Ev Ting (ONE Lightweight title eliminator)
Leandro Issa vs Muin Gafurov
Hayato Suzuki vs Robin Catalan
Rika Ishige vs Bozhena Antoniyar
Rin Saroth vs Fu Chang Xin
Dodi Mardian vs Ramon Gonzales
Super Series (Kickboxing/Muay Thai):
Kai Ting Chuang vs Stamp Fairtex (ONE Atomweight World Championship)
Andy Souwer vs Anthony Njokuani
Masahide Kudo vs Singtongnoi Por Telakun
Nong-O Gaiyanghadao vs Mehdi Zatout
Alain Ngalani vs Andre Meunier
Petchmorrakot Wor. Sangprapai vs Alaverdi Ramazanov
Petchdam Kaiyanghadao vs Kenny Tse
A few words for some of the key fights:
Shinya Aoki (41-8) is a former Shooto, DREAM & ONE world champion. A judo & jiu jitsu specialist, with 27 submissions on his MMA record, Aoki will take on Ev Ting (16-4) a dangerous striker and skilled grappler. The winner will receive a title shot against 2 division world champion Martin Nguyen (11-3) on March of 2019, at ONE’s debut in Japan.
Kai Ting Chuang (17-5) is a 3 time WAKO National Kickboxing Champion as well as the reigning and defending ONE Kickboxing Atomweight World Champion. She defends her title against Stamp Fairtex (60-15), former North Eastern muay thai champion.
"Update: Martin Nguyen has relinquished his Lightweight title due to an injury."
Andy Souwer (160-20) is one of the most decorated kickboxers on the planet. A 2 time K-1 World Max Champion, 4 time S-Cup World Champion, ISKA & WKA World Champion (and more), Andy will make his ONE debut against Anthony Njokuani (25-1) a Nigerian fighter who has also competed in MMA (UFC & WEC).
Masahide Kudo (17-7), the current RISE Featherweight champion, will face Singtongnoi Por Telakun (220-80) former Lumpinee Stadium Champion, WMC World Champion, S-1 Champion and Rajadamnern Fighter of the Year.
Nong-O Gaiyanghadao (256-54) is considered to be one of the best pound for pound muay thai fighters in the world. He is a 4 time Lumpinee Stadium champion, Rajadamnern Stadium Champion, 2 time Thailand national champion, and 2 time Fighter of the Year. His opponent is former WBC Muay Thai World Champion Mehdi Zatout (41-18).
Petchmorrakot Wor. Sangprapai (156-33) is a 2 time Lumpinee Stadium Champion and WMC World Champion. He competes against Russian fighter Alaverdi Ramazanov (57-3).
If you are a fan of combat sports, this will be a night to remember.
*Fighter’s record prior to the fight mentioned.
The Super Flyweight division is red hot right now with so many notable names, fantastic fighters and potentially brilliant match ups. The recent edition of “Superfly” may have been under-whelming but the division is red hot and the recent wins for both Kazuto Ioka and Roman Gonzalez have opened up the division even further. Sadly however there are several fighters who are competing with no intention of fighting on the “Superfly” cards. One of those is IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-1, 20), who is signed up with Top Rank and being kept as a divisional side attraction by Bob Arum, who has kept him fighting on ESPN and kept him away from the top names at 115lbs.
This coming Friday Ancajas returned to the ring, to make his 6th defense of the title, and takes on a real divisional no-name in the form of Alejandro Santiago Barrios (16-2-4, 7). A 22 year old Mexican without a win of note and draws in his 3 most notable bouts. Not only is he a pretty unknown challenger but he is one without any experience over 12 rounds and has done next to nothing to deserve a title fight, at this moment in time.
The 26 year old champion might not be competing with the best in the division but he is one of the divisions top fighters, which is why his reign is so disappointing. He won the title back in September 2016, defeating the then unbeaten McJoe Arroyo, and has showed his silky skills whilst stopping the likes of Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Teiru Kinoshita and Jamie Conlan. Most recently he scored a decision win over mandatory challenger Jonas Sultan but failed to take the opportunity to shine, in the first All-Filipino world title bout in over 90 years.
Whilst his reign has been somewhat forgettable Ancajas has gone from a relative unknown outside of the Filipino domestic scene to someone who is regarded a top Super Flyweight and has been fighting on major TV over the few few fights. His win over Teiru Kinoshita put him on the map for many and since then his profile has grown well, which has doubled the frustration of fans. He's is one of the most aesthetically pleasing fighters in the sport, with very sharp shots, wonderful movement and electric combinations, but it often looks like he's facing opponents several levels blow himself. Those skills feel like they deserve to be tested against the very best in the division, guys like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada and even Kal Yafai, another of the divisional outliers.
Santiago picked up boxing as a teenager and early in his career he rolled off an 8 fight unbeaten run against fellow novice Mexicans. His first step up in class saw him face the then 5-0-1 Hector Gabriel Flores, and lose a clear 6 round decision. His second loss would come just a couple of fights later, and since then he has gone on a role of sorts, running up an 11 fight unbeaten run. Sadly though that run has seen him score 8 wins over limited foes in Mexico and fight to 3 draws against somewhat notable names, all on the road. By it's self that sounds like he's been unfortunate but those draws have come against Antonio Nieves, who was toyed with by Naoya Inoue, and Jose Martinez, who's most notable victory has come against the under-sized and well past his best Juan Palacios.
Footage of Santiago shows him to be a pretty quick and crafty fighter. He uses half steps on the way out to create space to get his jab off and does move surprisingly well. Sadly on the front foot he does look like he carries very little power and doesn't really sit on his shots. Also he looks worryingly under-sized as well as under-powered. We'll be honest and say he probably should have had a win over Martinez, who he made look slow, sloppy and crude, but that shouldn't be enough to get him a world title fight at this level. He looks better than we'd expect, but no where near good enough to face off with the likes of Ancajas.
We're expecting to see Ancajas take the fight to Santiago, using his superior size, speed and skills to chip away at the Mexican and score a late stoppage. Santiago is stepping up massively and he's shown nothing to suggest he can hold his own at this level against someone as sharp and as accurate as Ancajas. Sadly Ancasjas has a reputation for dragging out his bouts, not putting his foot toe gad until his man has been broken mentally. That means we're expecting this to go in the later rounds before Ancajas ups the pace and looks to finish the show, rather than look to make a statement as early as he can.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On September 24, one of the best pure Japanese world title fights takes place as Sho Kimura goes one on one with 2 division champion Kosei Tanaka for the WBO Flyweight World Championship.
Sho Kimura (17-1 / 10 KOs) made his pro debut at 25, later than most fighters do, especially considering that he didn’t have an extensive (or much successful) amateur career. Despite suffering a KO loss in his first fight, he quickly bounced back, earning 11 wins and 2 draws within 3 years. In 2016 he faced undefeated Masahiro Sakamoto (8-0*) for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title. After 12 rounds of back and forth action, Kimura got the majority decision and the gold.
However, his real test came in last year’s July, when he challenged Shiming Zou for the WBO World Flyweight championship. Zou, with a record of 9-1 at the time, was a 3-time World Amateur champion and a 2 time Olympic champion, with victories over the likes of future WBC Silver Bantamweight title holder Nordine Oubaali and WBO Intercontinental & European flyweight champion Paddy Barnes. Kimura was coming in as the underdog and was even fighting the champion in his own country. On paper, Zou was going to walk through the Japanese contender, as he had already bested much more experienced fighters as a pro, like Luis de la Rosa (23-3*), Prasitsak Phaprom (28-0*) and Prasitsak Phaprom (40-1*). In a shocking turn of events, Kimura dominated the match in every single round while going for the kill in the 11th, as he blasted Zou with a plethora of body shots and when the Chinese was at his weakest, he nailed him in the head 20 consecutive times to get the TKO win and to finally become the World champion.
Kimura made his triumphant return to Japan, on December of 2017, defending against the former WBC, The Ring and Lineal Flyweight World champion Toshiyuki Igarashi (23-2*) at Ota-City General Gymnasium. Once again, he was facing a great amateur boxer (77-18) and just like Zou, a well-versed rival, who already owned wins over strong boxers like Wilbert Uicab (33-5*), former World champion Sonny Boy Jaro (34-10*) and Nestor Daniel Narvaes (19-0*). Kimura, much like his previous bout, surprised the crowd with his physical prowess and technique, outclassing Igarashi. The fight picked up in the 8th round where both men were swinging for the fences, bringing the fans on their feet. Kimura delivered a vicious combination during the 9th that stunned Igarashi and rendered him unable to respond, leaving no option for the referee but to stop the match.
His second and latest title match was in China against Filipino prospect Froilan Saludar (28-2*) this past July, which basically was a tune up for the upcoming clash with Tanaka.
Kosei Tanaka (11-0 / 7 KOs) is considered by many to be one of the top Japanese boxers today, along with Naoya Inoue and Kazuto Ioka. Unlike Kimura, Tanaka had quite a successful career as an amateur. Trained under Hideyasu Ishihara (former OPBF champion & world title contender) he won numerous high school/inter-high school titles, the All Japan championship as well as the National Sports Festival, which is considered to be Japan’s premier sports event. He even reached the quarter-finals of the 2012 AIBA Youth World Championships.
Tanaka turned pro on November 10 of 2013, the same day he turned 18. After winning his first 3 bouts, he challenged world ranked Japanese fighter Ryuji Hara (18-0*) for the OPBF Minimumweight title. Hara was undefeated at that point, with 18 victories under his belt, and was also ranked #2 by the WBO. It was an exciting affair that saw both men fight at a good pace. Tanaka fired up during the 5th round and was completely dominating the veteran champion. Hara retaliated in the 6th and it was then that the match became a huge brawl that lasted 5 more rounds, much to the joy of the fans at Korakuen Hall. Finally, in the 10th round, Tanaka delivered a brutal non-stop beating on Hara that forced the stoppage thus gaining him the OPBF crown.
On May of 2015, Tanaka became the Minimumweight World Champion, after he fought and beat Julian Yedras (24-1*) for the vacant WBO title. His first and only defense was against the WBO Asia Pacific champion Vic Saludar (11-1*) in December. Tanaka’s wild style almost proved to be his downfall as he was repeatedly getting caught by the Filipino challenger, losing the fight on the scorecards and even got dropped, before knocking Saludar out to retain his belt. (Saludar eventually won the WBO world title, on July of 2018)
After that fight, Tanaka moved up to light flyweight and soon won this division’s world title as well, when he TKOed former world champion Moises Fuentes (24-2*) on December of 2016. He successfully defended the WBO championship twice against future world title holder Angel Acosta (16-0*) and WBA Asia champion Rangsan Chayanram (14-1*). It’s worth mentioning that Acosta’s all 16 wins have come via KO. Also, much like the Saluda fight, Tanaka’s fighting style got him in trouble once more, during his encounter with Rangsan. In what was supposed to be an easy fight before challenging Ryoichi Taguchi (WBA Light Flyweight World Champion) in a unification bout, it turned out to be one of his toughest matches yet. Not only the Thai fighter knocked him down in the opening round but even when Tanaka won, he sustained serious injuries which led him pulling out from the double world title bout.
When Tanaka returned to action in 2018, his next goal was to become a 3 division world champion. As a flyweight, he defeated the interim WBO Oriental champion and unbeaten fighter, Ronnie Baldonado (10-0*), this past March, via KO. Now he is set to take on Sho Kimura at the Takeda Teva Ocean Arena, for the gold.
Even though many believe that Tanaka is guaranteed to win the belt in Nagoya, this fight can very well be his biggest test today. It’s obvious that Tanaka is the more accomplished amateur boxer of the two, plus he is already a 2 division world champion, while only at 23 years of age. However, that won’t be Kimura’s first time facing an over-achieved opponent. As aforementioned, Shiming Zou (Olympic winner) and Toshiyuki Igarashi (2 time All Japan champion) were much better boxers, both in amateur and in pro competition, yet still both equally fell to him. At the same time, Tanaka’s brawling style has almost cost him 2 world title fights (Saludar and Chayanram) and was only saved by his incredible knockout power and hand speed.
So the question is: will Tanaka’s wild fighting bring him the title one more time or will the “Upset King” Kimura put an end to his undefeated streak ?
*Fighter’s record prior to the fight mentioned.
This coming Saturday we'll see one of the biggest fights of 2018, as we get the long awaited rematch between Kazakh Middleweight sensation Gennady Golovkin (38-0-1, 34) and Mexican boxing superstar Saul Alvarez (49-1-2, 34). The rematch comes a year after their highly controversial draw, which saw Golovkin retain the WBA “super”, WBC and IBF Middleweight titles whilst also continuing his unbeaten run. It also saw “Canelo” Alvarez face criticism for his style and for favourable judging, especially from Adalaide Byrd who had him winning 118-110.
This rematch was supposed to take place back in May, though was cancelled at short notice when Alvarez tested positive for Clenbuterol. Although the Mexican blamed food, specifically beef, for the positive test it does seem like he's not taken responsibility for his actions, something that has continued to anger the Golovkin team. On the flipside of that however is Golovkin's trainer Abel Sanchez making various accusations about Canelo, including mentioning a suspect wrapping technique.
Although the two men went into the first bout with a lot of respect for each other it does seem like this rematch will be fought will less respect and more emotion. Both men seem to have a genuine dislike of the other, their fan bases and their teams. There is still some mutual respect of the other's ability, but as people it's clear the two will be on each other's Christmas card list in December. Despite their animosity we're expecting to see both men put in a calculated performance as they look to improve on what they did last time out, and take home a victory here.
In their first bout the heavy handed Golovkin took centre ring, he backed up Canelo and seemed to be the clear aggressor. Not only that but he had the higher output, the better work rate and the more consistent offensive work. Sadly for Golovkin he failed to go to the body for the most part and looked to be on the end of the biggest single shots. By failing to go to the body he allowed thr younger, quicker, Canelo to get away, and perhaps if he had gone to the body he would have made the Mexican stay still a little more, and even opened him up for the heavier head shots that could have made the difference.
Those who have seen Golovkin over the last few years will know what to expect from him. He's a strong, powerful boxer-puncher. Technically he's solid with an impressive jab and under-rated footwork. Sadly he's now 36 and just losing that half a step he once had. His power is still impressive, as we saw in May against Vanes Martirosyan, but doesn't look as devastating as it once did and relative lack of speed is obvious in terms of both his footwork and his handspeed, as well as his defense.
Canelo, who was once a front foot fighter who applied pressure and used his physical traits in an imposing manner, has rounded out to be one of the sports better all-rounders. Again Golovkin he showed good movement, an ability to stick to a game plan and excellent counter punching. Sadly one of the issues that has always been a problem for Alvarez is his work rate. Whilst what he landed on Golovkin was quality his actual output was disappointing, and not for the first time it felt like he had ran out of steam to keep up any sort of sustained attack. He had moments but they were fleeting, short lived and tended to consist of a single shot or two.
With 52 bouts under his belt the 28 year old Mexican is a true veteran, with almost 13 years of professional experience behind him. There is a chance that he will age quickly, and he's been in tough bouts against the likes of Golovkin, Erislandy Lara, Austin Trout and Floyd Mayweather, who all caught him clean. Saying that however he looked like their was still a lot of miles left on the clock last time out and a year out of the ring since then will certainly do him no harm, allowing him to rest and recover from any niggles he's had. If he's used the time since May wisely he may well be in the best shape of his career, for a bout he simply cannot afford to lose.
We're expecting this bout to be very similar to the first bout between these two. We think, again, that Golovkin will press forward, backing Canelo on the ropes. We also think Canelo will box well off the back foot. The key to winning however will be what changes the fighter makes. If Golovkin can go to the body he increases his chance, if Canelo can increase his output by 10% then he'll probably do enough to take the victory. It really is one where small changes will decide the outcome.
Of the two we think Golovkin will make the changes easier. He has a proven ability to go to the body, breaking down good fighters with body shots. We've never seen Canelo show a great work work rate, especially not against a fighter who can hit him back. We think Golovkin will make the alternation needed, and will do so in a way that the judges won't be able to deny him. We also think that there has been a general downward view on Canelo and where the judges may have favoured him based on fan reaction in the past, that won't be an issue, and the judges may well find themselves scoring the closer rounds to Golovkin, this time around.
All Filipino world title fights are rare, in fact the IBF Super Flyweight world title bout earlier this year between Jerwin Ancajas and Jonas Sultan was the first in over 90 years! Like a bus, you wait for an age and then two come around at once. This coming Saturday we'll get another all Filipino world title bout, as Donnie Nietes (41-1-4, 23) and Aston Palicte (24-2, 20) battle for the now vacant WBO Super Flyweight title.
Of the two fighters Nietes is the more well known and the more highly regarded. His long, 46 fight, career began more than 15 years ago and yet the 36 year old “Ahas” is still looking sensational. He's avoided taking much damage, he a very young 36 and is someone who has carved out a really brilliant career for himself. That career has seen him claim the WBO Minimumweight title, the WBO Light Flyweight title, the WBA Flyweight title and is now going for the WBO Super Flyweight title.
Whilst titles and a the numbers on a fighter's record alone doesn't prove how good someone is it's worth noting that the competition Nietes has faced is world class. He won his first world title in September 2007, defeating Pornsawan Porpramook and since then he has scored wins over Jesus Silvestre, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Moises Fuentes, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Edgar Sosa and Juan Carlos Reveco to name just a few of Niete's victims.
Unlike many fighters who go through the lower weights, such as Roman Gonzalez and Naoya Inoue, Nietes' isn't a big puncher. Instead he relies almost solely on ring craft, skills and experience. Defensively he's very smart, with intelligent counter punching, and very sharp crisp shots. Technically he's a boxing genius. He's not been blessed with a frightening power, or freakish size, but he's got such a high ring IQ that's he's going to be a very hard fighter to beat. That is unless father time gets to him before he gets into the ring, and father time certainly didn't seem close to him in February when he dominated Reveco.
Whilst Nietes is a 3-weight world champion this will actually be Palicte's first world title bout, but the 27 year old will feel very confident that he has the size, speed and power to over-come Nietes. He will have several inches of both height and reach advantage over Nietes as well as the clear youth advantage, but will be stepping up significantly in class. He doesn't have the notable names on his record, with his best wins being over Vergilio Silvano, Oscar Cantu, John Mark Apolinario and Jose Alfredo Rodriguez. He should also have had a win over Junior Grandos, but the judges favoured the home town man in a very poor decision.
In the ring Palicte is a bit of a rough diamond. He's very exciting, very heavy handed and throws devastating combinations. Offensively he's great to watch however he can be out boxed, and if fighters force him to move they can cause him real problems, with his less than amazing footwork, and he also drops his hands a little too much when he's throwing punches. Those flaws are things a fighter can get away at the Oriental level, but at world level he will have to tighten up, a lot, especially against someone with the ring craft of Nietes.
If Palicte can use his reach, youth and size he has got a chance to keep Nietes on the outside, but that hasn't usually been Palicte's style. If Palicte is looking to get inside then he really needs to hope his power will be too much for Neites. If it is, and if he can land early and get Nietes's respect, he has a real chance. It should however be noted that Nietes is good on the inside, and will likely be able to hold his own with Palicte. It really comes down to whether the youngster can hurt the old lion.
If this is fought as a boxing match we feel like the skills of Nietes will simply be too much for Palicte and his defensive flaws. If Palicte can however hurt Nietes, set him off his game early on and grind him down, whilst fighting through the counters. That's easier said than done, and given the defensive failings of Palicte we don't think he'll manage to do it often enough. There will be huge moments for Palicte, but we suspect he'll come up short and lose a clear, but hard fought, 12 round decision. If that happens then Nietes joins Roman Gonzalez and Leo Gamez as the only men to claim world titles in the 4 smallest weight classes.
On August 29th Thai fans will get the chance to see WBC Minmumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (50-0, 18) look to go one better than Floyd Mayweather Jr, as he looks to move to 51-0 and takes on young Filipino challenger Pedro Taduran (12-1, 9). The champion will be looking to secure his 10th defense of the title and build on an outstanding mandatory defense from back in May, when he blew out Leroy Estrada. On the other hand the challenger will be looking to claim a title in his first world title shot, and become one of the youngest world champions at just 21 years old.
The 32 year old champion is looking to etch his name in to the records books and break the 50-0 record of Floyd Mayweather. Whilst there is some criticism of his competition Wanheng does have some good opponents mixed into his record, such as Florante Condes, Saul Juarez and Tatsuya Fukuhara. Sadly though he also has a lot of filler opposition, including the likes of Silem Serang and Jaysever Abcede, both of whom he beat in non-title fights whilst being a reigning world champion.
Although he's never unified or faced the stiffest of competition there needs to be a good dose of respect for Wanheng who has shown real commitment to the Minimumweight division. He is one of the very few fighters to have not really changed weight during his career. His first professional title was the WBC Youth Minimumweight title, which he won back in 2007, and all of his bouts of note have been at 105lbs. A real dedication to making weight.
In the ring Wanheng blows hot and cold. At his best he's a defensively tight, stalker with under-rated power, good combinations accurate counter shots. These were seen fantastically last time out, when he stopped Estrada in 5 rounds after dropping him numerous times. At his worst however he can be made to look tense, slow and unwilling to trade blows, as we saw against Fukuhara and Melvin Jerusalem. If a fighter is busy they can handcuff Wanheng who really needs to pick his moments and can't match the output of some younger fighters.
The once beaten Taduran made his debut in May 2015, 3 months after Wanehng won the WBC title, and was just 18 at the time. He would begin his career with 6 straight wins before suffering a razor thin decision loss to Joel Lino. Since then he has racked up 6 more wins and progressively faced stiffer and stiffer competition, with his most recent win coming against former world title challenger Jerry Tomogdan, for the GAB Minimumweight title. Sadly other than Tomogdan there is little quality on Taduran's record with his next between wins being against Phillip Luis Curedo and Ronbert Onggocan.
There is very little footage of Pedro Taduran but from his record it's clear he can punch. Sadly though that's never going to be enough against someone like Wanheng, and he'll have to find holes in Wanheng's defense, get in and out, and land the biggest shots in his arsenal. If he can do that he has a chance, though we suspect he'll lack the experience needed to really make the most of Wanheng's flaws.
We think Taduran will have some great moments, but in the end his lack of experience and ring time will be his undoing as Wanheng moves to 51-0 and leaves Floyd Mayweather's 50-0 record in the past. Few will compare the two in terms of achievement, with Mayweather winning multiple world titles, but few can question Wanheng's dedication and desire to have a long and lengthy reign in one division, whilst taking on all mandatory challengers along the way. A loss for Taduran won't be the end, and we suspect it will actually do his career more good than harm, be we can't see how he over-comes such an accomplished champion this early in his career.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.