For a second week in a row we get mid-week world title action in Asia, this time in Thailand as WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart (16-0, 7) defends his title against Filipino challenger Toto Landero (10-1-2, 2). For the Thai the bout is his 4th defense of the title, which he won from Byron Rojas in June 2016, whilst Landero will be getting his first world title bout.
The unbeaten Thai world champion is one of the best little men in the sport and a genuine world class fighter, who has proven himself time and time again since his professional debut back in 2012. The Thai might only have 16 boxing bouts under his belt but he was a great Muay Thai fighter before turning his hand at Western boxing, and doing so in a 10 rounder for a WBC Youth title. In 2014 he stepped up in class from the Youth competition to the world class level and narrowly beat Carlos Buitrago for the WBA “interim” title. As the interim champion he would really develop his skills whilst making 3 defenses, including a dominant one in a rematch against Buitrago. It was then that he out pointed Rojas for the full version of the title, which he has defended against Shin Ono, Go Odaira and Rey Loreto.
On paper Knockout's defenses of the title haven't been great. Both Ono and Odaira had come up short in previous world title bouts and Loreto had double digit losses, though was in great form and a worthy challenge. Sadly we are now closing in on 2 years since Knockout had his win over over Rojas, and since then we have seen the rocket powered rise of Hiroto Kyoguchi, who looks to be the division's true star in the making.
In the ring Knockout is a solid boxer puncher. He doesn't live up to the “Knockout” moniker but is a solid with a very good ring IQ, a sharp jab and an aggressive mindset. He can fight at a very good pace and appears to take a shot well, though does have question marks about his stamina, having faded late in a number of bouts. He's not the most destructive, the fastest or exciting fighter, but does look like someone who will be hard to beat, especially if he can remain in Thailand where he is used to the unique conditions of day time fights.
We've all had a chance to see the champion but the 22 year old challenger is a bit more of an unknown. He turned professional at the prodigious age of 18 and was 5-0-2 (2) after 7 bouts. During that early run he battled the likes of the then unbeaten Rolly Sumalpong, who gave Ken Shiro problems, and Philip Luis Cuerdo, who both held Landero to a draw, before losing in close rematches to the youngster. His most notable bouts come more recently however with a stoppage loss to Joey Canoy in 2016, with Landero being dropped in rounds 4 and 6 before Silvester Abainza stepped in to stop the bout, and a huge upset win over Vic Saludar last June.
On paper wins over Sumalpong, Cuerdo and Saludar are decent wins, but ones that really suggest he's ready for an OPBF title fight, not a world title fight. Like many at 105lbs however he's getting a shot due to the relative lack of contenders at the weight, especially those willing to travel to Thailand to fight an unbeaten champion. For those wondering that's also part of the reason why we've seen so many contenders, like Ono and Odaira, being recycled in recent years. The win over Salurdar is however a very good one and shows there is real talent with Landero, despite his lack of power.
What we're expecting here is for Landero to fight pretty confidently early on, however Knockout's more rounded skills, strength and power will be too much for the younger man, who will be broken down and likely stopped in the mid-to-late rounds. Landero might have the edge in youth and speed, but that's about it and in the conditions of Thailand you really need brutal power or exceptional skills to beat the champions, and Landero has neither of those. Even on neutral ground he wouldn't have enough for Knockout.
This coming Saturday is another big one for boxing fans, who really are having a great few weeks recently. For us the most significant single bout takes place at the legendary Madison Square Garden, as WBA Light Heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (12-0, 10) defends his title against Cuban Sullivan Barrera (21-1, 14) in a highly interesting, and potentially explosive, contest.
The Cuban challenger is 36 and will likely see this as his only chance to win a world title, after being some what of an avoided man through much of his career. He turned professional in 2009 but it wasn't until 2015 that he faced a notable name, the then shot to pieces Jeff Lacy. That was Barrera's 15th professional bout and even then he was 32 and likely just on the end of his physical prime. Since then however he has gone 6-1 (4) and scored noteworthy wins over Karo Murat, Joe Smith Jr, Vyacheslav Shabranskyy and Felix Valera,whilst suffering his sole loss to Andre Ward.
In the ring Barrera doesn't fight like a typical Cuban. It seems like he knows he needs to be fun to watch, and can't rely on just winning, but instead needs to make fans want to watch him. That has certainly been the care in his biggest fights, as we've seen him down, we've seen him slug out with fighters and have some thrilling fights. We've seen serious question marks left over Barrera's chin, and he's been down against Ward, Shabranskyy, Smith and Valera, but he's shown real bravery and toughness to recover and often look to get revenge.
Although skilled Barrera seems to be happy to have a fight with opponents and can be dragged into a war. This can be really exciting, but shows both the strengths and weaknesses of Barrera. He can be hurt, but has the speed, the toughness and the machismo to have a firefight and come out on top. He also has the skills to counter an opponent who happy to engage him, whilst also having rhe boxing skills to get out of range and toy with lesser fighters, who are perhaps too dangerous to have a war with.
Russian based Bivol, originally from Kyrgyzstan has been one of the sports fastest rising stars. He debuted in late 2014 and went through very stiff competition early on, doing so in very impressive fashion. Around 18 months after his debut he took a wide decision over Felix Varela for the WBA interim title and essentially announce himself as a fringe world class fighter. Since then he has gone 5-0 (4), defending the interim title twice and claiming the regular title. He has looked even more like a star than he was in his early bouts, and impressed fans in Europe, Russia and North America, with solid wins against the likes of Robert Berridge, Cedric Agnew and Trent Broadhurst.
In the ring Bivol looks like a natural born destroyer. He has the typical edge associated with fighters from former Soviet countries. He has the nasty, brutal yet effortless power, associate with Gennady Golovkin and Sergey Kovalev, and just like those two he is technically very solid. He has a high work rate, a seemingly solid chin, and whilst he is perhaps lacking the experience needed find the holes of a defensive genius he looks like a fighter who can simply break the defense, through sheer bloody mindedness and work rate.
We've yet to see how Bivol fares against real world class opposition. However the eye suggests he can go a very long way. We've never really seen him break a sweat, be put under any problems or struggle in any way, other than struggle to stop one or two foes. It could be that he can't make that next step, it might be that he can't handle top quality pressure or that he simply isn't as good as he looks. The reality though, seems to be that he is something very special.
Barrera might ask a lot of new questions of Bivol. He is the first real world class opponent that Bivol will have faced. However we suspect that Bivol will have answers to question Barrera asks, and the power, work rate and skills to not only hurt the Cuban but finish him off. Barrera certainly has the skills to trouble Bivol, but his chin has caused him issues in the past against lesser opponents, and we suspect that Bivol won't let him off the hook like some of those other opponents have done, so far.
Last August we saw the long WBC Bantamweight reign of Shinsuke Yamanaka (27-1-2, 19) come to an end. By that point he had held the title for over 2100 days, or close to 6 years. During that time he had gone from obscure Japanese fighter, best known for his thrilling Japanese title fight with Ryosuke Iwasa, to a man listed in many pound-for-pound lists and a man with 12 world title defenses. He was dethroned by Mexican youngster Luis Nery (25-0, 19), who impressed by stopping Yamanaka in 4 rounds in Kyoto. The performance was a coming out event for Nery, though one that would later have a cloud hanging over it due to a failed drugs test by the Mexican.
This coming Thursday the two men meet again. For Nery it's a chance to prove that he is the better fighter, and that the drugs were incidental to his winning performance, for Yamanaka it's a chance to avenge his sole defeat and become a 2-time champion. For fans around the world it's an opportunity to see two world class Bantamweights go at it again, live on NTV.
Aged 35 Yamanaka is an old fighter, especially for the lower weights. On the whole he has avoided damaging bouts, but as he's gotten older the damage has accumulated and he's started to show more and more cracks in his chin and his reactions aren't what they once were. In his pre-prime days he was involved in the aforementioned thriller with Iwasa and it wasn't really until his 2014 clash with Suriyan Sor Rungvisai that anyone really ran him close. Sadly following the bout with Suriyan we seemed to have seen a faded Yamanaka, who narrowly over-came Anselmo Moreno in their first bout, was dropped twice by Liborio Solis in 2016 and dropped by Moreno in their second bout.
Although Yamanaka was never a technical wizard he was a solid boxer, with an extremely potent left hand. The power of left led to the nickname “God's Left” and whilst that power is still very devastating there is a feeling that age has really caught up with him. His footwork, which was once his best tool to set up the power shots, is slowing and his defense wasn't ever a strong suit. He may still have one great last performance in the bag, though it may well be that that last hurrah was his stoppage win over Moreno in 2016.
At just 23 the future is amazingly bright for Nery, who has become a big star in his homeland. The Mexican is a flawed but exciting and aggressive fighter. He brings a lot of pressure and is surprisingly quick with his hands, which are double a problem given that he too is a southpaw, and he is a high volume puncher who really loves letting his punches go. Although explosive and physically imposing Nery does have questions over his own chin, and he was dropped last time out by the accurate but relatively light punching Arthur Villanueva. Given his style he makes the most of his youthful energy, though some questions should be asked about his stamina, and he has only done 24 rounds in his last 6 bouts combined with only 1 career bout going beyond 9 rounds.
Although flawed there is a real feeling that Nery has the style to always trouble Yamanaka. Even a prime Yamanaka didn't like incessant pressure, this was shown against Iwasa and more recently against Suriyan and Solis. There is a chance that Nery's chin wouldn't hold up to a perfect left hand from Yamanaka, though with the Mexican being busy, young and quick, he will feel confident of swarming Yamanaka, cramping him of space and working away on the inside. Where Nery perhaps is at a big disadvantage is his natural size, and he does seem like a fighter who struggles to comfortably make 118lbs, with 2 of his recent bouts taking place above the divisional limit. If he's struggling he may just cause himself enough issues to take away the edges he has.
We suspect this bout will be similar to the first. Yamanaka will have some success when he's got the bout at range, making the most of Nery's slower feet, but the Mexican will gradually get closer, and will begin to break down the Japanese veteran, eventually stopping Yamanaka, and retiring him. There is a chance Yamanaka will land a trademark thunderbolt left hand, but that's all he has, a puncher's chance.
This coming Thursday we'll get the chance to see Ryosuke Iwasa (24-2, 16) make his first defense of the IBF Super Bantamweight title, which he won in impressive fashion last September. The hard hitting Japanese world champion will be defending the belt against the little known Filipino challenger Ernesto Saulong (21-2-1, 8).
Iwasa was a former amateur stand out before turning professional in 2008, with many in Japan expecting big things of the Southpaw from Chiba. The talent, and power, of Iwasa was clear from very early on, and in a little over 25 months he had raced out to an impressive 8-0 (6) record, and a shot at the Japanese Bantamweight title. Whilst he would go on to lose in his first title fight, coming up short to Shinsuke Yamanaka, he did show a lot of potential, and would subsequently go on to win both the Japanese and OPBF Bantamweight titles whilst climbing up the world rankings. Sadly Iwasa would suffer his second stoppage loss in his first world title bout, losing to Lee Haskins, but would then move up in weight, and he has since looked a much better fighter whilst going 5-0 (4).
Last time out we saw Iwasa really put everything together as he scored a career defining win and stopped Yukimori Oguni in 6 rounds to claim the IBF Super Bantamweight title. He dropped Iwasa numerous times before forcing Wayne Hedgpeth to take a bloodied Oguni to the ringside doctor, and eventually stop the bout.
Early in his career Iwasa looked like a relatively predictable, 1-paced slugger. He had some technical nous, but there was a real feeling that he was a bit too basic to test the best, though had the brutal power that would always make him dangerous, if he could land. Since moving up win weight however he has looked a bit smoother, a bit more relaxed, and just as dangerous when he lands. There is a still a feeling he could be out boxed by a smart mover, but he is very dangerous and if he lands clean he will do damage.
Whilst Iwasa has had his career followed closely by those who follow the Japanese domestic scene there wasn't ever the same following for Saulong in his homeland. Instead the 28 year old has had to develop with out much fan fare or expectation since his 2010 debut. Despite the lack of expectation Saulong has managed to prove himself as a solid competitor on the domestic scene, and has scored notable wins over the likes of Alie Laurel, twice, and Jestoni Austida. Sadly those wins aside there is little of real value on his record, other than losses to Rey Megrino and Lwandile Sityatha.
In the ring Saulong isn't a particularly big puncher, and he has scored only an single stoppage win in his last 5 bouts, with that coming against Arnel Baconaje, He is a solid fighter technically with a nice pressure style using a lot of head movement to slip shots. He's nice to watch but has an unfortunate knack of throwing shots that are quite wide and not having anything razor sharp in his arsenal. Defensively he makes for a very tough target, but offensively he doesn't appear too troublesome with his output.
Given the footage available of the the challenger it's possible he could give Iwasa some problems with his head movement. However it's hard to imagine Saulong avoiding everything Iwasa has to offer, especially the body shots. With that in mind we are expecting the champion to hurt, and later stop the Filipino. Saulong has the potential to be a stubborn opponent, but we really don't think he has the toughness to withstand Iwasa's power, or enough power of his own to hurt the champion, who we suspect will close the show in the middle rounds.
Last September American Daniel Roman (23-2-1, 9) announced himself on the world stage with a stoppage win over Shun Kubo to claim the WBA Super Bantamweight title in Kyoto. The win saw Roman score his 15th straight win and step up massively from victories over the likes of Christopher Martin, Christian Esquivel and Adam Lopez. This coming Wednesday he'll return to a Japanese ring, this time as a champion as he faces off with touted Ohashi gym fighter Ryo Matsumoto (21-1, 19).
The American had been a solid amateur amateur before turning professional at the age of 20. As a professional he struggled early on, with a draw and a defeat in his first 4 bouts. After 11 bouts he was 8-2-1 but since then he has matured into a real handful. He's a skilled fighter, with a high activity rate, good body punching and a smart pressure style. It's not the intense pressure we see from the like of Gennady Golovkin or Srisaket Sor Rungvisai but more of a constant and intelligent pressure that takes a mental toll and comes from his jab and timing. There's nothing “blunt force” about Roman, and he's not going to KO people with with one shot, but he's going to mentally break them and wear them down.
Although not a power puncher, and with just 9 stoppages in 26 fights no one would argue other wise, Roman is a solid puncher and has stopped 4 of his last 6. Notably he has stopped his last 2 foes both in round 9 and seems to be showing more self belief in his power, with his work rate being a huge asset in those stoppages. It's unclear how good his chin is, and he's not the quickest, but he knows what works for him and is using his tools to get outcomes.
At 27 years old Roman is reaching his physical peak and as he continues to mature he will almost certainly add to his physical strength and power. He will never become a KO guy but with his pressure style the physical development he makes will make him tougher to defeat and even harder to try and force backwards. It's also worth noting that despite looking like a solid Super Bantamweight it does seem like he does make the weight quite easily, and could beef up just a touch to really push the divisional limit and fill out his frame a tiny bit more.
Aged 24 Matsumoto is a young gun, but appears to have been around for a very long time. That's because he actually debuted at the very end of 2011, aged 17, and has slowly been developed into a world class fighter. And by slowly we really do mean slowly. He looked ready to be let off the leash in 2015, following wins over Hiroyuki Kudaka, Denkaosan Kaovichit and Rusalee Samor the previous year, but was held back. Sadly for Matsumoto his rise hit the wall in 2016 when he suffered a shock loss to Victor Uriel Lopez. That loss was a major hit to Matsumoto's rise, but was a blessing in disguise with the youngster later receiving treatment for a medical issue that affected him in the contest. Since then he has looked better than even, avenging his loss, and noticing a significant growth spurt.
In the ring Matsumoto is a joy to watch. He combines silky smooth skills with brilliant speed, brutal power, and lovely shot selection. He's not a brawler but when he has an opponent hurt he lets his hands go very freely whilst at range he boxes well behind a razor sharp jab,with some blazing straight right hands. There is defensive flaws with Matsumoto but offensively he is a machine and his blow out against Hideo Sakamoto last year was truly impressive. Not only has he got the skills but he also has the team, with the Ohashi team being one of the best in Japan, if not the world, and will have seen him training with Naoya Inoue and Takuma Inoue as well as Akira Yaegashi and Satoshi Shimizu, all of whom are excellent fighters. Like so many young Japanese fighters he looks natural in the ring and has an incredible amount of composure and understanding in the ring.
Stylistically the Japanese fighter is a boxer-puncher. Despite being 24 he looks like a fighter who is still filling out his frame and maturing. When he completely develops into his body he'll likely be fighting at Featherweight, but for now he's just got the look of a boy, still, and not a man. That hasn't been an issue yet, but could be in the future.
Sadly for Matsumoto this is looking like a really test for the once beaten Japanese fighter. His style is somewhat made to order for Roman, with the American likely to apply his pressure and look to break down the Japanese fighter. What Matsumoto does have, that Kubo didn't, is the heavy hands that could stop Roman in his tracks, and the body punching to go with it. We're expecting to see Roman start slowly, box behind his jab and the speed of Matsumoto will give him a lot to think about. Eventually though Roman will drag Matsumoto into a war, and we suspect Roman will come out on top, but will be given a much, much harder bout than he was against Kubo. Matsumoto has long deserved a shot against a world class fighter, but this feels like a stylistically bad fight for him. He has the chance to shine, but we think Roman will have the tools to deal with him.
The biggest bout this weekend is a potential instant classic as WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (44-4-1, 40) defends his title against mandatory challenger Juan Francisco Estrada (36-2, 25). For the champion this will be his second defense of his second reign, and gives him a huge chance to solidify himself as a leading fighter in the lower weights. The challenger will be looking to become a 2-weight champion, and will be looking to further establish himself as one of the best current Mexican fighters in the sport. On a more fan based level this will be one of the best aggressive fighters in the sport against one of the truly elite boxers and should be a stylistic pleasure or power, brains and skill.
Last year Srisaket announced himself on to the Western fan base with two wins over Roman Gonalez. To some that was his only real achievement but to others, who had followed his career, those were just more big wins that saw him become a 2-time world champion. Prior to those wins he had amassed a long record in Asia and had scored notable wins over Yota Sato, to claim his first title, and Jose Salgado, to become mandatory for a second title fight. Other than those two wins his only other notable recent bout had been a technical decision loss to Carlos Cuadras, who had looked very worried about the power and aggression of Srisaket.
Unlike many Thai's with padded records Srisaket is a genuine world class fighter. He's teak tough, a huge puncher, a powerful physical specimen, with aggressive footwork, a high work rate and an awkward southpaw stance. For all his strengths he can be outboxed, he's not the quickest, the smoothest or defensively the smartest. He has been shown to eat shots, as he did at times against Gonzalez, though they typically bounce off him and he regularly dwarfs other Super Flyweights. In many ways he's like a smaller, cruder, more powerful Gennady Golovkin and if the Super Flyweight division had a higher profile a few years ago he truly would have been the divisional bogey man, rather than someone feasting on regional journeymen to stay busy.
Whilst Srisaket only really managed to make him name in the West recently the same can't be said of Estrada, who has looked on the verge of breaking out a few times, before something has slowed his ascent. In 2012 he went tooth and nail with Roman Gonzalez, in a true Fight of the Year contender for the WBA Light Flyweight title. That bout was aired on Wealth TV in the US and it seemed like the perfect platform for the lower weight fighters. Despite the loss Estrada's profile was boosted immeasurably and just a few months later he would defeat Brian Viloria in Macau to claim the WBO and WBA “super” titles at Flyweight. Another bout in Macau saw Estrada defeat Milan Melindo and it seemed like he was going to become a staple of the Bob Arum shows in the region. Sadly though he would fight his next 7 bouts in Mexico, spread over the following 3 years. They included wins over Giovani Segura and Hernan Marquez, who had looked shot for a while, along with some limited opposition as hand injuries slowed his rise and kept him out of action for over a year.
Thankfully for Estrada he scored a major win last year as he over-came Carlos Cuadras to earn a shot at the WBC Super Flyweight title. The win over Cuadras showed everything that Estrada is. He's a really intelligent boxer-puncher, he showed ring craft, timing, and understanding of distance that many fighters wish they could have. His jab was on point, his shot selection showed touches of genius and although he started somewhat slowly he came close to finishing off a tired Cuadras late on, dropping his fellow Mexican in round 10. The slow start of Estrada is something we've seen a number of times, as he figures out his opponents and then begins to go to work. It's a cerebral style that he combines with solid speed and power.
Give that Srisaket is a fast starter, looking to force his will from the opening bell and that Estrada is a slow starter, who begins to pick apart opponents as the fight goes on we are expecting a fight that,if it goes to the cards, is going to be very hard to score. We're know that Srisaket will start fast, and during the first 4 or 5 rounds he is going to be incredibly dangerous against his naturally smaller foe. If he can land his power shots during this time there is a chance he could force a stoppage, he could in fairness stop almost anyone in the lower weights if he lands cleanly. If Estrada sees out the early storm he will dominate the later rounds, making things really interesting on the score cards. It really could depend on whether or not Srisaket can get an early knockdown or not.
Another to consider here, and it works in Sriskaet's favour, is the potential for headclashes. A quick start by the Thai before a headclash renders an early finish could well see him take a technical decision, in part due to Estrada's willingness to start slowly. This may well figure into the game plan of both men, and see a slightly early start from Estrada.
We favour the Thai to come out on top, though we suspect he'll have to get through some very tough patches late on to come out with the win, after a very strong start.
The Flyweight division is one of the most interesting at the moment, with a really nice mix of fighters at the top. We have the destructive Daigo Higa, the crude but gutsy Sho Kimura and the highly experienced Donnie Nietes. The division might not have a huge amount of star power, but it does have a real nice mix of fighters and has the potential to have a huge year in 2018, with the likes of Kosei Tanaka looking to make a mark there.
This coming Saturday we get the chance to see a really interesting match up in the division as the aforementioned Donnie Nietes (40-1-4, 22) makes his first defense of the IBF title and looks to extend his claim of being the division's elder statesman. In the opposite corner to Nietes will be another veteran, Juan Carlos Reveco (39-3, 19), who will be hunting a third world title to add to his long list of achievements.
Aged 35 Nietes is a bit of a freak for the little weights. He is, for all intents, an ancient fighter and debuted as a professional way back in 2003 within 17 months he had gone 11-0-1, before losing very controversially to Angky Angkotta in Indonesia, whilst being outweighed by 6lbs. Ever since that loss, back in 2004, Nietes has gone unbeaten running up a 29-0-3 record. That is even more impressive when you consider he has fought a huge number of those bouts at world level, and claimed world titles at Minimumweight, Light Flyweight and Flyweight, establishing himself as one of the best little men of his generation and one of the best Filipino fighters ever.
During his 32 fight unbeaten run Nietes has fought in 16 world title bouts, going 15-0-1 (6). On paper those numbers are really good, and even more so when you consider he has beaten fighters like Pornsawan Porpramook, Jesus Silvestre, Moises Fuentes and Francisco Rodriguez Jr . What has helped him have such longevity is his high boxing IQ, excellent skills and real understanding of himself and his opponents. He is a really smart boxing who doesn't excel in any physical area but does everything brilliantly. He can box at range and up close, and dictates the tempo and range of a bout brilliantly. He hits hard enough to get the respect of opponents, he's accurate and although he can be out worked be is a real thinking man's fighter who appears to have developed a lot from his experience.
Reveco has also become one of the lower weights veterans, and at 34 he's not much younger than Nietes and debuted just a year later than the Filipino. The talented Reveco raced out to the WBA Light Flyweight title, winning the belt in his 16th bout by stopping Thai Nethra Sasiprapa. His reign was however a short one, and he would lose the title in his second defense as he was out pointed by Frenchman Brahim Asloum, in what was Reveco's first bout outside of Argentina. Within a year of the loss to Asloum we saw Reveco claim the WBA “interim” Light Flyweight title, before moving up in weight and winning the WBA “interim” Flyweight title. That interim title was later upgraded to the full Flyweight title , which he would defend against the likes of Masayuki Kuroda, Ricardo Nunez, Felix Avarado and Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep. Those wins showed that Reveco was a talented, tough and smart fighter with top class body shots and and a real gutsy desire. He also held his own in a very narrow defeat to Kazuto Ioka in April 2015, in a very close bout. A rematch with Ioka however saw the Japanese fighter show a new maturity and stop Reveco with a really stellar performance.
Since lose to Ioka at the end of 2017 we've seen Reveco go 3-0 with a notable win last time out against Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking to earn a crack at the IBF title. He has proven there is still something left in the tank, and against Eaktwan we saw Reveco put on a brilliant performance, using his hand speed, his movement, and his skills to avoid an all out war with the naturally bigger Thai. He will need to use those traits, along with his trademark body punching, if he's to stand a chance here.
With both Nietes and Reveco getting on in age it's hard to know what either man really has left. There is a chance that both have one last great performance, there is also a chance that father time gets to either man. A few years ago this bout would have been something really special, but now, whilst it's still an excellent fight it does feel like the loser will be sent into retirement. That may mean that both men pull out all the stops, but it could also mean neither man has the fire, speed or snap they once had. Going on recent performances we do favour Nietes, who has avoided the wars that Reveco has had, to come out on top, but could certainly see the enducated body shots of Reveco giving the Filipino real problems.
We think this bout could have been a classic 3 years ago, had Nietes moved up back then, or even down at 108lbs. We still still think it'll be a really, really good fight,but can't get over the fact that that they have a combined age of almost 70, and both will have seen better days.
This coming Saturday the little men of boxing take over Inglewood, California with a trio of world title bouts taking place in the Flyweight and Super Flyweight divisions. One of those bouts will feature veteran American-Filipino Brian Viloria (38-5-0-2, 23) take on little known Artem Dalakian (15-0, 11), a Ukrainian fighter who was born in Azerbaijan, for the WBA Flyweight title. For Viloria the bout could be a final bout at the top, and a chance to finish his long career as a champion, whilst Dalakian will be wanting to announce himself as a top tier fighter.
Viloria's professional career has been a genuine roller-coaster. He made his professional debut in 2001, after an outstanding amateur career that saw him become World Amateur Champion back in 1999 and competed at the 2000 Olympics. As a professional Viloria was fast tracked and in 2005 claimed the WBC world title by stopping Eric Ortiz inside a round. Sadly his first reign was a short one, lasting just 11 months, and just a single successful title defense, before he lost the belt to Omar Nino Romero. Viloria would claim the IBF title in 2009 by stopping Ulises Solis, to become a 2-time world champion, but again his reign was a short lived one and he lost the title the following year to Carlos Tamara. In 2011 we saw Viloria become a 3-time champion, as he beat Julio Cesar Miranda for the WBO Flyweight title, and had his best reign, stopping Giovani Segura, avenging a loss to Omar Nino Romero and unifying the WBA and WBO titles with a thrilling win over Hernan Marquez.
What has basically been the way with Viloria's career is success followed by a stumble, followed by more success and another stumble. It often seemed like Viloria was unable to decide what he was in the ring. Was he a boxer, or a puncher? He could certainly bang, but came up against fighters who could take his power and test his stamina, eventually out lasting him. If he boxed he'd have to be more cautious, but still preserve his stamina and not have too much wasted movement. Being lost between the two styles often cost him. Despite being excellent at both, he wasn't quite elite at either, and could be out punched or out boxed, and had stamina issue that were always going to be a problem in the later rounds. As he matured those issues continued to be with him, and at 37 it's hard to know just what he has left in the tank. If he was was in his prime he'd be very strongly favoured here, despite some inconsistent performances, but at 37, with almost 17 years of professional experience behind him, 333 rounds, and 45 fights....one must wonder what he has left.
Aged 30 Dalakian is a real unknown on the world stage. He was supposed to fight for the title last year, against Kazuto Ioka who retired from the sport after issues with his father and manager. The Ukrainian has had to wait for his eventual shot and will be coming into this bout following a lengthy lay off, having not fought since last April, and he has only fought 17 rounds in the last 24 months, a possible issue here. Saying that however he is a heavy handed fighter who has stopped his last 4 foes, and has only been taken 12 rounds so far. On one hand that says something about his competition, which has been “middling” at best with his most notable win being a TKO over the 38 year old Silvio Olteanu, but on the other he does hit hard and is not someone to trade with for long.
Footage of Dalakian shows a very big looking flyweight, who is confident in his power, his chin and his physicality. His defense looks questionable, with his hands often by his waist, but it looks to be a choice by design, rather than an out and out flaw,as he looks to entice opponents to open up on him and give him a chance to land his shots. The openness may cost him against a top tier opponent, but he looks like he's going to be a handful for anyone just through sheer physical attributes and power. In terms of skills they are there, but look rather raw in certain fights and that's a surprise given he was a decent amateur fighter himself, and managed to compete in several notable amateur competitions.
If Viloria was in his prime we would expect his power, his skills, and his accuracy to be too much for the slower, cruder and more open Dalakian. There would be a chance that Viloria would tire himself out with power shots and not manage to blast out the Ukrainian, but we'd favour Viloria. However we don't have a prime Viloria with us any more and we suspect Dalakian's power, and physicality will be too much for Viloria, who will be broken down and stopped in the middle rounds. This will be fun, but really just a send off for the Filipino-American veteran.
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.