Fahlan returns to Osaka and looks to become a second generation champion against the "Lightning Kid" Takayama
December 31st 2013 will be a date that will forever live on in the memory of Thailand's Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr (27-3-1, 15). It was the date he scored his career defining victory, a shock upset of the previously unbeaten Ryo Miyazaki in Osaka. It was the date that Fahlan put his name on the boxing map and become, for a few moments, a man with an exciting future ahead of him and several lucrative paydays lined up for him.
Less than 28 months later Fahlan will return to the scene of the crime and hunt a second major win at the Bodymaker Colosseum. This time around he's not just fighting to make a name for himself but also for world honours as he looks to win the IBF Minimumweight title and reach the pinnacle of the sport, like his father. In fact he looks to claim the same title his father held back in the early 1990's.
Fahlan Sakkreerin Sr won the IBF Minimumweight title back in 1990 when he stopped Eric Chavez. He would subsequently defend the belt 7 times, including a rematch with Chavez and a bout with Pretty Boy Lucas, before losing the belt in September 1992. Just 9 months after Sr lost the title Jr was born.
Fahlan Jr was an unknown when he traveled to Japan at the end of 2013. He had never faced anyone of note and had only scored wins over novices and the typical "also rans" that frequent Thailand and regular losers, such as Madit Sada, Samuel Tehuayo and Wilber Andogan. When he left Japan he was a well known fighter with some asking whether or not he could become a world champion. At the time it seemed possible, he was just 20 years old and still developing, both as a man and as a fighter. Time was on his side and the win over Miyazaki netted him world rankings with all 4 world title bodies.
Sadly since the fight with Miyazaki we've seen Fahlan has struggle to recapture any major form, having gone 4-1-1 with a loss to the then 1-0 Takuma Inoue and a disappointing draw with Tatsuya Fukuhara. In all 4 of those fights he has looked limited and lacking that something special. He has however won the IBF Asia Light Flyweight title and used his connections with Kiatkreerin to help enhance his IBF ranking.
Unfortunately for Fahlan the task ahead of him is a difficult one as he takes on the world class Katsunari Takayama (28-7-0-1, 11), a multi-time world champion who has been one of the true warriors of Japanese boxing over the last decade or so. Not only has he been in a number of brilliant fights but he has also been happy to travel for his defining fights as he's created an enviable legacy for himself.
Guided by trainer-come-mentor Hiroaki Nakada we've seen Takayama claim the WBC, IBF, WBO and WBA interim titles in a career that really has been a wonderful and often over-looked one. Sadly he has often been over-shadowed by other Osakan based fighters, such as the more popular Kazuto Ioka, though has genuinely been a credit to the sport and a man capable exciting fans with his action and perpetually aggressive style which makes him a must-watch fighter.
In the ring Takayama is a light punching machine who has shown a willingness to take one to land one, or more often than not a willingness to take 5 to land 5 in wild exchanges that have dominated fights. Sometimes it's not worked for him and he's had to rely on his toughness to see out some real worries, as seen against Roman Gonzalez and Nkosinathi Joyi other times however his toughness, work rate and aggression have been more than enough to help him earn exciting and hard fought wins, such as his 2013 victory over Mario Rodriguez, in Rodriguez's homeland of Mexico.
Takayama is one of our favourites. We've rarely tried to hide that. Though he's also a flawed fighter. Not only has he shown he's happy to take a shot but he often takes a lot of them, his defense is flawed, technically he's a relatively limited “boxer” and in terms of power he's certainly not much of a puncher, in fact he's only stopped one of his last 9 opponents. He often makes up for those flaws with his insane work-rate though he's certainly not unbeatable.
At the end of 2014 we saw Takayama scoring a relatively rare stoppage as he defeated compatriot Go Odaira in a bout for the WBO and IBF titles, which were both vacant. Since then Takayama has vacated the WBO though the big hope is that if he's successful here he'll be getting a shot at Hekkie Budler in November to crown the consensus #1 fighter in the division. That means their is a lot riding on this bout for the “Lightning Kid” though of course if Fahlan can upset him then the Thai could well get the opportunity for the divisional super fight. The stakes really couldn't be much higher.
Coming in to the bout the logical winner, and massive favourite, will be Takayama. He has the experience, he has the skill, he has the desire and the proven world class ability. Worryingly however he was being out boxed by Odaira last time out, prior to the stoppage, and he took a lot of damage in the bout before that, a 12 round FOTY contender with Francisco Rodriguez Jr. When you consider many of his 293 career rounds have been fought at a very high level it's fair to say his body is going to have signs of wear and tear. The same cannot be said of Fahlan who has just over half as many professional rounds and has, generally, fought at a much lower level. Also in Fahlan's favour is his size, given that he's a career Light Flyweight, and his youth. Both of which he'll be hoping to make the most of against Takayama.
In the ring we expect this bout to be action packed. There will be a lot of leather thrown and a lot of back and forth. If Takayama is feeling the effects of his long and hard career things could be very interesting. The general feeling is that Takayama is showing signs of being slightly on the slide. If he is he may feel the weight of Fahlan more than expected, his output might be less intense than usual and he might have a few hairy moments. We suspect the champion will come out on top though we wouldn't shocked to see him struggle at times with his much younger and fresher foe in what will be compelling from the first bell to the last.
(Image courtesy of Thairec.com)
This April is the best month for boxing fans so far this year. The big fights come thick and fast and there is hardly a day where something important isn't happening. Saying that however one fight in particular stands out, and it's one that was first rumoured last year and never really seemed to disappear until it was, eventually, signed earlier this year.
The bout in questions sees former 2-weight world champion Kazuto Ioka (16-1, 10) battle WBA Flyweight champion Juan Carlos Reveco (35-1, 19).
When the bout was first rumoured Ioka was unbeaten and a star of Japanese boxing. He had looked set to become just the second ever Japanese fighter to become a 3-weight world champion and was set to build on an excellent 2013 that had seen him go 3-0 (2) over opponents with a combined record of 114-9-3. Since then however he has lost his unbeaten record, losing to the tricky Amnat Ruenreong, and been made to look relatively ordinary by the limited Pablo Carrilo.
Ioka's loss to Amnat has taken a little bit of the shine from this bout though it's still an attractive one with Ioka rediscovering his form, and scoring an excellent KO over Jean Piero Perez in December, whilst Reveco showed some vulnerabilities of his own, including a knock down against Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep late last year.
Whilst the bout has lost a little of shine it's still a special bout between two world class fighters with a lot of ability, styles that should gel and a lot on the line.
Ioka, at his best, is a boxer-puncher who delivers brilliant body shots, moves well and, when needed, can brawl. Likewise Reveco is renowned for his body shots and his ability to be dragged from boxing to brawling. Stylistically they should drag the best from each and both should begin boxing with action heating up quickly and giving us, the fans, some really memorable back-and-forth sequences with each man trying to get the most significant blows.
Not only are both similar in how they fight but both have similar achievements. Ioka is a 2-weight world champion having won titles at Minimumweight and Light Flyweight. Likewise Reveco is also a 2-weight world champion having claimed titles at both Light Flyweight and Flyweight. Both are however second tier fighters in a division run by Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada, they are effectively battling for the scraps left by the two pre-eminent fighters in the division.
Whilst that sounds like an insult it shouldn't be. Gonzalez and Estrada are among the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet, being behind them is nothing shameful.
When it comes to this bout what we're expecting to see is a bout that starts slowly, seeing both men trying to figure the other out and look for counters. Both men are solid counter punchers, but it's not either man's strong point. After 3 or 4 rounds the bout will be in full swing, neither man happy to lose an exchange, and when they do they will fire back with interest. By the mid rounds the bout will quickly have become must watch entertainment with little to separate the men who attempt to prove that they are the better man. From then anything could happen.
On one hand we can see an Ioka win, on the other we can see a Reveco win.
On paper Reveco is the “better” Flyweight. He holds the most notable wins at the weight, including a stoppage of Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep last December in a memorable 5 round bout, a narrow win over Felix Alvarado, an 8th round technical decision win over Ricardo Nunez, and a win, in Japan over Masayuki Kuroda from back in 2013.
Reveco however is travelling fighter and will need to do his best to silence the Osakan crowd who will be cheering every punch Ioka lands. Reveco is also the old man and is a very old 31 year old who has already been in 36 bouts totalling 226 rounds, that's a lot of experience but also a lot of wear and tear. Notably however his last couple of wins look great on paper but weren't as amazing as he'd have hoped. Also from what we understand Reveco has had less than perfect preparation for this bout, with the early part of his training camp being done with out a trainer.
For Ioka the first advantage is that he's fighting at home. In fact this will be his 8th bout at the Bodymaker Colosseum, where is 6-1 (4). It was in the same venue that he unified WBC and WBA Minimumweight titles with his 2012 victory over Akira Yaegashi, it was in the same venue that he won the WBA Light Flyweight title, stopping Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, and where he recorded all 4 of his defences of that title.
Another Ioka's advantages is that he's just coming into his physical peak. Although it seems like Ioka has been around forever he's only just turned 26. He's been a professional for 6 years but hasn't been a busy one, instead he's been set on achieving as opposed to being active. His fights have typically served a purpose and as a result he's an experienced fighter, with 9 world title bouts, but not a worn out one.
The problem with Ioka however is the question mark regarding his size. In his 3 Flyweight bouts he's not looked like a Flyweight. Instead he has looked like a Light Flyweight fighting against bigger men. If that's not sorted out then he doesn't stand a chance against Reveco. Those middle rounds will be too much. Also we have questions about Ioka's power, especially at Flyweight. He has only scored a single stoppage in his last 4 bouts.
We're hoping to see the best of both men. If that happens then we suspect Ioka wins a very competitive decision with the later rounds just being enough for him to take home the win. If Ioka is any less than 100% then title is likely heading back to Argentina with Reveco.
(Image courtesy of Kazuto Ioka's blog)
The Bantamweight division is one of the hottest in Japan right now. The country boasts two of the truly elite divisional fighters in the form of WBC kingpin Shinsuke Yamanaka and WBO champion Tomoki Kameda. It also boasts a brilliant set of contender level fighters, such as Shohei Omori and Kentaro Masuda, who may well have fought by the time you're probably reading this, Ryosuke Iwasa, who is set to get an IBF title shot later in the year, and WBO #1 ranked contender Ryo Akaho.
It's fair to say that the coming year will be a major one, especially given the news about Iwasa's bout with Lee Haskins and the up coming contest between Tomoki Kameda and WBA "regular" champion Jamie McDonnell. Iwasa and Kameda however are trailing well behind Yamanaka in terms of resume so far and before either of them get the chance to change that we will see Yamanaka return to action and distance himself yet further from his compatriots.
That comes about on April 16th when the unbeaten Yamanaka (22-0-2, 16) takes to the ring in the search of his 8th world title defence and a victory over unbeaten Argentinian Diego Ricardo Santillan (23-0, 15). This will be Yamanaka's first bout against an unbeaten opponent since his 2011 war with Iwasa, though few are giving Santillan any type of chance in a bout widely considered a mismatch, despite the fact neither man has tasted defeat so far.
The reasons Yamanaka is so heavily favoured are numerous though they tend to come down to the fact he's more proven, has the more impressive wins and the more complete skill set. In fact in terms of his resume there is no active Bantamweight who can compare with Yamanaka, who already has wins over the likes of Iwasa, Christian Esquivel, Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao and Suriyan Sor Rungvisai.
The Japanese puncher is dubbed the "God Left" due to his rocket like left hand which has destroyed numerous opponents in his 24 fight career. In terms of over-all boxing he's not the most impressive, in fact in many ways he's a one-trick pony but his one trick is an excellent one. He looks for an opportunity to land his home run punch and often connects. Aside from the left hand he does have a solid, though massively under-utilised, jab and a spiteful array of other shots that continue go under-used.
Aged 32 Yamanaka is seemingly still in his prime. He has been involved in one or two wars, with the Iwasa bout standing out, but over-all he's not taken too much damage courtesy of his left hand and his intelligent footwork, which is used to set up his straight. From his 24 career bouts he has only amassed 157 professional rounds, around 6.5 rounds a bout, and has stopped 14 of his last 16 opponents.
Although there are flaws with Yamanaka, notably his refusal to use his jab to set up his left hand, he's a really hard fighter to beat. Firstly a fighter needs to be built of really tough stuff, and then they need to either out box him or work him. To date no fighter has been capable of that, though Suriyan did show the blueprint in to how to beat Yamanaka, though was dropped several times for his effort and relied on his super human toughness to just see out the 12 rounds.
Going through the record of the 27 year old Santillan yields little to really tell us how good he is. On paper his best win came almost 5 years ago when he stopped compatriot Guillermo Osvaldo Soloppi, then 13-0, in 5 rounds for the for Argentinian Bantamweight title. Since then however Soloppi has gone 5-5 with only a single win against a fighter with a winning record and doesn't look like a genuinely good win. Similarly a win over the then 11-0 Oreste Bernabe Nieva looks less impressive now than it looked at the time. Most worryingly for Santillan, at least in regards to his record, was his struggle past the limited Lucas Rafael Baez in a very competitive bout that saw Santillan getting the "home nudge" to retain his perfect record.
From the footage that we've managed to see of Santillan he appears to be slow footed, offensively reckless and defensively open. In terms of his power it's not impressive enough to worry a fighter like Yamanaka and he's not aggressive enough to put Yamanaka under the pressure that Suriyan did last time out.
Whilst it's fair to say that Suriyan did give Yamanaka a very tough time last time out it's hard to see Santillan doing the same. The Argentinian does look tough but he's never been hit by anything like a Yamanaka straight left hand. We suspect that when he is tagged by Yamanaka's power he will feel it, and he'll feel it hard. We suspect that that power will finish off Santillan within 8 rounds with Santillan becoming another of Yamanaka's victims.
Whilst this bout is, likely, to be one sided we expect that the division will go through a lot of changes in the next few months. We already know that Kameda Vs McDonnell is set, we know talks are on-going for Iwasa Vs Haskins and we'll also see Japanese and OPBF title fights in the division take place this month. It's hard to know exactly where the division is heading but it's certainly going to be an interesting year for fans of the Bantamweight division.
(Image courtesy of www.boxmob.jp)
In late March we saw Filipino fighter Rommel Asenjo come up very short when he took on Juan Francisco Estrada. Just 2 weeks later we see another Filipino travelling to Mexico in hope of shocking the boxing world. This time it's the unbeaten Richard Claveras (12-0-2, 12) who will be looking to score a huge upset win and claim the WBC Light Flyweight title when he battles against Pedro Guevara (24-1-1, 16).
Coming into the bout Claveras is a real unknown. He may be the future of Filipino boxing, or he may be a fighter who bitten off much more than he can chew.
Aged 25 Claveras is dubbed “Explosive” due to his power, power that has seen him stopping his last 10 opponents, and 12 of his last 13. On one hand he has been wiping out opponents at double quick speed, in fact his 14 career bouts have lasted just 34 rounds, less than 2.5 rounds a fight. That has been because he's scored 8 opening round stoppages and 10 stoppages in the first 2 rounds. On the other hand he hasn't been fighting particularly stiff competition with his most experienced foe being Rodel Tejares and his most notable win being an 8th round TKO against JC Francisco.
Whilst it's almost impossible to judge Claveras from his competition he's been dealing with it the way he should. He's been completely destroying them following a 2-0-2 (2) start to his career.
What we do know about Claveras is that his body shots are spiteful, his head shots are vicious, his size, for a Light Flyweight, is incredibly imposing and from the little bit of footage we've seen he's patient, surprisingly for someone with a record like he has. We also know that at 25 years old he's coming into his physical prime, even if he is technically inexperienced as a fighter.
Whilst little is real known about the Filipino challenger we do know plenty about the defending champion, who claimed the title late last year when he stopped Akira Yaegashi in Japan. That was Guevara's second world title fight after having previously come up short against the then IBF champion Johnriel Casimero.
As a fighter Guevara really can do it. He's a brilliant boxer-puncher who shows traits of Ricardo Lopez in the way he fights. He's capable of fighting at range behind his excellent jab, he's able to box on the back foot his counters and, when push comes to shove, he can fight on the inside. He combines his excellent all round ability with solid toughness and real patience, which make him very tough to beat. In fact his record essentially proves that as he already holds notable wins over the likes of Yaegashi, Mario Rodriguez and Raul Garcia, an excellent trio of fighters.
Whilst what have seen of Claveras is impressive it's impossible for us to favour him against the fantastic Guevara who is more proven and more known. That's not to say Claveras stand no chance, but he really is going from the paddling pool to the middle of the ocean and being told to swim for the first time. Not only is he being told to swim, but he's being told to swim with sharks.
For Claveras his best chance, if not his only chance, is to start fast and hope his power is simply too much for Guevara. Unfortunately for the challenger it does seem like Guevara is a tough and gritty fighter and we suspect the champion will see out any early assault before turning the tables, using his experience and skills to eventually break down the challenger, who simply isn't ready for a fight at this level.
In 2011 fans saw Filipino fighter Rommel Asenjo (26-3, 20) come up short in a bout for the WBO Minimumweight title, when he was stopped by Mexican Raul Garcia in 3 rounds. Since then Asenjo has gone 6-0 (4) as he has rebuilt his career and now finds himself getting a second world title fight on April 28th. Unfortunately for the diminutive Filipino fighter he will be up against one of boxing's most impressive champions, WBA "Super" and WBO Flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada (31-2, 22). And just like the Garcia bout, we will see Asenjo needing to travel to Mexico. Worst of all for Asenjo he will be stepping in to the Flyweight division for the first time since a 2008 loss to a young and emerging Suriyan Sor Rungvisai.
For those who remember Asenjo's loss to Garcia, it was huge step up in class and one he was simple not ready for. Asenjo had, up to that point, never fought anyone above the Filipino domestic level and had found that many of those domestic opponent were unable to cope with his power. In fact when he entered that bout he had a record of 20-2 (16) and had only gone beyond 8 rounds once, taking a narrow decision over Jetly Purisima for a regional WBO title. It was a bout Asenjo wasn't ready for and it was little surprise when he suffered his sole stoppage defeat.
Sadly since his loss to Garcia we've seen Asenjo return back to the Filipino domestic level where he has remained unbeaten but hardly looked impressive with a real struggle last time out against Powell Balaba. He has also been plagued by some notable inactivity, including a break of 18 months, in recent years.
In the ring Asenjo has traits of a number of other Filipino fighters. He's heavy handed, fights from the southpaw stance and although he seems to have power he is crude and has a lot of question marks surrounding his actual ability. On paper his record looks pretty and he boasts 14 stoppages in the first 3 rounds, in reality however that says a lot about his competition.
Mexico's Estrada first came to the attention of the international boxing community back in 2012 when he went toe-to-toe with Roman Gonzalez in a 2012 FOTY contender. Since then his reputation has sky-rocketed courtesy of wins against the likes Brian Viloria, Milan Melindo and Giovani Segura. The only real mark against him since then has been his struggle against unheralded Filipino Joebert Alvarez last time out, a struggle that wasn't reflected in the disgustingly wide scorecards.
Estrada is a huge fighter at Flyweight. Officially he is listed at 5'4" but the height measurement doesn't do him justice for his overall frame which is much bigger than that of a typical Flyweight. Given his size it seems almost certain that we will see Estrada moving to 115lbs sooner rather than later and we expect to see him being even more impressive at the higher weight, a weight he flirted with in his bout against Alvarez.
Sometimes when we watch Estrada we're not blown away by him, however his weaknesses are few and far between, and seem to only rear their head when he expects an easy bout. When feeling like he needs to go through the gears he's a wonderful all-rounder with hurtful power, very good boxing, a real gritty toughness and a fantastic engine. We won't pretend he's unbeatable but he's only going to be beaten by very special fighters, or when he's over-looked an opponent and been made to pay for his complacency.
Whilst we have mentioned Estrada's complacency we really can't see even a complacent Estrada coming up short against Asenjo who appears to be made to order. He's much smaller than the champion, he's never managed to score a win that would even give us an inkling of the upset and he's also been stopped the last time he fought at an elevated level like this. Given the size, skill, power and physical advantages of the champion we really can't see anything but a quick and easy looking win for Estrada who will be looking to put the lingering memory of the Alvarez bout behind him in style.
The Light Flyweight division has been a strange one in recent years with fighters often doing little than using it as a stop gap en route to bigger and better things. Fighters like Naoya Inoue, Roman Gonzalez, Kazuto Ioka and Juan Carlos Reveco have all been champions there recently before heading to pastures new. The only constant at the top of the division for the last few years has been the under-rated and over-looked Filipino icon Donnie Nietes (34-1-4, 20).
Nietes, who climbed atop of the division in 2011 has managed to rack up reign lasting more than 3 years and has featured 5 defense of the title, more than any other active champion in the division, in fact they have a combined 0 defenses!
The Filipino returns to the ring at the end of March as he looks to continue his light Flyweight reign and record his 11th total world title defense, combing reigns as Light Flyweight and Minimumweight champion. He also looks to continue his sensational form against Mexican opponent as he takes on Gilberto Parra (19-2-0-1, 17), in what will be his 5th straight fight against a Mexican foe.
For many the Light Flyweight division is a weak one. That's not a view we really share, our opinion is that it's one that has undergone a lot of changes and, as a result, has a lot of over-looked talent, such as Ryoichi Taguchi, Ryo Miyazaki and Paipharob Kokietgym. It's hard to argue however that Nietes, when he's on form, isn't the stand out fighter. He's defensively very good, has a wonderful arsenal of punches, under-rated power and brilliant timing. The only things lacking at times is his work rate or sometime his gameplan but in term of ability he is sensational.
Although not typically a big puncher Nietes has been hurting fighters recently and not only is he on a great run of results but he has also stopped his last 3 opponents. Included in those was a dominant victory against Moises Funetes last May in what really was one of the stand out performances of Nietes's career against a man we actually thought could have been a real threat.
Whilst Nietes is the widely regarded #1 in the division Para is just seen as just another challenger, the final challenger in many ways before Nietes battles former unified Minimumweight champion Francisco Rodriguez Jr.
On paper Parra looks like a major puncher however his record is padded to say the least. He has yet to score a notable victory and in fact his only fight with a worth while opponent saw him come up short against Martin Tecuapetla, who has himself suffered a recent loss to Milan Melindo, a stable mate of Nietes.
Footage of Para is also less than impressive with little to suggest that he can fight at this level. He can puncher against lesser level fighters but we've never seen him do it against a higher calibre fighter before. In fact we're completely unsold on his power and seen him look crude, wild swinging, wide and terrible open. He has decent hand speed but takes much of the speed away from his own shots by being so wild and wide.
Whilst Parra does look dangerous at a lower level he also looks liek a made to order opponent for a clever fighter like Nietes. We suspect the wide shots of Parra will merely leave him open and he'll be countered almost at will by the talented Filipino. Whilst Nietes isn't a big puncher he's an accurate puncher and accurate counters will take their toll over time. We suspect they'll be enough to see off challenger inside the distance with Nietes managing to record a 4th straight stoppage victory.
(Image courtesy of ALA Promotions)
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.