The Light Flyweight division has often been on of boxing's most over-looked weight classes. It's been unfortunate in many ways, especially recently as it's been used as a stop gap for fighters on their way through the weights and very, very few fighters in recent years have really made their name there. Gone are the days of Yoko Gushiken, Myung Woo Yuh and Jung Koo Chang, who all made their legacy in the 108lb weight class. Now it's a division which acts as a stop off for fighters looking to become multi-weight world champions.
Despite the fact very few fighters seem to settle there it does still manage to give us some brilliant fights. One of came last year when Mexico's Javier Mendoza (23-2-1, 19) out pointed compatriot Ramon Garcia Hirale to claim the IBF title. Mendoza makes the first defense of that belt on May 30th when he takes on talented Filipino boxer Milan Melindo (32-1, 12). On paper this is a brilliant match up and in the ring it's likely to be a compelling contest between a slugger and a boxer.
Melindo, 27, is one of the ALA fighters that has been on the radar of boxing fans for several years. He debuted way back in 2005 after having had a successful amateur career and in 2007 he claimed his first title, the WBO Asian Pacific Minimumweight belt. Since then he has scored notable wins over Muhammad Rachman, Carlos Tamara and Jean Piero Perez, three genuinely good wins.
Sadly for the Filipino he has lost his most notable bout to day, a decision defeat to unified Flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada in 2013. In that bout Estrada gave a very good account of himself, despite what the scorecards suggest, and really pushed the talented Estrada. Whilst the performance was a good one from Melindo it did show one of his problems, a lack of power. No matter what Melindo landed he could never make Estrada respect him and instead the Mexico was able to take the shots and fire back in a very technical bout.
Technically Melindo is a very good boxer. He's not a huge puncher, nor is he the type of fighter who looks like he can unleash a warrior from inside. He's the sort of fighter who is happy to use technique to win bouts but doesn't seem to have the fighters mentality and if the going gets tough we're not sure he'll know how to throw caution to the wind and turn things around .
As for Mendoza he's the polar opposite of the challenger. Technically the 24 year old Mexican is flawed, he's open defensively and wide with his shots. He is however tough, aggressive, heavy handed and really hurtful. He's been a professional since 2007 and scored noteworthy wins over Felipe Salguero, when both were novice, Armando Vazquez and Ramon Garcia Hirales. On paper his record is weak but watching him in action tells us what we need to know, he's fun and dangerous.
Whilst his Mendoza's competition has been weak he has been dealing with it in the way you'd hope a good fight would. He has stopped 9 of his last 10 with 8 of those stoppages coming in the first 4 rounds of bouts. He's been disposing of opponents and quickly. Notably however all 3 of his career set backs have come against poor opposition with his last loss, a 2011 loss to Jorge Guerrero in just 2 rounds, being one that does leave lingering doubts though it's fair to say he has improved since that loss.
Fighting from a southpaw stance and having vicious power on both hands Mendoza is a night mare to fight in many ways though from a fans point of view it's almost certainly going to be fun to watch him in action. Prospective fights against the likes of Ryo Miyazaki, Jonathan Taconing. Rey Loreto and Felix Alvarado are all mouth watering match ups. Against Melindo we're not expecting a FOTY contender but we are expecting a thoroughly intriguing contest between Mendoza's aggression and Melindo's technical ability.
Coming in to this bout it's fair to say the challenger has the stronger resume however he's also the travelling fighter and will almost certainly find himself in a small ring with everyone working against him. In a big ring Melindo may have stood a chance but in a small we really can't see anything but a Mendoza win. The small the ring the less chasing Mendoza will need to do and the more he can just let his hands go. The champion will eat counters but given Melindo's lack of pop he will walk through them in the hope of finding a stoppage.
To Melindo's credit he is a gutsy fighter and we don't see him being stopped, but we do see him being well down on the cards come the final bell. He won't disgrace himself but it will be clear just how far behind some of his compatriots he is at the weight, including Taconing, Randy Petalcorin and, of course, Donnie Nietes who are all among the very best at 108lbs.
In boxing we often hear fighters talk the talk, claim they are something or that they are trying to do something. All too often however those words are just words, they don't lead to the actions that they claim and they often get put down to hyping either themselves, a fight or an event. Whilst we can understand hyping something we also understand that when fighter backs up their words it means something else. It's not just hype but something more solid.
When Kosei Tanaka (4-0, 2) turned professional his team seemed to suggest he was something special. They seemed to feel their man was almost ready from the off to win a world title. They weren't just talking the talk however and instead they set off on an aggressive career progression for their teenager wunderkind. Their aim wasn't to just hype Tanaka but to make a statement of intent. Essentially what they had done was put the alert out there, “Our kid is special, and we'll show you why”.
On his debut he toyed with a then world ranked foe over 6 rounds before beating another over 8. Two fights in it was clear that Tanaka was a sensational talent, though he still had things to prove before being moved to world title fights. The first thing he had to prove was his power, which he proved by blowing away Crison Omayao inside a round. Then he had to prove he could beat a genuinely world class fighter and score a “graduation” type win by claiming a continental or national title before fighting for a world title, a rule brought in for Japanese fight by the JBC. Tanaka did that in his 4th bout by stopping the excellent Ryuji Hara in 10 rounds to claim the OPBF title, and set a Japanese national record for the fewest fights to win the OPBF title.
In May Tanaka looks to set another Japanese record, the record his team talked about when he debuted. The Japanese record for fewest fights to a world title. That fight comes on May 30th when he takes on Mexico's Julian Yedras (24-1, 13) for the vacant WBO Minimumweight title. The bout will be the first world title contest for either man though it features two men who have shown plenty of promise and are both looking to score a win that will make them a world champion.
Aged 26 Yedras is a Mexican fighter who, at one point, was viewed as a very promising prospect himself. He had won his first 21 fights, claimed the WBC youth Silver Minimumweight title and had shown plenty of exciting qualities, including some vicious body shots, sharp movement and heavy looking jab. Despite the good start to his career he was written off by many following his first defeat, a clear decision loss to the highly talented Carlos Buitrago.
Since losing to Buitrago, in a WBO Minimumweight world title eliminator, we've seen Yedras score a trio of low level decision wins as he's regained some career momentum. The wins certainly high quality wins, or the sort of thing that deserve a #1 WBO world ranking, but they were wins that allowed Yedras to rebuild his confidence ahead of a big bout.
Watching footage of Yedras is interesting. He seems like a very strong kid who likes to come forward behind his and get on the inside where his body shots are used to take the wind out of his opponents. It's those body shots which are the key to offensive work and are the most eye catching of his offensive weapons. It's clear from watching him that he likes working on the inside and applying copious amounts of pressure to try and break his opponents down. Typically it's worked, at least against low level competition.
At just 19 years old Tanaka is a “boxing baby” but what a prodigious young fighter he is. As an amateur he was exceptional on the Japanese domestic scene and was unlucky in several international tournaments. As a professional he has proven to be every bit as good as his team said he was. And he's getting better. On his debut he looked fast and talented in his most recent bout however he looked like he could do it all and kept up with the pace of the more experienced, and lightning quick, Ryuji Hara.
What we've yet to see from Tanaka is how he deals with real adversity. Whilst he was, at times, behind against Hara he was never in any real trouble and, at worst, he was only ever 2 rounds behind whilst boxing well within himself. The problem is that it's going to take a very, very special fighter to make Tanaka deal with real problems and most fighters simply don't have the ability to make us question Tanaka. In fact at the moment there is maybe 4 fighters in the division who could pose him questions, and 3 of them are world champions.
Stylistically the question isn't “what does Tanaka do well?” but more “what can't he do?” We've seen him box, we've seen him brawl and we've seen him in seek and destroy mode. There is very little that we've not seen him do so far, and more impressively he seems to do everything incredibly well. At his best however he looks to be a boxer-puncher with near perfect timing, mind blowing punch selection and scary accuracy. Perhaps the one flaw is the questionable power but even that appears to be more solid than his record indicates, maybe not as terrifying as Naoya Inoue's but certainly very solid.
Our first assumption about this fight is that Tanaka will fight as the counter puncher, fighting on the move, hammering his laser-like right in to the face of Yedras, whilst the Mexican comes forward applying his pressure. We suspect if that happens Yedras will come up short in a bout that Tanaka makes look easy. On the other hand however Tanaka has shown a willingness to hold his feet and trade, if he does that here he could well end up seeing off Yedras who leaves a lot of gaps in his defense and is very predictable with his body shots. In fact it could well be a body shot counter that ends the Mexican's hopes.
The one question that hovers over this bout is whether Tanaka can take Yedras's body shots. We know the Mexican has stopped numerous foes with shots to the midsection. We suspect however that Tanaka will take them without too many problems and when he does we're not sure Yedras will have any other weapons with which to even test Tanaka.
If, as we suspect, Tanaka wins there is talk that he will face IBF champion Katsunari Takayama in the summer with the winner likely to get a shot at Hekkie Budler in November. If both of those bouts come off and Tanaka wins both it'll be fair to say he'll be a top contender for the 2015 Fighter of the Year and the clear #1 in the division. Of course this boxing and the best laid plans of promoters and fighters don't always go to as hoped.
(Image courtesy of Kosei Tanaka's blog)
When fighters reach the world level they tend to become inactive with many world class fighters fighting just twice a year. It's frustrating to see top fighters being so inactive but thankfully we do have an occasional fighter who is willing to buck the trend, remain active and,more importantly, do it in style. One such fighter is Kazakh Middleweight destroyer Gennady Golovkin (32-0, 29) who has been one of the more active champions in recent years, and holds a nice collection of titles including the WBA “super”, and WBC “interim” Middleweight belts.
On May 16th we see Golovkin return to the ring for his second bout of the year, his 4th bout in a the last 12 months and his 7th bout in less than 24 months. That type of activity is rarely seen by contenders never mind champions.
One of the reason's Golovkin has been so active is because he's been so destructive. His last 3 bouts have lasted a combined 16 rounds with 11 of those coming against the tough Martin Murray in a very one sided bout that saw Murray surviving without posing too many problems. Golovkin's last 7 bouts have gone 34 rounds. He's wiping out opponents in a manner that allows him to be active and none of the bouts are really putting miles on the clock.
What makes Golovkin so destructive isn't just his power, which is a great asset, but also his shot selection and his intense and very calculated pressure. He applies frightening pressure that forces opponents on to the retreat, he cuts the ring off marvelously, corners his foes then lands clean, hurtful shots. He finds gaps that other fighters don't, he lands shots that opponents don't see coming and he neutralises his foes offense with his own pressure.
Arguably the greatest trait Golovkin his is calmness. In his 32 professional bouts and copious amateur bouts we've never seen Golovkin look flustered. Instead he looks calm, relaxed, and like a natural born fighter. Few fighters look as calm as Golovkin, even when he's being tagged himself on what appears to be a very granite chin. A chin he certainly believes in.
In the opposite corner to Golovkin will be the once beaten Willie "The Mongoose" Monroe Jr (19-1, 6), a man who really made his name last year when he won the Middleweight “Boxcino” tournament on ESPN. Prior to that tournament victory he was a relative unknown with a win over journeyman Michael Walker and a loss to Darnell Boone being his only notable results. Impressively Monroe scored 4 wins last year and has scored 7 wins in the last 24 months, albeit at a much lower level than Golovkin's been competing at.
Whilst Golovkin is an intense pressure fighter with thunderous Monroe is more of a boxer-move who lacks the power on his shots but does have nice light movement, quick hands and the ability to get in and out of range with out problems. He's shown an excellent ability to use the ring and a brilliant ability to box on the move whilst keeping opponents off balance and preventing them from setting their feet. It that's ability that helped him over-come decent opponents like Brian Vera, Brandon Adams and Vitaliy Kopylenko.
As well as being a tricky mover Monroe is also a southpaw. That makes him doubly tricky at the level he's been competing at. Sadly though he likes real power, his competition, whilst being solid, is several levels below that of Golovkin's and so far he has the record of a prospect rather than a future world champion. He's got a great story and a fantastic attitude but it's really hard to see what he has to really trouble Golovkin.
In terms of styles, and just styles, this is interesting. On paper it's pressure fighter against tricky southpaw boxer-mover. Sadly however styles don't over-come a massive difference in ability and there really is very little for Golovkin to be worried about. The champion has the better skills, the more power, the more proven ability, the better chin, the better amateur pedigree, the better footwork and the better shot selection.
In many ways all Monroe has that Golovkin doesn't is speed, though that will be neutralised by Golovkin's amazing timing, chin and footwork.
What we're expecting is to see Monroe try to make the most of his abilities early on. He'll get on his bike whilst jabbing and moving. After a round or two however Golovkin will get his range, cut the ring off and start to pin Monroe against the ropes. With Monroe on the ropes Golovkin will start to land his body shots and by round 5 or 6 Monroe will become slower, more ragged and eventually be broken down from the sheer relentless pressure of the champion.
*Note Monroe will not be fighting for the WBC "interim" title as he's chosen not to pay the sanctioning fees requested. Golovkin however will be defending the title.
(Image courtesy of http://www.iboboxing.com)
Tomoki Kameda battles Jamie McDonnell but who will finish the night as the WBA Bantamweight champion*
Although it's not the strongest division in the sport it's fair to say that the Bantamweight division is warming up quickly and we're set for a very exciting couple of years at 118lbs. At the moment the divisional #1, by some margin, is Shinsuke Yamanaka, and behind him is a handful of fellow Japanese fighters such as Ryosuke Iwasa, Ryo Akaho, Ryo Matsumoto, Tomoki Kameda and Shohei Omori. It's possible that by the end of 2015 Japan could have 5 world champions in the division.
The next bout of note in the division features the aforementioned Tomoki Kameda (31-0, 19) who has vacated the WBO title ahead of his upcoming bout, but the bout still promises a lot as he takes on WBA “regular” champion Jamie McDonnell (25-2-1, 12) of the UK.
When the bout was first mooted it was set to be a WBO/WBA unification contest however the WBO made a worthwhile stand and made it clear they weren't going to be recognising the WBA's secondary titles. As a result they have stripped Kameda for participating in the contest and left the WBA regular title as the only one up for grabs. That however doesn't change the fact that this is a brilliant match up and something that is really mouth watering. In fact it's a genuine highlight for a month, that is full of highlights.
For those who are unaware Tomoki is the youngest of the controversial Kameda boxing brothers and appears to be the most talented by far. He's a pure boxer who can really do almost everything in the ring. He's light on feet, throws blistering combinations, counters beautifully and can switch from head to body with no issues. The one flaw in his game, if we can call it a flaw, is that does lack fight ending power but he does hit hard enough to hurt foes, as seen with his devastating body shot against Pungluang Sor Singyu back in 2014.
Like his brothers Tomoki is currently banned from fighting in Japan. However that hasn't been much of an issue for the charismatic youngster who is fluent in Spanish and has been signed by powerful American “advisor” Al Haymon who seems to like the Japanese youngster and has so backed him with this being his 3rd US bout in a row. Given his ability and style we suspect he'll continue to be fighting in the US for the foreseeable future and he could well be the Japanese star that goes on to really make it big in the US.
McDonnell on the other hand is volume puncher who has a sensational engine and seems to get stronger as the fight goes on. He does however have a lot of question marks about his shot selection, overall ability and general attitude inside the ring. At his best he's a handful and wins over the likes of Stephane Jamoye, Stuart Hall and Julio Ceja all look excellent on paper. At his worst however he struggles with the likes of Abigail Medina and Javier Nicolas Chacon, who both asked real questions of McDonnell's “world class” ability.
Whilst the 29 year old McDonnell does make us question him a lot, we do suspect that he's had an issue “getting up” for fights. He's has been matched awfully at times and it's little wonder if he's lacking motivation considering some of the hilarious mismatches he's been involved in. That motivation may well have shown in performances where he has just “gone through the motions”. If however there is more to it than just a lack of motivation it may well turn out that McDonnell is on the back end of his career and his famed gas tank is now running empty.
When the two get in the ring we're expecting to see a bout that pits McDonnell's basic but busy pressure against against the smart boxing and moving of Kameda who will move in and out with bursts of sharp and accurate flurries. The between the two style wise is huge however the biggest difference is actually likely to be the footwork with McDonnell often having questionable footwork whilst Tomoki is like a cat on his feet. That will work massively for the Japanese fighter who will be able to control range, lure McDonnell in and counter with ease against his wild foe.
To McDonnell's credit we don't see him being too hurt by Tomoki however we do see him being thoroughly out boxed and out smarted en route a wide decision victory for Tomoki.
This might not be a unification but it is a damned good bout!
(Image courtesy of www.premierboxingchampions.com)
There are many divisions in boxing that get over-looked due to a lack of fighters from a particular country or region. Today one such division is the Super Featherweight division which has a lot of exciting fighters in it, a huge ranged of talented individuals ranging from exciting warriors making their names in the sport, such as Takashi Miura and Francisco Vargas, to veteran's whose time looks to be coming to and end but yet they won't go away quietly, such as Roman Martinez and Orlando Salido, who put on a recent FOTY contender together.
On May 6th we get to see a bout between two of the division's top unbeaten fighters who both combine a high level of skill with heavy hands, spiteful straight punches and are technically very impressive. Neither man is a brawler but rarely is either involved in a dull bout, and given the power and skills of both they are both must watch fighters.
One of those unbeaten men is WBA “super” champion Takashi Uchiyama (22-0-1, 18). For those unaware he's a 35 year old fighter who has been at the top of the division for more than 5 years. He's already recorded an excellent reign of terror including 9 world title defenses with wins over the likes of Takashi Miura, Jorge Solis, Bryan Vasquez and Daiki Kaneko as well as his excellent title winning effort against Juan Carlos Salgado. What those wins have shown is that Uchiyama has an educated understanding of the ring, a thunderous right hand and a nasty, hurtful jab.
At his best Uchiyama is the consummate boxer-puncher. He's powerful, tough, strong and skilled with very few chinks in his armour. It's fair to say he's not the quickest but his timing makes up for that more often than not. The one thing that does stand out about Uchiyama, at least in recent times, is inactivity and by the time he steps in the ring for his upcoming defense he'll have fought just 21 rounds in 2 years, with those rounds coming in just 2 fights. Whilst some of that activity is due to issues with opponents, several of which turned him down last year, another part is injuries to one of his hands. Given his age the inactivity and injuries certainly leave a lot of questions regarding how long Uchiyama can continue at the top level.
The other man is Thailand's brilliant Jomthong Chuwatana (9-0, 4). On paper Jomthong is “inexperienced” but in reality the Thai is more experienced than many would imagine with a legendary Muay Thai career that has been the founding of his success as a boxer. Not only is Jomthong a true “fighter” but he's a brilliant technical fighter with a razor like southpaw jab and a spiteful straight that many fighters don't see coming. More impressively when it comes to Jomthong is his ability to control distance with incredibly smart movement.
Aged 25 Jomthong is a relative youngster in the division. With more than 200 Muay Thai fights under his belt Jomthong “should” have copious amounts of wear and tear however given his defense nous, movement and toughness he's certainly not been showing much of that damage and instead the Thai looks as tough as ever. Like Uchiyama he's a boxer puncher though he's not got the inactivity or age to really worry about and he's a faster fighter than the defending champion, with both his hands and feet. He's also the bigger fighter, about 1½″ taller and naturally bigger at the weight, with a lot of draining done to make 130lbs. One of the few points where he is behind Uchiyama is his competition, but for a 9 fight “novice” that competition has already included wins over Dong-Hyuk Kim, Ronald Pontillas and, most recently Daiki Kaneko, a trio of very good wins.
In the ring we suspect this will be incredibly high level boxing between two very similar fighters. Uchiyama is the hard puncher and the man who will have the crowd behind him however he'll also learn that Jomthong's counters are quick and sharp. The speed difference between the two is genuinely noticeable and with Uchiyama getting older he's also getting slower, possibly leading to his timing being slightly off. Jomthong also won't be intimidated either by the crowd or by Uchiyama's reputation.
Although the fight will be high level boxing we suspect that it will warm up and move from top tier boxing into an educated and highly skilled fight with Uchiyama needing to adapt to the speed, skills and movement of Jomthong. This won't be an all out brawl but will feature a lot of pressure from Uchiyama and Jomthong answering back in short sequences that will have the crowd on their feet and the commentators going wild. When we get to those sequences we'll really find out about both men and how much they want to win.
Whilst the both men are exceptional fighters we see them as being parts of different generations. The 10 year age gap between them is what we view as the biggest difference and Uchiyama is certainly coming to the end of his career whilst Jomthong is just beginning his, at least at world level. That, to us, is the deciding part of this fight and why Jomthong will shake up the division in a huge way and claim a career defining victory. The speed, and youth will see Jomthong through to the win, despite some struggles with the more experienced champion.
Note-Fight fans wanting to watch this can see it in Japan on TV Tokyo or in Thailand, on Channel 3SD.
(Image courtesy of http://www.watanabegym.com)
Whilst the month of May has a number of brilliant looking world title bouts there is one bout that looks out of place and hugely under-whelming. That's the WBA Light Flyweight title fight on May 6th that sees newly crowned champion Ryoichi Taguchi (21-2-1, 8) defending his title against the highly undeserving Kwanthai Sithmorseng (49-3-1, 26).
Before we start we have to say we like Taguchi, he's a very talented, tough and hard working fighter who has already notched notable wins over the likes of Yu Kimura, Yuki Chinen, Florante Condes and, most recently, Alberto Rossel. He's also shown his toughness in surviving the distance with Naoya Inoue and was very unfortunate not to have had a win on his record against Masayuki Kuroda. We feel he's a deserving champion in a division which has seen a lot of new faces winning titles over the last 12 months.
What we don't like however is Kwanthai getting a world title fight when he is less than a year removed from a loss to compatriot Stamp Kiatniwat, a talented prospect but one who is relatively unproven, and less than 2 years removed from a 7th round TKO loss to Kazuto Ioka for the very same title he's challenging for here. We would give him some lee way if he was to have scored a win of note following those losses but he hasn't and his only win against a fighter with a winning record came against Heri Amol, a man schooled by the then debuting Ken Shiro. Sadly this is another example of the WBA sanctioning a bout that shouldn't really be a world title bout.
With that said it'll come as no surprise that we're tipping Taguchi to retain his belt here. The talented Japanese fighter, dubbed “The baby Face Assassin”, has world class ability, freakish size for a Light Flyweight and the confidence of a man who is finally coming to terms with the fact he's a rather good fighter.
At his best Taguchi is a talented boxer-fighter who can box on the move or take the action inside and go to the body. He's not the biggest puncher in the division but he does hit harder than his record indicates and when he tags an opponent clean they certainly begin to respect his power and try to avoid taking too many clean shots from him. From makes him so tough to beat however is his toughness. It was that toughness that forced Naoya Inoue to dig deep in their Japanese title fight in August 2013 and it was the same toughness that saw him climb off the canvas to over-come Florante Condes last July. Despite looking relatively feeble Taguchi is as tough as they get.
As for Kwanthai the Thai was a good fighter. The key words being “was” and “good”. Back in 2010 he did claim the WBA Minimumweight title with a very narrow win over compatriot Pigmy Kokietgym. Hie reign lasted around 5 months before he was upset, in his first defense, by Indonesian veteran Muhammad Rachman. Going in to that bout Rachman was 39 and had lost his previous 4 bouts, yet he still managed to stop Kwanthai in the 9th round exposing the Thai who was 31-0-1 entering that bout.
Since the loss to Rachman we've seen Kwanthai feed on the many Indonesian fighters who fight in Thailand and pick up losses on a regular basis. That includes fighters like Domi Nenokeba, Safwan Lombok, Ichal Tobiba and Samuel Tehuayo. The type of guys that should test a prospect but not be used to help someone get a world title shot. Amazingly however that level of competition helped Kwanthai get a shot at Ioka in 2013 and again here with Taguchi.
Unfortunately Kwanthai's opposition tells us everything we need to know. He's not good enough to beat top drawer fighters and he's not good enough to beat Taguchi. The one question is whether he's tough enough to last the distance with Taguchi. We don't think he is and we're going with Taguchi to stop Kwanthai inside 9 rounds. Hopefully Taguchi will than face a more interesting test such as Randy Petalcorin, who recently looked sensational in stopping Ma Yi Ming, or Ryo Miyazaki, both of which would make for really good fights.
(Image courtesy of http://www.watanabegym.com)
They say that in life the best things come to those who wait and that wine becomes finer with age. Sadly however things can also spoil with age, the waiting process can go on too long and things can over-cook and end up burned. Around 5 years ago we were all wanting to see Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38) battle against unbeaten American Floyd Mayweather Jr (47-0, 26). It was, essentially, the one bout that could capture the attention of every boxing fan. It was, at the time, the two top fighters in the sport facing each other whilst both were still in their primes. At the time Mayweather was 33 and had just schooled the great Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao on the other hand was 31 and had just decimated Miguel Cotto.
Since then both men have slipped. Pacquiao, now 36, has gone 7-2 (0), he's been iced by Marquez and his much vaunted power has seemingly vanished along with his killer instinct. What we have now is a Pacquiao who seems to have lost a lot of what made him so special and the stoppages over Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton are now looking like history. As for Mayweather, now 38, he's gone 7-0 (1) and has looked distinctly human in his last 2 bouts, both decision wins against Marcos Rene Maidana.
Despite the fact that neither man is what they used to be, the bout is now made and on May 2nd we finally see the two men sharing the ring together. The bout, the biggest in the history of the sport, will see the WBA, WBC and WBO Welterweight title all being unified. It will set all sorts of records, it will get the attention of the sporting world, and of course it will be the bout of the generation It will, essentially, decide the fighter of the generation and, regardless of the winner, it will leave many fans distraught at their man losing and many others jubilant that their man won. It will however feel, to some neutrals, like a bout that lost some shine due to the fact it took so long to get it done.
Anyway now that's out of the way lets look at what makes this bout so special. Firstly you have the two most popular fighters of their era and two men who have, essentially, been viewed as each others nemesis. Their achievements are both through the roof with world titles across a wide range of divisions. They are the two biggest draws in the sport, and among the very biggest draws across all of sport. Culturally they are different, they appeal to different sections of boxing fans yet they have both made themselves cross over stars. To many this bout is boxing's equivalent to the ultimate “good guy” Vs “bad guy” battle. Most importantly however they are seen not as contrasting men outside of the ring but also as contrasting men inside the ring. One has been a slippery counter puncher, a man who is so elusive in the ring that many describe him as the greatest defensive fighter ever whilst the other is an offensive buzzsaw who sliced through many of the sports premier names in destructive fashion.
Is that's last point that makes this bout what is it is. The best defensive fighter against one of the best offensive fighters. On paper we will find what is ultimately better, a sensational offence or a near unbreakable defense.
In the eyes of many Mayweather is the “bad guy” of boxing. He has spent time in jail and been involved in various out of the ring activities. He has happily told us he's “The Best Ever” and although incredibly talented he has made many fans tune in to see him lose. On the other hand he's an example of what boxing is truly about, he's a master in the sweet science and one of the best at hitting and not being hit. We won't pretend he's the most exciting fighter on the planet but it is magical to see him at his best, slipping shots and landing laser like counters, rolling the shoulder to just avoid a blow and making an opponent pay for having the gall to try and hit him.
Whilst Mayweather isn't evil he has happily painted himself into the corner of being the man many pay to hate. He is, to use a wrestling term, a “heel” and it's a role that he seems to be happy with having. It's a role that's allowed him to make so much money that he now goes by the moniker of “Money”.
To those same fans Pacquiao is the “good guy”, he's the family man, a man of the people and a national icon who has set his intentions on making a difference via the politics of his homeland. He has used his money to help his countrymen and has come across as a humble person, happy to be able to use his talent to further the lives of those less fortunate. Not only has he been a positive person outside of the ring but inside of it he is known for giving fans what they want with destructive performances of aggression. In terms of excitement there are few who can match the excitement Pacquiao has generated over he course of his career with his combinations, knockouts and brutal beat downs.
Again to use a wrestling analogy Pacquiao is the “baby face” though that's a role that he's formed more organically that Mayweather's “heel” persona. Pacquiao has become a by simply being a personable person as opposed to telling the world that he's a nice person.
The contrasts however go on and on. For example Mayweather is happy to tell the world he's his own boss, Pacquiao on the other hand has been open about being a fighter with Bob Arum as his boss. In many ways the only things they have in common is their chosen profession and their claim to being an all-time great.
When it comes to the actual fight we expect the action to start slowly. Whilst the men are massively different they are both respectful of their opponent. Neither man wants to make a mistake early. For the first few rounds it will be a frustrating affair to watch with neither man really letting their offense go. For Mayweather that's perfect in many ways with the fight being fought more at his pace, it will however limit his eye catching counters with Pacquiao giving fewer opportunities that than the American would have hoped for. Whilst Pacquiao will be able to frustrate Mayweather by being restrained he won't be imposing himself or his style, at least not from the off.
We expect the pace to heat up from round 4. That's typically the point where Mayweather begins to find his groove but also the point in the fight where Pacquiao will have to come alive. From then on we're expecting to see the great bursts of Pacquiao's offense against Mayweather's great defense. The bursts of 4 or 5 shots will keep Mayweather in his defensive shell, though openings will begin to appear in Pacquiao's defense. From then on things will become very interesting with both men unsure how the judges will score things. Will they be scoring for Pacquiao, who will be the aggressor, or for Mayweather who will be landing the better shots? That is anyone's guess and it's what will make the latter part of the fight so interesting.
Mayweather's biggest problem in recent fights has been his habit of cruising through rounds, especially late on. At 38 his energy isn't going to be what it once was and although he has great stamina he has been able to fight at his own pace against fighters with slow foot movement. Against Pacquiao he'll be rushed, he won't have the time to take a breather and he'll be fighting someone with similar footspeed. If he tries to take rounds off here it will bite him. Instead we expect Mayweather will have to fight for at least 2 minutes of every round and that will show later on as both men bite down on their gum shields and try to force the judges hands. We'll see Mayweather fighting more than he has done in years and we'll Pacquiao showing some of the fire many thought was gone.
We suspect that, come the final bell, it'll be anyone's guess as to who has done enough. Fans will back “their man” and feel like their guy has just done enough. Of course however it'll lay on the judges and we'd not be shocked to see any type of scorecards. That's partly because boxing throws up some weird scorecards and also partly the fact that we can see how both men win.
As a prediction we will edge with the younger man, Pacquiao to take a razor thin and highly controversial decision. The bout, whilst good, will fail to live up to expectation in the ring and although records will be shattered we won't be able to help but think it was this generation's Hagler Vs Leonard as opposed to the real mega fighter it could have been. Strangely we see the post-fight outcome also mirroring the Hagler Vs Leonard bout with Mayweather retiring after the contest, something we'd also expect him to do if he won.
Just hours after Teiken's exciting Takashi Miura defends his WBC Super Featherweight title against Billy Dib we will see his stablemate Takahiro Ao (27-3-1, 12) attempt to become a very rare 3-weight world from Japan. Ao however has a much harder task than Miura and will be on the road as he fights in Las Vegas against the tough and battle hardened Raymundo Beltran (29-7-1, 17), who is himself hoping to win a world title at the third time of asking.
Of the two men it's fair to say Beltran is probably the more well known in terms of international renown. He's not a superstar of boxing or anything like that but he has been featured in some notable bouts which have been televised in the west. Those bouts include his draw with Ricky Burns in the UK and his loss to Terence Crawford in the US, his only experiences at the world level. Despite those losses he does hold a number of notable wins including decisions over Arash Usmanee, Ji-Hoon Kim and Henry Lundy.
Aged 33 Beltran is an American based Mexican fighter who came up through the school of hard knocks. He debuted back in 1999, when he was just 17, and suffered 2 early defeats as he began to learn his trade. The long journey of Beltran was mostly ignored until the last few years when he began to develop a “hard luck” story with controversial losses to Sharif Bogere and Luis Ramos Jr, both of whom were unbeaten going into the bouts. Those close losses were followed by good performances as he developed some unexpected career momentum and later got his first world title fight. Unfortunately it ended in a highly controversial draw against Ricky Burns.
Although Beltran has had a hard journey in terms of his bouts he is also well known for being one of the preferred sparring partners of Manny Pacquiao. It's no shock that Beltran's development really picked up when he began sharing the ring with Pacquiao, and despite stark differences in their styles it's clear that that sparring has helped Beltran build both his confidence and his skills.
In the ring Beltran is a tough nut to crack. He's an offensively minded pressure fighter who isn't the most powerful, not the biggest puncher but he's tough, gutsy and hits hard enough to get the respect of anyone. He's the sort of fighter that other boxers don't want to fight, in fact fighting with Beltran is a clear and obvious mistake. On the inside Beltran is a nightmare to fight and knows how to go to war however at range he often comes off second best.
As an amateur Ao was genuine a stand out. His reported amateur record stood at 76-3 (27) with 6 titles won on the Japanese High School circuit, a then record feat. It was due to his amateur credentials that Ao signed with Teiken ahead of his debut, when he was just 19 years old. Less than 2 years later he was in 10 round fights against solid fighters like Yoshinori Miyata.
Although Ao was moved relatively quickly it did take until 2007 for him to fight in his first title fight, a Japanese Featherweight bout with Koji Umetsu. Umetsu had won the title 5 months earlier, narrowly beating Kazuhisa Watanabe, but was unable to over-come Ao who took a narrow win over the defending champion. As the Japanese title holder Ao defended his belt 3 times, defeating Keisuke Akiba and Noriyuki Ueno before fighting to a draw with the then unbeaten Hiroyuki Enoki. The Enoki bout wasn't just a Japanese title defense but was a Japanese-OPBF unification bout that also acted as a WBA world title eliminator. Despite the draw Ao did get his first world title shot, a shot at WBC Featherweight champion Oscar Larios. Unfortunately for the Japanese fight it also saw him suffer his first defeat. Despite the loss Ao would claim a world title 5 months later when he avenged the loss to claim the title.
Sadly Ao's reign didn't last long and he lost the belt just 4 months after winning it, coming up short against Elio Rojas. That loss was put down to weight issues and he immediately made the move to Super Featherweight where he quickly won the WBC title, defeating touted German based fighter Vitali Tajbert. As the Super Featherweight title holder Ao made 3 defenses of his title, including a notable decision win over the very talented Terdsak Kokietgym, though his reign was surprisingly ended in October 2012 by Gamaliel Diaz. That loss was again put down to weight issues and lead to Ao moving to Lightweight where he began the search for a 3rd weight world title.
Stylewise Ao is a boxer at heart. He's a talented southpaw boxer who has nice speed and throws nice combinations off his jab whilst also having a sharp and educated southpaw left. He's got solid speed, technique and timing though he's really lacking lacking in power, especially at the top level where he has scored only 1 stoppage in 8 world title bouts. What he is good at however is controlling the distance and pace of a bout with clever footwork and sharp accurate shots from range, it's not always exciting but is something he has developed after being dropped a few times early in his career.
The key to this bout is the style match up of the two men. If Ao can keep the bout at range, following the gameplan set by Terence Crawford, then the odds are he'll manage to rack up the points needed to win. That however is easier said than done and Beltran has made his name out of his ability to apply a lot of intense pressure and he'll be looking to rush Ao and force the bout to be fought at close quarters. If Beltran can do that there is only going to be one winner.
Who ever manages to enforce their gameplan is almost nailed on to win here though it's unlikely either man will have things all their own way. Early on it seems likely Ao will have his best success with the middle of the bout being the most interesting in terms of competitive action before Beltran manages to close the fight late. Who manages to claim the middle rounds will almost certainly take the bout, and that is the part of the fight where the game plans of the two men will decide the outcome.
Unfortunately for Ao we suspect it'll be Beltran who manages to impose himself in the middle and that the work rate he forces will tire the Japanese fighter out and slow his footwork. If that happens then Beltran is likely to claim a close and very competitive decision. We would however love to see Ao claim the victory in such a high profile bout and really put himself on the map for those who have over-looked him this far in to his career.
It's fair to say that everyone who follows boxing is looking forward to May 2nd and the long awaited mega-fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Before then however we are set to get a lot of other action, with the first title fight of the month coming on the Friday prior in Japan where the exciting Takashi Miura (28-2-2, 21) gets to defend his WBC Super Featherweight title against Australian challenger Billy Dib (39-3, 23).
Coming in to the bout Miura is a fighter seeking a win to “break out”. At the moment he's a world champion but one who is often seen as being in the shadows of the popular Takashi Uchiyama. He's scored himself notable wins already, including a 2013 FOTY contender against Sergio Thompson, but hasn't been able to really capture fans like his WBA title holding compatriot. As for Dib he's a man needing a win of note to just remain relevant in the world of professional boxing.
Internationally the more well known of the two men is Dib. He first made his name at home in Australia, where he fought many of his earliest fights, before going to the US to challenge the then WBO Featherweight champion Steve Luevano in 2008. Although Dib came up short against Luevano it wasn't long until he got another world title fight and over-came Jorge Lacierva for the IBF Featherweight title.
Unfortunately for Dib his reign came to an end just 20 months after winning the title as he was beaten by the then unheralded Evgeny Gradovich in the US. It was a bout that saw Dib losing his biggest drawing factor internationally and worst of all, frustrating fans with a performance that was ugly to say the least. Since that loss Dib has failed to really reignite his career and struggled past Mike Oliver before being stopped in a rematch with Gradovich, on the Macau card headlined by Manny Pacquiao's bout with Brandon Rios.
For many fans they expected Dib's loss to Gradovich to be the end of him at world level. The Australian boxer-mover was only 28 but already looking like a fighter who was done. He has however picked up 3 low level wins and got himself back into contention.
In the ring Dibb is a spoiler. He's fast and has got some real skill but seems to be happy to make things ugly and frustrate his opponents. At his best he's a fantastic fighter but his best days appear to be behind him and appear to have come against relatively poor opponents, opponents who were unable to cope with his speed, power or style. At the world levels he's never quite looked like fitting in and his IBF Featherweight title reign was disappointing to say the least with defenses against the little known Alberto Servidei, a little known Italian who was finished inside a round form a body shot, and Eduardo Escobedo, a Mexican who retired after 6 rounds of a messy and foul filled bout.
Whilst less well known internationally Miura is a man who is carving his way through the Super Featherweight division and taking no prisoners. He was first noted as a puncher in the amateur ranks where ran up an impressive record of 34-6 (22). Since turning professional in 2003 he has shown that same power and went 12-0-1 (10) before suffering his first loss, in a Japanese title fight to Yusuke Kobori. Despite his power it wasn't until his third Japanese title shot that he finally won and at one point it seemed like that was going to be where his power “topped out” with a number of distance bouts occurring when he faced the top Japanese contenders of the late 00's.
In 2011 we finally saw Miura fighting at the top level as he took on the WBA champion Takashi Uchiyama in a world title fight. Miura did come up short, with a badly swollen face forcing his retirement in that bout, be he had impressed, dropping Uchiyama hard in round 3 and showing his heart through several painful rounds. It was a loss but one with an upside as it saw Teiken taking an interesting in Miura and signing him up, where he has been ever since. Not only has Miura signed with Teiken but he has flourished having won all 8 bouts since the Uchiyama contest. Those bouts have included his world title victory against Gamaliel Diaz, his enthralling war with the tough Sergio Thompson, his 1-sided destruction of the horrible over-matched Dante Jardon and a beat down of the heavy handed but limited Edgar Puerta.
Wins over 4 successive Mexicans has seen Miura become a new “Mexicutioner” though in all honesty we suspect that he's going to have the beating of almost anyone in the Super Featherweight division. He has the style, power, aggressiveness and toughness to give everyone and anyone a tough bout and although he is flawed and he can be hurt he's a very hard man to beat, especially now that he's began to fulfil his potential.
When the two men get in the ring we're expecting to see a number of differences between the two men. Firstly we expect Dib will be quicker, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Dib land the first punch of note, or in fact the first few punches of note. On the other side Miura will be the much stronger, bigger and tougher man in the ring and we suspect when Dib tries to get dirty he will be brushed aside, the hugging and holding will be punished by powerful short shots. At the end of round 4 or 5 Dib will be getting bullied around the ring whilst Miura will be looking to land his potent left hand and within 8 rounds he'll have stopped Dib who we expect will look a beaten and broken man.
We might be wrong but really do see this as a mismatch with Miura having almost all the advantages and Dib being the sacrificial lamb to the champion who deserves a lot more attention than he's been getting from western fans.
Hopefully, if we're right, we'll see Miura in a super fight later in the year against the winner of the upcoming WBA “super” title fight between Takashi Uchiyama and Jomthong Chuwatana. That bout promises to be a lot more competitive than this one and if the winners were to collide it really would be the best fight to be made in the division.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
If their is one thing we're excited about it's the possibility of China becoming a genuine boxing nation. We know it's a very, very long way from becoming a reality however we are slowly seeing the country become more relevant in the world of professional boxing. The next major step on that journey comes on April 24th when obscure Chinese fighter Ma Yi Ming (12-5, 7) attempts to claim the WBA interim Light Flyweight title and upset once beaten champion Randy Petalcorin (22-1-1, 17).
The bout, which is being held in Beijing, will be Petalcorin's first defense of the title that he actually won in China, in Shanghai. Petalcorin won that belt by stopping Walter Tello in 7 rounds in what was, for all intents, his stand out win thus far. The win is the one that has defined the talented Filipino though one that has left many wondering what exactly he can do.
Aged 23 Petalcorin has long been tipped as a potential star and under the guidance of Peter Maniatis and Jim Claude Manangquil he has slowly developed into a solid looking, though relatively unproven, fighter.
Watching Petalcorin in action shows his ability and shows that he's a fighter who passes the “Eye Test”. He appears to have a razor like jab, solid timing and delightful handspeed as well as very good movement. In fact against Tello it was his jab and movement that impressed us more than anything else. There is however some things he'll be wanting to work on before stepping up too the top level. Notably his defense does have holes in it that show themselves when he throws his combinations and his footwork, at times, does get a little sloppy, though it's covered well with his speed.
Given his age there is a lot of time for the Filipino to work on his issues though they are there and against an elite level fighter in the division they could be taken advantage of. Against Tello they weren't made into any sort of an issue, though the fighters did look on completely different levels from the start of the fight with Petalcorin looking far too good for his over-matched foe.
The challenger, Ming, is rightfully the under-dog though he is better than his record suggests. In fact looking at Ming's record for just the numbers is very misleading and ignores the fact he's improved from being the fighter he once was.
When he began his career back in 2007 Ming lost his first 3 bouts by stoppage, all of which were on the road. These included an opening round defeat to current WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin. After 5 fights his career seemed a relatively pointless one and he was 1-4 (1) having lost in Thailand, South Korea and the US. Since then however he has gone 11-1 (6), with his only loss coming to Jonathan Baat, and built himself a solid looking record fighting in China where he is 10-0 (5).
Although Ming hasn't beaten a who's who he does hold one or two interesting wins. The first of those came in 2009 when Ming claimed the WBO China Zone Flyweight title with a 9th round TKO win against compatriot Wang Xinghua, who later went on to draw with Akihiro Matsumoto and upset Lionel Legada. In 2011 the Chinese fighter over-came journeyman Ricky Manufoe of Indonesia and the now promising Hanuman Sithluangporphun of Thailand. More recently he has scored stoppages against Albert Alcoy, Jin-Man Jeon and a big decision win over Tommy Seran, which saw him claiming the WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title.
The footage we've seen of Ming is interesting to say the least. He appears a defensively tight pressure fighter who comes forward behind a high guard. Offensively however things are much less tight and Ming does leave himself open when he is throwing punches with many of his shots being wide, wild and looping. Looking at him he's also not the quickest or the most powerful punching.
From what we've seen of the two men involved it does seem like Petalcorin is a much better, more rounded fighter than the Chinese fighter. That's not to say Ming has nothing going for him, after all he's at home and unbeaten in China, though for Ming to win he would need a career best performance. What we're expecting to see is Petalcorin being too fast and too sharp for the Chinese fighter who will try to exert his pressure and come forward but be too slow to really trouble Petalcorin. The Filipino will be tagged a few times from the looping shots but ride them well before firing back and in the end it will be a test of Ming's toughness. If Ming is tough enough to see out the storm he will likely lose a wide decision, odds are however that Petalcorin's shots take their toll on the challenger who fails to see out the distance.
Whilst a win for Petalcorin will be another hit against the rise of Chinese boxing it will help him become more legitimate ahead of possible match ups against the likes of Ryoichi Taguchi, the current WBA champion, or Thailand's unbeaten Paipharob Kokietgym.
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.