The Super Featherweight division is one of the most entertaining, despite the fact that it's been a criminally over-looked and often ignored one in the west. Of course the division has had some highlight fight in the west recently, such as the brilliant Takashi Miura Vs Francisco Vargas fight and the two Roman Martinez Vs Orlando Salido bouts. Sadly those great wars haven't seen fight fans really get behind the division despite the depth currently competing at 130lbs.
This coming Wednesday we see the top fight in the division in action, WBA “super” champion Takashi Uchiyama's (24-0-1, 20) [内山 高志] defending his title against the WBA's “interim” champion Jezreel Corrales (19-1-0-1, 7). For Uchiyama it's his 12th defense of the title, and sees him take a huge step towards the Japanese title defense record, of 13 defenses by Yoko Gushiken, and setting a Super Featherweight world record, whilst giving Corrales a chance to make a big statement about himself on the world stage.
Of the two fighters it's Corrales who is the less known and the clear under-dog, however the Panamanian is a confident fighter who will feel he is ready for this opportunity having managed to pick up number of solid victories at home. Those solid victories have included decision wins against Rene Alvarado and Irving Berry as well as stoppages over Walter Estrada and Juan Antonio Rodriguez. They might not be top tier wins, but they do suggest that Corrales is a capable fighter who can hold his own on the fringes of world class, at the very least.
In the ring Corrales looks not only a confident fighter, but also a very good one with a lot of technical ability, sharp offensive and very impressive defense. That defense is based on a shoulder roll with his speed and reactions helping him turn offense into defense and from the footage available he does, sort of, look like a young Floyd Mayweather Jr. Their is a very educated boxing brain in his head and whilst he's certainly no banger it's become clear that he can hurt fighters with his accurate and quick shots. Notably he has also been seen to be a switch hitter and appears to be a fighter who is extremely comfortable in the ring.
When it comes to Uchiyama the 36 year old champion has been one of the shining stars of Japanese boxing and one of the few constants in the Super Featherweight division over the last 6 years. He was a former top Japanese amateur who turned professional and raced through the ranks, winning an OPBF title in his 8th bout and the WBA title in his 14th. Whilst he was fast tracked he has also scored notable wins stopping the likes of Nedal Hussein, Juan Carlos Salgado, Takashi Miura, Jorge Solis, Bryan Vasquez and Jomthong Chuwatana, essentially ending Chuwatana's prime as a fighter.
In the ring Uchiyama can look a little bit basic, he's not flashy or anything like that. What he is however is excellently well school, technically he's fantastic and uses a brilliant jab to set off almost all of his attacks. He's gifted with some of the heaviest handed, pound for pound, in the sport and every shot he lands takes a toll on an opponent, with many being beaten down as fights go on. When he feels like he's in with a good opponent we see the best from Uchiyama, who has amazingly fought much of his career with serious injuries which have reportedly been sorted in recent years, suggesting that at 36 we're only just starting to see Uchiyama at his best physically.
Coming in to this one we're expecting to see Uchiyama given a genuine stylistic test. Corrales has the style to really frustrate the champion with his brilliant defense and speed. Despite being a frustrating opponent we do suspect that Uchiyama will mark out his territory with the jab, and eventually grind down Corrales, for a late stoppage. However we do imagine that Corrales will come again in the future and could turn out to be a very good win on reflection for Uchiyama.
If Uchiyama is, as we suspect, successful then he'll be looking to make a US debut later in the year whilst also tying Gushiken's record. Hopefully that would see him finally receiving the international plaudits that he has, so far, lacked.
Over the last few years the lower weight divisions have been among the best with competitive bouts, a lot of excitement and some genuine all out wars. Sometimes they have been bouts we expected to be good, that lived up to expectation, other times however we have been given an unexpected treat in a bout that easily exceeded expectations.
This coming Wednesday we're hoping for a bout that fits in that second category as WBA Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi (23-2-1, 10) [田口良一] defends his title against Venezuelan veteran Juan Jose Landaeta (27-8-1, 21). On paper the bout is a mismatch, and the bookies widely agree with it being a poor match up, though both have sounded confident in the build up and both seem to have prepared hard for the bout.
The reason many view the contest as a mismatch is Landaeta's age and history. The 37 year old Venezuelan made his debut way back in 1999 and has had a long career, which has seen him share the ring with the likes of Noel Arambulet, Chana Porpaoin, Yutaka Niida, Koki Kameda and Mark John Yap. Another reason is Landaeta's record, which consists of 8 losses, including relatively recent defeats to the limited pairing of Francisco Rosas and Edwin Diaz.
Although not the most consistent fighter on the planet Landaeta does look amazing for his age. That is partly due to his recent breaks from the ring, which lead to him fighting just once in a 6 year period between Summer 2008 and December 2014. That break hasn't stopped him physically ageing, but did mean he didn't take much damage during his mid 30's.
In the ring Landaeta is a very talented boxer, with a very intelligent jab, a genuine toughness and a lot of natural skill. He does perhaps lack the consistent fire to be a world level fighter, but at his best he could be a handful for many, with Niida and Kameda both finding that out first hand.
Whilst Landaeta is at the end of his career the same cannot be said for Taguchi, who is only 29 and really beginning to find his stride after almost a decade in the professional ranks. He debuted back in 2006 and began things with an opening round KO. After reeling off 9 straight wins he suffered his first loss, a defeat to Masayoshi Segawa. After that loss the Japanese fighter reeled off 7 more wins before his next set back with those wins including victories over Tetsuya Hisada and Yu Kimura. Sadly though that winning run was ended in 2012 when he fought to a draw with Masayuki Kuroda in a bout for the Japanese title.
Since the draw with Kuroda we've seen Taguchi really find his way in the sport, going 7-1 and claiming both the Japanese and WBA titles at 108lbs, whilst his only loss came to the amazing Naoya Inoue. In fact rather tellingly Inoue was unable to see off Taguchi who is so far the only fighter to hear the final bell against the “Monster”.
In the ring Taguchi is a very tall and rangy Light Flyweight, he's tough, he hits harder than his record and he knows how to box on the outside, as well as battle up close. Sadly though his last bout, a TKO win over Luis de la Rosa, seemed to show up that he too is inconsistent and were it not for the de la Rosa injuring himself there is a genuine chance that Taguchi's title reign would have come to an end. Notably however he won against de la Rosa and continued his reign as champion and went back to the gym to work on the issues that plagued him in that bout.
With both men being talented, rangy and tough we can see this going the full distance, despite both predicting KO wins. Notably however the winner may simply be decided by who turns up in better condition. Both have been inconsistent, both have shown touches of class but both have also shown they can have off days. If both turn up in perfect condition then we suspect Taguchi will win with his youth and energy. However if Taguchi is less than 100% there is a real chance that he gets out boxed by the challenger and loses his title.
We do suspect Taguchi will win, but wouldn't be massively surprised if he had to answer some very serious questions on route to a victory.
In the west we are used to seeing big fight nights come on Friday's and Saturdays. In Japan however things aren't that predictable and this coming Wednesday fans in Tokyo will get a world title triple header at the Ota City Central Gymnasium.
Of the bouts on offer the least appealing comes at 115lbs where WBA champion Kohei Kono (31-8-1, 13) [河野 公平] will make the 3rd defense of his title and battle Thai challenger Inthanon Sithchamuang (28-7-1, 15) [อินทนนท์ ศิษย์ชะมวง], who will be fighting in his first world tile bout.
Of the two men it's Kono who is the far better known, even if many do only know him as being “the man who retired Koki Kameda”, following his high profile Stateside win over Kameda last year. The Japanese fighter is currently enjoying his second reign as the WBA Super Flyweight champion having first won the title in 2012, stopping Tepparith Kokietgym, and then reclaimed it in 2014, when he stopped Denkaosan Kaovichit.
In the ring Kono isn't the most technically gifted or the fastest or the most mobile. What he is however is a warrior, he's as tough as old boots, has a fantastic engine and gets into great shape for every fight. That was seen in his 12 round against Kameda and also his enthralling 12 round loss to Liborio Solis, among other bouts. Of course his record doesn't show it, but he posses very solid power and many of his losses have been very close and come at world, or fringe world, level.
Compared to Naoya Inoue, the WBO champion at the weight, Kono is limited and would certainly not be fancied to over-come the Monster, but against almost anyone else at the weight Kono would likely be competitive, and make for a great action fight.
As for the challenger the Thai is relatively unknown outside of those who follow the Asian, and more specifically the Thai, boxing scene. Notably he is better than his record may suggest, and notably began his career by suffering a trio of losses straight off the bat with one loss coming for Yasutaka Kuroki, who won the OPBF and Japanese titles in career, and one to Masayoshi Segawa, who would later fight Kazuto Ioka for the Japanese Light Flyweight title. Other loses include defeats to Rocky Fuentes, Samartlek Kokietgym, Mark Anthony Geraldo and Jerwin Ancajas, all very good fighters.
Since his last loss, to Ancajas in Macau in 2014, Inthanon has gone 8-0-1 (6) which looks impressive on paper but the reality is that he has been matched softly during that run, with the best wins coming against Heri Amol and Jetly Purisima, whilst he also fought to a draw with Espinos Sabu.
In the ring Inthanon, with out being rude, is a tryer. Sadly he hasn't really fought many people at his level and he has either been thrown to the wolves, or matched against very opponents. That has left him generally looking a level better than his opponents, or several levels below them. We suspect that this will be another case of looking lower than his opponent with Kono likely to force the issue and break down Inthanon, probably in the middle rounds.
Whilst we are expecting this one to be one sided, we'd be shocked if it wasn't fun to watch, with Kono likely looking to make a statement from the opening bell and taking the fight straight to Inthanon.
The most notable of three world title bouts featuring Asian fighters this coming weekend sees unbeaten Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (34-0, 31) defending his WBA “super”, IBF, and WBC “interim” Middleweight titles against unbeaten IBF mandatory challenger Dominic Wade (18-0, 12). The bout will see Wade attempting to claim his first win at world level, whilst Golovkin will be hoping to score a 22nd straight stoppage, and 17th at “world” level.
The Kazakh destroyed has, over the last few years, become a staple on HBO and on the mythical “pound for pound” lists. Whilst he has his detractors, who comment on his level of competition and the media hype, Golovkin is with out a doubt one of the most exciting and destructive forces in boxing with a long list of frightening KO's that are stacking up. Whilst the comments on his competition, so far at least, do have some merit he has taken out the B-tier contenders repeatedly in an active schedule. Those contenders have included the likes of Kassim Ouma, Nobuhiro Ishida, Grzegorz Proksa, Matthew Macklin, Curtis Stevens, Daniel Geale, Martin Murray and David Lemieux. All good, solid, respectable fighters.
Listening to some talk about Golovkin you'd think he was just a crude banger, but the reality is that the Kazakh is a brilliant boxer-puncher who has shown so many facets to his game that he has actually looked like a man who can do it all. He's often shown that he's a pressure fighter, with brilliant offensive footwork and a wonderful control of distance, he's also shown, more recently, that he can be a back-foot boxer, using his jab and movement to control a world class fighter. He may not be the most slippery or the slickest but there is certainly more to him than just his power.
Whilst Golovkin is certainly a known quantity the same cannot be said of Wade who is stepping up in class massively. To date Wade's best wins have been a controversial decision over Sam Soliman, a close decision over Nick Brinson and a stoppage over Marcus Upshaw. Notably he has been drown before, with Dashon Johnson dropping him just a few fights back and there is little in his history to really get too excited about.
In the ring the 26 year old American challenger does have power, and did “drop” Soliman on route to his victory over the Australian, but his technique is sloppy, his movement is limited and it's very hard to see what he has in his arsenal to worry Golovkin. In fact it may be a case that Wade needs some absolute miracle to over-come the Kazakh.
What we expect to see is for Golovkin to stalk, patiently, early in the bout before upping the heat in round 4 or 5 and seeing off Wade soon afterwards. Wade may surprise us by lasting a little bit longer, but we really can't see anyway in which he gives Golovkin a serious fight. Sadly. Hopefully however the near future does bring a big name to Golovkin who really does need that top level win before some fans will be won over by his ability and style.
This coming weekend is a busy one for Asian fighters with a trio of Asian's fighting in world title fights. One of those is current WBO Super Bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire (36-3, 23), who makes the first of the title he regained last year, who faces little known Hungarian challenger Zsolt Bedak (25-1, 8), who is getting his second world title shot.
The talented, and popular, Donaire has had a brilliant career and turned a 1-1 start into a career that has seen him claim world titles from Flyweight to Featherweight and likely secure a place in the HOF. Sadly however he is coming to the end of the road and has shown a clear deterioration over the last few years, with poor performances against the likes of Omar Andres Narvaez, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr, Jeffrey Mthebula, Vic Darchinyan and Cesar Juarez, as well as losses to Guillermo Rigondeaux and Nicholas Walters.
Although Donaire is on the slide, and has been for a while, he is still better than most fighters and can still show touches of brilliance. That was seen in the early rounds against Juarez, with round 4 being a particularly good one from Donaire, and against Anthony Settoul, who was dominated by Donaire last year. He still carries impressive speed and power, is sharp early on and can be very dangerous, though does look like a fighter who lacks the stamina to go 12 rounds at a good pace, and has started to become a bit predictable with his dangerous left hook.
When it comes to Bedak there is very little on his record, other than his loss in 2010 to Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. That loss was in a world title fight and although Bedak showed some ability early on he did get broken down and was stopped in the 10th round. Since that loss Bedak has scored 10 successive wins, though the competition has been terrible with the most notable win of that run coming against Kenyan tough guy Nick Otieno last September.
As an amateur Bedak was very good and competed at the 2004 Olympics, scoring a notable win over Abner Mares at the Olympics, sadly though his professional career has been a frustrating one, with Bedak, or his team, happy to go along the path of least resistance. Despite that he has scarcely managed to impress and we can't see him impressing this weekend in what is a high pressure situation for the Hungarian, who knows it is now or never.
We don't want to slate world title bodies, but before we get on with our prediction we do need to make a comment in regards of the WBO who should be forced to explain how Bedak has got a world title fight and how he's managed to get a #4 ranking. The ranking is among the most inexplicable in the sport and sadly we suspect that will be shown when the men get in the ring on Saturday.
Whilst we think Donaire is coming to the end he's not a shot fighter, and he does still possess that deadly left hook. We think that will be too much for Bedak who won't see out the first half of the bout. We understand Donaire having an easy first defense, and a homecoming in the Philippines, so won't criticise him too hard given his willingness to face top fighters through his career, but the WBO deserve all the criticism they get for allowing this bout to go ahead.
With a number of big bouts this coming weekend it can be easy to over-look several of the lower profile contests. One of those lower profile bouts is a WBC Super Flyweight title contest which sees Filipino challenger Richie Mepranum (31-4-1, 8) face off against unbeaten champion Carlos Cuadras (34-0-1, 26).
For the Filipino Southpaw this will be his third shot at a major world title, having coming up short against Julio Cesar Miranda in 2010 and Juan Francisco Estrada in 2014 with both of those men stopping Mepranum. For Cuadras however the bout will be his 6th defense of the WBC world title that he won in May 2014. Notably the winner will be mandated to face Thailand's Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.
Of the two men it's Cuadras who is the better known fighter, and the much more distinguished. He won the title in May 2014, claiming a technical decision over Srisaket, and has since added notable wins against Luis Concepcion and Koki Eto. At his best he's a talented boxer-puncher, though has shown flaws such as questionable stamina in the later rounds and a willingness to be very negative against threatening opponents.
Whilst Cuadras's reign has seen him stay active, with 3 defenses last year, his competition has been very questionable at times, with defenses against Marvin Mabait and Dixon Flores being poor to say the least. It seems likely, sadly, that Mepranum will also be viewed as a weak defense given the depth currently at 115lbs.
Cuadras can bang, can box, can brawl and can counter punch making him a very versatile fighter. It's that versatility that is both a blessing and a curse with Cuadras able to adapt to opponents but some times looking like a fighter who is unsure what he is. If he could decide on what he was in the ring we dare say he'd be a better fighter.
For Mepranum the Filipino will likely know this could be his last chance at a world title, despite only being 28. He will also know he's the under-dog, however he's a man who has shown that the under-dog tag isn't a problem, with wins over Rocky Fuentes and Hernan Marquez. In the ring he's a boxer, and does clearly lack power, though knows his way around the ring and is tough, with his only stoppages being in his two world title fights.
Coming in to this one Mepranum, will know that he has to not only win rounds, but win them clearly. Sadly he lacks the power to really make an impact on the Mexican so will need to box at a high tempo and take risks, two things that will open up opportunities for Cuadras to land power shots.
Although we suspect that Mepranum will give a good account of himself we can't see him beating Cuadras, instead we see the Mexican forcing a stoppage in the middle rounds, with the power and natural size of Cuadras being too much for the game Mepranum.
Last weekend we saw the probable end in the historic career of Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao. The fighter-turned-politician has been the dominant force in Filipino boxing for more than a last decade, scoring wins over the likes of Chatchai Sasakul, Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley and Timothy Bradley.
Pacquiao's retirement will leave a sizeable hole in Filipino boxing, however there are a lot of fighters coming through the ranks each looking to fill, at least a part of that hole.
One of those is the really exciting Jerwin Ancajas (24-1-1, 16) who gets his biggest fight this coming weekend, as the “Pretty Boy” faces IBF Super Flyweight champion McJoe Arroyo (17-0, 8), an unbeaten Puerto Rican.
Ancajas has been one of the many Filipino fighters who has generally been going under-the-radar in recent years. The talented Filipino isn't a name many international fans will recognise, and may never have seen, but he has been showcased on a few of Top Rank's cards in Macau where he has shown some very genuine ability to be a star.
The youngster combines good looks with incredible speed, unerring accuracy, blistering combinations, spiteful power, a southpaw stance and at 24 years old he also has youthful energy the ring. Notably he is some 4 years removed from his sole loss, a close decision to Mark Anthony Geraldo, since then he has improved drastically and run up a perfect 11-0 (11) record.
For Arroyo the fight will be his first defence of the title he won last Summer, when he took a very controversial technical decision over Arthur Villanueva. That bout saw Arroyo show glimpses of real ability early in the contest, before becoming tired or lazy and doing very little after round 5. That laziness was surprising given that Arroyo had shown good ability to fight through the later rounds in wins over Mark Anthony Geraldo, a 12 round decision win, and Hernan Marquez, an 11th round TKO win.
At his best Arroyo is a very talented boxer, with under-rated power, a tricky southpaw stance with very good patience, a great understanding of distance and timing and an impressive boxing mind. The laziness however is an issue, there question marks, now at least, about his stamina and mental capacity for the sport and he has been dropped in the past, by Jairo Hernandez. In fact some ringside observers suggested that Hernandez did enough to at least deserve a draw.
On paper it's easy to favour the unbeaten champion. He has the most notable wins, he's unbeaten, he's the champion and he's the man with the outstanding amateur pedigree. He did however look very flawed in his title win, despite the official scores, and he will be going away from home for this bout, fighting in Asia for the first time. For Ancajas the opportunity of shocking the world and becoming one of the new faces of the Filipino boxing scene will be a huge incentive to put on the performance of a life time.
We know he's the under-dog, but we can't help but think Ancajas's speed, energy and combinations, as well as home advantage, will see him through to a win here against a talented but flawed champion
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.