After the genuinely crazy Saturday the boxing world gives us no time to catch our breathe, no break and no opportunity to reflect. Instead it throws us yet another curve ball with another "world title fight" which takes place in Russia and will see a collision of unbeaten men each looking to claim the WBA interim Middleweight title.
In one corner is the highly touted Russian puncher Dmitry Chudinov (12-0-2, 8) who is somewhat basic and straight forward in his boxing but very strong and very powerful. If he can cut the distance and let his hands go Chudinov is a really dangerous fighter who can be a nightmare for anyone.
Sadly whilst Chudinov is a fun to watch fighter he's also a fighter who lacks any plan B and, with his heavy shots, he can often blow his wad rather early. Its this that is a major problem for the Russian who looked very limited in both of his draws with Paul Mendez and Patrick Mendy, and he also looked less than sensational in his victory over Max Maxwell. It often looks like a a case of either Chudinov will win early, or he'll struggle.
One more issue with Chudinov is his inexperience. He has fought just 14 bouts and featured in 55 rounds though oddly being rushed to a title fight will likely do him more good than hard. If he has 3 or 4 more fights before being moved up to this level there is every chance he will suffer a loss or take too much extra damage due to his poor defence which is unlikely to ever be improved on.
In the opposite corner to the unbeaten Russian is Denmark's Patrick Nielsen (22-0, 11) who will hoping to keep his own unbeaten run going.
As for his boxing Nielsen is a more technically correct boxer with better movement, the more proven energy tank and, although he doesn't hit nearly as hard as the Russian, he is a very capable puncher with respectable power. He hits cleanly, sharply and accurately though rarely outs his weight through shots almost as if he accepts there is no need to take a risk and be caught off balance.
For us this is the old puncher vs boxer style match up. Typically they favour the boxer and we tend to feel that's likely to be the case again here with Nielsen dancing around the Russian who will be trying to apply pressure but having his slow feet taken advantage of by the Dane.
We expect Chudinov to start well but fade fast and by the time we get to the final bell it's going to be anyone's guess as to who wins the decision. With that in mind this is a very hard bout to call and we could see Nielsen stealing it or Chudinov's early work
(Image courtesy of VK.com)
Saturday's main even in the UK is a rematch between British pair Carl Froch and George Groves. It's a bout that has the attention of all the British sporting fans, it's a bout that has split opinion and been very publicly advertised. It is a British super fight and is likely to be the biggest ever money fight on British soil.
The main event for the show is what people in the UK care about however we're equally as interested in a second bout on the same show, a bout that pits Thailand's very experienced Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat (52-2, 34) against Britain's very own Jamie McDonnell (23-2-1, 10) in a battle for the vacant WBA Bantamweight title.
This bout is one that has been made due to the messed up political situation boxing currently has. At the moment we have a WBA Bantamweight "Super" champion in the form of the excellent Anselmo Moreno, the only man in the 118lb division that we think would have any chance of beating Shinsuke Yamanaka. We did, last year, have a WBA "regular" champion in the form of Koki Kameda who vacated the belt and moved to the Super Flyweight division to avoid a bout with the excellent Moreno.
Rather than just get fighters to face Moreno to become a champion the WBA have taken the dubious step of allowing fighters lower down the food chain to battle each other for the "regular" title and, as a result, we have this bout.
For Tabtimdaeng it's a real reward and a major opportunity though it's not one we particularly agree with him getting.
The Thai, who is a long reigning PABA Bantamweight champion, has done everything right in recent years. He has won, and defended, the regional PABA belt, he has "earned" a high WBA ranking thanks to playing the political games that are open to him as the PABA champion and he has run together an excellent winning streak of 18 fights.
Of course many of Tabtimdaeng's victories have come against limited and poor opponents. His 18 successive wins have come in less than 3.5 years as he has viewed activity, and getting paid, ahead of fighting tougher bouts with more risk of losing. In Thailand of course a fighter fights as their job and fighting regular mismatches allows a fighter to pick up a payment as well as staying in shape and effectively get paid to partake in an exhibition bout.
Incidentally the Thai system of fighting regular actually seems similar to the old British system of the now forgotten "Boxing Booths" which were a side show at fairs and were where a lot of British fighters from yesteryear, such as Jimmy Wilde, made their reputation and honed their skills.
One man who has never in a boxing booth is McDonnell who despite being from Britain would probably not know much, if anything about the boxing booths. Despite that he is a genuine world class talent with a fantastic engine, a great work rate, under-rated skills and exciting all action style. He's not quite Leo Santa Cruz but when he gets going there are a lot of similar traits between McDonnell and Santa Cruz who both throw a lot of shots, both bring a lot of pressure and both are fun to watch with intelligent body work despite both generally being tall at their respective weights.
McDonnell is unfortunately a man who has been on the bad of the political game, having won the IBF Bantamweight title with a great victory over big punching Mexican Julio Ceja before being stripped due to failing to meet a mandatory challenge that he wasn't aware of after a fall out with his then promoter. For him this opportunity is a chance to become a 2-time world and finally have a reign worth remember as opposed to the one that was heart breakingly short and unsatisfactory.
We are fans of McDonnell and it's hard not to be. He's on a 15 fight run himself and has notched up numerous notable wins including Ian Napa, Jerome Arnold, Stephan Jamoye, Stuart Hall, Julio Ceja and Bernard Inom, he's not unbeatable but he's a very good boxer.
Unfortunately for Tabtimdaeng the fact McDonnell is good means he's in for a very tough assignment. Tabtimdaeng is strong and aggressive, he's a front foot fighter but he's also not a very rounded one, in fact he's very basic, he comes forward pretty straight on, he doesn't mix up his work a lot and he doesn't have thunderous power. In fact Tabtimdaeng's 63% stoppage ratio is very over-inflated and we'd suggest that if he had fought McDonnell's opponents we'd probably be looking at him stopping less than 40%.
With Tabtimdaeng being an aggressively minded fighter and McDonnell having a high out put we imagine this bout will be fun to watch, not as exciting as the main event but still very fun. Sadly however we think Tabtimdaeng is going to walk into a lot of solid shots. McDonnell isn't a heavy puncher but he keeps firing and those shots each take an effect. We think the accumulation of McDonnell's work will eventually grind down the Thai ending his world title dreams though, hopefully, Tabtimdeang can put up a good effort that could see some fans extra following him after the bout.
(Image courtesy of Secondsout
Video below, from the face off, courtesy of iFL TV)
This coming weekend really is a monster weekend with more major bouts than you can shake a stick at. Unfortunately with such a busy weekend it's obvious that some fights will be forgotten, or given less respect than they perhaps deserve. One of those bouts is the IBF Featherweight title fight between defending champion Evgeny Gradovich (18-0, 9) and Belgian-Armenian challenger Alexander Miskirtchian (24-2-1, 9), the European champion and #1 ranked IBF challenger.
Gradovich is a fighter we are big fans of. In the ring he's a non-stop punching machine who throws in the region 100 punches a round, every round. He's aggressive, fun to watch, busy and the sort of fighter who makes up for his limitations in sheer bloody mindedness. And in fairness to Gradovich his limitations are few and far between with the most notable of them being that he doesn't really have major power, he hurts people when he sits on his shots but lacks truly concussive power, that is pretty much his main issue.
What Gradovich does so well is break people, both mentally and physically. He showed this in his two victories over Billy Dib and his very impressive decision victory over Mauricio Javier Munoz. These fights showed all the different facets to Gradovich who showed he could swarm, proved he could box and proved that he was improving fight after fight. If that improvement continues then there is every chance he could become one of the truly elite Featherweights.
Whilst Gradovich is a proven world class fighter with a number of world class wins Miskirtchian is a little less well known, though has proven his ability against fringe world class opponents. For him this is a step up to true world class and for many that's the hardest step a fighter can take.
So far Miskirtchian's most notable victories are over Sofiane Takoucht, who he has beaten twice, and Andreas Evensen. Both of those men are good European level fighters but their is a huge gulf between European class and world class and we feel that will be shown up here.
If Gradovich is defined by his insane work rate then Miskirtchian is probably defined by how basic he is. He's strong and looks tough but there is nothing that really looks outstanding. He comes forward behind his jab and throws huge lopping over-hand rights regularly but his jab isn't sharp or all that fast whilst his right hand appears to lack power and is slow and looping. There is nothing in the footage of Miskirtchian that makes us think wow, in fact the most impressive thing about him is that he's become the IBF #1 contender despite looking so very ordinary.
Although there must be something about Gradovich that makes him fight better than the footage suggests there is nothing that makes us feel he can really give Gradovich any sort of a test. In fact this bout is almost made for Gradovich to look good and to get his mandatory out of the way. There is little, if anything, in Miskirtchian's arsenal that will bother the Russian who will come forward, and gradually grind down the challenger.
Although this bout is the lesser of 3 Featherweight world title bouts on a card dubbed "Featherweight Fury" it is arguably going to be most exciting as Gradovich doesn't really know how to be in a boring fight. For us Nicholas Walters's bout with Vic Darchinyan looks likely to be one-sided whilst the bout between Nonito Donaire and Simpiwe Vetyeka is likely to be a very tactical affair between very capable counter-punchers. This might be a bit of a mismatch but it will be an entertaining mismatch.
(Image courtesy of EuroboxePromotion)
There are a lot of great fights this weekend spread all around the world. For us however the most interesting, by a long way, is in Mexico.
We know a lot people reading that will be shocked that we've not gone with the big rematch in the UK between Carl Froch and George Groves, despite some of our team being British, but it's true, the fight of the night will be in Mexico as WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (27-3-1, 25) defends his belt against mandatory challenger Carlos Cuadras (29-0, 24).
On paper the bout is everything to make a boxing fan excited. We have a champion travelling to defend his belt on foreign soil, we have an unbeaten challenger looking to announce himself on the world stage, we have two giant punchers, two men with aggressive styles and two men who fight with little intention of hearing the final bell. In fact from their combined 60 bouts only 8 have gone to the final bell!
For regular readers of this site you will be perfectly aware of what we think of Srisaket. For those that aren't regular visitors we feel that he's he best Super Flyweight on the planet, a destructive ball of energy with dynamite in both hands, a steely determination to win and a vicious mentality based around not only winning but nigh on destroying any opponent who dare steps in to the ring with him.
Srisaket didn't start his career with a series of easy victories, in fact things were the polar opposite for the Thai who debuted against Akira Yaegashi, the current WBC Flyweight champion. Yaegashi over came Srisaket who was a paltry 1-3-1 after just 5 bouts.
Amazingly after the poor start to his career Srisaket knuckled down and improved, drastically. He went from inexperience novice fighting to feed himself to a violent wrecking ball in the ring who stopped 24 of his subsequent 26 opponents including Yota Sato, who Srisaket beat for the title, and Hirofumi Mukai, who has been the only challenger to Srisaket's throne so far.
In Cuadras we have a man who is the opposite to Srisaket in many ways. Cuadras is unbeaten, he was pretty much a touted prospect from the day he turned professional and treat like a fighter who was being groomed for a world title fight. He was a former amateur standout who had won tournaments such as the 2007 Pan Am Games and the 2005 International Junior Olympics and was viewed, from a young age, as a man to keep an eye on especially considering his amateur record was a reported 140-20!
Sadly for Cuadras, who is co-promoted by Japan's Teiken promotions, his amateur pedigree didn't really work as a launch platform and instead he had to slowly building his professional reputation and ranking and over the past 6 years he has been running up long an excellent 29 fight unbeaten record. Unlike Srisaket however he's yet to face a real world class opponent and the best names on Cuadras's record are Ronald Barrera, Fernando Lumacad and Victor Zaleta, all fringe world ranked fighters but a long way from the championship calibre fighters like Sato and Yaegashi.
In the career of both men they have typically found themselves as the aggressive fighter against someone who they can back up. Sure that wasn't the case in Srisaket's first 5 bouts but later on that has become the case. For this bout however they are both strong, power and aggressive fighters who will come forward in an attempt to boss the bout. With that in mind we can only see one thing happening, the two men meeting in centre ring in the opening round and refusing to back down until they either wear themselves out, wear their opponent out or, some how, reach the final bell.
What we're expecting to happen here is what we all love as boxing fans. We don't see much actual "boxing" but instead we are subjected to a 2 man war, a battle of pride, a battle of machismo and a battle of unadulterated violence. It'll be the sort of fight that reminds us what we love about this sport, the reason we follow it and the reason why we, as fans of the smaller weights, can get so excited by fights that so many fans over-look.
With Srisaket knowing he'll need a stoppage to get a win here we expect him to go all out in an attempt to batter Cuadras into submission. Cuadras, with power and skills himself, will fight back and we're hoping for a bout reminiscent of the Takashi Miura/Sergio Thompson contest from last year. If it lives up to that we'll be very happy fans and hopefully, as with Miura back then, the champion will retain in a bout that breaks the fighter from a nationally known fighter to a globally known fighter ad a globally known, must watch warrior.
It's the toughest bout of Srisaket's career since he fought Yaegashi but we still favour him to win here in what would be a genuine break out victory and a true FOTY contender.
Over the past year or so Top Rank and Bob Arum have made a home away from home in Macau making the most of the luxurious conditions at the amazing Cotai Arena in the Venetian Resort. The cards, which have split opinions with many fans, have been great for us as they have helped draw extra attention to some Asian fighters such as Yasutaka Ishimoto, Genesis Servania, Harmonito Dela Torre, Zou Shiming, Rex Tso and Kuok Kun Ng.
One of the few Asian fighters that American audiences are fully aware of, with out the need for a Macau showcase, is the "Filipino Flash" Nonito Donaire (32-2, 21). Donaire, once considered as a top 10 pound-for-pound fighter, is a man in a bit of a career crisis. A few years ago he was the rising star at Top Rank, the next Manny Pacquiao. He was stopping great opponents like Vic Darhcinyan and Fernando Montiel with single punches, he was looking sensational with power, speed, the ability to box from either stance and an unnerving ability to time his opponents with fantastic counter.
Since then those glory days Donaire has struggled with the likes of Omar Andres Narvaez, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr, Jeffrey Mathebula, Vic Darchinyan-in a rematch, and been defeated by Cuban sensation Guillermo Rigondeaux. He has basically gone from being a top pound-for-pound fighter to a man that many feel may be so far on the slide that he perhaps only has one or two good fights left in him.
At his best Donaire really was brilliant. He often looked untouchable with a mind blowing combination of speed and power. He was often making top fighters look like also rans and his record genuinely reads like a who's who with names like Darchinyan, Moruti Mthalane, Hernan Marquez, Montiel, Narvaez, Toshiaki Nishioka and Jorge Arce. Unfortunately however he seemed to fall in love with his power in later years, ignoring the skills that had gotten him to the top level and relying solely on counters rather than finding his own openings. He'd gone from wonder kid to frustration almost over night and has struggled to re-find the tools that made him one of the sports must watch fighters.
Unfortunately for Donaire he'll almost certainly have to find his aggressive mindset as he attempts to become a 5 weight world champion and takes on WBA Featherweight super champion Simipiwe Vetyeka (26-2, 16) who has gained a real reputation over the last year as a man who enjoys fighting Asian fighters and is a real king of upsets.
Hailing from South Africa Vetyeka has become a road warrior and fought in his first notable bout 7 years ago in Japan when he lost a decision to the then WBC Bantamweight champion Hozumi Hasegawa. That bad was a horrible clash of styles with neither man willing to open up for vast parts of the bout. From that contest however Vetyeka has learned to make the most of his ability and scored wins over Giovanni Caro, Daud Cino Yordan and, most recently, Chris John.
The victories over Yordan and John have both been played down by some fans. For some Yordan was weight drained and John was old though in all honesty they are detracting from two excellent performances that showed the different sides of Vetyeka. Against Yordan we saw Vetyeka the boxer who bounced on his toes, used the jab and allowed Yordan to eat numerous straight shots. It was a game plan designed to beat Yordan. Against John we saw Vetyeka bide his time, start slowly and then strike breaking John down in rounds 5 and 6 before forcing the stoppage. By then John looked like a broken man, he was busted to the mid section, forced to take shots upstairs and beaten into retirement.
Whilst Donaire is the favourite, and rightfully so, he's in a very, very tough contest here. He's not looked "right" in a while and although he's only lost, in recent bouts, to the excellent Rigondeaux we can actually see an upset here with Vetyeka having all the tools to beat Donaire, if not he'll certainly give Donaire a head ache.
We're expecting to see the counter punching Donaire in the ring. By it's self that's fine but against another relaxed counter puncher we think Donaire will struggle and when he opens up his defensive flaws will be taken advantage off with quick and hurtful shots from Vetyeka. Those shots will take it's toll on Donaire and make things very difficult for the Filipino who will feel what it's like to fight a real Featherweight.
We think that whilst Donaire will start the favourite he will really struggle to hurt Vetyeka, he will struggle to land clean on Vetyeka and in the end he will just flat out struggle. We don't mean to sound harsh but we'd not be shocked if Vetyeka managed to score a third successive upset with a hard fought decision. Unfortunately we think Donaire is about done.
(Image courtesy of Toprank)
When we talk about fighters who we feel were lucky last year the one name that stands out is Filipino Light Flyweight Donnie Nietes (32-1-4, 18). Nietes, who defended his WBO Light Flyweight title twice last year, was very fortunate to score a controversial draw in his first defence of 2013 as he managed to repel the challenge of Mexico's Moises Fuentes (19-1-1, 10).
Our writers had Fuentes a clear winner even though the fight was fought month or two before this site was set up. We felt that Fuentes had easily out worked, out landed and basically bullied a very poor looking Nietes who had certainly benefited from being the home fighter.
In the first fight Nietes seemed to fight like an idiot. His technique was poor, his work rate was disappointing and nothing seemed to go right for him. To say Fuentes had been robbed was probably the fairest thing you could say.
We had hoped an immediate rematch would have been called though instead we've had to wait more than a year for the men to get in the ring together again and for justice, one way or another to be served.
Since the first fight Nietes has looked rejuvenated wiping out Fuentes's compatriot Sammy Gutierrez in 3 rounds. Fuentes has looked even better however and has disposed of Gerardo Verde (UD10), Luis De La Rosa (TKO1) and Omar Salado (TKO7) as he's gone from strength to strength.
Nietes is now 31, heading quickly to 32, very old for a fighter in boxing's smallest divisions. As well as his age he also isn't a big puncher. His 37 fight career has seen him scoring just 18 stoppages, just below 50%, and this has obviously seen him acquiring a lot of extra miles. In fact from his 37 fight career he has fought in almost 250 rounds in an 11 year career.
As for the 28 year old Funetes he's also not got a reputation for being a big puncher but what he is is big, strong, aggressive and whilst not concussive he is some what heavy handed, what he hits may not be destroyed but it does tend to get hurt, as Nietes's body found out last time around. Technically he's not the best but he's big, strong and very tough.
Looking at the records of the two men Nietes is easily the most experienced. As mentioned before he's been a professional for over a decade and whilst he only loss was back in 2006 to Angky Angkotta he's never really beaten an A class fighter. His best wins are good, such as his victories over Pornsawan Porpramook, Manuel Vargas, Jesus Silvestre, Mario Rodriguez, Ramon Garcia Hirales and Felipe Salguero but not are the victories that prove someone is elite level.
As for Fuentes, who has only been a professional since 2007, his best wins are over Raul Garcia, Ivan Calderon and Luis De La Rosa not great wins but all of which are very good wins. Sure Calderon wasn't the fighter he once was but he was still the win that really brought Fuentes to the attention of boxing fans world wide.
From the first fight we think Fuentes has to be favoured here. Sure he's going back in to the lions den but we really feel he won last time and with closer scrutiny on the judging this time around we can't see a repeat of the controversy from last time around.
(Image courtesy of http://mallofasia-arena.com)
In recent months Japanese boxing has been enamoured with the prodigious talent of Naoya Inoue, the new wonder child of Japanese boxing. Prior to Naoya's emergence as such an outstanding young fighter the Japanese boxing world was celebrating the exceptional talent of Kazuto Ioka (14-0, 9) another young, talented and ambitious young man who was creeping on to the fringes of the pound-for-pound lists.
Ioka, like Inoue, was making his name from very early in his career. He became a Japanese national champion in just his 6th bout before winning a world title in his 7th contest, setting a then new Japanese national record.
The combination of boxing ability, power, speed, and natural intuition in the ring all made Ioka look like a star of the future. A man who was a world champion seemed like to be much more.
Around 16 months after winning his first world title Ioka unified the WBC and WBA Minimumweight titles by defeating Akira Yaegashi. It was just his 10th bout but it was clear that Ioka was something special, even if you did feel he was a little bit lucky to actually get the decision over Yaegashi.
Rather than stay at Minimumweight Ioka set his sights on bigger challenges and quickly moved up to capture a Light Flyweight title. As the WBA Light Flyweight champion Ioka defended the belt 3 times with only Felix Alvarado giving him any kind of a fight.
Now Ioka's attention turns to the Flyweight division where he will attempt to claim the IBF title and become just the second Japanese fighter to be a 3-weight world champion. In the opposite corner to Ioka will be former amateur rival Amnat Ruenroeng (12-0,5) who notably beat Ioka in the 2008 King's Cup in Bangkok.
Whilst Ioka is one of the best in Japan and is a man on a march through the divisions Amnat is a man who is looking for redemption and is proof of what boxing can do to help reform someone. He has gone from prisoner at the dregs of society to a world champion, a hero for his people and a man representing Thailand at the highest level in his sport.
Amnat hasn't had the life of Ioka. He wasn't groomed to be a boxing star following in his uncles footsteps, he wasn't paid vast sums at a young age to become a world champion. Instead Amnat has had to fight hard to get to where he is. He had to turn around his life to go from criminal to boxing champion.
Whilst some will criticise the way in which the Thai won the IBF Flyweight title, taking a decision over Filipino veteran Rocky Fuentes for the vacant belt which had been stripped from Moruti Mthalane, few will criticise his ambition to become a world champion despite starting his professional journey aged 32.
Thanks to Thai promotional outfit Amnat has been able to quickly rise through the ranks and claim a world title, a belt he'll be defending for the first time when he faces Ioka in what looks almost certain to be the toughest bout of his career so far.
Interestingly whilst the men have had different journey's to get to where they are they are relatively similar in their traits. Both are technically good boxers, both are fast, often much faster than their rivals, and both seem to like having space to work with. Unfortunately for the Thai it's where they are different in the ring that we feel this bout will be won and lost.
Amnat hasn't really got much in terms of power or experience. He has done 12 rounds thrice but only the one against Fuentes was really fought at anything close to world level and for that bout Amnat won based on his style and home advantage as opposed to his world class skills. Fuentes was slower than Amnat, less energetic and easier to tag, it made life easy for Amnat to rack up some early rounds and use Funetes's pressure against him. In the middle rounds however Amnat did appear to be feeling the pace and altered his tactics to include less offensive work and more movement. The change helped him take a decision at home though likely wouldn't fair as well on the road.
Quick with his hands and his feet Amnat is a good boxer but here he's facing someone equally as fast though with a lot more to his boxing. Ioka can can box with his speed, he can fight an inside war, as shown in his performance with Alvarado, he can go 12 rounds at a high pace, but most importantly he can take guys out. Ioka's body shots are amongst the best in boxing and when they land opponents know about it, they start to slow and and become sluggish. We expect those body shots to be the difference here with Ioka slowly breaking down the champion who by round 8 or 9 will be looking very uncomfortable before folding soon afterwards.
We imagine that this will look like a game of high speed chess early on but Ioka will take over as the bout develops and come out on top having had a very strong middle section of the fight. His stronger over-all game and his youth will be too much for the much older champion.
(Images: Top courtesy of Boxmob.jp, bottom courtesy of http://www.kiatkreerin.com)
(Video below courtesy of Kiatkreerin.com)
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.