It's not been a great few weeks for Thailand as Amnat Ruenroeng was beaten by Johnriel Casimero, with Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo was battered by Miguel Berchelt and Pungluang Sor Singyu being dethroned by Marlon Tapales. It's fair to say that the run isn't one that Thai fans will be wanting to see continue and on August 2nd they are hoping that it will come to and end when another one of their champions defends his title in a mandatory defence.
That champion is the unbeaten Wanheng Menayothin (42-0, 17) who defends his belt against in form Mexican challenger Saul Juarez (23-4-1, 12), the current mandatory challenger.
Wanheng's record is one of the longest unbeaten records in the sport, only a few fights behind that of Nicaraguan sensation Roman Gonzalez, despite that no one is proclaiming the Thai as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet. That's due to his level of competition which has certainly not been great. In fact his best wins have come against the likes of Florante Condes, Oswaldo Novoa, Ardin Diale, Young Gil Bae and Go Odaira. They aren't terrible fighters but nothing exceptional for a man with 42 wins.
Of course it's not just the wins that stand out on Wanheng's record but also his apparent lack of power. In fact 17 T/KO's in 40 fights is a 40% stoppage rate, one of the least impressive in the sport today for any world champion.
What neither of those numbers, nor the names, do is actually tell you a lot about Wanheng who is developing his power and really does pass the eye test with flying colours. In the ring he's a very intelligent and aggressive pressure fighter, he has a solid guard, he's calculating with his footwork and throws some brilliant combinations, with his power being criminally under-rated. He's not a 1-punch KO artist but his' a vicious terrier like fight who grinds opponents down and barely takes a shot in the process. It's that grinding that has seen him stopping his last 5 opponents and claim 6 stoppages in his last 7 bouts.
On paper the challenger should be the under, surprisingly however boxrec.com rank Juarez as their #1 fighter in the division. That's due to their algorithms however Juarez has been on an impressive run on recent years with 2 wins over Adrian Hernandez and a victory, and a draw, against Oswaldo Novoa. Along with those 4 results he also has wins over Luis Ceja, Armando Torres, and early career wins over Martin Tecuapetla and another win over Novoa. In all honesty he has an impressive resume. On the other hand he has been beaten by Tecuapetla, Jose Argumedo, Juan Hernandez Navarrete and Milan Melindo, all highly regarded fighters themselves.
In the ring Juarez has shown lots of facets to his ability. He can box in a relatively technical fashion using his jab, holding when needed and using intelligent movement with crisp combinations, he can also go to war and enjoy a good old fashioned tear up. He's not an out and out warrior but like many Mexican fighters that it certainly something he has in his arsenal when needed.
Like the champion the challenger isn't a puncher, in fact he only boasts a 43% stoppage rate and has scored just a single stoppage in the last 36 months, that's 1 stoppage in 9 bouts. Despite that he does have solid pop and will keep fighters respectful of him given his ability to land clean.
Where're expecting a technically brilliant battle here. Juarez's movement and technical boxing against Wanheng's calculating pressure. Sadly however for Juarez the bout will be held in the hot and humid conditions of Thailand which will likely zap his energy if he tries to move too much whilst Wanheng will look to walk him down. If Juarez slows, as expected, we think Wanhneg will come away with a clear and wide decision win.
The next world title fight to take place in Asia is one of the most over-looked Bantamweight title bouts in a while and sees the attention of the division turn to Thailand where a local champion makes his first mandatory defense, against a criminally under-rated contender.
The champion in question is the very experienced Pungluang Sor Singyu (52-3, 35) who will be making the second defense of the WBO Bantamweight title as he goes up against the talented and over-looked Marlon Tapales (28-2, 11) of the Philippines. Between them the men are just 50 years old but have 85 bouts and 80 wins combined!
The 26 year old champion, enjoying his second title reign, is one of the few Thai's who has got a “padded” record but shown he can hang with world class fighters. His first loss was a close one on the road in 2009, to future world title challenger Stephane Jamoye, his second was another close one on the road to Paulus Ambunda whilst his most recent was a KO loss in the US to Tomoki Kameda, his most notable bout so far. In all of those losses he proved he was a handful and had Kameda worried before the Japanese star landed one of the best body punches landed in recent years.
Whilst those losses have all been set backs he has scored notable wins over AJ Banal, in the Philippines and Ryo Akaho, to begin each of his title reigns, and also scored a recent win over Filipino Jetro Pabustan, in what was a really messy bout plagued by headclashes. Other somewhat decent wins include victories over Monico Lurente and Eden Sonsona, credible oriental level wins.
In the ring the champion is a smiling ball of aggressive energy. At 5'4” he's a tiny Bantamweight but uses his lack of height well to make a difficult target, he comes forward and he tried to break down opponents with intense pressure and accurate punching. He may not be as skilled as countrymen like Wanheng Menayothin or as powerful as Srisaket Sor Rungvisai but he's still a real nightmare and the sort of fighter who can give most Bantamweights on the planet a really nasty time in the ring.
Aged 24 the challenger will be getting his first crack at a world title but is regarded by some hardcore fans as one of the better fighters not to have won a world title. Although relatively unknown by the wider boxing fan base he already holds wins over the likes of Randy Petalcorin, Warlito Parrenas, Rey Megrino, Hayato Kimura and Shohei Omori. He was also really unlucky when he fought to a majority decision loss to David Sanchez in his most recent loss.
Tapales has been beaten twice. Once was the aforementioned defeat to Sanchez whilst the other was a 6th round TKO loss to Brix Ray back in 2009. That loss to Ray was an upset and will be a black mark on his record, however that loss came more than 7 years ago and Tapales is a far different fighter today to what he was back then, as a teenager.
In the ring Tapalese is a careful fighter with a good guard and subtle footwork however it's his timing that appears to be his greatest quality and the shots he caught Omori with last year were perfect timed lumps of dynamite. He may not have a reputation as a puncher but he certainly possess some solid bang in his left hand, a good energy in the ring and under-rated skills with some lovely speed thrown in as a bonus. There are flaws in his defense but there's enough in there to be a potential handful for anyone in the division. Interestingly he's also going to be one of the very few Bantamweights smaller than Pungluang.
In the ring we're expecting Pungluang to look to bring the pressure and then for Tapale to respond, looking catch him with counters and make the most of his danger left hook. Pungluang is tough though and given the advantage in Thailand he'll be strongly favoured to claim a decision. For Tapales to win he will likely need a KO, something he can get, but we suspect he won't here and instead Pungluang will retain by a decision in a thrilling bout that sees home advantage pay dividends for the Thai.
Right now boxing has a number of genuinely intriguing divisions. The Heavyweight division has started to once again create some positives headlines, the Cruiserweight division is brilliantly matches, the Light Welterweight division has some compelling match ups coming up, the Super Featherweight division keeps delivering brilliant fights, the Light Flyweight division is mouth watering and Flyweight has the potential for so many fantastic bouts. Possibly the most over looked division however is the Super Bantamweight division.
The 122lb weight class has been a frustrating one at times. The way the boxing world has treat Guillermo Rigondeaux has been a big blotch on the division, and the “super fight” between Scott Quigg and Carl Frampton failed to live up to the expectation. The division has also acted as a stop gap for many, with fighters like Leo Santa Cruz, quickly moving up to the more financially rewarding Featherweight division.
Despite the frustration it has delivering some thrilling match ups in recent times and looks like a division bristling with talent, all looking to prove it's self. This coming Wednesday we thankfully get to see some of the more talented fighters facing off, with both men looking to prove a point. One of those is Japan's tricky southpaw sharp shooter Shingo Wake (20-4-2, 12) while the other is big punching Dominican Jonathan Guzman (21-0-0-1, 21). Despite their difference they share the same desires, to be a world champion and to be recognised as a major player on the world scene.
On paper the more impressive of the two men is the big punching visitor. His near perfect record, only marred by a no contest from back 2013 due to a headclash, is imposing to say the least and shows that the “Salomon King” is a genuine destroyer in the ring. That was shown recently when he stopped Daniel Rosas on US, and has been shown through his career with his string of stoppage wins.
Of his 21 wins Guzman has scored 15 in his homeland. Those 15 all came against questionable opposition, as did his win over Emerson Santos Carvalho in Argentina back in late 2012. In recent years however Guzman has been making a name for himself in the US,where he has had his last 5 bouts. Those bouts have seen him beating some familiar fighters, namely Christian Esquivel and Daniel Rosas, though it's fair to say that none of them have been world class, or fringe world class, Super Bantamweights.
In the ring Guzman isn't the quickest of fighters and can actually be walked back, but he's a big Super Bantamweight with genuine power in his right hand. His jab can, at times, be pushed and when he comes forward he does sometimes look a bit clumsy, but when a fighter has the power he has those technical flaws can be over-come by sheer force. One major question that hasn't really been answered is what happens a fighter moves around him, and makes him pay for being crude. Likewise he hasn't really been chin checked by a decent Super Bantamweight with his most notable opponents all being naturally smaller men.
With 4 losses and 2 draws against his name Wake doesn't have an impressive record, however like many Japanese fighters he has over-come a troublesome start to his career to become a genuine contender in the Super Bantamweight division. After 6 fights he was 3-2-1 (2) and after 6 fights he was 10-4-2 (5). Since then however he has gone 10-0 (7) scoring wins over the likes of Jonathan Baat, Yukinori Oguni, Jaesung Lee and Mike Tawatchai. That winning run also saw Wake claim the OPBF title and record 5 defenses of the title, all by stoppage.
Although not a big name in the west Wake has been building a growing fans base since his win over Oguni. That has been helped with having bouts shown on Fuji TV and later TBS who have bother helped to raise Wake's profile. His profile has also been helped by his personality which has helped win over Japanese fans.
In the ring the Japanese fighter is a nightmare to fight. At his best he's a sharp shooter, with intelligent foot work, impressive hand speed, great movement and under-rated power. He may not be the most slippery, or the biggest puncher, but he's certainly a nightmare to tag clean and landing successive shots against him is incredibly difficult. Against a crude fighter Wake has the ability to make them look very silly and is a very rangy fighter which means fighting on the move is made easier by him.
Coming in to this one we have a puncher against a boxer. If the bout is won on skills alone then Wake walks this, however Guzman has that nasty power and that incredible self belief that makes him incredibly dangerous, despite his flaws. If Guzman can make his power count then there is a good chance he can hurt or even stop Wake, however Wake's plan is to take away that strenth by being hit as little as possible, using his speed to land and get out of range before Guzman fires back. If Wake's plan works he wins with ease, getting a wide decision, if not then Guzman will likely break him down with heavy leather.
The Flyweight division is, and has long been, one of the sports most interesting divisions. It has one of the richest histories of any division in the sport and also has one of the best currents scenes with fighters like Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada, Johnriel Casimero and Kazuto Ioka all widely regarded as being among the best. The depth however is where it really impresses with fighters like Amnat Ruenroeng, Brian Vicloria, Moruti Mthalane, Juan Carlos Reveco, Daigo Higa, Joebert Alvarez, Takuya Kogawa and McWillians Arroyo all being very credible contenders. Even lower down the pecking order at “prospect” level we have fighters like Iwan Zoda, KJ Cataraja, Charlie Edwards and Andrew Selby.
This coming Wednesday we get to see the next intriguing bout in the division, as WBA champion Ioka (19-1, 1) returns to the ring to make the third defense his title. In the opposite corner will be once beaten challenger Keyvin Lara (18-1-1, 6), who comes into the bout on an 18 fight winning streak.
Ioka, as mentioned above, is regarded as one of the divisional elite. The 27 year old 3-weight world champion has long been regarded as one of the hottest fighters in Japan and has an impressive resume to back that up. He won the WBC Minimumweight title in just his 7th bout, stopping the then unbeaten Oleydong Sithsamerchai, he unified titles at Minimumweight, beating the brilliant Akira Yaegashi, he moved up and claimed the WBA Light Flyweight title, in just his 11th bout, before becoming a 3-weight world champion last year with a victory over Juan Carlos Reveco.
The most notable thing about Ioka over the 2 years isn't his achievement in the ring but his physical development. Back in May 2014 he suffered his sole defeat, a decision defeat to the then IBF champion Amnat Ruenroeng. In that bout Ioka looked under-sized and under-powered, like a very small Flyweight. Last time out however he bullied Juan Carlos Reveco, stopping the Argentinian veteran in the 11th round following a performance that had excellent moments from the Japanese fighter.
Sadly a lot of Ioka performances have not so good moments. Against Reveco last December it seemed like Ioka was the bigger, more powerful, better skilled and physically stronger fighter. At times however he also looked like the lazier, less hungry fighter and gave rounds away essentially doing nothing rounds. Sadly this laziness has been an issue through his career and it's something that could potentially cost him in the future. If, however, he can fight to his best for 12 rounds, there aren't many fighters at Flyweight who will beat him.
When we talk about Lara he's much, much less well known than the Osakan champion The Nicaraguan youngster has been a professional for less than 4 years and now, aged 21, is looking to make a mark on the world stage in a big way. This didn't seem likely given his inauspicious start to the professional ranks, which featured a loss on debut and a draw in his second bout, but 18 straight wins on the local scene, including 1 in Panama, have helped Lara move towards a potential world title fight.
Although Lara hasn't fought on major international TV he has had many of his bouts posted online, courtesy of Prodesa boxing, From the footage that is available Lara is a hard working fighter who has fast hands and throws plenty of punches, but appears to lack in many other areas. His power is certainly nothing startling, his footwork is flat and clumsy, his defence is porous, and although he has some nice shots in his arsenal his performances don't suggest future world champion any time soon, especially not in the stacked Flyweight division.
In many ways Lara appears to be getting thrown to the wolves here. He has had no bouts on the fringes of world class, no bouts outside of Latin America, no previous bouts for 12 rounds and no bouts against anyone of any note. He may have impressed in the gym, he may have been a star in sparring but in the ring he looks like a man who should be a very long way from a world title fight.
We'll be honest, Ioka has long been criticised for some of his opponent choices. That will again be the case here after he beats Lara, likely by mid round stoppage. There is nothing in Lara's locked that should worry Ioka, who should have the bout his own way from start to end.
Over the past 12 months we have seen a massive shake up of the Super Featherweight division. Just 10 months ago the divisional champions were Takashi Uchiyama, the then WBA “super” champion, Takashi Miura, the then WBC champion, Roman Martinez, the WBO champion, and Jose Pedraza, the IBF champion. Now, a year on, the champions are very different with the sudden emergence of Jezreel Corrales, who now holds the WBA “super” title, Franisco Vargas, the WBC title hold, Vasyl Lomachenko, the current WBO champion, and the only champion from a year ago is Pedraza, who was lucky not to lose his title in his first defense.
Whilst the title picture has had a shake up we have also seen “secondary” titles change hands or pop up with the WBA having the newly crowned Jason Sosa as their “regular” champion and the WBO having a rare “interim” champion in the form of Miguel Berchelt (29-1, 26), a genuinely exciting Mexican.
Berchelt makes the first defense of his title this coming weekend when he takes on hugely experienced Thai Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo (61-2, 41), who is getting his third shot at a “world” title, having lost to Lomachenko and Chris John in title bouts at Featherweight.
Whilst we're not usually a fan of “interim” titles, we will admit we do like it when they throw up bouts like this, one that look good on paper and should be fun when the fighters get in the ring.
For those who haven't seen the champion Berchelt is genuinely fun to watch. He's a little bit crude, a little bit defensively awkward but he's got the gift of power, in both hands. When he turned professional, aged 19, he reeled off stoppages for fun and swiftly moved to 21-0 (18). Those KO's left him feeling like superman and looking like he felt he could just walk through anything. That cost him in 2014, when he was stopped in 99 seconds by fellow puncher Luis Eduardo Florez.
The loss to Florez would have totally derailed lesser fighters but Berchelt has quickly rebuilt his momentum and reeled off 8 straight stoppage wins, including victories over Antonio Escalante, Rene Gonzalez and Sergio Puente, all fringe contenders, as well as George Jupp, who he beat for the interim title earlier this year.
Amazingly he's only 24, he's improving and with his power he's going to be a nightmare for anyone outside of the divisional elite, though he could make for some potential thrillers with the second tier guys in the division.
When it comes to Chonlatarn the first thing that strikes many fans is his impressive record which features more than 60 wins. Like many Thai's however those wins have regularly been over weak opponents and the number of decent names on his record is disappointing. On paper his best wins are two victories over fellow Thai Yoddamrong Sithyodthong, though Yoddamrong was well past his prime by then, a win over Vinvin Rufino and a victory over the under-rated Adones Aguelo. Not exactly outstanding for a man with more than 60 wins.
Whilst his best wins are lacking quality it is fair to say he has fought two tremendous fights in Chris John, who took a clear decision over him on 2012, and Vasyl Lomachneko, who totally schooled him in 2014. Notably those bouts were both at 126lbs, though it seems he feels he has filled out and is now competing at 130lbs, where he has been focusing all year.
Stylistically Chonlatarn is a bit of a one paced, pressure fighter who comes forward slowly and looks to work up close. Against John and Lomachenko that tactic was never going to work due to the huge difference in speed and skill, but against lesser fighters it has worked with Chonlatarn using his weight and strength to great advantage over lesser foes.
Sadly for Chonlatarn we don't think his style or ability bodes well here against a thunderously hard hitting Berchelt, who we suspect will hit him hard and hit him often, eventually forcing a stoppage of the limited but game Thai, likely in the middle rounds of the fight
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.