In 2013 Chinese former amateur star Zou Shiming (9-1, 2) made his professional debut, beating Eleazar Valenzuela in Macau in what was supposed to be the start of a new era of Chinese boxing. On his debut Shiming failed to set the world alight, despite the best efforts of Bob Arum. Less than 2 years after his debut Shiming got his first rack at a world title, coming up short against former amateur foe Amnat Ruenroeng. In 2016 he rebuilt, claiming the WBO title at the end of the year with his second victory over Kwanpichit OnesongChaigym in November.
This coming Friday Shiming returns to the ring to make his first defense of that title, taking on Japanese challenger Sho Kimura (14-1-2, 7) in Shnaghai, in the first bout of Shiming's not to be promoted by Arum following issues between the two in recent months.
The bout isn't likely to get much attention in the West, especially with the lack of Arum's involvement, but it will be of significance in the Flyweight division, in China and in the wider Asian area with multiple fighters viewing the winner as their potential route to a title, or a unification bout.
As an amateur Shiming was a star. A 2 time Olympic gold medal winner and a 3-time world amateur champion. He relied on his understanding of the amateur system, throwing a lot of shots with his speed and skirting in and out. At times he was really impressive, but at others he was a messy nightmare of a fighter to face, with his wrestling and spoiling. Whatever tactics he used in the unpaid ranks, he got wins, and got them frequently against some of the top fighters in the world.
As a professional he had a number of problems. He turned professional incredibly late, debuting just a month before his 32nd birthday, and struggled to adapt to the professional style, and refusing to ever fully commit to fighting like a professional. Rather than fighting with combinations and power he was happy to skip though bouts with a frustrating style, and one that never bode well to American fans. He had a bright future lined up, but failed to do what he needed to to make the most of it.
His success in the professional ranks looks good, winning a world title in his 10th bout, but the reality is his competition has, for the most part, been poor and well selected and he's unlikely to eve live up to what he talent could have done. He's still quick, nimble and has a good engine, but he hardly looks like the man to kick start Chinese boxing in the way that people had hoped.
When it comes to Kimura only the Japanese fans, and the real hardcore of fans outside of Asia, will have heard of him. He began his career just 16 days after Shiming made his debut and was actually stopped in 75 seconds. Since then however he has found his footing and gone 16 fights unbeaten, picked up wins on international soil and claimed his first professional title. He has done so against mostly poor opponent, but he does hold a very good win over Masahiro Sakamoto, which saw Kimura claim the WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title back in November.
Although not a puncher Sakamoto has stopped 7 of his last 8, picking up stoppages in Thailand, Japan and Hong Kong, and has gone 12 rounds in his last decision win. Showing he has experience over the longer distance, but can see off opponents too, and do so on the road. It's also worth noting that at 28 he's coming in to his prime, and looks very relaxed and composed in the ring.
Kimura doesn't have the speed of Shiming, but he looks like a more professional fighter than the champion. A less naturally gifted on, but one who punches through the target, one who will look to hurt his opponents, and one who uses calculated pressure to get to his man and uses body shots to slow them.
On paper Kimura is the big under-dog, and in the eyes of many he's a hand selected opponent to help amp up a potential bout between Shiming and WBA champion Kazuto Ioka. The reality however is that Kimura has the schooling and drive to give Shiming a real test. Shiming should have the natural ability to take the win, but we suspect he will have to work hard for it and will be dragged into a tougher than expected contest.
The Light Flyweight division has been a frustrating one in recent times. It's not been bad, by any stretch of the imagination, just frustrating with the politics of the sport seemingly stepping in the way of some great potential match ups and other match ups just not come to fruition. It's also been frustrating to see the reign of WBA champion Ryoichi Taguchi (25-2-2, 11) which has faltered and sputtered along whilst he's racked up 5 defenses. His next comes this coming Sunday and looks like a tough one as he takes on mandatory challenger Robert Barrera (18-1, 12), from Colombia.
When Taguchi won the title back at the end of 2014, he looked like a man who was going to kick on and have a great reign as a champion, becoming the new face of the Watanabe gym and the fighter to lead them after Takashi Uchiyama. The looked even more the caseafter his first defense, less than 5 months later, when he battered Thai challenger Kwanthai Sithmorseng en route to an 8th round TKO. Then came a sputter, as he was out boxed by Luis de la Rosa, until Rosa suffered and injury, essentially bailing out Taguchi. Rather than take ona live challenger after that he battled shop worn veteran Juan Jose Landaeta and dominated his challenger en route to an 11th round TKO.
Against Ryo Miyazaki we saw the best of Taguchi, as he dominated the former WBA Minimumweight champion but that was followed by a controversial draw against Carlos Canizales, who just so happens to be the only man with a win against Barrera.
At his best Taguchi is a handful. He's a huge, rangy guy at Light Flyweight, who will have size advantages over most opponents, and knows how to use his reach on the outside. On the inside he can hold his own, and has a lovely uppercut to the body up close. At his worst though he's lazy, sloppy, messy and a horror to watch. He can over-look opponents, he can be hurt and he can make life much harder for himself than he needs to.
Coming in to this bout Taguchi knows there is potential unification bouts at the end of 2017, but he needs to win, and do it in style, or else the likes of Kosei Tanaka, the WBO champion, will look else where for suitable competition. He can't afford a draw defense,or a flukey injury defense here, but needs something that will impress fans instead.
The once beaten Barrera is a 24 year old Colombian, who's only loss came to Carlos Canizales as mentioned earlier. It should be noted hat that loss was a split decision in Canizales' in Venezuela, in one of just two bouts on foreign soil for the Colombian, who has never fought outside of Latin American. In regards to his wins they have included victories over Luis de la Rosa, Ronald Ramos, twice, and recent world title challenger Julio Mendoza. At times he has struggled against lesser opponents, but is in good form having stopped his last 5 opponents whilst fighting well above the Light Flyweight limit.
From the footage available Barrera can fight out of either stance and has got nice movement, but he can be put under pressure and can often leave himself defensively open when letting his own shots go. His footwork isn't the smoothest and he just has an over-all clumsy look to his work. However he certainly looks like a strong and tough kid with a good engine and the ability to improve, a lot, given that he's young, hungry and never really been forced to step up his training as he will have done here.
With Colombian fighters we often see them go into a bout with a puncher's reputation. For Bareera that's not the case. He's on a stoppage run, but he's certainly more of a rounded fighter, who can box or brawl, than a pure power puncher. The overall skills do give him a chance to force Taguchi into a brawl here, and we suspect that will be his aim.
Although Barrera is certainly no push over there are enough holes in his game for Taguchi to have a field day with him, boxing from range and using his size to keep Barrera on the end of his stinging right hands. Barrera will press the fight, but we can't help thinking that Taguchi will get the win, and the chance to shine, which he really needs to make the most of here.
It's fair to say that 2016 was a nightmare year for the Watanabe gym, with high profile losses for Kohei Kono and Takashi Uchiyama who both lost their world titles, however as a gym they have bounced back well in 2017. This coming Sunday they could see that bounce continue as they look to create their next world champion, and see their man set a new Japanese domestic record.
The man in question is ultra-destructive Miniumweight youngster Hiroto Kyoguchi (7-0, 6), who challenges IBF Minimumweight champion Jose Argumedo (20-3-1, 12). The bout comes just over 15 months since Kyoguchi made his debut, swatting away Nayoklek Sithsaithong in 2 rounds on April 17th 2016 and will also be Argumedo's 4th defense of his title.
Of the two men the more proven is the champion, a tough and trough 28 year old Mexican who has been a professional for almost 7 years and has fought a who's who. He's scored wins over Oswaldo Novoa, Saul Juarez, Jose Martin Tecuapetla, Javier Martinez Resendiz and, most notably of all, Katsunari Takayama. It was the win over Takayama that really brought him to people's attention, taking a 9th round technical over Takayama to claim the IBF title in a really rough fight that saw Argumedo's strength's, and weaknesses, being shown.
In the ring Argumedo is slow, he's clumsy, and a bit flat footed. He is however tough as old boots, physically imposing, strong and experienced. With 24 bouts under his belt, including a 4-0 (2) record in world title bouts he has shown his quality at world level and he's gone beyond 8 rounds in 12 bouts so far, racking up 147 career rounds.
It should be noted that the win over Takayama came in Japan and whilst we personally thought he was fortunate to get the decision, it was clear that he wasn't scared about fighting on foreign soil and instead he came to fight. It looked like he was out worked and out manoeuvred by Takayama, but the “Lightning Kid” could never dent the Mexican who looked like he could have taken shots for weeks without going down.
Whilst Argumedo is a proven quantity the same cannot be said of Kyoguchi, but in regards to the eye test he looks like a potential Japanese star of the future and the next Japanese standout at 105lbs, and we mean that with no disrespect to WBO champion Tatsuya Fukuhara.
Blessed with really spiteful power, an aggressive mentality and the ability to assess his own performances and take positives, and negatives from them, Kyoguchi seems like fighter who is naturally talented and blessed with real maturity. Style wise he looks similar to both Roman Gonalez and Daigo Higa, two of the most exciting fighters in the sport today. He applies intelligent pressure, looking to break the body and spirit of his opponents. At the moment he hasn't made the most of his jab, but has never really needed to, dominated many of his fights from early on.
Whilst KO artists always have questions over their heads Kyoguchi has already answered some of those. For example he has has proven he can go 12 rounds, and actually looked the fresher man when he went 12 against Jonathan Refugio back in April and shown that he's not worried when a fighter can take his power. Those two questions being answered already tell us a lot about Kyoguchi, and why he is so highly regarded. He's a puncher, but he can do 12, at a good pace and can revert to plan B if he needs to. Not only are we aware from what we've seen that he's a talent, but Watanabe gym have had him training with top tier talent for this fight, and have got experience of bringing fighters to the top, and won't have thrown him in here unless they were confident of him being ready.
This could be a case of throwing Kyoguchi in with a champion too early. We don't think Watanabe would have done that, but they might. What we're expecting instead is to see Kyoguchi really shine against a tough fighter that he will have a field day with, pressing the action and going to town on a champion who is essentially made to order for his speed, aggression and style. Kyoguchi can't get over-confident, and he can't rush his work, but he should be able to look a sensation here against a slow and clumsy fighter that he can pressure, and rip combinations on, at will.
We don't see Kyoguchi blowing away Argumedo early on, the Mexican is far too tough for that, but we do see him taking stoppage in the middle rounds as the body pile up and the Mexican unravels under the pressure.
Every so often we, boxing fans, get a fight that we're incredibly excited about, even if the non-boxing-fan is unlikely to care about the contest. We get one such fight this coming weekend as heavy handed Japanese southpaw Takashi Miura (31-3-2, 24) [三浦 隆司] challenges WBC Super Featherweight champion Miguel Berchelt (31-1, 28) in a mandatory world title fight. The two men aren't cross over-stars by any stretch of the imagination, but they are fighters who deliver bang for their buck and are both must watch fighters with dynamite in their hands.
Berchelt is making his first defense of the title, a title he won last time out when he stopped Francisco Vargas in a real break out performance. It's worth noting that Vargas had himself taken the title from Miura in 2015, in a FOTY contender, but it did look like Vargas was a shell of his usual self against Berchelt. Now it may have been a case that Berchelt made Vargas look that bad, or it may well have been a case that Vargas had simply been broken down by wars with the likes of Miura and Orlando Salido.
If that win by Berchelt over Vargas was a sign of how good Berchelt was, as opposed to how shop worn Vargas was, then it's a sign that Berchelt is a real threat to anyone at 130lbs, including Vasyl Lomachenko. He looked like a fantastic boxer-puncher, moving brilliantly and delivering heavy shots on the move. Prior to the bout he had been known as a slightly crude boxer, more focusing on his power than his boxing, but against Vargas he showed everything that a fighter can show.
Blessed with natural power Berchelt has the ability to box, bang or brawl. He may not be quite as natural as Lomachenko in terms of his boxing, or as heavy handed as Gervonta Davis, but he combines the traits really well and looks more rounded than Davis already. It's also worth noting that he's only 25, so coming in to his prime, and despite having a loss on his record it does look like a blip, as opposed to a sign of issues. The loss was an opening round defeat to the unknown Luis Eduardo Florez more than 3 years ago, but since then he has gone 10-0 (10) with wins over Rene Gonzalez, Sergio Puente, Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo and Vargas. That sort of run seems to suggest that the loss was one that really helped Berchelt, rather than hindered his career.
For Miura this will be a chance to become a 2-time champion, rebuild his reputation as a Mexi-killer, have another thriller on international soil, potentially kick off a summer of Japanese success in the US and a summer to remember for the Teiken gym.
At his core Miura is a left hand happy southpaw brawler. He's rough around the edges, incredibly crude and a bit slow. But his left hand is pure dynamite and when he lands it any fighter can be in trouble. That should make him seem predictable but like most brawlers his shots aren't the most orthodox and due to his pressure and work rate his shots can come from real varied angles. His left hand is well known about, but almost no one has ever truly avoided it, and even those he hasn't stopped, such as Takashi Uchiyama, Sergio Thompson and Jorge Perez, have been dropped by his power. He really does have dynamite in his left hand, and his 67% KO rate really doesn't do his power justice.
Whilst offensive Miura is a nightmare his biggest issue is his defense. He's a fighter who has often gone with the idea “attack is the best form of defense”, and that has worked well over-all but hasn't been perfect. As a result he's suffered stoppages to Uchiyama, when he face was badly swollen, and Vargas, when he was knocked loopy by the Mexican. Even in bouts he's won, such as his wins over Thompson, Miguel Roman, Seiichi Okada and RJ Anoos he was tagged a fair bit and had his defensive flaws picked at. In fact in some ways the Anoos fight may well be the key bout to look at coming into this one. That may be a strange statement but Anoos made great use of his speed and jab, keeping Miura at range and flicking quick shots into his face, something that Berchelt will likely do.
On paper this could really go one of three ways. It could be a blow out as soon as either guy lands, if they catch their man clean early on it could be an early finish, both are huge punchers and both have the potential to take the other out early. That's shown in the stats, as Miura has 12 wins in the first 2 rounds and Berchelt has 14. We could also see the two men showing the toughness to weather the early storm and engage in a real fire fight, which will see both take a lot of punishment and will give the fans their money's worth in an all out brawl, the fight we all want to see. The third option is that Berchelt's speed and movement will simply be too much for the hunger and desire of Miura and he will put shot from range, using his lighter feet and take control of the bout, before running away with a victory, either by decision or late stoppage.
We all really, perhaps even expect, a brawl. If we get that then the fight is a real 50-50, either man could take the other out. If Berchelt can avoid a brawl, box at range, as he did against Vargas, and use his movement, then he should be able to win. He will however have to try his best to avoid holding his feet and having a fight. The more they stand out trade, the better chance Miura has of taking the win.
We would love to see Miura become a 2-time champion, score his 7th win over a Mexican opponent and his third win on international soil. But we can't help feeling that Berchelt has the advantages needed to retain his title.
To some boxing fans the lower weight divisions aren't worthy of any attention or time. They are their to be derided, mocked or ignored. Whilst it's a real shame those fans have that view, that doesn't mean others of us can't enjoy those divisions which tend to give us some of the best action bouts and some brilliantly over-looked classics. This coming Saturday we may well get another of those over-looked classics as WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart (15-0, 7) defends his title against mandatory challenger Rey Loreto (23-13, 15). On paper the uninformed may well look at the fight with extra derision given the different looking records, with Loreto having almost as many losses as Knockout has total bouts, but to those who know the men this is a mouth watering encounter.
The champion first made waves thanks to his unusual ring name. It was memorable, it was different and even a bit comical. It was also much easier to remember than his birth name of Thammanoon Niyomtrong. He won the WBC Youth title on his debut, just over 5 years ago, and defended it 7 times in total, before giving it up to fight for bigger and better titles. That resulted in Knockout claiming the interim WBA title in 2014 with a controversial win over Carlos Buitrago and since then he has gone from strength to strength, claiming the full title last year with a win over Byron Rojas.
At times in his career Knockout has looked laborious, and clumsy but fight after fight he has improved, with that being obvious in his 2016 rematch with Buitrago. Now the only major flaw that stands out is his questionable stamina, which has seen him running low in later rounds. Other than his stamina issues he looks like a talented, heavy handed and skilled fighter who could well be the best 105lb fighter on the planet. He may not have the 40-something win of compatriot Wanheng Menayothin but wins over Buitrago and Rojas are just as good as the best wins scored by Wanheng, and he's not taken the easy record padding fights that his countryman has.
On paper the challenger looks useless. 13 losses from 36 fights is pretty bad. However they only tell a fraction of the story of Rey Loreto's career. To begin his career he went 0-4, losing all 4 fights in a little over 6 months during 2008. In 2011 he was 8-11 (4), a long way from ever looking like a world title challenger. Then came a run of 7 wins, including a stoppage in Thailand over Wisanu Kokietgym. Aged 21 Loreto was then 15-11 (8) and was a veteran at such a young age. Like a veteran he went through a bad patch, losing 2 of 3 against naturally bigger men, but has since reeled off 8 wins. They have including a technical decision over Pornsawan Porpramook and a 2014 Upset of the Year contender against Nkosinathi Joyi
In the ring Loreto is an aggressive fighter with a great engine, really under-rated power and a great work rate. He might not be the most rounded fighter, or the quickest, or even a particularly technical fighter, but he's incredibly talented and very destructive with natural power, as he showed against Joyi. Also worth noting is he's a southpaw, making him even more feared and showing why he has been relatively avoided in recent years.
We really think this could be something special. Loreto is hungry, he's been forced to wait, he's already a veteran and there is no way he's not going to be putting it all on the line here. He might not be as talented as Knockout but he's certainly hungrier and that could prove to be pretty key in this bout. We think the skills will be the difference, with Knockout winning, but he will have to fight through hellfire to come out on top and Loreto will not be there for loss #14, he'll be there for the title. We suspect this will be an exciting, hard hitting war and something that no fan should be missing out on.
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.