It's not every week that we get a genuine super fight but on September 5th we get one of the best match ups that the sport could possibly throw us. A bout that it genuinely amazing and a bout that not only looks good as a match up but is also significant in terms of both the Flyweight division and the legacy of both men.
The fight, a WBC Flyweight title fight, will see Japanese champion Akira Yaegashi attempt to record his 4th defence of the title whilst his opponent, Roman Gonzalez, will be attempting to become the second ever 3-weight world champion from Nicaragua and further enhance his reputation as one of the most truly elite fighters on the planet.
The defending champion Yaegashi (20-3, 10) is one of Japanese boxing's best kept secrets though like many of the lower weight fights, such as Katsunari Takayama. He possesses a number of the stereo typical Japanese qualities, the most notable of those qualities is his extreme toughness which has seen him through a number of tough battles, notably his contest with Eagle Den Junlaphan and his bout with Kazuto Ioka. Sadly for Yaegashi he has had to rely on that toughness numerous times over the course of his career due to his defensive limitation and, again like Takayama, he has had to eat more than his share of shots in a tough career.
Aged 31 Yaegashi is getting on for a lower weight fighter and despite having only fought in 23 bouts he has fought in a lot of hard bouts. Those bouts with Junlaphan and Ioka as well as his bouts with Pornsawan Porpramook and Toshiyuki Igarashi would all have “added years” to Yaegashi the boxer and that is a problem, especially considering that the damage he has received has seen his eyes and face swell in numerous bouts, sometimes to the extent that a fight could have been stopped.
As well as the wear and tear Yaegashi has found that his power really isn't effective at the world level. He may have 10 stoppages form his 23 career fights but that includes just 5 from his last 18 bouts and he has actually only scored 2 stoppages in his 7 world title bouts and just 3 in his last 11 bouts!
When we talk about Gonzalez (39-0, 33) we again find ourselves talking about a fighter who is incredibly over-looked by many in the boxing world. Out side of the ring Gonzalez is a charming young man though in between the ropes he is a pure pressure fighter who stalks behind a tight guard, unloads with vicious and quick combinations and is extremely smart in the way he applies pressure, it's constant but intelligent. Worryingly for opponents Gonzalez combines sensational speed, frightening power, smart movement, sturdy defence and a very tough chin, even when tagged cleanly he shows no sign of discomfort.
If he was fighting above 130lbs Gonzalez would be widely regarded as one of the best fighters on the planet. Instead the diminutive Nicaraguan is a man known only to those hardcore fans who make the effort to follow the lower weights. As is often the case those fans are rewarded and in this case they get the to see a destructive, vicious and spiteful fighter who goes to the ring with the intention of beating up foes and not just getting the win.
For a 27 year old Gonzalez seems to have been around for what feels like a lifetime. That's probably because he made his debut all the way back in 2005 as a very baby faced 18 year old and also because he was just 21 when he won his first world title, the WBA Minimumweight title, with a classy performance against Yutaka Niida. He is possibly “older” in terms of boxing age than a 27 year old but it's fair to suggest that he's not yet peaked and is in fact just getting better and better, still.
Although Gonzalez is similar, in a lot of ways, to Yaegashi's stablemate Naoya Inoue there are a lot of differences. Sparring with Inoue will have helped Yaegashi cope with the pressure though Gonzalez is naturally bigger than Inoue and more experienced, two things that will help neutralise the effectiveness of the sparring sessions between Yaegashi and “Monster” Inoue. At the end of the day however that sparring can't prevent Yaegashi from swelling when he takes numerous head shots and sadly we feel that will be his issue here.
Going into the fight we have a boxer with a warriors mentality and a pressure fighter who always brings the action. Unfortunately for Yaegashi the odds don't favour him, especially when we look at the way Gonzalez defeated Katsunari Takayama with intense pressure and heavy artillery that really took it's toll on “The Lightning Kid”. Yaegashi has never shown serious stamina issues but he's never been in the ring with someone as heavy handed or as capable as Gonzalez who always finds a way to cut the ring down and get to work with his thunderous shots on the inside.
Whilst we do favour Gonzalez to get the win here we do need to make fans aware of several things. Firstly Yaegashi has been talking to several former Gonzalez opponents. Amongst them are Takayama and Niida, who have both offered advice to Yaegashi on how Gonzalez goes about his work in the ring. It's obvious that advice will obviously be taken on board by Yaegashi it's hard to know just how much that advice will help him deal with the the man known as "El Chocolatito".
(Image courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
Over the last 2 years there have been numerous fighters bursting on to the scene in one way or another. Some have gained more attention and hype than others and others have achieved more than many fighters do in their entire career.
One of the men to fall into that second category is Japanese super stud Naoya Inoue (6-0, 5), a man who claimed a world title in just his 6th professional bout after being a professional for a mere 18 months. Aged 21 it's clear that Inoue has the potential to be an all-time great, in fact he has the tools to be the best Japanese fighter in history. It may sound like hyperbole but the potential for this youngster really is limitless.
Last time out Inoue claimed the WBC Light Flyweight title by stopping Mexican Adrian Hernandez in just 6 rounds. The performance was sensational and saw many proclaiming him to be the best fighter at 108lbs. Sadly however he had struggled to make weight for the bout with Hernandez and it seemed almost certain that the fight with Hernandez was going to be Inoue's last at Light Flyweight. Instead however he will continue at the weight for one more fight, defending his world title against Thailand's Samartlek Kokietgym (17-4, 5) in what really is seen as a mismatch. Though for Inoue it's a chance to defend his belt before moving on, something he never did as the Japanese or OPBF champion.
Although viewed as a lamb to the slaughter Samartlek is himself a champion, albeit a PABA champion at 105lbs. Sadly however not only is he moving up a division but he is also facing his best opponent to date in Inoue. Saying that Samartlek has mixed with solid company in the past. He holds a very good win over Muhammad Rachman and a notable one over Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr whilst he has suffered losses to Denver Cuello and Randy Petalcorin, both of whom are world class fighters. Sadly those losses are more notable than the wins with Cuello stopping Samartlek in 9 rounds.
Samartlek is, on paper, on a good run with 9 successive victories including wins this year over Samuel Tehuayo and Domi Nenokeba, both via 6 round decision. Unfortunately that 9 fight streak has seen him scoring just 2 stoppages indicating a real lack of power. Another thing Samartlek lacks is size, even for a fighter in the lowest weights he looks tiny, in fact he sort of looks like a school boy. He has decent enough movement though nothing that should make a world class fighter worry.
With Inoue being a destructive force the only issue he has here is complacency. He has said he's looking for a quick win and if he's not careful that could be his downfall. He has all the advantages in terms of skills, power, speed, size and strength though he will need to keep his head straight and focus on scoring a win rather than looking amazing. If he mows down Samartlek inside a round then that'll be a great way to wave goodbye to 108lbs. If he needs to take a hard fought decision win then he shouldn't feel disappointed with himself. Aged 21 however we all know he'll want to impress the fans and the boxing public who have tuned in to see if he is as good as people say. For what it's worth, he really is as good as people say.
(Image courtesy of our great friends at http://www.thairec.com)
On August 26th the "Fist of Power" shows kick off as Top Rank and Bob Arum start their boxing revolution through the Chinese mainland and attempt to follow up their success on Macau. For many the most important bout on the inaugural "Fist of Power" card is for the WBA interim Light Flyweight title as once beaten Filipino Randy Petalcorin (21-1-1, 16) takes on Panama's Walter Tello (20-7, 8).
The bout is certainly not an amazing one on paper, nor will it attract huge attention from fans of the west, though it is a long awaited opportunity for Petalcorin who has been on the verges of a world title fight a year or two now.
For those who haven't seen the Filipino he's one of the many contenders at 108lbs who has been making his name over the last few years. He's not been fast tracked like some of his contemporaries but he has been slowly making his name fighting between his native homeland and in Australia where he has become a minor star.
Aged just 22 Petalcorin has managed to record 15 wins and a draw in his last 16 bouts. They haven't come against any world level contenders as of yet but they have come on a consistent basis as Petalcorin has become a name in the division. With good speed, solid power and a very crisp jab the young southpaw is a very well skilled fighter even if he's not completely rounded or tested at a high level.
From what we've seen of Petalcorin he is still very much a developing fighter but he's also one who has shown plenty of promise just like he has also shown plenty of flaws. Like most young fighters however it's clear he's not the full article and that he will improve as he level of competition improves. Sadly it's hard to know how good a fighter is when they are competing against limited foes, as Petalcorin has been doing so far.
When it comes to Tello, a 27 year old from Puerto Armuelles, Panama, it's fair to say we are are talking about someone who has competed at a very high level. That has seen Tello battling with the likes of Alberto Rossel, Giovani Segura and Manuel Vargas, all of whom have beaten him. Saying that however Tello has recorded a win over Jorle Estrada
The footage of Tello makes him out to be wild, a slugger, a man who throws shots wider and more recklessly than many out there. He combines that wild style with a lack of power and a serious lack of technique often meaning that even his heaviest of shots aren't the most damaging. He throws them off balance and wings them like an un-coordinated pub brawler.
Having seen both men it seems like that Tello will come for a fight though walk on to Petalcorin's straight shots which will be thrown as counters time and time again. That doesn't mean it will be easy for Petalcorin, especially not if Tello can cut the distance and make the action intense, but we do feel the Filipino has the power and skills to over-come Tello without too many issues and by the end the decision will be very lob sided with Petalcorin running out a clear winner.
(Image courtesy of )
This coming weekend's major fight, at least for us anyway, is in Mexico as Japan's incredibly brave and criminally under-rated Katsunari Takayama (27-6-0-1, 10) attempts to unify his IBF Minimumweight title with the WBO title currently held by the big punching Francisco Rodriguez Jr (14-2, 10). The bout, one of the very few Minimumweight title unifications, is a major one for both men who are both looking to claim that they are the best at 105lbs.
For Takayama this bout is a special one. It's his chance to became the first ever Japanese fighter to claim a "Grandslam" and to have won a version of all 4 of the major titles, thus achieving one of the goals he set out to accomplish when he returned to the sport after his short lived retirement. It's certainly a big ask but it's something he seems confident of doing.
For Rodriguez this continues his rapid rise through the sport following his victory over Merlito Sabillo earlier this year. It was that victory over Sabillo that saw Rodriguez winning his WBO belt and announcing himself as a serious force in the Minimumweight division.
Takayama, for those who haven't followed his career, has been one of the true "will fight anyone, anywhere" type fighters. This has seen him travelling to South Africa 3 times, including two fights Nkosinathi Joyi, the Philippines to fight Mateo Handig and to Mexico to fight Mario Rodriguez. In total Takayama has fought just 2 of his last 7 bouts in his native Japan.
Not only has Takayama fought top fighters on the road but he has also fought top fighters in his native Japan. This has included a fight with the brilliant Roman Gonzalez, Yutaka Niida and Eagle Den Junlaphan. In fact going through Takayama's record there are very few fighters that he didn't fight in the Minimumweight division such as Akira Yaegashi and Ivan Calderon.
For Rodriguez this will be his fourth fight with a notable foe. As mentioned above he holds an outstanding victory over Merlito Sabillo and he also holds a win over Manuel Vargas whilst his most recent loss came, via stoppage, to the sensational Roman Gonzalez. It's arguably the Gonzalez fight, in Nicaragua, that told more about Rodriguez than any other. It showed he was tough, despite being stopped, that his work rate was solid and that for a 20 year old he had real potential.
Young, powerful and strong we really do think that Rodriguez is a serious threat to Takayama and could well upset the popular and talented Japanese fighter much like he upset Sabillo. He is a pressure fighter with a growing confidence and ever developing skills that could help make him one of the divisional kingpins over the next few years, if he stays at 105lbs which it's self is a debate and a half.
Going for Takayama however are a number of things, not least his experience against the divisional elite. He is also one of the toughest and bravest fighters out there and if nothing else he has shown an ability to survive, in fact his sole KO loss, way back in 2003, came from over-confidence. Most importantly however is his energy and against a pressure fighter that could well be the key for him to succeed. He has proven capable of being able to fight at a great pace from the opening round to the final bell and, despite being hurt though his career he has been able to bounce back and recover excellently.
Although we tend to feel Takayama has a lot of advantages going in to the fight he has also had major issues in the build up to the bout. Firstly he saw his trainer, manager and mentor Hiroaki Nakade spend time in hospital early in his training camp. That was because Nakade needed an aneurysm removing and whilst he seems to have recovered from surgery it will have been an unwelcome distraction for Takayama. Another problem that has troubled his camp has been a cut over his right eye which was accidentally opened by Naoya Inoue in sparring. That cut, suffered just weeks before the fight, saw several planned spars cancelled and will have seriously thrown a spanner into Takayama's training plans. Thankfully it appears that that facial damage has healed though it is a target for Rodriguez to aim for and the talk is that Takayama really struggled in the spar with Inoue.
We'd like to think that Takayama will win, though we know he's in a very tough contest here and we'd certainly not be surprised at all to see him pushed all the way in a very hard bout. Of course bouts that fought on foreign soil do come with the risk of the judges being swayed by the home fighter and sadly we see that being an issue here. Takayama, for all his skills, isn't a fighter who stops opponents and we'd be shocked if he manages to see off Rodriguez which means it's likely this one is going 12 and we think Rodriguez will get the nod, albeit a controversial one.
(Image courtesy of http://nakazatoboxing.com)
The Russian boxing scene has really emerged over the last year or two and the driving force behind that seems to have been the "Night Wolves" biker gang which appears to be financially backing much of the growth in almost a show of Russian dominance.
At the boxing forefront to the "Night Wolves" is the hard hitting Dmitry Chudinov (13-0-2, 8) who actually took his nickname, "Night Wolf", from the bikers. The backing Chudinov has been given has helped him to claim the WBA interim Middleweight title and helped him become one of the most well backed fighters in Russian history, not just financially but in terms of supporters.
The crowd numbers of Chudinov's fight last year against Jorge Navarro were apparently a record setting 200,000 and although not all came for the boxing, and the event was free, it shows the status that Chudinov has amongst the biker gang who helped organised the show alongside Alexander Hrunov.
Almost a year on from his bout with Navarro we see Chudinov return to action in a Open-Air Bike Show, this time in the hotly disputed area of Crimea. The crowd is likely to be similar to what it was 12 months ago though this time the move is very political with both Russia and Ukraine claiming the area.
For Chudinov, who looks to be a political pawn here, he has been matched easily with a contest against light hitting Frenchman Mehdi Bouadla (30-5, 11). Unsurprisingly Bouadla, who really shouldn't be ranked, is ranked #12 by the WBA and has been passed fit as a challenger to Chudinov's interim title as the WBA appear set to bend over backwards for the occasional political battle, as they did when they allowed Ruslan Chagaev to fight for the WBA Heavyweight title recently.
Bouadla, for those who recognise his name, has fought some solid fighters, such as Gennady Golovkin back in 2007, Mikkel Kessler in 2011 and Arthur Abraham in 2012. Though he has yet to beat someone with any name value just showing what a "patsy" he is going in to this bout.
We understand the belief the Russian's have in Chudinov and, 12 months ago, they were calling out Martin Murray and Sam Soliman. Why they've managed to Bouadla for this fight is a mystery, though one would assume he didn't want a lot of money and the WBA could have their pockets lined for allowing him to take the fight.
It's a shame that the politics of this bout will over-shadow Chudinov who has looked like a fast improving fighter, as shown in his excellent performance against Patrick Nielsen back in June. If that Chudinov turns up he stops Bouadla here, in fact if that Chudinov turns up he gives 90% of the Middleweight scene a beating with his aggression.
We hope this bout doesn't come with any nasty scenes after it though we do have our worries that problems will kick off. If they don't then hopefully Chudinov will take a big step up in class next time out.
(Image courtesy of http://boxko.ru)
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.