When we think about boxing in Asia we do typically think of Asian fighters. Fighters from Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines. What we often forget however is that numerous international fighters are now based in, managed by or promoted by Asian stables
On such man is the highly talented Venezuelan Jorge Linares (34-3, 22), a man who has been affiliated with Teiken promotions through out his career.
Linares returns to Japan on November 10th as he attempts to become a 3-weight champion and avenge the demons of an opening round blow out at the hands of Juan Carlos Salgado 4 years in what was his last world title fight in Japan.
It's been a long time since Linares was beaten by Salgado and since then the once promising career of Linares has failed to ever really reach the heights expected of him. Sure he has won 7 contests but he has also lost 2, in fact he's he's lost in his two highest profile contests since the loss to Salgado.
This time the risk of Linares being stopped is slim as he takes on WBA Lightweight champion Richar Abril (18-3-1, 8) a light punching but highly talented Cuban. In all honesty a stoppage loss here for Linares could well be the end of the road for him.
Aged just 28 Linares has been a fighter on the radar for what feels like an eternity. That's because he's been in and around the world level for over 6 years dating back to his first world title victory, a stoppage of Oscar Larios for the WBC Featherweight title. Since then he has been in a further 5 world title fights, winning 3 and losing 2.
On the flipside of that is the fact Abril is a bit of a late comer to the world scene. The Cuban only had his first world title fight 2 years ago and has only fought in 3 of them so far. Aged 31 he is older than Linares, though he's also tougher taking on, and in the eyes of many defeating, the rampaging Brandon Rios.
When we talk about the two fighters they are both boxers, but both entirely different.
Linares is a genuine joy to watch. He has quick hands, great movement, blistering combinations and whilst he's not a banger he can force stoppages through sheer work rate. On the reverse he's been seen as fragile both mentally and physically and he can be bullied around as well as worn out due to his work rate. Gorgeous to watch but certainly not a "warrior" at heart.
On the other hand Abril can be awful to watch. He can hold, he can wrestle, he can make things very messy and tedious. At the same time however he can pick a guy apart with an accurate jab, an efficient straight and land some amazingly crisp and sharp shots around a fighter defenses. At his best Abril is a fantastic pure boxer and his worst he's a cure for insomnia. Strangely we can see both sides of Abril in the same round which can lead to a lot of frustration watching him.
If fights were won on looks alone Linares would already have this one won. In the ring however the Cuban will make this very difficult. If Abril is allowed to get his jab going and allowed to hold when he wants to to slow the pace the Cuban will likely retain his title. If Linares however can set the pace for the first 7 or 8 rounds then Teiken will have managed to guide him to a third divisional title.
This bout really does depend on who can dictate the tempo of the fight. A slow fight is Abril's a fast fight is Linares's.
With that that said however Linares will almost certainly know that this will be his last major chance. He needs a win. That sort of pressure can see a fighter performing to their absolute best and if Linares does, then he takes this via a competitive clear decision. If the pressure gets to Linares than Abril gets this via a close decision.
It's often said that being the champion of the world in your particular field is as good as it gets. It proves you're the best in world and the de facto #1. The king of kings, the ruler of the game.
In boxing however being a world champion doesn't always mean that. Most divisions have 4 or 5 men calling themselves "World champion" and it's fair to say that this is more than just a little bit confusing.
Unfortunately in the Bantamweight division we don't just have multiple world champions, but we actually have 3 "world champions" from Japan alone with Koki Kameda holding the WBA title, Tomoki Kameda holding the WBO title and Shinsuke Yamanaka holding the WBC title.
Of those three men it's only Yamanaka who is really taken seriously due to the quality and quantity of his meaningful wins.
The unbeaten Yamanaka (19-0-2, 14) will return to this ring on November 10th to defend his WBC belt for the fifth time as he takes on his sixth successive "world level" opponent.
In the opposite corner to Yamanaka will be the teak tough Mexican Alberto Guevara (18-1, 6), one of just two men to go the distance with Mexican destroyer Leo Santa Cruz in the last four years. In fact it was Santa Cruz that Guevara's only previous title challenger came in a losing but yet impressive performance.
Having proven to be tough and up for a fight Guevara is an interesting opponent for someone like Yamanaka. Sure Guevara is a great mover and a tricky opponent to land clean on, but he's also an opponent known on the international stage. He's fought in both Mexico and the US and impressed audiences in both. Beating Guevara may not be headline making but it's still something worth noting.
What Guevara does well is move. He's very quick on his feet. He knows he doesn't have great power but will make a fighter miss, land a counter and move, or land first and get away as he lands and frustrates. It's not a style that will be fun for his opponents but he will test anyone in the division.
Whilst Guevara is a tricky fighter Yamanaka on the other hand is a bit less tricky but much better and more proven over-all. He's a southpaw with real venom in his left hand, solid defensive skills, a growing fan base and the ability to either box or brawl. At his best he's an elusive boxer-puncher though at his most dominant he's a destructive puncher with bad intentions.
We think that, due to the style Guevara has, Yamanaka will have problems, especially on. Despite those problems we do see the champion slowly but surely grinding down the Mexican who will be brave to the end, though ultimately with his gas tank running empty be taken out by a wicked left hand from the very dangerous champion.
Having beaten Christian Esquivel, Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao and Jose Nieves in his last six contests it's fair to say that Yamanaka is scoring really notable wins. Those wins have seen him being regarded as the best Bantamweight by many on the planet. It's likely that a victory over Guevara won't improve the view many have of him, but will merely cement his standing with fans.
What's really interesting though is that Yamanaka has been vocal in calling out both of his Japanese "co-champions". An expected victory here for Yamanaka will again see him calling for fights with both Tomoki and Koki. Whilst we expect Koki to have a mandatory fight with Anselmo Moreno next year Tomoki really has no "excuse" for not taking on Yamanaka. It's fair to admit we know what fight is on our list of "fights we want for 2014".
This weekend's biggest fight takes place in the US in what promises to be nothing short of explosive.
It's rare that two massive punchers face off but that's exactly what we have as WBA Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (27-0, 24) takes on Curtis Stevens (25-3, 18). Between them they have 42 stoppage victories from just 55 contests and their average fight goes just a little over 4 rounds. Yes this is a bout that truly falls under the idea of "not going to go the distance".
For many this is a huge step for Stevens, an American who is untested near this level. In fact "Showtime" Stevens is viewed by many fans as a man who is merely a stay busy opponent for Golovkin, albeit one who has some hype behind him and is one of America's few contenders in the division.
A lot of the hype for Stevens has come due to his links to "Main Events" a promoter which has done him the world of good. Less than 4 years ago Stevens seemed an unlikely title challenger. He had been out pointed by Jesse Brinkley and his record had fallen to 21-3 (15) and any career momentum he had had hit a wall.
Surprisingly a 2 year break following the loss to Brinkley seemed to revitalise the career of Stevens who has gone from a man on the brink of retirement to the man looking to claim a world title. Surprisingly his rise has only seen him defeating B rate opponents, such as Elvin Ayala and Saul Roman though the hype of the Brooklyn man has been huge due to the eye catching manner in which he has scored those victories,
Aged 28 Stevens is some 3 years younger than Golovkin, though the Kazakhstan fighter is viewed as a near unbackable favourite. Despite being the older fighter, the man known as "GGG" is also viewed as being the superior fighter in every since way.
As a former amateur standout Golovkin was always expected to reach the pinnacle of the sport. He showed things in the amateurs that seemed to suggest a future professional superstar. The potential now seems to be coming to the fore.
Golovkin has shown not only the great power that has helped him score highlight real KO's over Lajuan Simon, Nobuhiro Ishida and most recently Matthew Macklin, but also skills, balance, timing, control of distance, toughness and startling footwork. In fact from watching Golovkin you seem to be able to see an almost complete fighter with incredible power and the perfect shot selection. Devastating.
Although Stevens is a hard hitter himself, having scored 3 opening round stoppages in his last 4 contests, he seems to be less of a rounded boxer. He hits hand and seems to have fast hands but he looks cruder, less technical and seems less able to set his punches up properly. Sure he's explosive with his shots but against a skilled and tough opponent it would seem likely that he's going to be tagged back. If you get tagged by Golovkin you tend to go in to a shell or go to sleep.
We think that when Golovkin connects with Stevens he may take the first shot or two but never really recover mentally from them as he gets broken down physically and stopped inside 4 rounds.
Hopefully if Golovkin takes out Stevens, as expected, he'll fight Sergio Mertinez to decide the true Middleweight champion of the world. The Golovkin/Martinez bout, is one of only a small handful that fans seem to be clamouring for, and arguable the easiest to make due to Peter Quillin, another hard hitting fighter, being exclusively signed to fight with rival network Showtime in what could have been a genuine firecracker of a contest.
The video below is courtesy of HBOsports
There is a joke doing the rounds on some boxing websites that Panamanian Guillermo Jones has been calling Filipino fighter John Riel Casimero (18-2, 10) "inactive. Thankfully this weekend sees Casimero returning to the ring for the first time in some 7 months.
As the reigning IBF Light Flyweight champion Casimero is one of boxing's forgotten men. In fact he's almost disappeared into a void shared by not just Guillermo Jones but also Beibut Shumenov.
Casimero's situation unfortunately hasn't been helped by a lack of backing which has seen at least one fight this year fall through. Neither has it been great that he's had to travel for many of his recent contests, in fact 6 of his last 7 have been on the road.
It's been on the road that Casimero has managed to create a name for himself as a genuine road warrior. He's scored victories in Nicaragua, Argentina, Mexico and Panama whilst suffering defeats in South Africa and Mexico with all 6 bouts coming against world ranked fighters such as Cesar Canchila, Moruti Mthalane, Pedro Guervara, Luis Alberto Rios and most notably Luis Alberto Lazarte.
This weekend the prodigal son returns home for his first fight in the Philippines since August 2011 as he takes on the #6 IBF challenger Felipe Salguero (18-4-1, 13) of Mexico. A man many may remember giving Donnie Nietes an incredibly tough contest last year.
For Casimero, 23, this will be the third defense of the title he won by stopping Lazarte in a controversial bout in Argentina. The victory was completely legitimate though the scenes following the bout, a full blown riot, were highly condemned by the boxing world with Lazarte's fans trying to physically attack Casimero. For many fighters this would have been enough to retire them in fear, for Casimero however it seems to have helped spurred him on to keeping a hold of a title he almost lost his life for.
At his best Casimero is a genuine natural talent. He can box brilliantly, be can fight and whilst he's not the biggest puncher in the division he can certainly hurt people due to his work rate and speed. Unfortunately there seems to be something about him that the fans haven't warmed to, though he's a fighter who deserves to have fans and have people congratulating him on his successes against the odds.
Possibly the reason why few fans care too much about Casimero is his lack of world level punch. What he has, which has helped him at the top level, is stamina. His most notable stoppages have come in the second half of fights with Ardin Diale being stopped in round 8, Lazarte being stopped in round 10 and Canchila being stopped in round 11. Unfortunately he doesn't help himself with some dull performances as well.
In Salguero we have a genuine a really dangerous challenger. His record might look sketchy with 4 losses from 23 fights but 2 of those occurred in his first two professional contests way back in 2008. Since then however the Mexican has slowly proved himself with his most notable contest being a very close defeat to Casimero's compatriot Neites.
Oddly it was Salguero's bout against Nietes that put him on the proverbial map. It was the Mexican's first first world title bout, his first bout outside of Mexico and it was his first opportunity. Unfortunately after losing to Nietes he was stopped by Luis Alberto Rios in an IBF eliminator with Rios then getting a bout with Casimero which saw Casimero winning a less than memorable contest.
Against Nietes, Salguero proved to be an aggressive and hard working fighter. He didn't seem the most accurate or the most well conditioned but he brought a lot of pressure, was hard to force back and looked very heavy handed. His shorts may nave forced Nietes to the canvas but they all looked thudding upstairs and downstairs.
Casimero is tough. The only stoppage loss on his record came to the excellent Mthalane in South Africa at Flyweight a division bigger than what Casimero really should have been fighting at. With that in mind we don't think Salguero will hurt him enough to break him down. The Mexican will certainly try to turn it into a war but we think Casimero will just about manage to create the distance needed to box and move. In fact if Casimero's not too ring rusty there is every chance that he'll manage to make Salguero pay for his wild offense.
The Mexican, from interviews posted the past few weeks, does sound very confident, though he's again going to the lion's den and we imagine he'll again fall just short of claiming a world title. In a loss however we think Salguero will further enhance his own reputation and will likely prove himself to be a top contender, something that should help build Casimero's name as well as Salguero's.
When a fight screams "war" every fight fan on the planet should sit up and make a really big effort to watch it. Sometimes they don't live up to expectation, such as the recent fight in the US between Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse, though sometimes time exceed all expectation such as the Kompayak Porpramook and Koki Eto bout from earlier this year.
We have another probable "war" this coming weekend in America as American toughman Mike Alvarado (34-1, 23) attempts to defend his interim WBO Light Welterweight title against Russian power house Ruslan Provodnikov (22-2, 15).
To describe this bout as stylistic eye candy is just stating the obvious. If one man loves a war, it's fair to say so does the other. If one fighter wants to prove he's a man, the other wants to prove he's more of a man. If one of the two wants to go toe-to-toe then the other will answer back. This, is why we love boxing.
Aged 33 Alvarado, known as "Mile High", is a fighter who has only come to the public's attention in his last 3 or 4 fights, all of which were memorable wars as he over came Breidis Prescott, Mauricio Herrera and Brandon Rios, avenging a loss to Rios in the process.
Although Alvarado has only only fought in a handful of notable bouts they were all the sort of battles that shorten careers and take a lot out of the men involved. They were hard, they were violent and they were glorious to watch.
Weirdly despite being known for his wars Alvarado is actually a decent boxer. Unfortunately he shares the mindset of needing to prove his toughness as opposed to proving his boxing and this is why he has been engaged in such vicious battles in recent years. If, and when, he boxes he can look very good as he showed in the second Rios fight though when he forgets his boxing he can get hurt, get rattled and get busted up.
At 29 years old Provodnikov is the notably younger man. Although he to has been involved in wars, including a very exciting bout with Timothy Bradley last time out, he's the sort of fighter with the firepower to make opponents back off.
Whilst Alvarado has burst through in recent fights it's fair to say that Provodnikov had been on the fringes for a while prior to his Bradley bout. He had fought on ESPN several times, beating Emanuel Augustus and being beaten by Mauricio Herrera on two of those occasions. It was in those fights that we saw Provodnikov's limitations as both men found success boxing him, but also his heart and desire to win as he attempted to turn both bouts in his favour.
Whilst Provodnikov had been known about by the hardcore fan base for a few years he wasn't expected to really become a world level fighter, mainly due to his loss to Herrera. Earlier this year however Provodnikov proved he belonged in world class as he pushed Timothy Bradley all the way in a thrilling contest that saw Provodnikov dropping Bradley and shaking him up several times in a thriller.
Although a tough and hard hitting fighter Provodnikov is a fighter who can be out boxed, out thought and out moved. When an opponent moves they can make the Russian look slow and one dimensional, however if they stand in front of him for too long they will be made to pay.
With Alvarado often forgetting his boxing trying to prove how much of a fighter he is, and with Provodnikov being a born fighter we are in for something special. In fact the only limit to this contest could be a case of who can take what. If Alvarado is feeling the effects his battles with Prescott and Rios he may not manage to take too much from Provodnikov in a battle.
If Alvarado chooses to box and can fight to a boxing orientated game plan we feel he'll retain, but something makes us think he'll try to put on a show and this will be his downfall against a thudding puncher like Provodnikov.
Whether Alvarado boxes or not this is the sort of fight where we feel that every moment will be tense. Every round will see something notable. Every minute will make your heart skip. Every trading sequence will remind you why you're a boxing fan.
Video below courtesy of HBOsports.
There is no division in boxing quite like the Heavyweight division. No fighters through history have been spoken about in the way we speak about Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Mike Tyson. There is just something extra special about the Heavyweights.
Unfortunately it's fair to say that no matter how special the Heavyweight division is historically, it's not at it's most exciting right now. The US hasn't provided a notable Heavyweight in over a decade, the supposedly "exciting" David Haye has been incapable of cashing the cheque's his mouth has been writing and worst of all the top 2 fighters in the division have no chance of fighting each other due to the fact they are brothers.
Thankfully however this weekend promises to see the Heavyweight division given a sparkling of magic powder as Wladimir Klitschko (60-3, 51), the seemingly indomitable king of the division faces talented Russian Alexander Povetkin (26-0, 18) a man long tipped as the most obvious successor to the Klitschko monopoly of the world titles.
Of course a Russian Heavyweight challenging a Kazakhstan born Ukrainian may not seem that magical on paper but with everything at stake it is something special. Not only are the IBF, WBA, WBO, IBO and Ring Magazine titles on the line but so too is the staggering amount of money on offer and the potential place in history that the winner could find themselves getting.
For Klitschko his IBF title reign is the second longest reign of any Heavyweight champion in history, his 14 defenses of that belt is the 3rd most of any champion in the division. A victory here and he could very well end up breaking both records, such is the sorry state of much of the division. On the hand a victory for Povetkin would see him go from a much maligned pretender to arguably the biggest draw in the sport with a potential national audience of 143,000,000 fans and many more internationally who support him on the basis that he defeated Wladimir Klitschko.
With such much at stake there really is something a bit special being brought back in to the division.
Unfortunately for Povetkin he, like most others, has been written off before even setting foot in the ring with Klitschko. He's priced at around 11/2 and seen as the lamb walking to the slaughter. This isn't helped by the fact that Povetkin has twice reneged on bouts with Klitschko, firstly with an injury then secondly when his then trainer didn't have the belief in him to defeat Wladimir.
Aged 34 Povetkin has seemingly been around for an eternity, though this has been because of how highly spoken about he was when he turned professional in 2005. Prior to turning to the professional ranks was an outstanding amateur running up a reported record of 125-7 with Gold medals at the 2004 Olympics, the 2003 World Championships and the European championships of 2002 and 2004.
Much like Povetkin the 37 year old Klitschko first made his name in the amateurs. His amateur career, which resulted in a record of 134-6, was highlighted by his own Olympic Gold medal back in 1996 though was also lined with medals from various competitions.
Whilst their amateur career were, on paper, similar, their actual professional career's have been vastly different. Povetkin, turning professional in his late 20's was rushed into notable fights, he was given the "sink or swim" treatment and generally found himself swimming with only really Eddie Chambers pushing him close until he fought Marco Huck last year. This strategy paid off with Povetkin getting quickly ranked and winning the WBA "regular" in his 22nd professional bout.
Klitschko's career was a little more hectic. He turned professional aged 20, very young for a Heavyweight and was kept busy early in his career with fights on a very regular basis. Unfortunately his activity caught up with him and after little more than 2 years as a professional he was upset by Ross Puritty in what was his 25th bout in around 25 months. Since then Klitschko has been a 2-time world champion, winning his first WBO world title when he was just 24 and winning his currently titles in he last decade as he's becoming the dominant fighter of his generation.
Not only have the two men had different careers but physically they are very, very different and this, in turn, has lead to them each using a different style.
Povetkin is somewhat short and stubby. He stands at round 6'2" with a 75" reach whilst looking slightly doughy at around 227-230lbs. This has seen him fighting as a somewhat pressure fighter. He has excellent skills and can deliver some wicked shots, though he has got questionable stamina, questionable toughness and maybe most worryingly only average power. Yes his stoppage rate is around 70% but the most notable opponents on his record have gone the distance.
Klitschko is he opposite. He's tall at 6'6" and fights taller using his 82" reach to deliver repeated and heavy jabs, thunderous right hands and all whilst remaining patient on the outside. Unlike the doughy and soft physique of Povetkin, Klitschko always looks in great shape with a very athletic frame of 240-250lbs well spread. His stamina, like Povetkin's is questionable, so is his chin, but his power, especially from his potent right hand, is not.
For the Russian to win he must, at all costs, avoid the dynamite right hand. If that lands it could very easily be an early nights work for Klitschko. Instead he needs to use his speed, get inside and neutralise the reach of Klitschko. If Klitschko gets full extension on his shots he's devastating. Unfortunately for Povetkin the Ukrainian champion has found ways to land his fight controlling jab on everyone he has faced over the last 10 years or so and it'd be no shock if he landed it again here, at will.
With so much at stake we expect this to start very slowly, neither man wanting to make the first mistake. Unfortunately for Povetkin this visualisation isn't a good one for him because Wladimir Klitschko doesn't make many mistakes if you let him work at his pace. If we continue to mentally imagine the fight, Klitschko's jab will be thudding the face of Povetkin through the middle rounds and by round 9 or 10 the Russian will need miracle to avoid the booming right hand.
For Asian boxing we'd love to see the upset, though we're struggling to see how Povetkin can overcome the jab, the right hand, the reach and the overall skillset of Klitschko.
The special, magical feeling this bout has going in to it, may feel a little less than a cheap card trick by the end of the night. But don't let that stop you from looking forward to a bout that may, just, live up to the big fight feel that it seems to have around it.
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.