The Featherweight division is one of the most interesting right now and seems to be one with no definitive and clear champion. The two most exciting fighters in the division to watch are Nicholas Walters and Jhonny Gonzalez, both monster puncher, the most talented fighter in a technical sense if Vasyl Lomachneko, who of course beat Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo recently. Contenders in the division include Marvin Sonsona, Simpiwe Vetyeka, Hisashi Amagasa, Jesus Marcelo Andres Cuellar, Lee Selby and Satoshi Hosono.
This weekend we get to see two of the divisions top names in action as IBF champion Evgeny Gradovich (19-0, 9) puts his world title on the line against fellow unbeaten fighter Jayson Velez (22-0, 16). The bout will Gradovich's 4th defence and will also be his toughest since he burst on to the worst scene with an upset win over Billy Dibb back in March 2013.
Gradovich, who originally hails from Russia though is now based in Oxnard, California, is a fighter that is hard to dislike. He has solid technical ability though is better known for his amazing engine and work rate. From the opening round to the final round we expect to see around 100 punches a round from the Russian who love to come forward, let his hands go and then let his hands go some more. It's not always the prettiest but it is effective and it drains opponents both physically and mentally.
Despite having one of the best engines in the game Gradovich has issues himself. The most obvious is his relative lack of power. He lands a lot of shots, every fight, but none of them ever seem to do much damage and his stoppages come from accumulation more than anything. Generally the work rate can force opponents back but unlike Walters and Gonzalez he won't take your head off when you make a mistake, instead he'll just 4 or 5 shots before letting you off the hook. His second issue is his defense which is sloppy at times, though it is masked by his work rate with the mentality seemingly that of a man who believes his offense is his best defense.
Whilst Gradovich is all about relentless aggression we'd describe Velez as beign a bit of a boxer-puncher. The Puerto Rican fighter remained relatively under-the-radar until a 2012 win over Salavadoz Sanchez saw him claiming the interim WBC silver Featherweight title. The win over Sanchez was the best of Velez's career and saw him rising the ocassion in style as he dominated the Mexican fighter outlanding him 4 to 1 and stopping him in just 3 rounds. In theory the win over Sanchez should have got Velez a shot at the WBC title, then held by Daniel Ponce De Leon, though he had been over-looked following the win and has instead had to go another route for a world title fight.
Since the win over Sanchez back in December 2012 Velez has fought just twice. One of those was an easy blow out against Miguel Soto earlier this year whilst in 2013 he had to labour to a hard fought win over Dat Nguyen who really gave Velez hell for the first 5 or 6 rounds before running out of steam. It's the Nguyen fight that interests us the most as he was the toughest fight of Velez's career and saw Velez need to dig deep to beat Nguyen who started well before fading. Velez was unable to stop the tough Vietnamese born fighter who, like Gradovich, takes a shot well.
Going in to this bout we're expecting a good fight with styles that we suspect will gel well. Gradovich's come forward mentality could back up Velez who may need to fight off the back foot as a counter puncher however Velez may himself choose to meet Gradovich centre ring in what would make for a really exciting fight.
On paper Velez is the better boxer but he is stepping up here whilst Gradovich is the better fighter and the more proven man. As is often the case we need to go with the proven fighter ahead of the man stepping up. With that said we'll be going with Gradovich to win a very exciting 12 round decision.
We'll admit that this weekend is one of the busiest of the year so far with more notable world title action for ourselves than any other weekend. Despite the over-all activity for the day we are well aware that one bout stands out as being head and shoulders the biggest bout, not just of the weekend but the entire month of November.
That bout is the WBO Welterweight title fight between boxing megastar and current champion Manny Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38) and unbeaten American, and all-round good guy, Chris Algieri (20-0, 8). The bout, being fought in Macau, is being seen as a major contest by all those in the boxing community and, as we've gotten closer to the bout, it appears more and more fans have began to give Algieri a real shot at the upset.
Algieri got the fight after announcing himself on to the boxing world with a hard fought and much debated decision win over "Russian Rocky" Ruslan Provodnikov. That bout saw Algieri put on a Rocky-esque performance picking himself off the canvas twice in the opening round, biting down on his gum shield and fighting his heart out despite a badly swollen eye to claim a narrow decision over Provodnikov to claim the WBO Light Welterweight title. The win over Provodnikov prevented any further talk about a Pacquiao Vs Provodnikov bout and put Algieri into the driving seat for a Pacquiao fight that was agreed relatively soon after Algieri's win.
Out of the ring Algieri is the perfect good guy. He's articulate, smart, charming and very likable. He's everything that a fighter should be out of the ring and is full of respect for his sport, people in general and of course his opponents. There is no real bluster about him, you won't hear him yelling about how good he is and you won't see him try and convince the world that he is a once in a generation super talent. Instead of being cocky and arrogant Algieri is a fighter who comes across as well educated and a man who knows he's got a great chance to go from a "good guy" to a mega star.
The educated guy outside of the ring also fights like an educated and well schooled guy inside the ring. He bases almost everything off the jab, movements intelligently and although he was caught under the Provodnikov storm early on he steadied himself, took a knee, took his time and began to work out the Russian whilst using his foot work to prevent Provodnikov from setting himself. It was the type of performance that you would almost expect from Algieri if you've had the chance to listen to him talk. It was also the type of performance that showed he had skills, toughness and heart, the type of qualities that could have make the kid with the million dollar smile a star.
Of course whilst Algieri wants to become a star Manny Pacquiao already is a star and is one of the few global names in boxing. The Filipino icon is a boxing star, a professional basketball player, an actor, a singer, a politician and most importantly a hero to his countrymen. Like Algieri he is one of boxing's "good guys", a fighter who respects his opponents, keeps the trash talk to a minimum whilst letting his hands do the talking in the ring. It's fair to say he's never going to offend large swathes of the boxing community or say something just to cause controversy.
Although similar in demeanor out of the ring the two fighters have very contrasting styles. Algieri, as mentioned, is a thinker with a boxers mentality basing things off his jab, movement and control of distance. Pacquiao on the other hand is an animal, a whirring dervish, a destructive machine looking to leave chaos in his wake. At his best the Filipino is a frightening fighter to be up against with a dynamite left hand, under-rated boxing skills and offensive mentality which, for a long time, seemed to make him the complete opposite to Floyd Mayweather in terms of style as well as personality. Quick, powerful and destructive Pacquiao can spit out opponents in double quick fashion, just ask Ricky Hatton, whilst he can also grind them out and break them bit by bit, as he did against Miguel Cotto.
To make himself a star Pacquiao had to take risks. That is shown not only in his style of fighting, which is genuinely exciting, but also the opposition he has faced and in some cases the conditions regarding those bouts. He won his first world title as a teenager when he stopped the excellent Chatchai Sasakul in Thailand, he made his US debut on short notice against a very highly regard world champion in the form of Lehlo Ledwaba and then he went on to fight a who's who of boxing with fighters like Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Oscar De La Hoya, Hatton, Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley and Timothy Bradley all being fought as Pacquiao excited the boxing world like so few fighters do.
Going in to this bout there a lot of questions for both men. For Pacquiao a big questions regards his hunger, he's not a young whippersnapper any more, instead he's a veteran who has fingers in all sorts of pies and may well be tired of his career as a boxer. Another questions regarding Pacquiao is time, just how much time does his body have left fighting at the top level, he's not been a defensive fighting avoiding through his career, instead he's been involved in battles and of course battles take their toll on the body. A third question regarding Pacquiao is what does he do against a taller, rangier boxer like Algieri? Some fight fans have pointed to his impressively one-sided victory over Antonio Margarito as to how he handles tall fighters however Magarito is a fighter who cames forward and gave away his physical advantages, Algieri on the other hand is a back foot fighter who uses his physical dimensions to keep fights at a distance and fights off the jab, two very different styles.
As for Algieri their is a huge question about how he handles the explosiveness of Pacquiao who is a very different kettle of fish to Provodnikov despite both men being aggressively minded come forward fighters, afterall Pacquiao is more rounded and more active. That brings us to another point, how does Algieri cope with the intense activity of Pacquiao who always seems to be moving or throwing, or doing both at once, again a stark contrast to Provodnikov who only seemed capable of moving or throwing, not both at once. A major concern about the American is what happens when Pacquiao is inside Algieri's reach? Does Algieri have the short shots to force Pacquiao to think twice or will he just need to tie up and hope that a referee can split them? One final big question for Algieri is how will he cope in Macau with most of the crowd being very pro-Filipino and the setting being somewhat alien to him? It's true Algieri has done very well in the press conference and looked confident through out though in the ring things could be so much different.
We suspect if Pacquiao is hungry and focused he does what Provodnikov did in the first round and makes the bout look like a mismatch. If Pacquiao however is fighting at less than 90% of his best then this bout becomes very difficult for the Filipino who could end up eating a lot of jabs from Algieri on the outside which could well unsettle Pacquiao's rhythm and timing, something that is incredibly important to the Filipino fighter. Unfortunately Algieri, who we really do like as a person, we suspect his lack of power will be his downfall even if Pacquiao isn't quite on song and eventually the Pacman will get to him and stop him likely from accumulation rather than a single shot. If Pacquiao's 100% that stoppage comes inside 6 rounds, if he's not 100% then it comes in the second half of the fight.
(Image courtesy of http://www.boxnews.com.ua)
All too often in boxing we look at the records of fighters and base our opinions on those rather than the abilities or competition of those fighters involved. Sometimes it turns out to be a fair way to judge fighters ahead of a bout, especially when they have been competing at a similar level. Often however the numbers turn out not to be relatively of someones ability and in fact we often see that the more padded a record the less capable a fighter really is.
The debate about "quality versus quality" when it comes to experience is something that we know fans are split over with the western system often favour quantity of bouts over quality of bouts. Every so often however someone bucks the trend and is fast tracked. One such fighter is current WBO Featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko (2-1, 1) who really is one of the most sensational fighters in the sport today. On paper Lomachenko's record is a stark contrast to his upcoming challenger, Thailand's Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo (52-1, 33), and if we judged fights just from records this would be a mismatch in favour of the Thai. In reality however the men are in completely different leagues with Lomachenko being a truly elite talent whilst Chonlatarn is little more than a continental level fighter with a heavily boosted record.
For those who have followed Lomachenko over the years you will be fully aware that he has some of the most impressive amateur credentials in history, in fact some have described him as the greatest amateur boxer not just of his era but of all time. That assessment is fair and also exposes the idea that he is a "novice". As an amateur he fought almost 400 contests whilst picking up 2 Olympic gold medals, 3 world amateur championship gold medals, and a silver, and was among the most celebrated amateurs in history.
As a professional Lomachenko maintained the same attitude as he had when he was a amateur. He wants to fight the best, fight in and fight out. And the best thing about it is he has the self belief to do just that and seems unwilling to just pad his professional ledger with mismatches and pointless wins that serve little to no purpose. Of course this comes with a serious risk, as he saw in his second bout when he was narrowly out pointed by Orlando Salido in a WBO Featherweight title fight that saw Salido fail weight and land numerous low blows, however it comes with great reward as seen when he tied a world record for fewest fights to win a world title in his third bout, tying the long standing record of Thailand's Saensak Muangsurin.
Although Lomachenko has maintained much of his amateur style he always seemed to have a very professional looking amateur style. He fought behind a high guard, moving in and out swiftly, landing sharp and accurate shots and making his opponent miss. There hasn't been a huge amount of transitioning but thee hasn't needed to be and like the great Muay Thai guys who moved from Muay Thai to boxing with great success he's managed to use what he had practiced prior to becoming a professional boxer.
Despite only having fought thrice as a professional Lomachenko's opponents had a combined record of 99 wins, 15 losses, 2 draws and 1 no contest. That is unheard of though shows his belief and ability.
Whilst Lomachenko has been fast tracked in the extreme Chonlatarn has fought on the now typical Thai trajectory towards a world title. The Thai has been a pro since 2003 and has fought regularly though often against over-matched and under-skilled foes. With around 5 fights a year he has been very active by today's standards though only a handful of those bouts have been notable with the first of those being a 2006 encounter with former world champion Yoddamrong Sithyodthong. Sadly those notable bouts have been few and far between with 2 of them coming against Yoddamrong and a third, his only world title bout so far, against Chris John.
It was against John that we saw Chonlatarn step up to real world level for the first time and it was also when we saw his record, which was then 44-0 (27), wasn't indicative of his talent. The Thai showed the typical gameness and desire of most Thai fighters but he showed a lack of development, skills that were very under-whelming for such a "veteran" and highly questionable stamina as he was out worked and out boxed by the then 33 year old John. Aged 27 when he fought John we has expected so much more from the Thai and were left feeling very under-whelmed in a bout between two long unbeaten streaks.
Since the loss to John in 2012 we've seen the Thai continue on a similar career path to the one he was one prior to the John fight. He went back to the Thai scene packing up wins, 7 of them, against limited and over-matched foes whilst claimign regional titles in the form of the WBO Asia Pacific and PABA Featherweight belts. Those belts, which are often won by Thai's with incredibly long records, are geared towards gaining world rankings and playing the political games that the world bodies love to see fighters play. Unfortunately they also lead to mismatches, both on the "coming up stage" and in the eventual world title bout.
Going into this bout, a mandatory for Lomachenko, we can't see anything but an easy win for the very developed and amazingly talented champion who we suspect will give Chonlatarn a real boxing lesson before closing the show against a tired challenger in the second half of the contest. Essentially it is mandatory but will appear to be a showcase for the Ukrainian who will be looking for unification bouts in 2015. It may seem strange but we really suspect that Lomachenko has rushed his mandatory to get the fight out of the way and open the door to mega fights in 2015 without any other commitments for the year.
(Image courtesy of our friends at Thairec.com)
Fuentes gets his second world title shot of the year, unfortunately for him it comes against Chocolatito
Boxing has always had unfortunate fighters who, in a different era, could have been a champion. The fighters that always seem to be frozen out or only get a chance on foreign soil or against a completely sensational talent. It appears that popular Filipino Rocky Fuentes (35-7-2, 20) maybe one such fighter. In a different era or with a big promoter behind him we have no doubts that Fuentes would have held a world title. Sadly however he is fighting now and the Flyweight division is the toughest division in the sport right today with his upcoming opponent, WBC Flyweight champion Roman Gonzalez (40-0, 34) being possibly the best fighter on the planet today.
The 28 year old Fuentes began his career aged just 16 and in just his 4th bout he had a man's life on his hands after the death of John Eman Juarez. For many young fighters that would have been it and lesser fighters would have walked away from the sport, for Fuentes however it was one of many disappointments as he began one of the sports true hard luck careers.
Fuentes would begin his career 8-0 before quickly dropping to 9-3-2 as he had to travel for fighters losing 3 of 4 bouts on the road. Sadly for Fuentes it was on the road that he had to spend much of his career with bouts taking place in Thailand, Indonesia and Japan. The travels saw him gain the well earned moniker of the "Road Warrior" though he began fighting better on the road than at home and scored notable wins over Yuki Nasu, Masafumi Okubo, Shigetaka Ikehara, Yasuto Aritomi and Hirofumi Mukai as he won and defended the OPBF Flyweight title. In total Fuentes would make 6 OPBF title defences in less than 3 years whilst also fighting other non-title bouts. It was a case of fighting and waiting, waiting for his well earned world title fight. Unfortunately the wait was a frustrating one as he scored 15 straight wins and 22 wins from 23 contests and saw a man he beat, Mukai, get a WBC title fight just 4 months after Fuentes had beaten him.
Fuentes got his first world title bout earlier this year in his 44th professional bout and unsurprisingly he had to go on the road again. Sadly that took him to Thailand, a country renowned for being difficult to win in, and unfortunately he came up short against unbeaten Thai Amnat Ruenroeng in a very competitive bout. The loss wasn't a bad one for Fuentes but it was certainly a hard one to swallow considering what he had done to earn a shot in comparison to Ruenroeng who was fighting for just the 12th time as a professional.
For those who haven't seen Fuentes in action you've been missing out. At his best he's an intelligent pressure fighter with heavy hands and an exciting in the ring. He's not the most polished fighter out there but he is a fighter who always seems to be be in entertaining scraps, such as his contest with Juan Kantun that saw 4 knockdowns and when he needs to box he can though we get the feeling he prefers to force the action in an attempt to make a point and keep the judges from trying to take the fight away from him. Sadly for a fighter with his style he perhaps lacks a tiny bit in terms of power, though he is certainly not feather fisted by any stretch of the imagination.
As mentioned above Fuentes will be up against Roman Gonzalez, a man who needs no introduction at all and a man every fight fan should be full aware of. The Nicaraguan fighter a born fighter with a mentality that has shown he wants to prove he's the best no matter where that sees him fighting. As a result he has fought many of his most significant bouts in Japan where where he claimed his first world title, with a 4th round TKO against Yutaka Niida in 2008, made the second defense of his WBA Minimumweight title against Katsunari Takayama in 2009, claimed the WBA interim Light Flyweight title with a 2nd round KO against Francisco Rosas, and most recently claimed the WBC Flyweight title with a victory over Akira Yaegashi. Despite beating many of Japan's finest he hasn't become public enemy #1 but instead has been accepted by the Japanese fight fans who have warmed quickly to the Nicaraguan terror.
For those who haven't seen Gonzalez they've been missing out on the sports best offensive fighter, most frightening pressure fighter and possibly the best combination puncher in the sport. Built like a mini-tank Gonzalez employs exceptional footwork, insane strength, frightening speed, spiteful power and a mind blowing array of punches thrown in crisp and sharp combinations. There has been no proven way to make him look bad and only a handful of fighters have even made it to the final bell against him with the most recent of these being Juan Francisco Estrada back in November 2012, Estrada has since gone on to become the other leading fighters at Flyweight. Amazingly Estrada is the only man in the last 12 fights to see out the distance with Gonzalez who has been on a real tear through the lower weights in recent years.
Watching Gonzalez is a genuine pleasure as he stalks his pray with intense pressure, breaking them mentally by never backing up and breaking them physically with his arsenal of heavy shots. In some ways he's the antithesis of Guillermo Rigondeaux and whilst he has a similarly high skill level to Rigondeaux and Floyd Mayweather Jr he has the mentality of fighting offensively and given fans a show that ends with a knockout. Sometimes it sees him leaving himself a little bit open to counters but by then an opponent is usually to beat up to take advantage as Gonzalez goes for the finish.
With both fighters enjoying a fight, both sharing a mentality of fighting on the front foot and both wanting to impress we suspect we could be in for a high octane affair here with both likely to end up trading on the inside in some highlight reel exchanges. Unfortunately for Fuentes that could be the worst idea with Gonzalez being defensively tighter and offensively more explosive, faster, more effective and all-round better. For fans however we suspect this could be a short lived but thrilling war before Fuentes is ground down, like in the middle rounds of a very memorable contest.
It's a real shame that Fuentes gets his second world title fight against a monster like Gonzalez though at the moment the Flyweight division is genuinely the toughest in the sport and a loss to Gonzalez is nothing but expected for everyone currently competing in the division.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Over the last 2 years we've seen Japanese "Bomber" Takashi Miura (27-2-2, 20) fighting just 3 times yet all 3 of those fights have seen him defeating Mexican opponents in WBC Super Featherweight title bouts. This Saturday we see him looking for 4 in a row as he takes on mandatory challenger Edgar Puerta (23-4-1, 19) in what appears to be a battle of punchers in a sure fire war, as long as it lasts.
Miura first came to the attention of international boxing fans back in 2011 when he fought WBA Super Featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama and although Miura came up short he did drop Uchiyama, hard, in round 3. For Japanese fans however he he had been "on the scene" so to speak since 2007 when he challenged Yusuke Kobori for the Japanese national title. Against Kobori fans saw Miura coming up short though less than 2 years later he would claim a Japanese title, on his third attempt, as he stopped Yoshimitsu Yashiro in 7 rounds.
As the Japanese national champion Miura would defend the belt 4 times before fighting Uchiyama in what was a huge step up in class.
The loss to Uchiyama was a set back in many ways though it also helped Miura get the attention of the wider boxing public and helped him transfer to Japanese promotional powerhouse Teiken promotions, Under Teiken we've seen Miura improve his skills and become one of the must watch fighters in the 130lb division. We've also seen him claim the WBC world title courtesy of a stoppage victory over Gamaliel Diaz in 2013 and defend the belt twice with a 2013 FOTY contender against Sergio Thompson, in Mexico, and an impressively destructive win over Dante on New Years Eve.
As a fighter Miura has all the qualities that fans love. He's got a monster left hand, an ultra-aggressive mentality, a warriors heart and the ability to beat up and break down foes with relentless aggression. We're not saying he's the most skilled fighter on the planet but that hardly matters when you're as destructive as he is. Defensively he is a bit weak but knows that his best defense is his offense and he seems very happy with that.
The 32 year old Mexican challenger is a man we need to admit we've not really followed despite the fact he has long held a high WBC ranking. Like Miura however he is heavy handed and has stopped 9 of his last 12 opponents whilst going unbeaten for more than 3 years. Whilst it's fair to question his opposition during that run it's hard to argue with his power which has stopped the likes of Javier Prieto, who has now been ordered to fight Miura's stable mate Jorge Linares. Aside from his most recent loss, in 2011 to Ramon Ayala, his other 3 defeats all came during a poor run in 2008 as he was out pointed by Jaider Parra and Daniel Lomeli whilst Jaime Maldonado stopped him in 2 rounds. With those all coming some 6 years ago it's hard to read much into them today with Puerta being a much different fighter to the one who fought back then.
Heavily tattooed Puerta appears to look the part of a hardman and he fights in a way that tough guy generally does with his punches doing the talking tather than defense. Like Miura this means he leaves himself open when he lets his shots go and in some ways it appears he's gotten away with it by being naturally bigger and stronger than some of his opponents, such as Abraham Rodriguez who he dwarfed in their January 2013 bout. Sadly due to his competition it's hard to get a great read on him though it is clear that he's very fun to watch, that however didn't help Dante Jardon when he challenger Miura at the end of last year.
From what we've seen this is a huge step up for Puerta who is really facing his first world class opponent. That doesn't mean Puerta isn't world class himself, just that he's not proven that he's capable of fighting at this level. Miura however is proven and it appears that Puerta is the sort of fighter who Muira loves fighting against, someone else who will meet him center ring and have a fight. With that in mind it's hard to not be very excited about the potential action here with both men enjoying a fight.
One thing we don't think any fighter at Super Featherweight can actually do, is win a war with Miura. Puerta's only style of fighting is to have a war and we suspect he'll go the same way as Jardon and be stopped somewhere in the middle of the bout. We're expecting a better effort than Jardon put up but a similar result over-all.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
It's fair to say this weekend is a monster weekend for boxing fans all around the world with major fights taking place with fighters from Thailand, China, the Philippines, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, Ukraine, UK, Colombia and the USA. It's a day that really brings the global idea of boxing all into one giant melting.
One of the more over-looked bouts will see former Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Hidenori Otake (22-1-3, 9) attempt to become a world champion as he travels to the UK to take on the unbeaten Scott Quigg (29-0-2, 22), the current WBA Super Bantamweight champion. The bout was a controversial one when it was announced, given that Otake wasn't in the WBA top 15 ranked fighters, but it is nice to see Otake given his shot at the top. We'll admit that we're not fans of the bout in many ways but we do suspect it will entertaining for as long as it lasts.
Quigg, for those who haven't seen him, is one of the most naturally strong Super Bantamweights on the planet. He's not the smoothest of movers, though he can move relatively lightly on his toes, but he is an aggressive fighter who applies a lot of pressure in an attempt to break opponents down with heavy shots that are sharp and accurate. Sadly however he come under a lot of criticism for avoiding other top Super Bantamweights and instead facing a string of smaller men such as Diego Oscar Silva, Tshifhiwa Munyai amd Stephane Jamoye, all natural Bantamweights. Whilst it's true to say that Quigg has had to face some men on short notice following injuries to opponents it does still seem frustrating to follow his career and not see him in the ring with fighters like Carl Frampton, Leo Santa Cruz, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Kiko Martinez and domestic rival Kid Galahad.
Questions regarding Quigg are how he handles a real boxer-mover, how he handles a true Super Bantamweight and he he handles a proven world class opponent. Sadly we've yet to see him do any of that which is a shame as it seems he wants to prove himself but isn't being matched in a way that sees him fighting some of the best in the division. What we see with his match making is the British fighter being matches with men who make him look good and make him look stronger and better than he is. We suspect that may be the case again here.
Otake is, in many ways, similar to Quigg. He's an offensive fighter first and foremost. Sadly where Quigg is strong, powerful and hurtful with his shorts Otake is more of a grinder who lands a lot of shots in the hope of every shot taking some effect. It's the fact Otake has great stamina that saw him winning the Japanese title and subsequently notching up 4 defenses before vacating the belt a few months ago to focus on world title bouts. All 5 of his Japanese title bouts were won on points with several of them being amazingly close, including his technical decision over Nobuhisa Coronita Doi his title winning effort against Takafumi Nakajima and his first defense, against Mikihito Seto.
Watching Otake in action is fun. He comes forward behind a tight guard and tried to cut the distance before letting his hands go. Unfortunately for those wanting to see him in action footage of his bouts are scarce with his bout against Yuji Maruyama being the only full fight we could track down. In that fight he looked "made to order" for Quigg who would love to fight that style of fight against Otake and sadly for the Japanese fighter that's what we're suspect will happen here.
We think Otake will fight with his hands up and walk forward attempting to apply constant pressure and this will lead to Quigg standing in front of him and giving us a phone booth, toe-to-toe battle. Sadly for Otake his lack of power will be the difference with Quigg's shots being more telling, more damaging and eventually too much for Otake who will be ground down at some point in the middle of the fight.
(Image, of Otake, courtesy of http://www.kaneko-boxing.com)
When you talk to a typical boxing fan about the Philippines they rush to tell you how good Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire are. If you talk to a Filipino fight fan however there are numerous other names that get mentioned including that of 2-weight world champion Donnie Nietes (33-1-4, 19) who is without a doubt the most proven fighter currently playing his trade in the Philippines. Not only is he fighting in his homeland but he is doing so without the plaudits given to his more famous compatriots who are getting big money from US TV to fight.
This weekend we see Nietes returning to the ring in an attempt to record his fifth defense of the WBO Light Flyweight title and moving his total world title defenses to 9 defenses after previously having defended the WBO Minimumweight title 4 times and in the opposite to the Filipino will be Mexico's Carlos Velarde (26-3-1, 14), a man fighting in his second world title bout.
For those who haven't yet seen Nietes he is a technically well schooled boxer-puncher who looks absolutely amazing when he's fighting at his pace and in full flow. At other times however he looks labored and fights as if he thinks he's going to walk bouts just because he's got natural talent. The two different sides of Nietes were seen in his two bouts with Moises Fuentes. The first of the bouts saw Nietes loading up on shots and being dragged into a real struggle with Fuentes who got inside, out worked Nietes and slowed with body shots in what ended up being a highly controversial draw. Just 14 months later Nietes dominated Fuentes and stopped him in 9 rounds in what was one of the best performances of his career.
Through his 38 fight career Nietes has scored numerous notable wins over the likes of Pornsawan Porpramook, Manuel Vargas, Jesus Silvestre, Mario Rodriguez, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Moises Fuentes and Sammy Gutierrez all of whom have been in and around the world level for years. We're not suggesting that Nietes on the pound-for-pound lists but he is very over-looked and has the skills the really do impress when he's fighting to his potential.
Mexico's 24 year old Velarde is an interesting but limited fighter who turned professional aged 16 and has struggled when he has stepped up in class losing his first major step up in 5 rounds to Jesus Silvestre in 2009 and then losing to Ryo Miyazaki in a WBA Minimumweight title last year, suffering a KO of the Year contender in the process. Whilst he has sadly lost his two most notable contests to date he has scored a handful of wins including a decision over recent world champion Oswaldo Novoa and a win over Jose Argumedo.
In the ring Velarde fighters in an exciting manner. He comes forward, applies a lot of pressure and loves going to the body whilst fighting on the inside. He's not the most poweful or the quickest but he is very fun to watch. Sadly the risks he takes to apply his pressure is often his downfall as his defense is poor to say the least and he can be countered relatively easily by a half decent fighter.
Before this bout was made Nietes was given a choice between Velarde or Saul Juarez. We suspect that Velarde was chosen due to his style which is fun, but open and it's likely that that openness will leave Nietes with great big holes to exploit time and time against until he eventually stops Velarde in what we suspect will be an entertaining but 1-sided contest that makes Nietes shine like a star without needing to really work hard for the win.
For Nietes we're expecting this will be his last bout at Light Flyweight before he joins the fray at Flyweight adding further to be's most exciting division. We suspect he's intentionally picked a fighter he can look good against so that he can wave good bye to 108lbs in style and we've no real complaint there despite the fact it does leave the division relatively empty for the time being.
(Image courtesy of ALA Boxing)
Just over 2 weeks ago we wrote, but didn't publish, a preview for what we had expected would be a WBC Super Flyweight title bout between the unbeaten Carlos Cuadras (30-0-1, 24), the reigning world champion, and Filipino Cinderella man Sonny Boy Jaro (37-13-5, 27). Since we did that previous however Jaro has been changed out for fellow Filipino Marvin Mabait (19-2-2, 13) in what, on paper, looks a more interesting bout.
The unbeaten Cuadras is a Teiken promoted fighter who won his world title earlier this year with a technical decision victory over Thailand's Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Not only did he win the title with a technical decision but he also made his first defense with one, scoring a technical draw with Jose Salgado back in September.
In terms of ability Cuadras is a fighter who appears able to do it all. Early in his career he showed a propensity for fighting off the front foot and finishing off his opponents early on. This saw him ending his first 13 bouts early with an incredibly 7 opening round wins and 11 wins inside 2 rounds. As he's stepped up in class however he's shown other dimensions to his game and against Srisaket in his title winning performance he showed he can box excellently on the back foot using movement, speed and timing. When he does box and move he looks really talented though we do wonder if he can do it for 12 rounds and he did seem to be tiring in the second half against Srisaket, prior to the fight ending cut.
It's fair to say Cuadras appears to have real boxing talent and the 26 year old did show that talent in the amateur ranks where he was a bit of amateur star competing in various international competitions, including the 2007 Pan Am games where he won he gold medal. With that in mind it's clear he can box when he needs to and he can certainly fight when he needs to. The combination of boxing and fighting makes Cuadras a standout fighter in the division though it is admittedly a thin division with only a handful of notable fighters in it.
In Mabait we have a challenger who has not only taken the fight at late notice but also on the back of a loss, in fact he has lost 2 of his last 5 bouts by stoppage. Sadly for Mabait those losses haven't been particularly flattering with the first coming to Marco Demecillo in April 2012, when he was stopped in the 3rd round, whilst the other came this past March to Alejandro Hernandez, when he was stopped in the 5th round. With clear question marks about his chin it wouldn't seem out of the question to see Cuadras jump on him early and try and close the show inside 4 or 5 rounds.
Having said that we do need to accept that Mabait himself has got talent, speed and most notably power. He's a fighter who should make for good fights one way or another with anyone in the division and in his bout with Demecillo he did drop his fellow Filipino in the opening round, he also stopped Johnny Garcia in a round in his first fight outside of the Philippines. In fact it's the power of the "Chavacano Disaster" that makes him an interesting opponent for most in the division and, fighting from the southpaw stance, his power shots all seem to be from his left hand with his jab being somewhat limited.
Aside from/aside from the win over Garcia it's hard to see much that stands out about Mabait's record so far with his next best win being over compatriot Rey Perez almost 4 years ago, and since then Perez has gone 2-2. That's not to say he's not got the potential to beat better fighters it's just that he hasn't beaten better fighters
We suspected that the Jaro fight would have seen Cuadras using his movement to keep Jaro off balance before stepping in for a quick raid and getting away. Against Mabait we're expecting a more aggressive gameplan from Cuadras we we suspect may fight at a higher tempo with the intention of stopping the challenger earlier. Against a tough guy like Jaro we think Cuadras would box smart. Against a foe with questionable punch resistance, like Mabait, we would suspect Cuadras will fight with the intention of impressing the fans and blowing through his challenger quickly. We suspect that the only chance Mabait has is landing a lucky shot on the Mexican or catching him cold early on.
(Image courtesy of notifight.com)
Over the last year or two we've seen the Light Heavyweight division really explode into life with the emergence of some vicious punchers and aggressively minded destroyers. One of those is WBC champion Adonis Stevenson, who decimated Chad Dawson last year, one is Artur Beterbiev, who completely steam rolled Tavoris Cloud earlier this year, and the other is Russian destroyer Sergey Kovalev (25-0-1, 23).
This weekend sees Kovalev taking part in his most significant bout to date as he battles against American legend Bernard Hopkins (55-6-2-2, 32) in a bout to unify the WBO title, held by Kovalev, with the WBA "super" and IBF titles that are currently held by Hopkins. For both men this is a chance to solidify their claim as the premier Light Heavyweight on the planet, despite the fact Stevenson holds the "linear" title, though there is so much more to this bout than just that claim and the three titles.
For Kovalev this is his chance to really break through and go from heavy handed and exciting fighter to a legend killer, in fact if he stops Hopkins there will be few doubting his credentials as one of the most destructive fighters of his era. For Hopkins however this is a chance to further prove that he is one of the all-time greats and that he really will defeat father time and go out on his terms, not when others tell him he should.
Of the two men it's Hopkins who is the better known fighter, after all his 65 fight career has seen him do it all and more in a career that spans more than 25 years and has seen him unifying titles at both Middleweight and Light Heavyweight. Aged 49 he has really staved off the aging process better than any other fighter and proven himself against more top class fighters than anyone else of his era, which has been a distinctly long one.
The veteran fought his first world title fight in 1993 though came up short to fellow future Hall of Famer Roy Jones Jr. Less than two years later he claimed his first world crown in after stopping Segundo Mercado and would later add the WBC, WBA and WBO titles to become the first fighter to fully unify a division. In 2006 he moved up to Light Heavyweight and dominated Antonio Tarver, since then he has become a 2-time Light Heavyweight world title holder winning the WBC title in his first reign before claiming the IBF title last year, then adding the WBA title this year with his win over Beibut Shumenov. Amazingly a win over Kovalev would see Hopkins becoming the first fighter to win all 4 major titles in 2 separate divisions.
As a fighter Hopkins is a historic fighter though he's also a frustrating one. In the ring h's incredibly highly skilled, very intelligent and knows what a fighter is going to do before they do it, but he is also very negative, holds, spoils and seems to be more capable of lulling an opponent to sleep then knocking them out. It's been that ability more than any other that has allowed him to remain so competitive at such an age and over-come younger fighters like Shumenov and the somewhat poor Karo Murat.
Through his sensational career only one thing has really bothered Hopkins, speed. His 5 high profile losses so far have all come against speedy fighter in the form of Roy Jones Jr, Jermain Taylor, twice, Joe Calzaghe and Chad Dawson and it's fair to say that he has avoided some other quicker fighters due to these losses. Despite that he has continued to fight good fighters, just slower ones.
In Kovalev we have a fighter who really emerged on the world scene last year by destroying a talented foursome of Gabriel Campillo, Cornerlius White, Nathan Cleverly and Ismayl Sillah in a combined 12 rounds. Those four fights took Kovalev from relative obscurity to WBO world champion and he has quickly become one of the sports must watch fighters due to intense offensive mentality and crushing power, power that has seen him dubbed "The Krusher".
Since winning the WBO belt Kovalev has continued to enhance his reputation through 2014 with two more earlier victories as he took out the unbeaten pairing of Cedric Agnew and Blake Caparello in a combined 9 rounds to continue his destruction of the division. In total he has now stopped his last 9 opponents in a combined 33 rounds and it's worth noting that hose opponents had a combined record of 184-26-6 with 3 of the men being unbeaten fighters.
Aged 31 Kovalev is coming into his prime money making years and knows that he needs a win over Hopkins to continue that. That however is easier said than done and Kovalev certainly isn't a speedster like those that have typically over-come Hopkins. Instead Kovalev is a very heavy handed pressure fighter who bring educated pressure, a lot of punches and heavy hands to the ring. His shots aren't thrown as hayemakers but all heavy handed with every shot coming with real force despite many looking like little more than stay busy arm punches. Although not the most skilled he is among the most devastating.
The bout is stylistically very interesting with Hopkins's sharp but negative boxing put against the come forward and intelligent pressure of Kovalev. If Kovalev does manage to fight his usual style he should win, likely by stoppage, though Hopkins always seems to get fighters out of their game plan and fighting his style of fight. If he does that again here then he will likely lull Kovalev into inactivity and take a clear decision himself. It really is a case of whether or not Kovalev can fight his fight or not. If he has too much respect for Hopkins then the old master will do it again and will celebrate his 50th birthday next year as a triple title holder however if Kovalev fights like his usual self and with his typical "I don't give a shit" attitude then we suspect the Russian will become the biggest thing in the Light Heavyweight division, at least for now.
(Image courtesy of Goldenboy Promotions)
The 105lb Minimumweight division has been one of the most interesting in the last 12-18 months. It has been full of interesting bouts ranging from thrillers to upsets, it has seen real changes with several of the divisions bigger names moving up whilst other fighters have taken the division by storm, and most interestingly it's seen the best fighting real tests as they attempt to prove their class. Oh and it's had Ali Raymi involved in it too.
Whether it's been the emergence of Kosei Tanaka, who recently stopped Ryuji Hara, the continued excitement of Katsunari Takayama, who had a barn burner with Francisco Rodriguez Jr earlier this year, or the break through of the wonderfully named Knockout CP Freshmart this year has been great for the fans of the smallest men in boxing.
The Minimumweight division comes to the fore against this coming Thursday when unbeaten Thai Wanheng Menayothin (35-0, 11) finally gets a long awaited shot at a world title as he battles heavy handed WBC belt holder Oswaldo Novoa (14-4-1, 9). The bout will be Menayothin's big step up whilst for the champion it's a chance to top off what will be a fantastic year for him.
The champion won his title earlier this year, winning it in spectacular fashion in China where he totally dismantled Xiong Zhao Zhong. He made his first defense in a relative nothing bout against Alcides Martinez in June and since then we've all been awaiting for him to fight Menayothin.
Although Novoa's record is patchy, to say the least, he is a pretty good fighter. He holds wins not only over Zhong but also over Jose Argumedo, Jose Alfredo Zuniga and Javier Martinez Resendiz as he has managed to string together 7 straight wins since a close technical decision loss to Carlos Velarde more than 2 years ago. At 5'3" he's a relatively tall Minimumweight but overall he looks huge at the weight given his imposing and rangy frame, in fact it appears as if he seriously drains to make 105lbs.
Gifted with size and power we don't think Novoa has the most rounded of skills but we hardly think he cares. He strikes us as more of a free swinging fighter, in there to win a fight not a boxing contest. This can leave him open but he does look a very strong guy who can take a shot and walk down opponents, as he did against Zhong. On the road, as he was against Zhong and will be again here, it's often a case of a winning a fight and winning it early.
As for Thailand's Menayothin we have a man with a misleading and confusing record. On paper he's got a sensational looking record with 35 straight wins in the Minimumweight division. In reality very few of those wins really tell us anything other than that he's a Thai fighter were activity is key as opposed to the level of competition. That's not to say the Thai hasn't fought anyone of note, in fact wins over Ardin Diale, Florante Condes, Crison Omayao, Rolio Golez and Yuma Iwahashi are decent wins, though at best they are decent and not great or outstanding.
Stylistically Menayothin is like many Thai's. He's strong, tight defensively and fights as an out and out pressure fighter. Saying that however he's not got massively concussive power and scores many of his stoppages through accumulation as opposed to single shots damage. Despite the lack of power he is aggressive, fun to watch and should stylistically make for a great fight with a fighter like Novoa.
In the ring we're suspecting a really exciting war with both men meeting in the middle of the ring and letting shots go with bad intentions. For Wanheng the question is whether or not he can take the power of Novoa? If he can then the Thai is likely to take a very hard fought and exciting decision with the two men fighting toe-to-toe for large swathes of the bout. If Novoa hits too hard for the Thai however this one could be over quickly though is still likely to be very exciting for as long as it lasts.
It may seem crazy to say be we genuinely feel this one could be a FOTY candidate much like the first bout between Porpramook Kompayak and Adrian Hernandez, that was another bout where a WBC champion from Mexico traveled to Thailand and we ended up with something very special to watch.
(Image courtesy of http://www.thairec.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.