Japanese fans get the chance to watch 5 world title bouts on New Year's Eve this year. Whilst some of those bouts are very unappealing, and are actually quite terrible looking mismatches, there is one bout that has us genuinely excited and expecting something very competitive and exciting.
That bout an a rematch between WBA Flyweight title Kazuto Ioka (18-1, 10) and the man he beat for that title earlier this year, Juan Carlos Reveco (36-2, 19).
The two men first faced off back in April when Ioka claimed a majority decision over Reveco to become the second Japanese fighter to become a 3-weight champion, following fellow Osakan fighter Koki Kameda. The first bout was a very competitive one and although all 3 judges were from neutral countries the view from many was that Ioka had gotten lucky. That view seemed to be shared by the WBA who demanded that the two men rematch, which they will do just 8 months after their first bout.
Coming in to this rematch both men will be looking to make a statement with Ioka looking to prove that it was him, and not the judges, that decided the previous bout, whilst Reveco will be looking to avenge his loss to Ioka.
Whilst both fighters will be driven they will also be looking to improve on their previous performance. In terms of improvement we can certainly areas where Ioka will have improved. Firstly we suspect he will have filled into the Flyweight division that bit better than he was when the two men first met. We understand that 8 months isn't a long time but this is the second bout since Ioka won the title and those two training camps will have helped him fill out his body. As for Reveco the 32 year old is racing away from his prime years and he may well be on the slide physically, albeit on marginally on the slide.
We know that Ioka has spent a lot of time working on a game plan to beat Reveco more clearly. That has seen him working a lot on combinations in training and he's stated that he'll be switching between head and body regularly whilst trying to stop Reveco. It was combinations and speed in the first bout that saw Ioka claiming rounds against the heavier handed but slower Reveco, who had his best success when the pace slowed down. If Reveco can neutralise the combinations then he'll take the win here however if Ioka can land those combinations there is little doubting he'll get the win, even if he can't stop Reveco.
For Ioka, who will be cheered on by the crowd, he needs to remember not to have a war with Reveco. Instead he needs to stick to his boxing, he is faster, he is taller and rangier, and he is the better mover. If he can stick to a disciplined gameplan it's hard to see Reveco beating him. Reveco however will look to use his defense to slip inside and go to work, where his strength and power will take it's toll.
Our prediction is that this is going to be another close one, though we suspect it will be less close and less debatable than the first with Ioka doing enough to take a clear, but close decision win, with out having “rounds off” like he had in their first bout.
With 5 world title fights on New Year's Eve we can understand why Japanese fight fans could be excited about the end of year shows. Sadly however a lot of those world title bouts are less than great. One such example is the IBF Minimumweight title bout between always exciting champion Katsunari Takayama (30-7-0-1, 12) and very limited Mexican challenger Jose Argumedo (15-3-1, 9).
The bout is a mismatch due to the limitations, and recent activity, of the challenger. Argumedo hasn't fought in over a year, and he's actually just 1-1 in the last 24 months with the win coming against the very poor Irving Requena. His most notable bouts have all been defeats, with 2 decision losses to Oswaldo Novoa and a loss last year to Carlos Velarde, and although he was very competitive in those defeats there is little to suggest he should be in a world title bout.
Whilst Argumedo does lack a world level win he does interesting hold some victories over gatekeepers. In 2013 he beat both Martin Tecuapetla and Javier Martinez Resendiz, though of course those wins were more than 2 years ago and neither Tecuapetla or Resendiz have shown themselves to be world class themselves.
Despite the issues with Argumedo getting this fight we do suspect that he will give his all, he will come to fight and he will be happy to go to war with Takayama. He may not be world class be he will almost certainly give us action, especially given his toughness.
Whilst Argumedo has yet to impress it's hard not to be impressed by the champion who is one of the most exciting fighters on the planet. Takayama is a true warrior, his bouts have been among the most exciting in recent years and his brawl with Francisco Rodriguez Jr was, rightfully, regarded as one of the best fights of 2014. Technically he is flawed but those flaws are somewhat compensated for with his insane work rate, incredible toughness and his amazing will to win.
The 32 year old champion can, at times, be accused of being inconsistent and has been through a very hard career. Bouts against the likes of Rodriguez, Roman Gonzalez, Yutaka Niida and Nkosinathi Joyi have all taken their toll on his body. Despite the inconsistencies and damaging wars Takayama is still a fighter who knows how to pull wins out of the of the bag, as shown last year against Shin Ono and he knows how to turn it on when needed with huge assaults that over-whelm lesser opponents.
For us this bout has just one winner, Takayama. Almost certainly by decision with the aggressive Japanese fighter simply out working and out fighting the Mexican visitor.
Over the past few years we have seen numerous Japanese youngsters fight on the fast track to the top. The quickest of those has been Kosei Tanaka (5-0, 2), who set a Japanese record earlier this year when he won world title in just his 5th bout. On December 31st Tanaka looks to make the first defense of his title, the WBO Minimumweight title, as he takes on former Filipino amateur standout Vic Saludar (11-1, 9), who will be fighting in his first world title bout.
Tanaka's rise through the ranks really has been meteoric. He debuted in November 2013 and beat the then world ranked Oscar Raknafa, that was followed up by another victory over a world ranked fighter, Ronelle Ferreras. Those wins helped the then teenage Tanaka climb into the world rankings though for many his first eye opening performance actually came against Crison Omayao, who was stopped in just 115 seconds.
Tanaka's rise was fast through his first 3 bouts but has since gone super sonic with the talented youngster claiming the OPBF Minimumweight title in October 2014, with an exceptional 10th round TKO win over Ryuji Hara. That win prepared Tanaka for his world title bout, which came this past May against Julian Yedras, who was clearly beaten over 12 rounds, despite a disgustingly close card from Luis Ruiz.
In the ring the 20 year old Japanese fighter is a natural. He's blessed with insane speed in both his hands and feet, clever defensive movements and some of the most amazing combinations in the sport. He does seem to lack true KO power but he's certainly still a relative baby and is likely to grow into his strength in the coming years, when that happens he'll have added power to his skills, speed and movement which are all exceptional.
Despite only have 5 fights of professional experience Tanaka has accrued 37 rounds, he has gone 12 rounds at a good pace and 10 rounds at an exceptional pace. There is some question marks on his stamina in soma quarters but others, such as ourselves, feel he has the ability to 12 fast rounds if needed and that he has slowed down at times to try things out rather than due to exhaustion.
Whilst Tanaka has been on the fast track from the get-go it's fair to say that his opponent, Saludar, has also been sped along being given this world title opportunity in just his 13th professional bout and after just 29 months as a professional fighter. He debuted back in July 2013, with a blow out win against Juanito Hondante, in a bout that lasted just 52 seconds.
Since his debut Saludar has looked like a confident fighter with very fast and heavy hands. Dubbed “Vicious” his punching power and aggressive style certainly sees him living up to his nickname. Sadly at times he has however shown a lack of control and his win over Michael Kaibigan was seemingly scored with a very cheap shot on a then downed Kaibigan, that could easily have cost him a DQ loss. Whilst he is vicious he is also wild, offensively wreckless and defensively open, meaning that a skilled fighter could well counter him and really make him pay for his free swinging offense.
One thing that also needs to be noted about Saludar is that he already has a stoppage loss on his record. That occurred in just his 3rd bout when he was forced to retire against Powell Balaba, after he fractured his hand. Prior to his retirement in that bout he had dropped Balaba and it seems likely that he would have won the contest had it not been for the injury.
Coming in tot his one we do favour Tanaka, however it's likely we will see him given a serious chin check on route to winning. The difference is the defensive ability, with Tanaka having the better all round defense, which will likely allow the champion to see out the early storm before breaking down the challenger in the later rounds.
December 31st features a 5 world title fights in Japan, spread across 3 different cities. The bouts all see Japanese champions defending their titles against foreign fighters and all are being televised across various platforms.
The most distinguished of those champions is the unbeaten Takashi Uchiyama (23-0-1, 19) who looks to record his 11th defense of the WBA Super Featherweight title, or more exactly the second defense of the “Super” version of the title. In the opposite corner to the heavy handed “KO Dynamite” will be a man looking to make a mark on the world scene, the little known Oliver Flores (27-1-2, 17).
The 36 year old champion is one of the longest reigning champions in the sport. He won his title in way back in January 2010, when he stopped Juan Carlos Salgado, and has since defended it against both top contenders and relative nobodies. Whilst wins over Roy Mukhlis and Angel Granados will be easily forgotten wins over the likes of Takashi Miura, Jorge Solis, Bryan Vasquez and Jomthong Chuwatana are likely to stand the test of time.
In the ring Uchiyama is a very special fighter and despite his age still looks like a youthful fighter who does have time on his side. He's a monstrous puncher, with real venom in both hands, he's technically very solid with a smart boxing mind and works off a heavy jab with ease. Not only is he talented and heavy handed but he's also tough, defensively sound and and has an excellent understanding of pacing, which has seen him speed up and slow down bouts almost at will. If he does have flaws in his boxing it's really his speed, which is unexceptional, though that is less of an issue given his timing and control.
Whilst Uchiyama has already sealed his place among the modern Japanese greats he does still have some targets. One of those is to set the Japanese record for most defenses, a record that currently stands at 13 successful defenses. For him a win over Flores is just he next step towards that record. He also hopes to score a big win in the US and make a name for himself internationally. It's thought that if he sees off Flores a deal is in place for him to face Nicholas Walters next year, however could that deal see him taking his eyes off the task at hand?
Whilst Uchiyama is well known, especially by knowledgeable fans who have followed his championship reign, it's fair to say that Flores is a bit of an unknown quantity. The 24 year old is a southpaw from Leon, Nicaragua. Despite being Nicaraguan he actually began making a name for himself in Costa Rica, where he debuted at a prodigious 15 years old and has fought 20 of his career bouts.
As well Costa Rica fans have been able to see Flores fight in Mexico, Nicaragua and, most recently Panama. Sadly however the amount of notable opponents that he's faced are limited with the only real stand out name being Miguel Berchelt, who stopped Flores in 2 rounds back in November 2012. Since that loss, more than 3 years ago, Flores has fought just 4 times, all in Nicaraguan, beating very poor opposition.
On paper there is little for Uchiyama to worry about, however Flores has perhaps one or two things of note to think about. Firstly he's experienced, obviously, secondly he's a southpaw and thirdly he's got experience at a higher weight than Uchiyama, in fact his last 3 bouts have come at Lightweight or above. From footage he has a lot of upper body movement and a relatively sharp jab, but there is little weight behind his shots and he does make a bunch of mistakes, often leaning in too much and leaning over his front foot which will be punished by a fighter like Uchiyama.
From what we've seen of Flores he looks likely to pose absolutely no threat to Uchiyama and despite being a southpaw he's not a fighter who is likely to even pose a question in terms of his stance. His defensive is wide open and given Uchiyama's thunderous power this could be very short. In fact we suspect we ends when Uchiyama chooses to end it, which may well be very early given that he'll want to make a statement ahead of a US bout in 2016.
To end 2015 Watanabe are hosting a world title double header, sadly however both of the title offerings are disappointing match ups with neither looking likely to be competitive.
In one of the bouts we're expecting to see Takashi Uchiyama record the 11th defense of his 130lb world title whilst the other is expected to see Ryoichi Taguchi (22-2-1, 9) easily retain his WBA Light Flyweight title, as he goes up against Colombia's limited Luis de la Rosa (25-4-1, 14).
The champion won the title exactly a year ago, when he defeated Peruvian veteran Alberto Rossel with a clear 12 round decision. Following that win he secured his first defense in May, stopping the experienced but over-matched Kwanthai Sithmorseng in 8 very one sided rounds and this bout with de la Rosa will be his second defense of the title.
Although relatively under-rated the Japanese fighter is widely regarded as one of the best fighters in the criminally over-looked Light Flyweight division. The weight class lacks a really big name, with Donnie Nietes arguably being the most well known fighter, but Taguchi is certainly hoping to change that, and change that he can do if he faces some of the top names in the division in 2016. That could mean bouts with Yu Kimura, who he does actually hold a win over, Randy Petalcorin, Rey Loreto, Pedro Guevara, Jonathan Taconing, Paipharob Kokietgym and Ryo Miyazaki, sadly however beating the likes of de la Rosa will not do his career any great good.
In the ring Taguchi is tough, in fact he's the only fighter to have heard the final bell against Naoya Inoue*, talented and improving quickly, with both his confidence and abilities becoming more notable. He's also very tall and rangy for a Light Flyweight standing at around 5'6” and boasting a 67” reach.
Taguchi uses his size well to box at range, he's accurate with his jab and straight, and can also hold his own inside throwing great uppercutts for such a tall fighter at his weight.
It is fair to say that Taguchi's not unbeatable but his only loss in the last 6 years came to Inoue, and in that bout Taguchi did have some genuine success in, over the 10 round distance. As with that loss it will take a very special fighter to beat Taguchi.
When we talk about special fighters we certainly don't mean Luis de la Rosa. The Colombian fighter's best result was a split decision loss to Raul Garcia, more than 5 years ago, and since then he has gone 10-4 with all 4 of those losses coming in his last 7 bouts. Not only has he lost those 4 bouts but he has, at times, looked very uncompetitive being blown out by both Alexis Diaz and Moises Fuentes inside a round, being stopped in 8 by Filipino Merlito Sabillo and losing a wide decision to Zou Shiming.
In the ring we know that de la Rosa isn't world class. He has fought world class fighters but has come up short against them and seems to have been a man who is fortunate that the world title bodies have so many titles available to fighters, and allow “top 15” fighters to get world title fights. In the real world however de la Rosa isn't top 15, nor is he really even top 25 with boxrec.com rating him way down in the 80's coming in to this bout.
On paper de la Rosa has a punchers record.The reality however is that he has been beating some terrible opposition such as Gustavo Cortes and Deivis Narvaez, both of whom he has beaten twice. The level of his wins, Colombian domestic level fighters, sadly says it all about the crude challenger.
If we're being honest we see this as a cross mismatch and would be shocked if Taguchi doesn't see off the challenger inside the distance, with a mid-round stoppage looking the most likely for the champion, who really needs to get a serious bout sorted for 2016 if he's to build on any potential fan base that he has. He has the skills to become a notable champion but now needs the bouts.
*Note-Inoue is set to fight between this being published and Taguchi's bout with de la Rosa, though at the time of writing Taguchi is the only man to have survived the distance with the Monster.
The lower weights have been among the best in recent years with possibly the most exciting being Light Flyweight. The division has given us everything, despite the fighters being so small. We've had controversy, we've had riots, we've had FOTY contenders and we've had everything that fight fans claim they love about our great sport.
On December 29th we're expecting another war as IBF champion Javier Mendoza (24-2-1, 19) travels to Tokyo to battle the always fun to watch Akira Yaegashi (22-5, 12) in what looks like a potential FOTY candidate, albeit a very late contender.
Mendoza is the sort of fighter that fight fans tend to enjoy watching. His first thought always seems to be aggression, and his style is based on aggressive pressure. He can look predictable, and defensively awkward, but he is certainly a handful on the front foot where he likes to enforce his fight. It was that aggression that saw Mendoza claim the title last year, when he defeat Ramon Garcia Hirales in a brilliant 12 round war.
Since claiming the title Mendoza has defended his title once, claiming a technical decision Milan Melindo. That defense was somewhat controversial, with the referee seemingly bowing to the local fighter and calling a premature halt to proceedings, but it did get the mandatory out of the way for Mendoza who now looks to add another notable win to his record.
The Mexican has had an interesting career. Early on he was really just a brawler and that did get him some early success, however he was 13-2-1 (10) before going on his current 11 fight winning run. Notably the second of those losses, against the unknown Jorge Guerrero, saw him being stopped in 2 rounds in what is perhaps the most alarming result on his record. He has however improved significantly since those early losses and wins over Garcia Hirales and Melindo really do show how much he has improved and matured as a fighter, and at 24 he;s he's young, hungry and still developing.
Whilst Mendoza is just starting to make a name for himself it's fair to say that Yaegashi is one of the more popular names among the lower weight classes. He's become a hardcore fan favourite due to his heart, ability and willingness to go to war. In fact for many his 2011 war with Ponrsawan Porpramook was the FOTY and his 2012 bout with Kazuto Ioka was another thriller. Whilst he is known for wars he has also scored notable wins, including the victory over Pornsawan to claim the WBA Minimumweight title, a victory over Toshiyuki Igarashi, to claim the WBC Flyweight title, and a win over Edgar Sosa.
Sadly for Yaegashi his career has been a tough one and last year he suffered back to back stoppages against Roman Gonzalez and Pedro Guevara. Whilst there is not shame in losing to those two it did seem like he took a lot of punishment. It's also worth noting that he dropped to 108lbs for the Guevara bout, where's going to be again for this one. Dropping down a weight can often be much more difficult than climbing a weight and that may well be an issue for Yaegashi again here.
At his best Yaegashiu is speedy fighter who is light on his feet, has lovely hand speed and throws some brilliant combinations. He may lack power but he's rarely in a poor fight and has pulled out some brilliant KO's in recent years. Whilst he is a fast fighter he's not a defensively responsible one and seems much happier to engage in a brawl than to use his defense. Saying that however he did show very intelligent defensive moves against Sosa, where he moved and stopped Sosa from ever getting off.
Whilst Yaegashi was brilliant at his best he's not longer near his best. As mentioned he's going down in weight, often an issue, he's edging towards 33 and with 198 rounds under his belt he is an old fighter with a lot of hard rounds. Unfortunately we suspect those rounds will have taken their toll on him.
We'd love to see Yaegashi win here, but unfortunately we suspect he comes up short late in a thrilling bout. Mendoza will simply be too strong and too youthful in the second half for the ageing Japanese warrior.
It's fair to say that the lower weights have had extra attention in the west over the past year. The leading fighter for that growth has been Nicaraguan sensation Roman Gonzalez, who has really helped awaken the US market to the talent in the typically over-looked smaller weights. Whilst Gonzalez has started to become a star in the US he's not the only name on the lips of hardcore fight fans who have been excited by the lower weights in recent years. Another fighter is Naoya Inoue (8-0, 7) who has unfortunately had a year to forget with the year effectively written off following hand injuries, injuries that have slowed his meteoric rise.
Thankfully for Inoue, and for fight fans, those hand injuries have healed and on December 29th the youngster returns to make the first defense of the WBO Super Flyweight title that he won last December, when he blew away Omar Andres Narvaez. In the opposite corner will not be a patsy and instead it will be mandatory challenger Warlito Parrenas (24-6-1, 21), a heavy handed, aggressive and under-rated Filipino.
As with most of Inoue's bouts so far this is a tough test, though as we've seen through out his career, he's a fighter who is significantly better than most out there, and in fact he could well be a future claimant to the #1 spot on the mythical pound-for-pound list.
Inoue was pegged for stardom from his days as an amateur and and he has been raced to becoming a star. In just his 4th bout be claimed the Japanese Light Flyweight title, defeating current world champion Ryoichi Taguchi, a fight later he claimed the OPBF Light Flyweight title and then he claimed the WBC Light Flyweight title, stopping Adrian Hernandez. In just 8 fights has become a 2-weight world champion, one of the faces of Japanese boxing and a man who some are suggesting could be the man to finally end the long unbeaten run of Roman Gonzalez. He is, arguably, the leading figure in the next wave of Japanese superstars and is possibly the man to bring western TV cameras over to the east.
At his best Inoue is a boxer-puncher with frightening power, alarming accuracy, blurring speed, an instinctive knowledge of what shots to through and a natural ring awareness. Although he's a boxer-puncher he has shown an ability to be a brawler, an outside fighter and a pure counter puncher. Looking for something that he lacks is like looking for a needle in a haystack, however if being overly critical there are some issues with his defense, at least when he's been a bit too comfortable against some opponents, and of course the hand issues, which hopefully will not reoccur in the future.
Whilst in the ring Inoue is a sensation and one of the most natural fighters in the sport he does, of course, have a lot of pressure on his young shoulders. The 23 year old is viewed as being something special and knows that millions watch him in Japan on Fuji TV. He also knows that he is expected to perform like a star, despite spending a year out of the ring. He will also, perhaps, be worried about re-injuring the hand. The Inoue we see against Parrenas may not be the same Inoue that we saw destroy Narvaez and this is a real worry.
When it comes to Parrenas we know we're talking about a much lower profile fighter than Inoue, but one who is himself incredibly exciting. The Filipino is a monstrous puncher, and has 12 stoppages in the first 3 rounds. He's a danger man early on but also dangerous late and has shown solid punching power late into fights, although he has never scored a stoppage after the 8th round. Not only is he heavy handed but he always comes to fight and has a great engine, as he showed last time out against David Carmona, where he fought at a high pace for 12 rounds.
Whilst Parrenas is an aggressive banger here are certainly some issues with him. He has been stopped 4 times, and his chin is very questionable. He can certainly give it out, but it seems that he's not so good at taking it. Whilst it's fair to say that being stopped by Marlon Tapales and Jonathan Taconing isn't too bad he has also been stopped by Erwin Picardal and Oscar Blanquet, and was also dropped by Atsushi Kakutani, in a memorable 172 second bout. Those chin issues, especially early, could be a problem here, as is the fact he can be rather wild and wide and leaves himself open to counters, something that Inoue will take advantage of.
Whilst Parrenas has been stopped 4 times, and beaten 6 times, he is currently on an unbeaten run of 7-0-1 and has gone 12-1-1 in his last 14. Those runs have shown that he's improved. He's beaten fighters like Kakutani, Koji Itagaki, Tomoya Kaneshiro and Espinos Sabu whilst also fighting to a draw with Carmona, in what seemed to be a very unfortunate result for Parrenas. The improvement in Parrenas has been impressive but it's still a huge step up in class for the Pinoy puncher.
If Inoue is close to the fighter he was a year ago it's hard to see him losing to Parrenas, despite the danger that the Filipino brings. If however Inoue is rusty then Parrenas certainly has a chance to at least chin check the “Monster”. Our guess however is that Hideyuki Ohashi and Shingo Inoue wouldn't let Naoya fight unless they were confident he was fully healed, fully fit and had impressed in sparring. With that in mind we can't see anything but an Inoue stoppage, likely inside 5 rounds.
The WBA “interim” titles have become a real issue. No longer are the titles used for the original purpose of being an “interim” belt but instead they act as a whole new title allowing the WBA to collect extra sanctioning fees for bouts that typically don't feature a world class fighter. Sometimes they lead to good bouts, though bouts that could easily have been eliminators, other times however the bouts are little more than a marketing tool for the promoters to make money and sell a show.
In the talent laden Flyweight division, which features the likes of Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada, Kazuto Ioka, Juan Carlos Reveco, Amnat Ruenroeng, Brian Viloria, Takuya Kogawa, Edgar Sosa, Johnriel Casimero, Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep and McWilliams Arroyo the need for the best to face the best is obvious, especially for titles.
Unfortunately rather the WBA forcing bouts between the likes of Ioka and Estrada they have allowed 3 title holders. Estrada is the “Super” champion, Ioka the “regular” champion and Stamp Kiatniwat the “interim” champion.
On December 10th, 3 weeks before Ioka faces Reveco in a rematch, we'll see Stamp (14-0, 6) defend his title against the man he beat for the belt, Gregorio Lebron (13-3, 11).
Their first bout, which came back in August, saw Stamp claim a majority decision over Lebron, a fighter from the Dominican republic, courtesy of two 10-8 rounds. The decision seemed to upset Lebron's team, who accused two of the judges of bias and lead to the WBA calling for a rematch, leaving us where we are now.
In their first bout both took turns to be the aggressor in what was a brilliant bout overall. Although a vaunted puncher Lebron only really seemed to hurt Stamp once whilst Stamp scored two knockdowns, and came the closest to forcing the referee to stop the fight. For many who watched the fight though Stamp was spending too many rounds being negative and backing off rather than than making the most of his speed and skills.
Since their first bout neither man has fought, however they have both aged. For Stamp that will have seen the teenager mature and grow more into a man. He's still a teenager but certainly a more mature man than he was in their first meeting. For Lebron he's aged and is now heading towards his 34th birthday, an old age for a man in the lower weights. Sayign that however Lebron hasn't been in many wars and has only tasted 53 rounds of professional experience, making him a very fresh 33 year old.
In their first fight it was Stamp who looked the more intelligent fighter, especially early on, when he landed counter hooks, flashy combinations and showed good movement. He was however the man who was under-pressure and looked like a fighter unsure of himself. Lebron however looked like a powerful and aggressive man, looking to teach the boy a lesson with his power punches. We're expecting much of the same here, with Stamp looking to use Lebron's pressure against him whilst Lebron will again be looking to use his vaunted power to stop the youngster, and keep the judges out of the result.
For both men however this bout will be different to their first. Lebron will know the judging away from home isn't as favourable as it is at home. He'll be more aggressive and look for the KO more intently than he did last time out. As a result he may take more risks and leave himself more open to the counters of the Thai. As for Stamp he may himself have fewer lulls, make a bigger statement when he attacks and try to make his rounds clear when he wins them. The Thai may also swing less widely when he attacks, having missed wildly with a number of left hands in the middle rounds. We suspect the key difference will be confidence with both men feeling more confident this time around and both looking to make the most of that when they get in the ring.
We suspect that this will have a lot moments like their first fight, with Lebron coming forward and Stamp countering. We however think that Stamp will manage to prove a point and score a stoppage late in the bout, proving that he has improved from the first bout and that he has matured as both a man and a fighter
Over the last few years we've seen the lower weight divisions getting attention due to a number of exciting and action based fighters. Through fighters, such as Naoya Inoue, Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada, fans have been given some really fun fights. Whilst it has been those action fighters that have brought the attention to those divisions we also have a few fighters who stand out for other reasons, such as the dirty, tricky and ugly Amnat Ruenroeng (16-0, 5), who is perhaps the most stylistically frustrating of any of the smaller men in the sport.
Ruenroeng came to the attention of the hardcore fans back when he was an amateur though really it was last year that he came out of nowhere to claim the IBF Flyweight title, with a decision win over Rocky Fuentes. The win over Fuentes began a run of great results for the Thai who has since beaten Kazuto Ioka, McWilliams Arroyo, Zou Shiming and Johnriel Casimero, with the wins over Ioka and Shiming coming on the road. The wins haven't always been pretty but they have seen Ruenroeng show various facets to his game, including his boxing ability, physical strength and dirty tricks.
Although Ruenroeng is 35, in fact he's coming up to 36, he's a very young 35 and hasn't been in the wars that age a fighter. In fact he's got the speed, stamina, timing and strength of a much younger man. It's fair to say that he's the youngest 35 year old in boxing today.
On December 7th Ruenroeng returns to the ring for his 5th defense of the IBF Flyweight title as he takes on little known Japanese challenger Myung Ho Lee (19-4-1, 6). For Amnat the bout is regarded as a foregone conclusion before a possible unification bout next year, for Lee however the opportunity is a huge one, and a chance for him to end the rise of the Thai.
The Japanese challenger really is very unknown outside of Asia, though has fought in Mexico once where he gave Edgar Sosa a very tough outing 3 years ago. The Sosa bout, which ended in a majority decision loss for Lee, is really the most notable of Lee's bout, though he has also suffered defeats to Rocky Fuentes and Rey Megrino, whilst also fighting to a draw with Hirofumi Mukai. In regards to wins his most notable came more than 4 years ago when he beat Shin Ono.
Although not considering as one of the best Flyweights in Japan Lee is a man worth giving some attention too. He's one of only 3 men to lose a decision to Megrino, one of the sports most criminally under-rated punchers who has stopped 6 of his last 7 foes including Pongsaklek Wonjongkam and Ernesto Saulong, he was also able to hold his own with 2-time world title challenger Mukai and given his experience he could well ask some genuine question of Amnat.
Although Lee is no pushover, and could well go into the bout with Amnat with a rough gameplan, it is hard to see him becoming the first Japanese fighter to claim a world title in Thailand. The likely outcome is that Lee does give Amnat a few problems, especially if he fights dirty against one of the dirtiest players in the game, but he'll not have the skills to shine when he needs them, like Amnat does. As a result we have to expect the champion to retain with a clear, but rough, decision.
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.