When we talk about modern day boxing legends few can compare to Filipino great Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39), who has done stuff that many wouldn't have dreamed possible in our great sport. The looks to continue his career this coming Saturday and add yet another notable win to his incredible resume as he battles unbeaten and popular American Keith Thurman (29-0-0-1, 22) and looks to unify the WBA "regular" title, which he won last year, with Thurman's "Super" title. A win for Pacquiao would be yet another cherry on top of a career that has had so much success, and would prove, even at the age of 40, that he was still an active legend. For Thurman the bout acts as a chance to finally get an elite level name on his record, after years of talking about being a special fighter.
Pacquiao, of course better known as "Pacman", has had the story of his career told, re-told and re-told once again. The early days, putting weights in his pockets to and fighting as a 16 year old in small venues of the Philippines, making a name for himself and fighting to eat, to his modern day status as one of the greatest fighters in living memory and a fighter who has made more money than most people could ever dream of. During his 24 year career he has done so much, moving from Flyweight all the way up to Light Middleweight, grabbing titles in almost every division along the way and fighting in a variety of countries. He has been one of boxing's few true, global stars and a man who has transcended the sport whilst creating a resume that reads like a history of boxing greats.
From beating Chatchai Sasakul in 1998 to beating Adrien Broner earlier this year Pacquiao has spent 20 years at world level and has the right to retire as a legend whenever he wishes. Instead however he wants to build on his legacy and etch his name deeper into the annals of boxing history.
Not only has Pacquiao been at the top for longer than most but he has done so whilst adapting, changing and altering his style. Early on he was a crude, left hand happy power puncher, before becoming a dynamic dervish of 2-handed power and speed, then as age got to him he began to show more boxing finesse, picking his power punches and building on his ring craft to control the pace and tempo. Even at his current age he is still a lighting quick fighter, but knows that he needs to pace himself a little more, fighting at a controlled range and using his dynamite left hand to force any fighter to respect him. He's certainly past his peak, but has adapted to prolong his career and his success.
At the age of 30 Keith Thurman is a man who really should be a big star than he is, or perhaps he could have bee a much bigger star than he is. He's a good looking, charismatic guy, who early on had a fun style, with explosive power. He combined a style in the ring with a confident personality and a cool cat persona. He was an easy guy to root for, as the Welterweight division shifted focus from the old men on top to the new breed breaking through. Sadly though Thurman never really had the transition he needed, he could never get the passing of the torch fight, and lost some of his best years through injury and inactivity.
In 2013 Thurman beat former world champion Jan Zaveck, in a big win at the time, then stopped Diego Gabriel Chaves for the WBA "interim" world title, which he defended at the end of the year against Jesus Soto Karass. Those 3 wins saw him with an unbeaten record, 20 T/KO's from 22 wins, and a title. He was just 25 and looked like he had the keys to the Welterweight castle. Since then however he has gone 9-0 (2), fighting just 7 times in 5 years and rarely looking like the man many had pegged him for. For much of that reign his competition lacked quality and real threat, with only Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia really regarded as threats to Thurman on paper. The others were typically older fighters, with their best years behind them, like Julio Diaz, Roberto Guerrero and Luis Collazo. Despite the less than amazing competition the WBA have stood by his side, and he has moved from interim to regular to Super Champion during his reign with their title.
Whilst injuries certainly were a problem for Thurman his attitude had changed. When he was climbing the ranks it was all about taking over, being the avoided man, the hot young gun that no one wanted to face. Since winning the title however he has become the thing he complained about. He's failed to take on the rising lions of the emerging wave, the likes of Errol Spence Jr, and and 7 of his last 9 have come against men the wrong side of 30, with Pacquiao joining those older foes of Thurman's. A shame we've not seen him in with the fellow best, given his athletic and exciting style, his boxer-puncher ability and his genuinely nasty finishing.
Whilst Pacquiao, at his best, would have been strongly favoured over a fighter like Thurman, it's now a case of questioning how much Pacquiao has left in the tank.He looked like he had lost a couple of steps in his win over Broner earlier this year, and Lucas Matthysse looked so washed last year that it's hard to know how good the Pacquiao of today really is. Thurman hasn't lived up to his expectations, he's not shown world class power at world level, but given such a big age and natural size advantage it's hard to go against him, especially given that Pacquiao has so many questions hanging over his head.
We would love to see Pacquiao add Thurman's name to a resume that includes Chatchai Sasakul, Lehlo Ledwaba, Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley and Timothy Bradley. Sadly though we fear father time will finally catch up to the Pacman.
Prediction TKO10 Thurman.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On July 13, Tomoki Kameda returns to the US, after 4 years, to clash with Rey Vargas for the WBC Super Bantamweight World Championship.
The younger brother of Koki and Daiki Kameda, Tomoki belongs in one of the most successful families in the history of boxing, with all 3 siblings eventually winning the big one. Unlike most Japanese fighters who stay and train in Japan, Tomoki moved to Mexico when he was just 15 years old, in order to learn more about the sport and to hone his craft. He managed to reach the finals of the Guantes de Oro Tournament (Mexican for Golden Gloves) but lost, ironically enough, to Rey Vargas. Because of his young age, he wasn’t allowed to compete in the 2008 Olympic Games, so instead of waiting, Tomoki decided to turn pro.
Tomoki (36-2 / 20 KOs) became quite popular in Mexico, since he spent the vast majority of his career there, earning the nickname El Mexicanito. His style of fighting used to be quite aggressive, which was evident by his KO ratio. Prior to winning the world title, he finished 18 of his 27 pro bouts. Some of his early career big victories included numerous world title contenders like Eduardo Garcia, Marlon Marquez and Noldi Manakane, plus securing the WBC Silver Bantamweight title.
On August 1st 2013, Tomoki made history on multiple fronts when he defeated Paulus Ambunda, who was 20-0 at the time, for the WBO Bantamweight World championship, in the Philippines. Not only did he become the first ever Japanese boxer to hold a WBO World title, but also after Daiki’s world title victory in September of the same year, the Kamedas earned a place at the Guinness World Records for “most siblings to win boxing world titles”.
As World champion, he adapted a more technical style, a “safer” style, in comparison to his former much wilder approach. El Mexicanito marked 3 successful title defenses, against Immanuel Naidjala, interim champion Alejandro Hernandez as well as former World champion Panya Uthok. Out of all 3, his bout with Uthok was the toughest. With 46 wins on his record and only 2 decision losses, the Thai boxer kept rocking Tomoki in every round, stunning him on multiple occasions throughout the match. The tide turned during the 7th round, when Kameda started nailing Uthok with a couple of uppercuts, thus creating an opening to throw a devastating liver shot that dropped the former champ down for the count. That was the first time Uthok has been stopped in his career. Tomoki was declared “fighter of the month” (July 2014) by the WBO, after that performance.
In May of 2015, Tomoki was scheduled to face the WBA (Regular) Bantamweight Champion Jamie McDonnell, in a unification bout. However, since the WBO wouldn’t sanction the fight, he relinquished his belt so he could compete for the WBA championship. Despite dropping McDonnell in the 3rd, the Japanese challenger didn’t do much in the rest of the fight, thus failing to capture the gold. Their rematch in September saw both men in a very close encounter, going back and forth, in an exciting affair. Tomoki could have been crowned the new champion but McDonnell made sure he was leaving Texas with his belt when he scored a knockdown in the last round, swaying the judges in his favor.
When Tomoki returned to action, after a 13 month hiatus, he decided to move up to Super Bantamweight. In his match with Daniel Noriega (May 2018) we saw glimpses of the old Mexicanito, fighting in a much more aggressive pace, even dropping Noriega in the 5th round. After going 4-0 at this new weight class, he was involved in an interim WBC title fight, this past November, with the EBU European champion Abigail Medina. Kameda controlled the pace from the get go, punishing his rival with fasts jabs, strong hooks and some perfectly placed body shots. In the end, Tomoki earned himself a unanimous decision victory and the interim WBC strap. Now he will finally have the opportunity to meet Vargas in the ring again, for a shot at the gold.
Rey Vargas (33-0 / 22 KOs) has spent the majority of his life boxing. During his amateur days, he accumulated 7 national titles as well as the 2009 Pan-American championship. A year later, he made his pro debut. He was still 19 at the time.
Much like Tomoki, he used to be much more tenacious in the ring. Up until 2016, he had finished 22 out of his 28 fights, including stoppages over former world title challengers like Silvester Lopez, Christian Esquivel, Cecilio Santos and Juanito Rubillar. His speed and reach advantage were enough to give him the edge over most of his opponents.
Vargas’ 1st major win was against former 2 time WBA Super Flyweight World champion Alexander Munoz, in September of 2016. The young Mexican star dropped the veteran four times within five rounds, twice with the right hook, once with an uppercut and finished the job in the 5th with a straight right to secure the WBC International Silver title and the #1 contendership.
In 2017, he fought Gavin McDonnell for the vacant WBC Super Bantamweight crown. Despite taking a lot of damage in the later rounds, he managed to survive that and come out with the World championship. Since then, Vargas has defended his title 4 times against Ronny Rios, Oscar Negrete, Azat Hovhannisyan and Franklin Manzanilla. Even though his speed and head movement were still there, his aggressiveness wasn’t. In all of these last 5 bouts, he was content to keep his competition at bay and to just win on the judges scorecards. No doubt this will be the strategy for his upcoming fight too.
All in all, it’s safe to assume that Tomoki vs. Vargas will not be a crowd pleaser. Yes, we are talking about 2 really skilled boxers, with a lot of finesse and technique, but both lack the explosiveness that once made them popular. Vargas is most likely to walk out of California the victor as he’s going to use his reach and prohibit Tomoki from coming near him but if somehow El Mexicanito manages to close the distance, he might have a chance at officially becoming a 2 division world champion. We will find out for sure this Saturday night.
In October 2018 we saw American Rob Brant (25-1, 17) end Ryota Murata's (14-2, 11) short lived reign as the WBA "regular" Middleweight champion, upsetting the Japanese fighter over 12 1-sided rounds. The bout, which was supposed to be a big opportunity for Murata to shine on US soil against a limited challenger backfired, big time, with Brant using Murata for target practice over 12 rounds.
It was as humiliating a 12 round decision loss that we've seen a champion suffer in years, and in many ways it was similar to Joe Calzaghe's dominant win over Jeff Lacy. Brant, like Calzaghe, was the under-dog who set an insane work rate and Murata, like Lacy, was made to look slow and clumsy, unable to use their vaunted power. Both were boxing's answer to death by 1000 cuts, with neither Calzaghe or Brant having the power to stop their opponent, but having the work rate to handcuff them, dominate them and leave their man mentally questioning their future.
The question coming in, is whether Murata can do what Lacy couldn't, and can rebuild his career? We'll find out on July 12th when Murata gets his rematch with Brant in Osaka, as the headline bout of a big Japanese card!
When Murata turned professional, originally with Top Rank in the US and Misako and Teiken in Japan, he did so with a lot of fanfare and attention. He made his debut in 2013, stopping the then Japanese OPBF Middleweight champion Akio Shibata, with that win following incredible amateur success, including an Olympic gold medal and a World Amateur silver medal. His amateur pedigree and professional debut seemed to put him on the fast track to the top, though unfortunately he didn't really shine as many had hoped. As a professional he looked good, strong, but never great. He looked effective, but basic, only showing glimpses of brilliance.
Sadly for Murata he would never really replicate his amateur success in the professional ranks. He would never develop beyond being a strong but basic fighter. He had thudding power in each hand, a great chin, good stamina and applied solid pressure, as we saw in both of his bouts with Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam. Sadly though he would never develop the tools to use a plan B. He never looked quick or sharp, just always consistent, basic and thudding. It was enough to win his bouts against his earlier foes, and yes we all know he was robbed in the first bout N'Dam, but against Brant he was too slow and seemed like he was made to order for Brant.
Brant had entered the first bout with Murata as the mandatory challenger, but someone who was given little chance. He was, seemingly, the latest in a long line of boxing's undeserving mandatory challengers. He had done nothing to earn a shot and had lost, just 12 months earlier, to Juergen Braehmer in what was a pretty clear defeat to the German veteran. What few expected was for Brant to look like a totally different fighter to the one who had froze on the big stage against Braehmer. Against Murata he looked like a perpetual punching machine, a tireless bundle of energy, who set an insane work rate, threw an average of 105 punches a round, neutralising Murata with work rate. He out landed the Japanese fighter round after round.
Officially in their first bout Brant landed 356 punches, to Murata's 180, though watching the fighting it seemed like there was an even bigger difference between the two men.
Although Brant had gone into the bout as the under-dog he had dominated Murata and went on to successfully defend the belt this past February, when he stopped the previously unbeaten Khasan Baysangurov. That bout saw Brant show a bit more venom on his shots, dropping Baysangurov in rounds 2 and 11 to force a TKO win. He hadn't become a puncher, but had seemingly just added a bit more to his game after winning the title, and looked like a solid, if still under-rated, Middleweight.
Sadly for Murata it's hard to see how he can do anything to change the outcome from the first bout. He was too slow, too open, too basic, fought too 1-paced and showed so little hunger and variation. For him to beat Brant would take one of 3 things. Either he hands a freak 1-punch KO, shocking Brant. He gets Brant to freeze, shocked by the atmosphere, and takes the win due to Brant not adapting to being in Japan. He totally reinvents himself at the age of 33, and has some how remodelled his entire style in just 9 months.
The odds on any of those 3 things happening are slim, and we really can't see how Murata avenges his loss here. He looked lost, and we expected the same again, with perhaps a late mercy stoppage if he takes clean and repeated head shots in the championship rounds, as he did in their first bout.
Prediction TKO12 Brant
The Light Flyweight division has, over the last few years, been one of the best divisions in the sport. It has given us clash after clash between top fighters, with champions rarely picking picking easy defenses, and with fighters delivering top action at a high skill level. Among the division's finest for the last few years has been Japan's Kenshiro (15-0, 8), the current WBC champion and one of the standout fighters on the Japanese scene and of the most rounded Light Flyweights on the planet. On July 12th Kenshiro makes his next defense, as he takes on mandatory challenger Jonathan Taconing (28-3-1, 22), who is getting his third shot at a world title.
The 27 year old Kenshiro is a second generation fighter, following in the huge footsteps of Hisashi Teraji, a former Japanese Middleweight and OPBF Light Heavyweight champion. He was tipped as one to watch as soon as he turned professional, and quickly raced through the rankings, unifying the JBC, OPBF and WBC Youth titles in a little over 2 years of his debut. In just his 10th bout he claimed the WBC title, dethroning Mexican veteran Ganigan Lopez, and has already racked up 5 defenses of the belt.
As the WBC champion Kenshiro has proven himself an excellent fighter, whilst scoring wins against the likes of Pedro Guevara, Milan Melindo, Saul Juarez and Lopez, in a rematch with the veteran. Not only has he been beating really good fighters but he's been showing different things in every fight. That has been shown by the way he dominated Melindo with his jab and took out Lopez in their rematch with a body shot, stopping two good veterans in the process. Their are still question marks about his power, his chin and how he copes with intense pressure, but so far has done little other than impress and improve to become one of the true divisional stars.
Filipino fighter Jonathan Taconing has been one of the division's forgotten contenders in recent years, and at 32 is now entering what is likely his final world title shot. He's been a professional for more than 12 years and has, unfortunately, been one of the card carrying members of the "who needs him?" club for much of that time, with fighters knowing what he is, and knowing he's not worth the risk. Early in his career he suffered a could of set backs, a narrow loss to Joe Galamition and a technical draw with Erwin Picardal. Since then he has gone 21-2 (17) with both losses coming in world title bouts, one of which was a very controversial one in Thailand whilst the other was to the aforementioned Ganigan Lopez in Mexico.
Taconing is a herd hitting and teak tough southpaw slugger. He's technically not the smoothest, or the quickest or the most rounded, but he's a nightmare to fight due to his physicality, and he can really bully people. His southpaw stance makes him double awkward with his shots, which are unorthodox anyway, coming from really unusual angles. He can certainly be out boxed, as Lopez showed, but it will take a fighter with a disciplined game plan to out box him. He can, potentially, be out fought, but it really would take a very special fighter to do that, and someone who could not only take his shots but also hit him hard enough to get his respect. Something that is easier said than done.
Sadly for Taconing we expect to see his technical flaws be the different here, and for Kenshiro to box smartly, stay on his toes and simple out box, out skill and out speed the dangerous challenger. If he does that it's hard to see anything but a Kenshiro win, though one where there is always the potential for danger. Taconing will have the power to turn things around, though we don't see him landing accurately enough or clean enough to make the most of his brutal power against one of the division's best fighters.
Prediction UD12 Kenshiro
The WBC world title picture at Bantamweight is a series mess with the body having one of their more confusing title pictures, with a world champion, and interim champion and a silver champion. The title scene really is a mess due to issues caused in 2018 by Mexican fighter Luis Nery, who failed a drug test and subsequently failed to make weight. Despite his issues Nery is actually the #1 ranked and current Silver champion.
Rather than going into detail about Nery, and his various issues, it's worth noting that him and Takuma Inoue, the interim champion, are both vying for a future world title fight, likely later in the year. They do however have to wait, and next up for the main title will be the first defense of unbeaten French champion Nordine Oubaali (15-0, 11), who takes on Filipino challenger Arthur Villanueva (32-3-1, 18) on July 6th. The bout isn't the most interesting, given the talent in the division and the long line of WBC challengers, but it's a notable bout headlining an MTK card in Kazakhstan, and certainly deserves some real attention.
The unbeaten champion, a French fighter with Morocan heritage, was an outstanding amateur competing at 2 Olympics and 3 world amateur championships. Although his best result was "only" a bronze medal, at the 2007 World Championships in Chicago, he was clearly talented and that showed in his consistency and success in the World Series Boxing, where he fought for the Paris United Franchise. That experience in the amateurs and WSB saw Oubaali turn professional with some pretty lofty expectations 2014 and since then the southpaw has impressed picking up minor titles before claiming the WBC belt last year.
As a fighter Oubaali is a talented southpaw boxer-puncher with excellent skills and solid punching power. He turned professional in 2014 and was kept busy early on in his career against mostly limited opponents, but in 2016 he stopped both Iran Diaz, who later went the distance with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, and Julio Cesar Miranda, a former world champion from Mexico. Those wins put him on the map before he added stoppages against very tough Mexican veteran Alejandro Hernandez, skilled Filipino Mark Anthony Geraldo and tough Colombian Luis Melendez. Most recently he defeated Rau'shee Warren, over 12 rounds, for the WBC title back in January. Notably that bout in January is his only contest in the last 12 months. With a number of good wins he is really one of the top, and most under-rated, Bantamweights out there, with a resume comparable to better recognised fighters at the weight, like Zolani Tete, Emmanuel Rodriguez and Ryan Burnett, and would have been a good addition to the WBSS.
The Filipino challenger was once regarded as a bright hope, though has sadly failed to live up to the expectations on his shoulders. He began his career with 28 straight wins whilst working his way up the world rankings. In 2015 he would then face McJoe Arroyo in a bout for the IBF Super Flyweight title, losing a technical decision in what was a truly stinking bout. He was much more competitive than the score cards suggested, though in reality neither man did much of anything in a truly disappointing match up that never clicked. Since then Villanueva has gone 5-2-1 (4), and not looked particularly good, even in his wins.
At his best he was a methodical fighter, a thinking mans fighter, with good timing, patience and counter punching. He was a chess player in the ring, but unfortunately his skills haven't shown themselves at the top level, and losses to not only Arroyo but also Zolani Tete and Luis Nery, who he dropped before being stopped by, have shown he's a level beneath world class. He's a very capable fighter, but no world beater, and unfortunately fighters will need to be world beaters to beat Oubaali.
We're expecting Villanueva to put up a good effort early on, though as the fight goes on Oubaali's class, clean punching and accuracy will be the difference and by the middle rounds Villanueva will be getting broken down, before being stopped in the second half of the fight.
Prediction - Oubaali TKO9
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On June 19, at the Makuhari Messe arena in Japan, a national hero returns home, as Kazuto Ioka goes one on one with Aston Palicte for the vacant WBO Super Flyweight World Championship.
Kazuto Ioka (23-2 / 13 KOs) is without a doubt one of the best Japanese boxers of the last decade. He proved his worth quite early, back in his amateur days, amassing an impressive record of 95 wins in 105 bouts, including two All Japan championships, two Inter-High School titles and four National Sports Festival honors.
Turned pro in 2009, he showcased his amateur pedigree as he dispatched world title contender Takashi Kunishige, in just his third fight. Ioka then went on to win the vacant Japanese Light Flyweight title after he TKOed Masayoshi Segawa, only 18 months after his debut.
On February of 2011, Ioka’s first major test arrived when he challenged the unbeaten Kittipong Jaigrajang (35-0 at the time) for the WBC Strawweight World championship. Jaigrajang was champion for 4 years and had 6 title defenses under his belt. The Japanese hopeful went toe to toe with the veteran Thai champion, even knocking him down as early as in the second round and then once more in the fifth, with a lethal left body blow, sealing the deal and becoming the world champion at only 21 years of age. Ioka defended his championship twice the same year, against Juan Hernandez Navarrete and Veerawut Yuthimitr.
On June 20 of 2012, he was involved in a unification bout with the WBA champion and fellow rising Japanese star, Akira Yaegashi. Their careers shared many similarities. Yaegashi was also an accomplished amateur, with a record of 56-14, and had also won the National Sports Festival, back in 2002. Both men brought their A game that night, knowing what was at stake. An epic back and forth affair, that brought the fans to their feet, ended with Ioka earning the unanimous decision and leaving Osaka with two world championships.
Having conquered the Strawweight division, Ioka decided to move up a weight class and faced Jose Alfredo Rodriguez for the vacant WBA Light Flyweight World title (Regular version). Rodriguez was the former interim WBA champion, with 28 wins and only 1 decision loss. The Japanese prodigy systematically picked him apart with body shots and hooks, dropping him thrice, for the win as well as for his second divisional world title reign.
Ioka enjoyed another long run with the belt, marking 3 successful defenses over Phissanu Chimsunthom, former world champion Ekkawit Songnui and Felix Alvarado (current IBF Light Flyweight World Champion). Since the Roman Gonzalez fight never took place (WBA Super champion) Ioka vacated his title and debuted in the Flyweight division, where he tasted defeat for the first time as a pro, as he failed to capture the IBF title from Amnat Ruenroeng, in a very evenly contested bout. Ironically, Ioka had lost again to Amnat in the past, back in their amateur days, when they met at the semi-finals of the 2008 King's Cup, an annual boxing tournament held in Thailand.
The 2 division world champion came back even more determined, beating Pablo Carrillo and knocking out former interim world champion Jean Piero Perez with a thunderous right straight, within the span of three months, thus earning another opportunity at a Flyweight World Title, this time against the WBA Regular champion, Juan Carlos Reveco. After 12 action packed rounds, the Japanese superstar finally became a 3 division champion. Since the fight was very close on the judges’ scorecards, a rematch was set on New Year’s Eve of 2015. As usual, Ioka’s body work was the key factor, stopping Reveco in the eleventh round, in what otherwise was once again a close call.
As WBA Flyweight World champion, he made five successful title defenses, over the likes of Roberto Domingo Sosa, Juan Carlos Reveco (as mentioned above), Keyvin Lara, Yutthana Kaensa and Nare Yianleang. His toughest one had to be against Kaensa. The interim WBA champion, with a perfect record of 16-0, shocked everyone when he knocked Ioka down, with a fast right counter hook, in the second round. Ioka had never been dropped before in his pro career. Kaensa kept the pressure on for the majority of the fight, giving the champion a bigger challenge than he expected. The tables turned however as Ioka put the Thai boxer down with a liver shot in the seventh round and proceeded to finish him off by punishing his body even further.
His sixth defense was scheduled to take place on December 31st of 2017 but due to getting married and reportedly falling out with his father and promoter, Kazunori Ioka, he chose to retire and vacate his belt.
Almost 17 months later, Ioka returned to active competition, this time at Super Flyweight and with a new goal in mind: to become a 4 division world champion. He immediately challenged McWilliams Arroyo for the WBC Silver Super Flyweight title. Arroyo, much like Ioka, also had an extensive amateur career, winning the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games, the 2007 Pan American Games and the 2009 AIBA World Boxing Championships, including victories over 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Yan Bartelemí and 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist Nyambayaryn Togstsogt. With no signs of ring-rust, the former multiple time world champion took control of the fight from the opening round and never let up. After 10 rounds and one knockdown in the third, the Japanese superstar was back on track. It’s worth mentioning that this was Ioka’s first fight in the U.S. as well as his first fight outside of Japan, as a pro.
Controversy struck on December 31st of last year, when he met fellow 3 division champion Donnie Nietes for the vacant WBO Super Flyweight title. After 12 rounds of incredible action, the (split) decision was given to the Filipino fighter, while most fans who watched the match, believed Ioka should have been the victor that night. With Nietes vacating the belt, Ioka gets a second chance to claim that was supposed to be his, but he first has to go through another boxer from the Philippines.
Aston Palicte (25-2-1 / 21 KOs) despite being around almost the same amount of time as Ioka, and even though he has more fights as a pro, a deeper look at his competition suggests that he’s not yet at the same level. He is however a very fast fighter, who knows how to throw good combinations and move around the ring with grace. Palicte likes to keep his distance, creating space with jabs, and then strike with the right. Most of his victories are a result of this strategy. His biggest one thus far has been against former interim WBA Light Flyweight World champion Jose Alfredo Rodriguez in 2017, which was basically a one sided affair. It’s worth mentioning that he also throws strong uppercuts.
On the other hand, he tends to receive a lot of hits throughout his matches, while he finds himself in trouble when his opponent gets too close, which was the case in his encounter with Nietes. The fight itself was declared a draw, but Nietes was the one that landed and connected with way more punches as well as the more accurate ones. Now Palicte has earned himself another opportunity at the gold, after he stopped Jose Martinez (20-0 at the time), to become the #1 contender for the WBO title.
It’s safe to assume Ioka is the clear favorite in this one. Considering that he’s an expert at closing the distance and punishing the body, Palicte will have a tough time defending against him, or even putting any significant offense of his own. This might not end with a KO, as the Filipino is quite resilient, but in case that it does, it will be in the later rounds, probably after the 8th.
One of the biggest rivalries in world boxing is the under-rated Japan Vs Thailand rivalry. It's not as widely reported at the Puerto Rico Vs Mexico rivalry but it's as good as we get to Asia's answer, and has given us some historic battles over the years including the likes of Joichiro Tatsuyoshi Vs Sirimongkol Singwancha.
On June 19th we see the next chapter in that rivalry as WBA "Super" and Ring magazine Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (12-0, 9) defends his titles against Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-0, 5), aka Tanawat Nakooon. For Kyoguchi this will be his first defense of the two titles he won in December, when he stopped Hekkie Budler, whilst Satanmuanglek will be taking a huge step up for his first world title fight.
The Japanese fighter was a notable amateur before he turned professional just over 3 years ago with the Watanabe Gym in Tokyo. He was raced to his first title, the OPBF Minimumweight title,after less than 11 months, and would take the IBF Minimumweight title just 15 months after his debut. It was the quickest rise of any Japanese fighter to their first world title. He would add to his title collection last December, when he became a 2-weight champion, in just his 12th professional bout, and became the first man to stop South African Hekkie Budler. Whilst that's not quite as a impressive as Kosei Tanaka or Naoya Inoue its still an incredibly impressive feat from the baby faced 25 year old.
Despite having been a profession for just over 3 years Kyoguchi has a strong resume, with wins over Jose Argumedo, Carlos Buitrago and Hekkie Budler being the best of them. Through his career he has shown an exciting pressure style, backed with good boxing skills, decent defense and aggressive footwork. His uses a fantastic heavy jab to close the distance and when up close he goes to town with spiteful uppercuts and ripping body shots. The combinations, pressure and power will be far too much for many opponents, and it's clear that it will take a very special fighter to dethrone the rising Japanese star.
Satanmuanglek, unlike Kyoguchi, wasn't an amateur standout. Instead he was a Muay Thai star, fighting as Satanmuanglek Numpornthep, and really shone in the art of 8 limbs. It was due to his Muay Thai experience that there was real excitement when he turned his hand to professional boxing 2017. Sadly his early career as a boxer was uninspired with wins against the usual array of over-mathced Indonesian and Filipino journeyman, such as Silem Serang, Maktison Marganti and Geboi Mansalayao. He did step up his level of competition last year, scoring a career best win over Marco John Rementizo, though he was pushed all the way in that bout showing that he still had a lot of work to do before being ready for a world title fight.
In the ring Satanmuanglek is a physically strong southpaw who has a nice jab, and decent speed. On the front foot he's solid, with a nice variety of shots and he does apply consistent, smart pressure whilst breaking opponents down with accurate heavy shots. Sadly for him things are very different on the back foot and when forced backwards, as he was against Rementizo, he looks like a very different fighter, with defensive flaws showing through regularly. Also when forced on to the back foot his work rate drops and his punches look like he is reaching to land, rather than punching through the target.
Given how vicious and intelligent and incessant Kyoguchi's pressure is, and the real issues Satanmuanglek had with Rementizo it's hard to see anything but a successful defense for the Japanese fighter. Satanmuanglek is tough, he proved that in his Muay Thai career, but we really struggle to see him putting up with the body shots of Kyoguchi. We think they will be the cause of his pain, and will cause the bout to be concluded before the championship rounds.
Prediction - Kyoguchi TKO7
This coming Saturday we'll see WBA Flyweight champion Artem Dalakian (18-0, 13) make a mandatory defense of his title as he takes on Thai foe Dennapa Kiatniwat (20-1, 15)*, aka Sarawut Thawornkham, in Kiev, Ukraine. On paper this looks interesting, but in reality the paper only tells us part of the story. For example the bout will be the Thai's first world title fight, it will be a huge step up in class and his second bout outside of Thailand, whilst Dalakian will be seeking his third defense of the WBA title and comes into the bout riding a huge wave of confidence following 3 impressive wins in 2018.
So lets look at the men involved.
The 31 year old Dalakian is an Azeri born Ukrainian who had a notable amateur career, and competed at the 2009 World Amateur Champions, pushing future world champion Amnat Ruenroeng all the way. He would later turn professional in 2011 and has gone unbeaten since then. Although unbeaten since he became a professional it wasn't until 2018 that he really got any attention from the boxing world. That was a year where he was given a chance, and defeat Brian Viloria to become the WBA Flyweight champion, doing so in the US. Since then he has notched up defenses against Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep and Gregorio Lebron. Prior to beating Viloria there was little on his record, with wins over veteran Silvio Olteanu and a then inexperienced Angel Moreno being the only wins of any note.
In the ring Dalakian is a talented boxer-puncher. He's not the most talented boxer in the division, or the hard hitter, but he combines his boxing and power excellently, with long reach, an awkward style, and good consistent aggression. He's not going to wipe world class opponents out, but he's going to be a nightmare for anyone with his strength and size being real problems. He's also tough, though was hurt at times by Viloira, strong and a fighter who looks really hard to beat. It's also worth noting he's well backed, and there's only a handful of fighters who will be able to afford home advantage against him.
Kiatniwat is real obscurity for those who don't follow the Asian scene in depth, and the reality is that those who do follow him will be aware he doesn't belong in a world title fight. He lost on his debut, being stopped by Masato Morisaki in May 2014, but has reeled off 20* straight wins since then. That sounds impressive, but the best of his wins have been against the likes of Tommy Seran, Crison Omayao and Michael Camelion. To put those into some context, Omayao is a blown Minimumweight, who Naoya Inoue beat on his debut, Michael Camelion was blasted in 33 seconds by Hiroto Kyoguchi back in 2016 and Tommy Seran has won just 1 of his last 9 bouts.
From the footage that's available the Thai does look pretty good offensively, having a nice body attack, some short punching up close and a good jab. He fights out of the southpaw stance and does look solid, though given his competition he is very unproven and it's hard to say whether his power really can carry up. Defensively there are more worried and he has been tagged by fighters much less skilled than Dalakanian, and can often be seen with a very low lead right hand.
We suspect most see this as a mismatch in favour of Dalakian, and if we're being honest we don't see anything but a Dalakian win. Although we strongly favour Dalakian we do however expect to see Dennapa asking some questions of Dalakian, with the Thai's body shots and southpaw stance posing a few issues. We're going to suggest that Dennapa actually give Dalakian toughest fight to date, but suffers a late stoppage to the Ukrainian.
Prediction - Dalakian TKO10
*There are some questions over Kiatniwat's real record with at least 1 bout of his beign televised but not being listed on boxrec.com
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On May 26, Sho Kimura aims to become a 2 division king as he faces the undefeated Carlos Canizales for the WBA (Regular) Light Flyweight World championship, in Fuzhou, China.
Sho Kimura (18-2 / 11 KOs) despite suffering a KO loss on his pro debut, he quickly bounced back, amassing 12 wins within 3 years, as well as the WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title after a heated battle with Masahiro Sakamoto (13-2).
In 2017, Kimura’s biggest test took place in China when he challenged the WBO Flyweight World champion Shiming Zou (9-2). A 2 time Olympic champion & 3 times AIBA World champion, the Chinese fighter held victories over fellow accomplished amateur boxers and future World title holders like Nordine Oubaali, Amnat Ruenroeng and Rau'shee Warren. Kimura, who was coming in as the underdog and was even fighting the champion in his own country, weakened his opponent with body shots throughout the match and eventually delivered a lethal combination during the 11th round, connecting almost a dozen times with Zou’s head, to put a stop to their encounter and to win the big one.
Kimura made his triumphant return to Japan, on December of the same year, defending against the former WBC, The Ring and Lineal Flyweight World champion Toshiyuki Igarashi (23-3). Unbeaten close to 5 years, Igarashi was overwhelmed early on in the fight by Sho’s aggressive style, suffering a lot of damage, while offering almost no offense of his own. The action picked up in the later rounds, as both men started swinging for the fences, bringing the fans to their feet. Finally the end came in the 9th after he landed a straight right hand, stunning the challenger, sending him back to a corner and finishing him off with a flurry of punches. It’s worth mentioning that neither Zou nor Igarashi had ever been stopped before in their careers.
After dispatching Froilan Saludar (30-3) for an easy second title defense, Kimura lost a majority decision to now 3 division World champion Kosei Tanaka (13-0) in what was considered the best Japanese fight of 2018. 6 months later, he came back against Wicha Phulaikhao (60-11), showing no signs of ring rust, completely dominating the Thai veteran and even dropping him thrice with uppercuts in the 3rd round, earning his 11th stoppage victory and setting his sights on a second World title reign.
Carlos Canizales (21-0 / 17 KOs) made his debut in 2014, winning 19 fights in a row, all transpiring in his home country of Venezuela. After a close encounter with the WBA (Super) Light Flyweight World champion Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4), which ended in a draw, he received another shot, this time at the vacant Regular title, against Reiya Konishi (17-1) in March of last year. The Japanese champion was also undefeated at the time with 15 victories under his belt. Canizales once again found himself in a tough contest, going back and forth, but was more in control than in his previous bout, scoring also a knockdown in the 3rd round and eventually earning a unanimous decision and of course the strap.
“Triple C” met accomplished amateur star & AIBA Youth World champion Lu Bin for his inaugural WBA title defense. This was the Chinese fighter’s second only match as a pro. Canizales outclassed Bin, throwing and landing way more punches, sealing the deal in the last round after he floored him with a right straight.
Both Kimura and Canizales are action fighters. They like to throw more and hard, than less but accurate. Stylistically it’s a dream match. Even though this might go to deep waters, it wouldn’t be a surprise if we don’t need the judges in the end. Comparing the caliber of opponents they’ve faced, it’s clear that Kimura has gone up against better competition (for example: Shiming Zou – Olympic champion, Lu Bin – AIBA Youth champion) plus he knows how to work the body more efficiently than the Venezuelan. To conclude with, Kimura is most likely to leave China once again with the gold, but at the same time, there’s a reason Canizales is 21-0-1 in his professional career. Either way, their fight will certainly be a blast !
Earlier this year China saw it's baby faced punching machine Can Xu (16-2, 2) announce himself on the global stage with an upset win in the US over Jesus M Rojas, to become the WBA "regular" Featherweight champion. The win was a notable upset, especially given how bad Xu had looked on his US debut, and saw the feather fisted "Monster", don't ask, show off his fun style, his incredible toughness and his wonderful personality.
This coming weekend Xu heads back to a Chinese ring as he looks to make the first defense of his title, and unlike many who would take on an easy first defense he will actually go up against former WBA "regular" Super Bantamweight champion Shun Kubo (13-1, 9) in what is a really nice looking match up.
Xu, as we all saw against Rojas, is a tough, gutsy guy with an incredible work rate. His shots don't have much on them individually but the sheer number of punches he throws is incredible and he does wear people out mentally as well as physically. He combines an insane output with a gritty toughness, that we saw not only against Rojas but also against the likes of Spicy Matsushita, Nehomar Cermeno and Hurricane Futa, among others.
His combination of toughness and output has seen him winning his last 13 fights and becoming the new face of Chinese boxing. That's admittedly not a position that has given us a lot of big names, but puts him in a small group along with Xiang Zhao Zhong and Zou Shiming, as Chinese world champions and focal points in Chinese boxing history.
Xu isn't likely to be a big star world wide, despite his style, but for Chinese boxing he is a potential center point to build off over the coming years. He's only 25, he's promoted by China's bigger promoter Max Power Promotions, and could be finding himself as someone to inspire the next generation of fighters. The hope once was that Zou Shiming would do that, but he was too old when he turned professional and although interesting outside of the ring he wasn't fun to watch, his fighters didn't see a lot of punches aren't weren't exciting. Xu is fun, young, exciting and oozes natural charisma, which can appeal to local fans and international ones.
As previously mentioned Kubo is a former "regular" champion at 122lbs. Whilst he was fighting at Super Bantamweight he was regarded as a fast rising hopeful, and scored early career wins over the likes of Monico Laurente and Luis May before taking the OPBF title in 2015. In the eyes of many he was the new hope of the Shinsei gym, and winning the OPBF title in just his 9th fight showed that they were going to be pushing to be the replacement for Hozumi Hasegawa at the top of the Shinsei stable. Less than 18 months after his OPBF win he would defeat Nehomar Cermeno for the WBA "regular title", with Cemerno retiring between rounds 10 and 11. It's worth noting that Cermeno had won and defended his belt, twice, in China becoming a bit of a name there, so beating Cermeno would have got Kubo some attention in China.
Sadly Kubo's reign was short and he lost the belt less than 5 months later when he dominated by Danny Roman, who has now run up 4 defenses and unified the WBA and IBF titles suggesting that a lott to Roman isn't something to be ashamed by. Since losing the belt Kubo has scored a single win, moving up to Featherweight and narrowly out pointing Hiroshige Osawa. Sadly a planned follow up was cancelled late last year when Kubo was suffering issues with his sight, though he has receieved treatment and things are said to be sorted with his eyes now.
In the ring Kubo is a pretty basic fighter. He's gangly, long and has impressive size, and will have that at Featheweight, but doesn't do anything specially well. He has a solid enough jab and a decent left hook to the body but there is nothing that makes you think he's world class, other than his desire and will to win. In fact if anything he's shown a suspect chin, a lack of power and some naivety. Despite his flaws he does have success, his heart is incredible and he knows how to use his size. He's not only awkward in terms of reach and height but also due to being a southpaw and he does do a lot that's nice, as opposed to exceptional.
We think Kubo could ask questions of Xu, especially early on when he can land some body shots and is fresh enough to get his punches off. As the fight wears on however we expect to see Xu's pressure, work rate and aggression be the difference, and for the Chinese fighter to retain his title.
We're expecting Kubo to survive the distance, but wouldn't be hugely shocked by a late a stoppage for Xu, despite his reputation as a none-puncher.
Prediction Xu UD12
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.