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
Earlier this year we saw Azeri born Ukrainian fighter Artem Dalakian (16-0, 11) score a career defining win and claim the WBA Flyweight title, as he clearly out-pointed Brian Viloria. Whilst the win came against against a shadow of Viloria it did put Dalakian on the boxing map, especially given that the win came on one the second "Superfly" show in Inglewood, California. This coming weekend Dalakian returns to the ring to defend that title against his mandatory challenger Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep (50-3, 25), himself a former WBA “interim” champion.
Prior to his title win Dalakian was a bit of an unknown, though an unknown who had some solid power and had beaten some fringe fighters, like Silvio Olteanu. Against Viloria he proved he was a really solid boxer, with nice movement, good solid jab, unexpected speed and impressive size for a Flyweight. He didn't seem to be the toughest, and did look very wary of Viloria's power, but was too quick and too smart for the popular, but faded, Filipino.
Although he looked impressive against Viloria it's fair to say that Dalakian looked like a fighter who was being made to look better than he really is. Viloria was far too slow to punish Dalakian, he was unable to cut the distance, and was unable to really force Dalakian to fight. Instead Dalakian was allowed to use his jab, move and tie up on the few occasions that Viloria was close. It prevented Viloria from using his power and showed that there was a boxing to Dalakian. Admittedly he was also a frustrating fighter to watch at times, being a bit too cautious and even being a bit dirty, being deducted a point for pushing Viloria's head down, in what was a bit of a “6 of one, half a dozen of the other”.
Unbeaten, fighting at home and as a new champion Dalakian will come in to this bout riding a huge high and the 30 year old will know that big bouts could be around the corner if he can come out on top here. Fights against the likes of Ryoichi Taguchi, Andrew Selby, Paddy Barnes, or Kosei Tanaka are likely to be on the table if he can successfully defend his belt here, and are potentially good paying defenses if he's willing to travel.
Aged 27 it feels like Yodmongkol has been around the sport for a lot longer than he really has, though has managed to fit in an impressive 53 fights in just over 9 years. As with many Thai's his record is relatively inflated, focusing more on quantity rather than quality. Saying that however Yodmongkol does hold relatively notable wins against the likes of Jerry Tomogdan, Crison Omayao, Koki Eto and Takuya Kogawa, and even in his most recent loss, a 2014 defeat to Juan Carlos Reveco, he looked very decent before being stopped.
As a fighter Yodmongkol has a good work rate, with his win against Koki Eto proving that, good but not massive power, despite stopping 15 of his last 16 opponent, and pretty solid defensive and technical ability. Sadly where it comes apart is that he's perhaps not the toughest, as his stoppage to Reveco showed, he's not got the best work rate, with Kogawa seemingly out working him in their clash, and he has very little experience of fighting outside of Thailand, the loss to Reveco is the only time he has fought away from home.
Although Yodmongkol is better than many would assume, as is usually the case with Thai's who have got padded records, we don't see him coming out on top here. We suspect that Dalakian will be out to make a statement, will look to set a high tempo and will get to his man early on. Yodmongkol may have some moments with his counter punching, specifically to the body, but we don't see him lasting the distance with the champion.
This coming Saturday the little men of boxing take over Inglewood, California with a trio of world title bouts taking place in the Flyweight and Super Flyweight divisions. One of those bouts will feature veteran American-Filipino Brian Viloria (38-5-0-2, 23) take on little known Artem Dalakian (15-0, 11), a Ukrainian fighter who was born in Azerbaijan, for the WBA Flyweight title. For Viloria the bout could be a final bout at the top, and a chance to finish his long career as a champion, whilst Dalakian will be wanting to announce himself as a top tier fighter.
Viloria's professional career has been a genuine roller-coaster. He made his professional debut in 2001, after an outstanding amateur career that saw him become World Amateur Champion back in 1999 and competed at the 2000 Olympics. As a professional Viloria was fast tracked and in 2005 claimed the WBC world title by stopping Eric Ortiz inside a round. Sadly his first reign was a short one, lasting just 11 months, and just a single successful title defense, before he lost the belt to Omar Nino Romero. Viloria would claim the IBF title in 2009 by stopping Ulises Solis, to become a 2-time world champion, but again his reign was a short lived one and he lost the title the following year to Carlos Tamara. In 2011 we saw Viloria become a 3-time champion, as he beat Julio Cesar Miranda for the WBO Flyweight title, and had his best reign, stopping Giovani Segura, avenging a loss to Omar Nino Romero and unifying the WBA and WBO titles with a thrilling win over Hernan Marquez.
What has basically been the way with Viloria's career is success followed by a stumble, followed by more success and another stumble. It often seemed like Viloria was unable to decide what he was in the ring. Was he a boxer, or a puncher? He could certainly bang, but came up against fighters who could take his power and test his stamina, eventually out lasting him. If he boxed he'd have to be more cautious, but still preserve his stamina and not have too much wasted movement. Being lost between the two styles often cost him. Despite being excellent at both, he wasn't quite elite at either, and could be out punched or out boxed, and had stamina issue that were always going to be a problem in the later rounds. As he matured those issues continued to be with him, and at 37 it's hard to know just what he has left in the tank. If he was was in his prime he'd be very strongly favoured here, despite some inconsistent performances, but at 37, with almost 17 years of professional experience behind him, 333 rounds, and 45 fights....one must wonder what he has left.
Aged 30 Dalakian is a real unknown on the world stage. He was supposed to fight for the title last year, against Kazuto Ioka who retired from the sport after issues with his father and manager. The Ukrainian has had to wait for his eventual shot and will be coming into this bout following a lengthy lay off, having not fought since last April, and he has only fought 17 rounds in the last 24 months, a possible issue here. Saying that however he is a heavy handed fighter who has stopped his last 4 foes, and has only been taken 12 rounds so far. On one hand that says something about his competition, which has been “middling” at best with his most notable win being a TKO over the 38 year old Silvio Olteanu, but on the other he does hit hard and is not someone to trade with for long.
Footage of Dalakian shows a very big looking flyweight, who is confident in his power, his chin and his physicality. His defense looks questionable, with his hands often by his waist, but it looks to be a choice by design, rather than an out and out flaw,as he looks to entice opponents to open up on him and give him a chance to land his shots. The openness may cost him against a top tier opponent, but he looks like he's going to be a handful for anyone just through sheer physical attributes and power. In terms of skills they are there, but look rather raw in certain fights and that's a surprise given he was a decent amateur fighter himself, and managed to compete in several notable amateur competitions.
If Viloria was in his prime we would expect his power, his skills, and his accuracy to be too much for the slower, cruder and more open Dalakian. There would be a chance that Viloria would tire himself out with power shots and not manage to blast out the Ukrainian, but we'd favour Viloria. However we don't have a prime Viloria with us any more and we suspect Dalakian's power, and physicality will be too much for Viloria, who will be broken down and stopped in the middle rounds. This will be fun, but really just a send off for the Filipino-American veteran.
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.