The Bantamweight division is currently one of the most interesting, with a host of brilliant match ups to be made, a number that are already on the horizon. Bouts like Naoya Inoue Vs Nonitor Donaire and Nordine Oubaali Vs Takuma Inoue are both fantastic bouts, and with the likes of Zolani Tete, Luis Nery, Liborio Solis, Jason Moloney and Reymart Gaballo all looking for a big fight the division really is red hot.
This coming Saturday the divisional talent overflow is in action as the WBO "interim" champion John Riel Casimero (27-4, 18) defends his belt against Mexican challenger Cesar Ramirez (18-3, 11). Whilst Casimero is the "lesser" of the WBO champions, behind Tete, it's been almost a year since Tete has been in the ring and it's unclear when he will return. The winner of this bout will be waiting for Tete's return to the ring, though by then may have found themselves being upgraded by the WBO.
Casimero won the interim title earlier this year, when he scored a 12th round win over Ricardo Espinoza Franco to become a "3 weight world champion", adding this title to reigns at Light Flyweight and Flyweight. Although the win over Franco wasn't televised footage from it leaked online and it was an enthralling fight, with Casimero finally finishing off Franco in the final round of a bout that was incredibly close. That win was Casimero's second as a fully fledged Flyweight, following a February win over Japanese foe Kenya Yamashita, and in that bout Casimero looked sharp, dangerous and like he really meant business. At times though Casimero has looked uninterested, bored and like he's lacked motivation. When the motivation is there he's fantastic, but he really does need a fire under his ass.
Despite being a rather lazy and frustrating fighter at times Casimero is a real natural talent, and someone who has had to do things the hard way through much of his career. He gained a reputation as a road warrior, fighting in Nicaragua, Mexico, South Africa, Argentina, Panama, Thailand, China and the UK all in the space of 7 years. Not only was he on the road but he was also in with stiff competition, including Cesar Canchila, Moruti Mthalane, Luiz Alberto Lazarte, Pedro Guevara, Amnat Ruenroeng and Charlie Edwards. Not only he a road warrior, but he was a world class fighting, picking up several big wins on the road.
As a fighter Casimero is a clean hitting, sharp boxer-puncher. He's not the most destructive single puncher fighter out there, but he's got that razor sharp power, where he can bust people up with accurate clean shots. He has that solid power in both hands, and his power stays with him late into fights. He's skilled, has good ring IQ but is, as mentioned, lazy and somewhat under-sized for a Bantamweight, but at 30 is a fully grown man, unlike some of the youngsters breaking through the division.
Sadly it's less easy to say much about Ramirez, a man who has done nothing to be in a world title fight, even an interim one, and really will not be given much of a chance coming into this bout. The 31 year old Mexican challenger has been a professional since 2012 and has lacked a win of any real note. Despite that he has shared the ring with some pretty decent fighters, most notably Alejandro Gonzalez Jr and Ryan Burnett, who both clearly beat Ramirez, with Gonzalez stopping him in 6 and Burnett almost shutting him out over 10 rounds.
When looking through Ramirez's record for a win of some kind of note we really struggle, with the best being last year's 12th round TKO over Eliseo Velez. Sadly that sort of says it all, about Ramirez, who has not done anything at all to deserve a shot, with most of his wins so far coming against fighters with losing records.
Although not a total scrub it's still fair to say that Ramirez shouldn't be in a world title fight and will be little more than target practice for Casimero. The Filipino does deserve some easier bouts at home, given all of his big road bouts, but this is a rather pathetic first defense of the interim title. He will have things all his own way, chipping away at Ramirez until the time comes for the referee to save the challenger.
Prediction TKO7 - Casimero
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 May 18, at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, 2 World champions meet in the second round of the Bantamweight WBSS tournament, as the WBA (Regular) champion Naoya Inoue goes one on one with the IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez, with both titles on the line, as well as the vacant Ring Magazine championship.
Naoya Inoue (17-0/15 KOs) is considered to be one of the best boxers that have come out of Japan. His power, agility and precision have brought him immense success, while he is already ranked in the top 10 (P4P) list by The Ring, ESPN, the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and others.
Before becoming a pro, he had a relatively short but rather accomplished amateur career, amassing 75 victories in 81 outings, with 48 of them being stoppages. Naoya won numerous (inter) high school tournaments, earned the gold at the 2011 Indonesia Presidential Cup and became the All Japan Light Flyweight champion, the same year. He also placed high at the Asian & World championships.
In 2012, the Monster finally made his pro debut and quickly made himself a guy to look out for. After going 3-0 in less than a year, he was set to face Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4) for the Japanese Light Flyweight title. Taguchi, at 18-1, not only was he the more experienced of the two, but he was also a world ranked fighter. Inoue displayed much aggressiveness, taking control of the fight from the opening round. We saw a lot of his body work at display, which became one of his biggest weapons as his career progressed. After 10 rounds of action, the youngster took a clear unanimous decision win (one of only the two times a fight of his has gone the distance) and the belt. Taguchi eventually went on to become the WBA, IBF & The Ring Light Flyweight World champion.
Just 4 months later, he fought Jerson Mancio (18-6) for the vacant OPBF Light Flyweight title. Naoya’s offense was too fast for the Filipino. He weakened his opponent with body shots, before the referee was forced to stop the fight in the 5th as Mancio was getting repeatedly tagged.
It wasn’t long after that Inoue received his first world title shot against Adrian Hernandez (30-5) on April of 2014. The 2 time WBC Light Flyweight World champion had marked 4 successful title defenses coming into this one. Both strong body punchers, Hernandez seemed to be gaining ground in the 4th round but Naoya quickly bounced back with some heavy shots of his own. It was an even match until the 6th when the Japanese Monster dropped El Confesor with a lighting fast right hook, who despite getting up, refused to continue. As a result, Inoue was declared the World champion at 21 years of age, in only his 6th professional bout.
Inoue defended the WBC title only once against Wittawas Basapean (34-9), before moving 2 weight classes up and within the same year, he challenged Omar Andres Narvaez (48-3) for the WBO Super Flyweight World championship. Narvaez, a 1999 Pan American Games winner, enjoyed a 7 year reign with the WBO Flyweight World title (16 defenses) prior to winning the Super Flyweight strap, which he had held for 4 years at the time (11 defenses). This was meant to be the Japanese fighter’s toughest test yet. Instead, it turned out to be one of his most dominant performances, as he dropped the veteran 4 times in just 2 rounds, sealing the deal with the liver shot, to become a 2 division World champion. That was the sole KO loss in Narvaez’s career.
The Monster remained champion for 3.5 years, reaching an impressive number of 7 title defenses. Warlito Parrenas (26-9), Karoon Jarupianlerd (42-9), Ricardo Rodriguez (16-7) and Antonio Nieves (18-2) were easy work for him, as neither of them was close to his level. David Carmona (21-6) did better, simply because Naoya injured his right hand during the match. Still, he managed to outclass his opponent, even put him down in the last round, earning his second and last decision victory. Yoan Boyeaux (41-6), another promising challenger, was on a 31 fight winning streak (close to 5 years unbeaten) and with 26 KOs under his belt. This also ended up being a one sided beatdown, with Inoue scoring 4 knockdowns in less than 8 minutes.
His best challenge was against the 2 time WBA Super Flyweight World champion Kohei Kono (33-12) on December of 2016. Kono came out strong in the beginning, connecting with some good punches, surprising Inoue for a while. Before you know it, this was turned into a wild brawl with both men bringing the heat and exciting the fans. All that changed in the 6th when Naoya landed a perfect left hook that floored the former champ and proceeded to finish him off a couple of seconds later, putting an end to this thrilling encounter.
In 2018, Inoue decided to enter the Bantamweight ranks and immediately challenged the WBA (Regular) title holder Jamie McDonnell (29-3). The Yorkshire native hadn’t suffered a single loss in a decade (22 fights). A former British, Commonwealth, European & IBF Bantamweight World champion, McDonnell was his best opponent since Narvaez. The Monster, true to his nickname, overwhelmed the champ with powerful shots, dropping him in the very 1st round. McDonnell managed to stand up again, but found himself trapped against the ropes as Naoya delivered a lethal flurry to get the KO. After the fight, the Japanese superstar announced his participation at the Bantamweight WBSS and in October he was matched against the former WBA (Super) World champion Juan Carlos Payano (21-2). In what was voted as one of the best knockouts of 2018, Inoue nailed him with a straight right and put his lights out, in just 70 seconds into the fight. Both McDonnell & Payano had never been stopped in their entire career.
Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0), the reigning IBF Bantamweight World champion, unlike his Japanese foe, had quite an extensive run as an amateur. His most noteworthy accolades took place in 2010, when he won the gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games and the silver at the Youth World Championships. Amongst his 182 bouts (171 victories), he owned wins over the likes of AIBA Youth World & Central American and Caribbean Games champion Jonathan Gonzalez (22-2) as well as the current WBO Light Flyweight World titlist Angel Acosta (20-1).
As a pro, he mostly fought in his home country of Puerto Rico against local competition. In 2015, he KOed world title contender Luis Hinojosa (31-16), with a stunning right cross, in the 3rd round. He also picked up 2 decisions over former challengers such as David Quijano (16-7) and Alberto Guevara (27-4).
Rodriguez fought the former IBF Bantamweight World champion Paul Butler (28-2) for the same vacant title, on May of 2018. Butler was on a 9 fight winning streak since losing the belt. The Mexican fighter knocked him down twice in the opening round, once with the right and then with the left hook. Rodriguez continued to control the pace until the end, thus winning a wide decision and was declared the new World champion.
His 1st defense took place in October, against the WBA Oceania & Commonwealth champion Jason Moloney (18-1), as part of the WBSS. The Australian was undefeated at 17-0 when he entered the tournament. Much like Naoya Inoue, Manny utilized some excellent body work that, in the long run, won him the fight. Moloney started to put on a better offense half way through, giving the champ some trouble, especially in the closing rounds. When the final bell rang, Rodriguez was awarded a split decision to advance to the semi finals.
It’s obvious that Rodriguez has the better amateur pedigree than most of Inoue’s opponents, but he hasn’t faced the same caliber of competition as a pro. Moreover, both of his world championship fights has gone the distance and he hasn’t finished anyone since 2017. On the other hand, Naoya has been on a path of destruction, knocking out top contenders and champions alike, for 5 years straight (minus 1 match). It’s seemingly impossible to stop him at this point of his career, especially after the dominant 2018 he had. Considering that in his last 2 fights he spent a total of 3 minutes in the ring, it will be a surprise if Manny makes it past the 5th round.
The WBSS semi-finals finally kick off this coming weekend, and in regards to Asian boxing we'll get the first of the two Bantamweight semi-final bouts, as WBA "super" champion Nonito Donaire (39-5, 25) takes on WBO king Zolani Tete (28-3, 21). The winner will not only unify the titles but also advance to the WBSS Bantamweight final, later in the year, where they will face either Naoya Inoue or Emmanuel Rodriguez.
Whilst the WBSS has stalled losing it's shine shine and momentum this year, the competition is still something that has got fan interest and this bout certainly looks to be one of the most interesting of the tournament so far. It pits established names against each other, both men who are in their 30's, both of whom will know that winning the WBSS tournament will be the biggest achievement of their career. It gives both the chance to not only unify two titles with this bout, but also add the IBF title in the final, and really stamp their mark on the Bantamweight division.
The 36 year old Donaire is a modern day legend. He has not only been one of the most genuine, classy and likable fighters in the sport, but also a lower weight superstar. Since shocking Vic Darchinyan back in 2007 for the IBF Flyweight we have seen Donaire as one of the faces of the lower weight classes. Over the last decade or so he has scored notable wins over a real who's who, including Moruti Mthalane, Hernan Marquez, Fernando Montiel, Omar Andres Narvaez, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr, Toshiaki Nishioka, Jorge Arce, Simpiwe Vetyeka and most recently Ryan Burnett. Whilst the level of performance varied it's hard to doubt the level of wins Donaire has picked up.
Despite a host of big wins Donaire has picked up losses in recent years, losing 4 of his last 12 bouts. Those losses have however come to world class fighters Guillermo Rigondeaux, Nicholas Walters, Jessie Magdaleno and Carl Frampton. Those losses have shown that Donaire, at times, wasn't a master boxer, wasn't lightening quick and was event fighting above his best weight. Despite those issues he was always a very dangerous puncher, with one of the most devastatings hooks in the sport.
In the ring Donaire isn't as quick or as sharp as he once was, but he is a strong, powerful, skilled fighter. If he boxes at 118lbs he won't have the sharpness to hold his own, but if he applies an intelligent pressure style, he will be able to impose his will on most opponents. Although Ryan Burnett made him look slow in their bout last year Donaire's pressure was having success and we suspect to see that type of game plan from him again here.
Donaire's opponent is 31 year old South African Zolani Tete, a rangy, tall and skilled fighter who really is a phsyical freak at 118lbs. Like many top South African fighters it took a long time for Tete to get much international attention, that's despite fighting for a world title way back in 2010, when he lost to Moruti Mthalane. Tete would in fact go 3-2 following his first loss, losing razor thin decisions to Jaun Alberto Rosas and Roberto Domingo Sosa, both on the road. Since those 3 losses he has won 12 in a row, become a 2-weight champion and finally got some respect as a top fighter.
The recent winning run of Tete has seen him defeat Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr, Teiru Kinoshita, who he beat for the IBF Super Flyweight title, Paul Butler, Arthur Villanueva, Siboniso Gonya, Omar Andrez Narvaez and Mikhail Aloyan. Against Butler he looked sensational, against Gonya he looked destructive, but those bouts aside he has left himself open to criticism, as lack a killer instinct, and being too happy at winning, rather than wanting to win and look good. There's been a bit of a "fighting in third gear" feel about his recent showings, and they have seen him look less than great.
Despite not looking amazing Tete is a quick, sharp fighter, with solid power, a great judge of distance, accurate punches and good movement. He lacks a real spitefulness to his work, in general, but is a hugely skilled fighter who has the sort of size rarely seen at Bantamweight. He's very tall and very long.
Coming in to this we're expecting a pretty clear stylistic match up. Tete will look to use his reach, his speed and his jab, he will look to keep Donaire at range and rack up the rounds. Donaire on the other hand might begin as a boxer but will revert to being a pressure fighter as the bout goes on, bringing the heat and looking to beat down Tete with heavy leather.
We can see both men winning. We can clearly see Tete putting on a boxing class, fighting safely and racking up the early rounds before cruising to a closer than it should be decision. We can also see Donaire's vicious power and physicality breaking down Tete in the middle rounds.
We'd love to see a Donaire win, and we'd obviously love a Donaire Vs Inoue final, but it would be an upset for him to do it at his age. Instead we're going with a Tete decision win, with the South African staying sharp, on his toes and alert of the danger Donaire brings. He'll not put on a show, but he will get the win.
Preduction UD12 Tete.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On December 30, live on Fuji Television, Takuma Inoue takes on undefeated Thai boxer Petch Sor Chitpattana for the Interim WBC Bantamweight World Championship.
Takuma Inoue (12-0 / 3 KOs) is the younger brother of Japanese multi-time World champion, Naoya Inoue. He took up boxing at a very young age, after watching his sibling compete. During his amateur days, he won several tournaments, including the National Sports Festival in 2011 at Minimumweight, which is considered to be Japan’s premier sporting event. Takuma also placed second in 2012 at Light Flyweight, losing only to future 3 division World champion Kosei Tanaka. His record stood at 52-5.
Showing much promise as an amateur, Takuma made his pro debut in 2013, when he was barely 18 years old. His first opponent was future WBO Minimumweight World Champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6). Even though he was outmatched, Inoue managed to pull off the upset and get the unanimous decision over the much more experienced boxer. That was his one and only pro fight in the light flyweight division.
He immediately jumped to flyweight, facing a worthy foe in Teeraphong Utaida (37-6). Neither the fact that he moved up a weight class nor that he transitioned from 6 to 8 rounds, scared the young Japanese prodigy. Once again, Takuma proved he is a force to be reckoned with, going the distance and earning yet another victory. After knocking out a debuting Chalerm Kotala, Inoue outclassed world title challenger Nestor Daniel Narvaes (20-3) at super flyweight, despite that being just his fourth fight.
Takuma’s sound skills and technique, earned him his first championship when he fought Mark Anthony Geraldo (35-9), for the vacant OPBF Super Flyweight crown, in 2015. At the time, Inoue was only 19 years old! Before the year was over, he marked his inaugural defense over Rene Dacquel (20-8). For this outstanding year, Takuma was named the “2015 Prospect of the Year” by the Ring magazine.
In 2016, Takuma beat Filipino stand out Froilan Saludar (28-3) at the Sky Arena in Japan, before “graduating” to bantamweight. Saludar managed to drop him early in the first but Inoue returned the favor in the later rounds. The Japanese fighter was set to face Marlon Tapales (31-2) for the WBO Bantamweight World Title on December of the same year. Unfortunately, bad luck stroke Inoue as he fractured his hand in training, thus withdrawing from his one and only world title fight to date.
Inoue made his return on August of 2017, in an epic war with 4-time world title contender Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18). Both men went back and forth for 10 rounds, exchanging shots and stealing the show. Takuma remained unbeaten and proved that he was back and stronger than ever. Since then, he has defeated former Japanese champion Kentaro Masuda (27-9), Indonesian journeyman Waldo Sabu (13-13) and OPBF champion Mark John Yap (29-13), in a WBC eliminator, earning himself another opportunity at the big one.
Tasana Salapat (48-0 / 33 KOs) also known as Petch Sor Chitpattana, is the man that stands between Takuma and the World championship. The former May Thai fighter and 7 year young veteran has made a name for himself in Thailand by knocking people out in impressive fashion. However, a deeper look at his record is enough to let anyone realize that Salapat has never been in the ring with anyone significant. Many of his opponents are either with losing records or debuting, while the majority has almost an equal number of wins and loses. This doesn’t negate the fact that he is a skilled boxer. He does throw fast combinations has tremendous cardio and possesses a mean left, but without having seen him against a world class foe, it’s not easy to say for sure how good he truly is. On the other hand, Takuma has been facing top level competition his entire career. Inoue might not be the KO artist his Thai rival is, but he definitely has the experience factor, considering his amateur and pro pedigree.
The real question is, have Salapat’s 48 fights prepared him for his biggest challenge to date or will he crumble under the pressure when he steps into the ring with one of Japan’s brightest prospects ? Tune in on Fuji TV to find out !
This coming Saturday we find out who will be the fourth of the World Boxing Super Series Bantamweight Semi-Finalists, as unbeaten Northern Irish fighter Ryan Burnett (19-0, 9) takes on Filipino icon Nonito Donaire (38-5, 24) in the final bout of the quarter final stage. Not only is the bout a WBSS bout, to decide who faces Zolani Tete in the next round of the competition, but it will also see Burnett defending his WBA "Super" Bantamweight title, in what will be his second defense of the title.
Of the two fighters Donaire is the more well known, and in fact he is one of the few lower weight fighters who has made a mark across the globe. He's well known in his native Philippines, he's fought much of his career in North America, often fighting Latin Americans and has also managed one to fight in Europe, losing to the popular Carl Frampton last time out. Whilst he is very well known he is unfortunately a faded star, and he actually turns 36 in just a few weeks time. He's not a young 36 either, having been a professional since 2001 and fighting at world level pretty consistently since his 2007 upset win over Vic Darchinyan. Donaire has also been matched against a veritable who's who from Flyweight to Featherweight, sharing the ring with the likes of Darchinyan, Moruti Mthalane, Hernan Marquez, Fenando Montiel, Omar Andres Narvaez, Toshiaki Nishioka, Jorge Arce, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Nicholas Walters and Carl Frampton, just to name a few. His career has seen him rise from a fresh faced young Flyweight champion to a Featherweight champion as a veteran.
In the ring Donaire is a fighter who has been blessed with brutal power, a good ring IQ and solid boxing fundamentals. Sadly in his prime he wasn't the most active and often seemed to be the type of fighter who looked to land the perfect punch, even when he moved up in weight his power was devastating, though his activity never really impressed and at times he could be made to look very predictable by defensively minded fighters, with the older, smaller Narvaez making him look 1 paced and Rigondeaux making him look clumsy. Now, in his mid 30's, he's lost some speed, his mobility isn't what it once was and with his low work rate doesn't allow him to chip away at opponents. He also has a huge question mark over his ability to safely make Bantamweight, and what he will have left in him when he gets in the ring. That's a major issue given he hasn't made the weight in over 7 years!
At 26 years old Burnett is one of the youngest fighters in the Bantamweight WBSS and is also one of the more accomplished from the young bunch, having won the IBF title in June 2017 and unifying it with the WBA "Super" title just a few months later. Sadly mandatory obligations for the WBA and IBF saw him vacating the IBF title, which is now held by fellow WBSS competitor Emmanuel Rodriguez. Not only is he an accomplished fighter but Burnett is a former amateur standout who has a fantastic boxing brain, a good engine and a brilliant awareness in the ring. He's slippery, awkward, sharp and a great mover. Sadly however Burnett does lack power and has gone the distance in his last 8 bouts, whilst showing little killer instinct and no real interest in hunting a stoppage. One wonders whether he has that extra gear and spitefulness that he'll need to win the WBSS, or whether he's simply too nice and lacks the teeth to get past the likes of Naoya Inoue and Zolani Tete. Despite the criticism few can doubt his ability and wins over the likes of Jason Booth, Lee Haskins, Zhant Zhakiyanov and Yonfrez Parejo really do prove that.
The key for the champion here is to out manoeuvre, the Filipino veteran. Burnett has the speed to make this look very easy, as long as he can avoid the power of the Filipino. Donaire will however be dangerous through out the bout, and if the Filipino has made weight without harming himself too much that power will be as devastating as ever, if he can land a perfect counter. Burnett is the naturally smaller man, giving away notable height and reach to the Filipino, but his edge in speed, activity and youth should be enough for him to take home the win, and retain his title whilst moving on to the next round of the WBSS.
We'd love to see one more great performance from Donaire, who has been a key figure in the lower weights for a decade. The reality however is that his great career is coming to an end, and although he might have one great performance in him we don't think that'll come here against a man who could make the Filipino look very old if he wishes. Donaire's toughness should keep him in the bout, and his power will always make him dangerous, but we see him losing a very lopsided decision to the baby faced Burnett.
This coming Sunday we see the Bantamweight version of the World Boxing Super Series kick off, with Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (16-0, 14) facing off with former world champion Carlos Payano (20-1, 9) in the inaugural bout. Not only will it kick off the next weight at the WBSS but it will also serve as Inoue's first defense of the WBA “regular” Bantamweight title, a belt that he won earlier this year when he blitzed Jamie McDonnell.
The tournament, which features Inoue and Payano, alongside Ryan Burnett, Zolani Tete, Emmanuel Rodriguez, Jason Moloney, Nonito Donaire and Mikhail Aloyan, is expected to see 3 titles unified and have global interest. The weight is the lowest to be featured in the WBSS and is expected to give the Bantamweight division the spotlight it deserve, and a spotlight that had previous been shone on the Cruiserweight division, helping Oleksandr Usyk become a major name.
In Japan “Monster” Inoue is already a massive star. He's not only one of the most significant men in Japanese boxing but is popularity is up there with the biggest names in Japanese sport in general. The young sensation was hyped ahead of his debut, with promoter Hideyuki Ohashi proudly telling the boxing world how good Inoue was, and the fighter has since delivered, proving elite level prospects don't need to be matched softly. Within just 16 fights, and 92 rounds, he has already notched up wins against Ryoichi Taguchi, Adrian Hernandez, Omar Andres Narvaez, Kohei Kono and Jamie McDonnell. In scoring those 16 wins he has claimed the Japanese, OPBF and WBC titles at Light Flyweight, the WBO title at Super Flyweight and the WBA regular title at Bantamweight.
In the ring there is very little Inoue can't do. He's lighting quick, very physically strong for such a big man, scarily heavy handed, brilliant at cutting the ring off and improve all the time. Early in his career there was some defensive issues, sometimes he dropped his concentration and there was a little bit of over-confidence but that now seems to have vanished and he's about as perfect of an offensive machine we currently have in professional boxing. There are still some defensive things to work on, but he's not as defensively naive as he once was, and when he chooses to box on the move there are few fighters with the skills or speed to connect on him.
At 34 years old American based Dominican fighter Juan Carlos Payano is pretty much in last chance saloon. A loss to Inoue likely spells the end of his hopes of becoming a 2-time champion. He is however a pretty notable fighter in his own right. As an amateur he is a 2-time Olympian, fighting in both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, a 2-time World Amateur Championship competitor, competing in 2005 and 2009. As a professional he is a former WBA “super” champion at Bantamweight, and has notable wins over Anselmo Moreno and Rau'shee Warren to his name at world level. Sadly though he would lose the WBA belt to Warren in a rematch and since then scored 3 relatively low key wins, including one over Filipino prospect Mike Plania who dropped Payano back in March.
At his best Payano was a pretty good fighter, you don't beat Moreno and Warren without being good, but there was fortune in both of those wins. The victory over Payano came from a technical decision, which many watching seemed to feel went the wrong way, whilst the win over Warren was a messy foul-fest with multiple deductions and saw Payano being dropped in the final round. Given those wins were several years ago now and he's 34 years old he's a long way removed from his prime. Despite being such a good amateur he's sloppy, wild and doesn't have much power on his shots.
The southpaw stance of Payano is expected to be the biggest issue for Inoue, but is something he's been working hard on in preparation for this contest. The Japanese fighter should be too quick, too sharp, too powerful and too intense for Payano. Inoue might take a shot or two whilst cutting the distance but it's hard to see anyway in which Payano survives with the Monster, never mind upsets the star from Kanagawa. Inoue by stoppage seems almost a foregone conclusion as he looks to add the WBSS' Muhammad Ali trophy to his collection of professional crowns.
This coming Friday the boxing world will turn it's attention to the Ota City General Gymnasium as Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (15-0, 13) attempts to become a 3-weight world champion and claim the WBA “regular” Bantamweight title. In the opposite corner to the “Monster” will be defending champion Jamie McDonnell (29-2-1-1, 13) of the UK in what looks likely to be a bout not only for the title, but also for a place as a seeded fighter in the upcoming World Boxing Super Series (WBSS).
The champion will be making his 7th defense of the WBA title, and is currently enjoying his second reign as a world champion after having previously held the IBF Bantamweight title. As for the challenger he will be looking to claim a world title at Bantamweight having previously held the WBC Light Flyweight and WBO Super Flyweight titles.
Of the two men the pressure is really on Inoue to shine, and build on his reputation as the rising figure head of the Japanese boxing scene. He was tipped for the top from his days in the amateur ranks and rose quickly as a professional. He would win the Japanese Light Flyweight title in his 4th bout with a decision win over Ryoichi Taguchi and the OPBF title just a bout later as he stopped Jerson Mancio. Whilst those performance caught the eye of many hardcore fans it was his 2014 win over Adrian Hernandez that helped Inoue make his mark on the sport.
Inoue would only defend the Light Flyweight title once before moving up in weight, completely skipping the Flyweight division to decimate Omar Andres Narvaez for the WBO Super Flyweight title, stopping Narvaez in 2 rounds. As the WBO Super Flyweight champion Inoue would defend the title 7 times, scoring notable wins over Warlito Parrenas, David Carmona, Kohei Kono and even made his US debut with a win over Antonio Nieves.
In the ring Inoue is an offensively minded boxer-puncher. He's blessed with frightening power, as 13 stoppages in 15 bouts at the lower weights shows, bewildering speed and an incredibly high boxing IQ. He's flawed, and has been seen to turn off at times in fights, but like many sensational fighters there is an aura about him that screams he's in total control, even when he's on the back foot. In fact Inoue on the back-foot is really under-rated, and he can be just as brutally destructive with his counters and shots on the back foot. Not only that but he is arguably the best body puncher in the sport today, and against taller fighters, like McDonnell, that is a brilliant weapon in Inoue's arsenal.
The champion is a 2-time Bantamweight champion, as mentioned earlier, and at 32 years old is potentially on the slide physically. Despite being on the slide McDonnell is a physical freak for a Bantamweight standing at 5'10" and with a huge 72" wingspan. He's a fighter who has began to show cracks at the weight but was ½ under the limit last time out and has been under, rather than on, the Bantamweight limit in 6 of his last 7 bouts. Not only is he a physical freak in terms of stature but also energy and he has one of the most incredible engines of any fighter in the sport. He seems to get stronger the longer bouts go on, and despite being a slow starter is a real nightmare in the later stages of a fight. That stamina and his size makes him a real problem from range where he can keep up a busy output and handcuff opponents.
McDonnell started his career with out much hype and was 8-2-1 (2) after 11 bouts with losses to the recently deceased Chris Edwards and Lee Haskins, who would later go on to defeat Ryosuke Iwasa for the IBF Bantamweight title. From then however McDonnell has gone 21-0-0-1 (11) and claimed notable wins against Stuart Hall, Julio Ceja, Tomoki Kameda, twice, and Liborio Solis. He has looked really impressive at times, such as his second win over Kameda, but also rather poor at times, such as in the first Kameda fight and first bout with Liborio Solis. In those bouts he showed he can be out fought, he can be hurt and he can be beat, even if McDonnell picked up the wins in both bouts.
At his very best McDonnell could be a nightmare for any Bantamweight, just due to his size and stamina. He seems to put on his best performances when facing his best opponents and will know that this is bout against a special talent. Sadly for McDonnell he is going up against a special talent, and Inoue, we believe, will know that McDonnell has struggled to make weight, had been inactive and has a long torso to attack. The Inoue body attack is devastating and we think that it will be the key here. Although moving up in weight Inoue is still expected to carry dynamite in his shots, and we suspect we'll see that dynamite in action with the “Monster” taking out the Englishman in 7 or 8 rounds.
Last August we saw the long WBC Bantamweight reign of Shinsuke Yamanaka (27-1-2, 19) come to an end. By that point he had held the title for over 2100 days, or close to 6 years. During that time he had gone from obscure Japanese fighter, best known for his thrilling Japanese title fight with Ryosuke Iwasa, to a man listed in many pound-for-pound lists and a man with 12 world title defenses. He was dethroned by Mexican youngster Luis Nery (25-0, 19), who impressed by stopping Yamanaka in 4 rounds in Kyoto. The performance was a coming out event for Nery, though one that would later have a cloud hanging over it due to a failed drugs test by the Mexican.
This coming Thursday the two men meet again. For Nery it's a chance to prove that he is the better fighter, and that the drugs were incidental to his winning performance, for Yamanaka it's a chance to avenge his sole defeat and become a 2-time champion. For fans around the world it's an opportunity to see two world class Bantamweights go at it again, live on NTV.
Aged 35 Yamanaka is an old fighter, especially for the lower weights. On the whole he has avoided damaging bouts, but as he's gotten older the damage has accumulated and he's started to show more and more cracks in his chin and his reactions aren't what they once were. In his pre-prime days he was involved in the aforementioned thriller with Iwasa and it wasn't really until his 2014 clash with Suriyan Sor Rungvisai that anyone really ran him close. Sadly following the bout with Suriyan we seemed to have seen a faded Yamanaka, who narrowly over-came Anselmo Moreno in their first bout, was dropped twice by Liborio Solis in 2016 and dropped by Moreno in their second bout.
Although Yamanaka was never a technical wizard he was a solid boxer, with an extremely potent left hand. The power of left led to the nickname “God's Left” and whilst that power is still very devastating there is a feeling that age has really caught up with him. His footwork, which was once his best tool to set up the power shots, is slowing and his defense wasn't ever a strong suit. He may still have one great last performance in the bag, though it may well be that that last hurrah was his stoppage win over Moreno in 2016.
At just 23 the future is amazingly bright for Nery, who has become a big star in his homeland. The Mexican is a flawed but exciting and aggressive fighter. He brings a lot of pressure and is surprisingly quick with his hands, which are double a problem given that he too is a southpaw, and he is a high volume puncher who really loves letting his punches go. Although explosive and physically imposing Nery does have questions over his own chin, and he was dropped last time out by the accurate but relatively light punching Arthur Villanueva. Given his style he makes the most of his youthful energy, though some questions should be asked about his stamina, and he has only done 24 rounds in his last 6 bouts combined with only 1 career bout going beyond 9 rounds.
Although flawed there is a real feeling that Nery has the style to always trouble Yamanaka. Even a prime Yamanaka didn't like incessant pressure, this was shown against Iwasa and more recently against Suriyan and Solis. There is a chance that Nery's chin wouldn't hold up to a perfect left hand from Yamanaka, though with the Mexican being busy, young and quick, he will feel confident of swarming Yamanaka, cramping him of space and working away on the inside. Where Nery perhaps is at a big disadvantage is his natural size, and he does seem like a fighter who struggles to comfortably make 118lbs, with 2 of his recent bouts taking place above the divisional limit. If he's struggling he may just cause himself enough issues to take away the edges he has.
We suspect this bout will be similar to the first. Yamanaka will have some success when he's got the bout at range, making the most of Nery's slower feet, but the Mexican will gradually get closer, and will begin to break down the Japanese veteran, eventually stopping Yamanaka, and retiring him. There is a chance Yamanaka will land a trademark thunderbolt left hand, but that's all he has, a puncher's chance.
Unification bouts are rare in boxing, though thankfully their rareness comes with the feeling that every one of them that we do get is that little bit special. That's arguably the case this coming Saturday as the WBA and IBF Bantamweight titles get unified in Belfast. Going into that bout as champions will be Kazakh brawler Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-1, 18) and Northern Irish slickster Ryan Burnett (17-0, 9), with Zhakiyanov entering as the WBA champion and Burnett at the IBF king.
Aged 33, and soon to be 34, the Kazakh is really at the point in his career where a loss could well be the end of his career, at least at the top level. That's ignoring the fact that he has actually only just arrived on the world stage, winning his WBA title last time out in a split decision win over Rau-shee Warren in the US. Had the decision gone against him, there's a good chance that Zhakiyanov would have joined the “who needs him?” club and not been able to get a second shot at a world title.
Amazingly for Zhakiyanov his reign was rather lucky, and in his win he was dropped twice, in the opening round by Warren. A smarter fighter than Warren would have jumped on Zhakiyanov in round 2 and closed the show, but the American took his foot off the gas and let the Kazakh regroup, before he out hustled and out-worked the American to earn the decision. That bout proved that Zhakiyanov can over-come real adversity but also showed his limitations and it was clear that he really was a fighter with only one plan, and that pressure.
Although a pressure fighter at heart Zhakiyanov does have very solid power, as shown back in 2014 with his KO of the Year contender against Karim Guerfi. Sadly though he's slow of foot and his punches are certainly not the most technically correct or the fastest. As a results he can be out boxed.
Whilst Zahkiyanov is a pressure fighter Burnett is a pure boxer, and a very talented, slick one at that. He can box on the front foot, or the back foot, and although he's not the most aggressive or exciting of fighters he is one of those natural talents who looks so composed and at ease in the ring that boxing looks second nature to him. He moves wonderfully around the ring and controls distance brilliantly, especially on the back foot where his boxing brain really does shine. Although he can fight on the front foot he does look a lot more effective on the back foot.
Burnett has long been championed as a star for British boxing and at times has shown incredible skills. Whilst those skills are impressive he has also shown a lot of frustrating traits. He's note more than 2 years removed from his last stoppage and his lack of killer instinct has been really annoying, especially given that he has dropped a number of fighters but never gone for the kill, instead racking up unnecessary rounds and potentially boring fans, when he should be using those skills to shine.
Whilst Burnett is incredibly frustrating for fans he's also a nightmare to face, and stylistically Zhankiyanov is made to order. The pressure of the Kazakh will allow Burnett to tee-off on him and make him look stupid. There is a chance that Zhakiyanov will have some moments but the reality is that the movement of Burnett will simply be too much for him, and the sharp shots will take their toll. It's up to Burnett as to whether he'll want to up the pace and seek a stoppage late,but it's hard to see anything but a win for the Northern Irishman.
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.