The first of three world title bouts on New Year's Eve this year will see IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (8-0, 6) [京口 紘人] defending his title against talented Nicaraguan Carlos Buitrago (30-2-1-1, 17). For Kyoguchi the bout will be his first defense whilst Buitrago will be looking to claim a world title fight, following a trio of previous set backs in Asia. The bout could, potentially, set the stage for a very interesting 2018 at Light Flyweight, with 3 titles being fought for on this show, and will certainly help move the division forward whilst also giving fans a very exciting stylistic match up.
The talented Kyoguchi was a former amateur stand out before making his debut in April 2016. By the end of the year he had raced out to 5-0 (5) and looked like a force to be reckoned with, thanks to his ultra aggressive pressure style, his heavy hands and his bob and weave style. That style took him to OPBF glory in February this year, when he stopped veteran Armando de la Cruz, and later helped him record his first defense, with a 12 round decision over Jonathan Refugio, who spent much of the bout in survival mode.
The win over Refugio did, to some extent, expose Kyoguchi as not being as destructive as he originally looked, but left no one questioning his stamina, aggression or ability to come on strong. Early on Refugio had had success, but had taken a lot during those early stages to stay away in the middle rounds and essentially do little more than survive late on, whilst Kyoguchi pressed forward. That defense was followed by another 12 round victory for Kyoguchi, who out pointed the teak tough Jose Argumedo in a relatively frustrating and sloppy affair, that saw neither man shine despite Kyoguchi claiming the IBF title with the win.
With a pair of 12 now under his belt the exciting man from the Watanabe gym now looks to get back to his destructive best and get his first defense as he takes on the talented visitor. To win he will need to show a much more disciplined performance than he did last time. He will need to be fully aware of the Nicaraguan's slippery skills, smart movement and ability to box at range. Kyoguchi will have to use the intelligent pressure that worked so well early in his career and unleash the devastating combinations and body shots that convinced his team to push him to a world title fight after just 15 months as a professional.
Aged 26 Buitrago has long been tipped as the the successor to Roman Gonzalez as the face of Nicaraguan boxing. He debuted aged 16, way back in 2008 and went 27-0-0-1 (16) before getting is first world title fight, in November 2013. During that run Buitrago had beaten the likes of Yader Escobar and Julian Yedras and had scored wins in Mexico and the US whilst developing a reputation as a special fighter in the gym. He was a fluid, gorgeous to watch boxer, with under rated power, smart movement and lovely hand speed with an excellent sharp jab and nice variety to his shots.
It was in November 2013 that Buitrago would get his first world title fight, and would fight to a draw in the Philippines against the then WBO champion Merlito Sabillo, with many feeling the Nicaraguan had been robbed of the win and the title. Despite the set back Buitrago remained a leading contender and just a fight later he took on Knockout CP Freshmart in a bout for the interim WBA Minimumweight title, losing a controversial decision to the Thai. A third shot would come just a couple of fights later, when he got a rematch with Knockout, and fought to a wide decision loss in a very lacklustre performance.
Since his second loss to Knockout we've not really seen anything from Buitrago to suggest he's a top fight any more. He scored a quick blow out over Roger Collado in May 2016 and an 8 round decision over Noe Medina back in October 2016, meaning he's been out of the ring for 14 months coming into this bout! It's also worth noting that his last recorded weight was 111¾lbs, well above the Minimumweight limit, and he has been rumoured to be struggling to get down to 105lbs for this bout.
At his best, if Buitrago can be at his best, he could be a real nightmare for Kyoguchi with his jab, movement, toughness and boxing brain. Sadly though all signs are that Buitrago isn't going to be at his best. He has been inactive, he's said to be struggling with weight and given his performance in the second bout with Knockout you have to wonder whether he has either outgrown the division or just isn't going to become the fighter we had all hoped. If Buitrago is anything short of his best Kyoguchi will likely steam roll him with pressure, combinations and body breaking shots to the midsection. If Buitrago is at his best then there is a chance he'll take the title back home with him, with a decision, but we're expecting to see an off Buitrago getting dragged into a war, and being broken down in the middle rounds by the vicious Kyoguchi.
Over the coming week Thai fans will get a couple of notable rematches on the fringes of world level. The first of those comes on Thursday when the unbeaten Knockout CP Freshmart (11-0, 6) [น็อคเอาท์ ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท] faces the excellent Nicaraguan Carlos Buitrago (28-1-1-1, 16) in a bout for the WBA “regular” Minimumweight title.
These two men met back in October 2014 in a very hotly contest bout that Knockout won, via unanimous decision. That bout was Kncokout's coming out party in many ways and although he failed to shine he did get the all important win whilst Buitrago was left feeling heart broken by the judges, for the second time following a draw with Merlito Sabillo the previous year.
Since their first meeting neither has been hugely active. Buitrago has fought just once, beating Mario Rodriguez last March, whilst Knockout has fought twice, beating Muhammad Rachman and Alexis Diaz.
Of those bouts Buitrago did look highly impressive beating Rodriguez, dropping the Mexican twice and securing a 10 round decision win. For Knockout the win over Rachman was relatively straight forward, but he did get taken 12 rounds, whilst the win over Diaz was essentially a 1-sided beat down after a competitive opening round. That Diaz bout showed how good Knockout can be, though also said a lot about Diaz's limitations.
In the ring Buitrago really is a joy to watch with his boxing and combinations being a key to his offensive work. He is regarded as a protégé of the sensational Roman Gonzalez and whilst he's not as good as Gonzalez he is just as fun to watch with very fluid punches, a lovely arsenal of punches, real spite, excellent movement and wonderful speed. He has shown very few faults and, with a more powerful team behind him, he could very easily have an unbeaten record right now, and a world title.
Sadly for Buitrago his promoter doesn't have the power to drag champions away from home and whilst that has seen Buitrago collect stamps on his passport, with bouts in the US, Mexico, Philippines and Thailand, it has also cost him in his two most notable bouts.
Whilst Buitrago is a beautiful to watch boxer the same cannot be said for Knockout, however that's not to say it's not enjoyable to see Knockout in the ring. He's more of a boxer-puncher, with an aggressive mentality and a come-forth style that can look fundamentally flawed but is hard to avoid. He's defensively tight, heavy handed and the sort of fighter who looks like he will walk through hell fire to land his shots, if he needs to. He's slower, and smaller, than Buitrago but is the more physically imposing and of course has home advantage, a big advantage in Thailand.
Prior to becoming a boxer Knockout was a standout Muay Thai fighter, a triple crown winner and one of the best active fighters in the sport. His style as a boxer is more fluid than that of many Muay Thai fighters who turn over to Western boxing, but there are fundamental flaws in what he does at times and he often seems to struggle transitioning from defense to offense.
When the two men get in to the ring this coming Thursday we're expecting a very close bout, and again we're expecting to see the judges play a key role. Unfortunately for Buitrago we suspect those will again side with the home fighter who will likely take another very close decision in a bout that is more intense than their first meeting. Unfortunately for Buitrago we see not only the travelling being an issue but also the inactivity with just 10 rounds in the last 16 months. That type of inactivity will likely cost Buitrago some of his ring sharpness and allow Knockout a better start than he had last time out.
The Minimumweight division has been one of the sports most over-looked divisions. Although it's been over-looked it has often provided fantastic action with one of the best fights this year, the Katsunari Takayama/Francisco Rodriguez Jr fight, taking place at 105lbs.
Whilst there have been some great fights in the division this year it's been a terrible year for Asian fighters. We've seen Merlito Sabillo lose the WBO title, to Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Takayama lose the IBF title, also to Rodriguez Jr, and Xiong Zhao Zhong lose the WBC title to Osvaldo Novoa. To say it's been a nightmare division for Asian fighters this year is to merely state the obvious.
The next man looking to stop the rot is unbeaten Thai novice Knockout CP Freshmart (8-0, 5) who will be attempting to claim the WBA interim Minimumweight title when he takes on the very highly regarded Carlos Buitrago (27-0-1-1, 16) of Nicaragua.
For those who recognise Buitrago's name the odds are you know of, or even saw, his fantastic fight with Filipino fighter Merlito Sabillo, who was then the WBO Minimumweight champion. That performance, in the eyes of many, announced Buitrago on to the world scene and it was clear that he was a highly skilled offensively minded fighter with real potential to a lower-weight star. We'd certainly not suggest he's the next Roman Gonzalez but he does look like one of the most sure fire future world champions in the sport.
The Nicaraguan has lovely, smooth combinations, an aggressive mentality and with 29 professional fights under his belt he is experienced. Not only has he fought Sabillo, in the Philippines, but he has also fought in the USA and Mexico and scored wins over notable foes like Jorle Estrada, Gabriel Mendoza, Yader Escobar and Julian Yedras
As for the Thai he's best known for his name, which we admit is one of the best in the sport. Sadly for Knockout his name is probably more notable than his talent and although unbeaten he hasn't yet scored any really notable wins, at least not as a boxer. In fact in his 8 fights the most notable opponents he has faced have been Filipino's such as Cris Alfante, a 10 round decision, and Jonathan Refugio, a 5th round stoppage, and in neither of those bouts did he look ready to fight a world title fight. He looked promising but not promising enough to be rushed into a world title fight, even an interim one.
What we think has happened is that Knockout's team have too much belief in their man and are trying to show that belief by gambling his unbeaten record against a fellow young and promising fighter. Sometimes that sort of gamble works and a fighter announces themselves on he world stage. Sometimes that gamble back fires and the fighter gets knocked down the pecking order. We suspect that Knockout is going to be biting off more than he can chew here and although he'll put up a great effort, and he'll have home advantage, we suspect he'll come up short against one of the best young fighters in the division.
Although it's a huge ask for Knockout we do know that he will have a lot of support with the bout taking place in the new Buriram Raceway which should hold a lot of passionate Thai's all cheering on their man. Whether that will be enough to get their man the win or not is a big question though hopefully they'll manage to do their best to energise the Thai who will need all the help he can get.
(Image courtesy of our friends at the excellent Thairec.com)
Filipino boxing fans are amongst the best in the world. Of course it's easy to support the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire, two global stars of the sport, but the Pinoy's seem to turn up en mass to watch any of their promising fighters.
One man who has recently gone from being an unknown to a fan favourite in the Philippines is Merlito Sabillo (23-0, 12). Less than a year ago Sabillo was a complete unknown who's most notable result had been a stoppage of Jonathan Refugio for the OPBF Minimumweight title. Now however he is the WBO world champion at 105lbs and a man hunting his second defense of that crown.
Sabillo, unlikely many, had to do things the hard way. He had to travel away from home to take the WBO "interim" title with a victory over Luis De La Rosa over in front of a hostile crowd in Colombia.
Since claiming the title Sabillo has defended it once stopping Jorle Estrada in what was Sabillo's first ever fight in Metro Manila, a place that he returns to this coming Saturday as he battles fellow unbeaten Carlos Buitrago (27-0-0-1, 16).
For years Buitrago has been viewed as the spiritual successor to Roman Gonzalez as Nicaragua's new wonder kid. He has been sparring with top fighters for years and looked every bit of a future world champion. Aged 21 however he is still a baby in terms of boxing and although he has 28 fights on his ledger he has yet to fight in Asia and is also yet to face a world level opponent, two things he will be experiencing for the first time here.
From watching Buitrago he's always appeared to be a very talented young man. He lacks the destructiveness of Gonzalez he has got stinging power that can really shake fighters when he lands cleanly. We're not sure how that will carry up to the world stage but it's certainly something that he'll believe in. What impresses us so much about Buitrago is actually his understanding inside the ring. He uses the jab excellently, moves well, controls the distance well and has a very varied arsenal.
Not only is Buitrago's attack varied but it also looks very fluid. His jab coming forward is excellent, his counter left hook is sharp, his uppercuts are snappy and his straight looks like it could be very potent.
Although we're big fans of Buitrago, as we are of any talented fighter, we do think this fight is too early for him as Sabillo is a man who really impresses us.
The Filipino champion has proven to be tough, talented and a fighter who is becoming more and more confident in his own power. This self belief has seen Sabillo stopping his last 5 opponent after stopping just 7 of his first 18 foes. The best part of Sabillo's stoppages however has been the fact they've been so varied. He stopped De La Rosa with shots upstairs before taking out Estrada with a vicious body shot.
Going in to this bout it's the body shots of Sabillo that we think will be the telling shots. Sure the Filipino southpaw will take a fair few shots from Buitrago as he tries to land them but when he manages to connect with them it'll seem like a man against a boy with Buitrago slowly coming undone in the second half of the fight.
Thankfully, for those who remember watching Sabillo's fight with Estrada, this should genuine be a much more enjoyable contest than Sabillo's first defense which was unexciting to say the least due to the negativity of the challenger who didn't seem to have any self belief. With Buitrago bringing an unbeaten record with him he won't be looking to just roll over and as a result this should be a genuinely entertaining scrap and one of the genuine highlights of "Pinoy Pride XXIII"
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.