The current era of Japanese youngsters is brilliant, and there is no doubting that we are witnessing a golden age of Japanese boxing with so much young talent in the country. Among the most impressive of those fighters is WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (15-0, 15), who has a perfect KO record and is quickly proving himself as one of the most destructive fighters in the sport. This coming Sunday Higa will be returning to the ring as he hunts his third defense of the title, and takes on Nicaraguan challenger Cristofer Rosales (26-3, 17) in Kanagawa. Not only will it be Higa's 3rd defense, but another stoppage win will see him take the #1 spot on the Japanese all time record for most consecutive KO's. For Rosales it will be a chance to become a world champion, and follow in the footsteps of other great Nicaraguan's like Roman Gonzalez and Alexis Arguello.
Higa's rise has been one of the best in Japan. Unlike Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka, who were both amazing amateur's, Higa's rise has been somewhat unexpected but truly fantastic. Having made his debut in the summer of 2014 Higa was a bit an unknown until his 2015 win over Kongfah CP Freshmart in Thailand. Since then he has made statement, after statement, stopping Ardin Diale in 4 rounds for the OPBF Flyweight title, blasting out Juan Hernandez in 6 rounds for the WBC title and recently stopping Moises Fuentes inside a round.
In the ring Higa is a little monster. He's a busy, accurate, hard hitting pressure fighter who brings the pressure from the off, has an under-rated jab and throws beautifully vicious combinations and body shots. Offensively the champion is a machine, and looks similar in style to a prime Roman Gonzalez, with his pressure, footwork and destructive combinations. Defensively however he's a bit flawed. He can be caught, he be out manoeuvred and he has been caught once or twice early in a fight. He's not shown any issues with his chin, and does take few shots clean, but there is holes there that could encourage future opponents.
Aged 23 Rosales is already a young veteran, with this bout set to be his 30th in less than 5 years! That sounds impressive but only tells half of the story about the man from Managua. His first loss, in just his 3rd bout, came to Keyvin Lara, who challenged Kazuto Ioka in 2016 and put up a really good effort, his second loss was in a somewhat competitive contest to current WBA Super Flyweight champion Kal Yafai whilst his most recent loss was to Andrew Selby, in a much more competitive bout than the score cards suggest. As well as those losses Rosales has shown his ability with wins against the likes of Eliecer Quezada, Martin Tecuapetla and Mohammad Obbadi.
Rosales is an aggressive fighter, but not in the same out and out pressure style as Higa. Instead he's a bit more of a boxer-puncher, with very solid power, good boxing skills and the ability to fight at range of up close. He's a very tough and dangerous fighter, and the scare he gave Andrew Selby showed how good he really is. He may not have his name in the mix a top tier fighter, but that's more because of how over-looked he is rather than how good he is.
Rosales is a really dangerous and tough opponent. He's not going to b there to lose, to look for a way out or to come out second best. Instead he's travelling to win, and make the most of this voluntary title fight. It's a very risky move from Higa's team to face someone as dangerous as Rosales but it's clear that the champion wants tough opponents and wants to increase his profile by beating top fighters. Despite how good Rosales is, we thing Higa is something very special. Rosales won't travel to Japan to lose, but Higa will take the decision out of his hands, and will break him down with body shots to break through the resolve of Rosales, in similar fashion to Hiroto Kyoguchi's win against Carlos Buitrago late last year.
One of the big Japanese success stories of 2017 was Flyweight sensation Daigo Higa (14-0, 14), ho claimed the WBC Flyweight title in May and recorded his first defense in October. Not only did he win and defend the title, but he did so in impressive fashion, stopping both Juan Hernande Navarrete and Thomas Masson in a combined 13 rounds, to continue his perfect KO run. This coming Sunday Higa will be looking to extend his perfect run as he takes on former WBO Minimumweight champion Moises Fuentes (25-4-1, 14) in what will be his second world title defense.
If you've missed Higa's rise over the last few years there really is no excuse to continue turning a blind eye to one of the sports most exciting and destructive fighters. The 22 year old Okinawan debuted in June 2014 and blew out his first 5 opponents in the first 2 rounds. He took his first step up in June 2015 and stopped Cris Alfante in 4 rounds before travelling to Thailand and stopping Kongfah CP Freshmart in 7 rounds to claim the WBC Youth Flyweight title. He would defend that title twice before moving up in class to claim the OPBF title in 2016 and then move up again to claim the WBC title last year.
Stood at just over 5'3” Higa is a little ball of destruction similar to a prime Roman Gonzalez. For those who were fans of Gonzalez it'd be hard to not be excited by Higa who has a very similar style based on intense pressure, vicious combinations and an under-rated defensive skills. Not only does he have an aggressive style but he has the devastating power to go with it, and his shots all look like they have incredible power on them, despite the fact he never looks like he's forcing things. Instead everything just naturally flows, including some brilliant triple hook combinations.
Not only has Higa shown his destructive style, his toughness, and desire but he's never looked hurt during his career, despite having a tooth damaged in his title win, and has shown impressive stamina, going 10 rounds against Renren Tesorio in 2015. Although he was widely in charge against Tesorio he refused to risk his perfect KO record and continued hunting the stoppage until the referee was forced to save the Filipino.
Mexican fighter Fuentes is 30 years old but is an old professional having made his debut in May 2007. He started his career with a 12 fight winning run before losing a split decision to Juan Hernandez Navarette in 2011. Despite the set back against Hernandez it didn't take long for Fuentes to get back to winning ways and just 6 months later he would beat Raul Garcia by split decision for the WBO Minimumweight title. As the world champion he would defend the belt twice, stopping both Julio Cesar Felix and Ivan Calderon before moving up in weight. At 108lbs Fuentes' natural size stopped being a huge advantage and he would go 0-1-1 against Donnie Nietes in bouts for the WBO title. He did manage to score some good wins following those losses, including wins against Oswaldo Novoa and Francisco Rodriguez Jr, but looked totally shot when he faced Kosei Tanaka at the end of 2016.
Sadly since the Tanaka bout it's been hard to really know what Fuentes has left, as he's gone 1-1 with Ulises Solis. Going on the Tanaka bout, there was nearly nothing left. It seemed the same when he was stopped by Nietes in their second bout as well. It could well be that he's shot, or it could have been that he was taking too much out of himself to make 108lbs. Whatever the reason it does seem like he's not the fighter he once was.
Although Fuentes at his best was a nightmare, a big strong, aggressive tank, who came forward and let his hands go, we don't believe he's even close to being that fighter. Instead we see him as a shot fighter, and the next victim of the Higa express. Fuentes might be able to pose some problems early on, but we can't see him lasting too long with against Higa's aggression and power.
This coming Sunday fans will get a triple world title show at the Kokugikan in Japan. One of those bouts will see Flyweight destroyer Daigo Higa (13-0, 13) attempt to continue his perfect stoppage run, and make his first defense of the WBC Flyweight title, as he takes on former 2-time European champion Thomas Masson (17-3-1, 5). The bout will be Higa's first against a European opponent, with rumours an Andrew Selby fight expected next year, and would be Masson's second fight outside of France.
For those who haven't yet seen Higa you've been missing out on one of the most exciting pressure fighters of the current era. Higa combines under-rated footwork, with truly vicious power, and smart defense, which allowed him to get inside and work away at the head or body of his foes. Although only a Flyweight he is a man who is mowing opponents down with his heavy hands, and stopped all 13 previous opponents in a combined 48 rounds.
With an average fight length of less than 4 rounds there are some who would question Higa's stamina, especially if he's going to be forced to chase an opponent for 12 rounds. We have however seen Higa go into the second half of fights, and look just as energetic as he did in the earlier stages. This was notable in his 7th round win over Kongfah CP Freshmart and his 10th round over Renren Tesorio. It was also notable that last time out, against Juan Hernandez, that Higa seemed to be getting more and more effective whilst Hernandez was being worn down by the pressure and power of the Japanese youngster.
Higa's style is a nice blend of his mentor's, Yoko Gushiken, and Nicaraguan great Roman Gonzalez, with Higa once being described as the “Romagon of Okinawa”. Like those two fighters he is ultra aggressive, but like those two fighters there is more than just aggression to what he does and and it's those subtle defensive moves, his ability to switch between head and body, and his frightening power than makes him so effective.
As for Masson things are very different, and he's much more of a boxer-mover. He's got nice movement and likes to keep things fought at his tempo, whilst establishing his jab and straight right hand. Defensively he's quite open but does have a really sharp jab and nice footwork. Unfortunately for Masson he's very upright and has a low left hand, which is likely to be an invitation to Higa. Whilst he's very upright he's also very tall, listed at 5'7” and whilst he can use that heigh well he is lacking in terms of his inside game and does often look pretty 1-paced behind his jab.
During his career so far Masson has been beaten by two men. Domestic rival Badis Ouari holds two decisions over him and Ashley Sexton, who took a clear win over the Frenchman in his only outing outside of France. Since his last loss the Frenchman has reeled off 9 straight wins, whilst claiming the French Flyweight title and twice becoming the European champion. During his career he has gone 12 rounds twice, and scored notable wins over the likes of Silvio Olteanu and Oleksandr Hryshchuk, which are both good wins, but a long way from world class.
Whilst we can certainly see Masson having his moments, especially early in the bout, we think the pressure and power of Higa will be too much and the body shots will take their toll on the long frame of the challenger. We certainly believe Masson will ask some new questions of Higa, before being broken down and stopped in the middle rounds.
The Flyweight division in recent times has been one of the best, with great bouts and amazing depth at the top. Sadly last year we saw the division being left in a mess with Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada and Johnriel Casimero all abandoning the division and leaving most of the titles vacant the division a disappointing mess. Thankfully the titles have slowly found new owners, with Zou Shiming claiming the WBO title, Donnie Nietes recently winning the IBF belt and Juan Hernandez Navarrete (34-2, 25) claiming the WBC title.
This coming Saturday we see Hernandez making his first defense of the title as he takes on Japanese sensation Daigo Higa (12-0, 12), a wrecking on the Japanese and Oriental scene. For champion it's a tough mandatory against one of the rising stars of Japanese boxing, whilst Higa gets a chance to prove himself on the world in what is a huge step up. For us, the fans, the bout is nothing short of a mouth watering clash between exciting world class boxer-puncher and one of the most exciting pressure fighters in the sport today.
Two men Hernandez is the more well known, by far, when it comes to international fans. The Mexican first began to make a mark years ago, and really became a contender in 2010, when he scored wins over Armando Vazquez, Danver Cuello and Moises Fuentes. That strong of wins lead to Hernandez getting a show at the then WBC Minimumweight champion Kazuto Ioka, with Ioka taking a well earned decision over Mexican.
Since losing to Ioka back in March 2012 we've seen Hernandez go on a brilliant 16-0 (12) run. Whilst the numbers look impressive by them selves it's the competition that has really made that run. He has scored wins over the likes of Saul Juarez, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Jesus Silvestre, Omar Nino Romero and Nawaphon Por Chokchai during that run, with the win over Nawaphon netting the Mexican the WBC title. That run has seen Hernandez stop his last 6 foes in a combined 16 rounds and really look like a truly world class Flyweight.
Last time out, against Nawaphon, we saw Hernandez look sensational. He looked smooth boxing early on then turned up the heat in round 3 and hurt Nawaphon before hinting a finish which came following a real barrage of shots. He showed a bit of everything during the bout, speed, skills, power and killer instinct in what was a really good showing and one that came on enemy soil.
For those who haven't seen Higa, and his rise through the ranks, you've been missing out on one of the sports most exciting talents. He's an out and out pressure fighter with a style reminiscent of Roman Gonzalez, with the similarities resulting in Higa being dubbed the “Romagon of Okinawa”. He's doesn't go into the ring to win, but instead he goes there to beat people up, and do it in a fun, exciting manner, like his mentor Yoko Gushiken. Despite being such a destructive fighter he's only 21 and is a boxing baby with just 42 professional rounds.
Higa's early career went pretty under the radar though in 2015 he did get some notable attention as he travelled to Thailand and battered Kongfah CP Freshmart in 7 rounds for the WBC Youth Flyweight title. It was a thrilling bout and one that really did capture the attention of fans who hadn't previously seen Higa. The Japanese warrior defended the WBC Youth title twice, including a 10th round TKO win over gutsy Filipino Renren Tesorio, before claiming the OPBF title last year with a 4th round KO against Ardin Diale, in a brilliant showing.
Higa has steam rolled through his foes so far. He's put them all under pressure and they have all broken due to his combinations, power and physical strength. It's been great fun watching his rise an it's been one that has seen him improve, and improve, both as a fighter and as a young man. In fact watching him transition from a boy to a man has been brilliant to see. This is however a massive leap up in class and the first time he's taken on a true world class all rounder, and one who has developed into one of the leading Flyweights on the planet.
We'd love for Higa to win, we've cheer lead him since his 4th bout, against Samruai Mungwong in January 2015,but we think might be too much too soon. We certainly believe he has the power to hurt Hernandez, and probably also has the speed and combinations to break down anyone in the division, but we think that Hernandez will have too much know how too much movement and too much skill, at the moment, for Higa. It could end up looking like a man against a boy, sadly for Higa, though we suspect the youngster will learn so much from having time in the ring with Hernandez.
Whilst we really do want to see Higa win, and break out on the world stage, we think Hernandez will just be too good at the moment for the Japanese youngster.
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.