One of the best divisions in the sport right now is the Light Flyweight division, which is stacked with talent, has been matching the top fighters against each other consistently and it has such a varied array of styles that there really is something there for everyone.
This coming Monday fight fans in the Philippines get another great bout between top divisional fighters as local hopeful Randy Petalcorin (29-2-1, 22) finally gets a world title fight. Sadly for Petalcorin he will be going up against one of the division's most feared fighters, Nicaraguan puncher Felix Alvarado (33-2, 29), in a bout for the vacant IBF title.
The Filipino is a 26 year old southpaw who has been around the professional scene for close to a decade. His career has promised a lot, but the reality is that he's yet to score a really big win and live up to the expectation that many in the Philippines have had for him.
Petalcorin would scored 5 straight stoppage wins to begin his career before coming up short against a then unknown Marlon Tapales, who would later go on to claim the WBO Bantamweight title. He would rebuild from that loss by advancing his record from 5-1 to 23-1-1 (18) before a controversial loss to Omari Kimweri in Australia in 2016. Sadly the 19 fight unbeaten run between those two losses lacked in terms of notable wins, with perhaps the best of them being over Walter Tello, Ma Yiming and Samartlek Kokietgym.
Since losing to Kimweri Petalcorin has bounced back with 6 straight wins coming into this bout.
In the ring Petalcorin is a razor sharp boxer-puncher. He's shown those skills through his career and few will question his smoothness in the ring. He can switch from head to body with ease, can counter punch excellently and he looks amazing when he's facing over-matched foes, as we saw when he travelled to China and demolished Yiming with smooth combinations and brilliant clean punching. Sadly though there is a feeling that Petalcorin looking great against lower tier fighters says more about his competition than about him.
If Petalcorin can step up here and perform as good as he has against lesser men then he has a genuine chance, but this is a big step up for him.
Nicaraguan fighter Alvarado has been a professional since 2010 and the 29 year old has built himself a reputation as a man to fear. He would begin his career by running up 18 straight wins, 15 by stoppage, whilst fighting mostly on the Nicaraguan domestic scene. In 2013 he would step up massively and face Kazuto Ioka for the WBA Light Flyweight title, though came up short against the Japanese fighter. The following year Alvarado would suffer his second loss, losing in a competitive bout against Juan Carlos Reveco. Since those losses Alvarado has been on a tear going 15-0 (14). This time his run hasn't just come against domestic level opponents but also fringe contenders, such as Yader Cardoza, Jose Antonio Jimenez and most notable Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr.
As a fighter Alvarado can be out boxed, he out manoeuvred, out sped and out thought. However he's a massive puncher, an all out monster on the front foot and he seems to have a solid engine with a very gritty and determined toughness. He can be his, though has under-rated defense, and boy can he punch himself. He's crude, a little clumsy, a bit open and pretty technically limited, but he is such a dangerous fighter that few will take risks against him, especially given that his power is potent to both head and body.
We believe that if Petalcorin can box to his best, for 12 rounds, uses his legs and jab and never trades with the Nicaraguan, he can take a decision here, especially with the home advantage. It is however a massive ask and Alvarado will be after him from the first bell, and will be looking to break down the Filipino. Sadly for Petalcorin we suspect the power, toughness and drive of Alvarado will be too much in the end.
No matter who wins here we're assured of some great bouts down the line, with the division being so packed with talent that the winner will struggle to find an easy defense any time soon.
The Super Flyweight division is red hot right now with so many notable names, fantastic fighters and potentially brilliant match ups. The recent edition of “Superfly” may have been under-whelming but the division is red hot and the recent wins for both Kazuto Ioka and Roman Gonzalez have opened up the division even further. Sadly however there are several fighters who are competing with no intention of fighting on the “Superfly” cards. One of those is IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-1, 20), who is signed up with Top Rank and being kept as a divisional side attraction by Bob Arum, who has kept him fighting on ESPN and kept him away from the top names at 115lbs.
This coming Friday Ancajas returned to the ring, to make his 6th defense of the title, and takes on a real divisional no-name in the form of Alejandro Santiago Barrios (16-2-4, 7). A 22 year old Mexican without a win of note and draws in his 3 most notable bouts. Not only is he a pretty unknown challenger but he is one without any experience over 12 rounds and has done next to nothing to deserve a title fight, at this moment in time.
The 26 year old champion might not be competing with the best in the division but he is one of the divisions top fighters, which is why his reign is so disappointing. He won the title back in September 2016, defeating the then unbeaten McJoe Arroyo, and has showed his silky skills whilst stopping the likes of Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Teiru Kinoshita and Jamie Conlan. Most recently he scored a decision win over mandatory challenger Jonas Sultan but failed to take the opportunity to shine, in the first All-Filipino world title bout in over 90 years.
Whilst his reign has been somewhat forgettable Ancajas has gone from a relative unknown outside of the Filipino domestic scene to someone who is regarded a top Super Flyweight and has been fighting on major TV over the few few fights. His win over Teiru Kinoshita put him on the map for many and since then his profile has grown well, which has doubled the frustration of fans. He's is one of the most aesthetically pleasing fighters in the sport, with very sharp shots, wonderful movement and electric combinations, but it often looks like he's facing opponents several levels blow himself. Those skills feel like they deserve to be tested against the very best in the division, guys like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada and even Kal Yafai, another of the divisional outliers.
Santiago picked up boxing as a teenager and early in his career he rolled off an 8 fight unbeaten run against fellow novice Mexicans. His first step up in class saw him face the then 5-0-1 Hector Gabriel Flores, and lose a clear 6 round decision. His second loss would come just a couple of fights later, and since then he has gone on a role of sorts, running up an 11 fight unbeaten run. Sadly though that run has seen him score 8 wins over limited foes in Mexico and fight to 3 draws against somewhat notable names, all on the road. By it's self that sounds like he's been unfortunate but those draws have come against Antonio Nieves, who was toyed with by Naoya Inoue, and Jose Martinez, who's most notable victory has come against the under-sized and well past his best Juan Palacios.
Footage of Santiago shows him to be a pretty quick and crafty fighter. He uses half steps on the way out to create space to get his jab off and does move surprisingly well. Sadly on the front foot he does look like he carries very little power and doesn't really sit on his shots. Also he looks worryingly under-sized as well as under-powered. We'll be honest and say he probably should have had a win over Martinez, who he made look slow, sloppy and crude, but that shouldn't be enough to get him a world title fight at this level. He looks better than we'd expect, but no where near good enough to face off with the likes of Ancajas.
We're expecting to see Ancajas take the fight to Santiago, using his superior size, speed and skills to chip away at the Mexican and score a late stoppage. Santiago is stepping up massively and he's shown nothing to suggest he can hold his own at this level against someone as sharp and as accurate as Ancajas. Sadly Ancasjas has a reputation for dragging out his bouts, not putting his foot toe gad until his man has been broken mentally. That means we're expecting this to go in the later rounds before Ancajas ups the pace and looks to finish the show, rather than look to make a statement as early as he can.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On August 16, at the legendary Korakuen Hall, Ryosuke Iwasa will defend the IBF Super Bantamweight World Championship against Irish-Australian contender TJ Doheny.
Ryosuke Iwasa (25-2 / 16 KOs) had a successful amateur career, amassing a record of 60 wins and 16 losses, while winning various national titles. He made his pro debut on August of 2008, at the age of 18, going undefeated for 2 years, 8-0, beating much more experienced foes like Marvin Tampus (21-10*) and Kinshiro Usui (19-2*).
Iwasa’s first big test came on March 5th, 2011 when he challenged Shinsuke Yamanaka (13-0*) for the Japanese Bantamweight title. Yamanaka was another accomplished amateur boxer (34-13), holding many notable victories, including one over future world champion Takahiro Ao. Neither of the 2 had lost a single fight since turning pro, nor were they ready to spoil their perfect record. In what it was undoubtedly one of the best Japanese title fights of all time, Iwasa and Yamanaka went to war that night, fighting for gold as well as to prove who was the best Bantamweight fighter in Japan. Iwasa dominated early, stunning the champion on numerous occasions, while Yamanaka started making a comeback in the later rounds. Both men were rocking each other hard, going back and forth, bringing the Japanese fans to their feet. Chants for Iwasa and Yamanaka were heard all over the arena as neither was planning on giving up. At the very last round, Yamanaka went on a rampage, almost knocking Iwasa out while still standing, forcing the referee to step in and put an end to this amazing bout. That fight put Yamanaka in world title contention and 8 months later, he became the WBC world champion. Iwasa, even in defeat, he displayed his Bushido spirit, making him a fan favorite amongst the Japanese faithful.
Only a couple of months later, he came back stronger and more determined than ever before, winning 11 fights in a row, against Kentaro Masuda (14-5*), 2 time world title contender David De La Mora (24-2*), Mark John Yap (18-8*), former WBC International champion Hiroki Shino (10-2*) and more, as well as earning both the Japanese and OPBF titles in the process.
In 2015, after a failed attempt at the interim IBF Bantamweight belt, Iwasa decided to move up a weight class and switch his focus at the Super Bantamweights. It didn’t take long for the Japanese star to reach the top of the division and challenge Yukinori Oguni (19-1*) for the IBF World Championship on September of 2017, at the EDION Arena in Osaka. Iwasa came out like a house on fire, knocking the champion down in the opening round once and twice in the next one. It was a very one-sided match, up until the forth round when Oguni began firing back at the challenger, finally turning this into a big world title bout. After 3 more action packed rounds, the fight was stopped, as Oguni was bleeding profusely, thus marking the beginning of Iwasa’s first ever world title reign.
Already with one title defense under his belt, over Philippino standout Ernesto Saulong (21-2*), Iwasa will look for V2 this August, against TJ Doheny (19-0 / 14 KOs).
Doheny has already made quite an impression in the division, winning the PABA Super Bantamweight title, just 15 months after his debut. A certified knock out artist, with the majority of his finishes coming within the first five rounds. His most impressive performance must be against former interim WBA Super Flyweight World Champion Sutep Wangmuk (63-5*) in 2015, which ended via 5th round KO.
This fight will mark Iwasa’s 10th Anniversary as a pro boxer and what better way to celebrate it but with another huge win over a hungry contender.
*Denotes record going in to the fight.
The Flyweight division has long been one of the best divisions in the sport, combining both great fighters and amazing bouts. In recent years however it's wobbled a bit as the top guys have gone up in weight and left the 112lb weight class feeling a little bit like a void as fighters begin to step up to bigger challenges. This has seen the likes of Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada, Donnie Nietes all abandon the division for success at Super Flyweight. As a result the division currently lacks in terms of x-factor, with good but not amazing champions, like Sho Kimura and Artem Dalakian. We're currently missing a real star in the division, and whilst Cristofer Rosales looks to be the best of the bunch he doesn't have the same allure as a Gonzalez, Estrada or even the now retired Kazuto Ioka.
This coming Sunday we get the chance to see another two fighters throw their hats into the ring to try and become the division's star and the new IBF Flyweight champion. The bout in question will see former champion Moruti Mthalane (35-2, 24) attempt to reclaim the title as he faces off with Korean based Pakistani fighter Muhammad Waseem (8-0, 6).
Of the two men it's Mthalane who is more well known. He is best, internationally, for giving Nonito Donaire a few really tough rounds back in 2008, before being stopped on cuts in round 6. Since then the South African has gone 13-0 (9), with some notable issues with inactivity plaguing his career. Although he hasn't been massively active he has notched up some brilliant wins, including victories over Julio Cesar Miranda, Zolani Tete, Johnriel Casimero and Ricardo Nunez. Sadly he has, like many African fighters, struggled to get the career defining fights on a big stage and actually gave up the IBF title rather than get paid pennies to face a then unknown Amnat Ruenroeng after 4 defenses.
Since vacating the IBF title Mthalane has been arguably the best Flyweight to essentially be locked out of the title picture. He's too dangerous to face as a voluntary and he was unable to secure a mandatory position until the IBF title was vacated by Donnie Nietes. Despite missing out on a world title fight he has been picking up his activity and he fit 3 fights into 2017, winning all 3 by stoppage.
At the age of 35, soon to be 36, the South African will know that a loss will be the end of his hopes of becoming a 2-time world champion, at least with the 4 big organisations. He is however a tough, skilled, accurate and aggressive fighter with very under-rated power who will look to take the fight to his foe here.
Waseem on the other hand is a bit of an unknown to many fans, and this will be, by far, the highest profile bout of his career. The Pakistani born fighter turned professional in 2015 under the promotional guidance of Andy Kim, who has matched Waseem aggressively and gotten him very high level training. He made his professional debut in a 10 round bout for the Korean Bantamweight title and less than 10 months later he had claimed the WBC Silver Flyweight title. From then on it seemed like he was heading towards a WBC title fight but financial issues almost derailed his career. What had been a fast track to the top approach for Waseem hit a brick wall and he spent 2017 fighting in stay busy fights on under-cards in Panama.
In the ring Waseem has looked like a fighter able to do it all. He can box, he can bang and he can move. He began his career like a fighter wanting to test things, get used to the ring and the distance of a fight, looking like he was working on things all the time. After his 2016 win over Giemel Magramo however he's had to do a lot less to pick up wins and instead beaten some very abject opponents in any way that he wanted. If he can still mix the different styles together then it's very possible that he could use his speed to out fox and bamboozle the hard hitting Mthalane.
At 30 years old Waseem is young enough to have a nice reign, if he comes out on top here, but given his lack of financial backing there is a real issue he could find his reign cut short like Mthalane did when he held the title a few years ago.
Although there is a huge gulf in experience here we do actually favour Waseem. He appears to be the fresher fighter, the fighter who hasn't had the bouts against the likes of Donaire and Nunez. Mthalane is going to be dangerous through the fight, and Waseem can't get lazy, but if he uses his legs, moves and prevents Mthalane from setting his feet there's a great chance for Korea and Pakistan to claim a world champion.
The Super Flyweight division has gone from being one of the most over-looked divisions, only really enjoyed by the hardcore fight fans to being a division that is getting massive attention thanks to the growing “Superfly” series of cards, and the fact that right now we have top fighters in the division from around the globe. This weekend we get the chance to see some of the divisions best fighters in action in Fresno California, with WBA champion Kal Yafai (23-0, 14) defending his title against David Carmona (21-5-5, 9) and IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas (29-1-1, 20) defending his title against Jonas Sultan (14-3, 9).
Of those two bouts it's the second one that particularly interests us as it will be the first all-Filipino world title bout in over 90 years, though the winners of the two bouts are expected to be on a collision towards unification later in the year.
Ancajas was one of the sports hidden gems until recently. The "Pretty boy" debuted back in 2009, as a 17 year old and went 13-0-1 before losing a razor thin decision to Mark Anthony Geraldo in early 2012. Since the Ancajas has gone 16-0 (15) and proven to be one of the best Super Flyweights on the planet. He's a joy to watch some wonderful boxing skills, fantastic sharpness, and a rare fluidity to everything he does. Not only is he a joy but he's an offensively minded combination punching southpaw, which makes him incredibly awkward to fight against.
The impressive 16 fight run of Ancajas has seen him move from relative unknown to being seen as one of the new faces of Filipino boxing. It began withg some pretty low key wins, but in 2016 he scored a major win over McJoe Arroyo to claim the IBF title. Since then his profile has mushroomed with 4 world title defenses, stopping Jose Alfredo Rodriguez in Macao, Teiru Kinoshita in Australia, Jamie Conlan in Northern Ireland and Israel Gonzalez in the US. Not only is he stopping his foes but he's looking sensational doing it, dropping his opponents and beating them up before stopping them.
Despite scoring a lot of stoppages recently Ancajas isn't actually a big puncher. He's someone who stops people through his sheer consistency. He lands a lot of shots, he finds holes in opponents defenses and uses his speed to befuddle good fighters, who are made to look really poor. His power won't effect someone like Juan Francisco Estrada or Srisaket Sor Rungvisai on a 1-punch basis, but those shots do damage over the course of a fight, and against even the very elite in the division Ancajas has a genuine shot.
Sultan, like Ancajas in may ways, was totally unknown not too long ago. He started his career in 2013, and was 4-2 (2) after 6 bouts but has since gone 10-1 (7) and made himself one of the divisions key contenders, and the IBF mandatory title challenger. In in his recent wins are victories over some really good fighters, such as Jerson Mancio, Brian Lobetania, Rene Dacquel, Tatsuay Ikemizu, Makazole Tete, Sonny Boy Jaro and John Riel Casimero. In those wins he has shown he can box, punch and take a shot when he needs to.
Although he has looked really good at times, there is still a lot for Sultan to prove and his win over Casimero left as many questions as answers, and was a very messy fight. He certainly a lot going for him here, and his only recent loss was much closer than the cards suggested. He has shown power and speed, and at 26 is coming into his physical prime.
Although going through a rich vein of form this is a big step up for Sultan. Wins over former world champions like Jaro and Casimero are impressive but Jaro was old and Casimero was a naturally smaller man. His wins over Tete and Dacquel are brilliant wins, but they are both a long way off being as good as Ancajas. In fact the champion has more to his arsenal than Tete and Dacquel combined and that will be a major issue for Sultan here.
We think this opportunity has come a little too early for Sultan. We're not sure he will ever be as good as Ancajas, but he probably needed to face another prime contender before getting a world title fight to really be prepared for a fight at that level. We suspect that Ancajas' smoothness in the ring, his speed and movement and ring IQ will be too much for the challenger. Sultan will certainly have some moments, but we suspect he'll be worn down and either stopped late or lose a wide and clear decision.
The Light Flyweight division, as regular readers of this website will be aware of, is one of our favourites with so much depth and great fights taking place on a regular basis. The next one of those great match ups takes place this coming Sunday as Ryoichi Taguchi (27-2-2, 12) defends his WBA “super”, IBF and Ring Magazine titles against South African challenger Hekkie Budler (31-3, 10), himself a former WBA Minimumweight champion. For Taguchi the bout will be his first as a unified champion, in fact it will be the first ever time a Japanese fighter will be looking to defend unified titles.
Taguchi's rise in the last few years has been remarkable. The freakishly tall and rangy Tokyo fighter debuted back in 2006 and didn't get his first title fight until 2012, when he fought to a draw with Masayuki Kuroda for the Japanese Light Flyweight title. Going into that bout Taguchi had gone 16-1 (7) and wasn't really looking like a future world champion. Since the draw with Kuroda we've seen Taguchi blossom into a fantastic fighter, going 11-1-1, with his only loss coming to Naoya Inoue. Not only has he racked up a solid looking run but he's gone on to beat top fighters, such as Florante Condes, Alberto Rossel, Kwanthai Onesongchaigym, Ryo Miyazaki, Robert Barrera and, most recently, Milan Melindo.
In the ring Taguchi is a freakishly big fighter at 108lbs, he has long rangy arms and can strike from distance though more often than not he seems to enjoy an up close battle on the inside, and has surprising ability inside the pocket. He combines his size with excellent stamina and work rate and has very under-rated power and a really gritty toughness. Although not a 1-punch KO artist he has been either dropping, cutting or hurting his opponents on a regular basis at world level and not many fighters seem to engage him in a war. The Watanabe man not only combines, size, skills and his in ring traits but also confidence and experience with a wealth of experience not only in the ring but also in the gym, rising through the ranks whilst in the same gym as Takashi Uchiyama and Kohei Kono.
For Budler this bout is a second shot at a Light Flyweight title, having come up just short against Milan Melindo in a thrilling contest last year. The South African was a top Minimumweight for years and scored notable wins over the likes of Florante Condes, Nkosinathi Joyi, Pigmy Kokietgym, Xiong Zhao Zhong, Jesus Silvestre and Simphiwe Khonco. He was a long standing IBO champion and held the WBA title for a couple of years before losing to Byron Rojas in March 2016. That loss was Budler's final fight at 105lbs before he moved up in weight defeated and claimed two minor titles as he prepared to face Melindo, losing a really good split decision bout to the Filipino.
In the ring Budler is a speedy fighter who finds himself in grinding contests up close. His bouts are rarely pretty, but they are often fun with a lot of leather being thrown. Although a grinding fighter Budler can box on the outside and can use his skills to maintain distance when he needs to. Budler is impressive with his speed, his stamina and determination, but lacks in terms of power and only has two stoppages in the last 4 years, coming against Joey Canoy and Pigmy Kokietgym. The lack of power at world level is a problem for the South African, and have resulted in the 29 year old racking up over 275 rounds already in his career, an average of just over 8 rounds a fight.
Given that Budler likes to trade blows we can't see how he comes out on top here. We imagine Budler's gritty mentality will always keep him in the fight, and make for some thrilling moments, but his lack of power will fail to get Taguchi's respect and the Japanese fighter will simply out work, out battle and out punch the smaller man. Budler will certainly have some moments, especially when he uses his speed, but on the whole he'll not have the power or physicality to win the rounds. Taguchi may look to use his height at times, though we suspect he'll try not to fight at range and instead choose to swarm Budler and neutralise the South African's edge in speed.
We don't see Budler being stopped, but we see a clear decision going in favour of the unified champion.
The Minimumweight division is currently on that has a lot of potentially great match ups, and although much avoided by Western fans there is so much talented at 105lbs that the only people missing out are those who turn away from the lower weights. Among the most exciting fighters in the division is Japan's Hiroto Kyoguchi (9-0, 7), who is the current IBF champion having won the title in just his 8th bout after just 15 months as a professional fighter. This coming weekend Kyoguchi will return to the ring in his second defense, as he battles against fellow unbeaten puncher Vince Paras (13-0, 11), of the Philippines.
Kyoguchi's rise from debut to champion is the quickest in Japanese history, and one of the quickest of all time. He made his debut back in April 2016 and needed just 10 rounds to defeat his first 5 opponents, all before the end of 2016. In 2017 he stepped up, quickly winning the OPBF Minimumweight title, which he would defend once, before defeating the tough Jose Argumedo in July 2017 for the IBF title, which he defended in impressive fashion at the end of 2017, stopping Carlos Buitrago in 8 rounds.
In the ring Kyoguchi is an ultra-aggressive, hard hitting, pressure fight who is devastating with his body shots and combinations. He has got some defensively flaws, and has failed to make the most of his jab at times, but the reality is that his aggression is simply too unrelenting for most. Even those who have gone the distance with the Japanese terror, Jonathan Refugio and Jose Argumedo, have tried to avoid a tear up with Kyoguchi and gotten on their bike. Kyoguchi's flaws are visible, but are very hard to punish him for due to his freakish power, physical strength and brutal body shots.
Aged 19 Paras is looking to become one of the youngest Filipino world champions ever. He made his debut in July 2017, as a 16 year old and like Kyoguchi his power was obvious from his debut, which saw him stop Romeo Garde in 91 seconds. That power would help Paras to stop 9 of his first 10 opponents with only the tough Jimboy Haya managing to last more than 7 complete rounds with Paras. Despite his power Paras has shown some flaws, and has got a lot of questions to answer, given that he has been dropped and has yet to fight outside of the Philippines.
Footage of Paras isn't easy too easy to come by, but what is available shows a hard hitting but quite basic fighter. He is certainly dangerous but his footwork doesn't look the most natural, his movement isn't the quickest and despite being a pressure fighter he does look like he isn't the most aggressive or the quickest to close opponents down. In saying that however he does appear to have a tight guard and is certainly very dangerous early on, with 8 stoppages in the first 3 rounds.
Whilst we do see Paras as being a bit basic his power will keep Kyoguchi on his game defensively. Sadly for the challenger however this bout looks like it will have come too soon for him and he will find himself up against a similar, but more mature and more rounded, version of himself and Paras will be broken down in the middle rounds. Kyoguchi can't get reckless, but this is a massive step up in class for the challenger and one he is making before he is really ready. If we're being honest we're have preferred to have seen Paras in an OPBF title level fight before getting a world title fight, but can't blame the fighter or his team for taking the opportunity, even if he does come up short.
Last year we saw Kazakh born Sergey Lipinets (13-0, 10) claim the IBF Light Welterweight title, as he out pointed Japan's Akihiro Kondo in a tougher than expected bout. The competitiveness of the contest took a lot of shine from Lipinets' rise to a title, which had otherwise been brilliant with wins over the likes of Cosme Rivera, Kendal Mena, Haskell Rhodes, Levan Ghamichava, Walter Castillo and Leonardo Zappavigna, stopping all but Rhodes. This coming Saturday Lipinets will be looking to get back to his destructive best, and record his first defense, but will be facing the biggest test of his career so far, multi-weight former world champion Mikey Garcia (37-0, 30).
The Kazakh born Russian, who is now based in the US, looked great on his rise through the ranks. We've already listed most of his opponents, and for a fighter with just 13 fights that is stiff competition. He looked tough, aggressive, very hard hitting, exciting and explosive. Those traits however failed him somewhat against Kondo, who took his biggest shots and marched forward, as if to ask for more, before timing Lipinets and dragging him into deep water in later rounds.
Despite the bout with Kondo being a disappointment in many ways for Lipinets it did manage to have some positives. It showed he could win a big one, he could grit out a tough fight, go 12 rounds and despite not being as good as we thought he was, he's still a world champion. And we've all seen fighters get better after winning world titles, with some fighters really finding themselves after winning a world title and refusing to let it go.
In the ring Lipinets is a bit basic. He's got some touches of flash, but overall it's his power and toughness which has shone. He appears to take a very good shot, and have series power of his own. He's not the quickest, but he does have that surprising speed and timing that really does seem to be common with a lot of those fighters who have come through the Eastern European ranks, but he stills has some traits from being a kickboxer and can regularly be found low hands, and a stance that looks little off, and could be taken advantage of by a talented fight.
In Mikey Garcia we have one of the sports best technical fighters. He controls the ring brilliantly behind a really smart boxing brain. He sets the tempo, he knows how to back off and come forward behind his jab and footwork, he knows how to use the ring, and has the frightening power that makes all fighters respect him. That power has managed to carry up from Featherweight, where he won his first world title back in 2013, to Lightweight, where he iced Dejan Zlaticanin last year. When opponents can take his power, as Adrien Broner could, he boxes behind his jab and right hand, staying away from risks to rack up the points and take the decision.
When we're looking for flaws with Garcia we are sometimes looking to pick holes in tiny little things. For example Garcia has looked effective up close, but has still shown some great touches when he's had to fight an opponent in his face, his stamina hasn't looked flawless, but few will force him to fight 12 rounds, and he has been dropped, though recovered well from the knockdown. Few have managed to catch him clean, but it's possible that his chin is his weakest asset, but even then there is little real proof of it.
During his career Garcia has beaten a strong line up of opponents, including He's over-come Orlando Salido, Juan Manuel Lopez, Rocky Martinez, Juan Carlos Burgos, Dejan Zlaticanin and Adrien Broner. Sadly though a 30 month break from the ring during his prime denied him some career defining bouts, including a proposed contest with Yuriorkis Gamboa. Lipinets is less proven than a number of those though is probably the naturally biggest, and hard hitting, fighter Garcia will have faced. Garcia will need to be aware of Lipinet's power and strength, but should feel at ease with his speed and skills.
We suspect that Lipinets will fight different to how he did against Kondo. Kondo is naturally the same size as Lipinets, is teak tough and would walk through a lot to get his own shots off. Garcia on the other hand will be looking to suck Lipinets into coming to him, and as the bigger fighter Lipinets will be looking to use his physicality to pressure Garcia. In a boxing contest this bout will be a huge mismatch, Garcia is too good, too smart and too quick. But Lipinets' power, strength and aggression could be a nightmare for Garcia, especially if the champion can get Garcia out of his comfort zone.
We favour Garcia to come out on top, keeping his wits and fighting his fight, but there is certainly a hint of danger here for excellent Californian fighter, who will need to avoid the power of Lipinets as best he can.
This coming Thursday we'll get the chance to see Ryosuke Iwasa (24-2, 16) make his first defense of the IBF Super Bantamweight title, which he won in impressive fashion last September. The hard hitting Japanese world champion will be defending the belt against the little known Filipino challenger Ernesto Saulong (21-2-1, 8).
Iwasa was a former amateur stand out before turning professional in 2008, with many in Japan expecting big things of the Southpaw from Chiba. The talent, and power, of Iwasa was clear from very early on, and in a little over 25 months he had raced out to an impressive 8-0 (6) record, and a shot at the Japanese Bantamweight title. Whilst he would go on to lose in his first title fight, coming up short to Shinsuke Yamanaka, he did show a lot of potential, and would subsequently go on to win both the Japanese and OPBF Bantamweight titles whilst climbing up the world rankings. Sadly Iwasa would suffer his second stoppage loss in his first world title bout, losing to Lee Haskins, but would then move up in weight, and he has since looked a much better fighter whilst going 5-0 (4).
Last time out we saw Iwasa really put everything together as he scored a career defining win and stopped Yukimori Oguni in 6 rounds to claim the IBF Super Bantamweight title. He dropped Iwasa numerous times before forcing Wayne Hedgpeth to take a bloodied Oguni to the ringside doctor, and eventually stop the bout.
Early in his career Iwasa looked like a relatively predictable, 1-paced slugger. He had some technical nous, but there was a real feeling that he was a bit too basic to test the best, though had the brutal power that would always make him dangerous, if he could land. Since moving up win weight however he has looked a bit smoother, a bit more relaxed, and just as dangerous when he lands. There is a still a feeling he could be out boxed by a smart mover, but he is very dangerous and if he lands clean he will do damage.
Whilst Iwasa has had his career followed closely by those who follow the Japanese domestic scene there wasn't ever the same following for Saulong in his homeland. Instead the 28 year old has had to develop with out much fan fare or expectation since his 2010 debut. Despite the lack of expectation Saulong has managed to prove himself as a solid competitor on the domestic scene, and has scored notable wins over the likes of Alie Laurel, twice, and Jestoni Austida. Sadly those wins aside there is little of real value on his record, other than losses to Rey Megrino and Lwandile Sityatha.
In the ring Saulong isn't a particularly big puncher, and he has scored only an single stoppage win in his last 5 bouts, with that coming against Arnel Baconaje, He is a solid fighter technically with a nice pressure style using a lot of head movement to slip shots. He's nice to watch but has an unfortunate knack of throwing shots that are quite wide and not having anything razor sharp in his arsenal. Defensively he makes for a very tough target, but offensively he doesn't appear too troublesome with his output.
Given the footage available of the the challenger it's possible he could give Iwasa some problems with his head movement. However it's hard to imagine Saulong avoiding everything Iwasa has to offer, especially the body shots. With that in mind we are expecting the champion to hurt, and later stop the Filipino. Saulong has the potential to be a stubborn opponent, but we really don't think he has the toughness to withstand Iwasa's power, or enough power of his own to hurt the champion, who we suspect will close the show in the middle rounds.
The Flyweight division is one of the most interesting at the moment, with a really nice mix of fighters at the top. We have the destructive Daigo Higa, the crude but gutsy Sho Kimura and the highly experienced Donnie Nietes. The division might not have a huge amount of star power, but it does have a real nice mix of fighters and has the potential to have a huge year in 2018, with the likes of Kosei Tanaka looking to make a mark there.
This coming Saturday we get the chance to see a really interesting match up in the division as the aforementioned Donnie Nietes (40-1-4, 22) makes his first defense of the IBF title and looks to extend his claim of being the division's elder statesman. In the opposite corner to Nietes will be another veteran, Juan Carlos Reveco (39-3, 19), who will be hunting a third world title to add to his long list of achievements.
Aged 35 Nietes is a bit of a freak for the little weights. He is, for all intents, an ancient fighter and debuted as a professional way back in 2003 within 17 months he had gone 11-0-1, before losing very controversially to Angky Angkotta in Indonesia, whilst being outweighed by 6lbs. Ever since that loss, back in 2004, Nietes has gone unbeaten running up a 29-0-3 record. That is even more impressive when you consider he has fought a huge number of those bouts at world level, and claimed world titles at Minimumweight, Light Flyweight and Flyweight, establishing himself as one of the best little men of his generation and one of the best Filipino fighters ever.
During his 32 fight unbeaten run Nietes has fought in 16 world title bouts, going 15-0-1 (6). On paper those numbers are really good, and even more so when you consider he has beaten fighters like Pornsawan Porpramook, Jesus Silvestre, Moises Fuentes and Francisco Rodriguez Jr . What has helped him have such longevity is his high boxing IQ, excellent skills and real understanding of himself and his opponents. He is a really smart boxing who doesn't excel in any physical area but does everything brilliantly. He can box at range and up close, and dictates the tempo and range of a bout brilliantly. He hits hard enough to get the respect of opponents, he's accurate and although he can be out worked be is a real thinking man's fighter who appears to have developed a lot from his experience.
Reveco has also become one of the lower weights veterans, and at 34 he's not much younger than Nietes and debuted just a year later than the Filipino. The talented Reveco raced out to the WBA Light Flyweight title, winning the belt in his 16th bout by stopping Thai Nethra Sasiprapa. His reign was however a short one, and he would lose the title in his second defense as he was out pointed by Frenchman Brahim Asloum, in what was Reveco's first bout outside of Argentina. Within a year of the loss to Asloum we saw Reveco claim the WBA “interim” Light Flyweight title, before moving up in weight and winning the WBA “interim” Flyweight title. That interim title was later upgraded to the full Flyweight title , which he would defend against the likes of Masayuki Kuroda, Ricardo Nunez, Felix Avarado and Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep. Those wins showed that Reveco was a talented, tough and smart fighter with top class body shots and and a real gutsy desire. He also held his own in a very narrow defeat to Kazuto Ioka in April 2015, in a very close bout. A rematch with Ioka however saw the Japanese fighter show a new maturity and stop Reveco with a really stellar performance.
Since lose to Ioka at the end of 2017 we've seen Reveco go 3-0 with a notable win last time out against Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking to earn a crack at the IBF title. He has proven there is still something left in the tank, and against Eaktwan we saw Reveco put on a brilliant performance, using his hand speed, his movement, and his skills to avoid an all out war with the naturally bigger Thai. He will need to use those traits, along with his trademark body punching, if he's to stand a chance here.
With both Nietes and Reveco getting on in age it's hard to know what either man really has left. There is a chance that both have one last great performance, there is also a chance that father time gets to either man. A few years ago this bout would have been something really special, but now, whilst it's still an excellent fight it does feel like the loser will be sent into retirement. That may mean that both men pull out all the stops, but it could also mean neither man has the fire, speed or snap they once had. Going on recent performances we do favour Nietes, who has avoided the wars that Reveco has had, to come out on top, but could certainly see the enducated body shots of Reveco giving the Filipino real problems.
We think this bout could have been a classic 3 years ago, had Nietes moved up back then, or even down at 108lbs. We still still think it'll be a really, really good fight,but can't get over the fact that that they have a combined age of almost 70, and both will have seen better days.
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.