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.
Japanese fans get the chance to watch 5 world title bouts on New Year's Eve this year. Whilst some of those bouts are very unappealing, and are actually quite terrible looking mismatches, there is one bout that has us genuinely excited and expecting something very competitive and exciting.
That bout an a rematch between WBA Flyweight title Kazuto Ioka (18-1, 10) and the man he beat for that title earlier this year, Juan Carlos Reveco (36-2, 19).
The two men first faced off back in April when Ioka claimed a majority decision over Reveco to become the second Japanese fighter to become a 3-weight champion, following fellow Osakan fighter Koki Kameda. The first bout was a very competitive one and although all 3 judges were from neutral countries the view from many was that Ioka had gotten lucky. That view seemed to be shared by the WBA who demanded that the two men rematch, which they will do just 8 months after their first bout.
Coming in to this rematch both men will be looking to make a statement with Ioka looking to prove that it was him, and not the judges, that decided the previous bout, whilst Reveco will be looking to avenge his loss to Ioka.
Whilst both fighters will be driven they will also be looking to improve on their previous performance. In terms of improvement we can certainly areas where Ioka will have improved. Firstly we suspect he will have filled into the Flyweight division that bit better than he was when the two men first met. We understand that 8 months isn't a long time but this is the second bout since Ioka won the title and those two training camps will have helped him fill out his body. As for Reveco the 32 year old is racing away from his prime years and he may well be on the slide physically, albeit on marginally on the slide.
We know that Ioka has spent a lot of time working on a game plan to beat Reveco more clearly. That has seen him working a lot on combinations in training and he's stated that he'll be switching between head and body regularly whilst trying to stop Reveco. It was combinations and speed in the first bout that saw Ioka claiming rounds against the heavier handed but slower Reveco, who had his best success when the pace slowed down. If Reveco can neutralise the combinations then he'll take the win here however if Ioka can land those combinations there is little doubting he'll get the win, even if he can't stop Reveco.
For Ioka, who will be cheered on by the crowd, he needs to remember not to have a war with Reveco. Instead he needs to stick to his boxing, he is faster, he is taller and rangier, and he is the better mover. If he can stick to a disciplined gameplan it's hard to see Reveco beating him. Reveco however will look to use his defense to slip inside and go to work, where his strength and power will take it's toll.
Our prediction is that this is going to be another close one, though we suspect it will be less close and less debatable than the first with Ioka doing enough to take a clear, but close decision win, with out having “rounds off” like he had in their first bout.
If there is one country that no visiting fighter seems to enjoy it's Thailand. The atmosphere might not be vicious but the over-all conditions are, as fights are fought in blistering heat, humid air and often in temporary out door arenas that are certainly not what visiting fighters are used to. The conditions are set in the favour of the domestic fighters as much as they can be and very few fighters will have fought in anything resembling the conditions of a typical Thai show.
Outside of Asia we may actually find that Argentina is the next most hostile venue for fighters. Unlike Thailand fans are willing to show their dislike of a result, even a clean and well earned stoppage as seen in Johnriel Casimero's excellent win over Luis Alberto Lazarte. Unfortunately for WBA interim Flyweight champion Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep (34-2, 30) it's Argentina that he's heading this week for his next bout as he battles against the very talented Juan Carlos Reveco (34-1, 18) in what, on paper, looks to be a truly tremendous bout between to talented fighters in boxing's toughest division.
Reveco enters the bout as the WBA "regular" champion and has, in terms of results, been on fire in recent years with a 17 fight unbeaten run. Those 17 fights have seen the Argentinian go 11-0 (5) in world and interim world title fights, a very impressive streak. Sadly those numbers to belie the fact that some of his opposition has been weak to say the least with fighters like Julian Rivera, Jean Piero Perez, Ronald Barrera and Ulises Lara really not fight to be in world title fights.
Although Reveco's opposition hasn't been great that's not to say he's actually a bad fighter. His win over Masayuki Kuroda did prove that he was a capable fighter and his body shots, which have been shown repeatedly over his career, have shown real world class skills as has his over-all boxing ability which is often crisp and intelligent. Sadly those world class glimpses have been few and far between since he moved to Flyweight and last time out he was fortunate to retain his title against a very spirited Felix Alvarado and had the Alvarado/Reveco bout been on neutral territory we'd likely be discussing Yodmongkol fighting against Alvarado.
As for Yodmongkol we're not fully sold on the Thai. In his break out win over Koki Eto the Thai looked very smart and neutralised Eto's aggressiveness and work rate. Yodmongkol slowly but surely broke Eto, who put on a great effort but was stopped late despite his fighting heart. Sadly though Yodmongkol looked awful, and we mean awful, when he battled against Takuya Kogawa who appeared to be very harshly done by when he battled the Thai, who on that day looked lazy and fought with contempt towards his Japanese foe.
At his best Yodmongkol is a defensively tight fighter with sharp and accurate shots, as he showed against Eto, at his worst however he's a lazy fighter who can be kept behind his own defensive work as opposed to really taking the fight to his opponent. At home he can often get away with that strategy away from home though it's a dangerous one and could well be the undoing of a 28 fight winning streak that dates back a little over 4 years. Sadly for Yodmongkol many of those wins have come against lesser foes and in many ways his wins over Kogawa and Eto are his stand out wins whilst other victories, over Crison Omayao and Jack Amisa, certainly look like they have come against regional journeymen.
What we're suspecting to see here is a really good battle against two world class, though not elite, level Flyweight fighters. In a world where we have just 1 title this would be an eliminator style bout and it would show as both men show their desire. That desire will be here as both men attempt to break the other in what we suspect will be a very entertaining battle up close between two talented fighters. Unfortunately for the Thai the odds are he will need a stoppage to get the win and we don't see him getting that against a tough Argentinian who has shown the ability to grit it out where needed. Despite that Yodmongkol will almost certainly give him a lot of questions through 12 very tough rounds.
Note-This bout has been re-arranged several times since this preview was originally written.
(Image courtesy of Thairec.com)
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.