The Light Flyweight division has long been one of the best in the sport and it's really red hot with so much world class talent. To end the year we get the chance to see two truly world class fighters face off in a mouth watering clash in Macau. In one corner we'll have WBA "super" champion Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10) and in the other we'll have former IBF Minmumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (11-0, 8). Stylistcally the two men are massively different but together they should gel for a FOTY contender and make for something very special.
South African fighter Budler is a grizzled veteran, who is 30 years old and turned professional way back in 2007. His career was over-looked early on by the international boxing world despite early career fights in Canada and the USA, but he would impress in later years when he won the WBA Minimumweight title. As the champion at 105lbs Budler would go on to shine in bouts held in Monaco, raising his profile dramatically, before boosting his reputation at home with a win over Simpiwe Koncko. Sadly his reign ended in 2016, losing to Byron Rojas, before he moved up in weight. At Light Flyweight he has gone 3-1, losing in a nail biter in 2017 to Milan Melindo before beating Ryoichi Taguchi this past May in another brilliant 12 round bout.
Budler is technically a flawed fighter but he has an amazing engine, fighting at a high tempo through 12 rounds, he throws from unorthodox angles, and refuses to back off. Although not powerful his work rate is a nightmare and he's very hard to get respect from, even if he's not iron chinned. In fact if we were to sum him up it would be "iron willed buzzsaw", and we genuinely love watching him.
Unbeaten Japanese fighter Kyoguchi was put on the fast lane when he debuted in 2016 and he raced away to his first world title just 15 months after making his professional debut. After 2 defenses of the IBF Minimumweight title he decided to move up in weight, and now campaigns at Light Flyweight, which should suit his growing body better than the 105lbs weight class. At Minimumweight he was an aggressive bully, who used his physicality and his heavy hands to great effect, and combined those with under-rated speed and brilliant combination punching, especially on the inside.
Interestingly Kyoguchi is stablemates with Ryoichi Taguchi, the man that Budler beat for the WBA "Super" Light Flyweight title. That bout will serve as an advantage for Kyoguchi, who will have been given a scouting report from his Watanabe Gym stablemate, who will be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of Budler. What we've seen of both men makes us expect something really exciting and action packed, and Kyoguchi really holds the advantage on the inside, with very under-rated body punching, especially his left hook to the mid-section. We suspect that punch will be the key, and that he'll find a home for it early on, and rely on it to slow down and break up the South African.
Budler has never been stopped before, he is a top fighter at 108lbs and he is tough. We do however think that Kyoguchi is a special fighter, in a similar mould to Roman Gonzalez, and will move through the weights with relative ease whilst getting stronger. We suspect that Budler start well here before being broken down and maybe even stopped in the later rounds as Kyoguchi announces himself on a new division in style.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On December 30, Ken Shiro will defend the WBC Light Flyweight World Championship, for the 5th time, against Mexican challenger Saul “Baby” Juarez, live on Fuji Television, in Japan.
Ken Shiro (14-0 / 8 KOs) was introduced to the sport, from a very young age, by his father Hisashi Teraji, a former OPBF Light Heavyweight champion. Shiro’s amateur career lasted 7 years, from 2007 to 2014, accumulating a record of 58-16. His most significant accomplishments were winning the 68th National Sports Festival (light flyweight division), as well as placing second at the All Japan Championships.
Turned pro in 2014, he displayed his fighting spirit early on by taking on fighters, way more experienced than him, such as Heri Amol (37-30), Katsunori Nagamine (15-2), Takashi Omae (13-6) and Rolly Sumalpong (10-3). On December of 2015, Shiro was in a thrilling encounter with Kenichi Horikawa (38-15) for the Japanese Light Flyweight title. Despite having only 5 pro fights under his belt, Shiro went toe to toe with the veteran for 10 rounds, which kept the fans at Korakuen on their feet, applauding the effort of both men. When the fight was over, the young lion left the victor and the new Japanese champion.
After that breakout performance, Shiro made his inaugural defense over one time world title challenger Atsushi Kakutani (19-7). The “Smiling Assassin” was absolutely dominant, knocking Atsushi down thrice, in just the first round, for the TKO win. On August of 2016, he also acquired the vacant OPBF crown when he defeated Toshimasa Ouchi (20-9), as well as defended it once against Lester Abutan (13-9), who he crushed with a lethal flurry of punches in the third round.
The unstoppable Japanese superstar eventually earned his big opportunity, on May of last year, as he challenged Ganigan Lopez (35-8) for the WBC Light Flyweight World Championship, at the Ariake Colosseum. Both challenger and champion fought valiantly, in a very close encounter, which undoubtedly was the biggest test of Shiro’s career at the time. “El Maravilla” had won the belt a year prior to their encounter, from Yu Kimura, and was determined to leave Japan once again with the gold. Shiro on the other hand, wasn’t going to let his moment go to waste. It was a hard hitting contest that saw the Japanese fighter took on a heavy beating but kept on coming back with strong offense of his own. During the last round, Lopez and Shiro left it all in the ring, as they engaged in a wild brawl, which was the perfect conclusion to this bout. In the end, the judges scored the match in favor of Ken Shiro, thus declaring him the new world champion, at the age of 25.
Shiro proceeded to defend his title, the same year, twice. His first challenger was former World champion Pedro Guevara (33-3). It was a slow and methodical contest which turned into a slugfest during the last 4 rounds. Shiro showcased his incredible hand speed and body work, which led him getting the majority decision. His second one was Gilberto Pedroza (18-5). It was a one-sided affair that ended violently in the 4th, when the champ stormed Pedroza with a plethora of body shots.
On May of 2018, the rematch between Shiro and Lopez was set to take place at Ota-City’s General Gymnasium. Many fans and critics alike believed that the Mexican was robbed in their previous encounter and expected him to regain his championship. In a stunning turn of events, Shiro stopped Lopez in just the second round after he landed a well timed right hook to the body, leaving the former champion unable to answer the referee’s 10 count, plus putting any doubts of his legitimacy to rest.
Ken Shiro more recently marked his 4th defense against the former IBF World champion Milan Melindo (37-4), at the Yokohama Arena. Undoubtedly one of his best performances today, Shiro dominated in every round, almost leaving no room for offense to his opponent, punishing Melindo with fast combinations through out the match, until the end came in the 7th round, via referee stoppage.
Saul Juarez (24-8 / 13 KOs) will be the fifth man that will attempt to dethrone the unstoppable Japanese Superstar. “Baby’s” career has been filled with ups and downs. From winning the Cinturon de Oro XVI Light Flyweight Tournament, during his early days as a pro, to straggling to earn a shot at the big one. For example, Juarez managed to stop former WBC Silver champion and world title contender Armando Torres (23-18) back in 2013, but later lost to future IBF champion, the aforementioned Milan Melindo, in a world title eliminator.
Two of his biggest victories came in 2015, against former WBC World champion Adrian Hernandez (30-5). However, it must be pointed out that his first win was due to a cut, while the second one was a split decision, in which Hernandez also dropped him during the early rounds. Soon after, Juarez transitioned to the Minimumweight division. Despite scoring a win over former champion Oswaldo Novoa (14-8), he failed to capture the crown when he faced Chayaphon Moonsri (52-0) for the WBC strap.
After a 4 fight losing streak, Juarez made a comeback earlier this year when he defeated the WBC Light Flyweight Silver champion and former world title contender Gilberto Parra (26-4) to win the WBC Latino belt. Now standing as the Number 8 ranked light flyweight by the WBC, the Mexican will challenge Ken Shiro for the World Championship on December 30.
Needless to say, even though Juarez is a strong boxer, he is nowhere near Ken Shiro’s level. His lack of intelligent defense and head movement have cost him many battles, as he lets himself constantly exposed, suffering a lot of damage, thus staying behind on the judges scorecards (Juarez has never been stopped). With fighters like Jonathan Taconing, Edward Heno, Tetsuya Hisada and Ryoichi Taguchi higher on the WBC rankings, it’s clear that Juarez was picked mostly to keep Ken Shiro on his toes. Also, it’s a big tradition in Japan, watching fights during the Holidays, so it’s a chance for Ken Shiro to please the Japanese fans with another spectacular performance and possibly another KO, before the year is over.
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.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On October 6 at the Yokohama Arena, Kenshiro defends the WBC Light Flyweight World Championship against Milan Melindo.
Ken Shiro (13-0 / 7 KOs) belongs in the bright new generation of Japanese boxers like Naoya Inoue, Ryota Murata and Kosei Tanaka. He was introduced to the sport, from a very young age, by his father Hisashi Teraji, a former OPBF light heavyweight champion. Shiro’s amateur career lasted 7 years, from 2007 to 2014, accumulating a record of 58-16. His most significant accomplishments were winning the 68th National Sports Festival (light flyweight division), which is considered to be Japan’s premier sports event, as well as placing second at the All Japan Championships.
Turned pro in 2014, he displayed his fighting spirit early on by taking on fighters, way more experienced than him, such as Heri Amol (36-17*), Katsunori Nagamine (10-0*), Takashi Omae (13-4*) and Rolly Sumalpong (9-0*). On December of 2015, Shiro was in a thrilling encounter with Kenichi Horikawa (30-13*) for the Japanese Light Flyweight Title. Despite having only 5 pro fights under his belt, Shiro went toe to toe with the veteran for 10 rounds, which kept the fans at Korakuen on their feet, applauding the effort of both men. When the fight was over, the young lion left the victor and the new Japanese champion.
After that breakout performance, Shiro made his inaugural defense over one time world title contender Atsushi Kakutani (17-4*). The “Smiling Assassin” was absolutely dominant, knocking Atsushi down thrice, in just the first round, for the TKO win. On August of 2016, he also acquired the vacant OPBF crown when he defeated Toshimasa Ouchi (20-8*), as well as defended it once against Lester Abutan (11-5*), who he crushed with a lethal flurry of punches in the third round.
The unstoppable Japanese superstar eventually earned his big opportunity, on May of last year, as he challenged Ganigan Lopez (33-6*) for the WBC Light Flyweight World Championship, at the Ariake Colosseum. Both challenger and champion fought valiantly, in a very close encounter, which undoubtedly was the biggest test of Shiro’s career. “El Maravilla” had won the belt a year before, from Yu Kimura, and was determined to leave Japan once again with it. Shiro on the other hand, wasn’t going to let his moment go to waste. It was a hard hitting contest that saw the Japanese fighter took on a heavy beating but kept on coming back with strong offense of his own. During the last round, Lopez and Shiro left it all in the ring, as they engaged in a wild brawl, which was the perfect conclusion to this bout. In the end, the judges scored the match in favor of Ken Shiro, thus declaring him the new world champion, at the age of 25.
Shiro proceeded to defend his title, the same year, twice. His first challenger was former world champion Pedro Guevara (30-2*). It was a slow and methodical contest which turned into a slugfest during the last 4 rounds. Shiro showcased his incredible hand speed and body work, which led him getting the majority decision. His second one was Gilberto Pedroza (18-3*). It was a one-sided affair that ended violently in the 4th round, when the champ stormed Pedroza with a plethora of body shots.
On May of 2018, the rematch between Shiro and Lopez was set to take place at Ota-City’s General Gymnasium. Many fans and critics alike believed that the Mexican was robbed in their previous encounter and expected him to regain his championship. In a stunning turn of events, Shiro stopped Lopez in just the second round after he landed a well calculated right hook to the body, leaving the former champ unable to answer the referee’s 10 count, plus putting any doubts of his legitimacy to rest. His fourth title defense will take place this weekend against Milan Melindo.
Milan Melindo (37-3 / 13 KOs), a 13 year professional as well as a one time IBF World Champion, has faced top competition almost his entire career. He holds notable victories over former world champions, including Hekkie Budler (also current WBA Light Flyweight World Champion), Muhammad Rachman and Carlos Tamara. His most significant win was against 3 division world champion Akira Yaegashi who he TKOed in less than 3 minutes, on May of 2017. Even his losses are to former world champions (Juan Francisco Estrada, Javier Mendoza, Ryoichi Taguchi) and all of them have come via decision. He may not be a knockout artist but he’s known for his fast combinations, much like Shiro is.
Stylistically this is a great match-up. Both men have fought and beat some of the best boxers in the division and have displayed a fast paced but technical style of fighting. Since neither Shiro nor Melindo have ever been stopped during their careers, it’s difficult to make a prediction. What will be the difference maker ? Will it be the experience factor of the Filipino challenger or will it be the slickness and deadly bodywork of the Japanese champion, which has kept him undefeated until now ? These questions will be answered this Sunday.
*Fighter’s record prior to the fight mentioned.
One of the things we're big on is fighters trying to create history, push themselves and trying to do something a bit special. This coming Sunday we see a fighter try to do exactly that, as Lu Bin (1-0, 1) looks to claim a world title in just his second professional bout. He isn't attempting to do it by fighting for a vacant title, but instead by taking one one of the most feared Light Flyweights on the planet, WBA champion Carlos Canizales (20-0-1, 16). For Lu this is a chance to become the first male fighter to win a world title in fewer than 3 fights, which is the record set by Saensak Muangsurin and tied by Vasyl Lomachenko. As for Canizales this bout will be his first defense, defending the title he on in March when he over-came Reiya Konishi in a hotly contested bout in Kobe. That win came in Canizales' second world title bout, following a 2-16 split decision draw with Ryoichi Taguchi.
The 23 year old Bin was a former amateur star, following in the footsteps of Chinese compatriot Zou Shiming. He had been a break out star in the APB, the AIBA Professional Boxing league, and shone in a special 1-off exhibition against former world champion Xiong Zhao Zhong. Last September he made his professional debut, under normal professional rules, and stopped Wanchai Nianghansa, aka Chatchai Or Benjamas, in 3 rounds to claim the WBC Asian Boxing Council Silver Light Flyweight title. In that bout Bin looked like a star in the making, with tight defenses, smooth boxing, and a lovely variety of shots. Despite looking like a star in the making it's hard to ignore that Bin has fought just 3 rounds as a “proper” professional. It's also hard to ignore the fact they came against a Thai journeyman, it's not like when Muangsurin beat the in-form and world ranked Rudy Barro and Lion Furyama or when Lomachenko defeated the experienced Jose Ramirez, it was essentially a win over a very weak opponent by Bin.
Watching Lu's debut we saw a special fighter. He looked like he knew more about professional boxing than someone like Shiming was ever going to understand. Even as a little fighter he looked like his shots had spite, especially his body shots, and he was able to find holes where novices rarely find them. He had a real smoothness to his work and it was a joy to watch. There was however still the feeling that he was just a very good prospect beginning his career, not someone who was going to be challenging for a world title so early in his career, especially in one of the toughest divisions in the sport.
Venezuelan fighter Canizales was a relative unknown before his 2016 bout with Taguchi in Japan, a bout that he could well have gotten the decision for, rather than being held to a draw. After 3 straight forward wins back in Venezuela Canizales travelled back to Japan and defeated Konishi in what was a brilliant bout that saw him come close to stopping Konishi, before being forced on to the back foot. In those bouts Canizales shower that he was aggressive, hard hitting, but could box, could move and had under-rated footwork. He possibly has some question marks about his stamina, dropping his output during both those fights, but is clearly a very dangerous and talented boxer-puncher. It's notable that both his best performances have come in Asia, and this bout with Bin will take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Canziales has been a professional since July 2014 and his rise has been quick. Despite being quick he has still managed to to fit in 21 bouts so far, and fought 92 rounds. Those 92 rounds have included a couple of bouts that have gone 12 rounds and one that has gone 11. He has experience in the later stages of bouts, has proven his toughness, his power and his skills. This proven quality certainly gives him the edge over Bin. Had Bin been more experienced, more proven as a professional, this could have been viewed as a real 50-50. Instead however it seems like too much too soon for Bin, who is a real talent, but perhaps could have waited just a touch longer and fit in a few more fights before agreeing to step in the ring with Canizales.
We suspect that Bin will have his moments early on, but unfortunately we expect him to come up short later in the bout, with Canizales' experience and proven ability to do 12 rounds being the difference between the two men here. Saying that however, we would love to see Bin win here, and lay down a marker to the world of boxing, that top amateurs don't need to be held back and can be fast tracked insanely quick.
The Light Flyweight division may not have the sports biggest names but it is arguably the best division in the sport right now, not only with over-looked fighters but also a steady stream of great fights pitting world class fighters against each other. The next one of those top quality bouts is this coming Friday as WBC champion Ken Shiro (12-0, 6), from Japan, defends his title against Mexican veteran Ganigan Lopez (29-7, 18). The bout will be the second between the two men, who faced off last year in a bout that saw the Japanese fighter outpoint Lopez to become the champion.
Since their first meeting, which Ken Shiro won by majority decision, the champion has gone on to distinguish himself as a leading fighter at 108lbs thanks to wins over Pedro Guevara and Gilberto Pedroza. In those bouts he has shown clear improvements and looks to be a fighter who has grown since claiming the title. As for Lopez he has been he has been mostly inactive with his only bout between his loss to Ken shiro and this rematch being a win over unknown Mexican fighter Efren Bautista.
Aged 26 Ken Shiro is already a fighter who is showing signs of becoming a real star in Japan, that's despite the fact his first two world title fights were shown live in his homeland and the fact that fans had been following him from his debut. He was touted for big things when he turned professional following a solid amateur career, and was also given extra attention due to the fact his father Hisashi Teraji was a successful fighter claiming Japanese and OPBF honours. On his way through the ranks the youngster not only did what his father managed, winning the Japanese and OPBF Light Flyweight titles, but also claimed the WBC Youth title to become a triple crown winner after just 8 bouts.
In his 10th professional contest Ken Shiro would defeat Lopez for the WBC title in a coming of age performance. Prior to the bout he had shown the tools to be something special, showing he could adapt to his opponents, box, brawl and counter, but had never managed to put it all together as he did against Lopez. He not only showed he had the skills, but also the toughness to see out the final round when Lopez was really bringing the heat. His skills, and desire to win, were on show again when he narrowly defeat Guevara in what was another really tough bout. Against Pedroza however it seemed like Ken Shiro wanted to show the fans his boxing, which he did early on, before closing the show, which he did in impressive fashion in round 4. That win showed he could box or punch, and it's his ability to mix various styles that makes him such a fantastic young fighter. There are areas for him to build on, but with his speed, physical strength, ring IQ and under-rated power he could be a nightmare to dethrone in the coming years.
Whilst Ken Shiro is really just starting to capture the attention of the wider boxing fan base in Japan Lopez has been on the radar of fight fans for years. The 36 year old made his debut way back in 2003 and although he suffered some early career set backs, including a loss to the under-rated Juan Palacios and a loss to Adrian Hernandez, he would rebuild from a 13-4 record to become one of the key figures in the world title scene. Amazingly he wouldn't get a world title fight until 2015, when he was 33 with a record of 25-5 and despite a great effort he would lose a close but clear decision to Pedro Guevara. The following year he would get his second shot, and defeat Yu Kimura, who had beaten Guevara, for the WBC title. A title he would defend once, out pointing Jonathan Taconing, before losing the belt to Ken Shiro.
Despite his age Lopez is a fighter who hasn't shown anything in terms of ageing. He's a really smart fighter who uses his southpaw stance fantastically, moves around the ring intelligently and can box or brawl. His legs and boxing brain took him to a clear win over Kimura , despite the ridiculously poor scorecard of Juan Carlos Pelayo, and his win over Taconing showed just how good his ring craft is against a dangerous puncher. Sadly for him his work rate and out put isn't the best and he is perhaps due to lose some of his his movement. No one will doubt his boxing brain, but his reactions may well have slipped between the first bout with Ken Shiro and now.
At his best Lopez would be a real handful for any active 108lb fighter, and would give fits to many of those just below the divisional elite. At 36 however it's hard to know what he really has left and it's fair to say that Ken Shiro is just getting better and better. Although we don't see this as being an easy fight for the Japanese fighter we don't see Ken Shiro losing, instead we are expecting a clear, but tough, decision for Ken Shiro. A stoppage isn't totally out of the question for Ken Shiro, but it would be a bit of a surprise given that Lopez has only been stopped once in his 36 fight career.
Our prediction is a clear decision victory for the champion, who will put to bed any doubt between who is currently the better fighter and may also retire the Mexican, who has been a fantastic servant to boxing over the last few years. With a win we expect to see Ken Shiro begin the hunt for unification bouts, and could well find himself chasing any of the other champions.
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 Light Flyweight division is, arguably, the strongest ion the sport right now and also the most varied. It has boxers, like Ken Shiro and Pedro Guevara, it has action swarmers like Ryoichi Taguchi and Tetsuya Hisada, it has big punchers like Angel Acosta, Felix Alvarado and Jonathan Taconing and it has insane depth with about 15 world class fighters, many of whom are facing each other. It really is an incredible division mixing talent, depth and styles in a way that no other division is really doing.
This coming Sunday we again see the division look to deliver something special as two talented and unbeaten fighters, with different styles, face off for a world title.
The bout in question sees Japanese swarmer Reiya Konish (15-0, 5) risking his unbeaten record against Venezuelan puncher Carlos Canizales (19-0-1, 16), with both men looking to become the WBA “regular” Light Flyweight champion, and earn a shot at getting a fight with the aforementioned Taguchi.
Fighting at home Konishi will be the fan favourite for the bout, but in the eyes of many internationally he is the unknown having never fought above Japanese domestic level. The 24 year old from Kobe is however someone who is pretty proven having won the 2014 Rookie of the Year and the Japanese Minimumweight title, which he defended twice during a 9 month reign. He won the domestic title last April, defeating the talented Masataka Taniguchi, before defending hit against multi-time world title challenger Shin Ono and mandatory challenger Kenta Matsui. After the win over Matsui we saw Konishi vacate and turn his attention on to the Light Flyweight division, as if to admit his body was struggling to continue to boil down to 105lbs.
In the ring Konishi is an incredibly busy fighter with a style that involves boring forward with his hands flowing freely and a lot of leather being thrown. It's not the prettiest of styles, but it is an exciting one to watch, and he seems to be able to combine his high level of activity with accuracy and toughness. Technically he's not the most talented, or fluid of fighters, but he's someone who looks very tricky to beat, and almost impossible to out work. A big question is whether or not his style will be effective at 108lb or at world level.
Hardcore fans might remember Canizales for his draw, which happened at the end of 2016 when he challenged Ryoichi Taguchi. The bout saw some suggest that Canizales was hard done to, others suggest Taguchi had been the clear winner, but the judges were all over the place with one judge scoring the bout 116-112 to Canizales, another giving the same score to Taguchi and the third giving it a 114-114 draw. The reality, in some ways, is that Taguchi under-performed in that bout, however Canizales is a very solid fighter. The Venezuelan is a naturally heavy handed fighter, with a solid jab, a good rate and a dangerous mixture of aggression, combinations and power.
Whilst Canizales certainly looks incredibly dangerous, and has a record which backs that up, there is huge question marks about his competition. His biggest bout is the Taguchi bout, obviously, and then a win over Robert Barrera comes a somewhat distant second. Other than that, there is almost nothing of note on his record. If anything his record suggests he's merely cleaned out the local scene in Venezuela, taking on limited foe after limited foe. His record might look impressive but it's paper thin and a win over Konishi would be a career best.
Given that both men are aggressive, action fighters who throw a lot of leather we're expecting something very special. Both men like to come forward, and we're expecting to see that happen here in a FOTY contender. On paper Canizales has the edge in power whilst Konishi has the home advantage. On paper Canizales is the fighter more proven at 108lbs, but Konishi the fighter with more experience against good competition. It's a hard one to call, but we're leaning toward Konishi taking the decision in a truly action packed war, which will see a lot of punches thrown and a lot of fantastic, jaw dropping exchanges.
This will be close, great fun and something for the fans at the Portopia Hotel to really savour, and we think those fans will help Konishi take the win and the title.
It's fair to say that 2017 has been an amazing year for boxing fans, who have had so many great fights that year has over-delivered in many ways. There has been dodgy decisions, farcical contests and all the negatives we associate with the sport, but also a lot of amazing fights. We get some more of those on December 31st with the pick of the bunch being a Light Flyweight unification bout between WBA champion Ryoichi Taguchi (26-2-2, 12) and IBF champion Milan Melindo (37-2, 13). The bout could well shake up Fighter of the Year category and will almost certainly see us with a unified champion at 108lbs, a division which many have been sleeping on in recent years.
Of the two men it's Taguchi who is the more distinguished champion. The 31 year old from the Watanabe gym has held the WBA title since the end of 2014, beating Alberto Rossel for the belt on December 31st. Since then he has racked up 6 defenses, though shown real inconsistencies during his reign. He has dominated the likes of Kwanthai Sithmorseng, Juan Jose Landaeta and Ryo Miyazaki, struggled past Luis De La Rose and Carlos Canizales and looked beatable in both of those fights, whilst impressing earlier this year when he stopped Robert Barrera.
Although a bit of an enigma no one can argue with Taguchi's ability. When he's got his head on and is in the right mood he's an absolute night mare to fight with a very high output, freakish physical stature for a Light Flyweight, standing at over 5'5”, a solid toughness and a real air of confidence. He's not the most skilled but with his long reach, durability and work rate he's going to be a handful for anyone, and even gave Naoya Inoue his toughest bout to date, taking several rounds from the “Monster” back in 2013.
Filipino fighter Melindo only won his title this past May, in his third world title fight, but is arguably one of the top contenders for Fighter of the Year in 2017, with a win over Taguchi possibly earning him the award. He won the title in Japan, when he stopped Akira Yaegashi in 165 seconds, a divisional record, and made his first defense in September when he defeated top South African Hekkie Budler in a 2017 Fight of the Year candidate. Prior to those two wins Melindo was a bit of a nearly man, having put up good efforts in losses to Juan Francisco Estrada and Javier Mendoza and having scored notable wins over Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, Saul Juarez, Martin Tecuapetla, Carlos Tamara and Muammad Rachman. His resume was on par that of a world champion, but without a win in a big one.
Having gotten his “big win” and a world title the question now is whether Melindo can continue to build on his success. From a technical stand point Melindo is arguably the best fighter at 108lbs. He's got a very, very high ring IQ, is a brilliant counter puncher and understands the ring fantastically. He gauges distances really well, has great timing and knows how to control the distance. From a fight fan perspective he's a real thinking man's fighter, but sadly that comes at a cost and he can be out worked, he can seem lazy and can be swarmed, though he does hit harder than his record suggests and one of his counters can turn the bout on it's head.
This bout really does look like it will be an intriguing clash of styles. It has Taguchi's high work rate, and relative defensive openness against Melindo's low work rate but accurate and smooth counter punching. It will pit two world class fighters against each other and will, potentially, see one walk out as a unified WBA/IBF champion, and the man to beat in the division.
With home advantage we do favour Taguchi, who with a win would spoil Melindo's year, but a win for Melindo is certainly not out of the question. Either man can win, and it is a true 50-50 bout, with a feeling of being something very, very special to close out the year.
One of the Japanese fighters to really move his career on in a big way this year has been Ken Shiro (11-0, 5) [拳 四朗], who claimed the WBC Light Flyweight title and defended it earlier in 2017. He moved from regional and domestic champion to world champion and did so whilst being on the fast track, like a number of other Japanese youngsters. To end the year he looks to record his second defense and over-come Panamanian challenger Gilberto Pedroza (18-3-2, 8).
The Japanese youngster made his mark on the domestic amateur scene before fighting for pay August 2014. From there he has gone from success to success and claimed the WBC Youth, Japanese and OPBF titles before the start of this year. His 2017 has been a really big one with a title win in May against the excellent Ganigan Lopez and his first was equally impressive as he over-came Pedro Guevara.
On one hand his two wins over Guevara and Lopez were majority decision wins, on the other hand they were both hugely impressive performances against world class fighters, and fights that he certainly held his own in. Majority decisions at home can be questioned, but neither of these were poor decisions, just close, competitive wins against top level opponents. They showed that Ken Shiro can box, he can brawl, he can go toe-to-toe, and he can take a shot. He clearly isn't a puncher on the world stage, but he does meld styles brilliantly and that has always been the case.
At just 25 Ken Shiro is perhaps lacking in terms of his “man strength”, explaining why he has had just 2 stoppage wins in his last 7. Despite that he certainly his with respectable power, and fighters won't want to get into a brawl with him too often, as his accuracy and speed are both impressive traits. It is, perhaps, his movement which is his most over-looked skill, but something that was shown early in his career against the very talented Katsunori Nagamine, who he beat on his footwork and jab alone.
Whilst Ken Shiro has taken repeated steps up in class the same can't quite be said for Pedroza. Whilst he has impressed recently, and did score a split decision win over the excellent Saul Juarez last time out, he is lacking good wins. Earlier in his career he was 11-3-2 (6) with losses to Leroy Estrada, Carlos Ortega and Robert Barrera and draws against Carlos Melo and the aforementioned Ortega. Hardly murderer's row. The Juarez win aside there is no other quality win on his record.
Footage of Pedroa shows a rather raw looking fighter, as many non-elite fighters from the Latin American region are. He can certainly fight, and is an exciting fighter, but his offensive work leaves him very open and his defensive work is certainly nothing impressive. Unfortunately for Pedroza he lacks power and in his bout against Barrera he showed real boxing immaturity, allowing Barrera to wail away on him on the ropes until the referee stopped it. He has certainly improved since then, but has he improved enough to really be competing at world level?
Whilst Ken Shiro has impressed without shining this year we expect him to go out with a bang. He's featured live on national Japanese TV for the first time, he know he has a huge opportunity to put on a show and we we expect him to do just that, whilst stopping the visitor from Panama.
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.