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.
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.
Filipino boxing is in an interesting position right now as the older generation, such as Manny Pacquiao, Nonito Donaire and Donnie Nietes, look to be coming to the end of their career just at the same time as a new batch of top fighters are making their mark. One of those new batch of fighters is 29 year old Milan Melindo (36-2, 13), who won the IBF Light Flyweight title earlier this year in his third world title shot.
This coming weekend Melindo makes his first defense of the title and looks to continue the momentum his career has, and continue to build the growing excitement in Filipino boxing, which has a host of promising prospects. Not only is Melindo looking to defend his title for the first time, but he's willing to do it against a really notable challenger as he battles South African Hekkie Budler (31-2, 10), a former WBA and IBO Minimumweight champion.
Melindo is one of the more technically capable Filipino's making a mark on the sport. He's much more in the guise of ALA stablemate Donnie Nietes than the power punching Nonito Donaire or the whirlwind punching Manny Pacquiao. He may lack real lights out power, but he can hit solidly enough, and places shots really well, as seen in his opening round destruction of Akira Yaegashi back in May.
Not only is Melindo a very technically sound boxer but he's also someone with a record to back up his skills, with wins against the likes of Muhammad Rachman, Carlos Tamara, Francisco Rosas, Jesus Geles, Jean Piero Perez, Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Martin Tecuapetla, Saul Juarez, Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr and Yaegashi That sort of record mixes wins over champions with wins over a lot of notable divisional contenders as Melindo has kept himself in the mix, despite defeats to Juan Francisco Estrada and Javier Mendoza.
Although wonderfully skilled Melindo does have his flaws. As mentioned he lacks a bit on the power side of things and he can, at times, look very lazy and be out worked. If an opponent can press him back and get out before taking a counter Melindo can occasionally be handcuffed by an aggressive opponent. If that happens he could find himself losing rounds in bouts that can make things very close on the scorecards.
South African fighter Budler was arguably the biggest name in South African boxing the last few years, and his reign as the WBA champion at 105lbs began in 2014 and lasted until 2016, when he lost a thriller to Byron Rojas. As the champion he defended the belt 4 times, with 3 of those defenses coming in Monaco. Although a light punching fighter Budler has no issues with going to war and fights against the likes of Rojas, Simphiwe Khonco and Jesus Silvestre were thrillers through and through. It's also worth noting that before he actually won the title he had other notable wins against Florante Condes and Nkosinathi Joyi, two former world champions.
Although a former champion at 105lbs Budler isn't actually a natural at the weight, having started his career at 108lbs, before dropping down. He's now moved back up and is likely to be a stronger fighter back up at Light Flyweight, where he's not draining too much, and can instead concentrate on training first rather than making weight first. That should help him physical strength and stamina, however he has had a draining career and it's interesting to wonder just how long he can continue to fight in the draining manner that he has been recently. He is a battler, with high output, but every fighter like that eventually wears out, especially when they don't have much power and keeps going the distance.
Coming in to this bout it has the ingredients of something special. With Budler's aggression, and knowing he needs to win clearly to get a decision in the Philippines, against Melindo and his incredible skills and pure boxing. This should lead to a nice gelling of styles, with Budler getting up close and forcing the action, and Melindo having chances to land heavy counters up close. Budler will certainly win rounds, but we tend to feel that home advantage and the cleaner punches will get Melindo his first defense, in a very fun and exciting contest.
With so many world title bouts this coming weekend it's easy to over look some of them, and perhaps that's the case with an incredibly good bout set to take place on Sunday at the Ariake Colosseum. That bout is the IBF Light Flyweight world title unification bout between “regular” champion Akira Yaegashi (25-5, 13) and “interim” champion Milan Melindo (35-2, 12). The two men are proven to be world class fighters and have styles that could make for either a tactical chessmatch or an exciting high skilled war.
Of the two fighters Yaegashi is the more accomplished. He's a 3-weight champion, having won titles at Minimumweight and Flyweight before claiming a Light Flyweight title at the end of 2015. Although his record is marked up he's a true world class fighter who has only lost in a single non-world title bout, way back in 2008 against Masatate Tsuji. Not only is he world class but he's also a hardcore fight fan's favourite having faced a who's who of the lower weights over the last decade, and nearly always putting on a show.
Although a talented boxer Yaegashi has gained a serious reputation as a fighter. He's been in so many wars that a career highlight set has to be made available after his retirement, and he's shown insane courage through his fights, regularly fighting with a swollen and disfigured face. Due to those wars he has become a fighter with an international following, and fans will all remember his bouts against the likes of Pornsawan Porpramook, Kazuto Ioka, Toshiyuki Igarashi, Roman Gonzalez, Javier Mendoza and Jose Martin Tecaupetla. Those bouts, and others, have been great wars and have helped Yaegashi to become more than just another Japanese world champion, they've made him one of the highlights of the lower weights.
The 29 year old Melindo is one of the lower weights technical fighters. He's known as “El Metodico” due to his boxing brain and methodical approach in the ring and has proven to be a genuine world class talent. During his career he has scored numerous notable wins, including victories over Muhammad Rachman,Carlos Tamara, Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Saul Juarez, Jose Martin Tecuapetla and most recently Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, to claim the interim title. He's lost twice to talented fighters, coming up short against Juan Francisco Estrada and Javier Mendoa, with that loss being a relatively controversial one.
As mentioned Melindo is methodical. He's not exciting, he's not a puncher, but he's technically very well schooled, very accurate and for skilled. His style lacks the energy of some of his fellow fighters, and it's fair to say he lacks world class speed or power, but in terms of pure skills, he is a genuine talent.
If Melindo can control the bout, and make it a boxing contest, he was a great chance of putting Yaegashi off his plan, and making the bout a less than thrilling affair, taking the crowd away and claiming the win. The reality however is that even at 34 Yaegashi is still quick and still comes to fight, and is still a top fighter. He'll look to make it a fight and we expect he'll manage to make the fight a war, and come out on top.
The fight will likely have a bit of everything, action, skills and drama, but we think Yaegashi will do more than enough to take home the win here.
The lower weight classes have given us regular thrillers in recent years with so many good fighters and so many action packed contests. Given the amount of talent in the lower weight classes, and the mix of styles we do seem to get some fantastic bouts every time we throw together any of the top 15 or so fighters in any of the lower weight classes. That's likely to be the case again this coming Saturday when Filipino Milan Melindo (34-2, 12) battles Thai Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr (31-4-1, 16) for the IBF “interim” Light Flyweight title in Cebu City.
Whilst the winner won't be a world champion, instead they will have to face Akira Yaegashi in the imminent future, the bout should still be a thriller between two world class fighters who should gel stylistically.
The favourite will be local star Melindo, who not only has home advantage but is also the older fighter with an 11 year career behind him. He is regarded as a brilliantly talented technician who lacks in size and strength but is amazingly well schooled and boxes brilliantly as a pure boxer, using great ring control and movement to out score opponents. He can be bullied, as we saw against Javier Mendoza last year, and he can be out boxed, as we saw in 2013 when he fought Juan Francisco Estrada, but not many fighters will have an easy time with him.
Whilst best known for his two losses, both on the road, Melindo has scored notable wins through his career beating the likes of Muhammad Rachman, Carlos Tamara, Francisco Rosas, Jean Piero Perez, Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Martin Tecuapetla and Saul Juarez. With a resume like that Melindo may be one of the most accomplished current fighters to not have won a world title during his career.
The 23 year old Fahlan will be the under-dog but that has never worried him in the past and in fact he often seems to excel in the under-dog role. That was most notable in 2013, when he shocked the boxing world by stopping Ryo Miyazaki in 3 rounds, and was seen again last year when he was controversially defeated by Katsunari Takayama, with Takayama very lucky to avoid a TKO loss. Those bouts, both in Japan, showed that Fahlan was tough, knew when to strike and was criminally over-looked with under-rated skills, and solid power, even if he's not a KO artist. He showed himself as a smart counter puncher. Although he has shown glimpses of real talent he has also shown flaws and was easily out boxed by Takuma Inoue in 2014 and struggled to a win against Lester Abutan last year.
Despite only being 23 Fahlan is a 6 year professional with 36 bouts under his belt and almost 190 rounds. He has a lot of promise and is likely to become a world champion before his career is over, following in the footsteps of his father a former IBF Minimumweight champion. Notably he is taller and rangier than Melindo and may look to use his size advantages to keep Melindo at bay, neutralise the Filipino's jab and take away his key strengths, whilst also slowly chipping away at the Filipino.
In Thailand this bout would see Fahlan likely being the favourite, with home advantage having been a key, in the Philippines Melindo is understandably the favourite. On paper Melindo is the more talented, the more skilled and the more proven fighter and that higher level of proven ability and home advantage will likely help him to the win. However Fahlan won't travel with out hunting a win and he will give Melindo hell from the first round to the last, whether the bout is a boxing contest or a fight. With Fahlan being a tough ask for anyone he will push Melindo all the way, but we do expect to see Melindo take a clear decision win here.
The Light Flyweight division has often been on of boxing's most over-looked weight classes. It's been unfortunate in many ways, especially recently as it's been used as a stop gap for fighters on their way through the weights and very, very few fighters in recent years have really made their name there. Gone are the days of Yoko Gushiken, Myung Woo Yuh and Jung Koo Chang, who all made their legacy in the 108lb weight class. Now it's a division which acts as a stop off for fighters looking to become multi-weight world champions.
Despite the fact very few fighters seem to settle there it does still manage to give us some brilliant fights. One of came last year when Mexico's Javier Mendoza (23-2-1, 19) out pointed compatriot Ramon Garcia Hirale to claim the IBF title. Mendoza makes the first defense of that belt on May 30th when he takes on talented Filipino boxer Milan Melindo (32-1, 12). On paper this is a brilliant match up and in the ring it's likely to be a compelling contest between a slugger and a boxer.
Melindo, 27, is one of the ALA fighters that has been on the radar of boxing fans for several years. He debuted way back in 2005 after having had a successful amateur career and in 2007 he claimed his first title, the WBO Asian Pacific Minimumweight belt. Since then he has scored notable wins over Muhammad Rachman, Carlos Tamara and Jean Piero Perez, three genuinely good wins.
Sadly for the Filipino he has lost his most notable bout to day, a decision defeat to unified Flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada in 2013. In that bout Estrada gave a very good account of himself, despite what the scorecards suggest, and really pushed the talented Estrada. Whilst the performance was a good one from Melindo it did show one of his problems, a lack of power. No matter what Melindo landed he could never make Estrada respect him and instead the Mexico was able to take the shots and fire back in a very technical bout.
Technically Melindo is a very good boxer. He's not a huge puncher, nor is he the type of fighter who looks like he can unleash a warrior from inside. He's the sort of fighter who is happy to use technique to win bouts but doesn't seem to have the fighters mentality and if the going gets tough we're not sure he'll know how to throw caution to the wind and turn things around .
As for Mendoza he's the polar opposite of the challenger. Technically the 24 year old Mexican is flawed, he's open defensively and wide with his shots. He is however tough, aggressive, heavy handed and really hurtful. He's been a professional since 2007 and scored noteworthy wins over Felipe Salguero, when both were novice, Armando Vazquez and Ramon Garcia Hirales. On paper his record is weak but watching him in action tells us what we need to know, he's fun and dangerous.
Whilst his Mendoza's competition has been weak he has been dealing with it in the way you'd hope a good fight would. He has stopped 9 of his last 10 with 8 of those stoppages coming in the first 4 rounds of bouts. He's been disposing of opponents and quickly. Notably however all 3 of his career set backs have come against poor opposition with his last loss, a 2011 loss to Jorge Guerrero in just 2 rounds, being one that does leave lingering doubts though it's fair to say he has improved since that loss.
Fighting from a southpaw stance and having vicious power on both hands Mendoza is a night mare to fight in many ways though from a fans point of view it's almost certainly going to be fun to watch him in action. Prospective fights against the likes of Ryo Miyazaki, Jonathan Taconing. Rey Loreto and Felix Alvarado are all mouth watering match ups. Against Melindo we're not expecting a FOTY contender but we are expecting a thoroughly intriguing contest between Mendoza's aggression and Melindo's technical ability.
Coming in to this bout it's fair to say the challenger has the stronger resume however he's also the travelling fighter and will almost certainly find himself in a small ring with everyone working against him. In a big ring Melindo may have stood a chance but in a small we really can't see anything but a Mendoza win. The small the ring the less chasing Mendoza will need to do and the more he can just let his hands go. The champion will eat counters but given Melindo's lack of pop he will walk through them in the hope of finding a stoppage.
To Melindo's credit he is a gutsy fighter and we don't see him being stopped, but we do see him being well down on the cards come the final bell. He won't disgrace himself but it will be clear just how far behind some of his compatriots he is at the weight, including Taconing, Randy Petalcorin and, of course, Donnie Nietes who are all among the very best at 108lbs.
On July 27th at the Venetian Casino & Resort in Macau unbeaten Filipino Milan Melindo (29-0, 12) gets the chance to announce himself on the world stage.
Viewed by many as "the best kept secret in Filipino boxing", Melindo will be hoping to go from "secret" to "superstar" as he takes on Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada (24-2, 18) for the WBO and WBA "super" titles at Flyweight in what will be Estrada's first title defense.
Less than a year ago Estrada was in a similar position to what Melindo is in now. He was talented but unknown and under-rated. That changed when Estrada gave former Teiken fighter Roman Gonzalez a thoroughly competitive contest last November in a fight of the year candidate.
Although Estrada lost to Gonzalez he had made a huge impression and just a few months later he defeated Filipino-American Brian Viloria. With that win Estrada not only claimed 2 world titles but also put himself on the boxing map as one of the worlds elite Flyweights (alongside Akira Yaegashi).
Like Estrada was against Viloria, Melindo is the under-dog here but a very live under-dog who will certainly be looking for the upset.
Aged 25 Melindo is a fighter who has been been creating a buzz in and around the Philippines and with good reason. Not only does he boast an impressive unbeaten record but he has also showcased the skills that suggest he could well be a future world champion.
Although Melindo has yet to fight in a world title bout it's relatively fair to suggest that he does deserve to be considered as capable at the world level. He has already defeated 4 former world champions in the form of Muhammad Rachman, Carlos Tamara, Jesus Geles and Jean Piero Perez and also holds victories over title challengers Francisco Rosas and Carlos Melo.
Inside of the ring of Melindo is a technically solid fighter who has a lovely variety of punches to both the head and body. He can box behind his jab though in recent bouts he has seemed very willing to stand in front of his opponents and counter them up close. It's been this willingness to fight up close in recent bouts that has seen him stopping 5 of his last 6 opponents (compared to just 7 in his first 23 bouts) .
In Estrada, Melindo will be facing a genuine beast. The Mexican 23 year old is a huge fighter at the weight, in fact he's probably a natural Super Flyweight. He's not just big but he's tough, relentless, hard hitting and seems to have infinite stamina.
Stylistically Estrada is pretty much your typical Mexican. He comes to the ring for a fight and will happily go to war with an opponent in an attempt to grind them down in a battle of wills. What helps him win these battles is his tremendous body attack which is one of the best in the sport and so devastating that very few fighters will manage to survive.
For Melindo to win he needs to forget about standing in front of Estrada. Letting Estrada apply the pressure with out moving would be suicide here. He needs to box, move and avoid a tear up at all costs. If Melindo cannot establish a safe distance from Estrada and control the pace this will become a hugely entertaining bout for fans but a very painful one for Melindo who lacks the power needed to back Estrada up (like Gonzalez was able to).
If the bout becomes a firefight there's only one winner and sadly it won't be the man who currently resides in Cebu city. If he can keep the action at range and make Estrada chase him however there is potential for the upset.
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.