The Minimumweight division has been an interesting one recently, which has been given more attention than usual due to Thailand's Wanheng Menayothin reaching 51-0 and breaking the 50-0 record of Floyd Mayweather Jr. Despite the increase in attention it's had, that attention really hasn't been spread across the whole division, and that's a shame given that the division is actually really interesting at the moment. Not only do you have Wanheng with a world title but also the incredibly exciting Vic Saludar and, at the time of writing, the brilliantly named Knockout CP Freshmart. The division also has rising contenders and Tsubasa Koura and Masataka Taniguchi who are both exciting, heavy handed and talented fighters who will find themselves in the mix for years to come.
Another fighter who is expected to be in mix for the coming years is Filipino maestro Mark Anthony Barriga (9-0, 1), who looks to become the IBF champion this coming Saturday, as he takes on fellow unbeaten and Carlos Licona (13-0, 2) for the vacant title.
The title was vacated earlier this year by Hiroto Kyoguchi, who decided to move up in weight. Prior to vacating Barriga had earned the mandatory position for a title shot, with Licona being ordered by the IBF to be the co-challenger for the vacant title. After several weeks of talks it ended up on this weekend's big card from the US, giving both fighters the chance to capitalise on a big show.
For those that haven't seen Barriga he has regularly been compared to Floyd Mayweather Jr. He is one of the most naturally skilled fighters in the sport, with amazing movement, timing and ring craft. He understands distance like very few fighters in the sport and can make good fighters look like rank novices just from his understanding of the ring. His one flaw is that he lacks power, he really is one of the lightest punchers in the sport, but he's a very crisp puncher, who's accurate, sharp and clean with his work.
The Filipino has only been a professional since July 2016 but has already impressed, with particularly notable wins against former world title challengers Samartlek Kokietgym and Gabriel Mendoza, barely losing a round in those bouts combined.
The 23 Mexican born American Licona made his debut in December 2014 and has fought in Mexico, the US and Puerto Rico. Though his career his most notable opponent has been former world title challenger Janiel Rivera, and that's really his only win against an opponent of any name value.
Sadly there is very little footage of Licona, so it's hard to know much about his style, though given his record, and his lack of stoppages, we can assume he's not a puncher. His only stoppages so far both came in his first 4 bouts and since then he's not found anything closing in a stoppage. That's not to say not hitting hard will be an issue here, but it's one thing would help when fighting Barriga. What we expect to see is Licona to be another talented, slick boxer.
We could rave about how good we thing Barriga is, but the reality that we don't think we'll need to. Instead we think Barriga will shine here and will turn heads with a mature, skilled and excellent performance of boxing. We suspect it'll be a performance that will please the purists, rather than the fans looking for excitement, but we're pretty confident that Barriga will put on an exhibition against Licona and come out on top.
We know that's a risky prediction, given how little we've managed to see of Licona, but we're confident that Barriga really is that good, and is the most technically skilled fighter at 105lbs, by quite some margin.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On November 28, the WBA Minimumweight World Champion Thammanoon Niyomtrong will make his 6th defense, against the man, whom he beat for that very title, Byron Rojas.
Thammanoon Niyomtrong (18-0/7 KOs), also known as Knockout CP Freshmart, just like the majority of the boxers from Thailand, he began his fighting career as a Muay Thai fighter. During that time, he managed to win the Thai National as well as the Lumpinee & Rajadamnern Stadium titles, which are considered to be the sport’s most prestigious championships. By doing so, Niyomtrong has made himself a member of that elite group of men, who have held Muay Thai & Boxing world titles, such as Saensak Muangsurin, Samart Payakaroon and Veeraphol Sahaprom.
He made his pro boxing debut in 2012, and in just 2 years he won 8 fights, 6 of those via KO/TKO. On November of 2014, he took on Carlos Buitrago for the interim WBA Minimumweight World title. Niyomtrong put on a boxing clinic, keeping the pressure on for the entirety of the match, not slowing down for a single minute. Despite suffering a nasty cut at his left eye, his superior striking and counter game earned him the unanimous decision victory that night, thus the interim belt. Their rematch in 2016, was pretty much the same, only this time, Niyomtrong was even more dominant than before.
Knockout CP Freshmart defended the interim WBA title against 2 time World champion Muhammad Rachman, back in 2015. As in the aforementioned bout, the champ kept peppering Rachman constantly for 12 rounds. To the Indonesian’s credit, he never went down and also had a good offense, but nothing game changing. In the end, Niyomtrong showcased incredible hand speed and movement, to once again leave with the gold.
In 2016 he faced the WBA World champion Byron Rojas in a unification fight. Niyomtrong was going for the clinch, every time after throwing a good combination or got tagged, slowing the pace down, in what was a smart but less than exciting strategy, that secured him the win. 6 months later, Niyomtrong successfully defended his world title for the 1st time against former OPBF Light Flyweight champion Shin Ono, after dropping him in the 10th round and continued the assault until the closing bell. He also stopped former Japanese champion Go Odaira, with a sweet right cross in the 5th, after punishing him with a plethora of body shots.
After retaining the world title 2 more times, against Rey Loreto and Toto Landero, he squared off against former WBC World Champion Chaozhong Xiong, this past July, in China. After a relatively slow start to the match, Niyomtrong caught Xiong with a perfectly timed right cross to the chin, during the 3rd round, stunning the former champion momentarily. The action then picked up, as both fighters were trading punches, with the Thai boxer getting the better of these exchanges. Since Niyomtrong was the one pushing the action for the vast majority of the fight, he was awarded the decision, improving his record to a perfect 18-0.
Knockout CP Freshmart will now come face to face again with Byron Rojas (25-3/11 KOs), in a rematch 2.5 years in the making. The Nicaraguan’s biggest achievement was winning a close decision over the WBA Super World Minimumweight Champion Hekkie Budler (now the WBA Light Flyweight World Champion), back in 2016. After losing the title, he has been undefeated in his last 8 fights, including a victory over former WBC Silver champion Carlos Ortega, which was an action-packed eight rounder. Niyomtrong has had tougher challenges in that same timeframe, which has allowed him to improve his skills even further, in comparison to Rojas who has battled against lesser opponents. At that point, it’s safe to say that the Thai fighter will once again walk out with the victory. The real question is, what’s next for Niyomtrong. A unification bout with another champion, like Vic Saludar (IBF) or maybe it’s time for the former Muay Thai king to try his hand at Light Flyweight ? Only time will tell.
On August 29th Thai fans will get the chance to see WBC Minmumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (50-0, 18) look to go one better than Floyd Mayweather Jr, as he looks to move to 51-0 and takes on young Filipino challenger Pedro Taduran (12-1, 9). The champion will be looking to secure his 10th defense of the title and build on an outstanding mandatory defense from back in May, when he blew out Leroy Estrada. On the other hand the challenger will be looking to claim a title in his first world title shot, and become one of the youngest world champions at just 21 years old.
The 32 year old champion is looking to etch his name in to the records books and break the 50-0 record of Floyd Mayweather. Whilst there is some criticism of his competition Wanheng does have some good opponents mixed into his record, such as Florante Condes, Saul Juarez and Tatsuya Fukuhara. Sadly though he also has a lot of filler opposition, including the likes of Silem Serang and Jaysever Abcede, both of whom he beat in non-title fights whilst being a reigning world champion.
Although he's never unified or faced the stiffest of competition there needs to be a good dose of respect for Wanheng who has shown real commitment to the Minimumweight division. He is one of the very few fighters to have not really changed weight during his career. His first professional title was the WBC Youth Minimumweight title, which he won back in 2007, and all of his bouts of note have been at 105lbs. A real dedication to making weight.
In the ring Wanheng blows hot and cold. At his best he's a defensively tight, stalker with under-rated power, good combinations accurate counter shots. These were seen fantastically last time out, when he stopped Estrada in 5 rounds after dropping him numerous times. At his worst however he can be made to look tense, slow and unwilling to trade blows, as we saw against Fukuhara and Melvin Jerusalem. If a fighter is busy they can handcuff Wanheng who really needs to pick his moments and can't match the output of some younger fighters.
The once beaten Taduran made his debut in May 2015, 3 months after Wanehng won the WBC title, and was just 18 at the time. He would begin his career with 6 straight wins before suffering a razor thin decision loss to Joel Lino. Since then he has racked up 6 more wins and progressively faced stiffer and stiffer competition, with his most recent win coming against former world title challenger Jerry Tomogdan, for the GAB Minimumweight title. Sadly other than Tomogdan there is little quality on Taduran's record with his next between wins being against Phillip Luis Curedo and Ronbert Onggocan.
There is very little footage of Pedro Taduran but from his record it's clear he can punch. Sadly though that's never going to be enough against someone like Wanheng, and he'll have to find holes in Wanheng's defense, get in and out, and land the biggest shots in his arsenal. If he can do that he has a chance, though we suspect he'll lack the experience needed to really make the most of Wanheng's flaws.
We think Taduran will have some great moments, but in the end his lack of experience and ring time will be his undoing as Wanheng moves to 51-0 and leaves Floyd Mayweather's 50-0 record in the past. Few will compare the two in terms of achievement, with Mayweather winning multiple world titles, but few can question Wanheng's dedication and desire to have a long and lengthy reign in one division, whilst taking on all mandatory challengers along the way. A loss for Taduran won't be the end, and we suspect it will actually do his career more good than harm, be we can't see how he over-comes such an accomplished champion this early in his career.
The Minimumweight division has been slowly creating a bit of buzz in the last few years. Typically the division has been chronically over-looked but thanks to action fighters like Roman Gonzalez, Katsunari Takayama and Akira Yaegashi we've slowly seen a snowball of interest for the men at 105lbs. That interesting is arguably at it's highest now with several notable champions, and very highly regarded contenders. Champions like Wanehng Menayothin and Hiroto Kyoguchi have certainly gained some for various reasons whilst Knockout CP Freshmart (17-0, 7) has probably the best name in the sport. Contenders like the hard hitting Tsubasa Koura or the amazingly skilled Mark Anthony Barriga add real depth to a division which has often only hand a handful of quality fighters.
This coming weekend the aforementioned Knockout CP Freshmart returns to the ring to defend his WBA Minimumweight title against WBA interim champion Xiong Zhao Zhong (27-7, 14), who was the first ever Chinese male world champion. The bout will be held in Qingdao China and see Knockout fighting outside of Thailand for the first time as a professional boxer.
The unbeaten champion got a lot of attention early in his career due to his memorable ring name, choosing to fight under the “Knokcout” moniker rather than his birth name of Thammanoon Niyomtrong. The former Muay Thai fighter made an immediate impact in professional boxing by claiming a WBC Youth title on debut, back in 2012. He then rose quickly through the ranks before claiming the WBA “interim” Minimumweight title in 2014, when he controversially defeated Carlos Buitrago. In 2016 he unified the interim title with the regular title, by defeating Byron Rojas in a competitive, but less than fantastic bout.
During his reign as the WBA interim, and regular, champion Knockout's reign has really been a mixed bag. He has scored solid wins over Buitrago, dominating a rematch between the two, Rey Loreto and Shin Ono, but also scored some really weak defenses against the likes of Muhammad Rachman, who was 43 at the time and Go Odaira. In the ring he is technically solid, and is improving pretty much with every fight. He's not the quickest, or the biggest punching or even the most energetic, but he's a very good all-rounder, arguably the best all rounder at 105lbs right now and is hard man to look impressive against.
At 35 years old Zhong is one of the division's senior citizens. He debuted back in 2006 and had a pretty slow start to his career, with China not really even being a blip on the boxing map back in 2006. Despite the low key start he did manager to fight for the WBC Flyweight title in 2009, dropping Daisuke Naito before coming up short in a messy bout in Japan.
In 2012 Zhong got his second shot at a world title, and defeated Javier Martinez Resendiz to claim the previously vacant WBC Minimumweight title, creating history by becoming China's first male world champion. He would defend the title twice, scoring a very notable win over Denver Cuello in his first defense, but was surprisingly dethroned in 2014 by Oswaldo Novoa, who stopped Zhong in 5 rounds. Since Zhong lost the WBC title he has had mixed fortunes, going 5-2 though claimed WBA interim title last time out with a very lucky win over Panya Pradbsri, AKA Petchmanee Kokietgym.
At his best Zhong was an awkward, bull like fighter. He lacked the nuances of a real world class fighter, but was tough, strong and hit surprisingly hard. His lack of technical ability has held him back, and whilst he has dropped fighters like Naito and Hekkie Budler the damage has come from his bull like strength and and wild, wide and unorthodox shots, rather than technically accurate boxing skills.
Given the skills and accuracy of Knockout, as well as his edge in youth and speed, we can't see anything but a win for the Thai. If he can stop Zhong it would be impressive, but we're expecting a decision for the Thai, who will dominate in such a way that the judges can't possibly give it to the local.
Interestingly the winner of this will be expected to face off with Byron Rojas, who's team had pushed to get a bout with Knockout before this bout was signed. That would likely lead to a rematch between Knockout and Rojas.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
The month of July is a quite busy month for boxing, with so many great matches taking place worldwide. One of those is Ryuya Yamanaka, the reigning WBO World Minimumweight champion, defending against Vic Saludar, in Japan on July 13.
Ryuya Yamanaka (16-2/5 KOs) took up boxing at a very young age, under the tutelage of, 3 division world champion, Hozumi Hasegawa. His first pro-fight took place in 2012, when he was just 17 years old. Within the next 4 years, he garnered 12 wins and 2 losses, before he faced, top Philippino boxer, Merlito Sabillo (25-3*) for the vacant OPBF Minimumweight title. Sabillo, a former Philippines, OPBF and WBO world champion, had finished 12 of his 25 wins via KO whereas Ryuya had only 3 under his belt. The Japanese fighter was clearly the underdog in this bout, with less in-ring experience and KO power. However, Yamanaka shocked everyone with his performance that day, making the champion look like an amateur. His speed and precision earned him the unanimous decision and his first major title. In less than a year later, his big moment came as he was set to fight Tatsuya Fukuhara (19-4*) on August of 2017 at the Shiroyama Sky Dome for the WBO World Minimumweight championship. Fukuhara, who is still ranked amongst the top Minimumweight competitors in the world, went through a war with Yamanaka, with both men giving everything they got during this title bout. In the end, Yamanaka’s hand was raised once again in victory, winning the World title at the age of 22. On March of this year, he successfully made his first title defense against Mexican standout Moises Calleros (28-7*). Yamanaka’s skills proved to be too much for Calleros, as he made him retire in the 8th round.
Vic Saludar (17-3/10 KOs) currently ranked #3 by the WBO, has been slowingly climbing up the rankings in order to get a crack at the gold. The Philippino was 11-1 when he faced the undefeated world champion Kosei Tanaka back on December of 2015. Despite losing the match, he proved that he is a worthy contender as he took Tanaka to the limit, even knocking him down in the 5th round. In 2016 he made a strong comeback, after he beat Lito Dante (11-5*) to win the WBO Oriental Minimumweight title. Since then, Saludar has been gaining momentum and finally earned another chance at the new champion.
The Japanese champion has come face to face with much tougher opponents during his previous encounters. This fight is just another stepping stone for him towards a possible future unification match. For Saludar, this is do or die time. He already missed his first shot, he does not want to fail again, since chances like these don’t come very often.
Prediction: Yamanaka is the favourite in this one. Even though he may not be the knock out artist Saludar is, he has been matched with much better competition, than the challenger, in the past and he always manages to come out on top. His technique and agility will be his biggest assets here. However, Saludar is not to be taken lightly, if his bout with Tanaka is any indication. One mistake by Ryuya and we could be looking at a new champion.
*The boxer’s record before the fight.
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.
This coming Wednesday fans in Thailand will see WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (49-0, 17) return to the ring for his first fight of the year, as he battles mandatory challenger Leroy Estrada (16-2, 6) in Nakhon Ratchasima. For the unbeaten Thai the bout is a chance to go 50-0, and match the unbeaten run of American icon Floyd Mayweather Jr, and would also be Wanheng's 9th defense of the title. As for Estrada the bout is a chance for him to announce himself on the world stage and claim his first world title.
The 32 year old Thai has been the WBC champion since November 2014, whenhe stopped Oswaldo Novoa, and has gone on to defend the title against the likes of Jeffrey Galero, Go Odaira, Saul Juarez, Melvin Jerusalem and Tatsuya Fukuhara. In a number of those bouts, such as the ones against Juarez, Jerusalem and Fukuhara, we've seen Wanheng pushed all the way as younger fighters have given him issues with volume and speed. Although on paper he won all 3 of those bouts they were very competitive and showed a number of flaws with the Thai.
At his best Wanheng is a calculated pressure fighter. He uses a tight guard, comes forward well and throws accurate, solid combinations. He's not a big puncher, but he's a solid hitter who will land clean and switch between head and body well. He's at his best at mid to close to range but has a decent jab at distance. Unfortunately for him he's a relatively small Minimumweight and at 32 he's not got the energy to fight at a high tempo and move through all the gears any more, and he can be out worked.
The champion's tight defense has kept damage down through his career, but with 394 already under his belt from an 11 year career he's clearly taken some punishment. His chin hasn't shown any real cracks but as he gets older the accumulation of those rounds may take it's toll and it's clear he hasn't been up against any of the division's really big punchers, like Hiroto Kyoguchi or Vic Saludar.
The 23 year old challenger is known as "El Sensacional" and proved to be a sensation early in his career, debuting at just 16 years old and reeling off 7 straight wins to begin his career. Sadly for him his 6th victory, a majority decision over Mercedes Concepcion, lead to a rematch which saw Estrada being stopped in the 6th round. The bout saw Estrada being out manned by Concepcion who dropped him several times to gain revenge for his narrow loss. That set back saw Estrada take time away from the ring before returning and looking even better as he strung together 5 more wins. Sadly that winning run would come to an end in 2014 when he was out pointed by Carlos Ortega, who also holds a win over Gilberto Pedroza.
Despite the set backs Estrada has gritted his teeth and is currently riding a 4 fight winning run, including a big 2017 win over Saul Juarez in a world title eliminator. Sadly for Estrada that bout is his only bout in the last 18 months. In fact he has only fought 17 rounds, combined, in 2016 and 2017. That isn't the activity a fighter needs heading into a world title fight, in fact that's the sort of activity that will really harm a youngster like Estrada.
The footage of Estrada shows a pretty talented boxer move with nice hand speed and good counter punching. Sadly though that same footage makes him look rather light fisted, negative and in some ways made to order for a fighter like Wanheng. Despite being young and fresh faced Estrada doesn't have a high work rate, instead choosing to be selective with his punches rather than overwhelming. Against Wanheng we suspect Estrada walked down, and broken down with body shots, before simply being stopped in the mid to late rounds.
Estrada is a talented fighter but we can't see him over-coming the highly skilled champion here.
The Minimumweight division is one of the most frustrating in the sport, right now. There is a lot of talent in the division, not something that can often be said about the 105lb weight class, but that talented doesn't seem to be on a collision course of any kind. Instead it seems like the 4 champions are likely to be kept apart. Whilst that's frustrating there is, thankfully, enough contenders to keep the division interesting. One of those is Mexican Moises Calleros (28-7-1, 16), who will be in Japan this coming weekend to challenge WBO champion Ryuya Yamanaka (15-2, 4), who will be making his first defense of the title.
For those who haven't followed the division Calleros fought in Japan in February 2017, losing to Tatsuya Fukuhara for the then vacant WBO title. In his first defense Fukuhara lost the title to Yamanaka. Interestingly both of those fights were razor thin action bouts, and Fukuhara later went on to prove he was world class with a fantastic losing performance to WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin.
Since losing the Fukuhara just over a year ago the 28 year old Calleros has been busy with 3 fights, all wins. These haven't been against the best fighters but they have included a win against former world champion Mario Rodriguez.
For those who haven't seen Calleros he's an ultra aggressive, come forward fighter with a high work rate, a very exciting style and someone who will be a handful for pretty much anyone at 105lbs. He's not the biggest puncher, but has under-rated power, which combined with his volume does make him very dangerous. At 28 he's coming into his prime, he's fairly big fighter for a Minimumweight and has fought at Flyweight a number of times.
At the lower weights competition for contenders to face on their way up can be a bit thin. Calleros however has faced good fighters through his career. This has included a narrow loss to Julian Yedras, 12 round decision loss to Francisco Rodriguez Jr, a win over Carlos Perez, the loss to Fukuhara and the aforementioned win over Mario Rodriguez. He might not be in the top 10 of the division, but he's certainly not too far outside of that group.
As mentioned Fukuhara lost the title to Yamanaka in his first defense, last August. Since the the 22 year old champion hasn't fought, but has clearly been preparing hard for his first defence and to continue his 8 fight winning run.
The Japanese youngster made his professional debut at the age of 17 and struggled at times early in, going 7-2, with an opening round loss to Kenta Shimizu in his 5th bout and an upset loss to Roque Lauro in 2014. Since that loss to Lauro however we're see Yamanaka his his stride with notable wins against Takahiro Murai, Ronelle Ferreras, Merlito Sabillo and Tatsuya Fukuhara. Like the challenger he's a busy fighter, who will throw a lot of punches. Technically he's a bit limited, but with his youthful energy he's got good stamina, beating Fukuhara at his own game, good speed and an under-rated boxing brain.
Sadly Yamanaka does lack fire power. He's only scored 4 stoppages in 18 bouts, and only 2 in his last 11 bouts, with the last two of those coming against terrible Thai visitors. His lack of power will be an issue at world level, and whilst he has got the energy, speed and skills to hold the title for a bit against the right types of opponents, though against someone like Hiroto Kyoguchi he would likely be ripped apart due to the significant differences in power and physical strength.
Coming in to this one we're expecting a really thrilling bout. Sadly though we feel that the maturity and physical strength of Calleros will be the difference. The two will have an insane action bout, but the challenger will be too strong for the champion, who is one of the sports youngest current champions and will obviously be able to come again in the future, with a bit more experience and physical development.
For a second week in a row we get mid-week world title action in Asia, this time in Thailand as WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart (16-0, 7) defends his title against Filipino challenger Toto Landero (10-1-2, 2). For the Thai the bout is his 4th defense of the title, which he won from Byron Rojas in June 2016, whilst Landero will be getting his first world title bout.
The unbeaten Thai world champion is one of the best little men in the sport and a genuine world class fighter, who has proven himself time and time again since his professional debut back in 2012. The Thai might only have 16 boxing bouts under his belt but he was a great Muay Thai fighter before turning his hand at Western boxing, and doing so in a 10 rounder for a WBC Youth title. In 2014 he stepped up in class from the Youth competition to the world class level and narrowly beat Carlos Buitrago for the WBA “interim” title. As the interim champion he would really develop his skills whilst making 3 defenses, including a dominant one in a rematch against Buitrago. It was then that he out pointed Rojas for the full version of the title, which he has defended against Shin Ono, Go Odaira and Rey Loreto.
On paper Knockout's defenses of the title haven't been great. Both Ono and Odaira had come up short in previous world title bouts and Loreto had double digit losses, though was in great form and a worthy challenge. Sadly we are now closing in on 2 years since Knockout had his win over over Rojas, and since then we have seen the rocket powered rise of Hiroto Kyoguchi, who looks to be the division's true star in the making.
In the ring Knockout is a solid boxer puncher. He doesn't live up to the “Knockout” moniker but is a solid with a very good ring IQ, a sharp jab and an aggressive mindset. He can fight at a very good pace and appears to take a shot well, though does have question marks about his stamina, having faded late in a number of bouts. He's not the most destructive, the fastest or exciting fighter, but does look like someone who will be hard to beat, especially if he can remain in Thailand where he is used to the unique conditions of day time fights.
We've all had a chance to see the champion but the 22 year old challenger is a bit more of an unknown. He turned professional at the prodigious age of 18 and was 5-0-2 (2) after 7 bouts. During that early run he battled the likes of the then unbeaten Rolly Sumalpong, who gave Ken Shiro problems, and Philip Luis Cuerdo, who both held Landero to a draw, before losing in close rematches to the youngster. His most notable bouts come more recently however with a stoppage loss to Joey Canoy in 2016, with Landero being dropped in rounds 4 and 6 before Silvester Abainza stepped in to stop the bout, and a huge upset win over Vic Saludar last June.
On paper wins over Sumalpong, Cuerdo and Saludar are decent wins, but ones that really suggest he's ready for an OPBF title fight, not a world title fight. Like many at 105lbs however he's getting a shot due to the relative lack of contenders at the weight, especially those willing to travel to Thailand to fight an unbeaten champion. For those wondering that's also part of the reason why we've seen so many contenders, like Ono and Odaira, being recycled in recent years. The win over Salurdar is however a very good one and shows there is real talent with Landero, despite his lack of power.
What we're expecting here is for Landero to fight pretty confidently early on, however Knockout's more rounded skills, strength and power will be too much for the younger man, who will be broken down and likely stopped in the mid-to-late rounds. Landero might have the edge in youth and speed, but that's about it and in the conditions of Thailand you really need brutal power or exceptional skills to beat the champions, and Landero has neither of those. Even on neutral ground he wouldn't have enough for Knockout.
The first of three world title bouts on New Year's Eve this year will see IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (8-0, 6) [京口 紘人] defending his title against talented Nicaraguan Carlos Buitrago (30-2-1-1, 17). For Kyoguchi the bout will be his first defense whilst Buitrago will be looking to claim a world title fight, following a trio of previous set backs in Asia. The bout could, potentially, set the stage for a very interesting 2018 at Light Flyweight, with 3 titles being fought for on this show, and will certainly help move the division forward whilst also giving fans a very exciting stylistic match up.
The talented Kyoguchi was a former amateur stand out before making his debut in April 2016. By the end of the year he had raced out to 5-0 (5) and looked like a force to be reckoned with, thanks to his ultra aggressive pressure style, his heavy hands and his bob and weave style. That style took him to OPBF glory in February this year, when he stopped veteran Armando de la Cruz, and later helped him record his first defense, with a 12 round decision over Jonathan Refugio, who spent much of the bout in survival mode.
The win over Refugio did, to some extent, expose Kyoguchi as not being as destructive as he originally looked, but left no one questioning his stamina, aggression or ability to come on strong. Early on Refugio had had success, but had taken a lot during those early stages to stay away in the middle rounds and essentially do little more than survive late on, whilst Kyoguchi pressed forward. That defense was followed by another 12 round victory for Kyoguchi, who out pointed the teak tough Jose Argumedo in a relatively frustrating and sloppy affair, that saw neither man shine despite Kyoguchi claiming the IBF title with the win.
With a pair of 12 now under his belt the exciting man from the Watanabe gym now looks to get back to his destructive best and get his first defense as he takes on the talented visitor. To win he will need to show a much more disciplined performance than he did last time. He will need to be fully aware of the Nicaraguan's slippery skills, smart movement and ability to box at range. Kyoguchi will have to use the intelligent pressure that worked so well early in his career and unleash the devastating combinations and body shots that convinced his team to push him to a world title fight after just 15 months as a professional.
Aged 26 Buitrago has long been tipped as the the successor to Roman Gonzalez as the face of Nicaraguan boxing. He debuted aged 16, way back in 2008 and went 27-0-0-1 (16) before getting is first world title fight, in November 2013. During that run Buitrago had beaten the likes of Yader Escobar and Julian Yedras and had scored wins in Mexico and the US whilst developing a reputation as a special fighter in the gym. He was a fluid, gorgeous to watch boxer, with under rated power, smart movement and lovely hand speed with an excellent sharp jab and nice variety to his shots.
It was in November 2013 that Buitrago would get his first world title fight, and would fight to a draw in the Philippines against the then WBO champion Merlito Sabillo, with many feeling the Nicaraguan had been robbed of the win and the title. Despite the set back Buitrago remained a leading contender and just a fight later he took on Knockout CP Freshmart in a bout for the interim WBA Minimumweight title, losing a controversial decision to the Thai. A third shot would come just a couple of fights later, when he got a rematch with Knockout, and fought to a wide decision loss in a very lacklustre performance.
Since his second loss to Knockout we've not really seen anything from Buitrago to suggest he's a top fight any more. He scored a quick blow out over Roger Collado in May 2016 and an 8 round decision over Noe Medina back in October 2016, meaning he's been out of the ring for 14 months coming into this bout! It's also worth noting that his last recorded weight was 111¾lbs, well above the Minimumweight limit, and he has been rumoured to be struggling to get down to 105lbs for this bout.
At his best, if Buitrago can be at his best, he could be a real nightmare for Kyoguchi with his jab, movement, toughness and boxing brain. Sadly though all signs are that Buitrago isn't going to be at his best. He has been inactive, he's said to be struggling with weight and given his performance in the second bout with Knockout you have to wonder whether he has either outgrown the division or just isn't going to become the fighter we had all hoped. If Buitrago is anything short of his best Kyoguchi will likely steam roll him with pressure, combinations and body breaking shots to the midsection. If Buitrago is at his best then there is a chance he'll take the title back home with him, with a decision, but we're expecting to see an off Buitrago getting dragged into a war, and being broken down in the middle rounds by the vicious Kyoguchi.
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.