One of the big Japanese success stories of 2017 was Flyweight sensation Daigo Higa (14-0, 14), ho claimed the WBC Flyweight title in May and recorded his first defense in October. Not only did he win and defend the title, but he did so in impressive fashion, stopping both Juan Hernande Navarrete and Thomas Masson in a combined 13 rounds, to continue his perfect KO run. This coming Sunday Higa will be looking to extend his perfect run as he takes on former WBO Minimumweight champion Moises Fuentes (25-4-1, 14) in what will be his second world title defense.
If you've missed Higa's rise over the last few years there really is no excuse to continue turning a blind eye to one of the sports most exciting and destructive fighters. The 22 year old Okinawan debuted in June 2014 and blew out his first 5 opponents in the first 2 rounds. He took his first step up in June 2015 and stopped Cris Alfante in 4 rounds before travelling to Thailand and stopping Kongfah CP Freshmart in 7 rounds to claim the WBC Youth Flyweight title. He would defend that title twice before moving up in class to claim the OPBF title in 2016 and then move up again to claim the WBC title last year.
Stood at just over 5'3” Higa is a little ball of destruction similar to a prime Roman Gonzalez. For those who were fans of Gonzalez it'd be hard to not be excited by Higa who has a very similar style based on intense pressure, vicious combinations and an under-rated defensive skills. Not only does he have an aggressive style but he has the devastating power to go with it, and his shots all look like they have incredible power on them, despite the fact he never looks like he's forcing things. Instead everything just naturally flows, including some brilliant triple hook combinations.
Not only has Higa shown his destructive style, his toughness, and desire but he's never looked hurt during his career, despite having a tooth damaged in his title win, and has shown impressive stamina, going 10 rounds against Renren Tesorio in 2015. Although he was widely in charge against Tesorio he refused to risk his perfect KO record and continued hunting the stoppage until the referee was forced to save the Filipino.
Mexican fighter Fuentes is 30 years old but is an old professional having made his debut in May 2007. He started his career with a 12 fight winning run before losing a split decision to Juan Hernandez Navarette in 2011. Despite the set back against Hernandez it didn't take long for Fuentes to get back to winning ways and just 6 months later he would beat Raul Garcia by split decision for the WBO Minimumweight title. As the world champion he would defend the belt twice, stopping both Julio Cesar Felix and Ivan Calderon before moving up in weight. At 108lbs Fuentes' natural size stopped being a huge advantage and he would go 0-1-1 against Donnie Nietes in bouts for the WBO title. He did manage to score some good wins following those losses, including wins against Oswaldo Novoa and Francisco Rodriguez Jr, but looked totally shot when he faced Kosei Tanaka at the end of 2016.
Sadly since the Tanaka bout it's been hard to really know what Fuentes has left, as he's gone 1-1 with Ulises Solis. Going on the Tanaka bout, there was nearly nothing left. It seemed the same when he was stopped by Nietes in their second bout as well. It could well be that he's shot, or it could have been that he was taking too much out of himself to make 108lbs. Whatever the reason it does seem like he's not the fighter he once was.
Although Fuentes at his best was a nightmare, a big strong, aggressive tank, who came forward and let his hands go, we don't believe he's even close to being that fighter. Instead we see him as a shot fighter, and the next victim of the Higa express. Fuentes might be able to pose some problems early on, but we can't see him lasting too long with against Higa's aggression and power.
The first of 5 world title fights on December 31st will see former WBO Minimumweight champions face off in an attempt to become the new WBO Light Flyweight champion. The fighters in question are Japanese youngster Kosei Tanaka (7-0, 4) and experienced Mexican Moises Fuentes (24-2-1, 13), who is also a former WBO “interim” Light Flyweight champion who is looking to claim this title at the third time of asking.
Of the two men the Mexican visitor is probably the more well known. He's a man who has been a professional since 2007 and has gradually moved through the ranks. He claimed his first title back in 2010, the “interim” WBC Youth Minimumweight title, before upsetting Raul Garcia in 2011 for the WBO Minimumweight crown. As the champion Fuentes defended the belt twice, beating Julio Cesar Felix and the brilliant but faded Ivan Calderon. Following those wins he moved his attention to 108lbs and began his campaign there with a draw against the then WBO champion Donnie Nietes.
Following the draw to Nietes we saw Fuentes remain in the mix and quickly claim the “interim” title before getting a rematch with Nietes in 2014, a rematch that saw Fuentes suffer a 9th round KO loss to the brilliant Filipino. Since that loss Fuentes has strung together some solid victories over he likes of Oswaldo Novoa, Francisco Rodriguez Jr and Rommel Asenjo to put himself into another shot for the Light Flyweight title.
At his best Fuentes is a big, aggressive, hard working fighter who combines a high level of aggressive output with under-rated skills. His most notable aggressive work is aimed at the body of opponents and in his first fight with Nietes it seemed that that body attack took a lot out of the Filipino, though in the rematch Nietes managed to move and counter more effectively and broke down Fuentes. Whilst Fuentes is a big, tough and aggressive fighter he is also a fighter who has had a long and hard career with 157 rounds under his belt and the 31 year old has had some very hard and damaging bouts.
Whilst less well known to wider boxing fans Tanaka is a fighter who is well known in Japanese boxing circles. He was a former amateur standout and one of the many to make his name on the High School scene as a teenager. That amateur pedigree saw his signature being one that promoters chased for when he decided to turn professional, eventually signing with former world champion Kiyoshi Hatanaka. Together they set some incredible goals and raced off to them double quickly. That saw Tanaka claiming the OPBF title in his 4th fight, stopping the then 18-0 Ryuji Hara, and the WBO Minimumweight title in Tanaka's 5th professional bout, out pointing Julian Yedras.
Despite the champion at 105lbs Tanaka was struggling to make weight and that became clear in his first defense, when he was dropped by Vic Saludar before gritting his teeth and stopping Saludar in the 6th round, whilst well behind on the score cards. It was a genuine gutcheck for Tanaka and one he passed, whilst also making it clear that he wasn't going to stick around any longer at 105lbs. Instead he moved up in weight and scored a dominant win over Rene Patilano back in May to announce himself at a higher weight.
At his best Tanaka is one of the sports most exciting youngsters. He's lightning quick with his hands and has some of the best combination punching in the sport, he's light on his feet, well schooled and has under-rated power. Sadly though he can be bullied, as seen in the Saludar fight, he can also switch off at times, as he did against Yedras, and his defense can fall apart a bit too easily. Offensively he is great but that offensive may only carry him so far before his defensive issues cost him, and that could well happen at 108lbs against a tough and aggressive fighter like Fuentes.
Coming in to this bout Tanaka is the clear betting favourite however we suspect he will be pushed all the way here in what will be a very tough and exciting bout. Fuentes' aggressiveness will be hard for Tanaka to deal with but given how Nietes beat Fuentes we suspect Tanaka will have a game plan based on countering, movement and speed. If he can counter Fuentes and force the Mexican to make mistakes he should come out on top, but will be given another serious test by a very determined visitor.
When we talk about fighters who we feel were lucky last year the one name that stands out is Filipino Light Flyweight Donnie Nietes (32-1-4, 18). Nietes, who defended his WBO Light Flyweight title twice last year, was very fortunate to score a controversial draw in his first defence of 2013 as he managed to repel the challenge of Mexico's Moises Fuentes (19-1-1, 10).
Our writers had Fuentes a clear winner even though the fight was fought month or two before this site was set up. We felt that Fuentes had easily out worked, out landed and basically bullied a very poor looking Nietes who had certainly benefited from being the home fighter.
In the first fight Nietes seemed to fight like an idiot. His technique was poor, his work rate was disappointing and nothing seemed to go right for him. To say Fuentes had been robbed was probably the fairest thing you could say.
We had hoped an immediate rematch would have been called though instead we've had to wait more than a year for the men to get in the ring together again and for justice, one way or another to be served.
Since the first fight Nietes has looked rejuvenated wiping out Fuentes's compatriot Sammy Gutierrez in 3 rounds. Fuentes has looked even better however and has disposed of Gerardo Verde (UD10), Luis De La Rosa (TKO1) and Omar Salado (TKO7) as he's gone from strength to strength.
Nietes is now 31, heading quickly to 32, very old for a fighter in boxing's smallest divisions. As well as his age he also isn't a big puncher. His 37 fight career has seen him scoring just 18 stoppages, just below 50%, and this has obviously seen him acquiring a lot of extra miles. In fact from his 37 fight career he has fought in almost 250 rounds in an 11 year career.
As for the 28 year old Funetes he's also not got a reputation for being a big puncher but what he is is big, strong, aggressive and whilst not concussive he is some what heavy handed, what he hits may not be destroyed but it does tend to get hurt, as Nietes's body found out last time around. Technically he's not the best but he's big, strong and very tough.
Looking at the records of the two men Nietes is easily the most experienced. As mentioned before he's been a professional for over a decade and whilst he only loss was back in 2006 to Angky Angkotta he's never really beaten an A class fighter. His best wins are good, such as his victories over Pornsawan Porpramook, Manuel Vargas, Jesus Silvestre, Mario Rodriguez, Ramon Garcia Hirales and Felipe Salguero but not are the victories that prove someone is elite level.
As for Fuentes, who has only been a professional since 2007, his best wins are over Raul Garcia, Ivan Calderon and Luis De La Rosa not great wins but all of which are very good wins. Sure Calderon wasn't the fighter he once was but he was still the win that really brought Fuentes to the attention of boxing fans world wide.
From the first fight we think Fuentes has to be favoured here. Sure he's going back in to the lions den but we really feel he won last time and with closer scrutiny on the judging this time around we can't see a repeat of the controversy from last time around.
(Image courtesy of http://mallofasia-arena.com)
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.