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.
It's not been a great few weeks for Thailand as Amnat Ruenroeng was beaten by Johnriel Casimero, with Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo was battered by Miguel Berchelt and Pungluang Sor Singyu being dethroned by Marlon Tapales. It's fair to say that the run isn't one that Thai fans will be wanting to see continue and on August 2nd they are hoping that it will come to and end when another one of their champions defends his title in a mandatory defence.
That champion is the unbeaten Wanheng Menayothin (42-0, 17) who defends his belt against in form Mexican challenger Saul Juarez (23-4-1, 12), the current mandatory challenger.
Wanheng's record is one of the longest unbeaten records in the sport, only a few fights behind that of Nicaraguan sensation Roman Gonzalez, despite that no one is proclaiming the Thai as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet. That's due to his level of competition which has certainly not been great. In fact his best wins have come against the likes of Florante Condes, Oswaldo Novoa, Ardin Diale, Young Gil Bae and Go Odaira. They aren't terrible fighters but nothing exceptional for a man with 42 wins.
Of course it's not just the wins that stand out on Wanheng's record but also his apparent lack of power. In fact 17 T/KO's in 40 fights is a 40% stoppage rate, one of the least impressive in the sport today for any world champion.
What neither of those numbers, nor the names, do is actually tell you a lot about Wanheng who is developing his power and really does pass the eye test with flying colours. In the ring he's a very intelligent and aggressive pressure fighter, he has a solid guard, he's calculating with his footwork and throws some brilliant combinations, with his power being criminally under-rated. He's not a 1-punch KO artist but his' a vicious terrier like fight who grinds opponents down and barely takes a shot in the process. It's that grinding that has seen him stopping his last 5 opponents and claim 6 stoppages in his last 7 bouts.
On paper the challenger should be the under, surprisingly however boxrec.com rank Juarez as their #1 fighter in the division. That's due to their algorithms however Juarez has been on an impressive run on recent years with 2 wins over Adrian Hernandez and a victory, and a draw, against Oswaldo Novoa. Along with those 4 results he also has wins over Luis Ceja, Armando Torres, and early career wins over Martin Tecuapetla and another win over Novoa. In all honesty he has an impressive resume. On the other hand he has been beaten by Tecuapetla, Jose Argumedo, Juan Hernandez Navarrete and Milan Melindo, all highly regarded fighters themselves.
In the ring Juarez has shown lots of facets to his ability. He can box in a relatively technical fashion using his jab, holding when needed and using intelligent movement with crisp combinations, he can also go to war and enjoy a good old fashioned tear up. He's not an out and out warrior but like many Mexican fighters that it certainly something he has in his arsenal when needed.
Like the champion the challenger isn't a puncher, in fact he only boasts a 43% stoppage rate and has scored just a single stoppage in the last 36 months, that's 1 stoppage in 9 bouts. Despite that he does have solid pop and will keep fighters respectful of him given his ability to land clean.
Where're expecting a technically brilliant battle here. Juarez's movement and technical boxing against Wanheng's calculating pressure. Sadly however for Juarez the bout will be held in the hot and humid conditions of Thailand which will likely zap his energy if he tries to move too much whilst Wanheng will look to walk him down. If Juarez slows, as expected, we think Wanhneg will come away with a clear and wide decision win.
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.