By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On New Year’s Eve, we will witness a clash of 3 division World Champions, as Kazuto Ioka and Donnie Nietes will square off for the vacant WBO Super Flyweight World Championship, in Macau, China.
Kazuto Ioka (23-1/13 KOs) is without a doubt one of the best Japanese boxers of the last decade. He proved his worth quite early, back in his amateur days, amassing an impressive record of 95 wins in 105 bouts, including two All Japan championships, two Inter-High School titles as well as a four time winner of the National Sports Festival.
Turned pro in 2009, he showcased his amateur pedigree as he dispatched world title contender Takashi Kunishige, in just his third fight. Ioka then went on to win the vacant Japanese Light Flyweight title after he TKOed Masayoshi Segawa, only 18 months after his debut.
On February of 2011, Ioka’s first major test arrived when he challenged the unbeaten Kittipong Jaigrajang (35-0 at the time) for the WBC Minimumweight World Championship. Jaigrajang was champion for 4 years and had 6 title defenses under his belt. The Japanese hopeful went toe to toe with the veteran Thai champion, even knocking him down as early as in the second round and then once more in the fifth, with a lethal left body blow, sealing the deal and becoming the world champion at only 21 years of age. Ioka defended his championship twice the same year, against Juan Hernandez Navarrete and Veerawut Yuthimitr.
On June 20 of 2012, he was involved in a unification bout with the WBA champion and fellow rising Japanese star, Akira Yaegashi. Their careers shared many similarities. Yaegashi was also an accomplished amateur, with a record of 56-14, and had also won the National Sports Festival, back in 2002. Both men brought their A game that night, knowing what was at stake. An epic back and forth affair, that brought the fans to their feet, ended with Ioka earning the unanimous decision and leaving Osaka with two world championships.
Having conquered the Minimumweight division, Ioka decided to move up a weight class and faced Jose Alfredo Rodriguez for the vacant WBA Light Flyweight World Title (Regular version). Rodriguez was the former interim WBA champion, with 28 wins and only 1 decision loss. The Japanese prodigy systematically picked him apart with body shots and hooks, dropping him thrice, for the win as well as for his second divisional world title reign.
Ioka enjoyed another long run with the belt, marking 3 successful defenses over Phissanu Chimsunthom, former world champion Ekkawit Songnui and Felix Alvarado (current IBF Light Flyweight World Champion). Since the Roman Gonzalez fight never took place (WBA Super champion) Ioka vacated his title and debuted in the Flyweight division, where he tasted defeat for the first time as a pro, as he failed to capture the IBF title from Amnat Ruenroeng, in a very evenly contested bout. Ironically, Ioka had lost again to Amnat in the past, back in their amateur days, when they met at the semi-finals of the 2008 King's Cup, an annual boxing tournament held in Thailand.
The 2 division world champion came back even more determined, beating Pablo Carrillo and knocking out former interim world champion Jean Piero Perez with a thunderous right straight, within the span of three months, thus earning another opportunity at a Flyweight World Title, this time against the WBA Regular champion, Juan Carlos Reveco. After 12 action packed rounds, the Japanese superstar finally became a 3 division champion. Since the fight was very close on the judges’ scorecards, a rematch was set on New Year’s Eve of 2015. As usual, Ioka’s body work was the key factor, stopping Reveco in the eleventh round, in what otherwise was once again a close call.
As WBA Flyweight World Champion, he made five successful title defenses, over the likes of Roberto Domingo Sosa, Juan Carlos Reveco (as mentioned above), Keyvin Lara, Yutthana Kaensa and Nare Yianleang. His toughest one had to be against Kaensa. The interim WBA World Champion, with a perfect record of 16-0, shocked everyone when he knocked Ioka down, with a fast right counter hook, in the second round. Ioka had never been dropped before in his pro career. Kaensa kept the pressure on for the majority of the fight, giving the champion a bigger challenge than he expected. The tables turned however as Ioka put the Thai boxer down with a liver shot in the seventh round and proceeded to finish him off by punishing his body even further.
His sixth defense was scheduled to take place on December 31st of 2017 but due to getting married and reportedly falling out with his father and promoter, Kazunori Ioka, he chose to retire and vacate his belt.
Almost 17 months later, Ioka returned to active competition, this time at Super Flyweight and with a new goal in mind: to become a 4 division world champion. He immediately challenged McWilliams Arroyo for the WBC Silver Flyweight Title. Arroyo, much like Ioka, also had an extensive amateur career, winning the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games, the 2007 Pan American Games and the 2009 AIBA World Boxing Championships, including victories over 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Yan Bartelemí and 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist Nyambayaryn Togstsogt. With no signs of ring-rust, the former multiple time world champion took control of the fight from the opening round and never let up. After 10 rounds and one knocked out in the third, the Japanese superstar was back on track. It’s worth mentioning that this was Ioka’s first fight in the U.S. as well as his first fight outside of Japan, as a pro. Now, only one man stands between him and his dream and that’s non other than fellow 3 division champion Donnie Nietes.
Donnie Nietes (41-1/23 KOs) a 15 year veteran of the sport, began his career back in 2003, amassing 21 wins in 25 fights (1 split decision loss and 3 draws) before challenging for his first world title. Nietes fought a 20-0 future WBA champion Somporn Seeta, for the vacant WBO Minimumweight World Championship, in 2007.
An action packed encounter, the Filipino was repeatedly nailing Seeta with body shots and uppercuts through out their match and even managed to drop him with a counter right hook in the fourth round. When the dust had settled, he was crowned the new world champion.
Nietes made four successful title defenses as Minimumweight champion, over Eddy Castro, Eric Ramirez, interim WBO champion Manuel Vargas and future IBF champion Mario Rodriguez, before challenging Ramon Garcia Hirales for the WBO Light Flyweight World Title. It was a smart play from Nietes that saw him consistently wearing Hirales down. The Mexican fought back for a while but, as the match progressed, he was too exhausted to do anything significant. In the end, “The Snake” was a 2 division world champion and embarked on a long championship reign that lasted almost 5 years, boasting an impressive number of nine defenses.
His biggest victories as Light Flyweight champion were against Moises Fuentes, Sammy Gutierrez, Francisco Rodriguez Jr. and Raul Garcia. Specifically, he fought Fuentes twice during his run with the belt, as their initial meeting ended in a majority draw. Prior to their rematch, Nietes first dispatched former interim WBA Minimumweight and WBC Silver Light Flyweight champion Sammy Gutierrez.
The Filipino chased his opponent relentlessly, dropping him twice in just the opening round. Gutierrez tried to turn it to a brawl, but got cracked by a straight right punch to the chin. Fuentes, also a 2 division champion, got his shot again a year later but this time Nietes was far more aggressive than his was before, taking Fuentes by surprise and eventually knocking him out in the ninth. Compared to the previous bouts, the Francisco Rodriguez Jr. and Raul Garcia fights (former WBO & IBF Minimumweight World Champions) were slower and less exciting. At least in his match with Garcia, the pace gradually picked up and even scored two knockdowns.
In 2016, Nietes sought new opportunities as he moved up to Flyweight. His skills were put to test immediately as he faced former WBC Light Flyweight World Champion Edgar Sosa, for the vacant WBO Intercontinental title. Sosa, a well rounded veteran (52-11), had been a long time WBC International and Silver Flyweight champion, giving him the experience factor in this division. This didn’t hinder the Snake at all as he took the fight to the Mexican striker, throwing bombs and some sweet combinations in the last rounds that earned him a very wide unanimous decision and the strap.
About 8 months later, Nietes went up against Komgrich Nantapech for the vacant IBF Flyweight World Championship. Komgrich, despite being a “lesser” opponent, considering the level of competition Nietes had already faced, gave the Filipino a bigger fight than anticipated. His power and speed kept him into the fight until the last round, making him look good against a much better fighter than himself. In the end however, Nietes’ experience came to play, as he kept Nantapech at a safe distance, while peppering him with shots, scoring more on the judges’ scorecards. Once again, Nietes had his arm raised, as he was declared a 3 division champion.
Nietes’ one and only IBF title defense took place earlier this year, in America, when he stopped former WBA Flyweight World Champion Juan Carlos Reveco in the seventh round, after catching him with a right hook, followed by a flurry of body shots and then landing a devastating left uppercut. Reveco could barely stand on his own two feet, leaving his corner no choice but to throw in the towel.
This past September, Nietes had a chance to become a 4 division champion, in less than 2 years. His fight with top ranked Super Flyweight boxer Aston Palicte, for the vacant WBO belt, ended in a split decision draw, a decision that was questioned by many, since Nietes was way busier, landing more punches than Palicte, as well as more accurate ones. As faith would have it, Nietes will once again get another crack at the same price that unfairly escaped his grip, before the year is over, when he collides with Kazuto Ioka in Macau.
This is a fight of epic proportions. We are talking about two men that have been world champions for the majority of their careers, winning the gold in three different divisions. Their paths have been quite similar and an encounter was only inevitable. Ioka as well as Nietes are strong, intelligent fighters, with a tone of experience. Which one will have the edge here? Ioka is the more aggressive boxer, with a higher KO percentage, overall and in championship matches only. Nietes is the more conservative one, as he doesn’t go for the kill as often as his rival, but knows how to take his time and how to surgically pick his foes apart. Ioka’s excellent body work should be taken into consideration, as it has been his most important weapon through out his career. Nietes also likes to attack the body, creating openings so he can strike the head. The speed has to be on Ioka’s side. In spite of his long absence, his combinations were as fast and accurate as before he retired, whereas Nietes has slowed down a bit, as it was evident in the Nantapech bout. On the other hand, the experience sides with Nietes, as he has been involved in 47 matches in the past 15 years. All in all, this is clearly anyone’s game, which is the reason why this fight is so exciting. Who will leave Macau a Super Flyweight champion for the first time? Tune in on NYE to find out!
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On October 6, in a historic event for combat sports, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (46-4 / 41 KOs) defends his WBC Super Flyweight World Championship, against Iran Diaz (14-2 / 6 KOs), at ONE “Kingdom Of Heroes”, in Bangkok, Thailand.
Unlike most world champions, Srisaket didn’t have a long and successful amateur career. He had to move to Bangkok, when he was only 13 years old and worked as a trash collector at a department store in order to feed himself. Life was so difficult for him that he sometimes had to eat leftovers that he collected from the garbage, just to survive. He began boxing in 2009 and in just 2 years he won the WBC Asia title, which he defended 4 times.
In 2013, Sor Rungvisai (with a record of 18-3 at the time) challenged Yota Sato (26-2*) for the WBC Super Flyweight World Title. Sato, with victories over the likes of Kohei Kono, Suriyan Kaikanha and Ryo Akaho, was the clear favorite to win this fight. The Thai boxer shocked the world when he dominated the champion in every single round, leaving him almost no room for an offense of his own, continuously punishing him until the referee had to step in and stop the fight in the 8th. Srisaket was crowned the new world champion, at the age of 26. Sato had never been stopped prior to this match.
Srisaket made his first defense against Hirofumi Mukai (9-2*) in what was a one sided beatdown. He lost his belt to Carlos Cuadras (29-0*) in controversial fashion, after Cuadras suffered a cut over to his left eye from an accidental clash of heads and was awarded the technical decision. In just a few months after that loss, he reclaimed the WBC Asia title and mostly fought journeymen until he faced 2 time world title contender Jose Salgado (34-2*). Sor Rungvisai blasted the Mexican with a couple of strong left punches and one mean right cross in the 4th round to get the TKO win and the WBC Silver championship.
His biggest challenge came on March 18 of 2017, when he fought Roman Gonzalez at Madison Square Garden, for the belt he never truly lost. Chocolatito, 88-0 as an amateur and 46-0 as a pro, had never lost a single match in his entire career. As a 4 division world champion, with notable wins over Yutaka Niida, Katsunari Takayama, Juan Francisco Estrada, Akira Yaegashi, Edgar Sosa, Brian Viloria and Carlos Cuadras, it was no secret that Srisaket was once again the underdog. Much like the Sato bout, the Thai phenom stunned everyone when he scored a knockdown, in the very first round, as he connected with a thunderous uppercut. During the 3rd, Roman was cut in his right eye, which caused massive bleeding as the fight progressed. Both men went back and forth, in an exciting affair that saw them delivering furious exchanges. Gonzalez put on a strong offense, mostly in the later rounds, but Srisaket was dominating the majority of the match. When the last round came, they left it all in the ring, bringing the fans at the Garden on their feet. After the dust had settled, Sor Rungvisai got the majority decision and reclaimed the WBC Super Flyweight World Title.
The rematch was set in September, at the initial Superfly show in California. The fight was a slugfest as champion and challenger went toe to toe, trading bombs with one another for 3 consecutive rounds. However this time, the ending came abruptly, when Srisaket knocked Gonzalez out with a massive right hook in the 4th. This bout, not only marked Chocolatito’s second ever defeat (both at the hands of the same opponent), but also his first (and thus far only) KO loss in 136 outings.
In 2018, Sor Rungvisai has defended his belt once against former 2 division world champion Juan Francisco Estrada (36-2*) and has also scored a TKO victory over WBC Asia and WBO Asia Pacific champion Young Gil Bae (28-6*). His next opponent, as well as his third title defense, will be against former WBC Latino champion Iran Diaz, who has broken out to the world scene (#6 by the WBC – August rankings) after defeating 2 former world champions in Hernan Marquez and Luis Concepcion. His only 2 losses are to Juan Hernandez Navarrete (former flyweight world champion) and Nordine Oubaali (accomplished amateur and number 1 contender to the WBC Bantamweight title).
From collecting trash to co-main eventing Madison Square Garden, the story of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai is inspiring to say the least. After years of hard work, he returns to Bangkok, this time to defend his world championship at the Impact Arena, which is considered to be the 2nd largest exhibition and convention venue in all of Asia. Both men will look to prove a point. For Diaz, it’s a chance to finally realize his dream of winning the big one. For Srisaket, it’s to come back home and say “I finally made it”.
ONE Championship’s Kingdom Of Heroes will be a groundbreaking event as they aim to bring 3 of the most popular martial arts in the world (boxing, kickboxing & MMA) all in one stage. The rest of the fights are:
Shinya Aoki vs Ev Ting (ONE Lightweight title eliminator)
Leandro Issa vs Muin Gafurov
Hayato Suzuki vs Robin Catalan
Rika Ishige vs Bozhena Antoniyar
Rin Saroth vs Fu Chang Xin
Dodi Mardian vs Ramon Gonzales
Super Series (Kickboxing/Muay Thai):
Kai Ting Chuang vs Stamp Fairtex (ONE Atomweight World Championship)
Andy Souwer vs Anthony Njokuani
Masahide Kudo vs Singtongnoi Por Telakun
Nong-O Gaiyanghadao vs Mehdi Zatout
Alain Ngalani vs Andre Meunier
Petchmorrakot Wor. Sangprapai vs Alaverdi Ramazanov
Petchdam Kaiyanghadao vs Kenny Tse
A few words for some of the key fights:
Shinya Aoki (41-8) is a former Shooto, DREAM & ONE world champion. A judo & jiu jitsu specialist, with 27 submissions on his MMA record, Aoki will take on Ev Ting (16-4) a dangerous striker and skilled grappler. The winner will receive a title shot against 2 division world champion Martin Nguyen (11-3) on March of 2019, at ONE’s debut in Japan.
Kai Ting Chuang (17-5) is a 3 time WAKO National Kickboxing Champion as well as the reigning and defending ONE Kickboxing Atomweight World Champion. She defends her title against Stamp Fairtex (60-15), former North Eastern muay thai champion.
"Update: Martin Nguyen has relinquished his Lightweight title due to an injury."
Andy Souwer (160-20) is one of the most decorated kickboxers on the planet. A 2 time K-1 World Max Champion, 4 time S-Cup World Champion, ISKA & WKA World Champion (and more), Andy will make his ONE debut against Anthony Njokuani (25-1) a Nigerian fighter who has also competed in MMA (UFC & WEC).
Masahide Kudo (17-7), the current RISE Featherweight champion, will face Singtongnoi Por Telakun (220-80) former Lumpinee Stadium Champion, WMC World Champion, S-1 Champion and Rajadamnern Fighter of the Year.
Nong-O Gaiyanghadao (256-54) is considered to be one of the best pound for pound muay thai fighters in the world. He is a 4 time Lumpinee Stadium champion, Rajadamnern Stadium Champion, 2 time Thailand national champion, and 2 time Fighter of the Year. His opponent is former WBC Muay Thai World Champion Mehdi Zatout (41-18).
Petchmorrakot Wor. Sangprapai (156-33) is a 2 time Lumpinee Stadium Champion and WMC World Champion. He competes against Russian fighter Alaverdi Ramazanov (57-3).
If you are a fan of combat sports, this will be a night to remember.
*Fighter’s record prior to the fight mentioned.
The Super Flyweight division is red hot right now with so many notable names, fantastic fighters and potentially brilliant match ups. The recent edition of “Superfly” may have been under-whelming but the division is red hot and the recent wins for both Kazuto Ioka and Roman Gonzalez have opened up the division even further. Sadly however there are several fighters who are competing with no intention of fighting on the “Superfly” cards. One of those is IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-1, 20), who is signed up with Top Rank and being kept as a divisional side attraction by Bob Arum, who has kept him fighting on ESPN and kept him away from the top names at 115lbs.
This coming Friday Ancajas returned to the ring, to make his 6th defense of the title, and takes on a real divisional no-name in the form of Alejandro Santiago Barrios (16-2-4, 7). A 22 year old Mexican without a win of note and draws in his 3 most notable bouts. Not only is he a pretty unknown challenger but he is one without any experience over 12 rounds and has done next to nothing to deserve a title fight, at this moment in time.
The 26 year old champion might not be competing with the best in the division but he is one of the divisions top fighters, which is why his reign is so disappointing. He won the title back in September 2016, defeating the then unbeaten McJoe Arroyo, and has showed his silky skills whilst stopping the likes of Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Teiru Kinoshita and Jamie Conlan. Most recently he scored a decision win over mandatory challenger Jonas Sultan but failed to take the opportunity to shine, in the first All-Filipino world title bout in over 90 years.
Whilst his reign has been somewhat forgettable Ancajas has gone from a relative unknown outside of the Filipino domestic scene to someone who is regarded a top Super Flyweight and has been fighting on major TV over the few few fights. His win over Teiru Kinoshita put him on the map for many and since then his profile has grown well, which has doubled the frustration of fans. He's is one of the most aesthetically pleasing fighters in the sport, with very sharp shots, wonderful movement and electric combinations, but it often looks like he's facing opponents several levels blow himself. Those skills feel like they deserve to be tested against the very best in the division, guys like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada and even Kal Yafai, another of the divisional outliers.
Santiago picked up boxing as a teenager and early in his career he rolled off an 8 fight unbeaten run against fellow novice Mexicans. His first step up in class saw him face the then 5-0-1 Hector Gabriel Flores, and lose a clear 6 round decision. His second loss would come just a couple of fights later, and since then he has gone on a role of sorts, running up an 11 fight unbeaten run. Sadly though that run has seen him score 8 wins over limited foes in Mexico and fight to 3 draws against somewhat notable names, all on the road. By it's self that sounds like he's been unfortunate but those draws have come against Antonio Nieves, who was toyed with by Naoya Inoue, and Jose Martinez, who's most notable victory has come against the under-sized and well past his best Juan Palacios.
Footage of Santiago shows him to be a pretty quick and crafty fighter. He uses half steps on the way out to create space to get his jab off and does move surprisingly well. Sadly on the front foot he does look like he carries very little power and doesn't really sit on his shots. Also he looks worryingly under-sized as well as under-powered. We'll be honest and say he probably should have had a win over Martinez, who he made look slow, sloppy and crude, but that shouldn't be enough to get him a world title fight at this level. He looks better than we'd expect, but no where near good enough to face off with the likes of Ancajas.
We're expecting to see Ancajas take the fight to Santiago, using his superior size, speed and skills to chip away at the Mexican and score a late stoppage. Santiago is stepping up massively and he's shown nothing to suggest he can hold his own at this level against someone as sharp and as accurate as Ancajas. Sadly Ancasjas has a reputation for dragging out his bouts, not putting his foot toe gad until his man has been broken mentally. That means we're expecting this to go in the later rounds before Ancajas ups the pace and looks to finish the show, rather than look to make a statement as early as he can.
All Filipino world title fights are rare, in fact the IBF Super Flyweight world title bout earlier this year between Jerwin Ancajas and Jonas Sultan was the first in over 90 years! Like a bus, you wait for an age and then two come around at once. This coming Saturday we'll get another all Filipino world title bout, as Donnie Nietes (41-1-4, 23) and Aston Palicte (24-2, 20) battle for the now vacant WBO Super Flyweight title.
Of the two fighters Nietes is the more well known and the more highly regarded. His long, 46 fight, career began more than 15 years ago and yet the 36 year old “Ahas” is still looking sensational. He's avoided taking much damage, he a very young 36 and is someone who has carved out a really brilliant career for himself. That career has seen him claim the WBO Minimumweight title, the WBO Light Flyweight title, the WBA Flyweight title and is now going for the WBO Super Flyweight title.
Whilst titles and a the numbers on a fighter's record alone doesn't prove how good someone is it's worth noting that the competition Nietes has faced is world class. He won his first world title in September 2007, defeating Pornsawan Porpramook and since then he has scored wins over Jesus Silvestre, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Moises Fuentes, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Edgar Sosa and Juan Carlos Reveco to name just a few of Niete's victims.
Unlike many fighters who go through the lower weights, such as Roman Gonzalez and Naoya Inoue, Nietes' isn't a big puncher. Instead he relies almost solely on ring craft, skills and experience. Defensively he's very smart, with intelligent counter punching, and very sharp crisp shots. Technically he's a boxing genius. He's not been blessed with a frightening power, or freakish size, but he's got such a high ring IQ that's he's going to be a very hard fighter to beat. That is unless father time gets to him before he gets into the ring, and father time certainly didn't seem close to him in February when he dominated Reveco.
Whilst Nietes is a 3-weight world champion this will actually be Palicte's first world title bout, but the 27 year old will feel very confident that he has the size, speed and power to over-come Nietes. He will have several inches of both height and reach advantage over Nietes as well as the clear youth advantage, but will be stepping up significantly in class. He doesn't have the notable names on his record, with his best wins being over Vergilio Silvano, Oscar Cantu, John Mark Apolinario and Jose Alfredo Rodriguez. He should also have had a win over Junior Grandos, but the judges favoured the home town man in a very poor decision.
In the ring Palicte is a bit of a rough diamond. He's very exciting, very heavy handed and throws devastating combinations. Offensively he's great to watch however he can be out boxed, and if fighters force him to move they can cause him real problems, with his less than amazing footwork, and he also drops his hands a little too much when he's throwing punches. Those flaws are things a fighter can get away at the Oriental level, but at world level he will have to tighten up, a lot, especially against someone with the ring craft of Nietes.
If Palicte can use his reach, youth and size he has got a chance to keep Nietes on the outside, but that hasn't usually been Palicte's style. If Palicte is looking to get inside then he really needs to hope his power will be too much for Neites. If it is, and if he can land early and get Nietes's respect, he has a real chance. It should however be noted that Nietes is good on the inside, and will likely be able to hold his own with Palicte. It really comes down to whether the youngster can hurt the old lion.
If this is fought as a boxing match we feel like the skills of Nietes will simply be too much for Palicte and his defensive flaws. If Palicte can however hurt Nietes, set him off his game early on and grind him down, whilst fighting through the counters. That's easier said than done, and given the defensive failings of Palicte we don't think he'll manage to do it often enough. There will be huge moments for Palicte, but we suspect he'll come up short and lose a clear, but hard fought, 12 round decision. If that happens then Nietes joins Roman Gonzalez and Leo Gamez as the only men to claim world titles in the 4 smallest weight classes.
The Super Flyweight division has gone from being one of the most over-looked divisions, only really enjoyed by the hardcore fight fans to being a division that is getting massive attention thanks to the growing “Superfly” series of cards, and the fact that right now we have top fighters in the division from around the globe. This weekend we get the chance to see some of the divisions best fighters in action in Fresno California, with WBA champion Kal Yafai (23-0, 14) defending his title against David Carmona (21-5-5, 9) and IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas (29-1-1, 20) defending his title against Jonas Sultan (14-3, 9).
Of those two bouts it's the second one that particularly interests us as it will be the first all-Filipino world title bout in over 90 years, though the winners of the two bouts are expected to be on a collision towards unification later in the year.
Ancajas was one of the sports hidden gems until recently. The "Pretty boy" debuted back in 2009, as a 17 year old and went 13-0-1 before losing a razor thin decision to Mark Anthony Geraldo in early 2012. Since the Ancajas has gone 16-0 (15) and proven to be one of the best Super Flyweights on the planet. He's a joy to watch some wonderful boxing skills, fantastic sharpness, and a rare fluidity to everything he does. Not only is he a joy but he's an offensively minded combination punching southpaw, which makes him incredibly awkward to fight against.
The impressive 16 fight run of Ancajas has seen him move from relative unknown to being seen as one of the new faces of Filipino boxing. It began withg some pretty low key wins, but in 2016 he scored a major win over McJoe Arroyo to claim the IBF title. Since then his profile has mushroomed with 4 world title defenses, stopping Jose Alfredo Rodriguez in Macao, Teiru Kinoshita in Australia, Jamie Conlan in Northern Ireland and Israel Gonzalez in the US. Not only is he stopping his foes but he's looking sensational doing it, dropping his opponents and beating them up before stopping them.
Despite scoring a lot of stoppages recently Ancajas isn't actually a big puncher. He's someone who stops people through his sheer consistency. He lands a lot of shots, he finds holes in opponents defenses and uses his speed to befuddle good fighters, who are made to look really poor. His power won't effect someone like Juan Francisco Estrada or Srisaket Sor Rungvisai on a 1-punch basis, but those shots do damage over the course of a fight, and against even the very elite in the division Ancajas has a genuine shot.
Sultan, like Ancajas in may ways, was totally unknown not too long ago. He started his career in 2013, and was 4-2 (2) after 6 bouts but has since gone 10-1 (7) and made himself one of the divisions key contenders, and the IBF mandatory title challenger. In in his recent wins are victories over some really good fighters, such as Jerson Mancio, Brian Lobetania, Rene Dacquel, Tatsuay Ikemizu, Makazole Tete, Sonny Boy Jaro and John Riel Casimero. In those wins he has shown he can box, punch and take a shot when he needs to.
Although he has looked really good at times, there is still a lot for Sultan to prove and his win over Casimero left as many questions as answers, and was a very messy fight. He certainly a lot going for him here, and his only recent loss was much closer than the cards suggested. He has shown power and speed, and at 26 is coming into his physical prime.
Although going through a rich vein of form this is a big step up for Sultan. Wins over former world champions like Jaro and Casimero are impressive but Jaro was old and Casimero was a naturally smaller man. His wins over Tete and Dacquel are brilliant wins, but they are both a long way off being as good as Ancajas. In fact the champion has more to his arsenal than Tete and Dacquel combined and that will be a major issue for Sultan here.
We think this opportunity has come a little too early for Sultan. We're not sure he will ever be as good as Ancajas, but he probably needed to face another prime contender before getting a world title fight to really be prepared for a fight at that level. We suspect that Ancajas' smoothness in the ring, his speed and movement and ring IQ will be too much for the challenger. Sultan will certainly have some moments, but we suspect he'll be worn down and either stopped late or lose a wide and clear decision.
The biggest bout this weekend is a potential instant classic as WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (44-4-1, 40) defends his title against mandatory challenger Juan Francisco Estrada (36-2, 25). For the champion this will be his second defense of his second reign, and gives him a huge chance to solidify himself as a leading fighter in the lower weights. The challenger will be looking to become a 2-weight champion, and will be looking to further establish himself as one of the best current Mexican fighters in the sport. On a more fan based level this will be one of the best aggressive fighters in the sport against one of the truly elite boxers and should be a stylistic pleasure or power, brains and skill.
Last year Srisaket announced himself on to the Western fan base with two wins over Roman Gonalez. To some that was his only real achievement but to others, who had followed his career, those were just more big wins that saw him become a 2-time world champion. Prior to those wins he had amassed a long record in Asia and had scored notable wins over Yota Sato, to claim his first title, and Jose Salgado, to become mandatory for a second title fight. Other than those two wins his only other notable recent bout had been a technical decision loss to Carlos Cuadras, who had looked very worried about the power and aggression of Srisaket.
Unlike many Thai's with padded records Srisaket is a genuine world class fighter. He's teak tough, a huge puncher, a powerful physical specimen, with aggressive footwork, a high work rate and an awkward southpaw stance. For all his strengths he can be outboxed, he's not the quickest, the smoothest or defensively the smartest. He has been shown to eat shots, as he did at times against Gonzalez, though they typically bounce off him and he regularly dwarfs other Super Flyweights. In many ways he's like a smaller, cruder, more powerful Gennady Golovkin and if the Super Flyweight division had a higher profile a few years ago he truly would have been the divisional bogey man, rather than someone feasting on regional journeymen to stay busy.
Whilst Srisaket only really managed to make him name in the West recently the same can't be said of Estrada, who has looked on the verge of breaking out a few times, before something has slowed his ascent. In 2012 he went tooth and nail with Roman Gonzalez, in a true Fight of the Year contender for the WBA Light Flyweight title. That bout was aired on Wealth TV in the US and it seemed like the perfect platform for the lower weight fighters. Despite the loss Estrada's profile was boosted immeasurably and just a few months later he would defeat Brian Viloria in Macau to claim the WBO and WBA “super” titles at Flyweight. Another bout in Macau saw Estrada defeat Milan Melindo and it seemed like he was going to become a staple of the Bob Arum shows in the region. Sadly though he would fight his next 7 bouts in Mexico, spread over the following 3 years. They included wins over Giovani Segura and Hernan Marquez, who had looked shot for a while, along with some limited opposition as hand injuries slowed his rise and kept him out of action for over a year.
Thankfully for Estrada he scored a major win last year as he over-came Carlos Cuadras to earn a shot at the WBC Super Flyweight title. The win over Cuadras showed everything that Estrada is. He's a really intelligent boxer-puncher, he showed ring craft, timing, and understanding of distance that many fighters wish they could have. His jab was on point, his shot selection showed touches of genius and although he started somewhat slowly he came close to finishing off a tired Cuadras late on, dropping his fellow Mexican in round 10. The slow start of Estrada is something we've seen a number of times, as he figures out his opponents and then begins to go to work. It's a cerebral style that he combines with solid speed and power.
Give that Srisaket is a fast starter, looking to force his will from the opening bell and that Estrada is a slow starter, who begins to pick apart opponents as the fight goes on we are expecting a fight that,if it goes to the cards, is going to be very hard to score. We're know that Srisaket will start fast, and during the first 4 or 5 rounds he is going to be incredibly dangerous against his naturally smaller foe. If he can land his power shots during this time there is a chance he could force a stoppage, he could in fairness stop almost anyone in the lower weights if he lands cleanly. If Estrada sees out the early storm he will dominate the later rounds, making things really interesting on the score cards. It really could depend on whether or not Srisaket can get an early knockdown or not.
Another to consider here, and it works in Sriskaet's favour, is the potential for headclashes. A quick start by the Thai before a headclash renders an early finish could well see him take a technical decision, in part due to Estrada's willingness to start slowly. This may well figure into the game plan of both men, and see a slightly early start from Estrada.
We favour the Thai to come out on top, though we suspect he'll have to get through some very tough patches late on to come out with the win, after a very strong start.
Last year we saw a number of lesser known fighters increase their profile with a number of impressive performances. One of those was Filipino Jerwin Ancajas (28-1-1, 19), who went 3-0 (3) for the year, defending the IBF Super Flyweight title in all 3 of those bouts and scoring wins in Macao, Australia and Northern Ireland. He looks to kick off his 2018 with his 4th world title defense, as he takes on once beaten Mexican challenger Israel Gonzalez (21-1, 8).
The Super Flyweight division is, arguably, the most interesting in the sport today with a number of excellent fighters. Sadly the division has got political issues, and Ancajas signing with Top Rank in 2017 has locked him out of facing a number of top fighters and showcasing his abilities against the best. Those abilities are, however, exceptional and the Filipino is a real joy to watch.
Dubbed the “Pretty Boy” Ancajas is a photogenic fighter who is a wonderfully pure boxer. He fights from the southpaw stance, sets the pace of the fight and controls the distance with smart footwork and very accurate straight shots. On the inside he throws beautiful shots, especially to the body, and defensively he's smart and quick. His speed is one of his key strengths, with his hands and feet both being incredibly fast, and there is a wonderful smoothness to his boxing.
One of the problems is Ancajas is the fact he's not a big puncher. Despite not being a big puncher he has gone 15-0 (14) since his sole loss, a majority decision to Mark Anthony Geraldo back in March 2012. What's impressive about Ancajas is that everyone of his shots stings, and takes a toll, rather than concusses an opponent. He breaks down opponents with a steady steam of shots and they are can hurt to either the head or body.
During his 30 fight career Ancajas has scored notable wins over the likes of Inthanon Sithchamuang, McJoe Arroyo, who he beat for the title, Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Teiru Kinoshita and Jamie Conlan. From those only Arroyo lasted the distance.
Mexican fighter Gonzalez has been a professional for just over 3 years, and has been a very busy fighter since his November 2014 debut. Just 13 months after his debut he fought in his first title fight, claiming the interim WBC FECOMBOX Super Flyweight Title with a win over Francisco Reyes. Amazingly that was Gonzalez's 13th bout in as many months. In mid 2016 he suffered his first, and so far only, loss, as he came up short against Argi Cortes. Back to back stoppages over former world title challenger Mauricio Fuentes followed, along with a win over a very shop warn Ramon Garcia Hirales. Those wins are the most notable on Gonzalez's record, and since then he has scored 5 low key wins.
Despite being so busy there is little quality footage of Gonzalez available. What is available shows an aggressive pressure fight with a nice snappy jab and nice head movement. Sadly for him though there is a real lack of power and so little footage is available to know anything about how he copes with pressure and what he's like on the inside. The footage, which is quite old, shows a slappy fighter who really doesn't get his weight or body behind his shots and whilst he could have improved it would take a huge amount of development to prepare him for someone like Ancajas.
On Saturday, when the two men get in the ring, we're expecting a real show case from Ancajas. We're expecting the champion to set the distance and pace from the off, and beak down the challenger in 6 or so rounds. Gonzalez' toughness is unknown, but we know how good Ancajas is and how accurate he is, with Gonzalez unlikely to be able to take the fire power from Ancajas for long.
In the last 12 months we've seen the Super Flyweight division get a significant amount of international attention, with notable fights in the division taking place outside of the usual countries for “the little men”. This has included Super Flyweight world title bouts taking place in Australia, England, Northern Ireland and the US, and the huge success of the “Superfly” show on HBO. Sadly though that success hasn't made life easy for Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (14-0, 12). The Japanese fighter as defended his WBO title twice this year, and will make his 7th total defense on December 30th, but has seen top contenders rule themselves out of bouts with him in early 2018.
Rather than continue to battle the politics of the sport Inoue has stated he is after big challengers, and this coming Saturday he will likely fight at 115lbs for the final time. That bout will see him face French challenger Yoan Boyeaux (41-4-0-1, 26), with the visitor looking to secure a career best win, and Inoue looking to bid farewell to the division in style.
For those who have lived under a rock the last few years Inoue is the new face of Japanese boxing. He's a fighter who combines elite skills with frightening power, lighting speed and a desire to both put on a show and challenge himself. He raced through the rankings at break neck speed, winning a Japanese title in his 4th fight, an OPBF title in his 5th and his first world title in his 6th bout. After just a single defense of his first world title he jumped up 2 divisions and blitzed Omar Narvaez to become a 2-division champion and has since gone 6-0 (5) in Super Flyweight world title defenses.
Dubbed the “Monster” Inoue is a frightening in the ring. He's a naturally strong and powerful guy but doesn't rely on that natural strength to win. Instead that power and physicality has become part of a fighter who is very highly skilled and incredibly fluid. He throws some of the best combinations in the sport, can throw some great counter shots and although an offensive force he is also able to fight on the back foot, even as an aggressive fighter on the back foot. Every fight he seems to show something new and he has has added things like the ability to switch to his game in recent years.
Looking for flaws with Inoue is hard, but there is some. He is sometimes unable to transition defense to offense, and is sometimes happier to see out his opponents assaults before returning fire, rather than using his counter punching skills. He can also switch off and although he is developing the mental side of his game there are times when he looks bored and frustrated, which included his last bout when he had clearly gotten sick of Antonio Nieves running away from him in round 6. If he can stay mentally sharp there is going to be very,very few fighters who can really test him, which could explain why so many at 115lbs are doing their best to avoid him.
Aged 29 Boyeaux is a bit of a young veteran. He debuted in 2009 but has amazingly racked 46 bouts into his career, and has been a genuine globe trotter. He has fought in France, England, Croatia, Serbia, Argentina, Brazil, Slovakia, Hungary and Morocco. Not only has he fought on the road a lot but he has also adapted his style from a typically European one to a an aggressive one thanks to spending a significant amount of time in Argentina. Not only has he been active but also successful and is riding an impressive 31-0-0-1 run, following an inauspicious 10-4 start.
One thing to note about Boyeaux is his competition hasn't been great. His most notable opponents were those opponents he faced in his early losses, with Carl Frampton and Josh Wale both beating him in the UK and Anthony Settoul beating him in France. That level of competition isn't going to prepare a fighter for Inoue, and instead Boyeaux will have to be hoping that his training camp and natural ability will be able to carry him through the bout.
Watching Boyeaux in action we have a very tall Super Flyweight, who is said to be around 5'7”, he's a fighter with the build to be a good outside fight but instead he has has shown a more aggressive and pressure based style which. He throws a lot of leather and looks to march down his foes, with a nice selection of shots. Sadly for all his aggression and output Boyeaux does seem to have a relative lack of power and will likely have a style that accentuates just how good Inoue is.
We expect to see the challenger take the fight to Inoue, look to put himself in the driving seat, like a number of other Inoue foes. After a round or two however he will realise that he needs to change gameplan, with Inoue counter, and pushing him back. For a few rounds Boyeaux may be able to have some moments, but before long Inoue's power, combinations, body punching and accuracy will be too much for the challenger, who will be stopped, likely in the middle rounds.
Right now there are a number of divisions which standout as being much more talent laden and exciting than others. One of those is the Cruiserweight division, where the World Boxing Super Series is helping the division really stand out. Another is the Super Flyweight division, which has gotten attention thanks to the number of top fighters, the repeatedly exciting contests the division is giving us, and the recent showcases from HBO.
This coming weekend we get the chance to see one of the divisions “hidden gems” taking on one of boxing's human highlight reels in what should be a very fan friendly contest for the IBF world title.
In one corner will be defending champion Jerwin Ancajas (27-1-1, 18), the least well known and famous of the reigning world champions at 115lbs, and in the other corner will be Jamie Conlan (19-0, 11), a Northern Irishman who has been in FOTY contender fights in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
The once beaten Filipino has been an under-the-radar gem of Filipino boxing in recent years. In 2016 he scored what should have been a break out win over McJoe Arroyo, though Filipino TV failed to show the bout, with Ancajas winning the IBF title with a decision over the Puerto Rican. He made his first defense this past January, stopping Jose Alfredo Rodriguez in China before travelling to Australia to stop Teiru Kinoshita on the under-card of Manny Pacquiao's loss to Jeff Horn. The win over Kinoshita saw Ancajas put himself in the limelight, though sadly many fans have seemingly forgotten his performance to instead focus on decision of the Pacquiao Vs Horn bout.
Those who remember Ancajas' win over Kinoshita, or have seen his other bouts, will be familiar with Ancajas having one of the sports most eye pleasing style. He's a wonderful fluid boxer, with gorgeous combinations, movement and fluid boxing. He's not the power puncher that fellow champions Naoya Inoue and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai are, but he is a really wonderful boxer, with enough power to stop foes, and the skills to dazzle. Not only does he have skills, but he also has an aggressive mentality, and will look to shine whilst beating opponents down mentally, rather than just take decision in a dull affair.
Whilst Ancajas has been a hidden gem with talent that should have made him a star Conlan has become a must watch fighter, despite being a fundamentally limited fighter. He isn't known for his skills, or his power, but his heart, styles and heart in your mouth action fights. These have included a sensation decision win over Junior Granados in 2015, an amazing up-and-down slug fest with Anthony Nelson in 2016 and a thrilling split decision win over Yader Cardoza this past March. He has been down in all 3 of those aforementioned bouts, multiple times in some of them, but has dug deep to win in fan friendly style.
Although a must watch fighter Conlan has taken a lot of punishment, especially for a man with just 19 fights and a combined 109 rounds under his belt. His style is one where he is defensively naive, and although it hasn't cost him his unbeaten record, yet, he has been fighting well below world class. This is a monster step up from borderline top 25 fighters, like Cardoza, to world class, like Ancajas, and that sort of step up is one that is very tough to make.
We can see Conlan have some moments, his toughness and heart will get him some moments, but they will be few and far between. Instead we suspect Ancajas will be too sharp, too accurate and simply too good. The Filipino will find the holes in Conlan's defense, and will target them at will. Unlike Conlan's previous opponents Ancajas won't let the gutsy challenger off the hook, and will instead finish off his man in the mid-to-later rounds, in what will hopefully set up Ancajas for a huge fight in 2018.
In recent times we've began to see the Super Flyweight division get the attention it has long deserved. Whilst that attention is long over-due it is great to see so many top "little guys" getting attention on both American (HBO) and British (Boxnation and Sky Sports) TV. It's been fantastic to see the likes of Roman Gonzalez, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Carlos Cuadras, Juan Francisco Estrada and Naoya Inoue get a chance to shine in front of a huge global audience, something that never seemed likely when the division had fighters like Hugo Fidel Cazares, Nobuo Nashiro, Kohei Kono, Omar Andres Narvaez, Suriyan Sor Runvisai and Rodrigo Guerrero tearing it up in some thrillers earlier in the decade. That momentum looks to continue this coming weekend when unbeaten WBA champion Kal Yafai (22-0, 14) takes on Japanese challenger Sho Ishida (24-0, 13) at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff. For both men it's a huge opportunity to join the big leagues and move towards securing a match up on "Superfly 2", which HBO will air in February 2018, potentially with the likes of the aforementioned Gonzalez or Cuadras.
For Yafai the bout will act as his second defense of the title, which he won late last year when he beat a weary looking Luis Concepcion, and follows a surprisingly draining win over form Japanese Flyweight champion Suguru Muranaka whilst Ishida will be getting his first world title fight, after hovering in the world rankings for the last few years and slowly climbing to a mandatory position. Of the two men it's the defending champion who is the more well know and the the clear betting favourite, though the challenger is the one looking for a small slice of history, and knows a win will see him become the first Japanese fighter to win a world title in Europe, following a number of failures by the likes of Hidenori Otake, Ryosuke Iwasa and the previously mentioned Muranaka.
In the ring ring Yafai has proven himself as a talented boxer-puncher. He's not the biggest hitter in the division, and his power doesn't strike fear into opponents like that of Inoue or Gonzalez, but he's solid in his punches, moves really well and has shown he can fight well for 12 rounds. In terms of championship status he is perceived one of the weaker champions, along with Jerwin Ancajas, but being “weaker” here really isn't an insult given the talent in the division.
To date Yafai's biggest wins have been against over the likes of Dixon Flores, Luis Concepcion and Muranaka. Against Flores we saw Yafai look like a killer, blasting him away inside a round with body shots, against Concepcion we saw a very disciplined performance whilst against Muranaka we saw Yafai being forced to fight 12 hard rounds against a man simply refused to go backwards. In all 3 bouts we saw Yafai win, with few problems, but all 3 bouts saw the Englishman showing something new. It should be noted however that whilst Yafai is a good fighter, with very good amateur pedigree, he's not the biggest fighter in the division and a number of fighters at 115lbs will tower over him.
Talking about fighters who will tower over Yafai that will certainly be the case when he takes on Ishida, who is a freakish fighter for 115lbs and stands at 5'8” with a huge wingspan. Unsurprisingly for such a tall fighter Ishida looks to fight at range, using his feet well to keep range and making the most of his long and rangy jab. He can fight up close when he needs to, and unlike many tall fighters he's actually really good at going to the body, as seen in his win over Petchbarngborn Kokietgym.
Although Ishida isn't well known outside of Japan he does hold a number of notable wins. These include not only the win over Petchbarngborn but also wins over Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking, Yohei Tobe and current Japanese champion Ryuichi Funai. Those opponents might not mean a lot in the West but there are all solid fighters who will have helped Ishida develop his skills. Also helping his development will be his training at the Ioka gym, alongside Kazuto Ioka, Masayoshi Nakatani and Ryo Miyazaki. The gym has a number of top fighters to help Ishida prepare for a world title fight, and although some of his recent competition has been week, as he's fought in a number of stay busy fights, he is a real talent.
Travelling to Wales will be a new experience for Ishida, it's his first fight outside of Japan and will be a unique experience. He will also travel with the knowledge that no Japanese fighter has ever won a world title fight in Europe. Despite all that he'll be a very live under-dog, who will be full of self belief. The popular view here seems to be that Yafai will be too good and too physical for Ishida but the reality is that Yafai couldn't physically impose himself on Muranaka, a Flyweight, and given that Ishida is not only bigger but also well schooled himself this could be a very tough defense for the champion.
We can see Yafai winning, and he's not the clear betting favourite for no reason, but we certainly see this as being more competitive than the bookmakers, and British fans in general,expect it to be.
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.