When we talk about modern day boxing legends few can compare to Filipino great Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39), who has done stuff that many wouldn't have dreamed possible in our great sport. The looks to continue his career this coming Saturday and add yet another notable win to his incredible resume as he battles unbeaten and popular American Keith Thurman (29-0-0-1, 22) and looks to unify the WBA "regular" title, which he won last year, with Thurman's "Super" title. A win for Pacquiao would be yet another cherry on top of a career that has had so much success, and would prove, even at the age of 40, that he was still an active legend. For Thurman the bout acts as a chance to finally get an elite level name on his record, after years of talking about being a special fighter.
Pacquiao, of course better known as "Pacman", has had the story of his career told, re-told and re-told once again. The early days, putting weights in his pockets to and fighting as a 16 year old in small venues of the Philippines, making a name for himself and fighting to eat, to his modern day status as one of the greatest fighters in living memory and a fighter who has made more money than most people could ever dream of. During his 24 year career he has done so much, moving from Flyweight all the way up to Light Middleweight, grabbing titles in almost every division along the way and fighting in a variety of countries. He has been one of boxing's few true, global stars and a man who has transcended the sport whilst creating a resume that reads like a history of boxing greats.
From beating Chatchai Sasakul in 1998 to beating Adrien Broner earlier this year Pacquiao has spent 20 years at world level and has the right to retire as a legend whenever he wishes. Instead however he wants to build on his legacy and etch his name deeper into the annals of boxing history.
Not only has Pacquiao been at the top for longer than most but he has done so whilst adapting, changing and altering his style. Early on he was a crude, left hand happy power puncher, before becoming a dynamic dervish of 2-handed power and speed, then as age got to him he began to show more boxing finesse, picking his power punches and building on his ring craft to control the pace and tempo. Even at his current age he is still a lighting quick fighter, but knows that he needs to pace himself a little more, fighting at a controlled range and using his dynamite left hand to force any fighter to respect him. He's certainly past his peak, but has adapted to prolong his career and his success.
At the age of 30 Keith Thurman is a man who really should be a big star than he is, or perhaps he could have bee a much bigger star than he is. He's a good looking, charismatic guy, who early on had a fun style, with explosive power. He combined a style in the ring with a confident personality and a cool cat persona. He was an easy guy to root for, as the Welterweight division shifted focus from the old men on top to the new breed breaking through. Sadly though Thurman never really had the transition he needed, he could never get the passing of the torch fight, and lost some of his best years through injury and inactivity.
In 2013 Thurman beat former world champion Jan Zaveck, in a big win at the time, then stopped Diego Gabriel Chaves for the WBA "interim" world title, which he defended at the end of the year against Jesus Soto Karass. Those 3 wins saw him with an unbeaten record, 20 T/KO's from 22 wins, and a title. He was just 25 and looked like he had the keys to the Welterweight castle. Since then however he has gone 9-0 (2), fighting just 7 times in 5 years and rarely looking like the man many had pegged him for. For much of that reign his competition lacked quality and real threat, with only Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia really regarded as threats to Thurman on paper. The others were typically older fighters, with their best years behind them, like Julio Diaz, Roberto Guerrero and Luis Collazo. Despite the less than amazing competition the WBA have stood by his side, and he has moved from interim to regular to Super Champion during his reign with their title.
Whilst injuries certainly were a problem for Thurman his attitude had changed. When he was climbing the ranks it was all about taking over, being the avoided man, the hot young gun that no one wanted to face. Since winning the title however he has become the thing he complained about. He's failed to take on the rising lions of the emerging wave, the likes of Errol Spence Jr, and and 7 of his last 9 have come against men the wrong side of 30, with Pacquiao joining those older foes of Thurman's. A shame we've not seen him in with the fellow best, given his athletic and exciting style, his boxer-puncher ability and his genuinely nasty finishing.
Whilst Pacquiao, at his best, would have been strongly favoured over a fighter like Thurman, it's now a case of questioning how much Pacquiao has left in the tank.He looked like he had lost a couple of steps in his win over Broner earlier this year, and Lucas Matthysse looked so washed last year that it's hard to know how good the Pacquiao of today really is. Thurman hasn't lived up to his expectations, he's not shown world class power at world level, but given such a big age and natural size advantage it's hard to go against him, especially given that Pacquiao has so many questions hanging over his head.
We would love to see Pacquiao add Thurman's name to a resume that includes Chatchai Sasakul, Lehlo Ledwaba, Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley and Timothy Bradley. Sadly though we fear father time will finally catch up to the Pacman.
Prediction TKO10 Thurman.
In October 2018 we saw American Rob Brant (25-1, 17) end Ryota Murata's (14-2, 11) short lived reign as the WBA "regular" Middleweight champion, upsetting the Japanese fighter over 12 1-sided rounds. The bout, which was supposed to be a big opportunity for Murata to shine on US soil against a limited challenger backfired, big time, with Brant using Murata for target practice over 12 rounds.
It was as humiliating a 12 round decision loss that we've seen a champion suffer in years, and in many ways it was similar to Joe Calzaghe's dominant win over Jeff Lacy. Brant, like Calzaghe, was the under-dog who set an insane work rate and Murata, like Lacy, was made to look slow and clumsy, unable to use their vaunted power. Both were boxing's answer to death by 1000 cuts, with neither Calzaghe or Brant having the power to stop their opponent, but having the work rate to handcuff them, dominate them and leave their man mentally questioning their future.
The question coming in, is whether Murata can do what Lacy couldn't, and can rebuild his career? We'll find out on July 12th when Murata gets his rematch with Brant in Osaka, as the headline bout of a big Japanese card!
When Murata turned professional, originally with Top Rank in the US and Misako and Teiken in Japan, he did so with a lot of fanfare and attention. He made his debut in 2013, stopping the then Japanese OPBF Middleweight champion Akio Shibata, with that win following incredible amateur success, including an Olympic gold medal and a World Amateur silver medal. His amateur pedigree and professional debut seemed to put him on the fast track to the top, though unfortunately he didn't really shine as many had hoped. As a professional he looked good, strong, but never great. He looked effective, but basic, only showing glimpses of brilliance.
Sadly for Murata he would never really replicate his amateur success in the professional ranks. He would never develop beyond being a strong but basic fighter. He had thudding power in each hand, a great chin, good stamina and applied solid pressure, as we saw in both of his bouts with Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam. Sadly though he would never develop the tools to use a plan B. He never looked quick or sharp, just always consistent, basic and thudding. It was enough to win his bouts against his earlier foes, and yes we all know he was robbed in the first bout N'Dam, but against Brant he was too slow and seemed like he was made to order for Brant.
Brant had entered the first bout with Murata as the mandatory challenger, but someone who was given little chance. He was, seemingly, the latest in a long line of boxing's undeserving mandatory challengers. He had done nothing to earn a shot and had lost, just 12 months earlier, to Juergen Braehmer in what was a pretty clear defeat to the German veteran. What few expected was for Brant to look like a totally different fighter to the one who had froze on the big stage against Braehmer. Against Murata he looked like a perpetual punching machine, a tireless bundle of energy, who set an insane work rate, threw an average of 105 punches a round, neutralising Murata with work rate. He out landed the Japanese fighter round after round.
Officially in their first bout Brant landed 356 punches, to Murata's 180, though watching the fighting it seemed like there was an even bigger difference between the two men.
Although Brant had gone into the bout as the under-dog he had dominated Murata and went on to successfully defend the belt this past February, when he stopped the previously unbeaten Khasan Baysangurov. That bout saw Brant show a bit more venom on his shots, dropping Baysangurov in rounds 2 and 11 to force a TKO win. He hadn't become a puncher, but had seemingly just added a bit more to his game after winning the title, and looked like a solid, if still under-rated, Middleweight.
Sadly for Murata it's hard to see how he can do anything to change the outcome from the first bout. He was too slow, too open, too basic, fought too 1-paced and showed so little hunger and variation. For him to beat Brant would take one of 3 things. Either he hands a freak 1-punch KO, shocking Brant. He gets Brant to freeze, shocked by the atmosphere, and takes the win due to Brant not adapting to being in Japan. He totally reinvents himself at the age of 33, and has some how remodelled his entire style in just 9 months.
The odds on any of those 3 things happening are slim, and we really can't see how Murata avenges his loss here. He looked lost, and we expected the same again, with perhaps a late mercy stoppage if he takes clean and repeated head shots in the championship rounds, as he did in their first bout.
Prediction TKO12 Brant
One of the biggest rivalries in world boxing is the under-rated Japan Vs Thailand rivalry. It's not as widely reported at the Puerto Rico Vs Mexico rivalry but it's as good as we get to Asia's answer, and has given us some historic battles over the years including the likes of Joichiro Tatsuyoshi Vs Sirimongkol Singwancha.
On June 19th we see the next chapter in that rivalry as WBA "Super" and Ring magazine Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (12-0, 9) defends his titles against Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-0, 5), aka Tanawat Nakooon. For Kyoguchi this will be his first defense of the two titles he won in December, when he stopped Hekkie Budler, whilst Satanmuanglek will be taking a huge step up for his first world title fight.
The Japanese fighter was a notable amateur before he turned professional just over 3 years ago with the Watanabe Gym in Tokyo. He was raced to his first title, the OPBF Minimumweight title,after less than 11 months, and would take the IBF Minimumweight title just 15 months after his debut. It was the quickest rise of any Japanese fighter to their first world title. He would add to his title collection last December, when he became a 2-weight champion, in just his 12th professional bout, and became the first man to stop South African Hekkie Budler. Whilst that's not quite as a impressive as Kosei Tanaka or Naoya Inoue its still an incredibly impressive feat from the baby faced 25 year old.
Despite having been a profession for just over 3 years Kyoguchi has a strong resume, with wins over Jose Argumedo, Carlos Buitrago and Hekkie Budler being the best of them. Through his career he has shown an exciting pressure style, backed with good boxing skills, decent defense and aggressive footwork. His uses a fantastic heavy jab to close the distance and when up close he goes to town with spiteful uppercuts and ripping body shots. The combinations, pressure and power will be far too much for many opponents, and it's clear that it will take a very special fighter to dethrone the rising Japanese star.
Satanmuanglek, unlike Kyoguchi, wasn't an amateur standout. Instead he was a Muay Thai star, fighting as Satanmuanglek Numpornthep, and really shone in the art of 8 limbs. It was due to his Muay Thai experience that there was real excitement when he turned his hand to professional boxing 2017. Sadly his early career as a boxer was uninspired with wins against the usual array of over-mathced Indonesian and Filipino journeyman, such as Silem Serang, Maktison Marganti and Geboi Mansalayao. He did step up his level of competition last year, scoring a career best win over Marco John Rementizo, though he was pushed all the way in that bout showing that he still had a lot of work to do before being ready for a world title fight.
In the ring Satanmuanglek is a physically strong southpaw who has a nice jab, and decent speed. On the front foot he's solid, with a nice variety of shots and he does apply consistent, smart pressure whilst breaking opponents down with accurate heavy shots. Sadly for him things are very different on the back foot and when forced backwards, as he was against Rementizo, he looks like a very different fighter, with defensive flaws showing through regularly. Also when forced on to the back foot his work rate drops and his punches look like he is reaching to land, rather than punching through the target.
Given how vicious and intelligent and incessant Kyoguchi's pressure is, and the real issues Satanmuanglek had with Rementizo it's hard to see anything but a successful defense for the Japanese fighter. Satanmuanglek is tough, he proved that in his Muay Thai career, but we really struggle to see him putting up with the body shots of Kyoguchi. We think they will be the cause of his pain, and will cause the bout to be concluded before the championship rounds.
Prediction - Kyoguchi TKO7
This coming Saturday we'll see WBA Flyweight champion Artem Dalakian (18-0, 13) make a mandatory defense of his title as he takes on Thai foe Dennapa Kiatniwat (20-1, 15)*, aka Sarawut Thawornkham, in Kiev, Ukraine. On paper this looks interesting, but in reality the paper only tells us part of the story. For example the bout will be the Thai's first world title fight, it will be a huge step up in class and his second bout outside of Thailand, whilst Dalakian will be seeking his third defense of the WBA title and comes into the bout riding a huge wave of confidence following 3 impressive wins in 2018.
So lets look at the men involved.
The 31 year old Dalakian is an Azeri born Ukrainian who had a notable amateur career, and competed at the 2009 World Amateur Champions, pushing future world champion Amnat Ruenroeng all the way. He would later turn professional in 2011 and has gone unbeaten since then. Although unbeaten since he became a professional it wasn't until 2018 that he really got any attention from the boxing world. That was a year where he was given a chance, and defeat Brian Viloria to become the WBA Flyweight champion, doing so in the US. Since then he has notched up defenses against Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep and Gregorio Lebron. Prior to beating Viloria there was little on his record, with wins over veteran Silvio Olteanu and a then inexperienced Angel Moreno being the only wins of any note.
In the ring Dalakian is a talented boxer-puncher. He's not the most talented boxer in the division, or the hard hitter, but he combines his boxing and power excellently, with long reach, an awkward style, and good consistent aggression. He's not going to wipe world class opponents out, but he's going to be a nightmare for anyone with his strength and size being real problems. He's also tough, though was hurt at times by Viloira, strong and a fighter who looks really hard to beat. It's also worth noting he's well backed, and there's only a handful of fighters who will be able to afford home advantage against him.
Kiatniwat is real obscurity for those who don't follow the Asian scene in depth, and the reality is that those who do follow him will be aware he doesn't belong in a world title fight. He lost on his debut, being stopped by Masato Morisaki in May 2014, but has reeled off 20* straight wins since then. That sounds impressive, but the best of his wins have been against the likes of Tommy Seran, Crison Omayao and Michael Camelion. To put those into some context, Omayao is a blown Minimumweight, who Naoya Inoue beat on his debut, Michael Camelion was blasted in 33 seconds by Hiroto Kyoguchi back in 2016 and Tommy Seran has won just 1 of his last 9 bouts.
From the footage that's available the Thai does look pretty good offensively, having a nice body attack, some short punching up close and a good jab. He fights out of the southpaw stance and does look solid, though given his competition he is very unproven and it's hard to say whether his power really can carry up. Defensively there are more worried and he has been tagged by fighters much less skilled than Dalakanian, and can often be seen with a very low lead right hand.
We suspect most see this as a mismatch in favour of Dalakian, and if we're being honest we don't see anything but a Dalakian win. Although we strongly favour Dalakian we do however expect to see Dennapa asking some questions of Dalakian, with the Thai's body shots and southpaw stance posing a few issues. We're going to suggest that Dennapa actually give Dalakian toughest fight to date, but suffers a late stoppage to the Ukrainian.
Prediction - Dalakian TKO10
*There are some questions over Kiatniwat's real record with at least 1 bout of his beign televised but not being listed on boxrec.com
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On May 26, Sho Kimura aims to become a 2 division king as he faces the undefeated Carlos Canizales for the WBA (Regular) Light Flyweight World championship, in Fuzhou, China.
Sho Kimura (18-2 / 11 KOs) despite suffering a KO loss on his pro debut, he quickly bounced back, amassing 12 wins within 3 years, as well as the WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title after a heated battle with Masahiro Sakamoto (13-2).
In 2017, Kimura’s biggest test took place in China when he challenged the WBO Flyweight World champion Shiming Zou (9-2). A 2 time Olympic champion & 3 times AIBA World champion, the Chinese fighter held victories over fellow accomplished amateur boxers and future World title holders like Nordine Oubaali, Amnat Ruenroeng and Rau'shee Warren. Kimura, who was coming in as the underdog and was even fighting the champion in his own country, weakened his opponent with body shots throughout the match and eventually delivered a lethal combination during the 11th round, connecting almost a dozen times with Zou’s head, to put a stop to their encounter and to win the big one.
Kimura made his triumphant return to Japan, on December of the same year, defending against the former WBC, The Ring and Lineal Flyweight World champion Toshiyuki Igarashi (23-3). Unbeaten close to 5 years, Igarashi was overwhelmed early on in the fight by Sho’s aggressive style, suffering a lot of damage, while offering almost no offense of his own. The action picked up in the later rounds, as both men started swinging for the fences, bringing the fans to their feet. Finally the end came in the 9th after he landed a straight right hand, stunning the challenger, sending him back to a corner and finishing him off with a flurry of punches. It’s worth mentioning that neither Zou nor Igarashi had ever been stopped before in their careers.
After dispatching Froilan Saludar (30-3) for an easy second title defense, Kimura lost a majority decision to now 3 division World champion Kosei Tanaka (13-0) in what was considered the best Japanese fight of 2018. 6 months later, he came back against Wicha Phulaikhao (60-11), showing no signs of ring rust, completely dominating the Thai veteran and even dropping him thrice with uppercuts in the 3rd round, earning his 11th stoppage victory and setting his sights on a second World title reign.
Carlos Canizales (21-0 / 17 KOs) made his debut in 2014, winning 19 fights in a row, all transpiring in his home country of Venezuela. After a close encounter with the WBA (Super) Light Flyweight World champion Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4), which ended in a draw, he received another shot, this time at the vacant Regular title, against Reiya Konishi (17-1) in March of last year. The Japanese champion was also undefeated at the time with 15 victories under his belt. Canizales once again found himself in a tough contest, going back and forth, but was more in control than in his previous bout, scoring also a knockdown in the 3rd round and eventually earning a unanimous decision and of course the strap.
“Triple C” met accomplished amateur star & AIBA Youth World champion Lu Bin for his inaugural WBA title defense. This was the Chinese fighter’s second only match as a pro. Canizales outclassed Bin, throwing and landing way more punches, sealing the deal in the last round after he floored him with a right straight.
Both Kimura and Canizales are action fighters. They like to throw more and hard, than less but accurate. Stylistically it’s a dream match. Even though this might go to deep waters, it wouldn’t be a surprise if we don’t need the judges in the end. Comparing the caliber of opponents they’ve faced, it’s clear that Kimura has gone up against better competition (for example: Shiming Zou – Olympic champion, Lu Bin – AIBA Youth champion) plus he knows how to work the body more efficiently than the Venezuelan. To conclude with, Kimura is most likely to leave China once again with the gold, but at the same time, there’s a reason Canizales is 21-0-1 in his professional career. Either way, their fight will certainly be a blast !
Earlier this year China saw it's baby faced punching machine Can Xu (16-2, 2) announce himself on the global stage with an upset win in the US over Jesus M Rojas, to become the WBA "regular" Featherweight champion. The win was a notable upset, especially given how bad Xu had looked on his US debut, and saw the feather fisted "Monster", don't ask, show off his fun style, his incredible toughness and his wonderful personality.
This coming weekend Xu heads back to a Chinese ring as he looks to make the first defense of his title, and unlike many who would take on an easy first defense he will actually go up against former WBA "regular" Super Bantamweight champion Shun Kubo (13-1, 9) in what is a really nice looking match up.
Xu, as we all saw against Rojas, is a tough, gutsy guy with an incredible work rate. His shots don't have much on them individually but the sheer number of punches he throws is incredible and he does wear people out mentally as well as physically. He combines an insane output with a gritty toughness, that we saw not only against Rojas but also against the likes of Spicy Matsushita, Nehomar Cermeno and Hurricane Futa, among others.
His combination of toughness and output has seen him winning his last 13 fights and becoming the new face of Chinese boxing. That's admittedly not a position that has given us a lot of big names, but puts him in a small group along with Xiang Zhao Zhong and Zou Shiming, as Chinese world champions and focal points in Chinese boxing history.
Xu isn't likely to be a big star world wide, despite his style, but for Chinese boxing he is a potential center point to build off over the coming years. He's only 25, he's promoted by China's bigger promoter Max Power Promotions, and could be finding himself as someone to inspire the next generation of fighters. The hope once was that Zou Shiming would do that, but he was too old when he turned professional and although interesting outside of the ring he wasn't fun to watch, his fighters didn't see a lot of punches aren't weren't exciting. Xu is fun, young, exciting and oozes natural charisma, which can appeal to local fans and international ones.
As previously mentioned Kubo is a former "regular" champion at 122lbs. Whilst he was fighting at Super Bantamweight he was regarded as a fast rising hopeful, and scored early career wins over the likes of Monico Laurente and Luis May before taking the OPBF title in 2015. In the eyes of many he was the new hope of the Shinsei gym, and winning the OPBF title in just his 9th fight showed that they were going to be pushing to be the replacement for Hozumi Hasegawa at the top of the Shinsei stable. Less than 18 months after his OPBF win he would defeat Nehomar Cermeno for the WBA "regular title", with Cemerno retiring between rounds 10 and 11. It's worth noting that Cermeno had won and defended his belt, twice, in China becoming a bit of a name there, so beating Cermeno would have got Kubo some attention in China.
Sadly Kubo's reign was short and he lost the belt less than 5 months later when he dominated by Danny Roman, who has now run up 4 defenses and unified the WBA and IBF titles suggesting that a lott to Roman isn't something to be ashamed by. Since losing the belt Kubo has scored a single win, moving up to Featherweight and narrowly out pointing Hiroshige Osawa. Sadly a planned follow up was cancelled late last year when Kubo was suffering issues with his sight, though he has receieved treatment and things are said to be sorted with his eyes now.
In the ring Kubo is a pretty basic fighter. He's gangly, long and has impressive size, and will have that at Featheweight, but doesn't do anything specially well. He has a solid enough jab and a decent left hook to the body but there is nothing that makes you think he's world class, other than his desire and will to win. In fact if anything he's shown a suspect chin, a lack of power and some naivety. Despite his flaws he does have success, his heart is incredible and he knows how to use his size. He's not only awkward in terms of reach and height but also due to being a southpaw and he does do a lot that's nice, as opposed to exceptional.
We think Kubo could ask questions of Xu, especially early on when he can land some body shots and is fresh enough to get his punches off. As the fight wears on however we expect to see Xu's pressure, work rate and aggression be the difference, and for the Chinese fighter to retain his title.
We're expecting Kubo to survive the distance, but wouldn't be hugely shocked by a late a stoppage for Xu, despite his reputation as a none-puncher.
Prediction Xu UD12
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On May 18, at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, 2 World champions meet in the second round of the Bantamweight WBSS tournament, as the WBA (Regular) champion Naoya Inoue goes one on one with the IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez, with both titles on the line, as well as the vacant Ring Magazine championship.
Naoya Inoue (17-0/15 KOs) is considered to be one of the best boxers that have come out of Japan. His power, agility and precision have brought him immense success, while he is already ranked in the top 10 (P4P) list by The Ring, ESPN, the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and others.
Before becoming a pro, he had a relatively short but rather accomplished amateur career, amassing 75 victories in 81 outings, with 48 of them being stoppages. Naoya won numerous (inter) high school tournaments, earned the gold at the 2011 Indonesia Presidential Cup and became the All Japan Light Flyweight champion, the same year. He also placed high at the Asian & World championships.
In 2012, the Monster finally made his pro debut and quickly made himself a guy to look out for. After going 3-0 in less than a year, he was set to face Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4) for the Japanese Light Flyweight title. Taguchi, at 18-1, not only was he the more experienced of the two, but he was also a world ranked fighter. Inoue displayed much aggressiveness, taking control of the fight from the opening round. We saw a lot of his body work at display, which became one of his biggest weapons as his career progressed. After 10 rounds of action, the youngster took a clear unanimous decision win (one of only the two times a fight of his has gone the distance) and the belt. Taguchi eventually went on to become the WBA, IBF & The Ring Light Flyweight World champion.
Just 4 months later, he fought Jerson Mancio (18-6) for the vacant OPBF Light Flyweight title. Naoya’s offense was too fast for the Filipino. He weakened his opponent with body shots, before the referee was forced to stop the fight in the 5th as Mancio was getting repeatedly tagged.
It wasn’t long after that Inoue received his first world title shot against Adrian Hernandez (30-5) on April of 2014. The 2 time WBC Light Flyweight World champion had marked 4 successful title defenses coming into this one. Both strong body punchers, Hernandez seemed to be gaining ground in the 4th round but Naoya quickly bounced back with some heavy shots of his own. It was an even match until the 6th when the Japanese Monster dropped El Confesor with a lighting fast right hook, who despite getting up, refused to continue. As a result, Inoue was declared the World champion at 21 years of age, in only his 6th professional bout.
Inoue defended the WBC title only once against Wittawas Basapean (34-9), before moving 2 weight classes up and within the same year, he challenged Omar Andres Narvaez (48-3) for the WBO Super Flyweight World championship. Narvaez, a 1999 Pan American Games winner, enjoyed a 7 year reign with the WBO Flyweight World title (16 defenses) prior to winning the Super Flyweight strap, which he had held for 4 years at the time (11 defenses). This was meant to be the Japanese fighter’s toughest test yet. Instead, it turned out to be one of his most dominant performances, as he dropped the veteran 4 times in just 2 rounds, sealing the deal with the liver shot, to become a 2 division World champion. That was the sole KO loss in Narvaez’s career.
The Monster remained champion for 3.5 years, reaching an impressive number of 7 title defenses. Warlito Parrenas (26-9), Karoon Jarupianlerd (42-9), Ricardo Rodriguez (16-7) and Antonio Nieves (18-2) were easy work for him, as neither of them was close to his level. David Carmona (21-6) did better, simply because Naoya injured his right hand during the match. Still, he managed to outclass his opponent, even put him down in the last round, earning his second and last decision victory. Yoan Boyeaux (41-6), another promising challenger, was on a 31 fight winning streak (close to 5 years unbeaten) and with 26 KOs under his belt. This also ended up being a one sided beatdown, with Inoue scoring 4 knockdowns in less than 8 minutes.
His best challenge was against the 2 time WBA Super Flyweight World champion Kohei Kono (33-12) on December of 2016. Kono came out strong in the beginning, connecting with some good punches, surprising Inoue for a while. Before you know it, this was turned into a wild brawl with both men bringing the heat and exciting the fans. All that changed in the 6th when Naoya landed a perfect left hook that floored the former champ and proceeded to finish him off a couple of seconds later, putting an end to this thrilling encounter.
In 2018, Inoue decided to enter the Bantamweight ranks and immediately challenged the WBA (Regular) title holder Jamie McDonnell (29-3). The Yorkshire native hadn’t suffered a single loss in a decade (22 fights). A former British, Commonwealth, European & IBF Bantamweight World champion, McDonnell was his best opponent since Narvaez. The Monster, true to his nickname, overwhelmed the champ with powerful shots, dropping him in the very 1st round. McDonnell managed to stand up again, but found himself trapped against the ropes as Naoya delivered a lethal flurry to get the KO. After the fight, the Japanese superstar announced his participation at the Bantamweight WBSS and in October he was matched against the former WBA (Super) World champion Juan Carlos Payano (21-2). In what was voted as one of the best knockouts of 2018, Inoue nailed him with a straight right and put his lights out, in just 70 seconds into the fight. Both McDonnell & Payano had never been stopped in their entire career.
Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0), the reigning IBF Bantamweight World champion, unlike his Japanese foe, had quite an extensive run as an amateur. His most noteworthy accolades took place in 2010, when he won the gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games and the silver at the Youth World Championships. Amongst his 182 bouts (171 victories), he owned wins over the likes of AIBA Youth World & Central American and Caribbean Games champion Jonathan Gonzalez (22-2) as well as the current WBO Light Flyweight World titlist Angel Acosta (20-1).
As a pro, he mostly fought in his home country of Puerto Rico against local competition. In 2015, he KOed world title contender Luis Hinojosa (31-16), with a stunning right cross, in the 3rd round. He also picked up 2 decisions over former challengers such as David Quijano (16-7) and Alberto Guevara (27-4).
Rodriguez fought the former IBF Bantamweight World champion Paul Butler (28-2) for the same vacant title, on May of 2018. Butler was on a 9 fight winning streak since losing the belt. The Mexican fighter knocked him down twice in the opening round, once with the right and then with the left hook. Rodriguez continued to control the pace until the end, thus winning a wide decision and was declared the new World champion.
His 1st defense took place in October, against the WBA Oceania & Commonwealth champion Jason Moloney (18-1), as part of the WBSS. The Australian was undefeated at 17-0 when he entered the tournament. Much like Naoya Inoue, Manny utilized some excellent body work that, in the long run, won him the fight. Moloney started to put on a better offense half way through, giving the champ some trouble, especially in the closing rounds. When the final bell rang, Rodriguez was awarded a split decision to advance to the semi finals.
It’s obvious that Rodriguez has the better amateur pedigree than most of Inoue’s opponents, but he hasn’t faced the same caliber of competition as a pro. Moreover, both of his world championship fights has gone the distance and he hasn’t finished anyone since 2017. On the other hand, Naoya has been on a path of destruction, knocking out top contenders and champions alike, for 5 years straight (minus 1 match). It’s seemingly impossible to stop him at this point of his career, especially after the dominant 2018 he had. Considering that in his last 2 fights he spent a total of 3 minutes in the ring, it will be a surprise if Manny makes it past the 5th round.
The WBSS semi-finals finally kick off this coming weekend, and in regards to Asian boxing we'll get the first of the two Bantamweight semi-final bouts, as WBA "super" champion Nonito Donaire (39-5, 25) takes on WBO king Zolani Tete (28-3, 21). The winner will not only unify the titles but also advance to the WBSS Bantamweight final, later in the year, where they will face either Naoya Inoue or Emmanuel Rodriguez.
Whilst the WBSS has stalled losing it's shine shine and momentum this year, the competition is still something that has got fan interest and this bout certainly looks to be one of the most interesting of the tournament so far. It pits established names against each other, both men who are in their 30's, both of whom will know that winning the WBSS tournament will be the biggest achievement of their career. It gives both the chance to not only unify two titles with this bout, but also add the IBF title in the final, and really stamp their mark on the Bantamweight division.
The 36 year old Donaire is a modern day legend. He has not only been one of the most genuine, classy and likable fighters in the sport, but also a lower weight superstar. Since shocking Vic Darchinyan back in 2007 for the IBF Flyweight we have seen Donaire as one of the faces of the lower weight classes. Over the last decade or so he has scored notable wins over a real who's who, including Moruti Mthalane, Hernan Marquez, Fernando Montiel, Omar Andres Narvaez, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr, Toshiaki Nishioka, Jorge Arce, Simpiwe Vetyeka and most recently Ryan Burnett. Whilst the level of performance varied it's hard to doubt the level of wins Donaire has picked up.
Despite a host of big wins Donaire has picked up losses in recent years, losing 4 of his last 12 bouts. Those losses have however come to world class fighters Guillermo Rigondeaux, Nicholas Walters, Jessie Magdaleno and Carl Frampton. Those losses have shown that Donaire, at times, wasn't a master boxer, wasn't lightening quick and was event fighting above his best weight. Despite those issues he was always a very dangerous puncher, with one of the most devastatings hooks in the sport.
In the ring Donaire isn't as quick or as sharp as he once was, but he is a strong, powerful, skilled fighter. If he boxes at 118lbs he won't have the sharpness to hold his own, but if he applies an intelligent pressure style, he will be able to impose his will on most opponents. Although Ryan Burnett made him look slow in their bout last year Donaire's pressure was having success and we suspect to see that type of game plan from him again here.
Donaire's opponent is 31 year old South African Zolani Tete, a rangy, tall and skilled fighter who really is a phsyical freak at 118lbs. Like many top South African fighters it took a long time for Tete to get much international attention, that's despite fighting for a world title way back in 2010, when he lost to Moruti Mthalane. Tete would in fact go 3-2 following his first loss, losing razor thin decisions to Jaun Alberto Rosas and Roberto Domingo Sosa, both on the road. Since those 3 losses he has won 12 in a row, become a 2-weight champion and finally got some respect as a top fighter.
The recent winning run of Tete has seen him defeat Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr, Teiru Kinoshita, who he beat for the IBF Super Flyweight title, Paul Butler, Arthur Villanueva, Siboniso Gonya, Omar Andrez Narvaez and Mikhail Aloyan. Against Butler he looked sensational, against Gonya he looked destructive, but those bouts aside he has left himself open to criticism, as lack a killer instinct, and being too happy at winning, rather than wanting to win and look good. There's been a bit of a "fighting in third gear" feel about his recent showings, and they have seen him look less than great.
Despite not looking amazing Tete is a quick, sharp fighter, with solid power, a great judge of distance, accurate punches and good movement. He lacks a real spitefulness to his work, in general, but is a hugely skilled fighter who has the sort of size rarely seen at Bantamweight. He's very tall and very long.
Coming in to this we're expecting a pretty clear stylistic match up. Tete will look to use his reach, his speed and his jab, he will look to keep Donaire at range and rack up the rounds. Donaire on the other hand might begin as a boxer but will revert to being a pressure fighter as the bout goes on, bringing the heat and looking to beat down Tete with heavy leather.
We can see both men winning. We can clearly see Tete putting on a boxing class, fighting safely and racking up the early rounds before cruising to a closer than it should be decision. We can also see Donaire's vicious power and physicality breaking down Tete in the middle rounds.
We'd love to see a Donaire win, and we'd obviously love a Donaire Vs Inoue final, but it would be an upset for him to do it at his age. Instead we're going with a Tete decision win, with the South African staying sharp, on his toes and alert of the danger Donaire brings. He'll not put on a show, but he will get the win.
Preduction UD12 Tete.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On March 9th, in Verona, Wisconsin, Dmitry Bivol will defend the WBA Light Heavyweight World Championship against top contender Joe Smith Jr.
Dmitry Bivol (15-0/11 KOs) is considered to be one of the top boxers of his division today (currently ranked #3 by the Ring & BoxRec). Boasting an amateur record of 268 wins and only 15 losses, Bivol won numerous titles from 2006 to 2014, including youth and junior World championships, 2 National tournaments as well as gold at the 2013 World Combat Games.
Turned pro in 2014 (23 years old) and in 15 months he had already garnered 6 victories, all stoppages. During that time Bivol gained the WBC U.S. Silver & WBA Intercontinental titles, proving his skills early on in his career, while establishing his right hand as a legit threat to anyone that stepped into the ring with him.
In May of 2016, the Russian prodigy went toe to toe with the reigning WBA interim World champion Felix Valera, for the Light Heavyweight strap. Valera was also undefeated at the time, standing at 13-0, with 12 stoppages, most of them coming in the first round. Bivol outboxed the champion in every single round, and even dropped him twice, earning a wide unanimous decision and of course the interim championship.
Bivol proceeded to defend his belt against Robert Berridge (30-7) and Samuel Clarkson (21-5) in 2 one sided beatdowns, knocking them down three times each before getting the TKO win in the 4th round. He then faced 30 fight veteran Cedric Agnew, in a non title match. Bivol dropped him in 2 minutes of the very 1st round with a fast combination and continued to punishing him until the referee waved the fight off in the 4th. It’s worth mentioning that Agnew’s only KO loss prior to this was against fellow Russian champion Kovalev, who needed 7 rounds to get the job done. In these last 3 bouts, Bivol showcased some excellent bodywork, which we hadn’t seen much from him in the past.
After Badou Jack vacated the WBA title, Bivol was promoted to Regular champion. As such, he marked his inaugural title defense over Trent Broadhurst, in November of 2017. The Australian was on a 13 fight winning streak and hadn’t lost in 6 years. Bivol stopped him with a perfectly placed right on the chin, in the very last second of the 1st round.
In 2018, Bivol defended his World title thrice, against Sullivan Barrera, Isaac Chilemba and Jean Pascal. Barrera got dominated for 12 consecutive rounds, taking shots nonstop until a right hook sealed the deal. Chilemba had already suffered back to back losses to Alvarez, Kovalev and Gvozdyk, thus not proving to be much of a challenge. The most significant out of the three was the former WBC World champion Pascal, who put up a much better fight that the other two, connecting with some good punches through out the fight, but it wasn’t enough overall to take the belt away from Bivol, who systematically picked him apart and got the win one more time. Now for his 5th one, he will have to face a much stronger boxer this time.
Joe Smith Jr. (24-2/20 KOs), a bona fide KO artist with knockout power in both of his hands, has finished most of his opponents within 6 rounds. 2019 will mark the young veteran’s 10th anniversary into the sport, as he aims to finally add a World championship to his collection.
His first major success came in 2016, when he took on world title contender Andrzej Fonfara (30-5) for the WBC International title. In a surprising turn of events, Smith put the Polish fighter down in the midway of the opening round, before finishing him off with a left & right hook combination a few seconds later.
However, Smith’s biggest test came 6 months later, as he was set to go face to face with legendary boxer Bernard Hopkins, in the main event of a Golden Boy show, broadcasted live on HBO. Hopkins, the 2 division World, Lineal & Ring champion, came out of retirement for one last match and the opportunity to go out with a win and another belt. After 8 action packed rounds, Smith shocked the world again when he caught Hopkins with a thunderous left uppercut, which knocked him out of the ring. Unable to respond to the 20 count, Smith was declared the winner, in what definitely must be his most important victory to date.
Smith’s momentum was momentarily cut short in 2017 after losing to Sullivan Barrera in a world title eliminator. Despite dropping Barrera in the 1st, he didn’t do enough, as the fight progressed, to get the decision. He returned to action almost a year later (Smith’s jaw was broken in the Barrera match) and completely dominated Melvin Russell, putting himself again in world title contention.
This could be Bivol’s toughest fight yet. Smith has the highest KO ratio of any of Bivol’s previous opponents (77%), while he’s also the youngest and the most experienced one, in terms of years competing as a pro. He might not be the most technically sound boxer in the division but he’s certainly one of the strongest punchers. Smith’s style can be described as aggressive, always moving forward, trying to get the KO as soon as possible and that strategy has worked very well for him thus far (minus 2 fights). On the other hand, Bivol is as technically sound as it gets. He never rushes to finish the fight. He stays patient, picking his shots and most times manages to drop his opponent, usually with a well calculated right hand. If he (Bivol’s rival) manages to get back up, then and only then Bivol storms in with incredibly fast (for his weight class) combinations, going for the kill, and if he doesn’t go down again, Bivol disengages and starts over. To conclude with, the only unknown factor here is if Bivol can withstand Smith’s power. If yes, then a 5th successful title defense is almost guaranteed, as he will try to take this to the distance, which will play in his favour, since Smith has never gone to the 12th round. If not, then Smith will be crowned the 43rd WBA Light Heavyweight World Champion ! Either way, we will get our answer this coming Saturday.
The Featherweight division is on of the most fragmented in the sport right now, with no unified champions and no clear #1. In fact it's not really clear on the ordering of any of the champions, and inactivity of certain fighters atop the division doesn't help matter. This coming Saturday we get a WBA "regular" title bout in the division, as defending champion Jesus M Rojas (26-2-2-1, 19) defends his belt against Chinese challenger Can Xu (15-2, 2). No matter who wins the division will remain a huge mess at the top, though at the very least this bout should remove a contender from the very messy WBA title picture.
We say it's a messy title scene for the WBA as they currently have 3 champions in the division. Rojas, the "regular" champion, Leo Santa Cruz, the "Super champion" and Jhack Tepora, the "interim" champion [ Ed's note - Tepora will be defending the "interim" title against Hugo Ruiz the day AFTER this preview goes live]. It appears none of the men are likely to face off any time soon, and instead the 3 titles will float around for time. Rather than linger on that, and politics of the WBA, we'll get on to the preview.
Rojas, from Puerto Rico, is one of the division's many over-looked fighters. He's tough, heavy handed, aggressive, physically strong and a nightmare for many in the division. Technically he is flawed, a rough around the edges fighter who can be out boxed, out sped and out thought, though few will fancy their chances of out fighting him. He comes forward behind a tight guard, looks to go to work up close and turn things into a fighter. He has been down before, and actually lost a decision last time out to Jospeh Diaz but kept the title due to Diaz failing to make weight. Diaz beat him by establishing the range, using a lot of jabs and countering well, setting a gameplan that fighters could use to beat Rojas in the future, if they have a similar skill level and toughness to Diaz.
Although he can be out boxed Rojas is the type of fighter who will be a nightmare for anyone. He will press the action, come forward and make even the best boxers work incredibly hard to earn a win. His aggression, physical strength an will to win are very hard to over-come.
Xu is looking to become the third Chinese male to win a world title, following Xiong Zhao Zhong and Zou Shiming, he's also looking to become their first champion above 112lbs. He's a relative unknown on the international scene, though is relatively well known in Asia, where he has fought all but 1 bout. In Asia he has scored notable wins against the likes Hurricane Futa, Kris George, Corey McConnell, Spicy Matsushita and Nehomar Cermeno. Outside of Asia his only bout saw him being surprisingly pushed all the way by Enrique Bernache last September, and in fact that bout almost cost him this title fight.
In the ring Xu is far from a puncher. He's an aggressive boxer, who lets his hands go a lot, but lacks power, and his stoppages have come from wearing opponents down. Despite his high work rate he does lack finesse in a lot of what he does, though has sparred with top fighters to try and develop his skills and polish things off. That sparring, including sparring with Naoya Inoue, will help improve Xu but the reality is that he's never going to be a a fluid, natural fighter. More a basic fighter, who works hard for results, especially at a level like this.
Given that both men like to let their hands go, both come forward and neither looks great on the back foot we're expecting these two to meet center ring. Sadly for Xu meeting with Rojas in the ring isn't a wise idea, and we suspect that Rojas' power and psychical strength will be the difference. Xu will be forced to back up, and we don't think he'll be effective on the back foot, instead we see him being broken down in the second half of the fight.
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.