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.
This coming Saturday we find out who will be the fourth of the World Boxing Super Series Bantamweight Semi-Finalists, as unbeaten Northern Irish fighter Ryan Burnett (19-0, 9) takes on Filipino icon Nonito Donaire (38-5, 24) in the final bout of the quarter final stage. Not only is the bout a WBSS bout, to decide who faces Zolani Tete in the next round of the competition, but it will also see Burnett defending his WBA "Super" Bantamweight title, in what will be his second defense of the title.
Of the two fighters Donaire is the more well known, and in fact he is one of the few lower weight fighters who has made a mark across the globe. He's well known in his native Philippines, he's fought much of his career in North America, often fighting Latin Americans and has also managed one to fight in Europe, losing to the popular Carl Frampton last time out. Whilst he is very well known he is unfortunately a faded star, and he actually turns 36 in just a few weeks time. He's not a young 36 either, having been a professional since 2001 and fighting at world level pretty consistently since his 2007 upset win over Vic Darchinyan. Donaire has also been matched against a veritable who's who from Flyweight to Featherweight, sharing the ring with the likes of Darchinyan, Moruti Mthalane, Hernan Marquez, Fenando Montiel, Omar Andres Narvaez, Toshiaki Nishioka, Jorge Arce, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Nicholas Walters and Carl Frampton, just to name a few. His career has seen him rise from a fresh faced young Flyweight champion to a Featherweight champion as a veteran.
In the ring Donaire is a fighter who has been blessed with brutal power, a good ring IQ and solid boxing fundamentals. Sadly in his prime he wasn't the most active and often seemed to be the type of fighter who looked to land the perfect punch, even when he moved up in weight his power was devastating, though his activity never really impressed and at times he could be made to look very predictable by defensively minded fighters, with the older, smaller Narvaez making him look 1 paced and Rigondeaux making him look clumsy. Now, in his mid 30's, he's lost some speed, his mobility isn't what it once was and with his low work rate doesn't allow him to chip away at opponents. He also has a huge question mark over his ability to safely make Bantamweight, and what he will have left in him when he gets in the ring. That's a major issue given he hasn't made the weight in over 7 years!
At 26 years old Burnett is one of the youngest fighters in the Bantamweight WBSS and is also one of the more accomplished from the young bunch, having won the IBF title in June 2017 and unifying it with the WBA "Super" title just a few months later. Sadly mandatory obligations for the WBA and IBF saw him vacating the IBF title, which is now held by fellow WBSS competitor Emmanuel Rodriguez. Not only is he an accomplished fighter but Burnett is a former amateur standout who has a fantastic boxing brain, a good engine and a brilliant awareness in the ring. He's slippery, awkward, sharp and a great mover. Sadly however Burnett does lack power and has gone the distance in his last 8 bouts, whilst showing little killer instinct and no real interest in hunting a stoppage. One wonders whether he has that extra gear and spitefulness that he'll need to win the WBSS, or whether he's simply too nice and lacks the teeth to get past the likes of Naoya Inoue and Zolani Tete. Despite the criticism few can doubt his ability and wins over the likes of Jason Booth, Lee Haskins, Zhant Zhakiyanov and Yonfrez Parejo really do prove that.
The key for the champion here is to out manoeuvre, the Filipino veteran. Burnett has the speed to make this look very easy, as long as he can avoid the power of the Filipino. Donaire will however be dangerous through out the bout, and if the Filipino has made weight without harming himself too much that power will be as devastating as ever, if he can land a perfect counter. Burnett is the naturally smaller man, giving away notable height and reach to the Filipino, but his edge in speed, activity and youth should be enough for him to take home the win, and retain his title whilst moving on to the next round of the WBSS.
We'd love to see one more great performance from Donaire, who has been a key figure in the lower weights for a decade. The reality however is that his great career is coming to an end, and although he might have one great performance in him we don't think that'll come here against a man who could make the Filipino look very old if he wishes. Donaire's toughness should keep him in the bout, and his power will always make him dangerous, but we see him losing a very lopsided decision to the baby faced Burnett.
This coming Sunday we see the Bantamweight version of the World Boxing Super Series kick off, with Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (16-0, 14) facing off with former world champion Carlos Payano (20-1, 9) in the inaugural bout. Not only will it kick off the next weight at the WBSS but it will also serve as Inoue's first defense of the WBA “regular” Bantamweight title, a belt that he won earlier this year when he blitzed Jamie McDonnell.
The tournament, which features Inoue and Payano, alongside Ryan Burnett, Zolani Tete, Emmanuel Rodriguez, Jason Moloney, Nonito Donaire and Mikhail Aloyan, is expected to see 3 titles unified and have global interest. The weight is the lowest to be featured in the WBSS and is expected to give the Bantamweight division the spotlight it deserve, and a spotlight that had previous been shone on the Cruiserweight division, helping Oleksandr Usyk become a major name.
In Japan “Monster” Inoue is already a massive star. He's not only one of the most significant men in Japanese boxing but is popularity is up there with the biggest names in Japanese sport in general. The young sensation was hyped ahead of his debut, with promoter Hideyuki Ohashi proudly telling the boxing world how good Inoue was, and the fighter has since delivered, proving elite level prospects don't need to be matched softly. Within just 16 fights, and 92 rounds, he has already notched up wins against Ryoichi Taguchi, Adrian Hernandez, Omar Andres Narvaez, Kohei Kono and Jamie McDonnell. In scoring those 16 wins he has claimed the Japanese, OPBF and WBC titles at Light Flyweight, the WBO title at Super Flyweight and the WBA regular title at Bantamweight.
In the ring there is very little Inoue can't do. He's lighting quick, very physically strong for such a big man, scarily heavy handed, brilliant at cutting the ring off and improve all the time. Early in his career there was some defensive issues, sometimes he dropped his concentration and there was a little bit of over-confidence but that now seems to have vanished and he's about as perfect of an offensive machine we currently have in professional boxing. There are still some defensive things to work on, but he's not as defensively naive as he once was, and when he chooses to box on the move there are few fighters with the skills or speed to connect on him.
At 34 years old American based Dominican fighter Juan Carlos Payano is pretty much in last chance saloon. A loss to Inoue likely spells the end of his hopes of becoming a 2-time champion. He is however a pretty notable fighter in his own right. As an amateur he is a 2-time Olympian, fighting in both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, a 2-time World Amateur Championship competitor, competing in 2005 and 2009. As a professional he is a former WBA “super” champion at Bantamweight, and has notable wins over Anselmo Moreno and Rau'shee Warren to his name at world level. Sadly though he would lose the WBA belt to Warren in a rematch and since then scored 3 relatively low key wins, including one over Filipino prospect Mike Plania who dropped Payano back in March.
At his best Payano was a pretty good fighter, you don't beat Moreno and Warren without being good, but there was fortune in both of those wins. The victory over Payano came from a technical decision, which many watching seemed to feel went the wrong way, whilst the win over Warren was a messy foul-fest with multiple deductions and saw Payano being dropped in the final round. Given those wins were several years ago now and he's 34 years old he's a long way removed from his prime. Despite being such a good amateur he's sloppy, wild and doesn't have much power on his shots.
The southpaw stance of Payano is expected to be the biggest issue for Inoue, but is something he's been working hard on in preparation for this contest. The Japanese fighter should be too quick, too sharp, too powerful and too intense for Payano. Inoue might take a shot or two whilst cutting the distance but it's hard to see anyway in which Payano survives with the Monster, never mind upsets the star from Kanagawa. Inoue by stoppage seems almost a foregone conclusion as he looks to add the WBSS' Muhammad Ali trophy to his collection of professional crowns.
This coming Friday the boxing world will turn it's attention to the Ota City General Gymnasium as Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (15-0, 13) attempts to become a 3-weight world champion and claim the WBA “regular” Bantamweight title. In the opposite corner to the “Monster” will be defending champion Jamie McDonnell (29-2-1-1, 13) of the UK in what looks likely to be a bout not only for the title, but also for a place as a seeded fighter in the upcoming World Boxing Super Series (WBSS).
The champion will be making his 7th defense of the WBA title, and is currently enjoying his second reign as a world champion after having previously held the IBF Bantamweight title. As for the challenger he will be looking to claim a world title at Bantamweight having previously held the WBC Light Flyweight and WBO Super Flyweight titles.
Of the two men the pressure is really on Inoue to shine, and build on his reputation as the rising figure head of the Japanese boxing scene. He was tipped for the top from his days in the amateur ranks and rose quickly as a professional. He would win the Japanese Light Flyweight title in his 4th bout with a decision win over Ryoichi Taguchi and the OPBF title just a bout later as he stopped Jerson Mancio. Whilst those performance caught the eye of many hardcore fans it was his 2014 win over Adrian Hernandez that helped Inoue make his mark on the sport.
Inoue would only defend the Light Flyweight title once before moving up in weight, completely skipping the Flyweight division to decimate Omar Andres Narvaez for the WBO Super Flyweight title, stopping Narvaez in 2 rounds. As the WBO Super Flyweight champion Inoue would defend the title 7 times, scoring notable wins over Warlito Parrenas, David Carmona, Kohei Kono and even made his US debut with a win over Antonio Nieves.
In the ring Inoue is an offensively minded boxer-puncher. He's blessed with frightening power, as 13 stoppages in 15 bouts at the lower weights shows, bewildering speed and an incredibly high boxing IQ. He's flawed, and has been seen to turn off at times in fights, but like many sensational fighters there is an aura about him that screams he's in total control, even when he's on the back foot. In fact Inoue on the back-foot is really under-rated, and he can be just as brutally destructive with his counters and shots on the back foot. Not only that but he is arguably the best body puncher in the sport today, and against taller fighters, like McDonnell, that is a brilliant weapon in Inoue's arsenal.
The champion is a 2-time Bantamweight champion, as mentioned earlier, and at 32 years old is potentially on the slide physically. Despite being on the slide McDonnell is a physical freak for a Bantamweight standing at 5'10" and with a huge 72" wingspan. He's a fighter who has began to show cracks at the weight but was ½ under the limit last time out and has been under, rather than on, the Bantamweight limit in 6 of his last 7 bouts. Not only is he a physical freak in terms of stature but also energy and he has one of the most incredible engines of any fighter in the sport. He seems to get stronger the longer bouts go on, and despite being a slow starter is a real nightmare in the later stages of a fight. That stamina and his size makes him a real problem from range where he can keep up a busy output and handcuff opponents.
McDonnell started his career with out much hype and was 8-2-1 (2) after 11 bouts with losses to the recently deceased Chris Edwards and Lee Haskins, who would later go on to defeat Ryosuke Iwasa for the IBF Bantamweight title. From then however McDonnell has gone 21-0-0-1 (11) and claimed notable wins against Stuart Hall, Julio Ceja, Tomoki Kameda, twice, and Liborio Solis. He has looked really impressive at times, such as his second win over Kameda, but also rather poor at times, such as in the first Kameda fight and first bout with Liborio Solis. In those bouts he showed he can be out fought, he can be hurt and he can be beat, even if McDonnell picked up the wins in both bouts.
At his very best McDonnell could be a nightmare for any Bantamweight, just due to his size and stamina. He seems to put on his best performances when facing his best opponents and will know that this is bout against a special talent. Sadly for McDonnell he is going up against a special talent, and Inoue, we believe, will know that McDonnell has struggled to make weight, had been inactive and has a long torso to attack. The Inoue body attack is devastating and we think that it will be the key here. Although moving up in weight Inoue is still expected to carry dynamite in his shots, and we suspect we'll see that dynamite in action with the “Monster” taking out the Englishman in 7 or 8 rounds.
Unification bouts are rare in boxing, though thankfully their rareness comes with the feeling that every one of them that we do get is that little bit special. That's arguably the case this coming Saturday as the WBA and IBF Bantamweight titles get unified in Belfast. Going into that bout as champions will be Kazakh brawler Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-1, 18) and Northern Irish slickster Ryan Burnett (17-0, 9), with Zhakiyanov entering as the WBA champion and Burnett at the IBF king.
Aged 33, and soon to be 34, the Kazakh is really at the point in his career where a loss could well be the end of his career, at least at the top level. That's ignoring the fact that he has actually only just arrived on the world stage, winning his WBA title last time out in a split decision win over Rau-shee Warren in the US. Had the decision gone against him, there's a good chance that Zhakiyanov would have joined the “who needs him?” club and not been able to get a second shot at a world title.
Amazingly for Zhakiyanov his reign was rather lucky, and in his win he was dropped twice, in the opening round by Warren. A smarter fighter than Warren would have jumped on Zhakiyanov in round 2 and closed the show, but the American took his foot off the gas and let the Kazakh regroup, before he out hustled and out-worked the American to earn the decision. That bout proved that Zhakiyanov can over-come real adversity but also showed his limitations and it was clear that he really was a fighter with only one plan, and that pressure.
Although a pressure fighter at heart Zhakiyanov does have very solid power, as shown back in 2014 with his KO of the Year contender against Karim Guerfi. Sadly though he's slow of foot and his punches are certainly not the most technically correct or the fastest. As a results he can be out boxed.
Whilst Zahkiyanov is a pressure fighter Burnett is a pure boxer, and a very talented, slick one at that. He can box on the front foot, or the back foot, and although he's not the most aggressive or exciting of fighters he is one of those natural talents who looks so composed and at ease in the ring that boxing looks second nature to him. He moves wonderfully around the ring and controls distance brilliantly, especially on the back foot where his boxing brain really does shine. Although he can fight on the front foot he does look a lot more effective on the back foot.
Burnett has long been championed as a star for British boxing and at times has shown incredible skills. Whilst those skills are impressive he has also shown a lot of frustrating traits. He's note more than 2 years removed from his last stoppage and his lack of killer instinct has been really annoying, especially given that he has dropped a number of fighters but never gone for the kill, instead racking up unnecessary rounds and potentially boring fans, when he should be using those skills to shine.
Whilst Burnett is incredibly frustrating for fans he's also a nightmare to face, and stylistically Zhankiyanov is made to order. The pressure of the Kazakh will allow Burnett to tee-off on him and make him look stupid. There is a chance that Zhakiyanov will have some moments but the reality is that the movement of Burnett will simply be too much for him, and the sharp shots will take their toll. It's up to Burnett as to whether he'll want to up the pace and seek a stoppage late,but it's hard to see anything but a win for the Northern Irishman.
The Bantamweight division has been on of the sports most over-looked divisions in recent years, despite having had world champions all over the planet. The long reigning Shinsuke Yamanaka has proven to be the top guy in the division, with notable wins over a who's who of contenders like Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Anselmo Moreno and Liborio Solis, but Yamanaka aside the division seems to lack in star power. The other champions in the division, like Marlon Tapales and Lee Haskins, are very good fighters but they lack the fan base to create a huge buzz at home, despite both having been in some sensational fight. Despite being an over-looked division it does give us some interesting match ups, one of which is set to take place his coming Friday in Ohio.
The bout in question sees WBA “super” champion Rau'shee Warren (14-1-0-1, 4) defending his title against Kazakh puncher Zhanat Zhakiyanov (26-1, 18) in a speed Vs power bout.
Warren, a former 3-time US Olympian, won the title last year with a razor thin win over Juanm Carlos Payano and will be looking to make his first defense and solidify his standing as a world class fighter.
In the ring Warren really is a speed king with speed to burn in both his hands and his feet. He's not a puncher but he certainly hits harder than his record suggests, with knockdowns against a number of fighters that have seen the final bell with him. Whilst many of those knockdowns will be down to his speed, rather than power, he certainly can hurt fighters.
Not only is Warren fast but he's also a very highly skilled fighter, as any 3-time Olympian would be. He might not have shone at the Olympics, losing in his first bout at all 3 Games, but he did accomplish a lot of other things in the unpaid ranks, including winning a gold at the 2007 and a bronze at the 2005 World Amateur Championships. He isn't just skilled but has also began to show his adaptive ability and has transitioned from his amateur style to a professional style, though it did take a while for him to do that whilst saw him struggle in the early part of his career.
Zhakiyanov is a much more “agricultural” fighter. He's a big, strong, tough and powerful Bantamweight who has scored some brilliant knockouts during his career, with his 5th round KO against Karim Guerfi being a frightening shot. That KO came during a long run of stoppages from the Kazakh, who stopped 12 foes in row from May 2011 to May 2015. Despite that impressive stat there was little in terms of quality in there, with Guerfi being the best of the names.
That KO run of the Kazakh came to an end last year, when he claimed a split decision win over Yonfrez Parejo for the interim title in Monaco, and Zhakiyanov certainly didn't shine there, in fact he didn't shine at all in 2016 with his only other bout being a less than great win over Hector Roland Gusman, a bout in which he was dropped. It was a year in which Zhakiyanov's lack of speed and predictability saw him really exposed as little more than a limited puncher.
With his power Zhakiyanov always has a chance, if he catches a fighter clean he can put their lights out. Landing clean is however a big ask, especially against a fighter like Warren who is illusive, smart and fast. We suspect the speed and skills of Warren will be the difference here with Zhakiyanov being unable to land his home run punch, which he would need to connect with here to have any chance at all. With Zhakiyanov being as clumsy as he is we wouldn't be that shocked to see a hungry Warren make a statement and actually see off a tiring Zhakiyanov in the later rounds.
Tomoki Kameda battles Jamie McDonnell but who will finish the night as the WBA Bantamweight champion*
Although it's not the strongest division in the sport it's fair to say that the Bantamweight division is warming up quickly and we're set for a very exciting couple of years at 118lbs. At the moment the divisional #1, by some margin, is Shinsuke Yamanaka, and behind him is a handful of fellow Japanese fighters such as Ryosuke Iwasa, Ryo Akaho, Ryo Matsumoto, Tomoki Kameda and Shohei Omori. It's possible that by the end of 2015 Japan could have 5 world champions in the division.
The next bout of note in the division features the aforementioned Tomoki Kameda (31-0, 19) who has vacated the WBO title ahead of his upcoming bout, but the bout still promises a lot as he takes on WBA “regular” champion Jamie McDonnell (25-2-1, 12) of the UK.
When the bout was first mooted it was set to be a WBO/WBA unification contest however the WBO made a worthwhile stand and made it clear they weren't going to be recognising the WBA's secondary titles. As a result they have stripped Kameda for participating in the contest and left the WBA regular title as the only one up for grabs. That however doesn't change the fact that this is a brilliant match up and something that is really mouth watering. In fact it's a genuine highlight for a month, that is full of highlights.
For those who are unaware Tomoki is the youngest of the controversial Kameda boxing brothers and appears to be the most talented by far. He's a pure boxer who can really do almost everything in the ring. He's light on feet, throws blistering combinations, counters beautifully and can switch from head to body with no issues. The one flaw in his game, if we can call it a flaw, is that does lack fight ending power but he does hit hard enough to hurt foes, as seen with his devastating body shot against Pungluang Sor Singyu back in 2014.
Like his brothers Tomoki is currently banned from fighting in Japan. However that hasn't been much of an issue for the charismatic youngster who is fluent in Spanish and has been signed by powerful American “advisor” Al Haymon who seems to like the Japanese youngster and has so backed him with this being his 3rd US bout in a row. Given his ability and style we suspect he'll continue to be fighting in the US for the foreseeable future and he could well be the Japanese star that goes on to really make it big in the US.
McDonnell on the other hand is volume puncher who has a sensational engine and seems to get stronger as the fight goes on. He does however have a lot of question marks about his shot selection, overall ability and general attitude inside the ring. At his best he's a handful and wins over the likes of Stephane Jamoye, Stuart Hall and Julio Ceja all look excellent on paper. At his worst however he struggles with the likes of Abigail Medina and Javier Nicolas Chacon, who both asked real questions of McDonnell's “world class” ability.
Whilst the 29 year old McDonnell does make us question him a lot, we do suspect that he's had an issue “getting up” for fights. He's has been matched awfully at times and it's little wonder if he's lacking motivation considering some of the hilarious mismatches he's been involved in. That motivation may well have shown in performances where he has just “gone through the motions”. If however there is more to it than just a lack of motivation it may well turn out that McDonnell is on the back end of his career and his famed gas tank is now running empty.
When the two get in the ring we're expecting to see a bout that pits McDonnell's basic but busy pressure against against the smart boxing and moving of Kameda who will move in and out with bursts of sharp and accurate flurries. The between the two style wise is huge however the biggest difference is actually likely to be the footwork with McDonnell often having questionable footwork whilst Tomoki is like a cat on his feet. That will work massively for the Japanese fighter who will be able to control range, lure McDonnell in and counter with ease against his wild foe.
To McDonnell's credit we don't see him being too hurt by Tomoki however we do see him being thoroughly out boxed and out smarted en route a wide decision victory for Tomoki.
This might not be a unification but it is a damned good bout!
(Image courtesy of www.premierboxingchampions.com)
Saturday's main even in the UK is a rematch between British pair Carl Froch and George Groves. It's a bout that has the attention of all the British sporting fans, it's a bout that has split opinion and been very publicly advertised. It is a British super fight and is likely to be the biggest ever money fight on British soil.
The main event for the show is what people in the UK care about however we're equally as interested in a second bout on the same show, a bout that pits Thailand's very experienced Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat (52-2, 34) against Britain's very own Jamie McDonnell (23-2-1, 10) in a battle for the vacant WBA Bantamweight title.
This bout is one that has been made due to the messed up political situation boxing currently has. At the moment we have a WBA Bantamweight "Super" champion in the form of the excellent Anselmo Moreno, the only man in the 118lb division that we think would have any chance of beating Shinsuke Yamanaka. We did, last year, have a WBA "regular" champion in the form of Koki Kameda who vacated the belt and moved to the Super Flyweight division to avoid a bout with the excellent Moreno.
Rather than just get fighters to face Moreno to become a champion the WBA have taken the dubious step of allowing fighters lower down the food chain to battle each other for the "regular" title and, as a result, we have this bout.
For Tabtimdaeng it's a real reward and a major opportunity though it's not one we particularly agree with him getting.
The Thai, who is a long reigning PABA Bantamweight champion, has done everything right in recent years. He has won, and defended, the regional PABA belt, he has "earned" a high WBA ranking thanks to playing the political games that are open to him as the PABA champion and he has run together an excellent winning streak of 18 fights.
Of course many of Tabtimdaeng's victories have come against limited and poor opponents. His 18 successive wins have come in less than 3.5 years as he has viewed activity, and getting paid, ahead of fighting tougher bouts with more risk of losing. In Thailand of course a fighter fights as their job and fighting regular mismatches allows a fighter to pick up a payment as well as staying in shape and effectively get paid to partake in an exhibition bout.
Incidentally the Thai system of fighting regular actually seems similar to the old British system of the now forgotten "Boxing Booths" which were a side show at fairs and were where a lot of British fighters from yesteryear, such as Jimmy Wilde, made their reputation and honed their skills.
One man who has never in a boxing booth is McDonnell who despite being from Britain would probably not know much, if anything about the boxing booths. Despite that he is a genuine world class talent with a fantastic engine, a great work rate, under-rated skills and exciting all action style. He's not quite Leo Santa Cruz but when he gets going there are a lot of similar traits between McDonnell and Santa Cruz who both throw a lot of shots, both bring a lot of pressure and both are fun to watch with intelligent body work despite both generally being tall at their respective weights.
McDonnell is unfortunately a man who has been on the bad of the political game, having won the IBF Bantamweight title with a great victory over big punching Mexican Julio Ceja before being stripped due to failing to meet a mandatory challenge that he wasn't aware of after a fall out with his then promoter. For him this opportunity is a chance to become a 2-time world and finally have a reign worth remember as opposed to the one that was heart breakingly short and unsatisfactory.
We are fans of McDonnell and it's hard not to be. He's on a 15 fight run himself and has notched up numerous notable wins including Ian Napa, Jerome Arnold, Stephan Jamoye, Stuart Hall, Julio Ceja and Bernard Inom, he's not unbeatable but he's a very good boxer.
Unfortunately for Tabtimdaeng the fact McDonnell is good means he's in for a very tough assignment. Tabtimdaeng is strong and aggressive, he's a front foot fighter but he's also not a very rounded one, in fact he's very basic, he comes forward pretty straight on, he doesn't mix up his work a lot and he doesn't have thunderous power. In fact Tabtimdaeng's 63% stoppage ratio is very over-inflated and we'd suggest that if he had fought McDonnell's opponents we'd probably be looking at him stopping less than 40%.
With Tabtimdaeng being an aggressively minded fighter and McDonnell having a high out put we imagine this bout will be fun to watch, not as exciting as the main event but still very fun. Sadly however we think Tabtimdaeng is going to walk into a lot of solid shots. McDonnell isn't a heavy puncher but he keeps firing and those shots each take an effect. We think the accumulation of McDonnell's work will eventually grind down the Thai ending his world title dreams though, hopefully, Tabtimdeang can put up a good effort that could see some fans extra following him after the bout.
(Image courtesy of Secondsout
Video below, from the face off, courtesy of iFL TV)
Japan's first, and only, 3-weight world champion Koki Kameda (31-1, 17) may well split opinion both in Japan and around the boxing world though he does know how to get attention.
On November 19th Koki again gets the attention of the boxing world as he travels to Jeju in South Korea to defend his WBA Bantamweight title for the eighth time. Whilst it's a great personal achievement to defend your title so many times the big talking point is the fact that this will be the first world title fight in South Korea since In-Jin Chi defeated Rodelfo Lopez for the WBC Featherweight title all the way back in December 2006.
South Korea, once a dominant player in world boxing, has been a country that has all but fallen off the boxing radar in the last decade. The likes of In-Chul Baek, Sung-Kil Moon, Myung-Woo Yuh and of course Jung-Koo Chang are all distant memories.
With those great names well and truly retired the hopes of a country now lie with little known fighters, most notable Jung-Oh Son (20-4-2, 6), the man who will be looking to upset Kameda and put Korea back on the boxing map.
Although Son has got 26 professional bouts on his ledger this is widely seen as a "gimme" fight for Kameda a may who appears to be looking for a stay of absence before being forced to fight Anselmo Moreno. Though is it as much of a mismatch as many think, or could this be a nasty banana skin for Kameda?
One of the first things you notice when you look at Son's record is that he has 4 losses. What his record alone doesn't tell you though is that those 4 losses came very early in his career, in fact Son started his career 7-4-1 with 3 of those losses coming away from home. Since 2006 however he has gone 14 fights unbeaten and won South Korean titles at Flyweight and Super Flyweight whilst also winning the PABA Super Flyweight title. Sure he's never won a world title but that's still not a bad run for such a huge under-dog.
As well as the run and confidence of Son it's also worth noting that the Korean hasn't lost at home since a 2006 defeat to Federico Catubay a man who also beat former world champion Yo-Sam Choi in South Korea.
Alongside those features about Son is the fact that Koki himself hasn't fought away from home since 2008 when he twice fought in Mexico. That's not just 5 years ago but also 13 fights ago. When he was fighting in Mexico he wasn't the man looking to stop a countries dreams, here was merely a visitor, this time however the crowd may turn on him quickly, especially when you consider the history between Japan and Korea.
In terms of skills Koki is easily a class above of Son. He's a clever fighter who can box on the back foot as a very good counter puncher, he can also come forward using his fast hands to fight as the aggressor. Although he is flawed, notably lacking power, he is very talented and is a credible world level fighter. Not the best in the division but still very credible.
Son on the other hand is much more limited. Like Kameda he lacks power though he also has somewhat unproven credentials at the world level. Sure is is unbeaten in his last 14 bouts but his highest profile wins in that run are over the likes of Ryan Bito, an international level journeyman.
Whilst footage of Son is hard to find his nickname of "Hurricane" should sort of give you a hint of the style of fighter that he is. He's busy, offensive minded but still limited. We actually think this style of Son will play into the hands of Kameda who will turtle up when Son goes on the offensive then pick him off with accurate and hurtful counters.
Son will go in as a clear under-dog and whilst we believe that Kameda will win we actually expect Son to give a good account of himself, especially early on, before being worn down down the stretch. Due to Koreans being incredibly tough both mentally and physically we do expect Son to make it to the final bell but we think he'll be struggling through the final few rounds.
If Kameda gets through this the likeliness is that he will face Moreno next year. We hope that we get to see that bout as it promises to be something special, though we do think that Kameda will struggle with the wonderfully talented Panamanian. Then again if Kameda is looking past Son he may find himself out worked here in what is a tougher assignment than many seem to think.
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.