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
Earlier this year we saw Azeri born Ukrainian fighter Artem Dalakian (16-0, 11) score a career defining win and claim the WBA Flyweight title, as he clearly out-pointed Brian Viloria. Whilst the win came against against a shadow of Viloria it did put Dalakian on the boxing map, especially given that the win came on one the second "Superfly" show in Inglewood, California. This coming weekend Dalakian returns to the ring to defend that title against his mandatory challenger Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep (50-3, 25), himself a former WBA “interim” champion.
Prior to his title win Dalakian was a bit of an unknown, though an unknown who had some solid power and had beaten some fringe fighters, like Silvio Olteanu. Against Viloria he proved he was a really solid boxer, with nice movement, good solid jab, unexpected speed and impressive size for a Flyweight. He didn't seem to be the toughest, and did look very wary of Viloria's power, but was too quick and too smart for the popular, but faded, Filipino.
Although he looked impressive against Viloria it's fair to say that Dalakian looked like a fighter who was being made to look better than he really is. Viloria was far too slow to punish Dalakian, he was unable to cut the distance, and was unable to really force Dalakian to fight. Instead Dalakian was allowed to use his jab, move and tie up on the few occasions that Viloria was close. It prevented Viloria from using his power and showed that there was a boxing to Dalakian. Admittedly he was also a frustrating fighter to watch at times, being a bit too cautious and even being a bit dirty, being deducted a point for pushing Viloria's head down, in what was a bit of a “6 of one, half a dozen of the other”.
Unbeaten, fighting at home and as a new champion Dalakian will come in to this bout riding a huge high and the 30 year old will know that big bouts could be around the corner if he can come out on top here. Fights against the likes of Ryoichi Taguchi, Andrew Selby, Paddy Barnes, or Kosei Tanaka are likely to be on the table if he can successfully defend his belt here, and are potentially good paying defenses if he's willing to travel.
Aged 27 it feels like Yodmongkol has been around the sport for a lot longer than he really has, though has managed to fit in an impressive 53 fights in just over 9 years. As with many Thai's his record is relatively inflated, focusing more on quantity rather than quality. Saying that however Yodmongkol does hold relatively notable wins against the likes of Jerry Tomogdan, Crison Omayao, Koki Eto and Takuya Kogawa, and even in his most recent loss, a 2014 defeat to Juan Carlos Reveco, he looked very decent before being stopped.
As a fighter Yodmongkol has a good work rate, with his win against Koki Eto proving that, good but not massive power, despite stopping 15 of his last 16 opponent, and pretty solid defensive and technical ability. Sadly where it comes apart is that he's perhaps not the toughest, as his stoppage to Reveco showed, he's not got the best work rate, with Kogawa seemingly out working him in their clash, and he has very little experience of fighting outside of Thailand, the loss to Reveco is the only time he has fought away from home.
Although Yodmongkol is better than many would assume, as is usually the case with Thai's who have got padded records, we don't see him coming out on top here. We suspect that Dalakian will be out to make a statement, will look to set a high tempo and will get to his man early on. Yodmongkol may have some moments with his counter punching, specifically to the body, but we don't see him lasting the distance with the champion.
This coming Saturday the little men of boxing take over Inglewood, California with a trio of world title bouts taking place in the Flyweight and Super Flyweight divisions. One of those bouts will feature veteran American-Filipino Brian Viloria (38-5-0-2, 23) take on little known Artem Dalakian (15-0, 11), a Ukrainian fighter who was born in Azerbaijan, for the WBA Flyweight title. For Viloria the bout could be a final bout at the top, and a chance to finish his long career as a champion, whilst Dalakian will be wanting to announce himself as a top tier fighter.
Viloria's professional career has been a genuine roller-coaster. He made his professional debut in 2001, after an outstanding amateur career that saw him become World Amateur Champion back in 1999 and competed at the 2000 Olympics. As a professional Viloria was fast tracked and in 2005 claimed the WBC world title by stopping Eric Ortiz inside a round. Sadly his first reign was a short one, lasting just 11 months, and just a single successful title defense, before he lost the belt to Omar Nino Romero. Viloria would claim the IBF title in 2009 by stopping Ulises Solis, to become a 2-time world champion, but again his reign was a short lived one and he lost the title the following year to Carlos Tamara. In 2011 we saw Viloria become a 3-time champion, as he beat Julio Cesar Miranda for the WBO Flyweight title, and had his best reign, stopping Giovani Segura, avenging a loss to Omar Nino Romero and unifying the WBA and WBO titles with a thrilling win over Hernan Marquez.
What has basically been the way with Viloria's career is success followed by a stumble, followed by more success and another stumble. It often seemed like Viloria was unable to decide what he was in the ring. Was he a boxer, or a puncher? He could certainly bang, but came up against fighters who could take his power and test his stamina, eventually out lasting him. If he boxed he'd have to be more cautious, but still preserve his stamina and not have too much wasted movement. Being lost between the two styles often cost him. Despite being excellent at both, he wasn't quite elite at either, and could be out punched or out boxed, and had stamina issue that were always going to be a problem in the later rounds. As he matured those issues continued to be with him, and at 37 it's hard to know just what he has left in the tank. If he was was in his prime he'd be very strongly favoured here, despite some inconsistent performances, but at 37, with almost 17 years of professional experience behind him, 333 rounds, and 45 fights....one must wonder what he has left.
Aged 30 Dalakian is a real unknown on the world stage. He was supposed to fight for the title last year, against Kazuto Ioka who retired from the sport after issues with his father and manager. The Ukrainian has had to wait for his eventual shot and will be coming into this bout following a lengthy lay off, having not fought since last April, and he has only fought 17 rounds in the last 24 months, a possible issue here. Saying that however he is a heavy handed fighter who has stopped his last 4 foes, and has only been taken 12 rounds so far. On one hand that says something about his competition, which has been “middling” at best with his most notable win being a TKO over the 38 year old Silvio Olteanu, but on the other he does hit hard and is not someone to trade with for long.
Footage of Dalakian shows a very big looking flyweight, who is confident in his power, his chin and his physicality. His defense looks questionable, with his hands often by his waist, but it looks to be a choice by design, rather than an out and out flaw,as he looks to entice opponents to open up on him and give him a chance to land his shots. The openness may cost him against a top tier opponent, but he looks like he's going to be a handful for anyone just through sheer physical attributes and power. In terms of skills they are there, but look rather raw in certain fights and that's a surprise given he was a decent amateur fighter himself, and managed to compete in several notable amateur competitions.
If Viloria was in his prime we would expect his power, his skills, and his accuracy to be too much for the slower, cruder and more open Dalakian. There would be a chance that Viloria would tire himself out with power shots and not manage to blast out the Ukrainian, but we'd favour Viloria. However we don't have a prime Viloria with us any more and we suspect Dalakian's power, and physicality will be too much for Viloria, who will be broken down and stopped in the middle rounds. This will be fun, but really just a send off for the Filipino-American veteran.
April 23rd is set to be a huge day in Asian boxing with two world title fights taking place in Osaka. One of those is a WBA Flyweight title fight, as Japanese icon Kazuto Ioka (21-1, 13) defends his title against massively experienced Thai veteran Noknoi Sitthiprasert (62-4, 38), who is on a 61 fight winning run at the moment!
Of the two men the more well known is Ioka. He's a former unified Minimumweight champion who is currently enjoying a world title reign in a third division. During his career he has scored a number of notable victories, including wins over Oleydong Sithsamerchai, Akira Yaegashi, Juan Hernandez Navarrete and Juan Carlos Reveco. In fact for a fighter with just 22 fights Ioka has a genuinely brilliant record, including a 13-1 (8) record in world fights.
Although a talented pure boxer Ioka has shown an ability to do pretty much anything in the ring, with a real expertise in body punching. At his best he's an out-side boxer, but he's one who can stand and trade in the trenches, as he did did brilliantly against Keyvin Lara, and can have a fire fight when he needs to. Defensively he's criminally under-rated and has filled out in to a very strong Flyweight. It's worth noting that fighters can shut him down with calculated pressure, and he was seriously shaken up last time out by Stamp Kiatniwat, who dropped him, but he has real grit and determination.
At times it looked like Ioka was going to struggle to make an impact at Flyweight and in his first bout at the weight he was out boxed and out muscled by Amnat Ruenroeng. Since then however he has developed into a fully fledged Flyweight and very few fighters at the weight will match him for power, speed and physical strength.
When we talk about great winning runs we talk about the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr and Rocky Marciano, who both ended their careers unbeaten, along with the likes of Willie Pep, Sugar Ray Robinson and Julio Cesar Chavez. What all those fighters have in common, other than an impressive winning run, is some wins of real quality. The same cannot be said of Noknoi who has scored 61 straight wins, but none of huge significance. In fact during his 66 fight career his best win is likely to be his 2013 win against Kenichi Horikawa, a good fight but a Japanese domestic level one at best.
Not only is the 61 fight winning run impressive on paper in terms of it's number but also it's date, with Noknoi's last loss coming back in March 2005. Sadly though he has shown little signs of having become a world class fighter. He's still relatively basic and does nothing out of the ordinary, in fact it's barely even fair to say he's “ordinary” in terms of what he's shown so far. Many of his opponents have been dire and Noknoi has simply been a bottom feeder, with his management really getting the dregs of the regional scene for him. Despite being 30 years old and a professional for more than 14 years he really hasn't been made to develop his skills or show any real progression in terms of what he can do in the ring.
Sadly for Noknoi his team's almost fraudulent record padding will be exposed here. The skills he has learned and develop simply won't be enough to keep Ioka honest. Instead of being a test Noknoi will be a human punching bag for Ioka, who will tag the Thai at will, and will likely secure a stoppage in the middle rounds of the bout. Likely without having any problems at all.
For Ioka a win would be his 5th defense of the title and could set up some interesting match ups against the likes of Zou Shiming, Takuya Kogawa, Andrew Selby Toshiyuki Igarashi or even Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep. Ir would also see him become just the second Japanese male to win 14 world title fights, tying equal with Yoko Gushiken! For Noknoi a loss could force him into retirement, or could see his team continue to pad one of the most paper thin records in the sport today.
The boxing calender has several key dates on it that we all mark off at the start of the year. One of those is the “Golden Week” where Japanese fight fans get several notable shows over the space of a week, another is Cinco de Mayo, another is in Mid-September and a final one comes at the end of the year, where we have a tradition of big fights in Japan. Part of that end of year tradition is the huge TBS show which is headlined by Osakan star Kazuto Ioka (20-1, 12) who returns for his 5th year ending bout this year, and takes on unbeaten Thai Stamp Kiatniwat (15-0, 6), AKA Yutthana Kaensa, in a bout for Ioka's WBA Flyweight title. For Ioka the bout is a chance to extend his reign and his dominance of the end of year boxing TV ratings whilst Stamp will get his first shot at a regular title having held the interim belt for a little over a year.
Ioka really is a star of Japanese boxing. He's the face of the Osakan boxing scene and is a man who has been a star from the very early stages of his professional career, building on a solid amateur background. In just his 6th bout he claimed the Japanese Light Flyweight title before setting a then Japanese record by winning a world title in his 7th bout, stopping the then unbeaten Oleydong Sithsamerchai. Since beating Oleydong, for the WBC Minimumweight title, we have seen Ioka unify titles, adding the WBA title to his WBC belt at 105lbs, and claim world titles at both 108lbs and 112lbs, becoming the “quickest” fight to become a 3-weight champion in just 18 bouts!
Whilst Ioka isn't a flawless fighter, and looks set to be over-shadowed by the emerging talent of Naoya Inoue, he is a very rounded fighter who has added things to his game through out his career and grown into a fully fledged Flyweight. Early in his career he was a boxer though has shown an ability to brawl when he needs to, to counter punch when he wants to and fight in various styles. One constant through his career however has been his body shots which have finished off numerous opponents through his career and appears to a staple of his in ring mentality. Those body shot are thrown both as singles and as part of combinations and it's really when he gets those combinations going that he looks like a special fighter.
Although at first we did question Ioka's move to Flyweight, and he did appear to struggle with the weight to begin with, he has now matured into a very strong 112lb fighter and is seemingly the stand out fighter in the division, with the division currently under-going a major transitional period. A win here would further strengthen his standing in the sport and will potentially open up some big bouts for 2017.
Whilst Ioka is a star of Japanese boxing it seems like Thai boxing had been trying to push Stamp Kiatniwat as a future star of Thai boxing. He debuted at the prodigious age of 15 and looked like a natural talent as he picked up a series of wins against fellow novices. Those wins built some hype and momentum in 2013 and 2014 before Stamp took on, and defeated, former world champion Kwanthai Sithmorseng in August 2014. That win really put Stamp on the radar for international fans of the lower weights and got some really excited about his potential.
Sadly since beating Kwanthai we've not really seen Stamp develop into a star despite winning the interim PABA and WBA Flyweight titles, with two razor thin wins over Gregorio Lebron to win and retain the “Interim” WBA crown. In both of those bouts Stamp seemed like the bigger single puncher hitter but looked like a scared child at times against an aggressive and hard working Lebron who forced the action and hurt the youngster. In some ways they were character building bouts for Stamp but the reality is they showed he wasn't the star in the making that his promoter had hoped he'd become.
Whilst Stamp did show some early potential we really see this as being a massive mismatch and give him no chance at all against Ioka who will likely look for a stoppage in the middle rounds, almost certainly with a body shot. Stamp can hit harder than his record indicates but we'd be amazed to see him do anything to back up Ioka who will look in control from the opening seconds to the eventual stoppage. Hopefully in 2017 bouts with the likes of Takuya Kogawa, Daigo Higa, Donnie Nietes, Francisco Rodriguez Jr and McWillians Arroyo will come to fruition for Ioka who now needs some big names on his record given how unspectacular 2016 has been for him.
The Flyweight division is, and has long been, one of the sports most interesting divisions. It has one of the richest histories of any division in the sport and also has one of the best currents scenes with fighters like Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada, Johnriel Casimero and Kazuto Ioka all widely regarded as being among the best. The depth however is where it really impresses with fighters like Amnat Ruenroeng, Brian Vicloria, Moruti Mthalane, Juan Carlos Reveco, Daigo Higa, Joebert Alvarez, Takuya Kogawa and McWillians Arroyo all being very credible contenders. Even lower down the pecking order at “prospect” level we have fighters like Iwan Zoda, KJ Cataraja, Charlie Edwards and Andrew Selby.
This coming Wednesday we get to see the next intriguing bout in the division, as WBA champion Ioka (19-1, 1) returns to the ring to make the third defense his title. In the opposite corner will be once beaten challenger Keyvin Lara (18-1-1, 6), who comes into the bout on an 18 fight winning streak.
Ioka, as mentioned above, is regarded as one of the divisional elite. The 27 year old 3-weight world champion has long been regarded as one of the hottest fighters in Japan and has an impressive resume to back that up. He won the WBC Minimumweight title in just his 7th bout, stopping the then unbeaten Oleydong Sithsamerchai, he unified titles at Minimumweight, beating the brilliant Akira Yaegashi, he moved up and claimed the WBA Light Flyweight title, in just his 11th bout, before becoming a 3-weight world champion last year with a victory over Juan Carlos Reveco.
The most notable thing about Ioka over the 2 years isn't his achievement in the ring but his physical development. Back in May 2014 he suffered his sole defeat, a decision defeat to the then IBF champion Amnat Ruenroeng. In that bout Ioka looked under-sized and under-powered, like a very small Flyweight. Last time out however he bullied Juan Carlos Reveco, stopping the Argentinian veteran in the 11th round following a performance that had excellent moments from the Japanese fighter.
Sadly a lot of Ioka performances have not so good moments. Against Reveco last December it seemed like Ioka was the bigger, more powerful, better skilled and physically stronger fighter. At times however he also looked like the lazier, less hungry fighter and gave rounds away essentially doing nothing rounds. Sadly this laziness has been an issue through his career and it's something that could potentially cost him in the future. If, however, he can fight to his best for 12 rounds, there aren't many fighters at Flyweight who will beat him.
When we talk about Lara he's much, much less well known than the Osakan champion The Nicaraguan youngster has been a professional for less than 4 years and now, aged 21, is looking to make a mark on the world stage in a big way. This didn't seem likely given his inauspicious start to the professional ranks, which featured a loss on debut and a draw in his second bout, but 18 straight wins on the local scene, including 1 in Panama, have helped Lara move towards a potential world title fight.
Although Lara hasn't fought on major international TV he has had many of his bouts posted online, courtesy of Prodesa boxing, From the footage that is available Lara is a hard working fighter who has fast hands and throws plenty of punches, but appears to lack in many other areas. His power is certainly nothing startling, his footwork is flat and clumsy, his defence is porous, and although he has some nice shots in his arsenal his performances don't suggest future world champion any time soon, especially not in the stacked Flyweight division.
In many ways Lara appears to be getting thrown to the wolves here. He has had no bouts on the fringes of world class, no bouts outside of Latin America, no previous bouts for 12 rounds and no bouts against anyone of any note. He may have impressed in the gym, he may have been a star in sparring but in the ring he looks like a man who should be a very long way from a world title fight.
We'll be honest, Ioka has long been criticised for some of his opponent choices. That will again be the case here after he beats Lara, likely by mid round stoppage. There is nothing in Lara's locked that should worry Ioka, who should have the bout his own way from start to end.
Japanese fans get the chance to watch 5 world title bouts on New Year's Eve this year. Whilst some of those bouts are very unappealing, and are actually quite terrible looking mismatches, there is one bout that has us genuinely excited and expecting something very competitive and exciting.
That bout an a rematch between WBA Flyweight title Kazuto Ioka (18-1, 10) and the man he beat for that title earlier this year, Juan Carlos Reveco (36-2, 19).
The two men first faced off back in April when Ioka claimed a majority decision over Reveco to become the second Japanese fighter to become a 3-weight champion, following fellow Osakan fighter Koki Kameda. The first bout was a very competitive one and although all 3 judges were from neutral countries the view from many was that Ioka had gotten lucky. That view seemed to be shared by the WBA who demanded that the two men rematch, which they will do just 8 months after their first bout.
Coming in to this rematch both men will be looking to make a statement with Ioka looking to prove that it was him, and not the judges, that decided the previous bout, whilst Reveco will be looking to avenge his loss to Ioka.
Whilst both fighters will be driven they will also be looking to improve on their previous performance. In terms of improvement we can certainly areas where Ioka will have improved. Firstly we suspect he will have filled into the Flyweight division that bit better than he was when the two men first met. We understand that 8 months isn't a long time but this is the second bout since Ioka won the title and those two training camps will have helped him fill out his body. As for Reveco the 32 year old is racing away from his prime years and he may well be on the slide physically, albeit on marginally on the slide.
We know that Ioka has spent a lot of time working on a game plan to beat Reveco more clearly. That has seen him working a lot on combinations in training and he's stated that he'll be switching between head and body regularly whilst trying to stop Reveco. It was combinations and speed in the first bout that saw Ioka claiming rounds against the heavier handed but slower Reveco, who had his best success when the pace slowed down. If Reveco can neutralise the combinations then he'll take the win here however if Ioka can land those combinations there is little doubting he'll get the win, even if he can't stop Reveco.
For Ioka, who will be cheered on by the crowd, he needs to remember not to have a war with Reveco. Instead he needs to stick to his boxing, he is faster, he is taller and rangier, and he is the better mover. If he can stick to a disciplined gameplan it's hard to see Reveco beating him. Reveco however will look to use his defense to slip inside and go to work, where his strength and power will take it's toll.
Our prediction is that this is going to be another close one, though we suspect it will be less close and less debatable than the first with Ioka doing enough to take a clear, but close decision win, with out having “rounds off” like he had in their first bout.
Japanese boxing has a number of stars who are huge news in their homeland. One of the biggest is 26 year old Osakan fighter Kazuto Ioka (17-1, 10), who has won titles in 3 divisions and proven to be one of the biggest attractions in the lower weight classes.
On September 27th we'll see Ioka return to the ring as he looks to make the first defense of his WBA Flyweight title. In the other corner will be Argentinian challenger Roberto Domingo Sosa (26-2-1, 14).
Ioka first came to the attention of international boxing fans back in 2011 when he claimed the first of his world titles, the WBC Minimumweight title. That was in Ioka's 7th professional bout and it saw him conquering the long time champion Oleydong Sithsamerchai. The win was a break out win for the youngster, though those in Japan knew he was a talented youngster given that he had been matched hard from debut and been following in the footsteps of his uncle, Hiroki Ioka.
Ioka's early rise saw him defending his first world title twice before he unified titles at Minimumweight, with a win over compatriot Akira Yaegashi. He later went on to claim a Light Flyweight title, that he defended 3 times. In 2014 he finally made a move up to the exciting Flyweight division though came up short in his first title bout there, losing a decision to Amnat Ruenroeng in a bout for the IBF title. Since that loss he has won 3 in a row, including a decision last time out against Juan Carlos Reveco to claim the WBA Flyweight title.
At his best Ioka is an excellent boxer who excels at mind range where he can use his speed and skills. He was, clearly out, sped and out muscled by Ruenroeng, who is of course an enigma to fight at the best of times. Other than that loss however he has been proven to be a world class boxer who can hold his own in an up close fight if need be. His greatest offensive weapon is his straight right hand to the body, which has seen off numerous foes. At Flyweight however he does look a little light-weight and looks like he could be over-powered by a number of the divisions top fighters. Although just 26 years old he looks like he has already found his divisional ceiling.
Whilst Ioka is a recognised world level fighter the same cannot be said of Sosa, despite a few notable wins on his record.
The Argentinian fighter began his career back in 2006 and ran up 24 straight wins, including a very notable decision victory over South African fighter Zolani Tete. The Tete bout was an IBF world title eliminator and is, still, the biggest win on his record. Unfortunately since then he has gone 2-2-1 with losses to Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr, in an IBF title fight, and the little known Diego Luis Pichardo Liriano, who beat him last November. As well as those two set backs he was also held to a draw against Javier Nicolas Chacon. Despite that run of form the WBA have allowed him to fight for a world title.
Footage of Sosa shows that he's nothing special. He may hold a victory over Tete but that result seemed to say more about the judging than Sosa's ability, which seemed distinctly average despite the fact he did show some guts, especially late, to turn the fight around and claim the narrow win. He looks to be a battler and one who is very difficult to discourage, but ability wise there is little that stands out other than his will to win and toughness.
Whilst he's technically not outstanding Sosa is a fighter who has carved out his career at Super Flyweight and will, as a result, have significant size and strength advantages over Ioka. That could be his key advantage here, though could also be an issue for the visitor who has only weighed in as a Flyweight once in his previous 29 bouts. Incidentally he has only fought outside of Argentina once, his loss to Sanchez in 2013.
On paper this looks like it could be a tough test for Ioka who will actually need to be at his best to over-come the determined Sosa. If Ioka looks to have a fight with Argentinian he could in trouble given the natural size difference between the two men, and the fact Ioka still doesn't look like a fully fledged Flyweight. Saying that however Ioka should be able to box and move, avoid a slug-fest and take a decision victory.
We suspect that Ioka wins “comfortably” on the cards but is given some really tough moments when Sosa does cut the distance and gets to him. Those moments however will serve as a warning to Ioka and put him back on the right track.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
The WBA “interim” titles are a scourge to boxing. There are simply too many of them and too many are going to undeserving fighters, often beating fighters who deserved to be no where near a title opportunity themselves. Whilst sometimes the interim titles give us amazing fights, such as 2013's war between Koki Eto and Kompayak Porpramook, they tend to be mismatches to give one fighter a leg up at the expense of an over-matched and under-whelming foe, such as Randy Petalcorin's bout with Walter Tello from last year.
We suspect we're about to see another of those good match ups in late July as the WBA attempt to appease their friends in Thailand and help make Stamp Kiatniwat (13-0, 6) a “world champion” aged just 17.
Stamp, who has been impressive at times, will be taking on little known Dominican puncher Gregorio Lebron (13-2, 11) for the WBA “interim” Flyweight title. A belt that was last held by another Thai, Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep who managed to take it from the aforementioned Koki Eto.
On paper the bout looks like a good test for Stamp, the usual step up in class where a fighter moves from facing journeymen to opponents that try to win. In reality however the bout is a politic move by the WBA who seem to already know that Stamp could be worth a lot of money for a Flyweight and is unlikely to really push for fights with either the WBA “regular” or “super” champions. It's another nice revenue stream for the “Association”, but one that further dents their reputation, or what is left of their reputation.
Stamp Kiatniwat is a really promising young fighter. The 18 year old has been a pro for little more than 2 years and yet has already scored a really big win over Kwanthai Sithmorseng. That win should entitle the youngster to, at very least, a world ranking. He has also won, and defended, the interim PABA Flyweight title, further winning favour with the WBA. For Stamp to have a world ranking, and for Stamp to be considered a viable challenger to a world champion isn't hard to believe, even if that ranking was the lower end of the top 15 and his shot was a voluntary shot by a generous champion.
Typically Thai boxers are known as relatively basic come-forward guys who are very strong but not the most technically astute fighters. Stamp however is a bit more of a rounded boxer with a boxer-puncher style who enjoys fighting at mid-range, can force the action or fight as a counter-puncher. At the moment he does appear to lack his “man strength”, though as a teenager that is to be expected, though that lack of power has almost forced him into needing to hone his skills. Sometimes however he does get caught in the almost stereotypical “Thai” mindset of “I'm going to outfight you”, which was a massive issue against the tough Espinos Sabu who really pushed Stamp hard.
On paper the best win Stamp has was the one over Kwanthai, a former world champion, in reality however the win over Sabu was the most telling. Stamp boxed excellently early on, with a very sharp jab, intelligent movement and good counters. Later in the bout however he seemed to run out of steam and was really forced to grit his teeth and see out the storm. That would have been an excellent learning experience for the youngster who will have developed more in the final few rounds of that fight than in all the other bouts together.
As for Lebron the 33 year old has done very little of note. He has beaten 4 fighters with winning records and is on an 11 fight winning streak, including a win over Angelo Munoz for the WBA Fedelatin title last September, in what is Lebron's most recent bout, 10 months ago. That win was Lebron's biggest to date, after a 4 year career.
From the footage of Lebron he's a strong looking pressure fighter, a bit of a bull in fact. He appears to be very strong, comes forward with a lot of upper body movement and looks like a very confident fighter capable of cutting the ring down. He's not the quickest, or most accurate, but he looks like the sort of fighter who could be a very good gatekeeper for the division.
On paper Lebron looks like a big puncher. From the footage we've seen it seems more that he's heavy handed rather than a KO artist, but every shot he lands takes a toll and is thrown with bad intentions. Not only does he put real spite on his shots but he throws vicious combinations when he has a stationary target. If you can limit him to one shot at a time you have a chance to make him miss and make him pay, however if you stand and trade with him he could really do damage.
To date all of Lebron's bouts have been in the Dominican Republic, a stark world of difference to Thailand. He has looked impressive and he passes the “eye test” if you will, even if his competition does leave a lot to be desired. This is a huge step up for him, but it's impossible to rule him out given what we've seen.
Whilst we are cynical about the WBA's motives in making this bout we must admit that this actually should be a really good fight. We know Lebron's competition has been terrible, really it has, but watching him suggests he can actually fight. If Lebron is as good as recent footage suggests, he could end up being a real surprise package for the Thai's who well have over-looked him. Stamp is the more technically proficient fighter but Lebron is the bigger puncher, looks to be the stronger guy and certainly not the type of guy you want to stand and fight with. If Stamp decides to trade we'll find out a lot about his toughness, though we suspect the Thai will try to stay on the move and use his movement, as well as the Thai conditions, to try and take a decision.
(Image courtesy of "The Champion Thailand")
In 2011 fans saw Filipino fighter Rommel Asenjo (26-3, 20) come up short in a bout for the WBO Minimumweight title, when he was stopped by Mexican Raul Garcia in 3 rounds. Since then Asenjo has gone 6-0 (4) as he has rebuilt his career and now finds himself getting a second world title fight on April 28th. Unfortunately for the diminutive Filipino fighter he will be up against one of boxing's most impressive champions, WBA "Super" and WBO Flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada (31-2, 22). And just like the Garcia bout, we will see Asenjo needing to travel to Mexico. Worst of all for Asenjo he will be stepping in to the Flyweight division for the first time since a 2008 loss to a young and emerging Suriyan Sor Rungvisai.
For those who remember Asenjo's loss to Garcia, it was huge step up in class and one he was simple not ready for. Asenjo had, up to that point, never fought anyone above the Filipino domestic level and had found that many of those domestic opponent were unable to cope with his power. In fact when he entered that bout he had a record of 20-2 (16) and had only gone beyond 8 rounds once, taking a narrow decision over Jetly Purisima for a regional WBO title. It was a bout Asenjo wasn't ready for and it was little surprise when he suffered his sole stoppage defeat.
Sadly since his loss to Garcia we've seen Asenjo return back to the Filipino domestic level where he has remained unbeaten but hardly looked impressive with a real struggle last time out against Powell Balaba. He has also been plagued by some notable inactivity, including a break of 18 months, in recent years.
In the ring Asenjo has traits of a number of other Filipino fighters. He's heavy handed, fights from the southpaw stance and although he seems to have power he is crude and has a lot of question marks surrounding his actual ability. On paper his record looks pretty and he boasts 14 stoppages in the first 3 rounds, in reality however that says a lot about his competition.
Mexico's Estrada first came to the attention of the international boxing community back in 2012 when he went toe-to-toe with Roman Gonzalez in a 2012 FOTY contender. Since then his reputation has sky-rocketed courtesy of wins against the likes Brian Viloria, Milan Melindo and Giovani Segura. The only real mark against him since then has been his struggle against unheralded Filipino Joebert Alvarez last time out, a struggle that wasn't reflected in the disgustingly wide scorecards.
Estrada is a huge fighter at Flyweight. Officially he is listed at 5'4" but the height measurement doesn't do him justice for his overall frame which is much bigger than that of a typical Flyweight. Given his size it seems almost certain that we will see Estrada moving to 115lbs sooner rather than later and we expect to see him being even more impressive at the higher weight, a weight he flirted with in his bout against Alvarez.
Sometimes when we watch Estrada we're not blown away by him, however his weaknesses are few and far between, and seem to only rear their head when he expects an easy bout. When feeling like he needs to go through the gears he's a wonderful all-rounder with hurtful power, very good boxing, a real gritty toughness and a fantastic engine. We won't pretend he's unbeatable but he's only going to be beaten by very special fighters, or when he's over-looked an opponent and been made to pay for his complacency.
Whilst we have mentioned Estrada's complacency we really can't see even a complacent Estrada coming up short against Asenjo who appears to be made to order. He's much smaller than the champion, he's never managed to score a win that would even give us an inkling of the upset and he's also been stopped the last time he fought at an elevated level like this. Given the size, skill, power and physical advantages of the champion we really can't see anything but a quick and easy looking win for Estrada who will be looking to put the lingering memory of the Alvarez bout behind him in style.
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.