By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On November 12, in the legendary Korakuen Hall, Tomoki Kameda will try to become a 2 division world champion as he takes on Abigail Medina for the interim WBC Super Bantamweight World Championship.
The younger brother of Koki and Daiki Kameda, Tomoki belongs in one of the most successful families in the history of boxing, will all 3 siblings eventually winning the big one. Unlike most Japanese fighters who stay and train in Japan, he moved to Mexico when he was just 15 years old, in order to learn more about the sport and to hone his craft. Tomoki managed to reach the finals of the Guantes de Oro Tournament (Mexican for Golden Gloves) and only lost to the current WBC Super Bantamweight World Champion, Rey Vargas. Because of his young age, he wasn’t allowed to compete in the 2008 Olympic Games, so instead of waiting, Tomoki decided to turn pro.
Tomoki (35-2 / 20 KOs) became quite popular in Mexico, since he spent the vast majority of his career in that country, earning the nickname El Mexicanito. His style of fighting used to be very aggressive, which was evident by his KO ratio. Prior to winning the world title, he finished 18 of his 27 pro bouts. Some of his early career big victories included numerous world title contenders like Eduardo Garcia, Marlon Marquez and Noldi Manakane, plus securing the WBC Silver Bantamweight championship.
On August 1st 2013, Tomoki made history on multiple fronts when he defeated Paulus Ambunda, who was 20-0 at the time, for the WBO Bantamweight World Championship, in the Philippines. Not only did he become the first ever Japanese boxer to hold a WBO World title, but also after Daiki’s world title victory in September of the same year, the Kamedas earned a place at the Guinness World Records for “most siblings to win boxing world titles”.
As World champion, he adapted a more technical style, a “safer” style, in comparison to his former much wilder approach. El Mexicanito marked 3 successful title defenses, against Immanuel Naidjala, interim champion Alejandro Hernandez as well as former World champion Panya Uthok. Out of all 3, his bout with Uthok was the toughest. With 46 wins on his record and only 2 decision loses, the Thai boxer kept rocking Tomoki in every round, stunning him on multiple occasions throughout the match. The tide turned during the 7th round, when Kameda started nailing Uthok with a couple of uppercuts, thus creating an opening to throw a devastating liver shot that dropped the former champ down for the count. That was the first time Uthok has been stopped in his career. Tomoki was declared “fighter of the month” (July 2014) by the WBO, after that performance.
In May of 2015, Tomoki was scheduled to face the WBA Bantamweight World Champion Jamie McDonnell, in a unification bout. However, the WBO wouldn’t sanction the fight so Tomoki relinquished his belt so he could compete for the WBA championship. Despite dropping McDonnell in the 3rd round, the Japanese challenger didn’t do much in the rest of the fight, thus failing to capture the gold. Their rematch in September saw both men in a very close encounter, going back and forth, in an exciting affair. Tomoki could have been crowned the new champion but McDonnell made sure he was leaving Texas with his belt when he scored a knockdown in the last round, swaying the judges in his favour.
When Tomoki returned to the ring after a 13 month hiatus, he moved up a weight class and has been undefeated in his last 4 matches. In his most recent bout against Daniel Noriega, this past May, we saw glimpses of the old Mexicanito, fighting in a much more aggressive pace, even dropping Noriega in the 5th round. Now three years removed from his previous world title contest, Tomoki will try and capture another division’s grand prize, but in order to do so, he must go through first the EBU European champion Abigail Medina (19-3 / 10 KOs).
Medina has also been a pro for 10 years, but unlike Tomoki, he doesn’t have the same level of experience or success. His biggest victories are against fellow European champions Jeremy Parodi (42-4), Anthony Settoul (23-7) and one time world title contender Martin Ward (26-4). Specifically, he stopped Settoul in the first round with body punches, a weapon that Tomoki also uses frequently in his matches, while he stopped Ward, in just 2 rounds, after repeatedly kept knocking him down with a vicious right punch to the head. His style of fighting actually resembles Kameda’s old “Mexican style” a lot.
Comparing these 2 boxers, Tomoki certainly has the advantage here. He’s the younger, much more experienced competitor and with a better record. Medina however is way more hungry at this stage of his career. He knows this will probably be his one and only shot at the World Championship. Moreover, Medina’s been undefeated since 2014, with 10 wins and 5 stoppages, proving he’s an aggressive striker. On the other hand, if we see the Tomoki of old, on November 12, we are almost guaranteed that Japan will have another World champion, before the year is over. For Mexicanito, winning the interim WBC title, it will be the perfect opportunity to set a future collision with the man that defeated him 10 plus years ago, Rey Vargas, avenging his only amateur loss. So who will it be? We will find out in a week’s time, in Tokyo, Japan!
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On October 6 at the Yokohama Arena, Kenshiro defends the WBC Light Flyweight World Championship against Milan Melindo.
Ken Shiro (13-0 / 7 KOs) belongs in the bright new generation of Japanese boxers like Naoya Inoue, Ryota Murata and Kosei Tanaka. He was introduced to the sport, from a very young age, by his father Hisashi Teraji, a former OPBF light heavyweight champion. Shiro’s amateur career lasted 7 years, from 2007 to 2014, accumulating a record of 58-16. His most significant accomplishments were winning the 68th National Sports Festival (light flyweight division), which is considered to be Japan’s premier sports event, as well as placing second at the All Japan Championships.
Turned pro in 2014, he displayed his fighting spirit early on by taking on fighters, way more experienced than him, such as Heri Amol (36-17*), Katsunori Nagamine (10-0*), Takashi Omae (13-4*) and Rolly Sumalpong (9-0*). On December of 2015, Shiro was in a thrilling encounter with Kenichi Horikawa (30-13*) for the Japanese Light Flyweight Title. Despite having only 5 pro fights under his belt, Shiro went toe to toe with the veteran for 10 rounds, which kept the fans at Korakuen on their feet, applauding the effort of both men. When the fight was over, the young lion left the victor and the new Japanese champion.
After that breakout performance, Shiro made his inaugural defense over one time world title contender Atsushi Kakutani (17-4*). The “Smiling Assassin” was absolutely dominant, knocking Atsushi down thrice, in just the first round, for the TKO win. On August of 2016, he also acquired the vacant OPBF crown when he defeated Toshimasa Ouchi (20-8*), as well as defended it once against Lester Abutan (11-5*), who he crushed with a lethal flurry of punches in the third round.
The unstoppable Japanese superstar eventually earned his big opportunity, on May of last year, as he challenged Ganigan Lopez (33-6*) for the WBC Light Flyweight World Championship, at the Ariake Colosseum. Both challenger and champion fought valiantly, in a very close encounter, which undoubtedly was the biggest test of Shiro’s career. “El Maravilla” had won the belt a year before, from Yu Kimura, and was determined to leave Japan once again with it. Shiro on the other hand, wasn’t going to let his moment go to waste. It was a hard hitting contest that saw the Japanese fighter took on a heavy beating but kept on coming back with strong offense of his own. During the last round, Lopez and Shiro left it all in the ring, as they engaged in a wild brawl, which was the perfect conclusion to this bout. In the end, the judges scored the match in favor of Ken Shiro, thus declaring him the new world champion, at the age of 25.
Shiro proceeded to defend his title, the same year, twice. His first challenger was former world champion Pedro Guevara (30-2*). It was a slow and methodical contest which turned into a slugfest during the last 4 rounds. Shiro showcased his incredible hand speed and body work, which led him getting the majority decision. His second one was Gilberto Pedroza (18-3*). It was a one-sided affair that ended violently in the 4th round, when the champ stormed Pedroza with a plethora of body shots.
On May of 2018, the rematch between Shiro and Lopez was set to take place at Ota-City’s General Gymnasium. Many fans and critics alike believed that the Mexican was robbed in their previous encounter and expected him to regain his championship. In a stunning turn of events, Shiro stopped Lopez in just the second round after he landed a well calculated right hook to the body, leaving the former champ unable to answer the referee’s 10 count, plus putting any doubts of his legitimacy to rest. His fourth title defense will take place this weekend against Milan Melindo.
Milan Melindo (37-3 / 13 KOs), a 13 year professional as well as a one time IBF World Champion, has faced top competition almost his entire career. He holds notable victories over former world champions, including Hekkie Budler (also current WBA Light Flyweight World Champion), Muhammad Rachman and Carlos Tamara. His most significant win was against 3 division world champion Akira Yaegashi who he TKOed in less than 3 minutes, on May of 2017. Even his losses are to former world champions (Juan Francisco Estrada, Javier Mendoza, Ryoichi Taguchi) and all of them have come via decision. He may not be a knockout artist but he’s known for his fast combinations, much like Shiro is.
Stylistically this is a great match-up. Both men have fought and beat some of the best boxers in the division and have displayed a fast paced but technical style of fighting. Since neither Shiro nor Melindo have ever been stopped during their careers, it’s difficult to make a prediction. What will be the difference maker ? Will it be the experience factor of the Filipino challenger or will it be the slickness and deadly bodywork of the Japanese champion, which has kept him undefeated until now ? These questions will be answered this Sunday.
*Fighter’s record prior to the fight mentioned.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On October 6, in a historic event for combat sports, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (46-4 / 41 KOs) defends his WBC Super Flyweight World Championship, against Iran Diaz (14-2 / 6 KOs), at ONE “Kingdom Of Heroes”, in Bangkok, Thailand.
Unlike most world champions, Srisaket didn’t have a long and successful amateur career. He had to move to Bangkok, when he was only 13 years old and worked as a trash collector at a department store in order to feed himself. Life was so difficult for him that he sometimes had to eat leftovers that he collected from the garbage, just to survive. He began boxing in 2009 and in just 2 years he won the WBC Asia title, which he defended 4 times.
In 2013, Sor Rungvisai (with a record of 18-3 at the time) challenged Yota Sato (26-2*) for the WBC Super Flyweight World Title. Sato, with victories over the likes of Kohei Kono, Suriyan Kaikanha and Ryo Akaho, was the clear favorite to win this fight. The Thai boxer shocked the world when he dominated the champion in every single round, leaving him almost no room for an offense of his own, continuously punishing him until the referee had to step in and stop the fight in the 8th. Srisaket was crowned the new world champion, at the age of 26. Sato had never been stopped prior to this match.
Srisaket made his first defense against Hirofumi Mukai (9-2*) in what was a one sided beatdown. He lost his belt to Carlos Cuadras (29-0*) in controversial fashion, after Cuadras suffered a cut over to his left eye from an accidental clash of heads and was awarded the technical decision. In just a few months after that loss, he reclaimed the WBC Asia title and mostly fought journeymen until he faced 2 time world title contender Jose Salgado (34-2*). Sor Rungvisai blasted the Mexican with a couple of strong left punches and one mean right cross in the 4th round to get the TKO win and the WBC Silver championship.
His biggest challenge came on March 18 of 2017, when he fought Roman Gonzalez at Madison Square Garden, for the belt he never truly lost. Chocolatito, 88-0 as an amateur and 46-0 as a pro, had never lost a single match in his entire career. As a 4 division world champion, with notable wins over Yutaka Niida, Katsunari Takayama, Juan Francisco Estrada, Akira Yaegashi, Edgar Sosa, Brian Viloria and Carlos Cuadras, it was no secret that Srisaket was once again the underdog. Much like the Sato bout, the Thai phenom stunned everyone when he scored a knockdown, in the very first round, as he connected with a thunderous uppercut. During the 3rd, Roman was cut in his right eye, which caused massive bleeding as the fight progressed. Both men went back and forth, in an exciting affair that saw them delivering furious exchanges. Gonzalez put on a strong offense, mostly in the later rounds, but Srisaket was dominating the majority of the match. When the last round came, they left it all in the ring, bringing the fans at the Garden on their feet. After the dust had settled, Sor Rungvisai got the majority decision and reclaimed the WBC Super Flyweight World Title.
The rematch was set in September, at the initial Superfly show in California. The fight was a slugfest as champion and challenger went toe to toe, trading bombs with one another for 3 consecutive rounds. However this time, the ending came abruptly, when Srisaket knocked Gonzalez out with a massive right hook in the 4th. This bout, not only marked Chocolatito’s second ever defeat (both at the hands of the same opponent), but also his first (and thus far only) KO loss in 136 outings.
In 2018, Sor Rungvisai has defended his belt once against former 2 division world champion Juan Francisco Estrada (36-2*) and has also scored a TKO victory over WBC Asia and WBO Asia Pacific champion Young Gil Bae (28-6*). His next opponent, as well as his third title defense, will be against former WBC Latino champion Iran Diaz, who has broken out to the world scene (#6 by the WBC – August rankings) after defeating 2 former world champions in Hernan Marquez and Luis Concepcion. His only 2 losses are to Juan Hernandez Navarrete (former flyweight world champion) and Nordine Oubaali (accomplished amateur and number 1 contender to the WBC Bantamweight title).
From collecting trash to co-main eventing Madison Square Garden, the story of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai is inspiring to say the least. After years of hard work, he returns to Bangkok, this time to defend his world championship at the Impact Arena, which is considered to be the 2nd largest exhibition and convention venue in all of Asia. Both men will look to prove a point. For Diaz, it’s a chance to finally realize his dream of winning the big one. For Srisaket, it’s to come back home and say “I finally made it”.
ONE Championship’s Kingdom Of Heroes will be a groundbreaking event as they aim to bring 3 of the most popular martial arts in the world (boxing, kickboxing & MMA) all in one stage. The rest of the fights are:
Shinya Aoki vs Ev Ting (ONE Lightweight title eliminator)
Leandro Issa vs Muin Gafurov
Hayato Suzuki vs Robin Catalan
Rika Ishige vs Bozhena Antoniyar
Rin Saroth vs Fu Chang Xin
Dodi Mardian vs Ramon Gonzales
Super Series (Kickboxing/Muay Thai):
Kai Ting Chuang vs Stamp Fairtex (ONE Atomweight World Championship)
Andy Souwer vs Anthony Njokuani
Masahide Kudo vs Singtongnoi Por Telakun
Nong-O Gaiyanghadao vs Mehdi Zatout
Alain Ngalani vs Andre Meunier
Petchmorrakot Wor. Sangprapai vs Alaverdi Ramazanov
Petchdam Kaiyanghadao vs Kenny Tse
A few words for some of the key fights:
Shinya Aoki (41-8) is a former Shooto, DREAM & ONE world champion. A judo & jiu jitsu specialist, with 27 submissions on his MMA record, Aoki will take on Ev Ting (16-4) a dangerous striker and skilled grappler. The winner will receive a title shot against 2 division world champion Martin Nguyen (11-3) on March of 2019, at ONE’s debut in Japan.
Kai Ting Chuang (17-5) is a 3 time WAKO National Kickboxing Champion as well as the reigning and defending ONE Kickboxing Atomweight World Champion. She defends her title against Stamp Fairtex (60-15), former North Eastern muay thai champion.
"Update: Martin Nguyen has relinquished his Lightweight title due to an injury."
Andy Souwer (160-20) is one of the most decorated kickboxers on the planet. A 2 time K-1 World Max Champion, 4 time S-Cup World Champion, ISKA & WKA World Champion (and more), Andy will make his ONE debut against Anthony Njokuani (25-1) a Nigerian fighter who has also competed in MMA (UFC & WEC).
Masahide Kudo (17-7), the current RISE Featherweight champion, will face Singtongnoi Por Telakun (220-80) former Lumpinee Stadium Champion, WMC World Champion, S-1 Champion and Rajadamnern Fighter of the Year.
Nong-O Gaiyanghadao (256-54) is considered to be one of the best pound for pound muay thai fighters in the world. He is a 4 time Lumpinee Stadium champion, Rajadamnern Stadium Champion, 2 time Thailand national champion, and 2 time Fighter of the Year. His opponent is former WBC Muay Thai World Champion Mehdi Zatout (41-18).
Petchmorrakot Wor. Sangprapai (156-33) is a 2 time Lumpinee Stadium Champion and WMC World Champion. He competes against Russian fighter Alaverdi Ramazanov (57-3).
If you are a fan of combat sports, this will be a night to remember.
*Fighter’s record prior to the fight mentioned.
This coming Saturday we'll see one of the biggest fights of 2018, as we get the long awaited rematch between Kazakh Middleweight sensation Gennady Golovkin (38-0-1, 34) and Mexican boxing superstar Saul Alvarez (49-1-2, 34). The rematch comes a year after their highly controversial draw, which saw Golovkin retain the WBA “super”, WBC and IBF Middleweight titles whilst also continuing his unbeaten run. It also saw “Canelo” Alvarez face criticism for his style and for favourable judging, especially from Adalaide Byrd who had him winning 118-110.
This rematch was supposed to take place back in May, though was cancelled at short notice when Alvarez tested positive for Clenbuterol. Although the Mexican blamed food, specifically beef, for the positive test it does seem like he's not taken responsibility for his actions, something that has continued to anger the Golovkin team. On the flipside of that however is Golovkin's trainer Abel Sanchez making various accusations about Canelo, including mentioning a suspect wrapping technique.
Although the two men went into the first bout with a lot of respect for each other it does seem like this rematch will be fought will less respect and more emotion. Both men seem to have a genuine dislike of the other, their fan bases and their teams. There is still some mutual respect of the other's ability, but as people it's clear the two will be on each other's Christmas card list in December. Despite their animosity we're expecting to see both men put in a calculated performance as they look to improve on what they did last time out, and take home a victory here.
In their first bout the heavy handed Golovkin took centre ring, he backed up Canelo and seemed to be the clear aggressor. Not only that but he had the higher output, the better work rate and the more consistent offensive work. Sadly for Golovkin he failed to go to the body for the most part and looked to be on the end of the biggest single shots. By failing to go to the body he allowed thr younger, quicker, Canelo to get away, and perhaps if he had gone to the body he would have made the Mexican stay still a little more, and even opened him up for the heavier head shots that could have made the difference.
Those who have seen Golovkin over the last few years will know what to expect from him. He's a strong, powerful boxer-puncher. Technically he's solid with an impressive jab and under-rated footwork. Sadly he's now 36 and just losing that half a step he once had. His power is still impressive, as we saw in May against Vanes Martirosyan, but doesn't look as devastating as it once did and relative lack of speed is obvious in terms of both his footwork and his handspeed, as well as his defense.
Canelo, who was once a front foot fighter who applied pressure and used his physical traits in an imposing manner, has rounded out to be one of the sports better all-rounders. Again Golovkin he showed good movement, an ability to stick to a game plan and excellent counter punching. Sadly one of the issues that has always been a problem for Alvarez is his work rate. Whilst what he landed on Golovkin was quality his actual output was disappointing, and not for the first time it felt like he had ran out of steam to keep up any sort of sustained attack. He had moments but they were fleeting, short lived and tended to consist of a single shot or two.
With 52 bouts under his belt the 28 year old Mexican is a true veteran, with almost 13 years of professional experience behind him. There is a chance that he will age quickly, and he's been in tough bouts against the likes of Golovkin, Erislandy Lara, Austin Trout and Floyd Mayweather, who all caught him clean. Saying that however he looked like their was still a lot of miles left on the clock last time out and a year out of the ring since then will certainly do him no harm, allowing him to rest and recover from any niggles he's had. If he's used the time since May wisely he may well be in the best shape of his career, for a bout he simply cannot afford to lose.
We're expecting this bout to be very similar to the first bout between these two. We think, again, that Golovkin will press forward, backing Canelo on the ropes. We also think Canelo will box well off the back foot. The key to winning however will be what changes the fighter makes. If Golovkin can go to the body he increases his chance, if Canelo can increase his output by 10% then he'll probably do enough to take the victory. It really is one where small changes will decide the outcome.
Of the two we think Golovkin will make the changes easier. He has a proven ability to go to the body, breaking down good fighters with body shots. We've never seen Canelo show a great work work rate, especially not against a fighter who can hit him back. We think Golovkin will make the alternation needed, and will do so in a way that the judges won't be able to deny him. We also think that there has been a general downward view on Canelo and where the judges may have favoured him based on fan reaction in the past, that won't be an issue, and the judges may well find themselves scoring the closer rounds to Golovkin, this time around.
On August 29th Thai fans will get the chance to see WBC Minmumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (50-0, 18) look to go one better than Floyd Mayweather Jr, as he looks to move to 51-0 and takes on young Filipino challenger Pedro Taduran (12-1, 9). The champion will be looking to secure his 10th defense of the title and build on an outstanding mandatory defense from back in May, when he blew out Leroy Estrada. On the other hand the challenger will be looking to claim a title in his first world title shot, and become one of the youngest world champions at just 21 years old.
The 32 year old champion is looking to etch his name in to the records books and break the 50-0 record of Floyd Mayweather. Whilst there is some criticism of his competition Wanheng does have some good opponents mixed into his record, such as Florante Condes, Saul Juarez and Tatsuya Fukuhara. Sadly though he also has a lot of filler opposition, including the likes of Silem Serang and Jaysever Abcede, both of whom he beat in non-title fights whilst being a reigning world champion.
Although he's never unified or faced the stiffest of competition there needs to be a good dose of respect for Wanheng who has shown real commitment to the Minimumweight division. He is one of the very few fighters to have not really changed weight during his career. His first professional title was the WBC Youth Minimumweight title, which he won back in 2007, and all of his bouts of note have been at 105lbs. A real dedication to making weight.
In the ring Wanheng blows hot and cold. At his best he's a defensively tight, stalker with under-rated power, good combinations accurate counter shots. These were seen fantastically last time out, when he stopped Estrada in 5 rounds after dropping him numerous times. At his worst however he can be made to look tense, slow and unwilling to trade blows, as we saw against Fukuhara and Melvin Jerusalem. If a fighter is busy they can handcuff Wanheng who really needs to pick his moments and can't match the output of some younger fighters.
The once beaten Taduran made his debut in May 2015, 3 months after Wanehng won the WBC title, and was just 18 at the time. He would begin his career with 6 straight wins before suffering a razor thin decision loss to Joel Lino. Since then he has racked up 6 more wins and progressively faced stiffer and stiffer competition, with his most recent win coming against former world title challenger Jerry Tomogdan, for the GAB Minimumweight title. Sadly other than Tomogdan there is little quality on Taduran's record with his next between wins being against Phillip Luis Curedo and Ronbert Onggocan.
There is very little footage of Pedro Taduran but from his record it's clear he can punch. Sadly though that's never going to be enough against someone like Wanheng, and he'll have to find holes in Wanheng's defense, get in and out, and land the biggest shots in his arsenal. If he can do that he has a chance, though we suspect he'll lack the experience needed to really make the most of Wanheng's flaws.
We think Taduran will have some great moments, but in the end his lack of experience and ring time will be his undoing as Wanheng moves to 51-0 and leaves Floyd Mayweather's 50-0 record in the past. Few will compare the two in terms of achievement, with Mayweather winning multiple world titles, but few can question Wanheng's dedication and desire to have a long and lengthy reign in one division, whilst taking on all mandatory challengers along the way. A loss for Taduran won't be the end, and we suspect it will actually do his career more good than harm, be we can't see how he over-comes such an accomplished champion this early in his career.
The Light Flyweight division may not have the sports biggest names but it is arguably the best division in the sport right now, not only with over-looked fighters but also a steady stream of great fights pitting world class fighters against each other. The next one of those top quality bouts is this coming Friday as WBC champion Ken Shiro (12-0, 6), from Japan, defends his title against Mexican veteran Ganigan Lopez (29-7, 18). The bout will be the second between the two men, who faced off last year in a bout that saw the Japanese fighter outpoint Lopez to become the champion.
Since their first meeting, which Ken Shiro won by majority decision, the champion has gone on to distinguish himself as a leading fighter at 108lbs thanks to wins over Pedro Guevara and Gilberto Pedroza. In those bouts he has shown clear improvements and looks to be a fighter who has grown since claiming the title. As for Lopez he has been he has been mostly inactive with his only bout between his loss to Ken shiro and this rematch being a win over unknown Mexican fighter Efren Bautista.
Aged 26 Ken Shiro is already a fighter who is showing signs of becoming a real star in Japan, that's despite the fact his first two world title fights were shown live in his homeland and the fact that fans had been following him from his debut. He was touted for big things when he turned professional following a solid amateur career, and was also given extra attention due to the fact his father Hisashi Teraji was a successful fighter claiming Japanese and OPBF honours. On his way through the ranks the youngster not only did what his father managed, winning the Japanese and OPBF Light Flyweight titles, but also claimed the WBC Youth title to become a triple crown winner after just 8 bouts.
In his 10th professional contest Ken Shiro would defeat Lopez for the WBC title in a coming of age performance. Prior to the bout he had shown the tools to be something special, showing he could adapt to his opponents, box, brawl and counter, but had never managed to put it all together as he did against Lopez. He not only showed he had the skills, but also the toughness to see out the final round when Lopez was really bringing the heat. His skills, and desire to win, were on show again when he narrowly defeat Guevara in what was another really tough bout. Against Pedroza however it seemed like Ken Shiro wanted to show the fans his boxing, which he did early on, before closing the show, which he did in impressive fashion in round 4. That win showed he could box or punch, and it's his ability to mix various styles that makes him such a fantastic young fighter. There are areas for him to build on, but with his speed, physical strength, ring IQ and under-rated power he could be a nightmare to dethrone in the coming years.
Whilst Ken Shiro is really just starting to capture the attention of the wider boxing fan base in Japan Lopez has been on the radar of fight fans for years. The 36 year old made his debut way back in 2003 and although he suffered some early career set backs, including a loss to the under-rated Juan Palacios and a loss to Adrian Hernandez, he would rebuild from a 13-4 record to become one of the key figures in the world title scene. Amazingly he wouldn't get a world title fight until 2015, when he was 33 with a record of 25-5 and despite a great effort he would lose a close but clear decision to Pedro Guevara. The following year he would get his second shot, and defeat Yu Kimura, who had beaten Guevara, for the WBC title. A title he would defend once, out pointing Jonathan Taconing, before losing the belt to Ken Shiro.
Despite his age Lopez is a fighter who hasn't shown anything in terms of ageing. He's a really smart fighter who uses his southpaw stance fantastically, moves around the ring intelligently and can box or brawl. His legs and boxing brain took him to a clear win over Kimura , despite the ridiculously poor scorecard of Juan Carlos Pelayo, and his win over Taconing showed just how good his ring craft is against a dangerous puncher. Sadly for him his work rate and out put isn't the best and he is perhaps due to lose some of his his movement. No one will doubt his boxing brain, but his reactions may well have slipped between the first bout with Ken Shiro and now.
At his best Lopez would be a real handful for any active 108lb fighter, and would give fits to many of those just below the divisional elite. At 36 however it's hard to know what he really has left and it's fair to say that Ken Shiro is just getting better and better. Although we don't see this as being an easy fight for the Japanese fighter we don't see Ken Shiro losing, instead we are expecting a clear, but tough, decision for Ken Shiro. A stoppage isn't totally out of the question for Ken Shiro, but it would be a bit of a surprise given that Lopez has only been stopped once in his 36 fight career.
Our prediction is a clear decision victory for the champion, who will put to bed any doubt between who is currently the better fighter and may also retire the Mexican, who has been a fantastic servant to boxing over the last few years. With a win we expect to see Ken Shiro begin the hunt for unification bouts, and could well find himself chasing any of the other champions.
It's fair to say the last few weeks have been both interesting and frustrating for those involved in the career of Gennady Golovkin (37-0-1, 33). The Kazakh great saw a rematch with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez being cancelled after Alvarez pulled out, following a failed drugs test, and left Tom Loeffler scrambling around for a replacement, with only a few weeks to go. After several opponents were looked into the one who ended up taking the fight was Vanes Martirosyan (36-3-1, 21), who had been out of the ring for almost 2 years and had lost 2 of his previous 3. It was a less than great decision, but meant that Golovkin would stay active, having been out of the ring since last September.
At his best Golovkin was a Middleweight wrecking ball, combining skills, power and toughness. He was an aggressive but calculated pressure fighter who had a desire to prove he was the best and to unify the Middleweight division. In recent bouts however the Kazakh has began to look his age, and whilst still a top fighter he's not looked as much of a destructive force as he once was. Part of that is to do with his competition, which has picked up in quality, but part of it is also to do with his age which is starting to catch up with him.
Golovkin was a former amateur star before turning professional in 2006. He would claim the WBA “interim” title in 2010 and has grown from there, becoming a staple of the US boxing scene since beating Grzegorz Proksa in 2012. Although he does lack in terms of career defining wins he has pretty much cleaned out the division of contenders ever since, beating the likes of Gabriel Rosado, Matthew Macklin, Curtis Stevens, Daniel Geale, Marco Antonio Rubio, Martin Murray, David Lemieux and Daniel Jacobs. The one blotch on his record was a very controversial draw that lead many to question what Adalaide Byrd had been watching during the fight. Sadly the draw cost Golovkin a career defining win, and lead to the mess of the rematch, the rematch that would be cancelled due to Canelo's positive drug test.
Again at his very best Golovkin has everything but speed, though used good IQ, timing and footwork to hide that flaw. He would bring the pressure, and break people down. In his last 2 bouts he has been taken the distance, and in his bout before that, against Kell Brook, he looked slow and a little bit clumsy. We need to go back over 2 years for the last really impressive performance from Golovkin, his win over Lemieux, and it's worth questioning what he really has left at the top level. He's still a good fighter, but the likes of Billy Joe Saunders, Canelo, Ryota Murata and Sergiy Derevyanchenko all seem to be eyeing up the Kazakh, something that wasn't happening a couple of years ago.
Martirosyan was a solid amateur himself, representing the US at the 2004 Olympics before making his professional debut the following year. Despite his amateur pedigree he was matched softly, and moved very slowly through the professional ranks, despite looking like someone who would have loved to have been tested early on. The kid gloves in terms of his development was because of his age, he was only 18 when he turned professional, but the progress of his career really was frustratingly slow. His first real tests coming in 2008, when he was matched with the likes of Michi Munoz, Angel Hernandez and Michael Medina. Sadly rather than move onwards and upwards from those wins he was kept at that sort of level until 2010, when he took on former world champion Kassim Ouma. Ouma, who would also give Golovkin fits, was very unlucky not to defeat Martirosyan in a bout that could easily have gone his way.
In many ways Martirosyan's struggle with Ouma showed a lot, and perhaps explained why his team had been so protective of him. Despite the struggle he did continue on with his career, winning a WBC eliminator in 2011 before fighting to a technical draw in a final eliminator in 2012. By then Martirosyan had been a professional for 7 years and his career, which had promised a lot, had really failed to deliver. He would finally get a world title fight a year later, losing a split decision to Demetrius Andrade. Losses in 2 of his subsequent 5 fights, to Jermell Charlo and a rematch to Lara really act as set backs to Martirosyan's dreams and he's not fought since the loss to Lara in May 2016.
Although a solid boxer, with decent power, decent movement and decent skills Martirosyan hasn't proven those traits at Middleweight, having fought much of his career at Light Middleweight, he has been inactive, as mentioned, and has been down a number of times during his career. Going up against a strong, powerful Middleweight like Golovkin won't bode well for the challenger. Martirosyan might have the speed to be competitive early on, but we can't help but think that Golovkin's power will be too much, and he'll stop the challenger in the middle rounds to retain the WBA “super”, WBO and IBO Middleweight titles.
This coming Wednesday fans in Thailand will see WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (49-0, 17) return to the ring for his first fight of the year, as he battles mandatory challenger Leroy Estrada (16-2, 6) in Nakhon Ratchasima. For the unbeaten Thai the bout is a chance to go 50-0, and match the unbeaten run of American icon Floyd Mayweather Jr, and would also be Wanheng's 9th defense of the title. As for Estrada the bout is a chance for him to announce himself on the world stage and claim his first world title.
The 32 year old Thai has been the WBC champion since November 2014, whenhe stopped Oswaldo Novoa, and has gone on to defend the title against the likes of Jeffrey Galero, Go Odaira, Saul Juarez, Melvin Jerusalem and Tatsuya Fukuhara. In a number of those bouts, such as the ones against Juarez, Jerusalem and Fukuhara, we've seen Wanheng pushed all the way as younger fighters have given him issues with volume and speed. Although on paper he won all 3 of those bouts they were very competitive and showed a number of flaws with the Thai.
At his best Wanheng is a calculated pressure fighter. He uses a tight guard, comes forward well and throws accurate, solid combinations. He's not a big puncher, but he's a solid hitter who will land clean and switch between head and body well. He's at his best at mid to close to range but has a decent jab at distance. Unfortunately for him he's a relatively small Minimumweight and at 32 he's not got the energy to fight at a high tempo and move through all the gears any more, and he can be out worked.
The champion's tight defense has kept damage down through his career, but with 394 already under his belt from an 11 year career he's clearly taken some punishment. His chin hasn't shown any real cracks but as he gets older the accumulation of those rounds may take it's toll and it's clear he hasn't been up against any of the division's really big punchers, like Hiroto Kyoguchi or Vic Saludar.
The 23 year old challenger is known as "El Sensacional" and proved to be a sensation early in his career, debuting at just 16 years old and reeling off 7 straight wins to begin his career. Sadly for him his 6th victory, a majority decision over Mercedes Concepcion, lead to a rematch which saw Estrada being stopped in the 6th round. The bout saw Estrada being out manned by Concepcion who dropped him several times to gain revenge for his narrow loss. That set back saw Estrada take time away from the ring before returning and looking even better as he strung together 5 more wins. Sadly that winning run would come to an end in 2014 when he was out pointed by Carlos Ortega, who also holds a win over Gilberto Pedroza.
Despite the set backs Estrada has gritted his teeth and is currently riding a 4 fight winning run, including a big 2017 win over Saul Juarez in a world title eliminator. Sadly for Estrada that bout is his only bout in the last 18 months. In fact he has only fought 17 rounds, combined, in 2016 and 2017. That isn't the activity a fighter needs heading into a world title fight, in fact that's the sort of activity that will really harm a youngster like Estrada.
The footage of Estrada shows a pretty talented boxer move with nice hand speed and good counter punching. Sadly though that same footage makes him look rather light fisted, negative and in some ways made to order for a fighter like Wanheng. Despite being young and fresh faced Estrada doesn't have a high work rate, instead choosing to be selective with his punches rather than overwhelming. Against Wanheng we suspect Estrada walked down, and broken down with body shots, before simply being stopped in the mid to late rounds.
Estrada is a talented fighter but we can't see him over-coming the highly skilled champion here.
The current era of Japanese youngsters is brilliant, and there is no doubting that we are witnessing a golden age of Japanese boxing with so much young talent in the country. Among the most impressive of those fighters is WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (15-0, 15), who has a perfect KO record and is quickly proving himself as one of the most destructive fighters in the sport. This coming Sunday Higa will be returning to the ring as he hunts his third defense of the title, and takes on Nicaraguan challenger Cristofer Rosales (26-3, 17) in Kanagawa. Not only will it be Higa's 3rd defense, but another stoppage win will see him take the #1 spot on the Japanese all time record for most consecutive KO's. For Rosales it will be a chance to become a world champion, and follow in the footsteps of other great Nicaraguan's like Roman Gonzalez and Alexis Arguello.
Higa's rise has been one of the best in Japan. Unlike Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka, who were both amazing amateur's, Higa's rise has been somewhat unexpected but truly fantastic. Having made his debut in the summer of 2014 Higa was a bit an unknown until his 2015 win over Kongfah CP Freshmart in Thailand. Since then he has made statement, after statement, stopping Ardin Diale in 4 rounds for the OPBF Flyweight title, blasting out Juan Hernandez in 6 rounds for the WBC title and recently stopping Moises Fuentes inside a round.
In the ring Higa is a little monster. He's a busy, accurate, hard hitting pressure fighter who brings the pressure from the off, has an under-rated jab and throws beautifully vicious combinations and body shots. Offensively the champion is a machine, and looks similar in style to a prime Roman Gonzalez, with his pressure, footwork and destructive combinations. Defensively however he's a bit flawed. He can be caught, he be out manoeuvred and he has been caught once or twice early in a fight. He's not shown any issues with his chin, and does take few shots clean, but there is holes there that could encourage future opponents.
Aged 23 Rosales is already a young veteran, with this bout set to be his 30th in less than 5 years! That sounds impressive but only tells half of the story about the man from Managua. His first loss, in just his 3rd bout, came to Keyvin Lara, who challenged Kazuto Ioka in 2016 and put up a really good effort, his second loss was in a somewhat competitive contest to current WBA Super Flyweight champion Kal Yafai whilst his most recent loss was to Andrew Selby, in a much more competitive bout than the score cards suggest. As well as those losses Rosales has shown his ability with wins against the likes of Eliecer Quezada, Martin Tecuapetla and Mohammad Obbadi.
Rosales is an aggressive fighter, but not in the same out and out pressure style as Higa. Instead he's a bit more of a boxer-puncher, with very solid power, good boxing skills and the ability to fight at range of up close. He's a very tough and dangerous fighter, and the scare he gave Andrew Selby showed how good he really is. He may not have his name in the mix a top tier fighter, but that's more because of how over-looked he is rather than how good he is.
Rosales is a really dangerous and tough opponent. He's not going to b there to lose, to look for a way out or to come out second best. Instead he's travelling to win, and make the most of this voluntary title fight. It's a very risky move from Higa's team to face someone as dangerous as Rosales but it's clear that the champion wants tough opponents and wants to increase his profile by beating top fighters. Despite how good Rosales is, we thing Higa is something very special. Rosales won't travel to Japan to lose, but Higa will take the decision out of his hands, and will break him down with body shots to break through the resolve of Rosales, in similar fashion to Hiroto Kyoguchi's win against Carlos Buitrago late last year.
Last August we saw the long WBC Bantamweight reign of Shinsuke Yamanaka (27-1-2, 19) come to an end. By that point he had held the title for over 2100 days, or close to 6 years. During that time he had gone from obscure Japanese fighter, best known for his thrilling Japanese title fight with Ryosuke Iwasa, to a man listed in many pound-for-pound lists and a man with 12 world title defenses. He was dethroned by Mexican youngster Luis Nery (25-0, 19), who impressed by stopping Yamanaka in 4 rounds in Kyoto. The performance was a coming out event for Nery, though one that would later have a cloud hanging over it due to a failed drugs test by the Mexican.
This coming Thursday the two men meet again. For Nery it's a chance to prove that he is the better fighter, and that the drugs were incidental to his winning performance, for Yamanaka it's a chance to avenge his sole defeat and become a 2-time champion. For fans around the world it's an opportunity to see two world class Bantamweights go at it again, live on NTV.
Aged 35 Yamanaka is an old fighter, especially for the lower weights. On the whole he has avoided damaging bouts, but as he's gotten older the damage has accumulated and he's started to show more and more cracks in his chin and his reactions aren't what they once were. In his pre-prime days he was involved in the aforementioned thriller with Iwasa and it wasn't really until his 2014 clash with Suriyan Sor Rungvisai that anyone really ran him close. Sadly following the bout with Suriyan we seemed to have seen a faded Yamanaka, who narrowly over-came Anselmo Moreno in their first bout, was dropped twice by Liborio Solis in 2016 and dropped by Moreno in their second bout.
Although Yamanaka was never a technical wizard he was a solid boxer, with an extremely potent left hand. The power of left led to the nickname “God's Left” and whilst that power is still very devastating there is a feeling that age has really caught up with him. His footwork, which was once his best tool to set up the power shots, is slowing and his defense wasn't ever a strong suit. He may still have one great last performance in the bag, though it may well be that that last hurrah was his stoppage win over Moreno in 2016.
At just 23 the future is amazingly bright for Nery, who has become a big star in his homeland. The Mexican is a flawed but exciting and aggressive fighter. He brings a lot of pressure and is surprisingly quick with his hands, which are double a problem given that he too is a southpaw, and he is a high volume puncher who really loves letting his punches go. Although explosive and physically imposing Nery does have questions over his own chin, and he was dropped last time out by the accurate but relatively light punching Arthur Villanueva. Given his style he makes the most of his youthful energy, though some questions should be asked about his stamina, and he has only done 24 rounds in his last 6 bouts combined with only 1 career bout going beyond 9 rounds.
Although flawed there is a real feeling that Nery has the style to always trouble Yamanaka. Even a prime Yamanaka didn't like incessant pressure, this was shown against Iwasa and more recently against Suriyan and Solis. There is a chance that Nery's chin wouldn't hold up to a perfect left hand from Yamanaka, though with the Mexican being busy, young and quick, he will feel confident of swarming Yamanaka, cramping him of space and working away on the inside. Where Nery perhaps is at a big disadvantage is his natural size, and he does seem like a fighter who struggles to comfortably make 118lbs, with 2 of his recent bouts taking place above the divisional limit. If he's struggling he may just cause himself enough issues to take away the edges he has.
We suspect this bout will be similar to the first. Yamanaka will have some success when he's got the bout at range, making the most of Nery's slower feet, but the Mexican will gradually get closer, and will begin to break down the Japanese veteran, eventually stopping Yamanaka, and retiring him. There is a chance Yamanaka will land a trademark thunderbolt left hand, but that's all he has, a puncher's chance.
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.