By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On November 7th, at the Saitama Super Arena, the undefeated Takuma Inoue and Nordine Oubaali clash for the unified WBC Bantamweight World championship.
Takuma Inoue (13-0 / 3 KOs) is the younger brother of Japanese phenom Naoya Inoue. He took up boxing at a very young age, after watching his sibling compete. During his amateur days, he won several tournaments, including the National Sports Festival in 2011, which is considered to be Japan’s premier sporting event. Takuma also placed second the following year, losing only to future 3 division World champion Kosei Tanaka. His record stood at 52-5.
Showing much promise as an amateur, Takuma made his pro debut in 2013, when he was barely 18 years old. His first opponent was future WBO World Champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-7). Even though he was outmatched, Inoue managed to pull off the upset and get the unanimous decision over the much more experienced boxer.
The Japanese rising star’s sound skills and technique brought him victory once again over another worthy foe in Teeraphong Utaida (38-7). After knocking out a debuting Chalerm Kotala, Inoue outclassed world title challenger Nestor Daniel Narvaes (20-3), in just his fourth bout.
Takuma would fight Mark Anthony Geraldo (38-9) in 2015, to capture the vacant OPBF title and also to make 2 successful defenses. He then met Filipino standout Froilan Saludar (31-3) at the Sky Arena in Japan, where despite getting dropped early in the first, he returned the favor in the later rounds.
Missing an entire year due to a hand injury, Inoue made his return on August of 2017, in an epic war with 4 time world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18). Both men went back and forth for 10 rounds, exchanging shots and stealing the show. Takuma remained unbeaten and proved that he was back and stronger than ever. Since then, he has defeated Kentaro Masuda (27-9), Waldo Sabu (13-14) and John Yap (30-14).
Finally, on December of last year, Takuma fought Tasana Salapat (52-1) for the interim WBC Bantamweight World title. Undefeated at the time and with 37 KOs under his belt, the Thai knockout artist couldn’t figure out a way to take his opponent out this time. The Japanese fighter used his speed and put together some excellent combinations to dominate the match, even hurting Salapat on a few occasions in the later rounds, after landing some crisp right hooks and straights. When the final bell rang, Takuma was the clear and decisive winner. He now has the chance to become the unified WBC champion, in his home country, but his next fight won’t be an easy one.
Nordine Oubaali (16-0) spent almost a decade competing in amateur boxing, gaining experience and honing his craft. He participated in 2 Olympics (2008 & 2012) and also won bronze at the World & European Union championships.
The Frenchman finally turned pro in 2014, winning 10 bouts in the span of 2 years, 7 of them via (T)KO. He then squared off with Julio Cesar Miranda (42-14), on December of 2016, for the WBA Intercontinental title. Oubaali overwhelmed the former World champion with a plethora of punches, scoring 3 knockdowns in the process.
Half a year later, he fought former interim WBO titlist Alejandro Hernandez (31-13), with the WBC Silver crown on the line. Oubaali was in complete control throughout the entire time. He dropped Hernandez thrice, once in the 1st after landing 3 back to back straight lefts, then in the 3rd with a thunderous right hook and again in the 8th. The referee finally stopped the contest in the 10th due to a nasty cut over Alejandro’s left eye.
After delivering a stunning knockout over Mark Anthony Geraldo (38-9) and easily dispatching world title challenger Luis Melendez (47-13) in just 2 rounds, Oubaali eventually earned a shot at the big one.
This past January, he took the former WBA (Super) champion Rau'shee Warren (16-3) the distance, to claim the vacant WBC Bantamweight World title for his own. It was an even fight at the beginning. Oubaali started taking over as we reached round 7, throwing more punches than his opponent, as well as the more significant ones. That was the first time in 3 years that a fight of his had gone to the judges’ scorecards. His inaugural title defense was a one sided affair against Arthur Villanueva (32-4), whom he knocked down 2 times, before retiring on his stool. The Frenchman will now travel to Japan in order to unify the WBC titles.
Both men’s pro careers began with only a few months difference from each other, and in that relatively short time, they already have become champions. It’s easy to spot the similarities as well as the differences between the two. They both share a successful amateur background, but undoubtedly, Oubaali has had the better run. Experience is definitely on his side, with approximately 15 years into the sport. On the other hand though, Takuma is way younger than him, a decade younger to be exact, which makes him the fresher and faster athlete. Both have been in the ring with accomplished opponents, although the level of competition might be slightly higher in Oubaali’s case. Moreover, Takuma, even though he’s a crafty fighter, he lacks the knockout power his brother possesses, whereas Oubaali has a 75% KO ratio and is known for scoring multiple knockdowns in his matches, preferably with the left, which has put away most of his former rivals. To sum this up, for all of his impressive performances in the past, Inoue has never faced a boxer, the caliber of Oubaali. He’s outmatched and outgunned. But that has been pretty much the story of his entire career. So can Takuma survive the “French invasion”? We are about to find out.
It's fair to state the Minimumweight division hasn't had a great year in 2019. We've seen only 3 successful defenses so far this year, and whilst it has 2 new champions neither has yet to make a defense of their title. There has been activity in the division, and even one or two fantastic bouts, but on the whole it's really been a poor and unremarkable year for the division. And that's coming from us, and we are huge fans of the little guys!
Thankfully it does look like we could get a really exciting match up before the year is over as WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 13) defends his belt against South African challenger Simpiwe Konkco (19-5-0-1, 7) on October 25th. This bout, a mandatory for Wanheng, will be the Thai's 12th defense of the title he won almost 5 years ago. On the other hand it will be Koncko's second bout for a major title, though he has previously held the IBO belt twice.
At 33 years old the champion is old for a Minimumweight, but is still younger than some of the challengers around like Norihito Tanaka and Shin Ono, who are both in their mid 30's and Gabriel Mendoza, who is set to challenge for a world title at the age of 40. What's more impressive than Wanheng's age is his ring years. He has a been a professional for almost 13 years, has 53 bouts behind him and 425 professional rounds. For a fighter to have a 53 fight unbeaten run is rare, though has been done in the past, but for a world champion in today's era to have over 400 rounds, over 50 bouts and remain in 1 weight class is genuinely impressive. The dedication to fight at the same weight through his entire career has to be applauded.
Sadly what can't be applauded is Wanheng's competition. There are a number of solid wins on his record, such as victories over Florante Condes, Oswaldo Novoa, Tatsuya Fukuhara, Saul Juarez, Pedro Taduran and Melvin Jerusalem, but for a man with over 50 wins that's an unimpressive line up.
In the ring Wanheng is incredibly talented. He's a smart fighter who applies pressure behind a tight guard, with good, clever footwork, he presses well, and defends well. When up close he lets his combinations fly, and his body shots are really eye catching. Whilst he does do somethings really well he does lack power, he's not the quickest, or the busiest and he has had some luck with judges in the past. He's a hard man to beat, but certainly not unbeatable, and we suspect the best way to beat him is to out work him, keep him behind his tight guard and get away before he gets close enough to set off his own combinations. It's something we've seen tried, and something that has really shown flaws in Wanheng's style, but the Thai has always done enough to get the nod from the judges.
On paper Koncko doesn't look like a qualified challenger, he's already lost 5 of his 24 bouts and has been stopped in 3 losses. What that doesn't tell you is anything in regards to context, with Koncko going 6-4 to begin his career before rolling off a 13-1-0-1 stretch over the last few years. That stretch of success has seen him lose on to Hekkie Budler, in a very competitive all-South African bout, whilst notching wins against the likes of Zukisani Kwayiba, Siyabonga Siyo, Nkosinathi Joyi, Lito Dante and Toto Landero. Maybe not murderer's row but still solid wins, and wins that show how misleading his record is.
In the ring Koncko is a very tough guy, the early KO losses shouldn't be seen a sign of a poor chin, but more inexperience at the time. What he's become is a smart fighter, able to counter well, set a high pace when he needs to and hit with much more power than his record suggests. He's notable a patient fighter, looking for the right time to strike, but when he gets on the front foot he is a solid guy, with a hard right hand. He gauges distance well and does find gaps will alarming frequency. Sadly though his work rate isn't as high or as consistent as we'd think it'd need to be to beat Wanheng in Thailand.
Stylistically this should be interesting, with Koncko being a skilled boxer who can hold his own with Wanheng on a technical level. The difference though is that Koncko is unlikely to be getting a decision in Thailand, against the ever hostile Thai conditions. He doesn't fight at a high enough pace to make Wanheng uncomfortable, nor does he appear to have the 1-punch power to hurt the Thai. Wanheng will almost certainly rack up the rounds, buoyed on by local fans and take a clear, but hard fought decision in a technically high level bout.
This may not be the most fun to watch, but it has the ingredients to be a very interesting contest.
Prediction UD12 Wanheng
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
A major boxing clash takes place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 18th, as Artur Beterbiev and Oleksandr Gvozdyk put their respective IBF & WBC Light Heavyweight titles on the line, in what it’s guaranteed to be a fight of the year candidate.
Artur Beterbiev (14-0 / 14 KOs) began his career as an amateur, winning the World championship and World Cup once each, as well as the Europeans twice, subsequently earning the honorary title of “National Master of Sports”. During those years, he held victories over future Olympic medalists, such as Egor Mekhontsev (gold), Kenny Egan (silver), Abbos Atoev (bronze) and future pro world champions like Sergey Kovalev & Yuniel Dorticos.
He finally made his pro debut in 2013, quickly amassing 5 consecutive stoppages, before facing his first legit opponent in Tavoris Cloud (24-3). Beterbiev dropped the former IBF World champion thrice in the opening round and put him down for the final time in the 2nd after landing a short left hook to the chin, thus becoming the first man to knockout Cloud, in what turned out to be the last match of his career.
Beterbiev proceeded to defend his NABO title against Jeff Page (18-3) and also win the IBF North American championship. Despite suffering an early knockdown, he returned the favor two times, while finishing the job once again with the left hook. This was Page’s first ever loss.
Continuing his path of destruction in 2015-2016, he outboxed the former WBA World champion Gabriel Campillo (25-8) and KOed him with a powerful straight right, in only 4 rounds. After that, he added Alexander Johnson (17-4), Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna (26-6), Isidro Ranoni Prieto (27-3) to his victim’s list and the WBO International title to his collection.
His big moment came in November of 2017, when he met the 2 time WBA Intercontinental champion Enrico Koelling (26-3) for the vacant IBF title. Beterbiev was clearly the superior boxer, being way ahead in points, as Koelling barely offered any significant offense of his own. It was the one and only time a fight of his went 12 rounds, but he still didn’t need the judges, since he scored 2 knockdowns in the closing moments, causing the referee to stop the fight and crown him the new IBF Light Heavyweight champion of the world.
The Russian marked his inaugural title defense last October against the then undefeated British & Commonwealth champion Callum Johnson (18-1). These 2 bruisers engaged in an incredible brawl, trading big shots as well as knockdowns, much to the excitement of the fans in attendance. However, Callum made the mistake of closing the distance, which is where Beterbiev excels at the most, thus taking two rapid blows to the chin and to the temple, putting an end to the Englishman’s world championship aspirations.
Dispatching mandatory challenger Radivoje Kalajdzic (24-2) with relative ease, earlier this year, Beterbiev now looks to cement his legacy by fighting a fellow unstoppable fighter and become a double world champion. But the road to glory passes through a rather tough rival.
Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-0), much like Beterbiev, used to compete in the amateurs, where he won the European Cup and most importantly the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Games. His reported record was 225-30.
In his 10th match as a pro, he dropped Nadjib Mohammedi (42-8) with a lighting fast right cross during the 2nd round. The Ukrainian defeated 2 more world title challengers in Tommy Karpency (29-7) and Isaac Chilemba (25-7) on the same year.
In 2018, Gvozdyk bested former European champion Mehdi Amar (35-6) for the right to face the WBC & Lineal World champion Adonis Stevenson (29-2), who at the time, was undefeated for 7 years and with 24 KOs under his belt. Gvozdyk scored an early knockdown in the 3rd after landing a clean straight right, but the referee called it a slip for some reason. He survived Stevenson’s superman punch in the 10th and hurt the champ before the round ended. The finish came at the 11th, after a plethora of strikes, finally stopping Adonis with a right straight to the chin, ending the reign of one of the best Light Heavyweights in history.
Unfortunately, Gvozdyk’s 1st defense wasn’t as impressive, since Doudou Ngumbu (38-10) suffered a calf injury during the 5th round, which led to the referee stoppage. Up untl that point, the champion was in control from the opening bell, putting together some slick combinations and his jab to good use. Now, almost a year away from the biggest fight of his career, he gets the opportunity to make the headlines once again, by gunning for a second world title.
It’s always intriguing to see 2 undefeated champions fight each other, but at the same time, it’s tough to pick a winner, since neither man has ever tasted defeat before. Gvozdyk is a much more technical boxer, buying his time and wearing his opponents down before going in for the kill, which most times comes in the form of a straight right. Beterbiev’s style on the other hand is far more aggressive. You can understand that, by simply looking at his record. Only 3 of his fights have gone past the 4th round. What’s also impressive about him is that he can muster a lot of energy behind his short range punches, even when his foe has him clinched. However, the most important statistic about Beterbiev might be this: 100% finishing ratio ! Not a single man that has stepped into the ring with him has managed to go the distance. It won’t be a surprise if he is the one to hand Gvozdyk his 1st loss as a pro. However, if Gvozdyk can survive the early onslaught, he might have a shot at outpointing the Russian. So who walks away the unified WBC/IBF Light Heavyweight World champion??? We will find out this coming Friday in Philly!
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On July 13, Tomoki Kameda returns to the US, after 4 years, to clash with Rey Vargas for the 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, with all 3 siblings eventually winning the big one. Unlike most Japanese fighters who stay and train in Japan, Tomoki moved to Mexico when he was just 15 years old, in order to learn more about the sport and to hone his craft. He managed to reach the finals of the Guantes de Oro Tournament (Mexican for Golden Gloves) but lost, ironically enough, to 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 (36-2 / 20 KOs) became quite popular in Mexico, since he spent the vast majority of his career there, earning the nickname El Mexicanito. His style of fighting used to be quite 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 title.
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 losses, 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 (Regular) Bantamweight Champion Jamie McDonnell, in a unification bout. However, since the WBO wouldn’t sanction the fight, he relinquished his belt so he could compete for the WBA championship. Despite dropping McDonnell in the 3rd, 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 favor.
When Tomoki returned to action, after a 13 month hiatus, he decided to move up to Super Bantamweight. In his match with Daniel Noriega (May 2018) we saw glimpses of the old Mexicanito, fighting in a much more aggressive pace, even dropping Noriega in the 5th round. After going 4-0 at this new weight class, he was involved in an interim WBC title fight, this past November, with the EBU European champion Abigail Medina. Kameda controlled the pace from the get go, punishing his rival with fasts jabs, strong hooks and some perfectly placed body shots. In the end, Tomoki earned himself a unanimous decision victory and the interim WBC strap. Now he will finally have the opportunity to meet Vargas in the ring again, for a shot at the gold.
Rey Vargas (33-0 / 22 KOs) has spent the majority of his life boxing. During his amateur days, he accumulated 7 national titles as well as the 2009 Pan-American championship. A year later, he made his pro debut. He was still 19 at the time.
Much like Tomoki, he used to be much more tenacious in the ring. Up until 2016, he had finished 22 out of his 28 fights, including stoppages over former world title challengers like Silvester Lopez, Christian Esquivel, Cecilio Santos and Juanito Rubillar. His speed and reach advantage were enough to give him the edge over most of his opponents.
Vargas’ 1st major win was against former 2 time WBA Super Flyweight World champion Alexander Munoz, in September of 2016. The young Mexican star dropped the veteran four times within five rounds, twice with the right hook, once with an uppercut and finished the job in the 5th with a straight right to secure the WBC International Silver title and the #1 contendership.
In 2017, he fought Gavin McDonnell for the vacant WBC Super Bantamweight crown. Despite taking a lot of damage in the later rounds, he managed to survive that and come out with the World championship. Since then, Vargas has defended his title 4 times against Ronny Rios, Oscar Negrete, Azat Hovhannisyan and Franklin Manzanilla. Even though his speed and head movement were still there, his aggressiveness wasn’t. In all of these last 5 bouts, he was content to keep his competition at bay and to just win on the judges scorecards. No doubt this will be the strategy for his upcoming fight too.
All in all, it’s safe to assume that Tomoki vs. Vargas will not be a crowd pleaser. Yes, we are talking about 2 really skilled boxers, with a lot of finesse and technique, but both lack the explosiveness that once made them popular. Vargas is most likely to walk out of California the victor as he’s going to use his reach and prohibit Tomoki from coming near him but if somehow El Mexicanito manages to close the distance, he might have a chance at officially becoming a 2 division world champion. We will find out for sure this Saturday night.
The Light Flyweight division has, over the last few years, been one of the best divisions in the sport. It has given us clash after clash between top fighters, with champions rarely picking picking easy defenses, and with fighters delivering top action at a high skill level. Among the division's finest for the last few years has been Japan's Kenshiro (15-0, 8), the current WBC champion and one of the standout fighters on the Japanese scene and of the most rounded Light Flyweights on the planet. On July 12th Kenshiro makes his next defense, as he takes on mandatory challenger Jonathan Taconing (28-3-1, 22), who is getting his third shot at a world title.
The 27 year old Kenshiro is a second generation fighter, following in the huge footsteps of Hisashi Teraji, a former Japanese Middleweight and OPBF Light Heavyweight champion. He was tipped as one to watch as soon as he turned professional, and quickly raced through the rankings, unifying the JBC, OPBF and WBC Youth titles in a little over 2 years of his debut. In just his 10th bout he claimed the WBC title, dethroning Mexican veteran Ganigan Lopez, and has already racked up 5 defenses of the belt.
As the WBC champion Kenshiro has proven himself an excellent fighter, whilst scoring wins against the likes of Pedro Guevara, Milan Melindo, Saul Juarez and Lopez, in a rematch with the veteran. Not only has he been beating really good fighters but he's been showing different things in every fight. That has been shown by the way he dominated Melindo with his jab and took out Lopez in their rematch with a body shot, stopping two good veterans in the process. Their are still question marks about his power, his chin and how he copes with intense pressure, but so far has done little other than impress and improve to become one of the true divisional stars.
Filipino fighter Jonathan Taconing has been one of the division's forgotten contenders in recent years, and at 32 is now entering what is likely his final world title shot. He's been a professional for more than 12 years and has, unfortunately, been one of the card carrying members of the "who needs him?" club for much of that time, with fighters knowing what he is, and knowing he's not worth the risk. Early in his career he suffered a could of set backs, a narrow loss to Joe Galamition and a technical draw with Erwin Picardal. Since then he has gone 21-2 (17) with both losses coming in world title bouts, one of which was a very controversial one in Thailand whilst the other was to the aforementioned Ganigan Lopez in Mexico.
Taconing is a herd hitting and teak tough southpaw slugger. He's technically not the smoothest, or the quickest or the most rounded, but he's a nightmare to fight due to his physicality, and he can really bully people. His southpaw stance makes him double awkward with his shots, which are unorthodox anyway, coming from really unusual angles. He can certainly be out boxed, as Lopez showed, but it will take a fighter with a disciplined game plan to out box him. He can, potentially, be out fought, but it really would take a very special fighter to do that, and someone who could not only take his shots but also hit him hard enough to get his respect. Something that is easier said than done.
Sadly for Taconing we expect to see his technical flaws be the different here, and for Kenshiro to box smartly, stay on his toes and simple out box, out skill and out speed the dangerous challenger. If he does that it's hard to see anything but a Kenshiro win, though one where there is always the potential for danger. Taconing will have the power to turn things around, though we don't see him landing accurately enough or clean enough to make the most of his brutal power against one of the division's best fighters.
Prediction UD12 Kenshiro
The WBC world title picture at Bantamweight is a series mess with the body having one of their more confusing title pictures, with a world champion, and interim champion and a silver champion. The title scene really is a mess due to issues caused in 2018 by Mexican fighter Luis Nery, who failed a drug test and subsequently failed to make weight. Despite his issues Nery is actually the #1 ranked and current Silver champion.
Rather than going into detail about Nery, and his various issues, it's worth noting that him and Takuma Inoue, the interim champion, are both vying for a future world title fight, likely later in the year. They do however have to wait, and next up for the main title will be the first defense of unbeaten French champion Nordine Oubaali (15-0, 11), who takes on Filipino challenger Arthur Villanueva (32-3-1, 18) on July 6th. The bout isn't the most interesting, given the talent in the division and the long line of WBC challengers, but it's a notable bout headlining an MTK card in Kazakhstan, and certainly deserves some real attention.
The unbeaten champion, a French fighter with Morocan heritage, was an outstanding amateur competing at 2 Olympics and 3 world amateur championships. Although his best result was "only" a bronze medal, at the 2007 World Championships in Chicago, he was clearly talented and that showed in his consistency and success in the World Series Boxing, where he fought for the Paris United Franchise. That experience in the amateurs and WSB saw Oubaali turn professional with some pretty lofty expectations 2014 and since then the southpaw has impressed picking up minor titles before claiming the WBC belt last year.
As a fighter Oubaali is a talented southpaw boxer-puncher with excellent skills and solid punching power. He turned professional in 2014 and was kept busy early on in his career against mostly limited opponents, but in 2016 he stopped both Iran Diaz, who later went the distance with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, and Julio Cesar Miranda, a former world champion from Mexico. Those wins put him on the map before he added stoppages against very tough Mexican veteran Alejandro Hernandez, skilled Filipino Mark Anthony Geraldo and tough Colombian Luis Melendez. Most recently he defeated Rau'shee Warren, over 12 rounds, for the WBC title back in January. Notably that bout in January is his only contest in the last 12 months. With a number of good wins he is really one of the top, and most under-rated, Bantamweights out there, with a resume comparable to better recognised fighters at the weight, like Zolani Tete, Emmanuel Rodriguez and Ryan Burnett, and would have been a good addition to the WBSS.
The Filipino challenger was once regarded as a bright hope, though has sadly failed to live up to the expectations on his shoulders. He began his career with 28 straight wins whilst working his way up the world rankings. In 2015 he would then face McJoe Arroyo in a bout for the IBF Super Flyweight title, losing a technical decision in what was a truly stinking bout. He was much more competitive than the score cards suggested, though in reality neither man did much of anything in a truly disappointing match up that never clicked. Since then Villanueva has gone 5-2-1 (4), and not looked particularly good, even in his wins.
At his best he was a methodical fighter, a thinking mans fighter, with good timing, patience and counter punching. He was a chess player in the ring, but unfortunately his skills haven't shown themselves at the top level, and losses to not only Arroyo but also Zolani Tete and Luis Nery, who he dropped before being stopped by, have shown he's a level beneath world class. He's a very capable fighter, but no world beater, and unfortunately fighters will need to be world beaters to beat Oubaali.
We're expecting Villanueva to put up a good effort early on, though as the fight goes on Oubaali's class, clean punching and accuracy will be the difference and by the middle rounds Villanueva will be getting broken down, before being stopped in the second half of the fight.
Prediction - Oubaali TKO9
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On April 26, at the Forum in Inglewood, California, a much anticipated title bout will take place as Srisaket Sor Rungvisai defends his WBC Super Flyweight World Championship against Juan Francisco Estrada, in a rematch, 14 months in the making.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1), unlike most World champions from Thailand, didn’t have a long and successful Muay Thai career, before breaking into the sport. Life forced him 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. He finally took up pro boxing in 2009 and in just 2 years he was the WBC Asia champion.
In 2013, Sor Rungvisai (with a record of 18-3 at the time) challenged Yota Sato (26-3) 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, continuingly punishing him until the referee had to step in and stop the fight in the 8th, crowning Srisaket 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 (15-6) in a one sided beatdown. He lost his belt to Carlos Cuadras (37-3) 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 squared off 2 time world title contender Jose Salgado (36-5). 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 suffered a cut on 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 decision and reclaimed the WBC Super Flyweight World Title.
The rematch was set in September, at the inaugural 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 137 outings.
On February of 2018, Sor Rungvisai defended his belt again, this time against the former WBA & WBO Flyweight World champion Juan Francisco Estrada. In what was considered a Fight Of The Year candidate, both men went to war for 12 rounds in the main event of the second Superfly event. Despite trading hard shots with each other, neither fighter went down and instead came back even stronger. It was anyone’s game, as the balance kept shifting in every round. In the end, Srisaket earned the majority decision and left California with the strap once more.
After stopping former WBC Asia and WBO Asia Pacific champion Young Gil Bae (30-7) in less than 3 minutes, the Thai superstar competed at ONE Championship’s “Kingdom Of Heroes”, this past October, making this match his first world title defense in home soil, since 2013. Sor Rungvisai clashed with former WBC Latino champion & top ranked boxer Iran Diaz (15-3) in a record breaking event, which drew 25 million viewers worldwide. Now as part of Matchroom Boxing, Srisaket will collide with one of his best rivals, in Juan Francisco Estrada.
Juan Francisco Estrada (38-3) made his pro debut at 18 years of age, ending a rather impressive amateur run (94 wins and only 4 losses), and went 18-0 prior to his meeting with future IBF Super Flyweight World champion Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. in 2011. “El Gallo” avenged that loss within the same year, as he stopped Sanchez in the very last round of their second encounter.
After unsuccessfully challenging the then undefeated Chocolatito for the WBA Light Flyweight World title (the one and only time he fought at that division), Estrada quickly bounced back, when he defeated Brian Viloria (38-6) to become the unified WBA & WBO Super Flyweight World champion, just 5 months later. Viloria, 230-8 as an amateur & a former AIBA World champion, was on a 6 fight winning streak and hadn’t lost in 3 years. Most of the fight took place inside the pocket, with both warriors throwing hard shots, punishing each other’s head and body. Estrada got the better of these exchanges, which earned him the split decision and the straps.
His first defense was against the WBO International champion & future IBF Light Flyweight World champion Milan Melindo. The Filipino had never lost a fight (at that point) since his debut in 2005, as he entered his first world title match, with a perfect record of 29 wins and zero losses. It was an intense fight that saw Melindo won a few rounds, but with Estrada always being ahead on the judges score cards and kept pressuring more and more as the time went by, even scoring a knockdown in the 11th after landing a right cross and almost finishing Melindo off in the 12th.
Estrada went on to defend his belts 4 more times against top contenders Richie Mepranum (33-7) & Rommel Asenjo (32-7), as well as former World champions Giovani Segura (33-4) & Hernan Marquez (43-10). That last one must be his most dominant performance thus far, as he broke Marquez down with some exceptional body work and proceeded to drop him on 7 different occasions, between rounds 6 and 10, for his 24th stoppage victory.
In 2017, El Gallo decided to move up a weight class and soon fought the former WBC Super Flyweight World champion Carlos Cuadras (37-3) for the right to challenge the winner of Sor Rungvisai vs. Gonzalez II. Volume and precision were the key factors that gave Estrada the edge he needed to beat the former champ and secure a title shot against Srisaket. Since failing to capture the WBC crown, the Mexican has added 2 more victories to his record and will once again be able to fight for that same championship.
It’s hard to predict who’s going to have the advantage here, especially when you consider their 1st match and how close it was. Estrada is slightly taller & younger than his opponent and has the bigger reach. Experience is pretty much even as Srisaket might have more fights under his belt as a pro, but Estrada has a lengthy amateur career. On the other hand, the Thai champion definitely has the power on his side, with 87% of his victories coming via KO/TKO and has also finished many of his past foes with the right hand, despite being a southpaw. Moreover, both love to throw fast and strong combinations and are not afraid to go to war if need be. So what could be the game changer this time around? Well, as we saw in Sor Rungvisai vs. Chocolatito II, it’s obvious that Srisaket had studied him and managed to find a chink in Gonzalez’s armor, which led to the fight being over in just 4 rounds. So the question that comes to mind is that IF history can repeat itself. Could Srisaket have spotted a weakness in Estrada’s gameplan from their previous encounter? Or will Estrada surprise Srisaket with some new tricks? We will find out on April 26.
Although often described as a division with no depth the Minimumweight division is current a really interesting one, with several notable fighters all in or around world level. One of these is WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18), who notched his 52nd straight win last November, as he defeated Mektison Marganti in a stay busy bout. Not only is Wanheng the holder of a perfect 52 fight winning record, but he is also the longest reigning active male world champion, having held the title for over 4 years and making 10 defenses.
In the coming days Wanheng will seek his 11th defense of the title, as he takes on former WBO champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6-6, 7) in what will be a second meeting between the two men.
These two first fought in 2017, when Fukuhara gave Wanheng a serious test and could well have got the decision had the bout not been held in Thailand. Now, more than a year later, Fukuhara returns for a second shot at the Thai champion.
Aged 33 Wanheng is an old man for the smaller weight classes, especially when you consider he has had over 50 bouts, more than 415 professional rounds and has been a professional for more than 12 years. Despite that he hasn't taken much damage and he is a defensively responsible fighter, with a tight guard and a good boxing brain.
Not only is Wanheng defensively smart but he's also offensively smart too. He's not a big puncher, but he's an accurate, clean puncher. He rarely throws when he's out of position or off balance and fires in good sharp counters, applies good pressure behind his guard and unleashes some really impressive combinations. Whilst a smart fighter he doesn't have much in terms of power, he's not the hardest worker, or the quickest out there, and he gets older we suspect that he will become slower and will throw less and less.
Aged 29 Fukuhara is the much younger fighter. Like Wanehng he is a veteran, with more than 10 years of professional experience and over 200 rounds of action. Despite also being a veteran he is stylistically very different to the Thai, relying on work rate, aggression and desire rather than ring IQ and clean punching. Technically he is rather limited, but his will to win is really impressive.
Fukuhara's has had an up and down career. In terms of the highs he reached the final of the 2009 Rookie of the Year, won the Japanese national title in 2015 and the WBO title in 2017. As for lows he has lost most of his notable bouts, including a loss in 2013 to the then debuting Takuma Inoue and losses in 2017 to Ryuya Yamanaka and Menayothin.
We don't think Wanheng will extend his winning record for too much longer. He has been pushed close numerous times in recent bouts, but we do suspect that he will be protected by the conditions and officiating in Thailand for as long as he can be. We think that will play a major role here, in what we're expecting will be a razor close bout, but one which again sees the champion edging the bout in the eyes of the judges.
Fukuhara will set a high work rate, he knows he has too, but unless he can really hurt Wanheng he doesn't have much of a chance of getting the decision in the Land of Smiles and instead we're expecting a close judges decision to the Thai.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On December 30, live on Fuji Television, Takuma Inoue takes on undefeated Thai boxer Petch Sor Chitpattana for the Interim WBC Bantamweight World Championship.
Takuma Inoue (12-0 / 3 KOs) is the younger brother of Japanese multi-time World champion, Naoya Inoue. He took up boxing at a very young age, after watching his sibling compete. During his amateur days, he won several tournaments, including the National Sports Festival in 2011 at Minimumweight, which is considered to be Japan’s premier sporting event. Takuma also placed second in 2012 at Light Flyweight, losing only to future 3 division World champion Kosei Tanaka. His record stood at 52-5.
Showing much promise as an amateur, Takuma made his pro debut in 2013, when he was barely 18 years old. His first opponent was future WBO Minimumweight World Champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6). Even though he was outmatched, Inoue managed to pull off the upset and get the unanimous decision over the much more experienced boxer. That was his one and only pro fight in the light flyweight division.
He immediately jumped to flyweight, facing a worthy foe in Teeraphong Utaida (37-6). Neither the fact that he moved up a weight class nor that he transitioned from 6 to 8 rounds, scared the young Japanese prodigy. Once again, Takuma proved he is a force to be reckoned with, going the distance and earning yet another victory. After knocking out a debuting Chalerm Kotala, Inoue outclassed world title challenger Nestor Daniel Narvaes (20-3) at super flyweight, despite that being just his fourth fight.
Takuma’s sound skills and technique, earned him his first championship when he fought Mark Anthony Geraldo (35-9), for the vacant OPBF Super Flyweight crown, in 2015. At the time, Inoue was only 19 years old! Before the year was over, he marked his inaugural defense over Rene Dacquel (20-8). For this outstanding year, Takuma was named the “2015 Prospect of the Year” by the Ring magazine.
In 2016, Takuma beat Filipino stand out Froilan Saludar (28-3) at the Sky Arena in Japan, before “graduating” to bantamweight. Saludar managed to drop him early in the first but Inoue returned the favor in the later rounds. The Japanese fighter was set to face Marlon Tapales (31-2) for the WBO Bantamweight World Title on December of the same year. Unfortunately, bad luck stroke Inoue as he fractured his hand in training, thus withdrawing from his one and only world title fight to date.
Inoue made his return on August of 2017, in an epic war with 4-time world title contender Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18). Both men went back and forth for 10 rounds, exchanging shots and stealing the show. Takuma remained unbeaten and proved that he was back and stronger than ever. Since then, he has defeated former Japanese champion Kentaro Masuda (27-9), Indonesian journeyman Waldo Sabu (13-13) and OPBF champion Mark John Yap (29-13), in a WBC eliminator, earning himself another opportunity at the big one.
Tasana Salapat (48-0 / 33 KOs) also known as Petch Sor Chitpattana, is the man that stands between Takuma and the World championship. The former May Thai fighter and 7 year young veteran has made a name for himself in Thailand by knocking people out in impressive fashion. However, a deeper look at his record is enough to let anyone realize that Salapat has never been in the ring with anyone significant. Many of his opponents are either with losing records or debuting, while the majority has almost an equal number of wins and loses. This doesn’t negate the fact that he is a skilled boxer. He does throw fast combinations has tremendous cardio and possesses a mean left, but without having seen him against a world class foe, it’s not easy to say for sure how good he truly is. On the other hand, Takuma has been facing top level competition his entire career. Inoue might not be the KO artist his Thai rival is, but he definitely has the experience factor, considering his amateur and pro pedigree.
The real question is, have Salapat’s 48 fights prepared him for his biggest challenge to date or will he crumble under the pressure when he steps into the ring with one of Japan’s brightest prospects ? Tune in on Fuji TV to find out !
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On December 30, Ken Shiro will defend the WBC Light Flyweight World Championship, for the 5th time, against Mexican challenger Saul “Baby” Juarez, live on Fuji Television, in Japan.
Ken Shiro (14-0 / 8 KOs) 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), 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 (37-30), Katsunori Nagamine (15-2), Takashi Omae (13-6) and Rolly Sumalpong (10-3). On December of 2015, Shiro was in a thrilling encounter with Kenichi Horikawa (38-15) 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 challenger Atsushi Kakutani (19-7). 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 (20-9), as well as defended it once against Lester Abutan (13-9), 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 (35-8) 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 at the time. “El Maravilla” had won the belt a year prior to their encounter, from Yu Kimura, and was determined to leave Japan once again with the gold. 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 (33-3). 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 (18-5). It was a one-sided affair that ended violently in the 4th, 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 timed right hook to the body, leaving the former champion unable to answer the referee’s 10 count, plus putting any doubts of his legitimacy to rest.
Ken Shiro more recently marked his 4th defense against the former IBF World champion Milan Melindo (37-4), at the Yokohama Arena. Undoubtedly one of his best performances today, Shiro dominated in every round, almost leaving no room for offense to his opponent, punishing Melindo with fast combinations through out the match, until the end came in the 7th round, via referee stoppage.
Saul Juarez (24-8 / 13 KOs) will be the fifth man that will attempt to dethrone the unstoppable Japanese Superstar. “Baby’s” career has been filled with ups and downs. From winning the Cinturon de Oro XVI Light Flyweight Tournament, during his early days as a pro, to straggling to earn a shot at the big one. For example, Juarez managed to stop former WBC Silver champion and world title contender Armando Torres (23-18) back in 2013, but later lost to future IBF champion, the aforementioned Milan Melindo, in a world title eliminator.
Two of his biggest victories came in 2015, against former WBC World champion Adrian Hernandez (30-5). However, it must be pointed out that his first win was due to a cut, while the second one was a split decision, in which Hernandez also dropped him during the early rounds. Soon after, Juarez transitioned to the Minimumweight division. Despite scoring a win over former champion Oswaldo Novoa (14-8), he failed to capture the crown when he faced Chayaphon Moonsri (52-0) for the WBC strap.
After a 4 fight losing streak, Juarez made a comeback earlier this year when he defeated the WBC Light Flyweight Silver champion and former world title contender Gilberto Parra (26-4) to win the WBC Latino belt. Now standing as the Number 8 ranked light flyweight by the WBC, the Mexican will challenge Ken Shiro for the World Championship on December 30.
Needless to say, even though Juarez is a strong boxer, he is nowhere near Ken Shiro’s level. His lack of intelligent defense and head movement have cost him many battles, as he lets himself constantly exposed, suffering a lot of damage, thus staying behind on the judges scorecards (Juarez has never been stopped). With fighters like Jonathan Taconing, Edward Heno, Tetsuya Hisada and Ryoichi Taguchi higher on the WBC rankings, it’s clear that Juarez was picked mostly to keep Ken Shiro on his toes. Also, it’s a big tradition in Japan, watching fights during the Holidays, so it’s a chance for Ken Shiro to please the Japanese fans with another spectacular performance and possibly another KO, before the year is over.
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.