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.
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.
One of the Japanese fighters to really move his career on in a big way this year has been Ken Shiro (11-0, 5) [拳 四朗], who claimed the WBC Light Flyweight title and defended it earlier in 2017. He moved from regional and domestic champion to world champion and did so whilst being on the fast track, like a number of other Japanese youngsters. To end the year he looks to record his second defense and over-come Panamanian challenger Gilberto Pedroza (18-3-2, 8).
The Japanese youngster made his mark on the domestic amateur scene before fighting for pay August 2014. From there he has gone from success to success and claimed the WBC Youth, Japanese and OPBF titles before the start of this year. His 2017 has been a really big one with a title win in May against the excellent Ganigan Lopez and his first was equally impressive as he over-came Pedro Guevara.
On one hand his two wins over Guevara and Lopez were majority decision wins, on the other hand they were both hugely impressive performances against world class fighters, and fights that he certainly held his own in. Majority decisions at home can be questioned, but neither of these were poor decisions, just close, competitive wins against top level opponents. They showed that Ken Shiro can box, he can brawl, he can go toe-to-toe, and he can take a shot. He clearly isn't a puncher on the world stage, but he does meld styles brilliantly and that has always been the case.
At just 25 Ken Shiro is perhaps lacking in terms of his “man strength”, explaining why he has had just 2 stoppage wins in his last 7. Despite that he certainly his with respectable power, and fighters won't want to get into a brawl with him too often, as his accuracy and speed are both impressive traits. It is, perhaps, his movement which is his most over-looked skill, but something that was shown early in his career against the very talented Katsunori Nagamine, who he beat on his footwork and jab alone.
Whilst Ken Shiro has taken repeated steps up in class the same can't quite be said for Pedroza. Whilst he has impressed recently, and did score a split decision win over the excellent Saul Juarez last time out, he is lacking good wins. Earlier in his career he was 11-3-2 (6) with losses to Leroy Estrada, Carlos Ortega and Robert Barrera and draws against Carlos Melo and the aforementioned Ortega. Hardly murderer's row. The Juarez win aside there is no other quality win on his record.
Footage of Pedroa shows a rather raw looking fighter, as many non-elite fighters from the Latin American region are. He can certainly fight, and is an exciting fighter, but his offensive work leaves him very open and his defensive work is certainly nothing impressive. Unfortunately for Pedroza he lacks power and in his bout against Barrera he showed real boxing immaturity, allowing Barrera to wail away on him on the ropes until the referee stopped it. He has certainly improved since then, but has he improved enough to really be competing at world level?
Whilst Ken Shiro has impressed without shining this year we expect him to go out with a bang. He's featured live on national Japanese TV for the first time, he know he has a huge opportunity to put on a show and we we expect him to do just that, whilst stopping the visitor from Panama.
This coming Sunday we will be able to see WBC Light Flyweight champion Ken Shiro (10-0, 5) make his first defense of the title as he takes on former champion Pedro Guevara (30-2-1, 17) in a really intriguing mandatory title fight. On one hand there is a chance to see just what Ken Shiro is like as a champion, having risen through the ranks incredibly quickly, whilst on the other hand we'll be able to see however goes about reclaiming the title, which he actually lost in Japan almost 2 years ago.
The linage of the WBC Light Flyweight title in recent years has been really interesting, and dominated by a Japan Vs Mexico rivalry. That rivalry saw Guevara beat Akira Yaegashi for title in 2014, lost it to Yu Kimura in 2015 who in turn lost it to Ganigan Lopez in 2016 and it was Lopez who was beaten by Ken Shiro for the belt, this past May. That rivalry has been an over-looked one, but has certainly been a competitive and entertaining one.
Guevara really shined in his title winning effort against Yaegashi. He looked like a fighter who perfectly combined skills, boxing IQ and power to over-come one of the top modern day warriors. Since then however Guevara has faltered some what. He was unlucky to lose to Kimura, in what was his third defense, but he had been rather lucky to get the win in his previous defense against the aforementioned Lopez. He has also failed to really shine against either Ruben Montoya and Oswaldo Novoa, in bouts since the loss to Kimura.
Although not shining since losing the title it's fair to say that we know how good Guevara is. He holds wins over the likes of Mario Rodriguez, Raul Garcia, Yaegashi, Lopez and Novoa. At one point he was likely regarded as the best fighter in the division and really does combine intelligence with boxing, in a way that very few do. Out of the ring he's an incredible smart man, and in the ring he continues to show that intelligence in his boxing style. At times it's a flaw, with Guevara perhaps lacking a little in activity, but technically he's very good.
On thing worth noting about Guevara coming into this bout is the fact he has only fought 8 rounds in the last 52 weeks, and that type of activity doesn't help a fighter fighting for a world title.
Japanese fighter Ken Shiro was earmarked as a fighter on the fast track from the moment he made his debut, against Heri Amol. In just his 5th bout he claimed the WBC Youth title before assing the Japanese and OPBF titles in his next 3 fights as he began to beat better competition, such as Kenichi Horikawa and Atsushi Kakutani. During his rise he showed he could brawl, box and pretty much slip between the two. He could be hurt, and was dropped early in his career, but showed the know-how to fight to his strengths when he needed to, and he could take a decent shot, as he showed against Lopez earlier this year.
Although a relative novice with just 10 professional bouts under his belt Ken Shiro is actually an experienced fighter, having been a notable amateur before turning professional and he's also from a fighting family with his father having been a former Japanese and OPBF champion himself. Despite the experience he's not the high IQ fighter that Guevara is, but he is well schooled and does show good composure in the ring.
In a neutral venue we suspect that Guevara's higher level of skill and experience would help him to a victory and to reclaiming the title. He is however on the road here, and with crowd being behind Ken Shiro, we suspect he'll be pushed over the line, and narrowly retain the title, in a decision which will be disputed, but not a robbery. Guevara will certainly have really good moments, but those moment will be forgotten as the crowd cheer everything the local star does, and just do enough to help him claim the win.
Currently the Light Flyweight division is one of the most over-looked with a really wonderful mix of talent from around Asia and America. There is no standout #1 fighter but there is a brilliant variety of styles and fighters in the division ranging from the lighting quick Kosei Tanaka to the warrior infused Akira Yaegashi, the calculating Pedro Guevara, the monstrously heavy handed Angel Acosta and the teak tough Jonathan Taconing.
This coming Saturday fans in Tokyo will see two talented fighters in the division battle for the WBC title, in what could be a a technically brilliant and thrilling battle.
In one corner will be WBC champion Ganigan Lopez (28-6, 17), a Mexican southpaw a talented fighter with a real gritty determination that comes with being a grizzled veteran. In the opposite corner will be Japanese youngster Ken Shiro (9-0, 5), a talented boxer-mover who is looking to continue his rise through the ranks.
Of the two Lopez is the more well known, and that's understandable given he's a 35 year old professional with 34 bouts under his belt and has been a professional since 2003. During his long career he has had plenty of ups and down. The lows have included losses to the likes of Juan Palacios, Adrian Hernandez, Jose Alfredo Zuniga, Denver Cuello and Pedro Guevara whilst the highs have included his last two wins, over Yu Kimura and Jonathan Taconing to win and defend the WBC title.
At his best Lopez is a brilliant boxer. He's not the quickest, most powerful, strongest or toughest but he is a fighter with an incredibly good boxing brain, who controls the range and tempo of the bout, boxes at his pace and dictates the fight with timing and accuracy. He can be hurt, he has been stopped, but it takes a special fighter to put him in any trouble and he's learned a lot from his narrow decision losses. Despite his boxing brain he is 35 years old and at Light Flyweight that really is ancient. He's look great in his last two bouts but a fighter at his age can get old over night, especially following a 10 month break from the ring due to issues securing a bout, with talks for a rematch against Guevara faltering.
Aged just 25 Ken Shiro is still a youngster, and looks even younger with a genuine baby face. Despite being a youngster he's an accomplished boxer who first made a name for himself in the amateur ranks before making his professional debut in August 2014. On debut he made a statement by defeating veteran Heri Amol and continued to make waves, beating Katsunori Nagamine in his third bout, claiming the WBC Youth Light Flyweight title in his 5th bout, the Japanese title a fight later and the OPBF title in his 8th professional bout. Whilst winning titles quickly appears to be the done thing in Japan not many are triple crown winners that quickly.
Although Ken Shiro is a talented boxer we have seen a bit of everything from him. We have seen him box, brawl, counter punch and adapt on the fly. His chameleon like ability has been really impressive at times, but has seen him being caught between styles, and it has also seen him being dropped, with Rolly Sumalpong dropping him in the Youth title fight. If he can stick to fighting with one style at a time the youngster could be a real talent, and although it sounds silly in telling him to stick to one style it would likely help him when it comes to actually being in the ring. One game plan that's consistent, with another as a back up, can be much better than trying to be a jack of all trades.
If Ken Shiro, and his team, come up with the right game plan here they have a really good change at over-coming Lopez and claiming a world title. It is however a huge ask for for the youngster against someone with so much experience against world class fighters. Ken Shiro has the ability, but we do wonder whether he has the power, or experience, that he might need here. Ken Shiro will almost certainly have his moments, but we think that Lopez will have more of them, and take a very competitive decision to narrowly retain his title, and confirm his standing as one of the top Light Flyweights on the plant.
If Ken Shiro can pull it off the future almost certainly leads to an all-Japanese unification bout in the very near future, especially given the fact other Japanese fighters hold titles at the weight. It would however by an upset for him to win here
Over the last few years fans of the smaller weights have had numerous treats with some thrilling wars and non-stop action. This weekend we may well see some more great bouts in the lower weights with one potential war coming in Mexico as Filipino banger Jonathan Taconing (22-2-1, 18) gets a long awaited world title shot, and takes on Ganigan Lopez (27-6, 17), the current WBC Light Flyweight champion.
Taconing has been a card holding member of the “Who needs him?” club since 2012, when he got his only previous world title fight and was controversially beaten by Kompayak Porpramook in Thailand. Although an avoided fighter after that bout Taconing has subsequently gone 9-0 (8), claimed the OPBF title and scored notable wins over Vergilio Silvano, Ramon Garcia Hirales and Jomar Fajardo.
Taconing is avoided for a number of reasons. Firstly he's a huge puncher in the lower weights. Only a small number of fighters have heard the final bell against him, and only 1 of the last 9 opponents survived his power, though that one ended early with a technical decision. He's tough having proven his chin in the past and never backing up against the likes of Porpramook, Fajardo or Hirales, and he really trusts his chin. And third he has a great engine. Despite stopping many opponents early he has shown power late in fights, and actually stopped Hirales in the last 10 seconds of the 10th round. Finally, and perhaps worth of all for his opponents, and team, is that he's a southpaw making him even more tricky.
When it comes to the champion we have a talented fighter who has proven he can travel to win bouts, but has had a long and draining career. Aged 34 he's in the twilight of his career, though this is first world title defense and he did score his biggest career victory just 4 months ago, when he travelled to Japan and defeated Yu Kimura for the title. It's worth noting that a year ago he pushed the then champion Pedrio Guevara all the way in a thrilling 12 rounder, in a bout that some thought would be his last hurrah.
In the ring Guevara can both box or fight. He's not an elite boxer but he's got the basics down excellently, as he showed against Kimura, and when he needs to have a war he can. In fact not only can he have a war, but he can take punishment as well, with only one stoppage against him, that coming to the big punching Filipino Denver Cuello who was on a genuinely destructive run at the time and that came at 105lbs.
Coming in to this one we expect a war, a full on violent, and exciting war, though given Taconing's power we eventually think he'll break down the ageing Lopez in the later rounds. Before then however this one will be a lot of fun, with both men being forced to take some seriously big shots.
Japanese boxing ended 2015 on a real high with a number of notable wins by Japanese fighters in world title bouts. Sadly the momentum of 2015 hasn't really carried over into early 2016, which has been a disappointingly quiet period for Japanese boxing.
The period has been so quiet that local fans in Japan don't get to see a world title fight on Japanese soil until May 4th, when they do get two world title bouts.
The first of those will see WBC Light Flyweight champion Yu Kimura (18-2-1, 3) defending his title for the first time. The 32 year old Teiken fighter, who upset Pedro Guevara last November, will not be having the typical “easy” first defense but will instead be up against top contender Ganigan Lopez (26-6, 17).
The talented, and gutsy, Kimura was touted as a potential world champion very early in his career but it took more than 9 years for him to reach the pinnacle of the sport. On his route there the talented, speedy and under-rated, fighter claimed the Japanese title and recorded 3 defenses of the title.
Although lacking many big name wins Kimura has beaten Guevara, obviously, as well as current Japanese champion Tatsuya Fukuhara and former champion Kenichi Horikawa as well as a credible win over Yuki Chinen. When it comes to his losses they have been to current world champion Ryoichi Taguchi and former world title challenger Shin Ono.
Kimura showed his gutsiness against Guevara, rebuilding from a poor start to take a narrow win over the talented Mexican and proved a lot. We knew he was talented, gutsy and fast but in that bout he proved he really could turn fights around, he proved he could bite down on his gum shield go to war and score a world class win over 12 rounds.
When it comes to Lopez the challenger is a tested fighter who has mixed with numerous world class fighters. That has seen him suffer losses to the likes of Juan Palacios, Adrian Hernandez, Denver Cuello and Pedro Guevara whilst scoring wins over the likes of Mario Rodriguez and Luis Ceja. During his 32 fight career he has suffered just a single stoppage loss, to Cuello, and his last notable fight was a narrow loss to Guevara.
In the ring Lopez is a heavy handed southpaw with an aggressive mentality and whilst not the most skilled he is a real handful for most of the fighters at 108lbs. He comes solid, though unspectacular skills, with a genuine toughness and spiteful power. All that comes with the awkward southpaw stance and a 34 he'll know that this could well be his final chance at the top level.
In many ways this fight is being widely over-looked yet could, potentially, be a fire cracker of the fight with both possibly choosing to go to war and having a fire-fight in the centre of the ring. On paper that seems a bad idea for Kimura, but he'll know that smothering Lopez's work would be in his favour. For Lopez the idea of fighting in close quarters does give him the advantage of possibly scoring a stoppage, something he may feel he needs. This really could be a very special bout.
On paper we have to favour Kimura, who is the clear betting favourite, however Lopez is a very under-dog.
We often hear how low the talent pool is in a number of the lower weight classes. That tends to actually be wrong and a number of lower divisions are very deep, though sadly the best fighters aren't matched against each other nearly enough. That is clearly seen at 108lbs where fighters like Paipharob Kokietgym, Randy Petalcorin, Rey Loreto and Ryo Miyazaki have essentially been frozen out of big fights for a year whilst lesser fighters, like Richard Claveras and Luis De la Rosa are getting shots instead.
Thankfully however we do sit on the verge of a genuinely intriguing bout in the division as WBC champion Pedro Guevara (26-1-1, 17) takes on former Japanese champion Yu Kimura (17-2-1, 3) in a genuinely intriguing bout that sees Guevara return to Japan for the first time since he won the title, stopping Akira Yaegashi last December.
For many lower weight fight fans Guevara is one of the best in the division. His resume includes wins over Karluis Diaz, Jorle Estrada, Raul Garcia, Mario Rodriguez and Ganigan Lopez, though it's the win over Yaegashi that really broke him through into being a divisional star. He's also only lost to a genuinely world class fighter, a split decision to Filipino fighter Johnriel Casimero, more than 3 years ago.
In the ring the champion can box or fight. His power is under-rated though really it's his boxing skills that set him apart from many of the others in the division and it was those skills that lead to his win again Yaegashi. It does however need to be said that he didn't look his best last time out, against Lopez, in a bout that saw Lopez make life very difficult for the champion.
Going forward we suspect Guevara will move up in weight, the 26 year old is a big lump for a Light Flyweight and at some point he'll likely look to establish himself in the more prestigious Flyweight division. For now however he's a handful for anyone at 108lbs and there is no doubting that he is one of the division's key players.
As for Kimura he's a man who has often remained under-the radar for non-Japanese fans, many of whom would likely regard him as a non-puncher with little real potential to change that or to ever make a name for himself. What generally isn't too well known is that he was a solid amateur himself running up a 65-15 (8) record in the unpaid ranks before turning professional back in 2006. As a professional he has done things the hard way on the Japanese scene and suffered a couple of losses as a result, though both losses have come to “names” in Shin Ono and current WBA champion Ryoichi Taguchi.
As a fighter Kimura is a very talented boxer-mover with good accuracy, an intelligent boxing brain and good movement. He does, as his record suggest, lack power though much of that is down to his style which compromises on power due to the movement. His ability has seen him notch up a number of notable victories, including his 2014 Japanese title winning victory, a decision over Kenichi Horikawa, and a notable defense over Yuki Chinen. It's really since winning the Japanese title that Kimura has come into his own and started to believe he could, one day, become a world champion.
Although Kimura has improved massively from the fighter he once was it's still hard to see what he really has to trouble Guevara, who looks to be the worst of the champions for Kimura to be facing. Kimura will struggle to out box the champion and certainly won't be able to hold his own when it comes to power and physical strength. To us this looks like a worth while challenge but one that likely is being used as Kimura's final bout, and a chance to say he fought at the top level. At 32 he's unlikely to get another opportunity as this level and he'll put everything he has into the bout but we really can't see how he beats the very talented Mexican.
In late March we saw Filipino fighter Rommel Asenjo come up very short when he took on Juan Francisco Estrada. Just 2 weeks later we see another Filipino travelling to Mexico in hope of shocking the boxing world. This time it's the unbeaten Richard Claveras (12-0-2, 12) who will be looking to score a huge upset win and claim the WBC Light Flyweight title when he battles against Pedro Guevara (24-1-1, 16).
Coming into the bout Claveras is a real unknown. He may be the future of Filipino boxing, or he may be a fighter who bitten off much more than he can chew.
Aged 25 Claveras is dubbed “Explosive” due to his power, power that has seen him stopping his last 10 opponents, and 12 of his last 13. On one hand he has been wiping out opponents at double quick speed, in fact his 14 career bouts have lasted just 34 rounds, less than 2.5 rounds a fight. That has been because he's scored 8 opening round stoppages and 10 stoppages in the first 2 rounds. On the other hand he hasn't been fighting particularly stiff competition with his most experienced foe being Rodel Tejares and his most notable win being an 8th round TKO against JC Francisco.
Whilst it's almost impossible to judge Claveras from his competition he's been dealing with it the way he should. He's been completely destroying them following a 2-0-2 (2) start to his career.
What we do know about Claveras is that his body shots are spiteful, his head shots are vicious, his size, for a Light Flyweight, is incredibly imposing and from the little bit of footage we've seen he's patient, surprisingly for someone with a record like he has. We also know that at 25 years old he's coming into his physical prime, even if he is technically inexperienced as a fighter.
Whilst little is real known about the Filipino challenger we do know plenty about the defending champion, who claimed the title late last year when he stopped Akira Yaegashi in Japan. That was Guevara's second world title fight after having previously come up short against the then IBF champion Johnriel Casimero.
As a fighter Guevara really can do it. He's a brilliant boxer-puncher who shows traits of Ricardo Lopez in the way he fights. He's capable of fighting at range behind his excellent jab, he's able to box on the back foot his counters and, when push comes to shove, he can fight on the inside. He combines his excellent all round ability with solid toughness and real patience, which make him very tough to beat. In fact his record essentially proves that as he already holds notable wins over the likes of Yaegashi, Mario Rodriguez and Raul Garcia, an excellent trio of fighters.
Whilst what have seen of Claveras is impressive it's impossible for us to favour him against the fantastic Guevara who is more proven and more known. That's not to say Claveras stand no chance, but he really is going from the paddling pool to the middle of the ocean and being told to swim for the first time. Not only is he being told to swim, but he's being told to swim with sharks.
For Claveras his best chance, if not his only chance, is to start fast and hope his power is simply too much for Guevara. Unfortunately for the challenger it does seem like Guevara is a tough and gritty fighter and we suspect the champion will see out any early assault before turning the tables, using his experience and skills to eventually break down the challenger, who simply isn't ready for a fight at this level.
There are a lot of fights left this year but possibly the most exciting of those is at Light Flyweight as the always fun to watch Akira Yaegashi (20-4, 10) attempts to become a 3-weight world champion and over-come Mexico's Pedro Guevara (23-1-1, 15) in a bout for the vacant WBC Light Flyweight title. A title which was last held by Yaegashi's stablemate Naoya Inoue, who vacated the belt to campaign at Super Flyweight.
Last time out we saw Yaegashi suffer the first stoppage loss of his career as he was beaten into submission by the exceptional Roman Gonzalez. That bout saw the best from both men though unfortunately for Yaegashi it always seemed that Gonzalez was too strong, too powerful, too sharp and too good. Yaegashi tried his best against though was left a broken fighter who seemed to realise that he was too small and light punching to really compete against the best men at 112lbs.
For those who haven't seen much of Yaegashi he is the sort of fighter that fans should really appreciate. He's speedy and talented though unlike many other speedy fighters he seems to enjoy a fight just as much as the fans. His propensity for a tear up has seen him in thrilling contests with his 2011 bout against Thailand's Pornsawan Porpramook being a FOTY contender just like his 2012 ruckus with compatriot Kazuto Ioka. Both of those bouts showed not only Yaegashi's willingness to fight a war but also the way he seems to force a war, whether it's in his best interest or not.
At Flyweight Yaegashi's main problem was that he lacked genuine fire power. In his 5 title bouts at the weight he scored just a single stoppage, albeit a really good one against Odilon Zaleta. Sadly we suspect that if Yaegashi had power to match his and toughness he would be fighter celebrated worldwide rather than a man only truly appreciated by Japanese fans and the hardcore boxing fans.
Of course it's not just the style and wars that fans enjoy but also Yaegashi's willingness to test himself against the best. It's that willingness to fight all comers that has seen him battle with the likes of Gonzalazs, Ioka, Porpramook, Edgar Sosa, Eagle Den Junlaphan and Toshiyuki Igarashi. That's being seen again here where he's gone from being beaten up by Gonzalez to taking on the dangerous Guevara rather than fight a confidence rebuilding bout against a weaker foe.
So on to the Mexican who at 25 years old is coming into his prime and will be hoping to become a world champion at the second time of asking, having previously fallen short in an IBF title fight with Filipino Johnriel Casimero. In that fight Guevara was stepping up notably in class and it showed early on when he was dropped in the opening round though he did warm to the task and managed to give Casimero a close fight, though not as close as the scorecards indicated.
The bout with Casimero is easily the biggest bout that Guevara has been involved in. He has however been up against several other notable names including Mario Rodriguez, Raul Garcia, Karlius Diaz and Jorle Estrada and beaten all of them. Notably he has faced Rodriguez twice, drawing in their first meeting before dominating in the rematch with a very clear decision. The improvement between those two Rodriguez bouts was clear and on the whole Guevara has been a fighter improving regularly.
Stylistically Guevara shows traits of the great Ricardo Lopez. He boxes, moves, throws sharp and correct shots and looks comfortable on the back foot, something we rarely see in a Mexican fighter. Unlike most Mexican fighters he looks happier at range and boxing rather than up close and brawling. That doesn't he can't stand there and fight but it's not his style or his strength. At a distance he has a nice variety of shots with his left hook to the body, jab and straight right being the key shots in his arsenal.
From what we've seen of both guys we suspect this bout will be won by the man who can control the distance and pacing of the bout. A slow bout fought at range favours Guevara without a doubt. If the Mexican can use his reach and straight shots to stop Yaegashi in his tracks then the title will be going back to Mexico. For Yaegashi to win he has to turn this into a fight, slip the jab and unload his trademark fast flurries on the inside. The Japanese fighter has to make life uncomfortable for the Mexican visitor and if he can do that we suspect we will see Yaegashi becoming just the second Japanese fighter in history to win world titles in 3 weights. If Yaegashi can't get inside then he'll follow in the footsteps of Kazuto Ioka and Hozumi Hasegawa who both failed in their attempts to become 3 weight world champions this year.
(Image courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
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.