Earlier this month we saw the WBC, WBA and IBF Bantamweight titles being fought for in Japan, with some excellent bouts in Saitama. The one missing belt from that show was the WBO belt which will be fought for at on November 30th when WBO champion Zolani Tete (28-3, 21) takes on WBO "interim" champion John Riel Casimero (28-4, 19). On paper this looks a fantastic bout, between two men with very similar records, but very different styles, and very different mentalities, but both men will be looking to state their case as a future opponent for WBSS winner Naoya Inoue.
South African fighter Tete was part of the WBSS when it started in 2018. He struggled in his first bout, a stinker against former amateur standout Mikhail "Misha" Aloyan, before pulling out of his semi final against Nonito Donaire due to an injury. That injury has meant Tete has been out of action for over a year and is more than 2 years removed from his explosive win over Siboniso Gonya. As a result of injury and a couple of poor performances Tete has gone from being one of the top dogs at Bantamweight, to an almost forgotten man and the 31 year old desperately needs an impressive performance.
Stood at 5'9" and fighting out of the Southpaw stance Tete is an awkward Bantamweight. He's all arms and legs and when he's on point he's a real nightmare. He's skilled, tough, quick and a very sharp puncher. His KO win over Paul Butler in 2015 showed just how good he can be. Sadly though he's awkward, and we don't just mean an awkward fighter for opponents. He can, when he's not firing at 100%, be very awkward to watch and safety conscious. He showed that side of himself against Arthur Villanueva and Omar Andres Narvaez, and didn't look much better against Aloyan either, in what really was a stinker.
Whilst Tete is a long, rangy, boxer-puncher Casimero is the opposite. The 30 year old Filipino is a short, relatively wild, puncher-come-slugger. When he's in the mood to box, he can box, but all too often Casimero fights with the intention of taking his opponents, out, and do so quickly. He has scored 6 stoppages in his last 7 bouts, and during his long career he has stopped the likes of Cesar Canchila, Luis Alberto Lazarte, Amnat Ruenroeng and Charlie Edwards. Not only has he been a slugger, but he is also one of the sports best road warriors, with wins all over the place. From Nicaragua to Thailand, from Panama to China, from the UK to the Argentina, Casimero has never shown any fear of being in his opponents back yard.
At 5'4" Casimero is a small Bantamweight, he will be giving away significant size and reach to most fighters in the division. In part that's down to the fact this is actually his 4th weight class, with Casimero having first won a world title at Light Flyweight, before claiming one at Flyweight. He failed to reach the top at Super Flyweight but has managed to make a mark at Bantamweight with his interim title win, and a defense of that title. He has certainly has looked rejuvenated, after a terrible outing against Jonas Sultan back in 2017.
Coming in to the bout the logical view is that Tete will be too quick, too sharp, too long, too quick and too smart. We however feel that the poor performances of Tete recently, added to the injury and time out could end up being a major issue here. Casimero isn't a polished boxer, but he is a puncher, he is aggressive and he is a nightmare for someone with ring rust.
We suspect that Tete will start well, but as the bout goes on Casimero's power punching and pressure will take it's toll as Tete slows down and turns off. We suspect the power of Casimero will eventually break down the South African and take a late win.
Prediction - TKO11 Casimero
The WBSS semi-finals finally kick off this coming weekend, and in regards to Asian boxing we'll get the first of the two Bantamweight semi-final bouts, as WBA "super" champion Nonito Donaire (39-5, 25) takes on WBO king Zolani Tete (28-3, 21). The winner will not only unify the titles but also advance to the WBSS Bantamweight final, later in the year, where they will face either Naoya Inoue or Emmanuel Rodriguez.
Whilst the WBSS has stalled losing it's shine shine and momentum this year, the competition is still something that has got fan interest and this bout certainly looks to be one of the most interesting of the tournament so far. It pits established names against each other, both men who are in their 30's, both of whom will know that winning the WBSS tournament will be the biggest achievement of their career. It gives both the chance to not only unify two titles with this bout, but also add the IBF title in the final, and really stamp their mark on the Bantamweight division.
The 36 year old Donaire is a modern day legend. He has not only been one of the most genuine, classy and likable fighters in the sport, but also a lower weight superstar. Since shocking Vic Darchinyan back in 2007 for the IBF Flyweight we have seen Donaire as one of the faces of the lower weight classes. Over the last decade or so he has scored notable wins over a real who's who, including Moruti Mthalane, Hernan Marquez, Fernando Montiel, Omar Andres Narvaez, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr, Toshiaki Nishioka, Jorge Arce, Simpiwe Vetyeka and most recently Ryan Burnett. Whilst the level of performance varied it's hard to doubt the level of wins Donaire has picked up.
Despite a host of big wins Donaire has picked up losses in recent years, losing 4 of his last 12 bouts. Those losses have however come to world class fighters Guillermo Rigondeaux, Nicholas Walters, Jessie Magdaleno and Carl Frampton. Those losses have shown that Donaire, at times, wasn't a master boxer, wasn't lightening quick and was event fighting above his best weight. Despite those issues he was always a very dangerous puncher, with one of the most devastatings hooks in the sport.
In the ring Donaire isn't as quick or as sharp as he once was, but he is a strong, powerful, skilled fighter. If he boxes at 118lbs he won't have the sharpness to hold his own, but if he applies an intelligent pressure style, he will be able to impose his will on most opponents. Although Ryan Burnett made him look slow in their bout last year Donaire's pressure was having success and we suspect to see that type of game plan from him again here.
Donaire's opponent is 31 year old South African Zolani Tete, a rangy, tall and skilled fighter who really is a phsyical freak at 118lbs. Like many top South African fighters it took a long time for Tete to get much international attention, that's despite fighting for a world title way back in 2010, when he lost to Moruti Mthalane. Tete would in fact go 3-2 following his first loss, losing razor thin decisions to Jaun Alberto Rosas and Roberto Domingo Sosa, both on the road. Since those 3 losses he has won 12 in a row, become a 2-weight champion and finally got some respect as a top fighter.
The recent winning run of Tete has seen him defeat Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr, Teiru Kinoshita, who he beat for the IBF Super Flyweight title, Paul Butler, Arthur Villanueva, Siboniso Gonya, Omar Andrez Narvaez and Mikhail Aloyan. Against Butler he looked sensational, against Gonya he looked destructive, but those bouts aside he has left himself open to criticism, as lack a killer instinct, and being too happy at winning, rather than wanting to win and look good. There's been a bit of a "fighting in third gear" feel about his recent showings, and they have seen him look less than great.
Despite not looking amazing Tete is a quick, sharp fighter, with solid power, a great judge of distance, accurate punches and good movement. He lacks a real spitefulness to his work, in general, but is a hugely skilled fighter who has the sort of size rarely seen at Bantamweight. He's very tall and very long.
Coming in to this we're expecting a pretty clear stylistic match up. Tete will look to use his reach, his speed and his jab, he will look to keep Donaire at range and rack up the rounds. Donaire on the other hand might begin as a boxer but will revert to being a pressure fighter as the bout goes on, bringing the heat and looking to beat down Tete with heavy leather.
We can see both men winning. We can clearly see Tete putting on a boxing class, fighting safely and racking up the early rounds before cruising to a closer than it should be decision. We can also see Donaire's vicious power and physicality breaking down Tete in the middle rounds.
We'd love to see a Donaire win, and we'd obviously love a Donaire Vs Inoue final, but it would be an upset for him to do it at his age. Instead we're going with a Tete decision win, with the South African staying sharp, on his toes and alert of the danger Donaire brings. He'll not put on a show, but he will get the win.
Preduction UD12 Tete.
December 16th 2015 will go down as a major date in the careers of Filipino Marlon Tapales (29-2, 12) and Japan's Shohei Omori (18-1, 13). It was a day that saw Tapales drop Omori 3 times in the open round before securing a second round TKO to secure himself a world title fight, and also inflict Omori's first, and so far only loss.
Coming in to that bout Omori was seen as the new rising star of Japan, the next in the long line of great Japanese Bantamweights, such as Hozumi Hasegawa and Shinsuke Yamanaka. Tapales was seen as a hidden gem of the Philippines, but was expected to be the next victim of the fast rising Omori. Instead of it being Omori's stepping stone to world level it ended up being Tapales' coming out party and his chance to shine.
Following the win over Omori we've only seen Tapales fight once, stopping Pungluang Sor Singyu last July for the WBO title in a really sensational bout. Tapales was down twice in round 5, and looked a spent force at the end of the round, before he dropped Pungluang in round 6 and ended up securing an 11th round TKO in a remarkable comeback. Sadly that bout means that Tapales has has fought just 11 rounds in the last 12 months, and only 13 rounds in the last 24 months! That level of inactivity is pretty hard to excuse for such a talented fighter.
Although Tapales has been inactive it's not all been his fought. He was supposed to be in action last December, though saw that bout cancelled when Takuma Inoue suffered an injury forcing the cancellation of a bout the two had agreed. That bout aside though, he really needs to wonder why his team haven't kept him a little busier than he has been in recent times.
In the ring Tapales looks like a very short Bantamweight, and at just 5'4” he is certainly a shorter fighter than many of the top guys, but the crafty southpaw is a rugged and highly skilled fighter with under-rated power, a steely determination, an impressive work rate, impressive timing and excellent counter-punching. Impressive he has only lost once since 2009, and that was a razor thin loss to David Sanchez in Mexico. During that same time he has scored wins over Randy Petalcorin, Warlito Parrenas, Rey Megrino, Hayato Kimura, Omori and Pungluang. He has also been a key sparring partner in the past for Shinsuke Yamanaka and had a lot of ring time with the WBC champion, gaining valuable experience and skills from “God's Left”.
Having looked at Tapales' activity since facing Omori it's only fair to start this by looking at Omori's recent activity. Since his loss he has gone 3-0 (3) stopping Espinos Sabu, Edgar Jimenez and Rocky Fuentes, in a combined 10 rounds. Whilst he has fewer completed rounds than Tapales he has remained regularly activity with a bout every 4 months since his loss. It should also be noted that, like Tapales, he has seen a top level bout cancelled, with a contest against IBF champion Lee Haskins' being called off due to an injury to Haskins. Going back just over 24 months we have seen Omori fight 6 times, and score notable wins over Kentaro Masuda, Hirofumi Mukai and Fuentes.
At his best Omori is a heavy handed southpaw boxer-puncher. He showed his power against Kentaro Masuda in April 2015, in what was his break out win, but then seemed to fall in love with his power and neglect his boxing ability. That wasn't too much of an issue against Mukai but was a massive problem against Tapales, who countered him with ease and had a field day with Omori's recklessness. Since that loss however Omori has learned lessons and is now boxing more often, using his jab and making the most of his long and rangy frame. Whilst his 5'8” frame does give him serious advantages over many in the division the question is how much he will use it, and whether he will make it count for much here.
Prior to his loss to Tapales we really did think Omori was on his way to becoming a Japanese boxing star. Now the question is just how good is he really? Is her a chinny fighter who had been matched well on his rise before being beaten by Tapales, or was he merely caught cold and never recovered before being stopped. Few can question his heart, but his technique and durability both have serious question marks, and his ability to turn a fight around can also be questioned.
This time around we're expecting to see a very cautious Omori start slowly, box behind his jab and try to keep Tapales at range. If he can do that then he could make life difficult for the champion, who really is the much smaller man. As long as Omori can use his range and movement he stands more than a chance of avenging his defeat. On the other hand one mistake from Omori could result in him being countered by Tapales, and unravelling, as he did last time out. If we're being honest we see Omori needing to be on point for 12 rounds to win here, whilst Tapales knows that he has the power to hurt Omori and the ability to land that power. At some point during a 12 round fight you have to think Tapales will land clean, and although he's the smaller man he is a damn good boxer, and will eventually stop Omori.
The bout is an intriguing one in many ways, and is one we're really exciting by, and one where we favour the champion to score a repeat win.
The next world title fight to take place in Asia is one of the most over-looked Bantamweight title bouts in a while and sees the attention of the division turn to Thailand where a local champion makes his first mandatory defense, against a criminally under-rated contender.
The champion in question is the very experienced Pungluang Sor Singyu (52-3, 35) who will be making the second defense of the WBO Bantamweight title as he goes up against the talented and over-looked Marlon Tapales (28-2, 11) of the Philippines. Between them the men are just 50 years old but have 85 bouts and 80 wins combined!
The 26 year old champion, enjoying his second title reign, is one of the few Thai's who has got a “padded” record but shown he can hang with world class fighters. His first loss was a close one on the road in 2009, to future world title challenger Stephane Jamoye, his second was another close one on the road to Paulus Ambunda whilst his most recent was a KO loss in the US to Tomoki Kameda, his most notable bout so far. In all of those losses he proved he was a handful and had Kameda worried before the Japanese star landed one of the best body punches landed in recent years.
Whilst those losses have all been set backs he has scored notable wins over AJ Banal, in the Philippines and Ryo Akaho, to begin each of his title reigns, and also scored a recent win over Filipino Jetro Pabustan, in what was a really messy bout plagued by headclashes. Other somewhat decent wins include victories over Monico Lurente and Eden Sonsona, credible oriental level wins.
In the ring the champion is a smiling ball of aggressive energy. At 5'4” he's a tiny Bantamweight but uses his lack of height well to make a difficult target, he comes forward and he tried to break down opponents with intense pressure and accurate punching. He may not be as skilled as countrymen like Wanheng Menayothin or as powerful as Srisaket Sor Rungvisai but he's still a real nightmare and the sort of fighter who can give most Bantamweights on the planet a really nasty time in the ring.
Aged 24 the challenger will be getting his first crack at a world title but is regarded by some hardcore fans as one of the better fighters not to have won a world title. Although relatively unknown by the wider boxing fan base he already holds wins over the likes of Randy Petalcorin, Warlito Parrenas, Rey Megrino, Hayato Kimura and Shohei Omori. He was also really unlucky when he fought to a majority decision loss to David Sanchez in his most recent loss.
Tapales has been beaten twice. Once was the aforementioned defeat to Sanchez whilst the other was a 6th round TKO loss to Brix Ray back in 2009. That loss to Ray was an upset and will be a black mark on his record, however that loss came more than 7 years ago and Tapales is a far different fighter today to what he was back then, as a teenager.
In the ring Tapalese is a careful fighter with a good guard and subtle footwork however it's his timing that appears to be his greatest quality and the shots he caught Omori with last year were perfect timed lumps of dynamite. He may not have a reputation as a puncher but he certainly possess some solid bang in his left hand, a good energy in the ring and under-rated skills with some lovely speed thrown in as a bonus. There are flaws in his defense but there's enough in there to be a potential handful for anyone in the division. Interestingly he's also going to be one of the very few Bantamweights smaller than Pungluang.
In the ring we're expecting Pungluang to look to bring the pressure and then for Tapale to respond, looking catch him with counters and make the most of his danger left hook. Pungluang is tough though and given the advantage in Thailand he'll be strongly favoured to claim a decision. For Tapales to win he will likely need a KO, something he can get, but we suspect he won't here and instead Pungluang will retain by a decision in a thrilling bout that sees home advantage pay dividends for the Thai.
Last year we saw Thailand's Pungluang Sor Singyu (51-3, 35) [ผึ้งหลวง ส.สิงห์อยู่] become a 2-time world champion as he scored a 2nd round TKO win against Japan's Ryo Akaho to claim the WBO Bantamweight title, for the second time. He returns to the ring on February 12th to make the first defense of that title as he takes on little known Filipino fighter Jetro Pabustan (26-2-6, 7), in a voluntary defense of the title before a meeting later in the year with Marlon Tapales.
The experienced Thai, who turned professional back in 2004 after a long Muay Thai career, didn't have an amateur career but seemed a natural at boxing and less than 2 years after his professional debut he won bis first title, the WBC Youth title. As the WBC Youth champion he ran up some solid wins, over the likes of Monico Laurente and Eden Sonsona before losing in his first bout outside of Thailand, a very controversial loss to Stephane Jamoye in Belgium.
The loss to Jamoye was a set back for the young Thai but he rebuilt well and in 2009 he travelled to the Philippines for his second fight away from Thailand. This time he managed to score a win on his travels, stopping AJ Banal to claim the WBO Bantamweight title in a minor upset. Sadly Pungluang's reign was short lived, losing the title in his first defense as he went to Namibia and was beaten by Paulus Ambunda.
Following Punglunag's loss to Ambunda the WBO title went on a weird journey which saw Tomoki Kameda claim the title from Pungluang's conqueror before defending it against Pungluang, stopping the Thai with a vicious body shot, and Alejandro Hernandez. A third planned defense, against WBA “regular” champion Jamie McDonnell didn't sit well with the WBO who stripped Kameda and ordered the bout between Pungluang and Akaho, which Pungluang won in Ratchaburi.
In the ring the Thai is a smiling assassin. Since the loss to Jamoye back in 2009 he has gone a very impressive 28-2 (21) and is 5-0 (4) since losing to Kameda. He is a pressure fighter who described himself in a recent interview as “diligent” and that hard work shows with the Thai capable of keeping up a great pace for 12 rounds and being tough, with his only loss being the one to Kameda from a truly sickening body shot.
Whilst we know a lot about the champion, the same cannot be said of the challenger, who we really don't know a great deal about, and who we surprisingly lack solid footage of. The lack of footage, and wider knowledge, sees Pabustan living up to his nickname of the “Silent Operator”, with very few people raving about the 26 year old southpaw.
Stood at 5'7” he's a tall Bantamweight, and from his record it's clear he's a hard man to beat, with just 2 defeats from 34 bouts. Incidentally both of those losses, as well as 4 of his wins and 5 of his draws, have been technical decisions, suggesting that Pabustan's bouts are full of head clashes, and that may be an issue here. It's probably the fact he's a southpaw that there's so many headclashes in his bouts but it's very notable than 11 of 34 bouts have ended in a technical decision.
Although Pabustan has gone about things quietly there are some note worthy names on his record. These include Monico Laurente, who beat him in 2014, as well as the once touted Kenny Demecillo and former Minimumweight title challenger Vergilio Silvano. Sadly those three names aside it's hard to describe Pabustan's competition as being anything better than Filipino domestic level.
Notably Pabustan has never fought away from home and has never gone 12 rounds coming in to this one.
Whilst it can be hard to predict a bout on so little information we can't really imagine how Pabustan can win given, with his lack of experience, limited power and the fact the bout is in Thailand. He is the taller man, and is a southpaw, but he'll need to have the performance of his life to over-come Pungluang here.
Earlier this year we saw Tomoki Kameda (31-1, 19), the youngest of the 3 fighting Kameda brothers, suffer his first defeat as he can up just short against the under-rated British warrior Jamie McDonnell (26-2-1, 12). Prior to the bout Kameda had vacated the WBO belt in an attempt to claim the WBA title though unfortunately for him he finished up with nothing other than a black mark on his record.
Although Kameda did come up short against McDonnell the Japanese fighter has invoked a rematch clause as he attempts to become a 2-time world champion and avenge his first defeat. Sadly for Kameda he no longer goes into the bout with the confidence of an unbeaten fighter, though he does appear to still have the Kameda arrogance even if he has changed one or two things since the first bout with McDonnell.
As a fighter Kameda is a boxer-mover. He has some of the fastest hands in the Bantamweight division and throws some of the best combinations in the sport. At his best he looks sensational and incredibly flashy with a style that is easy on the eye and fun to watch. Sadly though his best is own shown in glimpses and he can often be found moving too much, switching off or trying to be too cute. In many ways his biggest flaws aren't his skills but instead his mentality, which has come into question in each of his last two bouts.
Whilst Kameda is a flashy and exciting fighter his style does come at the expense of his power. We know he can hit hard, and in fact he dropped McDonnell in their first meeting, and he lands enough clean shorts to keep opponents honest. Sadly though he doesn't hit as hard as he perhaps needs to at the world level, despite showing impressive stopping ability against current WBO champion Pungluang Sor Singyu. The flashy combos have very little sting on them and whilst they win rounds they don't deter opponents.
Hopefully Kameda will have “grown up” since his loss. The loss was, at least in part, down to Kameda switching off after a very bright start. Had he shown more maturity he would possibly still be unbeaten today and looking towards unification bouts not looking to try and right what he feels was a wrong.
When it comes to McDonnell we have a real battler with a fantastic work rate and an incredible will to win. We don't mean to be harsh when we say this but McDonnell doesn't have the great level of skill, but he more than makes up for that through sheer bloody-mindedness. Unlike many fighters with a great engine McDonnell isn't reckless with his aggression, and although he throws a lot of punches he's not defensively open, though can take a shot when he is tagged, which makes him a really hard fighter to beat. He's not unbeatable but he is difficult to beat.
Like many busy fighters McDonnell is much better coming forward than he is on the back foot. He's also some what suspect early on and it can take a few rounds for his engine to really get going. When he's at full speed however he's a nightmare. Like Kameda though he has shown, more than once, than he too can turn off for large portions of bouts and has admitted in the past that he needs big bouts to bring the best out of him and get his juices going. We suspect this will be a big enough bout, however there is a chance that he may feel he's going over old ground and may not turn in as solid a performance as he did last time out.
We know above we said Kameda was partly responsible for his loss when these two men first fought and it is true. Of course it was also McDonnell's will to win and that really was what separated the men, McDonnell simply wanted it more and that was shown in the final round as Kameda floundered for 3 minutes whilst McDonnell went to work. That round was essentially the difference between the two men in what was a really close fight, it was the difference between winning and losing.
Coming into the rematch we're expecting another ultra-close bout with the winner decided by whoever has their head on right. If Kameda fights to his potential and stays on the ball we think he'll take the decision however Kameda at 99% will come up short again if McDonnell has taken this seriously. We know the Englishman has an eye on moving to Super Bantamweight in the near future and it could be that his focus is there and not on this bout. We have seen him over-look opponents in the past and it could be that his win over Kameda the first time around could have him over-look him here.
The only thing we're certain on in regards to this fight is that it will be another brilliant contest between two genuinely world class Bantamweights. Something we'll see again later this month when Shinsuke Yamanaka defends his WBC title against Anselmo Moreno. Hopefully the winners will collide in the near future.
For those who missed the first bout we've included it below.
In boxing the greatest rivalries not only give us a lot of fights but also manage to have exciting, competitive and compelling contests. Of course the biggest rivalry in the sport is the Mexico Vs Puerto Rico rivalry which has given us so many memorable bouts in both countries. To some the Asian equivalent is the Japan Vs Thailand rivalry which has, at times, given us some amazing bouts, again in both countries. Sadly however this rivalry lacks something, it lacks the “competitiveness” in Thailand where Thai's have thoroughly dominated with an incredibly record against Japanese fighters in world title fights.
On August 7th we see Ryo Akaho (26-1-2, 18) attempt to change the fortunes of Japanese fighters facing Thais in Thailand as he takes on the highly experienced Pungluang Sor Singyu (50-3, 34), in a bout for the WBO Bantamweight title, a title that Pungluang has previously held.
Akaho is one of the many Bantamweight contenders from Japan. He's not one of the top names in the division, like Shinsuke Yamanaka or Tomoki Kameda, but he has been in and around the world rankings for years and has slowly worked his way to this title shot.
Technically Akaho is flawed, he's wild, he's not the most natural of boxers. What he is however is heavy handed, tough and comes to fight. He's a fighter at heart who has tried to become a boxer, but has reverted to type time and time again. He fights with the intention of knocking every opponent out and whether he manages or not it won't stop him trying.
In the ring Akaho can be out boxed, as seen in his 2012 loss to the slippery Yota Sato, who made Akaho look fundamentally flawed. That bout was a WBC Super Flyweight title fight and although Akaho was clearly beaten it did seem clear that he was at least partially weight drained, and since then he has thrown off the shackles of the 115lb weight limit to move to Bantamweight, a weight that suits him more.
Pungluang on the other hand is, arguably, the top Bantamweight in Thailand, though he is given a really good run for his money by the excellent Suriyan Sor Rugnvisai. In the ring he's a typical Thai in many ways, an out and out pressure fighter who will be coming forward relentlessly and trying to get in the face of any and every opponent. Stylewise he's a nightmare to fight and won't give fighters a second to breath.
Pungluang is not only a nightmare stylewise but he's tough and like so many Thais is happy to take a shot to land one. Where falls short however is his speed, technical ability and his lack of a plan B. Pungluang only has a single game plan, but it is generally a very good one. Against quicker fighters however he can be made to look slow and clumsy, as he was against Tomoki Kameda who stopped him last year with a crunching body shot.
Although a natural fighter at Bantamweight Pungluang is very short at the weight. He has the typical “stocky” build of so many Thai fighters and it helps him employ his style, slipping shots and coming forward. If a fighter has a good jab they can try to keep Pungluang at range, but it does take a lot of energy and effort to prevent him from coming forward round after round. Over 12 rounds his pressure really does take it's toll.
In a neutral country this would be a 50-50 fight. Pungluang has the the experience and style to make life difficult but Akaho has a notable size advantage and the edge in power. It would make for a great fight on neutral soil. In Thailand however the advantages in terms of conditions, weather, officiating, and time all favour the home fighter. Those advantages, we suspect, will be the difference and will help Pungluang pick up the title and become a 2-time champion in a bout that will be packed with action and exciting.
(Image courtesy of http://www.onesongchai.com)
At their best title unification bouts allow us to recognise the best fighter in a division. Sadly those unifications are becoming less and less common. What we're getting instead are more champion Vs interim champion unification bouts. It's a shame but it seems to be the way with boxing right now.
The first "unification" of November will see the unbeaten WBO Bantamweight champion Tomoki Kameda (30-0, 19) defending his belt against WBO interim champion Alejandro Hernandez (28-10-2, 15), a man with a truly misleading record. It may not be the unification that any of us want to see at Bantamweight but it is still a very interesting bout and one that will almost certainly be interesting due to the styles, strengths and weaknesses of the two men involved.
Before we get on to the actual bout there is something that needs saying. That is that we think many American fans are going to be looking forward to this one courtesy of the fact they have seen Tomoki in action before. For the Japanese fighter this will be his second successive bout in the US following his last defense of the belt, a 7th round KO against Pungluang Sor Singyu in a finish that was really memorable courtesy of the fact it came from a single well placed and paralysing body shot.
For those who did see Tomoki's last bout but none of his others they may shocked to hear what we're about to say, but Tomoki isn't a puncher. The stoppage he scored last time out against the teak tough Pungluang wasn't a case of Tomoki having power but rather his skills, speed and punch selection which saw him landing a quick shot to an unprotected part of Pungluang's body and catching him in such a way that the Thai fighter was effectively rendered unable to continue from the agony.
Tomoki's really outstanding traits are his speed and skills. He has speed with both his hands and feet and can fight on the move with blurring combinations in an aggressive mentality or his can box behind a sharp lightning quick jab, or he can fight as a pure counter puncher, drawing opponents in and countering. Depending on his opponent he can fight as a chameleon, something very few fighters can do. It's the ability of Tomoki to alter his tactics that make him such a great boxer, he can adapt on the fly and go from combination puncher to counter puncher as and when he wants. He can chase an opponent when he's confident or he has them hurt, or he can force an opponent to chase him whilst using his light feet to get out of range.
Although not a puncher Tomoki does have power that will make most fighters respect him. It helps that he can deliver a huge variety of shots and at lightning quick speed but he's not a puncher and if someone can take his shots and make him work hard to create the distance he needs then they can make life very difficult for him. We saw that at times in the Pungluang fight and we've also saw it, a little bit, against Paulus Ambunda. Of course however not many top fighters at Bantamweight today are pure pressure fighters and it could be that there isn't a good enough pressure fighter to really give Tomoki too many issues.
When it comes to Hernandez we're talking about one of the sports real tough guys. In his 40 bouts he has failed to go the distance just once, when he suffered a damaged hand against multi-weight world champion Leo Santa Cruz. Although he's picked up losses in that time he has regularly fought at a very high level and as a result suffered losses to world class fighters, such as Omar Andres Narvaez, Carlos Tamara, the aforementioned Santa Cruz and Akifumi Shimoda. In all honesty he is probably the second or third best fighter with double digit losses, behind only Orlando Salido.
Despite suffering losses to many of the bigger names that he has fought Hernandez has actually scored some solid results himself. That includes a win over Gilberto Keb Baas, a draw with Marvin Sonsona and recent wins over Marvin Mabait and Daniel Rosas, wins that have helped to win the interim world title. Aged 28 Hernandez has been a professional since he was 15 and has had to carve out a career the hard way. He's not had the favours of some other fighters and instead has had to do things the hard way, the very hard way. That means he's had to fight on the road and has already fought in the US, Argentina, Nicaragua, Canada and Japan.
Although not the most naturally skilled fighter Hernandez has all the traits that makes fight very difficult for more talented fighters. He's stubborn, tough and keeps coming. None of his shots may have truly concussive power but they are hurtful, constant and often come from relatively unusual angles, especially his straight right which is very odd when he throws it. His ability to go 12 rounds at a decent pace is a real serious quality and unless someone can really discourage him we suspect they are in for a hard 12 rounds,
With what Hernandez brings to the table we do suspect he'll give Tomoki some problems, especially in the later rounds, but for the most part Tomoki's speed, movement and elusiveness should help him take a clear decision. We suspect Tomoki will have to work hard every round. There won't be any gimme's, however Tomoki should do more than enough in many of the rounds to take a clear, but very hard fought decision in a fight we suspect will be more competitive than the scorecards would suggest at the end of 12 tough rounds.
(Image courtesy of http://www.warriorsboxing.com)
Right now the Bantamweight division is one of the most interesting in Asian boxing. At the top of the tree we have WBC champion Shinsuke Yamanaka, arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter currently plying his trade in Asia, and close behind him with have a list of other top fighters each looking for their chance to claim a world title at 118lbs.
That list, which include Ryosuke Iwasa, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Tepparith Kokietgym, Marlin Tapalaes, Mark Anthony Geraldo, Richard Pumicpic, Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym, Kentaro Masuda, Daiki Kameda and Drian Francisco amongst others is just showing the depth in the division and just how cramped it is up there for contenders, who really should be fighting between themselves to try and earn a mandatory position.
Between the contenders and Yamanaka is current WBO champion Tomoki Kameda (29-0, 18) who will be defending his WBO title for the second time as he takes on mandatory challenger Pungluang Sor Singyu (46-2, 31). This bout has been an on-going saga that began at the start of the year and will finally come to an end when the men finally get in the ring together on July 12th and battle it out in Las Vegas.
The bout is in Las Vegas after the camps of the two fighters agreed to have it outside of their respective homelands. For Kameda that was an obvious move as he can't actually get a license in Japan unless he wants to move gyms, something he has been unwilling to do so far. As for Pungluang we can only assume he has been offered a handsome pay package to give away home advantage, a price that Kameda's have been willing to pay due to the poor history Japanese fighters have had in Thailand. As a result the bout won't be shown live in Japan and due to the other bouts on the show in the US the bout is unlikely to be shown to the masses in the US, though is expected to feature on Sho Extreme as well Boxnation and, fingers crossed, a Thai channel as well.
Thankfully despite the issues surrounding the bout it does actually seem likely to be a brilliant clash between two men widely regarded as being amongst the top 10 in the Bantamweight division. Stylistically we're expecting something a bit special with the styles of the two men likely to gel very well and we're expecting it to also be competitive.
Of the two men the most versatile is Kameda who can fight on the front foot or the back foot. He's shown great footwork against pressure and he's also shown that he can take the initiative when wants. Compared to his brother's he's by far the most rounded of the 3 Kameda's though, just like Koki and Daiki, he does have his flaws and one of which is his lack of power which often fails to stop fighters trying to walk him down, and sometimes his mentality which can make fights closer than they should be.
With Kameda being able to box on the front foot with intelligent aggression or the back foot with sharp counter punching he does seem like a hard man to beat though we tend to feel that his lack of power would leave him in problems if an aggressively minded fighter had decent footwork, something Paulus Ambunda, his best opponent to date, lacked.
In Pungluang we have a somewhat basic fighter but one who does a lot of the basics very well. He's a come forward pressure fighter, like most Thai's, who keeps it tight defensively, applies very intense pressure and attacks both the head and body well. Although short for the weight he cuts distance very well and is extremely strong, tough and hard working.
Although fundamentally predictable Pungluang is a fighter who appears to be draining both mentally and physically. He won't back off from a fighter, he won't stop coming forward and he won't stop trying to beat you down. This draining effect of Pungluang's as seen when he scored his most notable win, a 9th round stoppage against AJ Banal.
What we're expecting to see is a determined and fired up Pungluang applying his typical pressure against Tomoki and the Japanese fighter being forced to box off the back foot. This should be similar to Tomoki Kameda's fight with Ambunda though we do think that Pungluang will manage to up the ante and get closer to Tomoki. If the Thai can get close, work the body and really take the fight to the champion then we actually feel we may see the title change hands here and Pungluang could well become a 2-time world champion.
From what we understand this is likely to be Kameda's last fight at Bantamweight before he moves up to Super Bantamweight. We actually think the young Japanese fighter will be better suited to 122lbs but he's trained hard for this one and would hate to leave the division following his first loss. We don't think he'll cut corners but we do fancy the Thai to take advantage of any struggles Tomoki has at making 118lbs.
(Image courtesy of OnesongChai)
At the start of this year just one of the three Kameda's had never won a world title. That changed in August as Tomoki Kameda (28-0, 18) managed to defeat Namibia's Paulus Ambunda to claim the WBO Bantamweight title.
As a result of Tomoki's victory over Ambunda the youngest of the Kameda brothers became the first ever Japanese fighter to win a WBO world title and also saw his family getting their place in the Guinness book of World Records as the first trio of brothers to become world champions.
Now Tomoki returns to the ring for the first time since claiming that title and battles Ambunda's unbeaten countryman Immanuel Naidjala (17-0-1, 11).
Although unknown outside of Namibia Naidjala is a fighter who has gotten himself a solid reputation inside his homeland. As well as his reputation he has also been well managed as he's climbed up to #6 in the WBO's Bantamweight world rankings with out beating anyone of note.
Having been a professional since 2009 Naidjala began his career with 16 straight wins before being held to a draw by Botswana's unherladed Lesley Sekotswe. Sekotswe, who was traveling to Namibia for the fight, made Naidjala look limited to say the least. Naidjala often looked wild and crude, although strong he was chasing shadows at times and being popped by the jab at others as he was made to look very much like a C-rate fighter, a long way short of what his reputation would have you believe.
Since that draw Naidjala has recorded another victory, claiming the IBF International Bantamweight title by stopping Emilio Norfat in the eighth round. Interestingly this was the seecond time Naidjala had faced Norfat who lost a very oddly scored contest to Naidjala in 2012.
With the limitations of Naidjala being clearly visible in the footage available it's hard not to envision Tomoki doing as he pleases with the challenger. The jab of the champion will almost certainly land at will and the movement of Tomoki, which frustrated Ambunda through out their contest, will see Naidjala chasing him and being reckless.
One thing Naidjala does appear to have in his favour is a genuine toughess. He looks like one of those "teak tough Africans" that can take a lot of punishment without folding though that's unlikely to do him any real favours here as he eats jabs, straights hooks and uppercuts from the champion who dominates from the opening bell to the final bell.
If Naidjala can land one of his wild shots he may be able to give Tomoki some momentary trouble but it's doubtful that'll do anything more than that.
We're hoping that if Tomoki is successful, as we assume he will be, he'll take up the challenge of Shinsuke Yamanaka next time out. A 2014 clash between Tomoki and Yamanaka will certain be on our dream list of fights we want next year. Unfortunately we're expecting Tomoki to decline that challenge, for now.
Interestingly the WBO's world rankings at Bantamweight do leave some very interesting alternatives to the Yamanaka contest. Tomoki against any of Pungluang Sor Singyu, Ryosuke Iwasa, Marvin Mabait, Kohei Oba, Ryo Akaho, AJ Banal or Konosuke Tomiyama would all be bouts that we'd tune in for!
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.