The Super Featherweight division is a division that promises a lot, but has yet to really deliver with 4 champions all seemingly fighting in their own bubbles and not working their way towards unification bouts. This is seeing fighters like Gervonta Davis and Tevin Farmer having more interesting battles over Twitter than in the actual ring, which is a real shame. Despite the champions all being in their own bubbles they are really good fighters, including WBO champion Masayuki Ito (25-1-1, 13), who returns to the ring this coming Saturday to defend his title against American challenger Jamel Herring (19-2, 10).
Ito is one of those fighters who came through the hard way, and progressed from novice to champion learning his trade in the professional ranks. He debuted in 2009, without any kind of amateur pedigree, and in 2012 won the Japanese Rookie of the Year. He was unfortunate to lose almost a year of his early career due to an injury suffered in an automobile accident, that kept him out of the ring after his debut, but recovered brilliantly to win the Rookie the of the Year only a few years later. In 2013 he would claim his first professional belt, the WBC Youth Lightweight title, before losing in a national title fight in 2015. Since that loss he has gone 9-0 (6), claiming regional titles and, of course, the WBO title last year.
If you don't follow the Asian scene Ito kind of came out of nowhere last year when he beat Christopher Diaz for the WBO world title. In reality however those who followed the Asian scene had followed Ito for a while, and seen him score wins over the likes of Masaru Sueyoshi, Kosuke Saka, Taiki Minamoto, Masao Nakamura, Takuya Watanabe and Lorenzo Villanueva. He had shown a fantastic boxing brain, sharp punching, an intelligent defensive ability and had began to develop an exciting offensive style, a style that was polished following his loss to Rikki Naito.
Although not as explosive as Miguel Berchelt, or as crafty as Tevin Farmer, or as hard hitting as Gervonta Davis, Ito is arguably the most rounded champion at 130lbs. He's defensively smart, sharp punching and uses the ring well. He's certainly not a big puncher, but he's a clean puncher, and his straight right hand has more sting on it than his record suggests. His movement allows him to set the right hand up well, and his judgement of distance is one of his big strengths, as is the variation of his right hand, which is effective both as a straight punch as a looping shot. His ring IQ really does show with his shot selection and he is going to be a hard man to dethrone.
Unlike the Japanese fighter Herring was actually a really good amateur. The American was a former standout who won numerous national titles and participated in the 2012 Olympics, losing to Kazakh fighter Daniyar Yeleussinov. Following the Olympics he would turn professional and string together 15 wins whilst fighting at Lightweight. Sadly for him however he suffered 2 losses in quick success, falling to 16-2, and being stopped by Denis Shafikov and losing a decision to Ladarius Miller. Since the loss to Miller in 2017 Herring has dropped to Super Featherweight and picked up 3 straight wins.
In the ring Herring, like Ito, is a smart fighter. He's very much a deliberate fighter, who fighters at a relatively steady pace. He has good speed, a solid jab and awkward physical dimensions. Sadly Herring doesn't make the most of his size or speed. He's typically been happy to fight within himself, and even when he's had the chance to up the tempo and try to impress he's not done it. He's typically done enough to win, but not enough to wow an audience. This was seen really clearly a year ago, when he shut out John Vincent Moralde, but showed no intention of seeking a finish, which was rather disappointing given the huge gulf in levels between the two men. Strangely his lack of killer instinct could well be related to one of Herring's most interesting characteristics, the fact he's actually a really nice guy, maybe a touch too nice to be a boxing star. He needs to shake that niceness in the ring if he's to make the most of his ability.
Physically Herring can be a nightmare for anyone at 130lbs. He's a freakish fighter, even if he does seem a little gun shy. Although a nightmare to fight we don't see him really testing Ito, who we're expecting to be too busy, too accurate and too sharp for the challenger. Herring will be there to win, but after a few rounds he'll be finding himself in a hole, a hole he won't be able to climb out of as Ito goes on to a comfortable and wide decision win.
Prediction UD12 Ito
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On December 30, as part of the big triple header on Fuji TV, Masayuki Ito will defend his newly won WBO Super Featherweight World Championship, against top ranked Russian fighter Evgeny Chuprakov, in Ota City, Japan.
Masayuki Ito (24-1-1/12 KOs) is one of Japan’s brightest new stars. Much like Satoshi Shimizu, Takeshi Inoue, Masayoshi Nakatani & Tsubasa Koura, he is looking to leave his mark on the world stage. Made his pro debut in 2009, at only 18 years of age, Ito remained undefeated for 5 years while winning 16 fights in a row (plus a WBC Youth belt) against the likes of Masao Nakamura (former OPBF & reigning WBO Asia Pacific champion), Ryan Sermona (former WBC International champion) as well as Masaru Sueyoshi (current Japanese & OPBF champion/WBO #6). His one and only loss was a majority decision to Rikki Naito.
Ito quickly bounced back as he stopped Dai Iwai on August of 2015, to win the vacant OPBF Super Featherweight crown. He then squared off with the IBF Asia champion Shingo Eto, for 12 exciting rounds, to mark his inaguaral title defense. One of his biggest fights at the time came at New Year‘s Eve of 2016, when he faced the WBO Asia Pacific champion Takuya Watanabe, in a double title bout. Ito slowly and methodically picked the veteran apart (Watanabe’s record was 30-6), showcasing tremendous hand speed and footwork. By the time it was over, Watanabe seemed exhausted, while Ito looked as fresh as in the opening round. In the end, Ito left with the unanimous decision and the unified OPBF & WBO Asia Pacific belts.
After knocking out the much more experienced Lorenzo Villanueva (33-2) in a WBO Asia Pacific defense, Ito’s focus was finally shifted to the world championship hunt. The Japanese superstar added 2 more stoppages to his already impressive record before going toe to toe with undefeated Puerto Rican boxer Christopher Diaz (23-0), this past July, for the vacant WBO Super Featherweight World Title. In a thrilling encounter between two hungry young lions, Ito and Diaz had one of the best world title fights of 2018, with both men going back and forth, swinging for the fences, for 36 unforgettable minutes. Ito’s game was much more precise and well calculated, which became even more evident during the fourth round, as he dropped Diaz with an incredibly fast right-right-left-right combination. After the dust had settled, Masayuki Ito left Florida as the new WBO World Champion.
However, Ito’s journey will only get tougher and tougher at this point, as the best in the division will attempt to claim his crown for their own. Before we even get to the next year, he is tasked to defend his belt against another fighter with a flawless record, coming all the way from Russia.
Evgeny Chuprakov (20-10/10 KOs) is the Number 1 ranked Super Featherweight by the WBO. A cracking fighter, who made his debut in 2011, has dominated the Russian scene from early on, winning their National championship in just his seventh match.
On September of 2015, his skills were tested against a former IBF World Champion, Dmitry Kirillov (31-6). Despite being a relative young fighter to the game still, Chuprakov looked like the real pro, out-boxing Kirillov and shockingly stopping him in the eight round, after landing a devastating liver shot, rendering the veteran unable to continue. Evgeny left Yekaterinburg with the biggest win of his career, plus the WBO European title.
Chuprakov went on to defend his belt twice, against Timur Akhundov and German champion Sebastian Tlatlik. Tlatlik, who was undefeated at the time, was dropped by an overhand right in the second round and continued to endure a plethora of strikes, until the fifth, which left the referee with no choice but to stop the fight. The Russian prodigy also captured the vacant WBO Intercontinental strap the following year, after a hard fought battle with another undefeated fighter, Jeremiah Nakathila. His first title defense was against Eden Sonsona, a former WBC International Silver champion who hadn’t lost a fight since 2010. Evgeny knocked him down twice (in the 3rd & 4th round), much to the joy of the Russian fans. The fight ended in the fifth again, since Sonsona couldn’t withstand the beating that he was receiving. With 2 more wins under his belt, Chuprakov was finally named the mandatory challenger for the WBO World Championship.
This is a significant fight for both the challenger as well as the champion. Chuprakov’s entire career has been leading up to this point, realizing his dream of winning the big one, a task which won’t be easily accomplished, especially since he’s taking the champion on his home turf. At the same time, Ito is still eager to prove himself, to the fans and to the critics alike, as he never got the opportunity to fight Lomachenko, thus never got to defeat the former champion for the belt he currently holds. This will be a clash of 2 strong, intelligent and fast boxers, whose styles are very similar to each other. So it all comes down to this: Who wants it more? Who is ready to make history? Who can go that extra mile? Only a few days left until we find out.By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
By - George Delis (@Delisketo )
On July 28, another world title could come to the land of the Rising Sun, as Masayuki Ito faces Christopher Diaz for the vacant WBO Super Featherweight World title.
Masayuki Ito (23-1-1 / 12 KOs) belongs among the next generation of up-and-coming Japanese stars like Hiroki Okada, Satoshi Shimizu, Hiroaki Teshigawara, that look to leave their mark on the world scene. After Vasyl Lomachenko vacated the title to focus on the Lightweight division, this opened the door for a new champion to step up and take the spotlight. This may be Ito’s first crack at a world championship, but that’s certainly not his first time fighting for gold. In 2013 he won the WBC Youth Lightweight title after 12 consecutive career wins. He unsuccessfully challenged Rikki Naito (11-0*) for the Japanese Super Featherweight title on February of 2015, in a very even fight, but a couple of months later he knocked out Dai Iwai (17-3*) to become the OPBF Super Featherweight champion. On December of 2016 he fought his biggest match at the time, as he took on one of the top ranked boxers in Japan, Takuya Watanabe (30-6*) at Ota-City. After 12 action-packed rounds, Ito got the unanimous decision and more importantly the WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight belt. His winning ways continued, as he earned 3 impressive KO wins in 2017/2018, over Lorenzo Villanueva (32-2*), Glenn Enterina (11-2*) and Vergil Puton (17-9*). Now Ito sits at the #2 spot of the WBO rankings and getting ready for his big opportunity.
Christopher Diaz (23-0 / 15 KOs) one of the brightest prospects of the Super Featherweight division, has run roughshod over every opponent that he has come across the ring with. Named Prospect Of The Year by ESPN Deportes in 2016, Diaz blasted through Bryant Cruz (18-2*) to be crowned WBO NABO Super Featherweight champion on December of 2017 at the Madison Square Garden Theater. On March of 2018 he stopped Braulio Rodriguez (19-2*) in the 4th round, thus earning the chance to box for the WBO world title.
This is, without a doubt, the most significant fight in the careers of both these 2 young fighters. Ito’s 9 year journey has culminated in this very moment, finally competing for the world championship, at US soil, for the first time. Diaz on the other hand, has been on the fast track, as he has managed to climb to the top of the Super Featherweights in only 5 years’ time and could become the 60th male Puerto Rican boxing world champion. The stakes couldn’t be higher for these men.
Prediction: This one hard to call. Diaz has never lost a fight in his life, he is younger and has the higher KO ratio. However, the experience is definitely on Ito’s side, as he has been boxing for almost a decade and has bested more top level guys than Diaz. In my opinion, Ito’s skills and cunningness will be sufficient enough for him to leave Florida with the strap.
*The boxer’s record before the fight.
Over the past 12 months we have seen a massive shake up of the Super Featherweight division. Just 10 months ago the divisional champions were Takashi Uchiyama, the then WBA “super” champion, Takashi Miura, the then WBC champion, Roman Martinez, the WBO champion, and Jose Pedraza, the IBF champion. Now, a year on, the champions are very different with the sudden emergence of Jezreel Corrales, who now holds the WBA “super” title, Franisco Vargas, the WBC title hold, Vasyl Lomachenko, the current WBO champion, and the only champion from a year ago is Pedraza, who was lucky not to lose his title in his first defense.
Whilst the title picture has had a shake up we have also seen “secondary” titles change hands or pop up with the WBA having the newly crowned Jason Sosa as their “regular” champion and the WBO having a rare “interim” champion in the form of Miguel Berchelt (29-1, 26), a genuinely exciting Mexican.
Berchelt makes the first defense of his title this coming weekend when he takes on hugely experienced Thai Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo (61-2, 41), who is getting his third shot at a “world” title, having lost to Lomachenko and Chris John in title bouts at Featherweight.
Whilst we're not usually a fan of “interim” titles, we will admit we do like it when they throw up bouts like this, one that look good on paper and should be fun when the fighters get in the ring.
For those who haven't seen the champion Berchelt is genuinely fun to watch. He's a little bit crude, a little bit defensively awkward but he's got the gift of power, in both hands. When he turned professional, aged 19, he reeled off stoppages for fun and swiftly moved to 21-0 (18). Those KO's left him feeling like superman and looking like he felt he could just walk through anything. That cost him in 2014, when he was stopped in 99 seconds by fellow puncher Luis Eduardo Florez.
The loss to Florez would have totally derailed lesser fighters but Berchelt has quickly rebuilt his momentum and reeled off 8 straight stoppage wins, including victories over Antonio Escalante, Rene Gonzalez and Sergio Puente, all fringe contenders, as well as George Jupp, who he beat for the interim title earlier this year.
Amazingly he's only 24, he's improving and with his power he's going to be a nightmare for anyone outside of the divisional elite, though he could make for some potential thrillers with the second tier guys in the division.
When it comes to Chonlatarn the first thing that strikes many fans is his impressive record which features more than 60 wins. Like many Thai's however those wins have regularly been over weak opponents and the number of decent names on his record is disappointing. On paper his best wins are two victories over fellow Thai Yoddamrong Sithyodthong, though Yoddamrong was well past his prime by then, a win over Vinvin Rufino and a victory over the under-rated Adones Aguelo. Not exactly outstanding for a man with more than 60 wins.
Whilst his best wins are lacking quality it is fair to say he has fought two tremendous fights in Chris John, who took a clear decision over him on 2012, and Vasyl Lomachneko, who totally schooled him in 2014. Notably those bouts were both at 126lbs, though it seems he feels he has filled out and is now competing at 130lbs, where he has been focusing all year.
Stylistically Chonlatarn is a bit of a one paced, pressure fighter who comes forward slowly and looks to work up close. Against John and Lomachenko that tactic was never going to work due to the huge difference in speed and skill, but against lesser fighters it has worked with Chonlatarn using his weight and strength to great advantage over lesser foes.
Sadly for Chonlatarn we don't think his style or ability bodes well here against a thunderously hard hitting Berchelt, who we suspect will hit him hard and hit him often, eventually forcing a stoppage of the limited but game Thai, likely in the middle rounds of the fight
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.