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.