The WBC world title picture at Bantamweight is a series mess with the body having one of their more confusing title pictures, with a world champion, and interim champion and a silver champion. The title scene really is a mess due to issues caused in 2018 by Mexican fighter Luis Nery, who failed a drug test and subsequently failed to make weight. Despite his issues Nery is actually the #1 ranked and current Silver champion.
Rather than going into detail about Nery, and his various issues, it's worth noting that him and Takuma Inoue, the interim champion, are both vying for a future world title fight, likely later in the year. They do however have to wait, and next up for the main title will be the first defense of unbeaten French champion Nordine Oubaali (15-0, 11), who takes on Filipino challenger Arthur Villanueva (32-3-1, 18) on July 6th. The bout isn't the most interesting, given the talent in the division and the long line of WBC challengers, but it's a notable bout headlining an MTK card in Kazakhstan, and certainly deserves some real attention.
The unbeaten champion, a French fighter with Morocan heritage, was an outstanding amateur competing at 2 Olympics and 3 world amateur championships. Although his best result was "only" a bronze medal, at the 2007 World Championships in Chicago, he was clearly talented and that showed in his consistency and success in the World Series Boxing, where he fought for the Paris United Franchise. That experience in the amateurs and WSB saw Oubaali turn professional with some pretty lofty expectations 2014 and since then the southpaw has impressed picking up minor titles before claiming the WBC belt last year.
As a fighter Oubaali is a talented southpaw boxer-puncher with excellent skills and solid punching power. He turned professional in 2014 and was kept busy early on in his career against mostly limited opponents, but in 2016 he stopped both Iran Diaz, who later went the distance with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, and Julio Cesar Miranda, a former world champion from Mexico. Those wins put him on the map before he added stoppages against very tough Mexican veteran Alejandro Hernandez, skilled Filipino Mark Anthony Geraldo and tough Colombian Luis Melendez. Most recently he defeated Rau'shee Warren, over 12 rounds, for the WBC title back in January. Notably that bout in January is his only contest in the last 12 months. With a number of good wins he is really one of the top, and most under-rated, Bantamweights out there, with a resume comparable to better recognised fighters at the weight, like Zolani Tete, Emmanuel Rodriguez and Ryan Burnett, and would have been a good addition to the WBSS.
The Filipino challenger was once regarded as a bright hope, though has sadly failed to live up to the expectations on his shoulders. He began his career with 28 straight wins whilst working his way up the world rankings. In 2015 he would then face McJoe Arroyo in a bout for the IBF Super Flyweight title, losing a technical decision in what was a truly stinking bout. He was much more competitive than the score cards suggested, though in reality neither man did much of anything in a truly disappointing match up that never clicked. Since then Villanueva has gone 5-2-1 (4), and not looked particularly good, even in his wins.
At his best he was a methodical fighter, a thinking mans fighter, with good timing, patience and counter punching. He was a chess player in the ring, but unfortunately his skills haven't shown themselves at the top level, and losses to not only Arroyo but also Zolani Tete and Luis Nery, who he dropped before being stopped by, have shown he's a level beneath world class. He's a very capable fighter, but no world beater, and unfortunately fighters will need to be world beaters to beat Oubaali.
We're expecting Villanueva to put up a good effort early on, though as the fight goes on Oubaali's class, clean punching and accuracy will be the difference and by the middle rounds Villanueva will be getting broken down, before being stopped in the second half of the fight.
Prediction - Oubaali TKO9
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On June 19, at the Makuhari Messe arena in Japan, a national hero returns home, as Kazuto Ioka goes one on one with Aston Palicte for the vacant WBO Super Flyweight World Championship.
Kazuto Ioka (23-2 / 13 KOs) is without a doubt one of the best Japanese boxers of the last decade. He proved his worth quite early, back in his amateur days, amassing an impressive record of 95 wins in 105 bouts, including two All Japan championships, two Inter-High School titles and four National Sports Festival honors.
Turned pro in 2009, he showcased his amateur pedigree as he dispatched world title contender Takashi Kunishige, in just his third fight. Ioka then went on to win the vacant Japanese Light Flyweight title after he TKOed Masayoshi Segawa, only 18 months after his debut.
On February of 2011, Ioka’s first major test arrived when he challenged the unbeaten Kittipong Jaigrajang (35-0 at the time) for the WBC Strawweight World championship. Jaigrajang was champion for 4 years and had 6 title defenses under his belt. The Japanese hopeful went toe to toe with the veteran Thai champion, even knocking him down as early as in the second round and then once more in the fifth, with a lethal left body blow, sealing the deal and becoming the world champion at only 21 years of age. Ioka defended his championship twice the same year, against Juan Hernandez Navarrete and Veerawut Yuthimitr.
On June 20 of 2012, he was involved in a unification bout with the WBA champion and fellow rising Japanese star, Akira Yaegashi. Their careers shared many similarities. Yaegashi was also an accomplished amateur, with a record of 56-14, and had also won the National Sports Festival, back in 2002. Both men brought their A game that night, knowing what was at stake. An epic back and forth affair, that brought the fans to their feet, ended with Ioka earning the unanimous decision and leaving Osaka with two world championships.
Having conquered the Strawweight division, Ioka decided to move up a weight class and faced Jose Alfredo Rodriguez for the vacant WBA Light Flyweight World title (Regular version). Rodriguez was the former interim WBA champion, with 28 wins and only 1 decision loss. The Japanese prodigy systematically picked him apart with body shots and hooks, dropping him thrice, for the win as well as for his second divisional world title reign.
Ioka enjoyed another long run with the belt, marking 3 successful defenses over Phissanu Chimsunthom, former world champion Ekkawit Songnui and Felix Alvarado (current IBF Light Flyweight World Champion). Since the Roman Gonzalez fight never took place (WBA Super champion) Ioka vacated his title and debuted in the Flyweight division, where he tasted defeat for the first time as a pro, as he failed to capture the IBF title from Amnat Ruenroeng, in a very evenly contested bout. Ironically, Ioka had lost again to Amnat in the past, back in their amateur days, when they met at the semi-finals of the 2008 King's Cup, an annual boxing tournament held in Thailand.
The 2 division world champion came back even more determined, beating Pablo Carrillo and knocking out former interim world champion Jean Piero Perez with a thunderous right straight, within the span of three months, thus earning another opportunity at a Flyweight World Title, this time against the WBA Regular champion, Juan Carlos Reveco. After 12 action packed rounds, the Japanese superstar finally became a 3 division champion. Since the fight was very close on the judges’ scorecards, a rematch was set on New Year’s Eve of 2015. As usual, Ioka’s body work was the key factor, stopping Reveco in the eleventh round, in what otherwise was once again a close call.
As WBA Flyweight World champion, he made five successful title defenses, over the likes of Roberto Domingo Sosa, Juan Carlos Reveco (as mentioned above), Keyvin Lara, Yutthana Kaensa and Nare Yianleang. His toughest one had to be against Kaensa. The interim WBA champion, with a perfect record of 16-0, shocked everyone when he knocked Ioka down, with a fast right counter hook, in the second round. Ioka had never been dropped before in his pro career. Kaensa kept the pressure on for the majority of the fight, giving the champion a bigger challenge than he expected. The tables turned however as Ioka put the Thai boxer down with a liver shot in the seventh round and proceeded to finish him off by punishing his body even further.
His sixth defense was scheduled to take place on December 31st of 2017 but due to getting married and reportedly falling out with his father and promoter, Kazunori Ioka, he chose to retire and vacate his belt.
Almost 17 months later, Ioka returned to active competition, this time at Super Flyweight and with a new goal in mind: to become a 4 division world champion. He immediately challenged McWilliams Arroyo for the WBC Silver Super Flyweight title. Arroyo, much like Ioka, also had an extensive amateur career, winning the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games, the 2007 Pan American Games and the 2009 AIBA World Boxing Championships, including victories over 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Yan Bartelemí and 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist Nyambayaryn Togstsogt. With no signs of ring-rust, the former multiple time world champion took control of the fight from the opening round and never let up. After 10 rounds and one knockdown in the third, the Japanese superstar was back on track. It’s worth mentioning that this was Ioka’s first fight in the U.S. as well as his first fight outside of Japan, as a pro.
Controversy struck on December 31st of last year, when he met fellow 3 division champion Donnie Nietes for the vacant WBO Super Flyweight title. After 12 rounds of incredible action, the (split) decision was given to the Filipino fighter, while most fans who watched the match, believed Ioka should have been the victor that night. With Nietes vacating the belt, Ioka gets a second chance to claim that was supposed to be his, but he first has to go through another boxer from the Philippines.
Aston Palicte (25-2-1 / 21 KOs) despite being around almost the same amount of time as Ioka, and even though he has more fights as a pro, a deeper look at his competition suggests that he’s not yet at the same level. He is however a very fast fighter, who knows how to throw good combinations and move around the ring with grace. Palicte likes to keep his distance, creating space with jabs, and then strike with the right. Most of his victories are a result of this strategy. His biggest one thus far has been against former interim WBA Light Flyweight World champion Jose Alfredo Rodriguez in 2017, which was basically a one sided affair. It’s worth mentioning that he also throws strong uppercuts.
On the other hand, he tends to receive a lot of hits throughout his matches, while he finds himself in trouble when his opponent gets too close, which was the case in his encounter with Nietes. The fight itself was declared a draw, but Nietes was the one that landed and connected with way more punches as well as the more accurate ones. Now Palicte has earned himself another opportunity at the gold, after he stopped Jose Martinez (20-0 at the time), to become the #1 contender for the WBO title.
It’s safe to assume Ioka is the clear favorite in this one. Considering that he’s an expert at closing the distance and punishing the body, Palicte will have a tough time defending against him, or even putting any significant offense of his own. This might not end with a KO, as the Filipino is quite resilient, but in case that it does, it will be in the later rounds, probably after the 8th.
One of the biggest rivalries in world boxing is the under-rated Japan Vs Thailand rivalry. It's not as widely reported at the Puerto Rico Vs Mexico rivalry but it's as good as we get to Asia's answer, and has given us some historic battles over the years including the likes of Joichiro Tatsuyoshi Vs Sirimongkol Singwancha.
On June 19th we see the next chapter in that rivalry as WBA "Super" and Ring magazine Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (12-0, 9) defends his titles against Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-0, 5), aka Tanawat Nakooon. For Kyoguchi this will be his first defense of the two titles he won in December, when he stopped Hekkie Budler, whilst Satanmuanglek will be taking a huge step up for his first world title fight.
The Japanese fighter was a notable amateur before he turned professional just over 3 years ago with the Watanabe Gym in Tokyo. He was raced to his first title, the OPBF Minimumweight title,after less than 11 months, and would take the IBF Minimumweight title just 15 months after his debut. It was the quickest rise of any Japanese fighter to their first world title. He would add to his title collection last December, when he became a 2-weight champion, in just his 12th professional bout, and became the first man to stop South African Hekkie Budler. Whilst that's not quite as a impressive as Kosei Tanaka or Naoya Inoue its still an incredibly impressive feat from the baby faced 25 year old.
Despite having been a profession for just over 3 years Kyoguchi has a strong resume, with wins over Jose Argumedo, Carlos Buitrago and Hekkie Budler being the best of them. Through his career he has shown an exciting pressure style, backed with good boxing skills, decent defense and aggressive footwork. His uses a fantastic heavy jab to close the distance and when up close he goes to town with spiteful uppercuts and ripping body shots. The combinations, pressure and power will be far too much for many opponents, and it's clear that it will take a very special fighter to dethrone the rising Japanese star.
Satanmuanglek, unlike Kyoguchi, wasn't an amateur standout. Instead he was a Muay Thai star, fighting as Satanmuanglek Numpornthep, and really shone in the art of 8 limbs. It was due to his Muay Thai experience that there was real excitement when he turned his hand to professional boxing 2017. Sadly his early career as a boxer was uninspired with wins against the usual array of over-mathced Indonesian and Filipino journeyman, such as Silem Serang, Maktison Marganti and Geboi Mansalayao. He did step up his level of competition last year, scoring a career best win over Marco John Rementizo, though he was pushed all the way in that bout showing that he still had a lot of work to do before being ready for a world title fight.
In the ring Satanmuanglek is a physically strong southpaw who has a nice jab, and decent speed. On the front foot he's solid, with a nice variety of shots and he does apply consistent, smart pressure whilst breaking opponents down with accurate heavy shots. Sadly for him things are very different on the back foot and when forced backwards, as he was against Rementizo, he looks like a very different fighter, with defensive flaws showing through regularly. Also when forced on to the back foot his work rate drops and his punches look like he is reaching to land, rather than punching through the target.
Given how vicious and intelligent and incessant Kyoguchi's pressure is, and the real issues Satanmuanglek had with Rementizo it's hard to see anything but a successful defense for the Japanese fighter. Satanmuanglek is tough, he proved that in his Muay Thai career, but we really struggle to see him putting up with the body shots of Kyoguchi. We think they will be the cause of his pain, and will cause the bout to be concluded before the championship rounds.
Prediction - Kyoguchi TKO7
This coming Saturday we'll see WBA Flyweight champion Artem Dalakian (18-0, 13) make a mandatory defense of his title as he takes on Thai foe Dennapa Kiatniwat (20-1, 15)*, aka Sarawut Thawornkham, in Kiev, Ukraine. On paper this looks interesting, but in reality the paper only tells us part of the story. For example the bout will be the Thai's first world title fight, it will be a huge step up in class and his second bout outside of Thailand, whilst Dalakian will be seeking his third defense of the WBA title and comes into the bout riding a huge wave of confidence following 3 impressive wins in 2018.
So lets look at the men involved.
The 31 year old Dalakian is an Azeri born Ukrainian who had a notable amateur career, and competed at the 2009 World Amateur Champions, pushing future world champion Amnat Ruenroeng all the way. He would later turn professional in 2011 and has gone unbeaten since then. Although unbeaten since he became a professional it wasn't until 2018 that he really got any attention from the boxing world. That was a year where he was given a chance, and defeat Brian Viloria to become the WBA Flyweight champion, doing so in the US. Since then he has notched up defenses against Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep and Gregorio Lebron. Prior to beating Viloria there was little on his record, with wins over veteran Silvio Olteanu and a then inexperienced Angel Moreno being the only wins of any note.
In the ring Dalakian is a talented boxer-puncher. He's not the most talented boxer in the division, or the hard hitter, but he combines his boxing and power excellently, with long reach, an awkward style, and good consistent aggression. He's not going to wipe world class opponents out, but he's going to be a nightmare for anyone with his strength and size being real problems. He's also tough, though was hurt at times by Viloira, strong and a fighter who looks really hard to beat. It's also worth noting he's well backed, and there's only a handful of fighters who will be able to afford home advantage against him.
Kiatniwat is real obscurity for those who don't follow the Asian scene in depth, and the reality is that those who do follow him will be aware he doesn't belong in a world title fight. He lost on his debut, being stopped by Masato Morisaki in May 2014, but has reeled off 20* straight wins since then. That sounds impressive, but the best of his wins have been against the likes of Tommy Seran, Crison Omayao and Michael Camelion. To put those into some context, Omayao is a blown Minimumweight, who Naoya Inoue beat on his debut, Michael Camelion was blasted in 33 seconds by Hiroto Kyoguchi back in 2016 and Tommy Seran has won just 1 of his last 9 bouts.
From the footage that's available the Thai does look pretty good offensively, having a nice body attack, some short punching up close and a good jab. He fights out of the southpaw stance and does look solid, though given his competition he is very unproven and it's hard to say whether his power really can carry up. Defensively there are more worried and he has been tagged by fighters much less skilled than Dalakanian, and can often be seen with a very low lead right hand.
We suspect most see this as a mismatch in favour of Dalakian, and if we're being honest we don't see anything but a Dalakian win. Although we strongly favour Dalakian we do however expect to see Dennapa asking some questions of Dalakian, with the Thai's body shots and southpaw stance posing a few issues. We're going to suggest that Dennapa actually give Dalakian toughest fight to date, but suffers a late stoppage to the Ukrainian.
Prediction - Dalakian TKO10
*There are some questions over Kiatniwat's real record with at least 1 bout of his beign televised but not being listed on boxrec.com
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On May 26, Sho Kimura aims to become a 2 division king as he faces the undefeated Carlos Canizales for the WBA (Regular) Light Flyweight World championship, in Fuzhou, China.
Sho Kimura (18-2 / 11 KOs) despite suffering a KO loss on his pro debut, he quickly bounced back, amassing 12 wins within 3 years, as well as the WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title after a heated battle with Masahiro Sakamoto (13-2).
In 2017, Kimura’s biggest test took place in China when he challenged the WBO Flyweight World champion Shiming Zou (9-2). A 2 time Olympic champion & 3 times AIBA World champion, the Chinese fighter held victories over fellow accomplished amateur boxers and future World title holders like Nordine Oubaali, Amnat Ruenroeng and Rau'shee Warren. Kimura, who was coming in as the underdog and was even fighting the champion in his own country, weakened his opponent with body shots throughout the match and eventually delivered a lethal combination during the 11th round, connecting almost a dozen times with Zou’s head, to put a stop to their encounter and to win the big one.
Kimura made his triumphant return to Japan, on December of the same year, defending against the former WBC, The Ring and Lineal Flyweight World champion Toshiyuki Igarashi (23-3). Unbeaten close to 5 years, Igarashi was overwhelmed early on in the fight by Sho’s aggressive style, suffering a lot of damage, while offering almost no offense of his own. The action picked up in the later rounds, as both men started swinging for the fences, bringing the fans to their feet. Finally the end came in the 9th after he landed a straight right hand, stunning the challenger, sending him back to a corner and finishing him off with a flurry of punches. It’s worth mentioning that neither Zou nor Igarashi had ever been stopped before in their careers.
After dispatching Froilan Saludar (30-3) for an easy second title defense, Kimura lost a majority decision to now 3 division World champion Kosei Tanaka (13-0) in what was considered the best Japanese fight of 2018. 6 months later, he came back against Wicha Phulaikhao (60-11), showing no signs of ring rust, completely dominating the Thai veteran and even dropping him thrice with uppercuts in the 3rd round, earning his 11th stoppage victory and setting his sights on a second World title reign.
Carlos Canizales (21-0 / 17 KOs) made his debut in 2014, winning 19 fights in a row, all transpiring in his home country of Venezuela. After a close encounter with the WBA (Super) Light Flyweight World champion Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4), which ended in a draw, he received another shot, this time at the vacant Regular title, against Reiya Konishi (17-1) in March of last year. The Japanese champion was also undefeated at the time with 15 victories under his belt. Canizales once again found himself in a tough contest, going back and forth, but was more in control than in his previous bout, scoring also a knockdown in the 3rd round and eventually earning a unanimous decision and of course the strap.
“Triple C” met accomplished amateur star & AIBA Youth World champion Lu Bin for his inaugural WBA title defense. This was the Chinese fighter’s second only match as a pro. Canizales outclassed Bin, throwing and landing way more punches, sealing the deal in the last round after he floored him with a right straight.
Both Kimura and Canizales are action fighters. They like to throw more and hard, than less but accurate. Stylistically it’s a dream match. Even though this might go to deep waters, it wouldn’t be a surprise if we don’t need the judges in the end. Comparing the caliber of opponents they’ve faced, it’s clear that Kimura has gone up against better competition (for example: Shiming Zou – Olympic champion, Lu Bin – AIBA Youth champion) plus he knows how to work the body more efficiently than the Venezuelan. To conclude with, Kimura is most likely to leave China once again with the gold, but at the same time, there’s a reason Canizales is 21-0-1 in his professional career. Either way, their fight will certainly be a blast !
Earlier this year China saw it's baby faced punching machine Can Xu (16-2, 2) announce himself on the global stage with an upset win in the US over Jesus M Rojas, to become the WBA "regular" Featherweight champion. The win was a notable upset, especially given how bad Xu had looked on his US debut, and saw the feather fisted "Monster", don't ask, show off his fun style, his incredible toughness and his wonderful personality.
This coming weekend Xu heads back to a Chinese ring as he looks to make the first defense of his title, and unlike many who would take on an easy first defense he will actually go up against former WBA "regular" Super Bantamweight champion Shun Kubo (13-1, 9) in what is a really nice looking match up.
Xu, as we all saw against Rojas, is a tough, gutsy guy with an incredible work rate. His shots don't have much on them individually but the sheer number of punches he throws is incredible and he does wear people out mentally as well as physically. He combines an insane output with a gritty toughness, that we saw not only against Rojas but also against the likes of Spicy Matsushita, Nehomar Cermeno and Hurricane Futa, among others.
His combination of toughness and output has seen him winning his last 13 fights and becoming the new face of Chinese boxing. That's admittedly not a position that has given us a lot of big names, but puts him in a small group along with Xiang Zhao Zhong and Zou Shiming, as Chinese world champions and focal points in Chinese boxing history.
Xu isn't likely to be a big star world wide, despite his style, but for Chinese boxing he is a potential center point to build off over the coming years. He's only 25, he's promoted by China's bigger promoter Max Power Promotions, and could be finding himself as someone to inspire the next generation of fighters. The hope once was that Zou Shiming would do that, but he was too old when he turned professional and although interesting outside of the ring he wasn't fun to watch, his fighters didn't see a lot of punches aren't weren't exciting. Xu is fun, young, exciting and oozes natural charisma, which can appeal to local fans and international ones.
As previously mentioned Kubo is a former "regular" champion at 122lbs. Whilst he was fighting at Super Bantamweight he was regarded as a fast rising hopeful, and scored early career wins over the likes of Monico Laurente and Luis May before taking the OPBF title in 2015. In the eyes of many he was the new hope of the Shinsei gym, and winning the OPBF title in just his 9th fight showed that they were going to be pushing to be the replacement for Hozumi Hasegawa at the top of the Shinsei stable. Less than 18 months after his OPBF win he would defeat Nehomar Cermeno for the WBA "regular title", with Cemerno retiring between rounds 10 and 11. It's worth noting that Cermeno had won and defended his belt, twice, in China becoming a bit of a name there, so beating Cermeno would have got Kubo some attention in China.
Sadly Kubo's reign was short and he lost the belt less than 5 months later when he dominated by Danny Roman, who has now run up 4 defenses and unified the WBA and IBF titles suggesting that a lott to Roman isn't something to be ashamed by. Since losing the belt Kubo has scored a single win, moving up to Featherweight and narrowly out pointing Hiroshige Osawa. Sadly a planned follow up was cancelled late last year when Kubo was suffering issues with his sight, though he has receieved treatment and things are said to be sorted with his eyes now.
In the ring Kubo is a pretty basic fighter. He's gangly, long and has impressive size, and will have that at Featheweight, but doesn't do anything specially well. He has a solid enough jab and a decent left hook to the body but there is nothing that makes you think he's world class, other than his desire and will to win. In fact if anything he's shown a suspect chin, a lack of power and some naivety. Despite his flaws he does have success, his heart is incredible and he knows how to use his size. He's not only awkward in terms of reach and height but also due to being a southpaw and he does do a lot that's nice, as opposed to exceptional.
We think Kubo could ask questions of Xu, especially early on when he can land some body shots and is fresh enough to get his punches off. As the fight wears on however we expect to see Xu's pressure, work rate and aggression be the difference, and for the Chinese fighter to retain his title.
We're expecting Kubo to survive the distance, but wouldn't be hugely shocked by a late a stoppage for Xu, despite his reputation as a none-puncher.
Prediction Xu UD12
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
For our money the Light Flyweight division is, by far, the best in the sport today. It has the best collection of fighters, the deepest depth, the best mixture of contenders, champions and prospects, and so many fantastic match ups are actually being made there. This coming Sunday we get one of those great match ups, as IBF champion Felix Alvarado (34-2, 30) takes on Japanese challenger Reiya Konishi (17-1, 7). For the champion this will be his first defense, whilst the challenger gets his second shot at a world title. Stylistically this promises intense action, great back and forth, something really special, though it's hard to see Alvarado not entering as a clear favourite.
The champion is one of the hardest hitting fighters in the sport today, at least on a pound for pound basis. His last 16 bouts have seen him going 16-0 (15) and he has only gone the distance once since suffering back to back decision losses to Kazuto Ioka and Juan Carlos Reveco, both on the road. Whilst no one questions the loss to Ioka, who moved too much and was too smart for Alvarado, there was plenty of frustration in regards to his loss to Reveco, where deductions for low blows, and some weird looking scoring seemed to play a factor.
On one hand Reveco's competition hasn't been the best, he has lost to his two most notable opponents and doesn't have wins over many notable names. In fact much of his career has been spent on the Nicaraguan domestic scene. Saying that however he does hold two very good wins, stopping both Fahlan Sakkrerin Jr and Randy Petalcorin in the last 2 years. Fahlan was stopped in brutal fashion whilst Petalcorin was battered, going down 3 times in round 7. Both those bouts proved that Alvarado can step up to world level, is legitimately dangerous and although not the smoothest of boxers he is aggressive, bringing relentless pressure and breaking people down both mentally and physically. He can be out boxed, but it's going to take a fighter with amazing stamina, movement and ring craft to out boxing him. As for trying to out fight Alvarado, that seems like a silly gameplan, and although there are, maybe, one or two fighters who would fancy their chances we don't think any would be given more than 50-50 shot at winning a war with him.
Konishi on the other hand is more of a volume punching brawler than a power punching monster. A style that probably won't bode well against Alvarado. Konishi first made his name at Minimumweight, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2014 and then the Japanese title in 2017. As the Japaese champion he made 2 defenses before out growing the division and battling against Carlos Canizales for the WBA regular Light Flyweight title, and losing a competitive decision to the hard hitting Venezuelan. Since that loss Konishi has managed to win, and defend, the WBO Asia Pacific title, though has done so against fighters a long way removed from world class.
In the ring Konishi is very much an in your face fighter, who fights at close range, bring the action and tries to close the distance, though isn't actually the quickest fighter out there. It can make his fights very messy at times, with head clashes having occurred in a number of his bouts at domestic level, and can also leave him open to looking silly, chasing quicker opponents around and not getting close. When he does get in range he really targets the body well, and looks to slow opponents down, a tactic that is a pretty clever given his own flaws.
Sadly the lack pop on Konishi's shots are going to make this a very, very tough assignment for him and he's going to either have to find a whole new plan B or struggle in a war with someone so much stronger and more powerful.The body shots that Konishi loves to throw could help him, but we suspect the risks he takes to throw them will be his undoing and Alvarado will simply win the war up close, pushing the challenger around and eventually stopping him.
Prediction TKO8 Alvarado
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On May 18, at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, 2 World champions meet in the second round of the Bantamweight WBSS tournament, as the WBA (Regular) champion Naoya Inoue goes one on one with the IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez, with both titles on the line, as well as the vacant Ring Magazine championship.
Naoya Inoue (17-0/15 KOs) is considered to be one of the best boxers that have come out of Japan. His power, agility and precision have brought him immense success, while he is already ranked in the top 10 (P4P) list by The Ring, ESPN, the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and others.
Before becoming a pro, he had a relatively short but rather accomplished amateur career, amassing 75 victories in 81 outings, with 48 of them being stoppages. Naoya won numerous (inter) high school tournaments, earned the gold at the 2011 Indonesia Presidential Cup and became the All Japan Light Flyweight champion, the same year. He also placed high at the Asian & World championships.
In 2012, the Monster finally made his pro debut and quickly made himself a guy to look out for. After going 3-0 in less than a year, he was set to face Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4) for the Japanese Light Flyweight title. Taguchi, at 18-1, not only was he the more experienced of the two, but he was also a world ranked fighter. Inoue displayed much aggressiveness, taking control of the fight from the opening round. We saw a lot of his body work at display, which became one of his biggest weapons as his career progressed. After 10 rounds of action, the youngster took a clear unanimous decision win (one of only the two times a fight of his has gone the distance) and the belt. Taguchi eventually went on to become the WBA, IBF & The Ring Light Flyweight World champion.
Just 4 months later, he fought Jerson Mancio (18-6) for the vacant OPBF Light Flyweight title. Naoya’s offense was too fast for the Filipino. He weakened his opponent with body shots, before the referee was forced to stop the fight in the 5th as Mancio was getting repeatedly tagged.
It wasn’t long after that Inoue received his first world title shot against Adrian Hernandez (30-5) on April of 2014. The 2 time WBC Light Flyweight World champion had marked 4 successful title defenses coming into this one. Both strong body punchers, Hernandez seemed to be gaining ground in the 4th round but Naoya quickly bounced back with some heavy shots of his own. It was an even match until the 6th when the Japanese Monster dropped El Confesor with a lighting fast right hook, who despite getting up, refused to continue. As a result, Inoue was declared the World champion at 21 years of age, in only his 6th professional bout.
Inoue defended the WBC title only once against Wittawas Basapean (34-9), before moving 2 weight classes up and within the same year, he challenged Omar Andres Narvaez (48-3) for the WBO Super Flyweight World championship. Narvaez, a 1999 Pan American Games winner, enjoyed a 7 year reign with the WBO Flyweight World title (16 defenses) prior to winning the Super Flyweight strap, which he had held for 4 years at the time (11 defenses). This was meant to be the Japanese fighter’s toughest test yet. Instead, it turned out to be one of his most dominant performances, as he dropped the veteran 4 times in just 2 rounds, sealing the deal with the liver shot, to become a 2 division World champion. That was the sole KO loss in Narvaez’s career.
The Monster remained champion for 3.5 years, reaching an impressive number of 7 title defenses. Warlito Parrenas (26-9), Karoon Jarupianlerd (42-9), Ricardo Rodriguez (16-7) and Antonio Nieves (18-2) were easy work for him, as neither of them was close to his level. David Carmona (21-6) did better, simply because Naoya injured his right hand during the match. Still, he managed to outclass his opponent, even put him down in the last round, earning his second and last decision victory. Yoan Boyeaux (41-6), another promising challenger, was on a 31 fight winning streak (close to 5 years unbeaten) and with 26 KOs under his belt. This also ended up being a one sided beatdown, with Inoue scoring 4 knockdowns in less than 8 minutes.
His best challenge was against the 2 time WBA Super Flyweight World champion Kohei Kono (33-12) on December of 2016. Kono came out strong in the beginning, connecting with some good punches, surprising Inoue for a while. Before you know it, this was turned into a wild brawl with both men bringing the heat and exciting the fans. All that changed in the 6th when Naoya landed a perfect left hook that floored the former champ and proceeded to finish him off a couple of seconds later, putting an end to this thrilling encounter.
In 2018, Inoue decided to enter the Bantamweight ranks and immediately challenged the WBA (Regular) title holder Jamie McDonnell (29-3). The Yorkshire native hadn’t suffered a single loss in a decade (22 fights). A former British, Commonwealth, European & IBF Bantamweight World champion, McDonnell was his best opponent since Narvaez. The Monster, true to his nickname, overwhelmed the champ with powerful shots, dropping him in the very 1st round. McDonnell managed to stand up again, but found himself trapped against the ropes as Naoya delivered a lethal flurry to get the KO. After the fight, the Japanese superstar announced his participation at the Bantamweight WBSS and in October he was matched against the former WBA (Super) World champion Juan Carlos Payano (21-2). In what was voted as one of the best knockouts of 2018, Inoue nailed him with a straight right and put his lights out, in just 70 seconds into the fight. Both McDonnell & Payano had never been stopped in their entire career.
Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0), the reigning IBF Bantamweight World champion, unlike his Japanese foe, had quite an extensive run as an amateur. His most noteworthy accolades took place in 2010, when he won the gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games and the silver at the Youth World Championships. Amongst his 182 bouts (171 victories), he owned wins over the likes of AIBA Youth World & Central American and Caribbean Games champion Jonathan Gonzalez (22-2) as well as the current WBO Light Flyweight World titlist Angel Acosta (20-1).
As a pro, he mostly fought in his home country of Puerto Rico against local competition. In 2015, he KOed world title contender Luis Hinojosa (31-16), with a stunning right cross, in the 3rd round. He also picked up 2 decisions over former challengers such as David Quijano (16-7) and Alberto Guevara (27-4).
Rodriguez fought the former IBF Bantamweight World champion Paul Butler (28-2) for the same vacant title, on May of 2018. Butler was on a 9 fight winning streak since losing the belt. The Mexican fighter knocked him down twice in the opening round, once with the right and then with the left hook. Rodriguez continued to control the pace until the end, thus winning a wide decision and was declared the new World champion.
His 1st defense took place in October, against the WBA Oceania & Commonwealth champion Jason Moloney (18-1), as part of the WBSS. The Australian was undefeated at 17-0 when he entered the tournament. Much like Naoya Inoue, Manny utilized some excellent body work that, in the long run, won him the fight. Moloney started to put on a better offense half way through, giving the champ some trouble, especially in the closing rounds. When the final bell rang, Rodriguez was awarded a split decision to advance to the semi finals.
It’s obvious that Rodriguez has the better amateur pedigree than most of Inoue’s opponents, but he hasn’t faced the same caliber of competition as a pro. Moreover, both of his world championship fights has gone the distance and he hasn’t finished anyone since 2017. On the other hand, Naoya has been on a path of destruction, knocking out top contenders and champions alike, for 5 years straight (minus 1 match). It’s seemingly impossible to stop him at this point of his career, especially after the dominant 2018 he had. Considering that in his last 2 fights he spent a total of 3 minutes in the ring, it will be a surprise if Manny makes it past the 5th round.
The Flyweight division is one of the most interesting right now, with no fighter clearly standing out as being the best. There are strong arguments for any of the champions to be regarded as the number 1. We suspect that Kosei Tanaka will become the top guy, if he stays in the division for a while, but Charlie Edwards, Artem Dalakian and Moruti Mthalane all have a good argument to be regarded as the best.
This coming Monday Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) gets a chance to strengthen his claim as the best as he defends his IBF title against mandatory challenger Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16) of Japan. Kuroda isn't the best in the Land of the Rising Sun, that's clearly Tanaka, but is a world class veteran getting his second shoot at a title. Mthlane on the other hand will be getting a chance to make his second defense of second reign, and continue his mini-tour of Asia.
Aged 36 Mthalane is a proper veteran of the sport. He's been a professional since 2000 and is a legitimate 2-time IBF champion with a criminally under-rated resume and a 10 year unbeaten run. He's proven to be a technically excellent fighter with great timing, under-rated speed, brilliant accuracy and very solid defense. Through his career he has typically been an aggressive counter punching fighter, and it's a style that has had real success for the South African.
Going through Mthalane's record is like going through a mini who's who of lower weight fighters from the last decade or so. He's scored notable wins over Hussein Hussein, Julio Cesar Miranda, Zolani Tete, John Riel Casimero and Ricardo Nunez. Sadly though management issues cost him activity during some of his prime years, and he certainly missed out on some notable opportunities due to poor decision making. Thankfully however he has began to string together a good level of activity, and this will be his third bout in 10 months, following wins over Muhammad Waseem and Masahiro Sakamoto. Also, despite being 36, he is a rather fresh 36 year old, and doesn't appear to be showing much in terms of wear and tear.
Kuroda, himself a 32 year old, is much less well known that Mthalane but is a battled hardened veteran himself with a 14 year career and plenty of experience. He's had one previous world title fight, losing to Juan Carlos Reveco in a WBA title fight back in 2013, but is a 2-weight Japanese national champion, having held the Light Flyweight and Flyweight title. At national level he has scored numerous notable wins, including victories over Katsuhiko Iezumi, Shin Ono and Takuya Kogawa, whilst also fighting to a draw with Ryoichi Taguchi, though he has never really scored a win above domestic level.
Kuroda has proven to be a gruelling warrior in the ring. He does tend to start fights like he's a technical fighter, but always seems to get dragged into a war, ignoring his technical ability and fighting a brawl instead. He's technically solid, when he sticks to his boxing, but has somewhat questionable composure, and seems to be happy to take one to land one whilst fighting on the inside. He's usually in pretty entertaining fights, but has been dropped numerous times during his career, and he's not got the power or speed to really fight with the style he has, at world level.
Although we suspect Mthalane will lose to someone he should beat, due to his age, we don't see that loss coming here. Kuroda has a style that should make life easy for Mthalane, coming forward and trying to fight on the inside. Kuroda will likely have more success than Masahiro Sakamoto did, before he was stopped by Mthalane, but he'll likely face the same sort of beating Sakamoto had, with Mthalane's clean, hard, accurate punching and tight defense being too much for him.
Prediction - TKO9 Mthalane.
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.