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.
Over the last few years the Super Flyweight division has been a must watch one. It's provided some amazing fights, such as the Srisaket Sor Rungvisai bouts against Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada and the compelling bouts between Donnie Nietes and Aston Palicte, and Nietes against Kazuto Ioka. Whilst it has delivered some brilliant bouts two champions have been criticised for lacklustre competition and match ups. One of those is WBA champion Kal Yafai and the other IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-2, 20), from the Philippines.
Ancajas, who won his title back in September 2016, has scored 6 defenses of his title, fighting in 3 continents, but his last few defenses have failed to excite fans, some of whom have accused him of ducking real challenges, and avoiding the likes of Naoya Inoue. This weekend we'll see the Filipino seek his next defense, as he takes on mandatory challenger Ryuichi Funai (31-7, 22), from Japan. For Funai this will be his first world title bout, whilst Ancajas will be facing his second Japanese challenger, following a 2017 win over Teiru Kinoshita, himself a mandatory challenger to Ancajas' throne.
When Ancajas first won his title, ripping it from the hands of McJoe Arroyo, he was a real unknown. The bout had an incredibly low purse and no TV backing at all. He quickly became one to watch and his performance against Kinoshita, on the under-card of Manny Pacquiao's bout with Jeff Horn, really did impress with Ancajas looking like an exciting, talented, smooth boxer puncher. The start of his reign did show some excitement and he did look like he had the tools to be a star, but a dull win over Israel Gonzalez and a stinking fight with Jonas Sultan took shine off his reign and a draw against Alejandro Santiago Barrios showed real flaws with his boxing, and it seemed like the short Barrios deserved the win.
At his best Ancajas is a gorgeous boxer to watch. Everything he does seems smooth, he gets in and out with ease and looks really easy on the eye. Despite the fact his nickname isn't based on his style, he does live up to the "Pretty Boy" moniker when boxing, and mixes smart defenses with good, clean punching. Sadly though it's been a while since we saw him at his best, and in recent bouts it's seemed like something is missing, potentially an issues caused by a struggle to make weight or by over-looking opponents. If he gets back to his best he should have no issues here, and he really is a top Super Flyweight, but another less than great performance could see him being dethroned.
Whilst Ancajas is well known, the came can't be said for Funai, who has never fought outside of Japan and has rarely even fought outside of Korakuen Hall, where he has fought 34 of his 38 bouts. Despite that he is well regarded in Japan and has mixed with some very good company, losing to the likes of Shinsuke Yamanaka, Rolly Lunas and Sho Ishida, who between them make up 3 of Funai's 4 losses in the last 11 years. Having started his career 6-3 it's impressive to note that he has since gone 25-4 (19), whilst becoming a very solid fighter at Super Flyweight, which suits him more than Bantamweight where he fought much of his early career.
Although not a huge name Funai is a solid puncher, with his straight right hand being a very potent punch on the Japanese domestic scene, helping him stop 6 of his last 7 including Victor Emanuel Olivo, Warlito Parrenas and Shota Kawaguchi. Whilst his right hand is vicious it should be noted that he's not a busy fighter in the ring, he's not particularly quick and, especially against Olivo back in November, he's rather stationary on his feet. He's a smart counter puncher, but is certainly taking a huge step up in class here.
Ancajas was caught repeatedly by Barrios last time out, and whilst Barrios is certainly a trickier fighter than Funai that bout will have left Funai feeling confident. If Funai can land his right hand clean he certainly has the power to hurt Ancajas. That is a big if however. We're expecting to see a sharper Ancajas than we saw last time out, and if he stays switched on, uses his footwork well and tags the slower, clumsier Funai, on a regular basis, this should end up being a pretty clear win for the Filipino, but there is always a risk of him eating a big, Funai, right hand.
Prediction TKO10 Ancajas.
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.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On April 26, at the Forum in Inglewood, California, a much anticipated title bout will take place as Srisaket Sor Rungvisai defends his WBC Super Flyweight World Championship against Juan Francisco Estrada, in a rematch, 14 months in the making.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1), unlike most World champions from Thailand, didn’t have a long and successful Muay Thai career, before breaking into the sport. Life forced him to move to Bangkok, when he was only 13 years old and worked as a trash collector at a department store in order to feed himself. He finally took up pro boxing in 2009 and in just 2 years he was the WBC Asia champion.
In 2013, Sor Rungvisai (with a record of 18-3 at the time) challenged Yota Sato (26-3) for the WBC Super Flyweight World title. Sato, with victories over the likes of Kohei Kono, Suriyan Kaikanha and Ryo Akaho, was the clear favorite to win this fight. The Thai boxer shocked the world when he dominated the champion in every single round, leaving him almost no room for an offense of his own, continuingly punishing him until the referee had to step in and stop the fight in the 8th, crowning Srisaket the new World champion, at the age of 26. Sato had never been stopped prior to this match.
Srisaket made his first defense against Hirofumi Mukai (15-6) in a one sided beatdown. He lost his belt to Carlos Cuadras (37-3) in controversial fashion, after Cuadras suffered a cut over to his left eye from an accidental clash of heads and was awarded the technical decision. In just a few months after that loss, he reclaimed the WBC Asia title and mostly fought journeymen until he squared off 2 time world title contender Jose Salgado (36-5). Sor Rungvisai blasted the Mexican with a couple of strong left punches and one mean right cross in the 4th round to get the TKO win and the WBC Silver championship.
His biggest challenge came on March 18 of 2017, when he fought Roman Gonzalez at Madison Square Garden, for the belt he never truly lost. Chocolatito, 88-0 as an amateur and 46-0 as a pro, had never lost a single match in his entire career. As a 4 division World champion, with notable wins over Yutaka Niida, Katsunari Takayama, Juan Francisco Estrada, Akira Yaegashi, Edgar Sosa, Brian Viloria and Carlos Cuadras, it was no secret that Srisaket was once again the underdog. Much like the Sato bout, the Thai phenom stunned everyone when he scored a knockdown, in the very first round, as he connected with a thunderous uppercut. During the 3rd, Roman suffered a cut on his right eye, which caused massive bleeding as the fight progressed. Both men went back and forth, in an exciting affair that saw them delivering furious exchanges. Gonzalez put on a strong offense, mostly in the later rounds, but Srisaket was dominating the majority of the match. When the last round came, they left it all in the ring, bringing the fans at the Garden on their feet. After the dust had settled, Sor Rungvisai got the decision and reclaimed the WBC Super Flyweight World Title.
The rematch was set in September, at the inaugural Superfly show in California. The fight was a slugfest as champion and challenger went toe to toe, trading bombs with one another for 3 consecutive rounds. However this time, the ending came abruptly, when Srisaket knocked Gonzalez out with a massive right hook in the 4th. This bout, not only marked Chocolatito’s second ever defeat (both at the hands of the same opponent), but also his first (and thus far only) KO loss in 137 outings.
On February of 2018, Sor Rungvisai defended his belt again, this time against the former WBA & WBO Flyweight World champion Juan Francisco Estrada. In what was considered a Fight Of The Year candidate, both men went to war for 12 rounds in the main event of the second Superfly event. Despite trading hard shots with each other, neither fighter went down and instead came back even stronger. It was anyone’s game, as the balance kept shifting in every round. In the end, Srisaket earned the majority decision and left California with the strap once more.
After stopping former WBC Asia and WBO Asia Pacific champion Young Gil Bae (30-7) in less than 3 minutes, the Thai superstar competed at ONE Championship’s “Kingdom Of Heroes”, this past October, making this match his first world title defense in home soil, since 2013. Sor Rungvisai clashed with former WBC Latino champion & top ranked boxer Iran Diaz (15-3) in a record breaking event, which drew 25 million viewers worldwide. Now as part of Matchroom Boxing, Srisaket will collide with one of his best rivals, in Juan Francisco Estrada.
Juan Francisco Estrada (38-3) made his pro debut at 18 years of age, ending a rather impressive amateur run (94 wins and only 4 losses), and went 18-0 prior to his meeting with future IBF Super Flyweight World champion Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. in 2011. “El Gallo” avenged that loss within the same year, as he stopped Sanchez in the very last round of their second encounter.
After unsuccessfully challenging the then undefeated Chocolatito for the WBA Light Flyweight World title (the one and only time he fought at that division), Estrada quickly bounced back, when he defeated Brian Viloria (38-6) to become the unified WBA & WBO Super Flyweight World champion, just 5 months later. Viloria, 230-8 as an amateur & a former AIBA World champion, was on a 6 fight winning streak and hadn’t lost in 3 years. Most of the fight took place inside the pocket, with both warriors throwing hard shots, punishing each other’s head and body. Estrada got the better of these exchanges, which earned him the split decision and the straps.
His first defense was against the WBO International champion & future IBF Light Flyweight World champion Milan Melindo. The Filipino had never lost a fight (at that point) since his debut in 2005, as he entered his first world title match, with a perfect record of 29 wins and zero losses. It was an intense fight that saw Melindo won a few rounds, but with Estrada always being ahead on the judges score cards and kept pressuring more and more as the time went by, even scoring a knockdown in the 11th after landing a right cross and almost finishing Melindo off in the 12th.
Estrada went on to defend his belts 4 more times against top contenders Richie Mepranum (33-7) & Rommel Asenjo (32-7), as well as former World champions Giovani Segura (33-4) & Hernan Marquez (43-10). That last one must be his most dominant performance thus far, as he broke Marquez down with some exceptional body work and proceeded to drop him on 7 different occasions, between rounds 6 and 10, for his 24th stoppage victory.
In 2017, El Gallo decided to move up a weight class and soon fought the former WBC Super Flyweight World champion Carlos Cuadras (37-3) for the right to challenge the winner of Sor Rungvisai vs. Gonzalez II. Volume and precision were the key factors that gave Estrada the edge he needed to beat the former champ and secure a title shot against Srisaket. Since failing to capture the WBC crown, the Mexican has added 2 more victories to his record and will once again be able to fight for that same championship.
It’s hard to predict who’s going to have the advantage here, especially when you consider their 1st match and how close it was. Estrada is slightly taller & younger than his opponent and has the bigger reach. Experience is pretty much even as Srisaket might have more fights under his belt as a pro, but Estrada has a lengthy amateur career. On the other hand, the Thai champion definitely has the power on his side, with 87% of his victories coming via KO/TKO and has also finished many of his past foes with the right hand, despite being a southpaw. Moreover, both love to throw fast and strong combinations and are not afraid to go to war if need be. So what could be the game changer this time around? Well, as we saw in Sor Rungvisai vs. Chocolatito II, it’s obvious that Srisaket had studied him and managed to find a chink in Gonzalez’s armor, which led to the fight being over in just 4 rounds. So the question that comes to mind is that IF history can repeat itself. Could Srisaket have spotted a weakness in Estrada’s gameplan from their previous encounter? Or will Estrada surprise Srisaket with some new tricks? We will find out on April 26.
Although often described as a division with no depth the Minimumweight division is current a really interesting one, with several notable fighters all in or around world level. One of these is WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18), who notched his 52nd straight win last November, as he defeated Mektison Marganti in a stay busy bout. Not only is Wanheng the holder of a perfect 52 fight winning record, but he is also the longest reigning active male world champion, having held the title for over 4 years and making 10 defenses.
In the coming days Wanheng will seek his 11th defense of the title, as he takes on former WBO champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6-6, 7) in what will be a second meeting between the two men.
These two first fought in 2017, when Fukuhara gave Wanheng a serious test and could well have got the decision had the bout not been held in Thailand. Now, more than a year later, Fukuhara returns for a second shot at the Thai champion.
Aged 33 Wanheng is an old man for the smaller weight classes, especially when you consider he has had over 50 bouts, more than 415 professional rounds and has been a professional for more than 12 years. Despite that he hasn't taken much damage and he is a defensively responsible fighter, with a tight guard and a good boxing brain.
Not only is Wanheng defensively smart but he's also offensively smart too. He's not a big puncher, but he's an accurate, clean puncher. He rarely throws when he's out of position or off balance and fires in good sharp counters, applies good pressure behind his guard and unleashes some really impressive combinations. Whilst a smart fighter he doesn't have much in terms of power, he's not the hardest worker, or the quickest out there, and he gets older we suspect that he will become slower and will throw less and less.
Aged 29 Fukuhara is the much younger fighter. Like Wanehng he is a veteran, with more than 10 years of professional experience and over 200 rounds of action. Despite also being a veteran he is stylistically very different to the Thai, relying on work rate, aggression and desire rather than ring IQ and clean punching. Technically he is rather limited, but his will to win is really impressive.
Fukuhara's has had an up and down career. In terms of the highs he reached the final of the 2009 Rookie of the Year, won the Japanese national title in 2015 and the WBO title in 2017. As for lows he has lost most of his notable bouts, including a loss in 2013 to the then debuting Takuma Inoue and losses in 2017 to Ryuya Yamanaka and Menayothin.
We don't think Wanheng will extend his winning record for too much longer. He has been pushed close numerous times in recent bouts, but we do suspect that he will be protected by the conditions and officiating in Thailand for as long as he can be. We think that will play a major role here, in what we're expecting will be a razor close bout, but one which again sees the champion edging the bout in the eyes of the judges.
Fukuhara will set a high work rate, he knows he has too, but unless he can really hurt Wanheng he doesn't have much of a chance of getting the decision in the Land of Smiles and instead we're expecting a close judges decision to the Thai.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On March 16, 3 division World champion Kosei Tanaka defends his WBO Flyweight title against former double titlist Ryoichi Taguchi, in Gifu, Japan.
Kosei Tanaka (12-0/7 KOs) is considered by many to be one of the top Japanese boxers today, along with Naoya Inoue and Kazuto Ioka. Trained under Hideyasu Ishihara (former OPBF champion & world title contender) he won numerous high school/inter-high school titles, the All Japan championship as well as the National Sports Festival, which is considered to be Japan’s premier sports event. He even reached the quarter-finals of the 2012 AIBA Youth World championships.
Tanaka turned pro on November 10 of 2013, the same day he turned 18. After winning his first 3 bouts, he challenged world ranked Japanese fighter Ryuji Hara (23-2) for the OPBF Minimumweight title. Hara was undefeated at that point, with 18 victories under his belt, and was also ranked #2 by the WBO. It was an exciting affair that saw both men fight at a good pace. Tanaka fired up during the 5th round and was completely dominating the veteran champion. Hara retaliated in the 6th and it was then that the match became a huge brawl that lasted 5 more rounds, much to the joy of the fans at Korakuen Hall. Finally, in the 10th, Tanaka delivered a brutal nonstop beating on Hara that forced the stoppage thus gaining him the OPBF crown.
In 2015, Tanaka became the Minimumweight World champion, after he fought and beat Julian Yedras (24-4) for the vacant WBO title. His first and only defense was against the WBO Asia Pacific champion Vic Saludar (19-3) in December. Tanaka’s wild style almost proved to be his downfall as he was repeatedly getting caught by the Filipino challenger, losing the fight on the scorecards and even got dropped, before knocking Saludar out to retain his belt. (Saludar eventually won the WBO World title in 2018)
After that fight, Tanaka moved up to Light Flyweight and soon won this division’s world title as well, when he TKOed former World champion Moises Fuentes (25-6) in 2016. He successfully defended the WBO championship twice against future World title holder Angel Acosta (19-1) and WBA Asia champion Rangsan Chayanram (16-2). It’s worth mentioning that all of Acosta’s 19 wins have come via KO. Also, much like in the Saluda fight, Tanaka’s fighting style got him in trouble again during his encounter with Rangsan. In what was supposed to be an easy match before challenging the WBA World champion Ryoichi Taguchi in a unification bout, it turned out to be one of his toughest matches yet. Not only the Thai fighter knocked him down in the opening round but even when Tanaka won, he had sustained serious injuries during the battle, which led him pulling out from the much anticipated double title fight.
When Tanaka returned to the ring in 2018, his goal was to become a 3 division World champion. As a Flyweight, he defeated the interim WBO Oriental champion and then unbeaten fighter, Ronnie Baldonado (13-1), earning a title shot against Sho Kimura (17-2). In what was a fight of the year candidate, both men went to war for 12 rounds, throwing fists repeatedly, with Tanaka getting the better of some of these exchanges. In the end, Tanaka was awarded with the decision and the WBO Flyweight World championship, becoming a 3 weight class king, at only 23 years of age. As fate would have it, his initial defense will be against the man he wanted to face back in 2017, Ryoichi Taguchi.
Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3/12 KOs) after a short amateur career, made his pro debut in 2006, while only 19. For the next 7 years, he was building a name for himself, amassing a record of 19 wins, 2 decision losses and 1 draw, including victories over Norihito Tanaka (18-7), Tetsuya Hisada (33-9) and future WBC World champion Yu Kimura (18-3).
In 2014, Taguchi faced former IBF Strawweight World champion Florante Condes (27-10). Despite getting dropped twice, the Japanese star worked the body of the veteran and controlled the pace of the fight, keeping a much aggressive Condes at bay, thus eventually earning the unanimous decision and his biggest victory at the time. That win put him in world title contention and on New Year’s Eve, Taguchi went head to head with the WBA Light Flyweight champion Alberto Rossel (34-9), who was riding an 8 fight winning streak. Much like in the previous fight, Taguchi implemented a similar strategy and even scored 2 knockdowns, both via a left body hook. After an action packed second half, Taguchi left Ota City the new WBA World champion.
His first title defense was against former WBA Strawweight World champion Ekkawit Songnui (48-6). In what was a one sided beatdown, Taguchi knocked the Thai challenger down an impressive total of 5 times through out the fight, mostly with the right cross, before the referee stopped it. After dispatching journeyman Luis de la Rosa (25-13) and Juan Jose Landaeta (27-9), he met fellow countryman Ryo Miyazaki (24-2), former WBA Strawweight World titlist as well as Japanese & OPBF Light Flyweight champion. It was a back and forth affair where both men gave it their all. Taguchi was once again declared the victor and was named WBA’s MVP Player of the month (August 2016).
Taguchi fought unbeaten Carlos Canizales (21-0), a few months later, to a draw and also outboxed mandatory challenger Robert Barrera (22-2) in every single round, picking his body apart and finishing him off in the 9th, after a barrage of strikes. Since the aforementioned unification bout with WBO champion Tanaka didn’t materialize, Taguchi would face the IBF champion Milan Melindo (37-4), on December 31st of 2017, exactly 3 years after he won the WBA title. Melindo had a strong 2017, stopping 3 division champion Akira Yaegashi (27-6) in just the 1st round to win the title and also defending it against Hekkie Budler (32-4). Taguchi slowly established his dominance as the match progressed, wearing Melindo down, making him fight his fight and keeping him close while constantly attacking the body. When it was all said and done, Taguchi was declared unified WBA Super, IBF & The Ring Light Flyweight World champion. Unfortunately that reign wouldn’t last as he would lose all of his belts to Budler, this past May, in a very even encounter. Now returning to the ring almost a year later, Taguchi will once again fight for gold, but this time in a different division than he is used to.
As in every Tanaka fight, the question is, will this be the time his recklessness finally proves to be his undoing ? It is well known that Tanaka’s brawling style has put him in dangerous positions, almost even costing him 2 world title fights (Saludar and Chayanram) and that he was only saved by his incredible knockout power and hand speed. Taguchi, unlike most of Tanaka’s opponents, won’t try to engage in an all out war. Instead, he will try to slow him down and systematically punish him with body shots. Taguchi really excels the longer the fight goes. 15 of his 27 wins have gone the distance, compared to Tanaka’s 5 out of 12 (although in world title matches they are even 3-3). Despite all that, Tanaka always finds a way to come out on top, no matter the odds. So to sum this up, it’s obvious that Taguchi has all the tools to succeed at Flyweight and become a World champion, but can he do it against the seemingly unbeatable Tanaka ? We will find out this Saturday in the land of the rising sun.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On March 9th, in Verona, Wisconsin, Dmitry Bivol will defend the WBA Light Heavyweight World Championship against top contender Joe Smith Jr.
Dmitry Bivol (15-0/11 KOs) is considered to be one of the top boxers of his division today (currently ranked #3 by the Ring & BoxRec). Boasting an amateur record of 268 wins and only 15 losses, Bivol won numerous titles from 2006 to 2014, including youth and junior World championships, 2 National tournaments as well as gold at the 2013 World Combat Games.
Turned pro in 2014 (23 years old) and in 15 months he had already garnered 6 victories, all stoppages. During that time Bivol gained the WBC U.S. Silver & WBA Intercontinental titles, proving his skills early on in his career, while establishing his right hand as a legit threat to anyone that stepped into the ring with him.
In May of 2016, the Russian prodigy went toe to toe with the reigning WBA interim World champion Felix Valera, for the Light Heavyweight strap. Valera was also undefeated at the time, standing at 13-0, with 12 stoppages, most of them coming in the first round. Bivol outboxed the champion in every single round, and even dropped him twice, earning a wide unanimous decision and of course the interim championship.
Bivol proceeded to defend his belt against Robert Berridge (30-7) and Samuel Clarkson (21-5) in 2 one sided beatdowns, knocking them down three times each before getting the TKO win in the 4th round. He then faced 30 fight veteran Cedric Agnew, in a non title match. Bivol dropped him in 2 minutes of the very 1st round with a fast combination and continued to punishing him until the referee waved the fight off in the 4th. It’s worth mentioning that Agnew’s only KO loss prior to this was against fellow Russian champion Kovalev, who needed 7 rounds to get the job done. In these last 3 bouts, Bivol showcased some excellent bodywork, which we hadn’t seen much from him in the past.
After Badou Jack vacated the WBA title, Bivol was promoted to Regular champion. As such, he marked his inaugural title defense over Trent Broadhurst, in November of 2017. The Australian was on a 13 fight winning streak and hadn’t lost in 6 years. Bivol stopped him with a perfectly placed right on the chin, in the very last second of the 1st round.
In 2018, Bivol defended his World title thrice, against Sullivan Barrera, Isaac Chilemba and Jean Pascal. Barrera got dominated for 12 consecutive rounds, taking shots nonstop until a right hook sealed the deal. Chilemba had already suffered back to back losses to Alvarez, Kovalev and Gvozdyk, thus not proving to be much of a challenge. The most significant out of the three was the former WBC World champion Pascal, who put up a much better fight that the other two, connecting with some good punches through out the fight, but it wasn’t enough overall to take the belt away from Bivol, who systematically picked him apart and got the win one more time. Now for his 5th one, he will have to face a much stronger boxer this time.
Joe Smith Jr. (24-2/20 KOs), a bona fide KO artist with knockout power in both of his hands, has finished most of his opponents within 6 rounds. 2019 will mark the young veteran’s 10th anniversary into the sport, as he aims to finally add a World championship to his collection.
His first major success came in 2016, when he took on world title contender Andrzej Fonfara (30-5) for the WBC International title. In a surprising turn of events, Smith put the Polish fighter down in the midway of the opening round, before finishing him off with a left & right hook combination a few seconds later.
However, Smith’s biggest test came 6 months later, as he was set to go face to face with legendary boxer Bernard Hopkins, in the main event of a Golden Boy show, broadcasted live on HBO. Hopkins, the 2 division World, Lineal & Ring champion, came out of retirement for one last match and the opportunity to go out with a win and another belt. After 8 action packed rounds, Smith shocked the world again when he caught Hopkins with a thunderous left uppercut, which knocked him out of the ring. Unable to respond to the 20 count, Smith was declared the winner, in what definitely must be his most important victory to date.
Smith’s momentum was momentarily cut short in 2017 after losing to Sullivan Barrera in a world title eliminator. Despite dropping Barrera in the 1st, he didn’t do enough, as the fight progressed, to get the decision. He returned to action almost a year later (Smith’s jaw was broken in the Barrera match) and completely dominated Melvin Russell, putting himself again in world title contention.
This could be Bivol’s toughest fight yet. Smith has the highest KO ratio of any of Bivol’s previous opponents (77%), while he’s also the youngest and the most experienced one, in terms of years competing as a pro. He might not be the most technically sound boxer in the division but he’s certainly one of the strongest punchers. Smith’s style can be described as aggressive, always moving forward, trying to get the KO as soon as possible and that strategy has worked very well for him thus far (minus 2 fights). On the other hand, Bivol is as technically sound as it gets. He never rushes to finish the fight. He stays patient, picking his shots and most times manages to drop his opponent, usually with a well calculated right hand. If he (Bivol’s rival) manages to get back up, then and only then Bivol storms in with incredibly fast (for his weight class) combinations, going for the kill, and if he doesn’t go down again, Bivol disengages and starts over. To conclude with, the only unknown factor here is if Bivol can withstand Smith’s power. If yes, then a 5th successful title defense is almost guaranteed, as he will try to take this to the distance, which will play in his favour, since Smith has never gone to the 12th round. If not, then Smith will be crowned the 43rd WBA Light Heavyweight World Champion ! Either way, we will get our answer this coming Saturday.
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.