The final world title bout of the 2010's saw Japan's Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) [井岡一翔] close things out for the year as he has done numerous times during the decade. Taking home a win, and successfully defending his WBO Super Flyweight champion against mandatory challenger Jeyvier Cintron (11-1-0-1, 5) from Puerto Rico.
The bout started well for Cintron, who seemed to use his natural attributes well, making the most of his reach and his speed. He was however consistently under pressure from Ioka, who struggled to get close early on, but began to find his range in round 3. When that happened the bout began to turn from "interesting" to exciting".
With Ioka cutting the distance better from round 3 he forces Cintron to fight his fight, whilst landing some brutal body shots. The game plan from Ioka was simple. Take away the legs of the Cintron, make him hold his ground and go to work. It was a good gameplan, but one that only partially worked. To his credit Cintron's legs never really stopped moving, despite being fed a fairly consistent stream of vicious, hard body shots, especially in the middle rounds.
Cintron's heart and unwillingness to wilt helped him have moments, but his early lead had been destroyed by the body blows and his head shots seemed to do little more than annoy Ioka who continued to walk forward, pressing, looking to sneak more rib buster on to the challenger.
By round 8 it seemed that Cintron would eventually capitulate. He seemed out of energy, out of ideas and out of hope, but instead hit bit down, getting through a some torrid moments in rounds 9 and 10 before actually having some of his best success in the final few rounds. He seemed to refind his ambition, and let his hands go more, doing what had worked for him early on. He was getting his shots off and getting out of dodge, creating space, boxing and moving. It may have been that Ioka felt he had the bout in the bag, or it may have been that Ioka was tired, but Cintron finished the bout well. By then though it really was too little too late.
After 12 rounds the decision seemed an easy one, with only the specific scored in doubt. It seemed impossible to do the mental arithmetic to get to a Cintron win, despite his gutsy and brave performance, and the judges agreed scoring it 116-112, twice, to Ioka and 115-113 to Ioka.
(Photo Credit - A. McGovern)
In the first of two male world title fights on New Year's Eve fight fans had the chance to see WBO Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9) [田中恒成] put on one of the best performances of his career, despatching Chinese challenger Wulan Tuolehazi (13-4-1, 6) [乌兰] with ease.
Whilst the bout was never seen as hugely competitive on paper Tanaka had a knack of making easy bouts hard for himself, and this was, on paper, one of the bouts where he was possibly going to end up getting himself into un-necessary trouble. Thankfully however the "KO Dream Boy" did what was he was he supposed to do, from the opening bell.
Straight from the off Tanaka looked razor sharp, and started banging the challenger with his jab. Wulan's response was a wild and crazy looking left hook. It was a shot of desperation, very early on, from Wulan.
It wasn't long until Tanaka was backing up the challenger, and finding a home for his body shots, which were a major part of round 2. He kept banging the drum with hard single shots through the second round, and was clearly taking the legs out of Wulan.
Wulan was staying up right through the first 2 rounds but had no answer at all for anything Tanaka did. Tanaka began beating him around the ring in round 3 a double uppercut, through the guard, from the champion finally dropped Wulan. The Chinese fighter lay on the matt, looking up, as the referee began the count, and made little effort to beat it.
Given how Tanaka looked last time, against Jonathan Gonzalez, this was the type of performance he needed. He looked excellent, sharp, defensively aware, and the finish was clinical. It was his most accomplished performance and his defensively intelligent performance in a long time.
As for Wulan, he looked like a lamb to the slaughter from very early on. He never got into this and it really showed that he wasn't world class. He was totally out of his depth.
(Photo Credit - A. McGovern)
With Christmas just a few short days away WBA Middleweight champion Ryota Murata (16-2, 13) [村田 諒太] gave Japanese fans something to celebrate as he successfully defended his title against Canadian challenger Steven Butler (28-2-1, 24), in what was an entertaining fight between two men who believed their power would be the difference.
From the opening round we saw the style of the bout being set. Murata was applying pressure, and Butler boxing and moving. It was what both men had done in their previous bouts and no real surprise we saw it here. In the opening could of rounds Butler had some real success with combination, being thrown and getting in an out, and he landed a huge right hand in the opening round that really caught the eye. The problem for Butler however was that he could never get Murata's respect. The Japanese fighter just continued walking forward, and landed more than enough of his own heavy shots to take the first two rounds.
By round 3 it was starting to look inevitable that Murata was going to stop Butler. The pressure wasn't really changing, but Butler was starting to respond when Murata tagged him, he was showing he was hurt and holding late in the round. Mentally it must have been horrific for Butler to land his best shots and see Murata simply reset and march forward, and then be shaken when Murata landed his own shots.
Murata's success grew in round 4, and he finishes with a huge flurry after really ripping in some sick body shots on to Butler. Butler had taken them well, but they had begin to take away his legs a bit, and Butler's own body shots always looked rather like slaps rather than crisp and clean punches that Murata was throwing. Butler was still giving a good go of everything, but was being broken down, bit by bit.
To his credit the challenger came out fast in round 5. He was trying to turn the tables and stem the flow of the bout. It didn't work. At all. Instead Murata was cutting the ring off with ease, getting Butler where he wanted and landing a growing number of clean shots, to head and body. The cracks in Butler's defense were becoming bigger, and Murata was ramming shots through them. Late in the round a he wobbled Butler, and a follow up dropped him hard with just a few seconds of the round left. The referee wisely called it off.
Ideally ext for Murata will a big name, Gennady Golovkin would be ideal, if not he needs a fighter who will make him look sensational. If Golovkin isn't next a bout with Liam Williams would be a fine filler for a defense, as they styles should make for a great fight. Even if Murata would be massively favoured.
As for Butler, he showed heart and skills, but seemed to realise that his power isn't world class at Middleweight. He has to change his style, boxing more and punching less, if he's to make it to the top. Despite the loss, he could, with maturity and development, become a genuine player in the division. Today however he looked like he was second best through out.
It might take a long time for WBC Light Flyweight champion Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 1o) [拳四朗] to become a true star, but he's already got a growing cult following, and today he recorded his 7th defense of his world title, as he stopped Filipino challenger Randy Petalcorin (31-4-1, 23) in 4 rounds.
The first round saw little happen. The little that did happen was almost all from Kenshiro's jab as the two men took their time to figure each other out. The second saw the pace step up, with Petalcorin beginning to take risks, but he really had a couple of flash points of success, whilst Kenshiro found the round to land his jab quite regularly. It wasn't as clear cut as the opening round, but felt like the fight was finally starting.
Sadly for Petalcorin the success he had in round 2 didn't carry on into round 3, despite Petalcorin landing the right hook and neutralising Kenshiro's jab. That just meant Kenshiro had to bring another weapon out of his arsenal, and began to rely on his body shots. They were killer and he dropped Petalcorin 3 times in round 3 from body shots. Petalcorin's heart couldn't be questioned, but he clearly couldn't handle the blows to the mid section, and they do stay with a fighter.
Despite suffering a 10-6 round in round 3 Petalcorin came out for round 4 with ambition. It was as if he knew it was now or never. Petalcorin's aggression saw him forcing Kenshiro to back off at the start of the round. It wasn't long however until Kenshiro re-established distance, composed himself and went back to banging the drum. Another knockdown, again from body shots. This time Petalcorin didn't beat the count.
It's unclear what is next for the "Amazing boy" though it would seem likely that he would again pursue a world title unification bout, something that was supposed to happen today until a bout IBF champion Felix Alvarado fell through due to illness. As for Petalcorin it seems clear that he simply doesn't have it at world level, and after today's loss every opponent will target his mid-section.
When people start talking about fight of the year or round of the year when there is still an Akira Yaegashi (28-7, 16) [八重樫 東] fight on the calendar they are making a mistake. They should always wait for Yaegashi to fight for the final time in the year before making any sort of lists! Today Yaegashi finished his year off as he challenged IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (39-2, 26), and unsurprisingly we ended with an exciting action fight.
The bout actually began in a less than thrilling fashion with Yaegashi fighting on his bike, using his footwork and boxing smart. It's something he's always had in his arsenal, but was last seen being used properly years ago, when he beat Edgar Sosa, way back in December 2013. If Akira fought smart we weren't going to get a classic, but there's a good chance he could fiddle himself to a decision victory.
That, of course, isn't Yaegashi's style. There's a reason Yaegashi has such a cult fan base and a reason he is regarded as a warrior. That is because smart boxing isn't him. He can do it, but it's not him. Instead having a fight is Yaegashi's style. By the third round, Mthalane was inviting Yaegashi into fight, and Yaegashi took the invitation, standing his ground more and fighting toe to toe with Mthalane, with the two men taking it in turns to unload flurries of shots.
Through rounds 4, 5 and 6 we had none stop action, each of those rounds could be considered for round of the year, with each of the rounds swinging one way then the other. One man seemed hurt, then they responded with a flurry of their own, hurting the other man. Not only were they hurting each other, but they were fighting an insane pace for two men who are the wrong side of 35. Sooner or later the tempo was going to catch up with one of them.
Sadly in round 7 it was Yaegashi was caught by the pace, and by a body shot from Mthalane. He tried to recover, tried to walk it off, and "old man" Mthalane, but the South African was having none of it, and kept the pressure up, not allowing Yaegashi to recover. To his credit Yaegashi's toughness kept him up right, and kept him fight, but it was clearly a diminished Yaegashi, who was starting to run on fumes, and take huge unanswered shots. Those fumes were however running out themselves and in round 8, with Mthalane landing an ever increasing number of shots, a stoppage began to look inevitable.
With Yaegashi's face swelling up, engine running low and the momentum clearly swinging in favour of Mthalane it seemed as if the Japanese warrior was going to need a miracle. Sadly for him that miracle never came as Mthalane continued to beat him up. It was getting one sided and in round 9 the referee seemed to be looking for a moment to stop the fight. His moment was a weird one, given that Yaegashi had stumbled a few moments earlier but was beginning to return fire, but it's hard to complain too much at the stoppage. Yaegashi, as he has often been, was too tough for his own good and the referee knew it.
Given Yaegashi turns 37 in February and has been in far too many wars for his own good it now seems like a good time to bow out, and retire, following yet another sensational fight. Round 4 in particular will be a hard one to forget. He could have made life easier for himself through much of his career, but the high, and lows, of Yaegashi's career have made him a Japanese legend. Hopefully retirement is next for a man who has given the sport so much during his often dramatic, always thrilling, rollercoaster like career.
As for Mthalane, the timeless South African is still a sensational fighter at the age of 37. He's ancient for a Flyweight but rarely have we seen him look his age, or looking on the verge of being stopped. He's tough, smart, and can change the direction of a fight. Whilst we suspect he's probably only got 1 or 2 more big fights, like this, in him he is a man who is racking up a Japanese-Killer reputation, with 3 successive wins against Japanese fighters, and is stacking his record with notable wins. It's a huge shame his first reign as the IBF champion ended the way it did, but he's making up for it in style now. A bout with Giemel Magramo, the highest ranked IBF contender, would be something that would be very appealing, and may well be next for the exceptional champion.
Some bouts are fantastic match ups, worthy of getting excited about. Other however are mismatches from the moment they are signed, and every one knows it. They are bouts that do not need to exist in this sport, especially not at world level featuring a long term world champion who is still looking to secure a career defining fight, more than 3 years after winning his title.
Yesterday in Mexico IBF Super Bantamweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (32-1-2, 22) recorded his 8th defense as he made very, very, light work of the over-matched and under-whelming Miguel Gonzalez (31-3, 8).
On paper this might have looked a fine bout, both guys having over 30 wins, only a few losses combined. In reality however Ancajas had long proven he was world class. He had shown his ability against solid world level opponents, had should be in the ring with fellow world class fighters. Gonzalez on the other hand had been soundly beaten by his 2 best opponents, the excellent Andrew Moloney and a pre-prime Paul Butler. Not only had Gonzalez lost his two bouts of note, but he had nothing to offer Ancajas as a test. He wasn't a dangerous puncher, he did have elite level boxing skills, he was little more than a regional level fighter with a padded record.
He was, essentially, a South American answer to those Thai's we see with fancy looking records that have no depth or quality to them. Just the numbers.
To his credit Gonzalez made a go of things. He was thrown in with a shark and tried to battle it. Sadly though Gonzalez's battle with Ancajas was only ever going to end one way, and despite his toughness keeping him in the bout the pressure, the body and the excellent boxing skills of Ancajas were far too much.
In round 6 Gonzalez was finally saved by the referee. He was still on his feet, but was a beaten, battered man and it was clear things were only going to get worse.
Whilst some of Ancajas' reign can be defended due to mandatory obligations, with bouts against the likes of Teiru Kinoshita, Jonas Sultan and Ryuichi Funai being mandatories, it's now time he chases one of the division's other world class fighters. Although some are tied up with Eddie Hearn and DAZN others, such as Kazuto Ioka, Francisco Rodriguez Jr or Froilan Saludar, aren't, and we also have the shadow of Kosei Tanaka approaching the division in 2020. Ancajas needs to put his foot down and demand real tests now.
This weekend was one that promised a lot, though had seen a couple of bouts we'd expected to be great just fail to deliver the action we'd hoped for. Thankfully however some bouts delivered. And boy did we ever get one that delivered, between two Asian fighters in the US.
Whilst Alexander Povetkin Vs Michael Hunter may end up going down as the bout of the weekend, in terms of action and drama, it was given a great run for it's money by IBF "interim" Super Bantamweight title bout. A bout that saw champion Ryosuke Iwasa (27-3, 17) [岩佐 亮佑] stop Filipino Marlon Tapales (33-3, 16).
The bout saw Tapales enter as the favourite, and with Iwasa's losses all coming to southpaws you could see why people fancied the hard hitting Filipino lefty. We though the southpaw issue would prove to be a major factor in the bout as well.
What we ended up seeing however was a fantastic 2 way bout, at least in the early going, and Iwasa's finest performance to date. A performance that, like his original world title win against Yukinori Oguni, showed he had world class ability, even if we don't see it consistently.
The bout started at a great pace, and although Iwasa was typically getting the better of things, with his higher tempo and using his reach well. It was however notable that Iwasa's power was having an effect and in round 3 he dropped Tapales, for the first time in the fight. Tapales began to change tactics following the knockdown, and looked for a single punch to change the fight. It was a foolish move given he was so much shorter than Iwasa.
As the fight war on Iwasa's domination got more and more commanding and by round 10 it looked like he was going to cruise to a decision. A second knockdown in round 11 changed that though, as Iwasa dropped Tapales for the second time, with a left hand. Tapales managed to beat the count but failed to convince the referee he was fit to continue, forcing the referee to halt the bout.
Given his performance here Tapales looks about done at world level. A shame, given how good his previous world title bouts were. As for Iwasa what ever they did in training for this worked, and they need to keep with it, at times he looked brilliant, and a far cry from the listless fighter who lost to the IBF Super Bantamweight title to TJ Doheny.
In theory next in line for Iwasa is either Danny Roman or Murodjon Akhmadaliev, though it's still pretty unclear what is happening to their bout which was scheduled to take place in September before falling through due to an injury to Roman.
The UK might be one of the hotbeds for boxing right now but it's not often we'll see a Filipino take on a South African in the country. Today however we saw one such bout, as the WBO Bantamweight got a new champion!
The match up in question saw South African fighter Zolani Tete (28-4, 21) return to the ring after more than a year our to take on "interim" champion John Riel Casimero (29-4, 20) from the Philippines.
On paper this looked like a fantastic match up between two world class fighters. Two multi-weight world champions, in fact. It looked not only like it was going to be competitive, but also a very interesting clash of styles with Tete being a freakish physical specimen and Casimero being a wild, but heavy handed slugger.
Sadly the interest in the bout going in didn't deliver. The first 2 rounds saw almost nothing happen. The size difference and skills of both men saw almost nothing land, as both men showed a lot of respect to the other. The only meaningful thing that happened was a clash of heads in round 2. That was essentially the only meaningful connect either man made with the other in the first 6 minutes.
In round 3 things changed as Casimero seemingly grew in confidence and landed a brutal right hand up top on Tete. The shot was something else and not only did it drop Tete, but it left him scrambled. Tete beat the count but didn't look like he knew where he was. He looked like his legs were gone and his head was gone. Knowing it was his chance to strike Casimero kept up the intensity and essentially bundled the wobbly Tete down again. The South African's heart got him to his feet again, but a follow left the referee with no decision other than to stop the bout.
With Casimero celebrating another huge win on the road to become a 3 weight world champion attention turned to Tete who took quite a few minutes to recover, though thankfully did look fine in the end.
Following the win Casimero called for a fight with Naoya Inoue, in a bout that would unify the WBA, IBF and WBO titles, and it's clear that that is a bout that makes a lot of sense to see getting made in 2020.
Earlier this year Chinese fighter Can Xu (18-2, 3) [徐灿] put himself on the map as he won the WBA "regular" Featherweight title in a sensational performance against Jesus M Rojas on US soil. Today he returned to the US to make his second defense, and again put on a sensational performance with an incredibly high work rate and very smart inside fighting.
The talented champion was defending his title for the second time, as he faced off with the previously unbeaten Manny Robles III (18-1, 8), and just swamped Robles with a tempo that that Robles had no answer for.
It only took seconds for Xu to begin letting his hands go, and he never slowed down. Robles tried to box between Xu's flurries in the first few rounds, but he never did enough to be competitive with Xu who was always landing first, landing last and landing more.
Sadly for Robles the tempo was too high for him, and body shots in round 6 began to hurt him, taking away from his work rate even further. What little success Robles had mustered in the first half were completely non existent in the second half, with Robles taking a beating in rounds 7 and 8, as he slowly had the fight beaten out of him. The only things that let the bout continue were Robles' toughness and Xu's lack of power.
Robles tried to push forward late on but all he did was walk into uppercuts and hooks as Xu continued to beat him up through the championship rounds, putting any possible doubt to bed.
After 12 rounds the scores were tallied quickly, and were easy to tally. 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110 all to Xu.
Following the bout DAZN show punch numbers suggesting there was over 2000 punches thrown, with Xu throwing over 1500! An incredibly amount, in what was a truly fan friendly and entertaining, yet 1-sided, battle.
After the bout Xu called out IBF champion Josh Warrington in what would make for a chaotic and fan friendly bout with a lot of leather being thrown, but one we don't imagine Warrington and his promoter, Frank Warren, will be in a rush to make. Instead we assume that Xu will likely make a mandatory against Hiroshige Osawa sooner, rather than later, in what could well be a bout back in China, before another big bout Stateside.
Just moments after Naoya Inoue's (19-0, 16) [井上 尚弥] younger brother, Takuma Inoue, lost in his challenge for the WBC Bantamweight title the "Monster" walked out to face Filipino icon Nonito Donaire (40-6, 26), played in by the sounds of iconic Japanese musician Tomoyasu Hotei, marking a change from Noriako Sato's "Departure".
The occasion however called on something special, the WBSS Bantamweight final. The bout to crown the Muhammad Ali trophy winner, and to unify the WBA, IBF, WBC Diamond and Ring Magazine titles. It was the conclusion of a tournament that had started more than a year ago, and been a genuinely global tournament with fights in Lafayette, Orlando, Ekaterinburg, Glasgow and Yokohama before concluding with this bout in Saitama.
Many had expected this to be a mismatch. The next quick win for the Monster, he was around 1/9 to win and and it was 1/3 for the bout not to go beyond 4 rounds. This was expected to be little more than a formality. On paper it was the WBSS final the fighters wanted, but maybe not the fans. In the end however it was the final we deserved, and it was a genuine Fight of the Year Contender.
The fight started with Inoue looking razor sharp, and landing everything he wanted against Donaire in the first round. Donaire however never seemed phased until early in round 2, when he was rocked, and hurt for the first time in the fight. Donaire however turned the tide later in round 2 when he landed he patented left hook, cutting Inoue over the right eye, and Inoue the first cut of his career. The cut seemed to make Inoue wary and in rounds 3 Inoue boxed smart, moving, backing off and staying say behind his quicker foot work. That smart boxing allowed him to regain his grip on the bout
In round 4 Inoue began to unload on Donaire with bigger shots as the Filipino walked forward, trying to wear Inoue down. It was a risky strategy from the Filipino but one that he felt could work as he continued to press, walking through shots that would have dropped anyone else in the division. He was hurt a few times, including wobbling in round 5, but managed to come through the storm and leave Inoue with a bloodied nose.
The pressure of Donaire again came at a cost in rounds in rounds 6 and 7 as he was left being out boxed. Inoue combined both smart movement, heavy shots and jabs to chip away at Donaire, and in round 7 it looked like the work of Inoue had done it's job. Donaire was looking slow, and worse for war.
Despite having the moment things changed massively in rounds 8 when he hurt Inoue early in the round with a great right hand. For much of the round Donaire was the boss, and it suddenly seemed like all the pressure from Donaire had began to have the desired effects. By the end of the round blood was streaming down Inoue's face as the cut from the right eye worsened, and he took more punishment in one round than we'd seen from him in his entire career. That was followed by another huge Donaire round, and by the the end of round 9 Inoue had seemingly put his aggressive mindset to bed, boxing and moving, and trying all he could to avoid the power of Donaire.
Momentum again shifted in round 10 as Inoue showed some new found energy, and despite taking some heavy shots himself he managed to hurt Donaire, wobbling him seconds before the bell. Inoue knew it was a big shift and roared to the packed out Saitama arena when he got back to his corner. It was as mush a roar of defiance as a was a war call, telling the fans he was okay, and was going to go back on the offensive. Which he did!
In round 11 Inoue dominated Donaire, as he went for the finish, hurting Donaire badly with a left hand to the body. The shot seemed to put Donaire down for the count, though the referee allowed Donaire up at 10. It was a brave call from the referee but a desire to let a veteran like Donaire go out on his shield, if he needed to. Despite getting to his feet Donaire took a hammering through the rest of the of round as Inoue went all out for the finish. In some places that would have been in. Enough was enough. Here however the fight continued and we went into the final round, something that few expected, and even fewer would have anticipated after the knockdown.
Some how Donaire had recovered by the start of the final round, but Inoue maintained his aggressive mentality and went for the finish again. Donaire somehow saw off the round, with only his incredible toughness keeping him up and fighting back as the two traded shots at the bell.
It seemed like a clear win on the scorecards for Inoue, he had been tested, he had been hurt, he had been cut, he had been shaken, but he had racked up the rounds. And two of the judges agreed, scoring it 116-111, 117-109 and 114-113.
The first two scores seemed about right, and we had it 117-110, giving Donaire rounds 2, 8 and 9, though we really need to query what Robert Hoyle had been watching as he some how had the bout decided by the knockdown in round 11. A bizarre score, that really does need explaining.
With the win Inoue claims the WBA Super title, retains the IBF and Ring Magazine titles and adds the Muhammad Ali trophy to his collection of silverware whilst Donaire likely bows out of professional boxing with one of his greatest ever performances, even if it did come in a loss.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.