On Saturday night in Ukraine fans had the chance to see WBA Flyweight champion Artem Dalakian (19-0, 14) record his latest defense, as he dominated and stopped mandatory challenger Dennapa Kiatniwat (20-2, 15) [เด่นนภา ตราใบห่อ], aka Sarawut Thawornkham. The challenger, from Thailand, was out gunned and out classed from the off, though showed his toughness and bravery to last as long as he did, though was eventually stopped in round 10.
The Thai had travelled in confident spirit though that confidence couldn't make up for the gulf in class, with Dalakian taking control very early on, and never really being tested afterward, with the Thai rarely able to land clean.
As the bout went on Dennapa's face wore the damage of the action, reddening and and becoming stained with his blood, though he continued to bravely plow on, attempting to turn things around. That effort was wasted effort, and all he did was take more punishment, with Dalakian essentially playing with his food at times, rather than upping the gears and seeing off the Thai, who had been rocked in round 8.
In round 10 the Thai was finally saved, with Dalakian getting the stoppage, his third since winning the title.
Given the depth at Flyweight, a division that isn't as good as it was a few years ago, the hope now has to be that Dalakian considers unification bouts, with the likes of Kosei Tanaka, Moruti Mthalane and Charlie Edwards. As for Dennapa the hope is that he returns back to Thailand to continue on the regional scene, where bouts against the likes of Junto Nakatani or Ryota Yamauchi would be very interesting.
Earlier today we saw unbeaten Thai veteran Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] make his 11th defense of the WBC Minimumweight title, doing so against former WBO king Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-7-6, 7) [福原 辰弥], with a technical decision.
The bout started pretty evenly, though it seemed like Fukuhara had done enough the take the opening round. Sadly the Japanese fighter was cut in round 2, from a clash of heads, and from then on Wanheng would begin to look like the sharper man, getting his shots off better, landing cleaner and being the one with the more eye catching blows.
Although the better blows were from Wanheng Fukuhara wasn't there to make up the number and the Japanese fighter tried to press the action, come forward and set a higher work rate. The contract in styles made the rounds feel close, but like Wanheng was taking them, something that was back up on the open scoring at the start of round 5
The two would remain competitive at times, though it continued to feel like Wanheng's quality was the difference maker. Fukuhara really had some great moments, including a flurry of body shots in round in round, but it wasn't to be enough, as Wanheng remained composed and on his feet, loking to attack after Fukuhara's assault.
Sadly in round 8 a clash of heads saw Wanheng cut, taking us to the scorecards early on. The judges, unsurprisingly, had him winning, moving 53-0 and securing his 11th world title defense. For Fukuhara it's a second loss to Wanheng and sees him pushed don the pecking order another world title bout.
One of the rarer feats in boxing, especially with men, is for a fighter to drop in weight and have success. We regularly see fighters out growing divisions and moving up, but very, very rarely do they come down and manage to make a mark. It does happen, with Sung Kil Moon being a notable example and the current Bantamweight run of Nonito Donaire, but it is very rare.
Today we saw one fighter trying to do that, and come up short, as former WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (18-3-2, 11) [木村翔] challenged WBA Light Flyweight "regular" champion Carlos Canizales (22-0-1, 17), and lost a clear decision.
At the weight in things looked good for Kimura, who appeared to make weight with ease, but making weight and being 100% fit to fight your fight are different things and that showed with Kimura lacking his trademark late fight stamina and work rate.
Early on it looked good for Kimura, who was employing the tactics we'd come to expect. He was applying pressure, using a high guard and pressing forward. Canizales was forced to work super hard to create space, using a lot of foot work to make room for his shots and to prevent Kimura from getting inside and using his strength and weight. It seemed the perfect gameplan from Kimura, playing the long game.
Canizales boxing and moving saw him taking the first 4 rounds, as many would have expected, though he was taking the odd heavy blow to the mid-section, which again seemed to suit the obvious game plan of Kimura. Make Canizales work, and take his wheels away. That lead to Kimura having success in round 5, a round that was clearly his, and some some success in round 6. Sadly for his success in the sixth he was rocked on the bell, and it seemed like Canizales then got his second wind, whilst Kimura began to slow. This was the point where Kimura was supposed to come on strong, as he had done in previous bouts, but instead he looked heavy legged, zapped of his hunger and energy.
As we went through the later rounds Canizales began to using Kimura's slowing tempo to his advantage and conserve his own energy, moving less and and picking his spots more conservatively. It was a smart game plan, and compensated for a potential late charge form Kimura, a late charge that never really came.
Kimura managed to have some moments in the final rounds, but they were few and far between, his foot work was as if he was going through lead, his punches were incredibly slow and his pressure was almost completely ineffective. Things weren't helped by accidental fouls, which caused breaks in the action, breaking up any momentum Kimura could get.
Instead of being the stronger man, it was Kimura who was actually the man being hurt, especially at the end of round 11 as Canizales launched one of his most eye catching assaults with Kimura pinned in a corner.
To his credit Kimura never stopped trying, fighting hard in round 12, a round that saw both men looking spent, but ended in thrilling fashion with both throwing hayemakers.
It was a brave effort from the Aoki gym fighter, but it was a performance that lacked his usual energy, his well known late charge and his typical fire. The move down in weight may have seemed easy, but in reality it had a price and that price was paid by taking some of Kimura best assets away from him.
As for Canizales it was another brilliant performance from him, building on his 2018 wins over Reiya Konishi and Lu Bin, and it seems almost certain that he will return to Asia for a bout for the WBA "super" title, currently held by Hiroto Kyoguchi, at some point down the line. His performance can't be downplayed by Kimura coming down in weight. If Canizales fought anyone else in the division the way he fought today, there is a very real chance he's have beaten them as well.
Earlier this year we saw Chinese fighter Can Xu (17-2, 3) [徐灿] shock a large portion of the boxing world by defeating Jesus M Rojas in the US to claim the WBA "regular" Featherweight title. Today he made the first defense of that belt, taking on Japanese challenger Shun Kubo (13-2, 9) [久保隼].
On paper this didn't really promise a lot but actually delivered a really, really fan friendly battle, at a high tempo, fought at mid to close range and had some eye catching back and forths, before the champion broke down the challenger and forced the referee to stop the contest. It was not a fight of the year contender, but still a very, very enjoyable contest to watch.
The first round was a solid one for Kubo, who managed to use his southpaw jab and long arms to control the range pretty well, taking advantage of Xu being a relatively slow starter. Sadly for Kubo, who was picking some really classy shots, he was totally unable to get Xu's respect. That meant Xu could gradually pick up his pace, and like a steam trainer he build up some real momentum.
Round 2 and 3 were still somewhat competitive, with Kubo standing his ground and having some success, but it was coming at a cost with Xu landing more and more shots per round.
It was in round 4 that it was becoming clear Kubo was feeling the pace and being broken down. He was starting to break away from the action more often, trying to create space to catch his breath and not staying on the inside. He was also struggling to avoid the fire of Xu, who was increasing his output round by round, and landing more and more clean shots.
The problems Kubo was having with the volume of Xu got worse in round 5, and he was dropped towards the end of the round, after being badly hurt and eating some solid combinations. It was a testament to Kubo that he fought back as hard as he did, but it was clear he was being broken down, and as we heard the bell he was staggered again.
By now the referee and Kubo's corner were keeping an eye on the challenger and was he was rocked again in round 6 the referee, Gustavo Padilla, stepped in and halted the bout.
Interestingly this was Xu's third stoppage in 5 bouts, and whilst no one would call him a puncher he is certainly hitting hard than his record would suggest. Sadly for Kubo this is his second stoppage loss, and it's really hard to see where he goes from this. Domestically and regionally the Featherweight division is a mine field and it's really, really hard to imagine him making a mark on the sport at 126lbs given how he was broken down here.
Lats year we saw a pleasant surprise as Japan's Masayuki Ito (25-2-1, 13) [伊藤 雅雪] travelled to the US and won the WBO Super Featherweight title, upsetting Christopher Diaz with a 2 round decision. That was an entertaining fight, a fun fan, fan friendly contest with Ito building a bit of a fan base in the US. Today he returned to the US and lost that title, losing a forgettable decision to Jamel Herring (20-2, 10) in a bout that rarely caught fire. Much to the credit of Herring.
Herring looked establish distance from the opening moments, using his southpaw jab and footwork to neutralise Ito and his aggression. It worked brilliantly to prevent Ito from landing his right hand during the opening round, though Ito did manage to have more than his share of success in round 2.
The success of Ito in the second round seemed to make Herring aware of what he had to do and the American got back on his toes, used his jab and made Ito miss, a lot. It wasn't so much that Herring was lading significantly more, but he was controlling the range and tempo of the but, and making Ito look wilder and cruder than he usually is.
Ito would occasionally have moments, such as in round 5, but that success was limited due to Herring's gameplan, a gameplan that was smart and that he stuck to incredibly well.
Going into the second half of the bout it was clear that Herring was the much more skilled fighter, but he was starting to tire and in round 7 we did see Herring slow, resorting to clinching. That tiredness showed more in round 8, as Herring, for the first time, began to stand his ground, trading with Ito, fighting Ito's fight. That began a really solid fight back from Ito, who had success in rounds 9 and 10 as well, as he began to crawl his way back into the bout. It seemed that there was a glimmer of hope for the Japanese fighter, but then Herring seemed to get his second wind, he got back to moving, jabbing, and landing left hands before Ito could get his shots off. It was the movement that was key, forcing Ito to regularly reset and keeping him off balance.
At the end of 12 rounds the bout seemed like a clear win for Herring, their was certainly rounds that Ito had won and several close rounds, but it seemed like Herring fights. That was agreed with by the judges who had it 116-112 and 118-110, twice.
The 116-112 card seemed to be right, but the scores of 118-110 seemed to be off and not reflective of what was a somewhat competitive contest.
For Ito this ends his reign, and probably forces him to really look at his style, which was made it look rudimentary here. The movement and jab of his earlier career had gone, and his looked to be forcing things, rather than relaxing and working on what he can do. Herring, of course, neutralised a lot of Ito's work, but Ito made it easier for him than he should have.
For Herring this was a great win, a career defining victory that fell on a really important day for him and his family, the day his daughter would have turned 10 years old. The performance was solid, without being a spectacular one, though that will be forget, unlike the result and the fact he can now call himself a world champion.
Whilst we were obviously cheering Ito on, we can't help but feel this is a great win for a very classy and affable champion. The bout was a contest between two of boxing's good guys, and it's hard to dislike Herring.
The plan now, for the new champion, appears to be a show down with WBC champion Miguel Berchelt, and that is likely to take place later this year in what will be an interesting unification bout between a boxer and a brutal, aggressive puncher.
To end a super busy weekend of fights attention turned to the Portopia Hotel in Kobe as Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7) [小西伶弥] challenged hard hitting IBF Light Flyweight champion Felix Alvarado (35-2, 30).
The bout, which had no live TV coverage, promised a lot. Whilst the TV coverage lacked it was streamed via the team of Konishi's and proved to be a genuinely compelling contest, from start to end, with Alvarado's power punching going up against Konishi's physical strength and toughness. It wasn't the all out war we were expecting, but it sure was an engaging, and thrilling contest.
From the opening round it was clear neither man was there just to pick up a pay cheque, with Konishi pressing forward, trying to smother the power of Alvarado, whilst the Champion found room to get his shots off. Konishi, to his credit, got plenty off himself in the early stages, often forcing Alvarado backwards and unleashing flurries of shots to head and body, but it was the blows of Alvarado that caught the eye, especially his uppercuts as Konish came in with his head down.
Konishi's best moments came in the middle rounds, as he landed most of his best work, stopped Alvarado from creating the space here needed to get full extension on his shots. By smothering Alvarado's power shots and pushing him backwards Konishi had real success, and left the Nicaraguan looking a little bit like a bully. It did however come at a cost, and the energy that Konishi had to use, and the shots he took in return for his success, were apparent in the later rounds.
The final third of the bout was Alvarado's best. Konishi had slowed, his work rate had dropped, and his ability to cut the distance effectively was waning. This allowed Alvarado the space he needed to land his thunderous power shots, and in rounds 10 and 11 he hurt Konishi, who was left wobbling and looking ready to go. Unfortunately for the Nicaraguan the bell came to give Konishi both times, but it was clear that Konishi was relying on his toughness by then, and his chance to turn things round had all but gone.
The brave and determined challenger managed to put up a really spirited effort in round 12, despite losing the round. It was clear he knew he'd lost but he'd put up a great effort against one of the hardest hitting champions in the sport.
After 12 rounds the judges had the bout a clear win for the Nicaraguan, with scores of 117-111, 118-110 and 116-112.
In a sign of real class Alvarado stayed with fans on his way backstage, bumping fists with the locals, taking pictures with kids and really spending a lot of time with those who had been cheering on Konishi. The fans however had clearly been won over by the champion, and it was great to see from both sides.
Sadly for Konishi this is the second time he has lost in a world title bout, and it might just be that whilst he is very good, and very strong, he isn't quite good enough to win a world title.
Fighters will, one day, learn not to disrespect Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16) [井上 尚弥]. He hands out beatings when disrespect, as Jamie McDonnell found out last year, and as Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-1, 12) found out just moments ago.
The two men, meeting in the WBSS semi final, had entered as unbeaten champions, with Inoue as the WBA "regular" champion and Rodriguez as the IBF champion. It was supposed to be Inoue's biggest test, his toughest fight and a real chance for him to answer questions, questions that fans who hadn't followed him from the start of career still had. It was however another procession from the Monster, just like his previous two bouts at Bantamweight, against Jamie McDonnell and Juan Carlos Payano. An execution that was likely as quick as it was due to the over-confidence of Rodriguez and his team, who had pushed Inoue's trainer and father Shingo at the media work out in the week.
The first round started well for Rodriguez who landed a good right hand in the opening seconds, before Inoue settled behind his jab, and managed to take the round thanks to a steady stream of jabs left hooks. Inoue landed a couple of right hands during the round but didn't seem to budge Rodriguez who applied pressure, and had one or two moments of his own, but was out landed over all.
Having got a read on his man early in round 2 Inoue began to turn up the hear and let his shots go with the free flowing aggression we've seen of him since early in early in his career. A big body shot hurt Rodriguez who was then given a huge head shot, then a left hook moments later dropped Rodriguez. To his credit Rodriguez got up, but was down again from a sickening body shot. That could have ended the fight but he returned to his feet, narrowly beating the count, before being dropped again. That was it. After just 79 seconds of round 2 Rodriguez, supposedly Inoue's stiffest test to date, was dispatched.
This was the 6th time in a row that Inoue had stopped someone who had never been stopped, including not only McDonnell and Payano but also the teak tough Kohei Kono, a former 2-time world champion. It was also his third second round stoppage following wins against Omar Andres Narvaez and Warlito Parrenas.
More notable for Japanese boxing it is the first time, in history, a Japanese fighter has won a world title fight in Europe, ending a 51 year, 20 fight losing run in the continent.
As for the future this win books Inoue a showdown later in the year with Filipino legend Nonito Donaire, in the WBSS final. That should be a huge fight for Asia, and arguably the most notable opponent that Inoue will have faced so far, certainly the most dangerous. Donaire might be on the slide but he is certainly a lot more proven that Rodriguez and Payano.
The Flyweight division has given us some amazing bouts in recent years, such as 2018's war between Kosei Tanaka and Sho Kimura, and today we got another, as Japan's Masayuki Kuroda (30-8-3, 16) [黒田 雅之] battled tooth and nail with IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (38-2, 25) in a sure fire FOTY contender, up there with another of the amazing bouts we've seen in 2019 so far.
The bout started with Kuroda looking to use his slight reach advantage but it wasn't long until Mthalane got up close and drew Kuroda into a fire fight, with both unload a high volume of shots on the inside. It was a great back and forth with both landing their share of solid clean shots. Of the two Mthalane seemed to be the smart man, landing cleaner and defending better, but Kuroda was landing more shots, going to the body excellently.
Through the first 4 rounds there was almost nothing to split the two men. It could have been 4-0 either way with no complaints. Sadly for Kuroda he began to show some signs of tiring in the middle rounds, Mthalane on the other hand remained consistent with his work, cutting the left eye of Kuroda in the process. Kuroda would battle hard, and have a huge burst at the end of the round trying to steal it but it was too little too late. The same again applied in round 6, with Mthalane out working Kuroda through much of the round, before the challenger rallied at the end, with a huge onslaught that was driven by both the crowd and Kuroda's will to win.
In round 7 Kuroda began to show real swelling around his face, and was slowing. He was now picking moments to fire off, rather than trying to to press. He still had his moments, but he was taking more than he was giving, and was struggling to fight hard for 3 minutes. That continued to be the case in round 8, a round that Kuroda managed to land a lot of body shots in, but at the expense of taking a lot of head shots, as he face continued swelling. That was followed by a massive round 9 from Mthalane, who seemed to sense that he could get a stoppage, something that seemed plausible given the state of Kuroda's right eye, which was completely swollen shut by the end of the round.
By now Kuroda was fighting on will power and determination alone. His face swollen, his gas tank emptying and the momentum clearly behind Mthalane. He refused to sit back though and and pressed Mthalane through the round, taking punishment for his desire to be a world champion, landing shots but taking better ones in return. It was a brave and hungry effort, but one that saw him taking so much in return. By now it was becoming clear he would need a KO, and he was aware of it.
In the 11th round Kuroda managed to get his second wind, at least early in the round, but Mthalane soaked it all up and had a huge 2 minutes of the round, pushing Kuroda's determination to near breaking point. Kuroda looked done, completely blind in his right from swelling and like the referee might step in to save him from further punishment. It was a huge Mthalane round, until the dying seconds when, for the first time, he seemed to really hurt Mthalane, forcing the champion into survival mode for the final few seconds of the round.
Given he had hurt his man late in round 11 it seemed clear that Kuroda was going to give all he could in round 12, and he started out hot. Mthalane saw it coming however and boxed, using his foot work, his movement, timing and ring ring craft to see out the pressure before landing some glorious combinations late. Kuroda's desperation left him open and Mthalane was making him pay lighting up his face as we went to the bell.
After 12 rounds it seemed we had a close but clear winner. The first half of the fight had been wonderfully contested, and Kuroda had played his part in the latter stages with his incredible toughness, but there was only one man who looked like getting the win. The judges knew it, the fighters knew it and the crowd knew it, with Mthalane getting the unanimous decision, 116-112, twice, and 117-111.
There was no denying Mthalane was the better fighter, the worthy winner and a true warrior. His future is likely going to be a unification bout, potentially with WBC champion Charlie Edwards or WBO champion Kosei Tanaka, if Tanaka's team can lure him to Japan. For Kuroda a long, long rest will be needed. His face really was a swollen, damaged mess. Hopefully this isn't the end for him, but if it is, we can safely safe that the Last Samurai really did go out on his sword in a true FOTY contender.
After a disappointing performance last time out IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21) knew he had to shine earlier today when he faced mandatory challenger Ryuichi Funai (31-8, 22) [船井 龍一] from Japan.
Although it was a mandatory it did seem like Ancajas had the perfect foil to look good against, with Funai being a slow and basic come forward fighter with a very straight up style. Whilst Funai does have a potent right hand, that was pretty much the only threat Ancajas had to think about entering the bout.
Ancajas looked sharp from the off, much sharper than he had Alejandro Santiago Barrios last September, and quickly found a home for his straight left hand. He looked relaxed, quick and at ease. Funai on the other hand looked slow, tense and although he had a high guard it was being split time and time again by Ancajas. Funai's lack of speed was apparently early on though his style of slowly trudging forward made life incredibly easy for Ancajas.
In round 2 Ancajas began to move up a gear and he began to stand his ground more, lending cleanly and even allowing Funai to trade with him at times, especially at the end of round 3. He was so calm and in control that he was making Funai miss and counter up close. It was really clear that the two guys didn't belong in the ring together.
Having controlled the first 3 rounds without getting beyond second gear Ancajas began to put on a show in round 4, really moving through the gears and battering Funai. The round was as one sided as you could get, with Funai's only success being the fact that he remained on his feet, though he did that was a mystery. Ancajas was landing clean straight left hands, combinations, right hooks, uppercuts and just battering the challenger. It wouldn't have been a surprise to see the referee wave off the contest, and some referees would have done just that, but some how Funai managed to make it to the end of the round.
The damage that Ancajas gave Funai in round 4 forced the referee to have the doctor inspect Funai at the start of round 5. That round was a more cautious one from Funai, who backed off, tried to recover and didn't really do much other than clear his head. That was easier said than done though, with Ancajas continuing to beat him through the round. Although Funai was less willing to walk into the punches of Ancajas he was still on the receiving end of a lot of clean shots.
Round 6, much like round 4, was a one sided one where Ancajas increased his output and went to town on Funai, especially in the last minute. Funai's toughness was again his most impressive trait, but he was giving very little challenge to Ancajas.
At the end of round 6 the referee seemed to request Funai's pull their man from the bout. They didn't so the doctor did, stopping the bout at the very start of round 7.
For Funai this is a huge disappointment and it will almost certainly be his only shot at a world title. As for Ancajas this was perfect. This was the performance he needed, this was what he and his team would have been praying for. It was a sensational outing, beating Funai in an eye catching, fan friendly manner. It was similar in some ways to his first mandatory, against Teiru Kinoshita, where he again showcased what he could do.
Where Ancajas goes next is unclear, but if he can't secure a really big bout it would make sense to get in with another slower come forward fighter, where he can again shine by simply using his speed and skills. If he can't land a big bout for his next defense it would make sense to have him again in with an opponent that makes him look a million dollars. He's in an awkward position, as the only top Super Flyweight signed with ESPN, but there are fan friendly options out there for him.
The first man to book himself a place in the Season 2 WBSS finals was Filipino star Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26), who's much vaunted left hook showed it's self just moments ago, as he left American Stephon Young (18-2-3, 7) flat on his back. Not only did he book his place in the WBSS Bantamweight final, but also retained the WBA "super" Bantamweight title.
Young, a late replacement for South African Zolani Tete who had to pull out due to a shoulder injury, was taking a huge step up in class and it showed early on as he fought really apprehensively, almost looking scared of Donaire. It wasn't until very late in round 2 that he even seemed to realise he had to throw punches back at Donaire, landing a good combination and a solid straight left hand in the final seconds of the round.
Donaire didn't really seem bothered by Young's shots, even when they landed clean, as he just walked the American down. The game plan seemed to be clearly about pressuring Young, and he aggressively stalked him, looking to land his hook and straight hands. The pressure from Donaire opened up chances for him to land, and in round 3 he seemed to clearly hurt Young, who had no answer to the pressure of Donaire.
The Filipino wasn't just walking down Young but was reading him at the same time, and was getting closer and closer to landing a thunderous left hook. That hook finally landed clean in round 6, when he detonated on the chin of Young, who dropped lack a sack of potatoes. The referee could have counted to 100 and Young wouldn't have beat the count, it was a truly fantastic shot and left Young out of it.
This win secures Donaire a bout against either Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) or Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12), who meet in May to decide the second finalist. After today's win Donaire revealed he would rather face Inoue.
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.