Last year we saw Daniel Roman (24-2-1, 9) claim the WBA Super Bantamweight title with a stoppage win over the previously unbeaten Shun Kubo in Kyoto. Today he returned to Japan to defend his title against the touted Ryo Matsumoto (21-2, 19) [松本亮], who was stepping up for his first world title bout.
The fight started pretty competitively, with Roman bringing the pressure and Matsumoto needing to respond to it. The Japanese fighter landed some good body shots, but seemed to be out worked, out landed and in same ways out though by Roman, who used a good solid jab and clever footwork to cut the distance against the taller man. The success of Roman continued through the fight, with a lot of close rounds, but a lot of rounds where he simply did a bit more than Matsumoto, who looked to land single shots, namely the jab up top and the left hand to the body. Roman however had more variation to his work, the jab, the right hand over the top, and the body shots.
Although Roman seemed to be doing the better work, there was a lot of competitive action and Matsumoto did more than hold his own in a number of rounds, including round 3, which was one of his best rounds. The problem for him is that Roman really didn't seem to feel his power, and kept coming forward, even the big shots of Matsumoto seemed to be taken with ease from Roman.
In the middle rounds we saw some great trading sequences, as Matsumoto started to hold his ground more, and even when he was backed up he was letting his hands go a bit more often, as he did from the ropes in round 7. Though by being backed up so frequently he was making life a little bit too easy for the judges, who were always going to favour the aggression of the champion over the challenger's shots on the retreat.
In round 8 Matsumoto had another of his stronger rounds, landing some big body shots, though Roman continued to take them well. The champion did seem to feel them more than once, but only needed a second or two before returning fire and putting Matsumoto under pressure again, likely stealing the round with a late assault.
Matsumoto even tried to change his tactics late on, pressing Roman backwards, and whilst he had success at times he couldn't keep it up for long, with Roman turning the pressure around and forcing Matsumoto backwards. It was keeping the fight competitive on a round by round basis, but with Roman always just doing a touch more when he came forward, and seemingly always looking like the man who knew when, and how, to step up the pace. This certainly seemed to be the case in rounds 9, 10 and 11, with Matsumoto looking like he was having good rounds until Roman turned the pressure up and fought back.
The final round was one where Roman really stepped back on the gas from the off. It was as if he was thinking “if all the close rounds go to the challenger, I really might need to make a statement here”. He went out hunting a KO and forced a real fight, with both men taking some huge shots ina thrilling back and forth round, despite being back and forth it was clear that Roman was getting a lot more to land than Matsumoto, who had to reset more often, and backed off during key exchanges.
In there end there was no doubting the winner, and that was shown on the scores cards which read 119-109, twice and 118-108. The fight could have been scored closer, and Matsumoto certainly didn't disgrace himself, but he was the clear loser. Sadly though the score cards make the bout look like a near whitewash, which doesn't reflect the competitiveness of the bout, despite being pretty cards.
(Image courtesy of Daily.co.jp)
Last year we saw Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (45-4-1, 40) announce himself on to Western audiences as he twice beat Roman Gonzalez to become a 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion. This past Saturday he returned to the US to make his second defense of the title, facing off with the highly skilled Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada (36-3, 25) on “Superfly 2”.
On paper the bout had all the ingredients to be something very special. It had one of the sports biggest punchers against one of the sports against one of the sports best all round fighters in a contest that fans had been anticipating ever since Srisaket stopped Gonzalez, in their second boud.
The bout started slowly, with both men looking to find their range and timing. It was Estrada who settled quicker and he certainly took the first round with no argument, and also likely the second as the crowd got behind everything he did. It was a crowd that seemed to clearly be cheering on the Mexican though it seemed like he had brought a pistol to a shotgun fight and in round 3 Srisaket started to land body shots with regularity. The success of the Thai seemed to make Estrada a little bit more apprehensive and the middle rounds were strong ones for the Thai, who seemed to out work, out muscle and our power the Mexican.
Despite being out powered Estrada had real moments of success, landing some beautiful single shots. Sadly for him they seemed to just bounce off Srisaket whilst the Thai's shots had a clear impact on the challenge, making sweat fly through the air and buzzing Estrada on a number of occasions.
The middle rounds not only saw Srisaket land his best shots but also seemed to cause Estrada to miss more. He seemed unsure of himself at times and fell short with a lot of shots. He managed to use his feet to keep Srisaket to only throwing singles, but did little to impose himself offensively. Then again even when he did land bombs they didn't do anything to the Thai to discourage him from rushing in as, and when, he wanted.
By round 10 it seemed like Srisaket had done enough to retain his title, if he could stay up right. Despite that Estrada wasn't wanting to just roll over and give up his shot, and it showed as he finished round 11 really strong, before having a huge round 12. In fact round 12 will go down as on of the best rounds of the year as both traded bombs for the 3 minutes. Estrada was the one getting the better off it, by quite some margin with accuracy and work rate, and he even stunned Srisaket at times, but could never quite get enough sustained success to drop the Thai, who was firing back through out the round.
The final round seemed like one that Estrada fought knowing he was behind, knowing he needed a knockdown or even a knockout.
The judges scorecards could have been all over the place, with a number of rounds being close, in the end though the scores were 114-114, 115-113 and 117-111, giving Srisaket the majority decision win and his second defense.
With successive wins over Roman Gonzalez, twice, and Juan Francisco Estrada it's hard to argue with Srisaket's resume, and he has really added to his previous big wins against Jose Salgado and Yota Sato. For Estrada he has proven he can hang with the best Super Flyweights, though will be kicking himself for not turning up the heat and taking more risks earlier in the fight. He really did control the final round, when he forced a war on Srisaket and had he done that earlier in the bout who knows whether Srisaket would have won or not.
The “Superfly” shows are giving fighters from the lower weights a chance to shine on HBO and an international stage that typically they won't have been showcased on. One such fighter shining on “Superfly 2” was IBF Flyweight champion Donnie Nietes (41-1-4, 23), who scored his first defense of the IBF Flyweight title whilst stopping Argentinian veteran Juan Carlos Reveco (39-4, 19), who was making his US debut.
The fight started very competitively, with both men seemingly mirroring each other at times. They looked amazingly well matched and every bit of success one man had seemed to be matched by the other only seconds later. It was high tempo, thoughtful yet brilliant boxing from the off by two high level and respectful practitioner's. Although competitive it seemed like Nietes was slightly sharper, finding the holes a tiny bit more successfully than his foe.
Through the first 4 rounds there was little really to separate them. Nietes probably impressed the judges slightly more, but there fight was so closely contested that from one angle there is a good chance that Reveco was leading.
Despite being a brilliantly fought boxing bout the crowd were growing restless, booing the action and showing a bit of disappointment. It was as if they were expecting a war but were getting a boxing contest.
The boos grew louder in round 5, though it seemed like Nietes was beginning to figure out his man, and in round 6 he began to really up the pace. It was a sign of how good Nietes is as he increased his out put and movement, and began punching between the shots of Reveco, rather than waiting to return fire. It was a wonderful change and gained almost immediate results as he cut the eye of Reveco and badly staggered him right on the bell. The shot, which seemed to land behind the ear, sent Reveco stumbling as he tried to find his corner and the doctor took a look at him. Had the same shot landed just 15 seconds earlier there is a good chance that Reveco would have been stopped before the round was over.
Knowing he had hurt his man in round 6 Nietes went hunting in round 7 and really took it to the Argentinian. Within seconds of the round starting he was caught by a right hand and dropped hard. He got up at 5 but failed to listen to the referee's instructions and the referee, after a few seconds, waved the bout off.
For 5 rounds this was ultra-close and a great example of high quality boxing. From round 6 however Nietes upped the pace and Reveco simply couldn't stay with him. It was a statement win, though said a lot about where both men are. Reveco was once a top fighter, but this is his 3rd loss in 7 fights, and his second stoppage loss in 5. He's not the fighter he once was. Although older Nietes is still the fresher man, having mostly avoided wars, and will likely have another few fights at the top. The Filipino is a technical boxing wizard at times, though at the age of 35, in fact he turns 36 in May, he is old for a Flyweight and may not have that much longer left at the top himself.
In 2017 we saw Kazuto Ioka firstly vacate the WBA Flyweight title and then retire all together. Today we finally saw that title find a new owner as Artem Dalakian (16-0, 11) out pointed Filipino-American veteran Brian Viloria (38-6-0-2, 23) in a real break out win to put himself on the boxing map.
The fight started well for Dalakian who looked the younger, fresher and hungrier fighter in the early going. He used his physical advantages well to box at range, and his faster feet allowed him to control the pace and distance of the fight, whilst Viloria looked to walk him down, though was far to slow for the most part to cut the distance. After the first few rounds it began to look like Viloria only had one chance to win, and that was landing a hayemaker to stop the Azeri-born Ukrainian.
Sadly for Viloria he seemed unable to pull the trigger, even when Dalakian was there to be hit. The unbeaten man, mostly fighting with his hands down, did give Viloria chances, but there was veyer few times that he managed to land anything of note. In fact the only real time that Dalakian was in any danger was in round 7, when Viloria landed a brutal right hand that visible shook Dalakian. To his credit the Ukrainian fighter held, spoiled and got through the round, though he deserves to be applauded for not going down from the best punch of the fight.
Dalakian was back in control the following round, though deducted a point in round 9 for pushing down on the head of Viloria, which he had been warned about several times. The original warning seemed to give Viloria the idea of trying to get a point taken from Dalakian by leading with his head, and the referee bought it, though it was only a small respite for Viloria who clearly lost the round and was well behind by that point.
The next real talking point came in round 11, when an accidental elbow caught Viloria in the center of his forehead, and left him with a real bleeder. It wasn't long until Viloria's face was a crimson mask, and Dalakian was hunting a stoppage. It was great round for Dalakian, even if the cut was caused by an accident. The Filipino's chin impressed however and he managed to see out the final couple of rounds.
Despite lasting the distance Viloria was clearly beaten, with all 3 judges scoring it 118-109 in favour of Dalakian. For Viloria the bout really seemed to show how far gone he is, and it's probably time he retires. For Dalakian however the win sets up some interesting fights, including a possible unification with WBC champion Daigo Higa.
One of the often used excuses for fans not watching the lower weights is the lack of power that the fighters have. Those likely haven't seen the terrific WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (15-0, 15) [比嘉 大吾], who made his second defense earlier today and continued his perfect stoppage run, recording a Japanese record equalling 15th straight stoppage.
The champion, defending his title in a home-coming defense in Okinawa, was up against former WBO Minimumweight champion Moises Fuentes (25-5-1, 14) in what looked like an interesting match up on paper. Fuentes was an experienced challenger, who was world class, and had simply out grown the lower weights. He had significant reach and height advantages over Higa and looked less like a fighter moving up in class than the champion he towered over.
Whilst interesting on paper it really wasn't that competitive in the ring. Fuentes looked to start aggressively, and actually backed Higa up very early on, landing a looping right hand in the opening seconds. It was however one of the very moments of success for Fuentes, who also managed to back Higa on to the ropes though was punished for doing so.
Higa's power was shown in a jab that pushed Fuentes back. Moments after being backed up himself he landed another jab that saw Fuentes's legs betray him and a follow up saw him landing some monstrous bombs on to Fuentes, who's chin some how held up to some massive shots. Higa would then go to the body and Fuentes' ribs felt the punishment, with the Mexican dropping to the canvas in agony. He tried to beat the count but was counted out rising to his feet as Higa cemented his name in Japanese boxing history.
The brilliant youngster not only tied the long standing Japanese KO record of Tsuyoshi Hamada, at 15 KO's, but he also became the first Japanese fighter to successfully defend a world title in Okinawa, and managed to bring world title fights back to the area after more than 30 years away. In fact the last time there was a world title defense in Okinawa it was Higa's very own mentor Yoko Gushiken, who lost the WBA Light Flyweight title to Pedro Flores back in 1981!
Next time out Higa will be looking to set a new Japanese record with 16 straight stoppages, and after today's performance there will be very few Flyweights who will feel comfortable in getting in the ring with him.
It's fair to say that 2017 was a break out year in many ways for Jerwin Ancajas (29-1-1, 20. Despite claiming the IBF Super Flyweight title in 2016 he wasn't really able to use the belt as a launchpad until last year, when he went 3-0 (3) and shone. By the end of the year he had Western audiences suggesting he was the new Pacquiao and many saying he was on the verge of becoming a figurehead for the Filipino fight scene.
Today he return to the ring to kick off 2018, and faced off with the previously unbeaten Israel Gonzalez (21-1, 8), in what was Ancajas' 4th defense of the IBF title and his US debut.
The bout started perfectly for the champion who dropped Gonzalez in the opening round from a left hand. It was the ideal start for the Filipino and proof that his power was enough to hut Gonzalez.
Having got off to such a perfect start it could have been expected that Ancajas would close the show early. Gonzalez however was tough, and he took a gradual and sustained beating over the following few rounds. The game Mexican always looked to fight, but was never able to cope with the speed, power, accuracy or consistency of Ancajas, who chipped away, round after round. There was jabs and power shots both connecting at will from the talented Filipino who did as he wished.
In round 10 a left hand dropped Gonzale for the bouts' second knockdown and a third followed soon after, forcing the referee to save the now beaten Mexican from further punishment.
Ancajas is now 4-0 (4) since winning a world title and an excellent 16-0 (15) since his sole loss, back in March 2012. He has proven he is a truly world class boxer, and despite issues with securing big fights he has the potential to be a very long term champion. The performance, technically, was solid, with perhaps only one real complaint being that he was too methodical. There were times when he could have picked up the pace looked for the kill much earlier. Had he done that he could have made a little more of an impression on the audience. But that really is only a minor complaint, and he really did impress, once again.
The bout also raised an interested little bit of trivia, with Ancajas now defending the title in 4 continents. He has now made defenses in Asia, Oceania, Europe and North America, and it would be interesting to see if they could get him a fight either in Africa or in South America next.
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.