The Minimumweight division continues to enthrall us almost weekly and it did it again this past Saturday in Monte Carlo as China's Xiong Zhao Zhong (24-6-1, 14) put up a great effort in a close and hard fought loss to South African slickster Hekkie Budler (27-1, 9), the current WBA Minimumweight world champion.
The bout saw Zhong fighting in Europe for the first time whilst Budler returned to the scene of his previous defense, an 8th round KO against Pigmy Kokietgym, and it also saw Zhong impressing with a very gallant performance against one of the division's most talented fighters. In fact despite Budler's edge in talent and speed he was put until a lot of pressure, especially early one when Zhong managed to drop the South African champion.
Unfortunately for Zhong the knockdown was effectively neutralised the following round as the taller and rangier Budler began to use his physical tools to his advantage and dropped the diminutive Zhong late in the round.
The subsequent rounds, rounds 4-6, were close with neither man really getting the upper hand in what were really competitive rounds. They could have been scored either way though Budler certainly appeared the more skilled whilst Zhong was the more willed. It was the will and toughness of Zhong that was keep the rounds competitive though unfortunately for him that will couldn't help him in the second half of the fight as the champion found his groove and racked up the rounds needed to retain his titles.
For Zhong this is his second loss this year, following a very disappointing blow out defeat to Oswaldo Novoa. Unlike that defeat he was always competitive here and in fact his performance suggests that Novoa is actually the better and more dangerous fighters in what is quickly becoming one of the sports most must watch divisions, and we suspect it could get even better next year with a possible fight between Budler and someone like Kosei Tanaka or Katsunari Takayama both of which would be fantastic fights.
We love mid-week fights, especially when they are significant fights between well matched fighters each looking to prove themselves and move on to bigger things in their careers. We had one such bout this earlier today when WBC Bantamweight king Shinsuke Yamanaka (22-0-2, 16) successfully defended his belt against mandatory challenger Suriyan Sor Rungvisai (37-6-1, 16), a former WBC Super Flyweight champion.
Stylistically this always looked like an interesting fight. Yamanaka is a born puncher, dubbed the “God of Left” due to his ferocious and missile like left hand which carries insane power for a Bantamweight. Suriyan is however your fearless pressure fighter, a Thai tough guy who keeps coming and never knows when he is beaten. In some ways it looked like the irresistible force against the immovable object.
Early on it was certainly Suriyan who came out with a winners mentality, despite once being completely written off by the bookies who were taking bets on the fight. Suriyan managed to fight the early rounds with a lot of energy, a hyper-aggressive mentality and a game plan that was based around landing his shots, cutting the distance and neutralising the much vaunted straight left of Yamanaka. It was a game plan that that served the challenger very well as he took several of the early rounds and made Yamanaka struggle in some ways, although the champion never really look all that uncomfortable despite not shining himself. After 4 rounds the open scoring showed appreciation for Suriyan's work with the scorecards reading 38-38, 38-38 and 39-37, to Suriyan.
Unfortunately for Suriyan he early work, whilst good enough to win some of the rounds, did come at a cost in some ways. Notably he was using a lot of energy to get inside and smother the work of Yamanaka, he was also forced to feel the power of the champion who landed some stunning shots at the end of round 2 that may have seen the Japanese fighter steal the round.
In round 5 we started to see Yamanaka beginning to settle a bit more and although Suriyan had notable success with his own right hand the shots just bounced off the champion who returned the shots with interest towards the end of the round. By now Yamanaka was starting to find his groove, he had seen what Suriyan was bringing to the fight and began to loosen up himself, this resulted in Yamanaka establishing in the lead by the time open scoring kicked in again after round 8. What had turned the fight in the favour of the Japanese fighter was a pair of 10-8 rounds courtesy of a late knockdown in both rounds 7 and 8. The knockdowns had proven that Yamanaka had serious power in his shots though they also proved that Suriyan had guts and heart as he got up to continue the fight with no real sign of distress.
The knockdowns hadn't extinguished the fire from the Thai but they had reversed the scorecards which read 78-72, 77-73 and 76-74 after 8 rounds.
The cards became even wider in round 9 as Suriyan was first deducted a point for some rough house moves before being put down for a third time, this resulted in a 10-7 round for the Japanese fighter who now knew he just had to remain upright to retain his title. He also know however that he had the power to hurt Suriyan, if and when an opportunity to unload arose. The Thai on the other hand knew he now needed a KO to win.
With the fight finished on he scorecards Yamanaka became more cautious, fighting at a distance and forcing Suriyan to work harder to get close to him. This gave us a chance to see Yamanaka using his often neglected boxing skills to win round 's 10 and 11 and it seemed clear he was happy to just take the decision win rather than hunt a stoppage. As for Suriyan he hunted the KO, at least in round 12 as he went all out, almost clocking referee Lawrence Cole in the process after being given a warning for not stopping when told to break. At the end however it was difficult to give Suriyan the round as he continue to struggle cutting the distance off against the taller, stronger Yamanaka.
By the time we got the final scores they were relatively meaningless with the judges all delivering clear cut scores of 116-108, 115-109 and 114-110, none of which really told the tale of the fight which was a tough one for Yamanaka that was made to look easy as a result of the knockdowns.
After the fight Yamanaka stated he wanted a unification bout next so we're looking forward to that though the bout did see Yamanaka's 5 fight stoppage streak come to an end despite the fact the he made his 7th title defense. As for Suriyan this loss ends a 17 fight winning streak dating back to his WBC Super Flyweight title defeat to Yota Sato last time he fought in Japan. Strangely Suriyan is now 0-4-1 in the road whilst sitting at 37-2 whilst fighting in Thailand.
At 32 years old we understand Yamanaka's dreams of a unification bout, regardless of which champion it comes against. He didn't look at his best here but he still looked head and shoulders above many in the division and Suriyan would have given any Bantamweight nightmares on this performance. As for the 25 year old Suriyan, his time will come again and we wouldn't bet against him winning a world title at Bantamweight one day in the future, especially with a performance like this against one of the sports hardest punchers, p4p, in the sport today.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Despite Mexico's Marco Antonio Rubio (59-7-1, 51) failing to make weight for arguably the biggest fight of his career it didn't stop Gennady Golovkin (31-0, 28) from continuing his rise to super stardom and really punishing the Mexican with a 2nd round stoppage to record yet another KO victory.
The first round was an interesting one. Rubio looked huge. We kid you not there looked like a full weight class between the two fighters and it looked as if Rubio thought the weight would help him take the power of Golovkin and fire back. In the end all the weight did was cost him serious money and he went on to lose the opening round with Golovkin quickly settling into his rhythm, despite Rubio having a handful of moments.
After the end of the first round Golovkin's trainer, Abel Sanchez, told Golovkin to take his time. It appeared clear that the fighter himself didn't want to listen to his trainer and Golovkin went straight onto the front foot, applying constant pressure and unloading heavy shots at Rubio. Those shots were amazing to watch and included a monster body shot that Rubio some how took, a massive uppercut that scrambled Rubio's senses and a bizarre left hook that landed on top of Rubio's head and dropped him.
Rubio appeared to be some what more shocked than hurt by the knock down though stayed down for the count before complaining about the stoppage. It seemed that even the teak tough Mexican had lost his bottle against Golovkin who secured his 18th straight stoppage and moved through yet another contender in the Middleweight division.
After the fight Golovkin continued to say he was targeting the other champions in the division, particularly WBC champion Miguel Cotto. On this performance we'd understand Cotto doing all he could to avoid Golovkin, afterall he'd almost certainly be destroyed by the power punching Kazakh monster who actually added the WBC interim title to his collection which already included the WBA "super" title and the IBO belt.
Whether Golovkin is the best fight in the middle divisions or not is up for debate but he is clearly the most destructive fighter there and it's hard to see anyone beating him with performances like this.
The first of two major bouts this Saturday saw fireworks being launched almost from the off as Nonito Donaire (33-3, 21) found out he wasn't big enough, strong enough or powerful enough to compete with the best Featherweights on the planet. Unfortunately for Donaire one of those best Featherweights was Jamaican Nicholas Walters (25-0, 21), a man who inflicted the first stoppage loss on Donaire and claimed the WBA Featherweight super title in what appears to have been a bit of a "passing of the torch" type of result.
The bout started interestingly and the first round saw both landing some solid shots. Sadly for Donaire his best shots of the round merely seemed to bounce off the Jamaican fighter who looked so much bigger and stronger. Donaire was the faster man but was giving away so much natural strength and size that the size was hardly an advantage, especially given that Walters' jab was sharp from the off.
Although Walters had won the opening round Donaire managed to take the second round in style as he seriously hurt Walters towards the end of the round. A shot just after the bell seemed to leave Walters looking confused and lost as he got back to his corner and the minute break almost certainly saved the Jamaican from a knockdown. Unfortunately for Donaire that was his major opening and even that didn't come without him taking some punishment in return with the Filipino suffering a cut himself over his eye.
In round 3 it seemed that Donaire was trying to build on his success and looked fantastic early on as he landed several huge counters and looked as good as he did at his best. Unfortunately he couldn't keep that up for the round and his early success was neutralised late as Walters dropped him with his counter right hand and secured a 10-8 round. Donaire got up and and the two went to war in an exciting end to the round.
With both knowing they could hurt each other it seemed they both fought round 4 cautiously with Donaire backing up a lot whilst Walters landed a handful of jabs. It was a disappointing round given the action of rounds 2 and 3 but it seemed clear that Donaire knew he was up against it and was happy to do what he could to survive and hope for an opening. That opening however never came and in round 5 the action picked up again with the men standing toe-to-toe and hammering each other with the occasional bomb. At this point it seemed clear Donaire had no chance but to hope the he landed clear with many of his shots merely bouncing of Walters who was looking amazingly relaxed and strong on the inside.
Donaire's efforts were brave and part way through round 6 his face was showing serious signs of damage. His eyes were swelling and cut and he was beginning to take more and more hard shots whilst being backed up to the ropes. It was a round that was slipping away from the Filipino and he knew it as he attempted to fight back late in the round. That was a mistake and as the two traded shots he was made to pay, being dropped hard and heavy. The Filipino showed immense heart and bravery to recover to his feet but the referee was left with no option but to save the Filipino who was a beaten man.
After the bout both spoke highly of the other and it's clear there is serious respect between the two. Unfortunately for Donaire however this was a painful loss and clearly suggests that he needs to move down a weight if he's going to continue with his career. For Walters however this could set up a bout with Ukrainian sensation Vasyl Lomachenko in what would be a brilliant contest if Bob Arum, who promotes both, feels like making the contest.
We hope this isn't the end of Donaire but the way he was finished is the sort of finish that does send lesser fighters looking for other careers.
The month of October may have only just begun but we've already kicked off with "world" title action as a new WBA interim Minimumweight champion was crowned in the first bout of the month.
The bout in question saw Thailand's Knockout CP Freshmart (9-0, 5) narrowly defeat Nicaragua's talented Carlos Buitrago (27-1-11, 16) in what was one of the most competitive and fairly scored bouts that we've seen this year with little to split the men overall and no real complain about the scorecards.
The first round and the final round were the easiest to score. In both of those Knockout did very little as he effectively gave them away albeit for different reasons. It seemed he gave the opening round away to try and get a measure of Buitrago's speed and reach which were both clear advantages that the Nicaraguan visitor had, despite that the crowd cheered anything Knockout landed. The final round however was one where Knockout looked too tired to make much of an effort whilst also looking confident that he had done enough to take at least 7 of the rounds, a view the judges all agreed with.
Although he had given away the opening round Knockout came out fighting in the second round throwing bombs with the intention of stopping Buitrago. The shots that Knockout landed were eye catching and backed up the Nicaraguan fighter who seemed shocked by the sudden change in pace from the Thai who had done next to nothing in the opening round.
Rounds 3 and 4 were tough to score with both men giving as good as they got on the whole and these rounds could easily have been split either way on the score cards. They saw Knockout again landing the better shots but Buitrago landing the better volume of shots with his jab in particular being successful. It seemed the crowd were trying their best to sway the judges, cheering everything Knockout did but it they were too close either way and it really was a case of what you prefer between light volume on the back foot or aggressive pressure with heavy but fewer shots.
Through a number of the middle rounds it appeared that Knockout had began to find a groove and was backing up Buitrago whilst landing heavy artillery that caught the eye of everyone. Every punch Knockout threw was thrown with the intention of breaking Buitrago who seemed to depend on his jab, double and tripled, for all of his responses. It was strange that Buitrago seemed so committed to his jab despite how beautiful and flowing it looked through the contest.
In round 7 the Thai suffered a cut around the left eye. It was difficult to tell if it was from a punch or a headclash though thankfully it didn't matter either way the doctor said it was fine to continue and the two went back to work in what appeared to be a short round, as if they forgot to stop the clock whilst the doctor was inspecting Knockout who seemed to narrowly take the round.
The run of rounds that Knockout took in the middle was broken on our card by the 8th round which Buitrago appeared to win despite a late attempt at stealing it from Knockout who appeared to be slowing and suffering from his lack of finesse which led to him missing an awful lot of shots through the round. Missing when you're throwing bombs can take a lot out of a fighter and that appeared to be the case here in the championship rounds, especially the 12th.
Although clearly tiring Knockout gave his all in the following rounds as he tried his best to bag the rounds needed to take the win. As with earlier he was generally out worked though made up for it with his power shots and round 9 in particular was difficult to score either way as the men each gave as good as they got in a round that saw both men landing power shots.
By the end of round 9 swelling around Knockout's face was notable and telling, the effect of the countless jabs that Buitrago had been landing through out the contest. His heart however was still as it was at the start of the fight and he continued to try and stop Buitrago who took everything incredibly well and fired back in his own flurries.
By the start of round 12 it was clear that both were tired though it appeared pretty clear that Knockout was the more tired of the two and Buitrago still appeared to have some spring in his legs and snap on his punches. It showed through the round as Knockout did very little and almost welcomed Buitrago's punches, at one point smiling as if he knew he had done enough to win the bout even if he was giving away the round.
It was close and for the moments leading up to the score cards there was a feeling it could have gone either way. For once all 3 judges agreed on the scores with all 3 returning cards of 115-113 to the Thai and although Buitrago may have felt he did enough the cards were fair with 115-113 either way being very acceptable cards. Neither man had clearly won though when a fighter goes on the road they perhaps need to give their all to make sure they win, at the end it looked like Buitrago had plenty left in the tank. Whilst you do feel sorry when a fighter loses a close one we have less sympathy when it's clear they had plenty left in the tank and chose not to use it. Had Buitrago used up that excess steam there is a strong case that he could have won.
The win for Knockout does put him in the mix of the exciting Minimumweight division though on this performance he's really got work to do. He fought like he had dynamite in his hands but he doesn't have that type of power, he needs to add finesse to his shots and turn down the power slightly for more control. As for Buitrago this will be a painful loss though hopefully it will improve him as we do enjoy watching the Nicaraguan youngster. Strangely this bout may well improve both men in the long run and if that's the case then boxing wins.
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.