The Bantamweight division has been dominated over the last 12 months by the WBSS, and the destruction left by Naoya Inoue. Outside the WBSS however we've seen the WBC Bantamweight picture become a mess, with Takuma Inoue claiming the interim title, Luis Nery being in the mix and the crowning of Frenchman Nordine Oubaali (16-0, 12) as the champion.
Today Oubaali made his first defense of the the title, and did so in easy and dominant fashion, stopping over-matched Filipino challenger Arthur Villanueva (32-4-1, 18) in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
From the opening seconds Oubaali looked in a different class to Villanueva, who looked like a man who wasn't sure he deserved to be in the ring with the champion. The opening round was all Oubaali, even though he was only fighting in first gear he looked in a class of his own. From there on Oubaali chipped away at the Filipino, breaking him down with clean, accurate shots in rounds 2 and 3. There was very, very little coming back from Villanueva, who did enough to look like he was trying, but not enough to get Oubaali's respect.
By the end of round 3 Oubaali was starting to beat up Villanueva who realised he had to fight back. Sadly for Villanueva fighting back lead to him being tagged cleaner, and in round 4 the Filipino was rocked again.The following round the challenger began to look scared once again whilst Oubaali changed tactics. The champion had gone from landing combinations to looking for more hurtful single shots, trying to actually hurt the challenger with every shot. Those shots were doing damage and by the end of the right the challenge's right eye was nearly closed.
In round 6 the continued beating resumes, with Oubaali scoring a knockdown after a combination. It wasn't a combination of hard shots, but they were clean and the Filipino took a knee. Following that Oubaali went for the kill, with Villanueva managing to do just enough to convince the referee not to step in, but he was now a beaten man.
Knowing that he was out classed, out boxed, out punched and being dominated Villanueva took the decision to retire to retire between rounds 6 and 7, making a wise choice.
Whilst this was an unexpected opportunity for Villanueva it was also an undeserved one, and it's hard to see him getting any more opportunities at world level. As for Oubaali he has an interesting future. His next defense if expected to come against Takuma Inoue, though he will also have eyes on the winner of the WBSS, which will be either Naoya Inoue or Nonito Donaire, and will also have the controversial Luis Nery as possible future foe. This was an easy first defense, but hopefully we'll find out how good Oubaali really is in the near future.
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 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.
PBC is, at times, brilliant, with some great match making, competitive fights and big names facing off. Sometimes however the whole PBC series is a mess with mismatches, over-payment to certain fighters and other fights being included on shows due to favours, and not actually getting the TV exposure they deserve.
We saw a case of that last night when PBC failed to televise a thrilling, up and down war between John Riel Casimero (27-4, 18) and Ricardo Espinoza Franco (23-3, 20) for the WBO "interim" Bantamweight title.
The bout, which had only had it's title confirmed this past week by the WBO, looked like an amazing match up on paper. It had a talented Filipino looking to become a "3-weight champion" and a big punching Mexican, who was in great form. It had the ingredients to be one of the best bouts of the weekend and looked wonderfully competitive, unlike many of the bouts which did actually get television coverage.
Whilst we could sit and bemoan things that we didn't get, we would love to congratulate the fans who were able to catch the fight from the crowd, as they got a treat. A treat they had had to watch for, a treat that has been worth staying at the venue for.
The Mexican fighter started fast, taking the early rounds with his aggression, forcing Casimero to soak up the heat. The Filipino veteran, a true road warrior, showed his experience boxing on the back foot, holding when he needed to blunt the threat of Espinoza and countering well. As the Mexican's intensity fell it was going to give Casimero openings and that happened in rounds 5 and 6 as Casimero began to have more success. The power of Casimero, which has always been thudding to say the least, paid off in round 6 when he dropped the Mexican with a hard right hook towards the end of the bell.
Espinoza began to pick the pace back up after the knockdown, knowing he had to swing momentum back in his direction. That however came at a cost, and the Mexican was needing to work harder and harder to try and take Casimero down.
Heading into the final round it seemed like an ultra close one. There was seemingly little to pick between the men. Espinoza had been the aggressor, but the knockdown and smart counter boxing of Casimero had been winning him rounds. It seemed like both knew it was close, but a big combination early in the final round from Casimero took the judges out of the bout, dropping Espinoza for the second time. That, along, should have been enough, but Casimero didn't want to take any risks, and jumped on Espinoza after he beat the count, forcing the referee to stop the action.
The scores going into the final round, for those interested, were 105-103, 103-105 and 104-104, meaning it really was amazingly well balanced heading into the final 3 minutes.
With the win Casimero claims his third "world title", and sets himself up for the winner of the WBSS, meaning a potential clash with Zolani Tete, Nonito Donaire, Emmanuel Rodriguez or Naoya Inoue, though he is one of a growing queue to get a shot at the eventual tournament winner.
After years of being in Naoya Inoue's shadows today we saw his younger brother get his long awaited chance to announce himself on the world stage, as he took on Takuma Inoue (13-0, 3) [井上 拓真] unbeaten Thai Petch Sor Chitpattana (48-1, 33) [เพชร ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท], also known as Petch CP Freshmart and Tasana Salapat, in a bout for the WBC "interim" Bantamweight title.
On paper this looked a good bout, two unbeaten men, each looking to cement themselves among the best in the Bantamweight division, and each looking to impress internationally, with the bout being aired in Japan, Thailand, Russia and the US.
Sadly the paper didn't really tell the full story, and didn't show the quality of oppositions, the skills of the two fighters themselves or the styles of the two men. Within seconds Inoue showed the difference between two fighters, shaking Petch with one of the first punches thrown, and then doing the same only moments later. It looked like Inoue was totally in a different league to the Thai, though to his credit Petch recovered well and was aggressive when the fight got into the second round, when he was again punished by the sharp punching of Inoue. It was in the second round where we had the only notable accidental foul, a nasty head clash that left both cut, but not too badly.
The Japanese youngster had spent a lot of time preparing for this bout by sparring top Japanese southpaws, and that showed as he repeatedly landed straight right hands onto the face of the Thai, and wonderfully timed left hooks. Petch kept marching forward, letting his hands go in volume, but kept falling short, missing wildly and and catching Inoue's guard. Through 2 rounds he looked a sensation, with brilliant timing, control and movement. In round 3 however he began to slow down and Petch began to have more success, that success was short lived however with Inoue shining again in round 4 with some more solid right hands.
The open scoring all had Inoue up, 39-37, after 4 rounds. He however did appear to be tiring, and slowed more in the middle rounds as Petch applied more and more pressure. It wasn't effective pressure from the Thai, but was making Inoue work hard and he tried to respond by going to war with the Thai, it was a short lived tactic that Inoue ditched when he went back to boxing and moving. It was was clear that Petch wasn't going to go away, he wasn't going to stop firing shots and he wasn't going to give up, but he was going to continue eating clean shots if Inoue moved around. Despite changing tactics a few times from the Japanese fighter was up 79-73, 78-74 and 77-75 when the scores were announced again at the end of round 8.
It seemed like Inoue was tiring through the middle rounds and like Petch felt their could be an opening late on. That opening however was slammed shut in round 9 when he was rocked hard towards the end of the round. Prior to hurting his man Inoue had looked back to his best, finding the space to land right hands, the occasional combination and showing the genius that he had shown early in the fight. He would go on to hurt Petch again in round 10, and it appeared that a stoppage could be on the cards, but Petch's toughness showed and he continued to grit his teeth and take the fight to Inoue, who was showing nasty bruising under his right eye.
With the bout essentially in the bag going into the final 2 round Inoue seemed to know he didn't need to take too many risks, and he didn't take them, instead doing as he had done through much of the fight. Boxing off the back foot, using lateral movement and make Petch look 1-dimensional and wild. He did invite Petch in for a fight towards the final moments, but it wasn't to be as the bell rang.
Going to the score-cards there was no doubting the winner with Inoue taking the decision 117-111, and with it the WBC "interim" Bantamweight title, to go along with his brother's WBA "regular" title.
For Petch this was evidence that he could fight, but stylistically Inoue was all wrong for him, and it showed round after round. For Inoue the bout showed he can hit hard than his record suggests, but there is something missing that he needs to work on to score KO's. It's also unfortunate, that Inoue didn't manage to really impress the US fans like he'd have wanted, he showed a lot of skill, but there was little drama during the middle of the fight.
Few gave Filipino icon Nonito Donaire (39-5, 25) any chance in his WBSS quarter-final bout against the unbeaten #1 seeded Ryan Burnett (19-1, 9). Amazingly, though bizarrely, Donaire managed to get the win to advance to the tournaments semi-final and become the WBA Bantamweight “super” champion.
We mentioned “bizarrely” because the end of the bout was indeed bizarre, with Burnett injuring himself and needing to retire from the bout between rounds 4 and 5.
The fight started competitively, much more so than expected. Burnett had the edge in speed, something that everyone expected, but Donaire looked dangerous and had moments in the opening round. It was Donaire who pressed forward, though did have to eat some solid single shots from Burnett, who looked tiny compared to the Filipino.
The second round saw Burnett look better than he had in the opening round, looking sharper and crisper, with a brilliant right hand landing clean early in the round. Though Burnett looked good he was cornered at one point in the round and it seemed like Donaire's pressure was having some effect, and he was pulling Burnett into his fight.
In round 3 Donaire had success in cornering Burnett more often and his pressure really did show through, as he caught Burnett on a pretty frequent basis. Burnett still looked the crisper fighter, and he landed a really 1-2 mid way through the round, but he was cornered late and forced to eat some solid shots as Donaire let his combinations go.
Donaire continued to press in round 4, and despite falling short with a number of shots the pace began to slow and suit him. Burnett, really was slowing massively and doing little. Even when Donaire fell short there was little coming back from the champion. Sadly towards the end of round 4 Burnett turned his body, and went down in agony with what seemed like a back injury. He got back up but was a damaged fighter and Donaire knew it as he looked for a finish.
Burnett's toughness saw him see out the round, but rightfully he was pulled from the bout between round 4 and 5, and then left the ring on a stretcher.
We hope the injury is something that won't keep Burnett out of the ring for long, he's a really talented young fighter and it would be a huge shame if this effects his career long term. For Donaire it's a huge win and sets up a semi-final with Zolani Tete in the new year. If he gets through that and Naoya Inoue can get past Emmanuel Rodriguez we may end up with a huge WBSS final for Asia.
It's not often that Japanese fighters, fighting in Japan, get a chance to show case themselves. Today however we saw the WBSS turn their focus to Yokohama and the world got a chance to see WBA "regular" Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) [井上 尚弥] show how devastating he is. The Japanese sensation was taking on former "Super" champion Juan Carlos Payano (20-2, 9) in what was a WBSS quarter final bout and Inoue's first defense of the WBA title.
Sadly for fans expecting a real show case of Inoue's skills, speed, and movement this wasn't the bout to show them off. Instead this was a 70 second blow out that saw Inoue really only land 2 punches, a brutal 1-2 that dropped Payano for the count.
The bout started with both men jostling for position. Inoue applied some pressure with his footwork from the off. Payano rushed in as he tried an attack but failed to land anything. A few seconds later Inoue threw a hard jab and followed it with a right hand, that dropped Payano hard. The Dominican wouldn't beat the count, and never looked like he was close to it.
With the win Inoue pogresses to the semi-final of the WBSS and shows that he really is the “Monster” with back-to-back opening round wins at Bantamweight.
Whilst Payano had never been stopped before there is an argument that he wasn't really a great opponent. He was 34 years old, had fought just once in the last year, had been dropped twice, and had never faced a world class puncher like Inoue. That however shouldn't take away from how impressive Inoue was, how destructive he looked and how he set two new Japanese records, extending his current stoppage run to 7 fights at world level and scoring his 11th stoppage win at world level, breaking records that he had previously tied with Yoko Gushiken and Takashi Uchiyama, respectively.
When Naoya Inoue (16-0, 14) [井上 尚弥] turned professional his team spoke as if he was a special talent. Soon after his debut he proved it, beating the talented Yuki Sano essentially one handed in just his third bout. He then claimed the Japanese Light Flyweight title in his 4th bout by defeating Ryoichi Taguchi. In just his 6th professional bout he claimed his first world title, stopping Adrian Hernandez for the WBC Light Flyweight title. Less than 9 months later he moved up 2 divisions and destroyed Omar Narvaez for the WBO Super Flyweight title.
Today he impressed again as he ripped the WBA "regular" Bantamweight title from Englishman Jamie McDonnell (29-3-1-1, 13) in less than 2 minutes.
Inoue had stated he was looking to stop McDonnell before the fight, with the Englishman having never previous been stopped. It seemed a brash comment, but given how Inoue, dubbed the "Monster" has fought his career so far it was one few were doubting.
What no one, and we doubt even Inoue was expecting, was the performance he had. He was dwarfed when the fighters met in center ring for the final instructions from the referee but that seemed to be the only thing going against him. Within seconds he had McDonnell, the bigger fighter, circling the ring, and firing off a few jabs. Inoue just walked his man down and landed a huge shot up top that seemed to hurt the Englishman. Inoue smell blood and went for the kill and dropped McDonnell with a body shot.
To his credit McDonnell got back to his feet, but Inoue could see his wounded prey and went back on the offensive, unloading bombs on McDonnell who went down for the second time. The referee had seen enough and instantly waved the fight off.
Although the WBA “regular” title may not be highly regarded a win like this really launches Inoue into the stratosphere at 118lbs, and should secure him a place in the World Boxing Super Series, as well as a place on every fight fans Pound-for-Pound list, not just that of the real hardcore fans.
For McDonnell the future is certainly going to see him moving up in weight, but to have been blitzed in this manner may well end his career. He was beaten up, not just beaten, in 112 seconds by a man he out weighed by 13lbs on the day of the fight and boasted significant size advantages over. When he moves up those size advantages aren't going to be there, and this loss will be in the memory of every future opponent he faces.
In boxing it's hard to think of a persona non-gratis, but that certainly seems to describe former WBC Bantamweight champion Luis Nery (26-0, 20) in regards to Japan. Last year he defeated Shinsuke Yamanaka (27-2-2, 19) [山中慎介] to claim the WBC Bantamweight title, but would fail a drugs tests. A rematch was planned for the title, though yesterday Nery came in massively over-weight and even with a 2 hour grace period still couldn't make the Bantamweight limit causing him to be stripped of the title on the scales.
Despite failing to make weight the rematch went ahead today, and unfortunately for Yamanaka he was stopped again. This time in 2 rounds in what looks likely to be his final bout.
The Japanese fighter looked good, for the first minute, as he landed several body shots but as soon as Nery landed anything it seemed like Yamanaka was troubled, his punch resistance seemingly gone. A jab sent Yamanaka's knees to jelly and he was dropped, though it was incorrectly ruled a slip. Not long after that he was down, and it ruled a knockdown.
Yamanaka saw out the first round but Nery smelled blood. Yamanaka was down again very early in round 2. When he got up his looked all wrong with his balance gone. He was down again moments later, before a third knockdown of the round saw the referee stop the bout.
Given how easily he went down, and his age, this is almost certainly it for Yamanaka who had a great career before the first bout with Nery. He managed to record 12 defense and will go down as one of Japan's greatest world champions. Sadly though his career will be finished with back to back losses, both in tainted bouts.
For Nery it's hard to know what's next. His failed drug's test and inability to make weight has seriously tainted his two best wins. He's a very good fighter, but we really don't know how good he actually is. Had he not failed a drugs test or failed to make weight he would likely be regarded as one of the top Bantamweights on the planet. Now however he looks like someone who can't score a world class win cleanly. He looks like a fighter who needs unfair advantages and will likely have that sort of reputation going forward. He may well struggle to get big fights after the weight fiasco and will almost certainly have to be fighting at 122lbs, if not 126lbs going forward, where his natural size will be less effective.
It's a real shame to see Yamanaka bow out on back-to-back losses to someone who has essentially cheated in both fights but it's really time he walked away and spent time with his kids, his family and looked for future ventures, including potentially become a gym owner or a trainer.
It's worth noting that the title will remain vacant, and could well be on the line for a bout between Petch Sor Chitpattana and Emmanuel Rodriguez, who had previously been ordered to fight in an eliminator.
Over the last 12 months or so we have seen the long established guard of Japan fall, piece by piece, with fighters like former WBA Super Featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama, former WBC Super Featherweight champion Takashi Miura, former 2-time WBA Super Flyweight champion Kohei Kono and former 3-weight world champion Akira Yaegashi all lose in major bouts, and the two Takashi have since announced their retirement. The one member of the old guard left standing was Shinsuke Yamanaka (27-1-2, 19) [山中慎介],a long term WBC Bantamweight champion who had racked up 12 defenses and had ruled the roost for around 7 years, proving to be the king of the division. Today however he became the latest veteran champion of Japan to be beaten by a younger, fresher fighter, as he was stopped in 4 rounds unbeaten Mexican Luis Nery (24-0, 18).
The Japanese champion, known as "God's Left" was looking to tie the long standing Japanese record of 13 world title defenses, a record set back in the early 1980's by Yoko Gushiken. It was a big ask at the age of 34, but with Yamanaka's reign having been so long it was hard to see past him, especially with Nery having never really faced a top flight Bantamweight prior to this bout.
The opening round went almost perfectly for Yamanaka, who controlled the tempo well with his jab, movement and occassional straight. It was as if Nery was was in awe of his opponent, and only launched one of attack of any note during the opening round. The second round was similar, though their was more from Nery who was beginning to show signs of warming to the task, but did get forced to eat some solid left hands.
Nery continued to warm to the task, and in round 3 he began to hold his own in a close round. His moments of success from the first two rounds had been multiplied and he was beginning to show what he was capable of. The early respect was slowly going and he was beginning to move through the gears.
Whilst Nery was building up his steam no one expected him to go from 3rd gear to 5th to begin round 4, but he really came out swinging and rocked Yamanaka very early in the round. He knew Yamanaka was hurt and swarmed him like a hungry lion trying to take out it's prey. Yamanaka seemed to see off the first wave of the attack, but was rocked again soon afterwards, and this time he wasn't able to get away, with Nery refusing to stop throwing until the bout was stopped, with Yamanaka's team coming in to save him. Some how he had stayed on his feet what felt like a 90 second pounding, but he did look out of it and and in tears as the bout was stopped.
The arena fell silent except for the Mexican's team, who now have a potential lower-weight mega star on their hands. The fans were in shock at one of their hero's being dethroned, though they did show respect soon afterwards, applauding the new champion, and chanting their hero out of the arena soon afterwards.
Whilst Japanese boxing has seen a lot of it's veterans coming up short, it's clear that the sport it's self is still red hot in Japan and that we've almost seen the new generation of fighters over-take the old generation, with only Kazuto Ioka bridging the likes of Yamanaka, Hozumi Hasegawa, Uchiyama and Yaegashi, whilst other sensational talents have come through, like Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka, with others, like Hinata Maruta, are just beginning to move into the international title scene. This might be the end of Yamanaka, but it's certainly not the end of Japanese boxing, or even the Teiken gym, who have fighters like Hayate Kaji and Shuya Masaki breaking through the ranks, and looking fantastic doing so.
If, as we suspect, this will be Yamanaka's final outing, we want to thank him for helping establish the old era of Japanese boxing, and wish Nery the best luck as a champion. And we expect we'll see him back in Japan sooner, rather than later.
(Image courtesy of daily.co.jp)
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.