Earlier this month fight fans in Japan got a minor upset, with Filipino Vic Saludar defeating Ryuya Yamanaka for the WBO Minimumweight title. Today Vic's brother Froilan Saludar (28-3-1, 19) attempted to double the family's haul of world titles as he travelled to China and faced off with WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (17-1-2, 10) [木村翔], who was looking to secure his second defense of the belt.
The fight started excellently for Saludar as he boxed off the back foot, neutralising the pressure of Kimura and landing the cleaner, better and more accurate shots. To his credit Kimura took the shots well but it was clearly a round for the challenger. Saludar also seemed to shine in round 2 as he picked off Kimura's pressure, countered excellently and showed off the boxing skills that had seen earn so much hype early in his career.
The fight began to turn in round 3 when Kimura upped the pressure, moving through the gears and and trapping Saludar on the ropes, where he went to work big time. The Filipino had no answer with Kimura showing he had the ability to cut the ring off as and when he wished.
Saludar tried to return the favour in round 4, when he trapped Kimura, but was unable to get the champion's respect and the round finished with Kimura back on top. The pressure of Kimura was beginning to be cranked up and he was forcing Saludar to move move more, use his legs more and wear himself out. That was compounded by the clean body shots that Kimura was landing, with those shots taking the legs from the challenger in round 5. Without his movement Saludar was a sitting duck and was dropped with a shot to the mid-section in round 5 as he began to wear down under the now relentless pressure of Kimura.
The champion seemed confident that Saludar hadn't recovered as we began round 5 and he jumped on the challenger, unloading shots from the off. Saludar began to fight fire with fire and traded blows in what was a wild fire fight, but unfortunately for Saludar he was now running on fumes and a second knock down saw Saludar take the 10 count.
With two defenses now under his belt Kimura is now set to return to make a mandatory title defense against former WBO Minimumweight and Light Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka, in what is expected to be a thrilling all Japanese world title fight as we head towards the end of 2018.
A huge Sunday of fights kicked off earlier today with an IBF Flyweight title fight, that saw Moruti Mthalane (36-2, 24) being crowned as the new champion as he narrowly out-pointed Muhammad Waseem (8-1, 6) in a pulsating and action packed bout.
The contest started well Mthalane who brought the pressure early on and forced Waseem to fight his fight, with the two men trading blows at close range. Waseem tried to keep up with the veteran but Mthalane was finding gaps and landing the cleaner shots through the first 3 rounds as he got off to a perfect start.
Knowing he was behind Waseem changed his game plan, moving more, finding angles and stopping Mthalane from dictating the tempo and distance of the contest. It lead to round 4 being very close before Waseem clearly took the following two rounds, showing his boxing skills as well as his ability to stand and fight. The change in tactics showed that Waseem could make life easy for himself, but by round 7 it seemed like Mthalane was getting a read on the movement of Mthalane and he was starting to counter more and cut the distance, as he had earlier in the bout.
Mthalane would continue to be consistent with his work, there wasn't anything different from him but we was landing consistently, finding a home for his left jab, his left hook and his right hand. Waseem, who seemed to land to the body much more than the South African, wasn't quite getting the snap on his shots to do damage the damage that he was wanting to do.
The two continued to trade a lot of leather through to the championship rounds before we saw Waseem land his best shot, dropping Mthalane in round 11 with a dynamite left hand that dropped the South African. Sadly for Waseem there wasn't enough time left to jump on Mthalane who beat the count.
Having dropped Mthalane in round 11 it seemed like Waseem was going to jump on the South African in the final round.. Instead it seemed that Mthalane was even to it in what was a sensational round of back and forth action, which saw both men looking hurt. Waseem had been hurt in the middle of the round, but came back strong and had a swollen Mthalane badly hurt at the very end of the fight.
Given the close and competitive nature of the fight a decision could have gone either way as we went to the cards. The scores of 114-113, twice, and 116-110 could, conceivably, had gone to either man but unfortunately for Waseem went to Mthalane, who is now a 2-time champion.
For Waseem there will be serious questions asked. Why did he pick up the pace so late? Why did he drop the angles that he used in the middle rounds? Why didn't he pick up the tempo a little earlier? Despite those questions he impressed, he went 12 rounds with one of the most under-rated fighters in the sport and ran Mthalane razor close. There is a real chance that, given a second world title fight, Waseem will come on top with the experience from this loss.
Earlier today attention turned to Ukraine to watch WBA Flyweight champion Artem Dalakian (17-0, 12) record his first defense, as he scored an 8th round TKO win over mandatory challenger Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep (50-4, 35), in what was a very one sided bout.
The opening round saw the Ukrainian looking much bigger than the challenger, thoiugh he didn't rely in his physicality, instead choosing to box and move. The Thai looked to cut the distance when he could, but he was always too slow and Dalakian caught him on the way in and got out before Yodmongkol had a chance to return fire.
In the first few rounds Dalakian looked more and more in control, with Yodmongkol bringing the pressure but really not doing so in an effective manner. Instead he was essentially trudging towards the champion and being tagged up close. It was progressively more and more one sided, though Dalakian really didn't look like he was looking to finish it too early. Instead the champion wanted to put on a show for the fans, showing his skills, as well as his power and aggression.
The aggression cranked up significantly in round, when the champion dropped the Thai with a brutal uppercut in the opening seconds. The champion really went hunting a finish there and then and unloaded through out the round with a massive and prolonged assault. It was a testament to Yodmongkol's toughness that he saw out the round, but it was thoroughly one sided.
It seemed as if the champion had perhaps punched himself out as he seemed to take round 6 off, and even then the Thai couldn't cut the distance to have any real success of his own. Instead Dalakian took the round off, and still won it, thanks in part to a late flurry. The following round saw Dalakian again showing signs of taking his foot off the gas, but once again the Thai couldn't do anything of any note to make the Azeri-born-Ukrainian pay. Instead the champion unloaded on the bell, likely trying to steal the round, yet managed to drop the Thai for the second time.
Going in to round 8 it seemed like the challenger was there on borrowed time, and it looked like Dalakian had fully recovered from his huge effort in round 5. One again the Thai was dropped, and although he showed a lot of courage to get back to his feet, the referee really could have stopped the bout there and then. Instead the fight was allowed to go on, and a Dalakian follow up forced the referee to stop the bout and save the Thai.
For Dalakian the bout was a perfect home coming defense, and a great way to legitimise his reign whilst Yodmongkol's status as a top contender is clearly over. How he got a mandatory title shot is a bit of a mystery and given his performance here, it's hard to imagine him getting another shot at a world title any time soon.
On Saturday the WBC stripped hard hitting Japanese fighter Daigo Higa (15-1, 15) [比嘉 大吾] of their Flyweight title, after he failed to make the 112lb limit. Today he suffered further as he suffered his first loss, and saw his perfect stoppage run come to an end at the hands of talented Nicaraguan Cristofer Rosales (27-3, 18). Not only did Higa lose his first bout, but for the first time he looked like a fighter who was mentally broken, as well as physically exhausted, and left many questioning why and his team even went ahead with this fight.
In the build up Higa had looked horrific. He had looked drained and beaten at the medical checks on on Thursday, looked equally as deflated at the signing ceremony on Friday and had failed to make the limit on Friday. Even this morning, at a special same day weigh in, he looked less than his usual confident self.
From the first round he looked slow, and like he was questioning himself in the ring. His usual intensity wasn't there, his aggression was lacking and his pressure fighting, a trademark of his, was totally absent. Rosales, like a professional, used his advantages from the off and stuck to his game plan. He out boxed Higa early on, moved well and made the most of his jab. It was a gameplan that liked like it was drilled into him before the fight, and was something that had been tailored to make the most of his height and reach advantages.
As the fight went on Higa had some moments, particularly to the body, but even on the inside he seemed to be losing the mini-skirmishes the two fighters were having as Rosales matched him, backed him off and forced Higa to think twice. It was clear that the same day weigh in had taken something from the Japanese fighter, and his usually all out attack was absent.
It wasn't until round 5, with Higa well behind, that the fight really turned into an inside battle. Sadly for Higa he couldn't maintain any real output for long and it was often Rosales landing the better shots, connecting cleanly to his body and snapping his head back with shots up top. It was the style of fight Higa would have dreamed of having, but he looked like he was only half the fighter he usually was. Even then a fully fit Higa would have struggled with Rosales, who had clearly prepared himself to start on the outside before going inside and standing toe-to-toe.
After a few rounds of toe-to-toe action it seemed like Higa was becoming incredibly desperate. His power was lacking, his combinations looked forced and Rosales was taking everything and returning it with serious interest.
After 8 rounds the judges score cards were announced. One judge had given Higa a single round, another judge had given managed to give him 3 whilst the third judge, inexplicably, had the bout even. Despite the close nature, on paper, of those cards Higa's team knew he was a spent force and in round 9 finally pulled their man out mid-round.
Despite stopping the bout before their man had gotten seriously hurt there needs to be serious questions as to why SGS even allowed this bout to go ahead. Higa had defended his title just over 2 months ago, although it was a quick blow out the turn around seemed too quick and given how Higa had previously struggled to make weight they really needed a much longer camp, especially for someone as talented as Rosales. Not only that but they should have really pulled him at the start of this week, he looked mentally broken at the medical and never looked like he had rebuilt his confidence coming into this bout. It's easy to say in hindsight that getting into the ring was the wrong decision, but it wasn't a smart choice. In fact it was a further hit for the SGS gym following Yoshimitsu Kimura's loss in mid week against Richard Pumicpic for a regional title.
Hopefully there will be sense in Higa's team and he will make a move up in weight, he shouldn't have been in the ring today and if he tries to remain at Flyweight his career is going to be a very short one.
For Rosales this is a huge win and a very well deserved one. Higa's issues in camp can't take away from Rosales who did his job, was professional through out and fought to his gameplan. He was, as he usually is, very impressive and well deserving of his win. He'll likely have a target on his back from WBC #1 ranked contender Andrew Selby, who beat him recently, but this title win may well be what he needs to boost his confidence to the next level, and perhaps even avenge the loss to Selby.
(Image courtesy of daily.co.jp)
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.
Earlier this year Japan's Sho Kimura (16-1-2, 9) [木村翔] scored one of the upsets of the year, as he stopped Zou Shiming in China to claim the the WBO Flyweight title. It put Kimura on the boxing map, in China at least, but left him as a relative unknown champion in his own homeland. Today he had a chance to make a name for for himself as he took on countryman Toshiyuki Igarashi (23-4-3 12) [五十嵐 俊幸] live on TBS as part of the huge Kyokugen show.
Sadly for Kimura the first round wasn't a hugely kind one for him, as he was made to look wild, open and reckless. Igarashi on the other hand looked fleet footed, accurate and smart, jabbing the fact of Kimura and landing the occasional southpaw left. The second round was slightly better for Kimura, as his pressure started to have some moments, for the most part it was Igarashi's skills that seemed more telling. The one highlight for Kimura in round two came at the end as he landed a very eye catching 2 punch combination.
From round 3 Kimura's pressure become more and more effective, taking more and more of a toll on Igarashi who seemed to begin falling apart in round 3 as the body shots from Kimura began to slowly take his legs away and the headshots started to land more regularly. The pressure continued to build in round 4 as Igarashi;s eyes began to show real signs of battle and both were looking swollen.
Amazingly Igarashi had one of his best rounds in round 5, as he moved well and made Kimura look wild. It was however just a brief respite for the challenger who wads dragged into a toe-to-toe war in round 6. The battle saw Kimura landing a much higher volume, whilst Igarashi looked to land single big shots. The two clashed heads towards the end of the round, with Igarashi suffering a cut over his right eye, as his face began to really fall apart. The following round things went from bad to worse for Igarashi who who took real damage through the round, despite being able to cut the champion with a punch near the right eye.
Kimura's pressure finally rocked Igarashi in round 8, with a right hand landing flush on the challengers' jaw. It seemed to really impact him and Kimura looked to secure the finish there and then as Igarashi went into survival mode. Amazingly the challenger saw out the round, and came out storming for round 9, but it was one final throw of the dice before his energy reserves ran out and Kimura forced him into the corner where he unloaded, eventually forcing the referee to jump in and stop the action.
The stoppage loss for Igarashi is the first time he has been stopped, and likely marks the end of his career as a world class fighter. As for Kimura this is a second huge win for him this year and his wish of becoming better known at home and getting a bigger place to live seems to be a genuine reality now in what is one of the feel good boxing stories of 2017.
Earlier this year we saw Ken Shiro (11-0, 5) over-come Ganigan Lopez to become the WBC Light Flyweight champion, taking the title with a razor thin decision. Today the unbeaten Japanese youngster returned to the rign to make his first defense of the title, in a match up against former champion Pedro Guevara (30-3-1, 17).
The bout, which wasn't televised, saw Guevara make a really good start and he was making the most of hs experience early on, to take a lead after 4 rounds, leading 40-36 and 39-37, twice, when the scores were publically announced. Ken Shiro had had moments during those early rounds, but it was clear that Guevara had the much better success.
Knowing he was behind Ken Shiro attempted to change the tempo of the bout, and pressed the action more, attacking the body and cutting the eye of Guevara as he looked to turn the fight around. The cut to Guevara seemed to change the fight and left the Mexican with a bloodied face.
By the time the scores were announced for a secpnd time the judging had changed notably. Rather than the judges allbeing in favour of Guevara they were now split, with one judge having the bout 78-74 to Guevara, one having Ken Shiro in the lead 77-75 and the third having it 76-76, meaning it was all to play for in the final 4 rounds.
The final 4 rounds saw both men really going for it, Ken Shiro to edge them, using a great body attack and making the most of his size and energy, but he got tagged several times by the swollen challenger. The action of Ken Shiro had been cheered loudly and was likely helping the Japanese fighter convince the judges he was doing so much more than the challenger. The cheers for the Japanese warrior seemed to spur him on, and he did enough to claim to claim a majority decision, with scores of 115-113, 116-112 and 114-114.
After the bout it was revealed that Ken Shiro's next defense will see him fight in a rematch against Lopez, giving the former champion an opportunity to reclaim the title that Ken Shiro took from him this past May.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Japanese sensation Daigo Higa (14-0, 14) made a statement earlier this year when he stopped Juan Hernandez to claim the WBC Flyweight title. Today he managed to establish his reign a little bit more as he recorded his first defense, and stopped French challenger Thomas Masson (17-4-1, 5), who had never previously been stopped.
When the men were in the ring Higa looked really short compared to the challenger, and it was clear that Masson's gameplan was to keep it long and make Higa work especially hard to get inside. Sadly for the challenger the gameplan never really worked and Higa was finding it far too easy to get inside the Frenchman. To his credit Masson did show a tight defense, but shots form Higa, which were through in combinations up close, still sneaked through and did their work on the body and head of Masson.
Round by round Higa pressed more, and got more and more success, with each round taking it's toll on the challenger who showed nice touches in rounds 2 and 3, neither of which he won, butsimply lacked the fire power to get Higa's respect or the movement to avoid Higa's pressure. It didn't matter what Masson did, he still couldn't find much breathing space or avoid the champion for long enough to really regroup.
After 4 rounds the open scoring was 40-36, twice, and 39-37, with one judge some how managing to find a round to give to Masson. Sadly for Masson things only got worse and in round 5 Higa not only continued his pressure but also landed two huge counters, both of which rocked Masson's legs and seemed to be the start of the end for the Frenchman.
In round 6 Masson took an absolute pounding. Hige upped the ante, pressing more than he had earlier in the fight, and it was arguably a10-8 round with Masson being backed up from around the ring and needing to eat flurry after flurry of shots. Where as he was blocking most shots earlier on he was beginning to eat these clean and was paying the price as the power of Higa was taking it's toll. It looked like a stoppage was coming at a number of points during the round,but Masson's toughness kept him in there to the bell.
The assault from Higa continued in round 7 before Masson took a knee, it seemed a bizarre as it had come a while after he had last taken a shot, but it made sense when Masson's face was shown to TV camera's and he had bloody around his eye. A doctor's inspection followed and after a few moments the bout was waved off, with Masson's eye being the cause of the TKO.
Next for Higa is likely to be either Andrew Selby or Muhammad Waseem in the near year, though the reality is that neither man would be given much of a chance as Higa seeks a Japanese record tying 15th successive stoppage. For Masson the bout showed the difference between European class, which he is a 2-time champion at, and world class. He had moments, but they were few and far between and he could never get Higa's respect, something a fighter will need to beat him.
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.