The Flyweight division has given us some amazing bouts in recent years, such as 2018's war between Kosei Tanaka and Sho Kimura, and today we got another, as Japan's Masayuki Kuroda (30-8-3, 16) [黒田 雅之] battled tooth and nail with IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (38-2, 25) in a sure fire FOTY contender, up there with another of the amazing bouts we've seen in 2019 so far.
The bout started with Kuroda looking to use his slight reach advantage but it wasn't long until Mthalane got up close and drew Kuroda into a fire fight, with both unload a high volume of shots on the inside. It was a great back and forth with both landing their share of solid clean shots. Of the two Mthalane seemed to be the smart man, landing cleaner and defending better, but Kuroda was landing more shots, going to the body excellently.
Through the first 4 rounds there was almost nothing to split the two men. It could have been 4-0 either way with no complaints. Sadly for Kuroda he began to show some signs of tiring in the middle rounds, Mthalane on the other hand remained consistent with his work, cutting the left eye of Kuroda in the process. Kuroda would battle hard, and have a huge burst at the end of the round trying to steal it but it was too little too late. The same again applied in round 6, with Mthalane out working Kuroda through much of the round, before the challenger rallied at the end, with a huge onslaught that was driven by both the crowd and Kuroda's will to win.
In round 7 Kuroda began to show real swelling around his face, and was slowing. He was now picking moments to fire off, rather than trying to to press. He still had his moments, but he was taking more than he was giving, and was struggling to fight hard for 3 minutes. That continued to be the case in round 8, a round that Kuroda managed to land a lot of body shots in, but at the expense of taking a lot of head shots, as he face continued swelling. That was followed by a massive round 9 from Mthalane, who seemed to sense that he could get a stoppage, something that seemed plausible given the state of Kuroda's right eye, which was completely swollen shut by the end of the round.
By now Kuroda was fighting on will power and determination alone. His face swollen, his gas tank emptying and the momentum clearly behind Mthalane. He refused to sit back though and and pressed Mthalane through the round, taking punishment for his desire to be a world champion, landing shots but taking better ones in return. It was a brave and hungry effort, but one that saw him taking so much in return. By now it was becoming clear he would need a KO, and he was aware of it.
In the 11th round Kuroda managed to get his second wind, at least early in the round, but Mthalane soaked it all up and had a huge 2 minutes of the round, pushing Kuroda's determination to near breaking point. Kuroda looked done, completely blind in his right from swelling and like the referee might step in to save him from further punishment. It was a huge Mthalane round, until the dying seconds when, for the first time, he seemed to really hurt Mthalane, forcing the champion into survival mode for the final few seconds of the round.
Given he had hurt his man late in round 11 it seemed clear that Kuroda was going to give all he could in round 12, and he started out hot. Mthalane saw it coming however and boxed, using his foot work, his movement, timing and ring ring craft to see out the pressure before landing some glorious combinations late. Kuroda's desperation left him open and Mthalane was making him pay lighting up his face as we went to the bell.
After 12 rounds it seemed we had a close but clear winner. The first half of the fight had been wonderfully contested, and Kuroda had played his part in the latter stages with his incredible toughness, but there was only one man who looked like getting the win. The judges knew it, the fighters knew it and the crowd knew it, with Mthalane getting the unanimous decision, 116-112, twice, and 117-111.
There was no denying Mthalane was the better fighter, the worthy winner and a true warrior. His future is likely going to be a unification bout, potentially with WBC champion Charlie Edwards or WBO champion Kosei Tanaka, if Tanaka's team can lure him to Japan. For Kuroda a long, long rest will be needed. His face really was a swollen, damaged mess. Hopefully this isn't the end for him, but if it is, we can safely safe that the Last Samurai really did go out on his sword in a true FOTY contender.
The second, of 3, world title fights in Macau today saw IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) battle against little known Japanese challenger Masahiro Sakamoto (13-2, 9) [坂本真宏]
On paper this was a mismatch, a 2-time world champion, with notable wins against the likes of Muhammad Waseem, John Riel Casimero and Zolani Tete against a man who is best known for losing to a then little known Sho Kimura. It was however a bout that turned out to be a very, very entertaining contest with Sakamoto showing no quit and a lot of ambition.
From the first round it was clear that Sakamoto saw this as his chance to perform on the big stage, even though the bout was only shown in a few countries, not including Japan. He bit down hard on his gum shield and look to land combinations against the crisp punching and defensively sound Mthalane. We, as many, didn't really expect the Mechnical Engineering student to fight with such tenacity, but he did. Sadly for Sakamoto the clean shots from Mthalane were taking a toll.
Through the first 6 round Sakamoto really did much, much better than expected. He was clearly losing, and taking a fair bit of damage thanks to the clean, crisp, accurate shots of Mthalane, but he wasn't giving up. He was taking the fight to the champion and fighting on the inside, looking to wear Mthalane down with flurries.
Sadly for Sakamoto his effort, and the lack of pay off from the effort, took a lot out of him and he was looking exhausted at the end of round 6, with his face reddening and his right eye swelling shut. That eye would and his exhaustion would bee a major issues, with Mthalane landing more and more shots as the rounds went on.
Eventually, with their man a long way behind on the score cards, his face a swollen mess and his energy tank running on empty Sakamoto's corner pulled him out of the bout at the end of round 10.
For such an unknown, and we're not joking when we say that, Sakamoto put up a very brave performance in a bout that even those in Japan gave him little chance of winning. For Mthalane the win was expected, he was given a surprising tough work out here, and will now be looking towards a mandatory defense against another Japanese fight, Masayuki Kuroda in Spring.
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.
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.
On a huge day for boxing fans around the globe it could be said that fans in the Philippines got the perfect start as they got two brilliant bouts on Pinoy Pride 42, the second of which saw a local hero retain a world title, despite suffering massive cuts over both eyes.
The champion was IBF Light Flyweight kingpin Milan Melindo (37-2, 13), who narrowly defeated South African challenger Hekkie Budler (31-3, 10) in a really dramatic, and engaging contest.
The fight started slow and the 4 rounds were tactically changed rounds with Melindo looking to unleash his counter punches and Budler waiting back, trying to figure out a point of attack. That saw the challenger look to jab, and look to unleash combinations on the inside, though he got punished for both. The one massive incident during those early rounds was a monstrous low blow from Melindo that sent Budler down in a heap.
In round 5 it seemed like Budler finally found something to go with as he upped the pace, and Melindo responded in kind in a round that suddenly saw the fight come alive. Through the round it seemed like Melindo was the bigger puncher, but Budler certainly seemed to land more and seemed to be the one forcing the action as it suddenly looked like we were on for a tear up.
Sadly the action completely died in round 6, arguably the worst round of the fight. Despite the action dying off the end of the round saw the drama begin as a huge headclash left Budler cut over the left eye, with the cut being a long, deep one. The cut could have stopped the fight, and in round 7, when the doctors inspected it, it did look like we were going to have an early conclusion.
Thankfully the doctor decided to let the fight go on and in round 7 Budler had a great round and it seemed things were turning his way, with the cut clearly bothering Melindo. To his credit Melindo fought back fantastically in rounds 8 and 9, as he escaped another inspection.
With the fight finely balanced Melindo suffered yet again, as the two traded blows and their heads connected again. This time it was Melindo's right eye that was left with a gash over it and a bad swelling that made it seem like he was essentially blind in the eye. The swellings drove on Budler in round 11 and although Melindo was clearly fighting with his sight impaired the Filipino had his moments, including a massive right hand late on. It wasn't enough to take Melindo the round but continued to prove he was the power puncher in there.
With the bout close, and with Melindo's face a swollen and cut mess, the final round was always going to play a major role and both fighters knew it. Budler came out hot, unfortunately was dropped in the first 30 seconds. He got back to his feet, complained about it being a trip and then they went to war, with Melindo seemingly hunting a stoppage then Budler turning the tables until they were just trading back and forth in a round that should in contention for round of the year.
When the knockdown occurred it did seem like it would play a massive role, and that proved to be the case when the cards were read, with scores of 115-113 to Budler being over-ruled by scores of 115-112 and 117-110 for Melindo.
With the win Melindo secures his first defense, but he will be out of the ring for quite some time due to the cuts he suffered, which were both nasty ones. Potentially he could be back in time for a mandatory in 2018, or perhaps see an interim champion crowned whilst he recovers.
Although the Light Flyweight lacks the respect it deserves this was the second world title fight the division has seen this week, and like the first it was a thrilling and dramatic defense, with the winner over-coming serious facial damage. Sadly though it could mean that two champions are out of action until 2018.
Boxing is a sport where technical issues rarely become a major problem, but today technical issues prevented Thairath from showing an IBF Flyweight title bout, with those issues meaning none of the bout was aired in the country, despite a notable amount of publicity and advertising done for the broadcast.
The bout in question saw under-rated Filipino star Donnie Nietes (40-1-4, 22) battle against the unheralded Thai Eaktawan BTU Ruaviking (22-4, 15) [ตะวัน BTU เรือไวกิ้ง]. On paper the bout looked like a simple one for Nietes, a former champion at Minimumweight and Light Flyweight, but the reality is that it was a real work out for the Filipino, who continues to chase his legacy.
During the early moments of the fight the bout was all the Filipino's with Nietes show casing a bit of everything, and using the Thai as a bit of a human punch bag at times. That sort of start was hugely impressive but something that Nietes couldn't do through the full fight, and in round 4 Eaktawan managed to get more success of his own, forcing a closer, tougher fight. That type of fight suited Eaktawan, but he was never able to put Nietes under the pressure that could have made the Filipino veteran unravel.
After a few rounds of more competitive and closer action Nietes started to showcase his abilities again, using his movement to land some meaty shots whilst making Eaktawan flail around, missing some shots wildly. The difference between the two was clear again and Nietes, despite having a bloodied nose, resumed total control to the final round, though did so with a lesser output than he had earlier in the bout.
At the final bell there was no arguments about the winner, with Nietes' being the much better fighter through much of the bout, and being a well deserved winner with scores of 117-11, twice, and 116-112. The score cards suggesting a clear, but tough, win for the Filipino, who becomes just the third Filipino to become a 3 weight champion. Despite the loss for Eaktawan he proved he had the drive, toughness and determination to be a handful and we wouldn't be shocked to see him fighting for a world title again in the future.
The amazing road journey of Johnriel Casimero (23-3, 15) continued earlier today as he made his European debut and stopped the gutsy but inexperienced Charlie Edwards (8-1, 3) in the 10th round to retain the IBF Flyweight title.
Early on Casimero took advantage of Edwards' inexperience and landed body shots whilst making Edwards' look impotent in reply. Despite being the taller man Edwards was unable to land a meaningful jab, control the range, tempo or pretty much anything. To Edwards' credit he refused to be over-whelmed but it was clear the two men were in totally different classes with Edwards looking like a British level guy facing a world class fighter.
In rounds 5 and 6 Casimero slowed down notably, it seemed like he was looking to detonate a bomb for an eye catching KO rather than really set up his shots. With the Filipino looking for a big shot he let Edwards into the fight slightly and their would be a case for Edwards to have deserved either of the rounds, but it seemed more like a case of Casimero being overly relaxed rather than Edwards coming on.
Knowing that he shouldn't look for a big shot to finish it there and then Casimero got back to what he had been doing, out landing Edwards ans showing the gulf in ability and experience. By the end of round 8 it was beginning to look like a beating for Edwards, who gritted his teeth through some heavy leather but did little to get the champion's respect and it began to look like a case of when, and not if, Casimero was going to stop the Englishman.
The stoppage finally came in round 10 after Casimero landed a monstrous left hand that dropped Edwards and a follow up forced the referee to save Edwards.
For the Englishman the beating became painful, and actually saw his promoter try and get him saved from punishment late in the fight. He may bounce back but he may also never become the fighter that some had hopes. For Casimero it's a well paid first defense and we suspect he'll be in the mix come the end of the year for a big fight in Japan, possibly against OPBF champion Daigo Higa, or possibly in Mexico against Juan Francisco Rodriguez. Although the best payday would likely be a bout with Zou Shiming it's fair to say that Bob Arum won't be in a rush to put the Chinese star in with Casimero.
For much of the last decade the “lower weights” have been the most exciting, most interesting and more varied divisions in the sport. That was again seen when we had a talented, but frustrating, spoiler up against a flawed but exciting puncher.
The bout in question was the second meeting between Amnat Ruenroeng (17-1, 5) [อำนาจ รื่นเริง] and Filipino Johnriel Casimero (22-3, 14), a rematch that came after last year's farcical and foul filled bout in Amnat's native Thailand.
The bout started much like their first. From the opening bell it seemed like Amnat was sharper, stronger, faster and and physically the better fighter. He seemed able to box when he wanted and wrestle when he wanted, almost trying to bully the Filipino mentally, and in fact seemed to stiffen the Filipino part way through the round. The second followed a similar pattern with the Filipino being made to look second best to the defending the champion.
In round 3 Amnat sent Casimero to the canvas, though rightfully it was ruled a push with Amnat scarcely hiding his dirty tactics and dark arts.
Surprisingly the bout flipped on it's head in round 4 when Casimero landed a sweet counter up top that sent Amnat down. The shot would have dropped anyone in the division and Amnart unsurprisingly dropped hard, though amazingly got back to his feet. Although he got up he never seemed to recover and Casimero went on the hunt, smelling blood. Several waves of the Casimero storm were thwarted, with Amnat blocking, holding and spoiling his way through some of the round but a left hand to the body put the Thai down for the count.
With the win Casimero becomes a 2-weight world champion, having previously been the IBF Light Flyweight champion, and leaves the Flyweight picture looking extremely exciting, with him, Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada and Kazuto Ioka all holding titles. As for Amnat this could be the end, unless he fancies a trilogy with Casimero, he's getting on in terms of age and after a stoppage loss like this he may find it very hard to get notable opponents to face him and his dark arts style.
The intriguing Flyweight division really does have a bit of everything involved in it with the aggression of Roman Gonzalez, the action of Diago Higa, the the boxing of Juan Francisco Estrada and the trickery of Amnat Ruenroeng (17-0, 5). It was that trickery that was on show earlier today when Amnat recorded the 5th defense of his IBF Flyweight title and over-came the gutsy Myung Ho Lee (19-5-1, 6), of Japan.
In the opening round it looked like the bout was going to be an easy one for Amnat who looked too fast, too skilled, too smart and too accurate for the Japanese challenger. It was a round that saw Amnat showing off what he can do when he's not holding, fouling and wrestling.
The second round was a much more competitive one as Lee came out firing, showing real aggression and arguably showing the key tactic to beating the Thai. The challenger closed the distance, was in Amnat's face and forced the Thai to fight and an uncomfortable pace. It was a round that the judges likely scored to the champion but was one that could easily have gone to Lee who really pressed the fight and made Amnat look uncomfortable.
Amnat saw off the early storm and came back in rounds 3 and 4 with some brilliant work, hurting Lee in both rounds, though also showed his lack of killer instinct letting Lee recover without really turning up the heat on either occasion. Despite the lack of an early finish Amnat was impressive during these rounds and an uppercutt in round 4 was nothing short of exceptional showing just how clever and intuitive he is in the ring.
With Amnat failing to see off Lee when he had a chance it was clear that Lee was going to come back into the fight and in round 5 he really pressed the champion, whilst Amnat had a serious lull through much of the round. It was another round that could have gone to the challenger with little debate whilst the champion fought in some very limited spurts and had little success with his counters and traps. It was one of the best rounds for Lee who showed that he was still really in the fight.
Although Amnat is well known for putting on some dreary action we must say that round 6 was brilliant from both men who spent some prolonged periods trading shots in the center of the ring. The action did have lulls through out but was a really good solid round with both fighters having notable success and being forced to take some solid shots during a round of brilliant 2-way action. Sadly for Lee it was a round where Amnat's slightly more varied offense took him the round, but it seemed to show that Lee was forcing Amnat out of his typically slow paced style.
Lee may not have taken round 6 but he really seemed to grow and took the fight to Amnat once again in round 7 as the champion was forced to fight Lee's fight. The Thai held, spoilers, ran and did his best to avoid the rampaging challenger who looked determined to make a statement with a very impressive effort during the round. In a favourable venue the round would have seen Lee close the gap on the scorecards, and in fact the bout could have been 67-66 leading into the final 5 rounds, on the actual cards however things were never going to be that close.
Round 8 started slowly with Amnat holding, holding and holding though he came alive after that slow start and hammered Lee with right hands late in the round. It wasn't the best round but it was a clear round for the champion who simply out landed and neutralised the challenger, who had began to build some momentum over the previous few rounds.
Amnat's success continued in round 9 as he landed some very solid right hands early, though the most notable part of the round was the fact the Thai was deducted a point. The deduction, for holding, seemed to spur on Lee who finished strongly following a slow start to the round. It was a clear 9-9 round but one that seemed to suggest that Amnat was beginning to walk a tight rope with the referee who was unlikely to let him away with the holding that has become one of his trademarks in the ring.
Knowing that he still had half a chance to claim an unlikely win Lee put his foot on the gas and tried to break down the Thai. In round 10 the tactic failed to pay off with Amnat landing counters almost at will. Lee brought the pressure but seemed to fail in terms of connecting with the shots he needed to. Despite the action of the fight the round was really notable for a judo-style-throw from Amnat, a throw that went unpunished from the referee.
For the final two rounds Lee again continued to press the action, force the pace and really make Amnat uncomfortable. As a result the 11th round was a clear one for the challenger who made Amnat look like a tired fighter, unable to string any sort of offensive salvo and instead resort to holding, running and a simple and move. Sadly for Lee his tactic failed to get him success in the final round, as he was instead dropped, though he claimed it was a slip, securing Amnat a 10-8 round which could easily have decided the bout.
At the final bell Lee looked dejected, as if he knew he could have made the fight closer. Amnat however celebrated, as if the win was secure, easy and clear.
The judges sided with Amnat's view point, scoring it 118-108 and 117-109, twice. The scores weren't reflective of the fight, but they did get the right winner. One thing the fight did show however is that Ruenroeng doesn't like pressure, doesn't like someone in his face and doesn't like to have an opponent forcing the pace. He may have come out with the win here, but the bout seemed to show that Roman Gonzalez would have an easier time with him than some may have expected, in fact it's Gonzalez's style that would be the dominant one if the two men wee to meet in 2016, as has been mentioned in recent weeks.
Last year we saw Osaka star Kazuto Ioka (18-1, 10) make a move to the talent laden Flyweight division. On his Flyweight debut it seemed as if the weight didn't suit him and he was beaten by tricky Thai Amnat Ruenroeng, who has since proven his quality with wins over Zou Shiming, McWilliams Arroyo and Johnriel Casimero. Following Ioka's Flyweight debut he began to grow into the division, but never looked quite the same fighter that he had been at both Minimumweight and Light Flyweight.
Yesterday Ioka made the first defense of the WBA title that he had narrowly won earlier this year, with a win over Juan Carlos Reveco. In his first defense he took on Reveco's countryman Roberto Domingo Sosa (26-3-1, 14), a man best known for his exploits at Super Flyweight, where he beat Zolani Tete.
On paper it was an interesting contest and a good test for Ioka as a first defense. It wasn't a big name challenger but a tough, strong and naturally bigger challenger.
Whilst Sosa appeared strong and powerful he seemed slow and that made life particularly easy for Ioka who boxed and moved beautifully from the first round to the last using his jab and straight right to pepper the challenger whilst later on the uppercuts were a key weapon for the champion.
Sosa, to his credit, never stopped trying to change the tide but lacked the finesse to do so and at the end it was little wonder that he was a wide loser on cards, with lopsided scores of 120-108, and 119-109, twice, all in favour of Ioka.
It now seems likely that Ioka will face a rematch with Juan Carlos Reveco on New Years Eve with that bout likely to be held in Osaka, the home of Ioka who is considered a major star in the area.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.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.