Unbeaten WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart (20-0, 7) [น็อคเอาท์ ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท] may well be feeling rather fortune right now, following his latest world title defense. A defense that very nearly saw him coming undone to unheralded Filipino challenger ArAr Andales (10-1, 2) in a bout that was much more exciting than many would have anticipated. Not only was it a fun fight to watch, but it was also another that showed just how limited the unbeaten world champion really is.
From the opening round it was clear Andales had no real respect for Knockout, and was entering as the scared little teenager that many anticipated. Instead he entered the bout as the unbeaten challenger, hungry to become champion. Knockout, to his credit, tried to Andales into his shell early on, and seemed to be landing the bigger punches in the early going, with Andales' shots literally bouncing off the champion.
After just a few rounds however Knockout changed tactics.Rather than engaging in a fight with the hungry and energetic Andales he began to revert to type, and spoil the fight. That's something we've seen a lot from Knockout in recent fights and something he really relied on when it was clear Andales wasn't going to be discouraged by his power. Instead of being fought off it was often Andales pressing the action, making a fight of things and letting his hands go whilst Knockout held and tried to stifle the challenger.
The spoiling of Knockout wasn't incessant, but it was enough to give the feeling that he was feeling the heat, much more so than the challenger, who was really stepping up to the occasion.
In round 7 it was clear that Knockout was being given a much sterner test than he or his team had anticipated. Andales lacked the power to hurt him with a single shot, but was landing a lot clean and was really in his face. A minor headclash part way through the round saw both men being told to keep their heads apart as they fought at close range. Only a few moments later Knockout was bleeding from his right eye. It didn't appear to be from the headclash, but it clearly bothered the champion, who stepped up his spoiling tactics. The following round Knockout's left eye would be opened up as well. This was worse than the cut to the right eye and seemed to come from a punch, during a really ugly, mauling sequence.
This cut led referee to take the champion to the doctor, who waved the bout off. Despite no clear headclash causing the cut we were taken to the score cards for a technical decision. Sadly for Andales this was never going to go his way and all 3 judges scored the bout to the local fighter, including one judge gave Andales just a single round and made it clear that he wasn't paying attention to the in ring action.
The official cards were 77-75, 78-74 and 79-73, all in favour of Knockout, who really was fortunate to keep his title here.
Although a very talented fighter this is the 4th straight under-whelming performance from the Thai, who showed a real lack of fire when put under some pressure. As for Andales this might be his first loss, but the teenager appears to be a future world champion in the making and we really hope this loss doesn't discourage him from the sport, as he is a real talent.
Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39) added one more big win to his legendary resume earlier today, as he defeated the previously unbeaten Keith Thurman (29-1-0-1, 22) at the MGM grand to unify the WBA "Regular" and WBA "super" Welterweight titles. That was despite being 40 years old and having been written off numerous times during his long 24 year career.
The fight started pretty competitively with some solid back and forth in the opening round. It was a good opening round that was taken by Pacquiao late when he dropped Thurman with a right hand at the end of the round. That knockdown seemed to spur on Pacquiao in the opening round as the Filipino looked sharp, crisp and used his foot work excellently. Despite being 40 Pacquaio was the faster man and that proved to be a big difference maker.
After 5 or 6 rounds it seemed like Pacquiao was in a comfortable lead. He was dictating the fight, drawing Thurman into a fighter than a boxing contest and Thurman was struggling to get any major momentum. Pacquiao was just too good in those opening rounds for Thurman.
Pacquiao's style has always been a busy one and it seemed from round 7 that that busy style was slowing, whilst Thurman was changing his tactics. Thurman was starting to move, starting to use his legs and his frame, starting to fight at range. The change in style for the fight proved to be a big turning point for Thurman who began to take take rounds by boxing against Pacquiao. The Filipino was stylle having moments in the second half of the fight, including hurting Thurman with a body shot in round 10, but he was struggling to enforce his fight like he had done earlier on.
The final round saw Pacquiao fighting smart, moving more than he had earlier in the bout, as if he was feeling comfortable with his lead, giving the round away. It seemed like he could afford to, due to his early success, but it did give Thurman one more round, essentially by default, with Pacquiao looking like he was the slower, older, more tired man.
With the bout going to the final bell it seemed like Pacquiao had done more than enough, but his celebrations were limited whilst Thurman climbed the corner and raised his hands. It looked like Thurman thought he had won, whilst Pacquiao knew he had won.
After 12 we went to the scorecards, 113-114 to Thurman, a card that seemed hard to fathom given Thurman lost the first half of the fight, was dropped and seemed to lose round 10. The other two judges however got it the same as us, 115-112 to Pacquiao, giving the Filipino great his latest win and unifying the two WBA belts.
The career of Japan's Ryota Murata's (15-2, 12) [村田 諒太] has been filled with much promise, but cursed by a failure to deliver on that promise. The 2012 Olympic gold medal winner was expected to be a mega star in global boxing.He was good looking, had an exciting style, was signed up to Top Rank, along with Misako and Teiken, and seemed to have all the pieces in play to be a huge star. Sadly though things rarely clicked for him, and there always seemed to be something underwhelming about him when he was in the ring.
That about to underwhelm was full on show last year, when Murata lost the WBA "regular" Middleweight title to American Rob Brant (25-2, 17). The loss came in a performance that left many wondering what the big fuss about Murata was, and querying how he won an Olympic medal, and why his team were trying to secure a super fight at a Japanese dome with Gennady Golovkin.
The loss to Brant, on US soil, saw Murata go from being a man regarded as a talented top contender, whilst holding the WBA "regular" belt, to a man who had many, including ourselves, wondering if retirement was going to be next. He showed little more than a rugged toughness against Brant who used him as for target practive.
Today the two men had a rematch, and this time around we finally got a chance to see Murata's potential being unlocked, as he dominated Brant to reclaim his title and score a pretty solid upset win.
The opening round was similar to the way the two men had faced off last year. It saw Brant trying to be the busier man and Murata following Brant around. There was a difference however. This time around Murata's powerful right hand was effective, and so was Murata's pressure, as he managed to actually back Brant up this time, forcing his fighton to the American. Murata's pressure saw him not only landing hurtful right hands up top, something he failed to do cleanly in their first bout, but also landed a steady stream of good body shots, looking to slow the American's legs and work rate.
Unlike their first bout Murata's pressure was immediately successful, he was landing shots of his own, and whilst he was still taking some from Brant, he didn't look like he was inept. He looked like he was boxing to a well thought out game plan, though Brant was still having his moments, and seemed to be landing the higher volume of shots, even if they didn't have the effect that Murata's blows had.
In round 2 that game plan really came into it's own with the pressure from Murata amping up, he was stopping Brant from creating space, stopping the American from unleashing his combinations and really going to the body, before landing a huge right to the head. The head shot caught Brant clean and hurt him, with Murata following up with serious intensity, and eventually dropping Brant. The fact the American had taken so many shots to go down was a testament to his toughness, and his heart lead him to getting up and continuing the fight. That was, however a poor decision with Murata straight on to him, smelling blood, and ripping him with shots to head and body, unloading with everthing he had until the referee finally stepped in, saving Brant from further punishment.
At an official time of 2 minutes 34 seconds of round 2 Murata had excorised the ghosts of losing to Brant last year, shown what he was capable of, and for one of the few times in his career showed that he was a real talent. He had shown glimpses in the past, but this time we saw more than just a few seconds of Murata's ability, what we saw in round 2 here, was easily the best we've seen from Murata so far and hopefully a sign that he has developed from the man who had promised much but under-delivered..
At the moment it's unclear what's next for the two men, though the Japanese media have again raised the possibility of Murata facing Golovkin at the Tokyo Dome. It seems unlikely, though would be a huge fight for Japan, and the two men, however their would be broadcast issues with the bout, and it certainly wouldn't be easy to make given GGG's relationship with DAZN and Murata's realtionship with ESPN and Top Rank.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier today fight fans in Japan had the chance to see WBA "super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (13-0, 9) [京口 紘人] make his first defense, as he over-come Thai challenger Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-1, 5), aka Tanawat Nakoon.
On paper the bout looked interesting, with two unbeaten men clashing for the titles. In reality however it was expected to be a mismatch, with the Thai stepping up massively to face a 2-weight world champion, in what was Satanmuanglek's first bout outside of Thailand. Surprisingly though it was neither a mismatch, not a hugely competitive one. Though it was a solid one, with plenty of action, some really good rounds, and some interesting back and forth.
The bout started with Kyoguchi on the front foot, applying pressure and forcing the Thai backwards, as was expected. Satanmuanglek showed, however, that he was a smart fighter, someone who had learned a few things from his long and illustrious Muay Thai background. He managed to neutralise a lot of the pressure that Kyoguchi applied, and although he did get dragged into Kyoguchi's fight at times, including round 2, he managed to have moments of his own, especially at range.
Kyoguchi, who had been expected to be be on the front foot and breaking down Satanmuanglek, did make the Thai's job a little easier, often standing off and not quite showing the intensity and work rate we've come to expected from the fighter from the Watanabe gym. When Kyoguchi did put his foot on the gas he looked excellent, destructive, and exciting, though had to contend with the toughness, smartness and defensive skills of Satanmuanglek, who took the best Kyoguchi had to offer and never looked close to going down.
Whilst the Thai was showing his ring craft, his toughness and his ability to dictate the distance, he did struggle to get Kyoguchi's respect. He was more of a bothersome foe, than a true threat, his punches that landed did little to really hurt the champion, but the champion clearly felt them, hence his lack of all out aggression. When the champion did pick up his work rate the Thai dropped his, notably in the second half with round 10 being a particularly good one for Kyoguchi, but Satanmuanglek would bounce back the following round showing that he was still there, and wasn't going away.
After 12 rounds there was no doubting the winner, with the judges scoring the bout 117-111, 117-111 and 117-112 all in favour of Kyoguchi, but if we're being honest the champion didn't shine as expected, whilst the Thai showed he id a good fighter. Our guess is that, in the future, this win will age well, and Satanmuanglk will bounce back very well with a potential wold title around his waist in the future.
On Saturday night in Ukraine fans had the chance to see WBA Flyweight champion Artem Dalakian (19-0, 14) record his latest defense, as he dominated and stopped mandatory challenger Dennapa Kiatniwat (20-2, 15) [เด่นนภา ตราใบห่อ], aka Sarawut Thawornkham. The challenger, from Thailand, was out gunned and out classed from the off, though showed his toughness and bravery to last as long as he did, though was eventually stopped in round 10.
The Thai had travelled in confident spirit though that confidence couldn't make up for the gulf in class, with Dalakian taking control very early on, and never really being tested afterward, with the Thai rarely able to land clean.
As the bout went on Dennapa's face wore the damage of the action, reddening and and becoming stained with his blood, though he continued to bravely plow on, attempting to turn things around. That effort was wasted effort, and all he did was take more punishment, with Dalakian essentially playing with his food at times, rather than upping the gears and seeing off the Thai, who had been rocked in round 8.
In round 10 the Thai was finally saved, with Dalakian getting the stoppage, his third since winning the title.
Given the depth at Flyweight, a division that isn't as good as it was a few years ago, the hope now has to be that Dalakian considers unification bouts, with the likes of Kosei Tanaka, Moruti Mthalane and Charlie Edwards. As for Dennapa the hope is that he returns back to Thailand to continue on the regional scene, where bouts against the likes of Junto Nakatani or Ryota Yamauchi would be very interesting.
One of the rarer feats in boxing, especially with men, is for a fighter to drop in weight and have success. We regularly see fighters out growing divisions and moving up, but very, very rarely do they come down and manage to make a mark. It does happen, with Sung Kil Moon being a notable example and the current Bantamweight run of Nonito Donaire, but it is very rare.
Today we saw one fighter trying to do that, and come up short, as former WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (18-3-2, 11) [木村翔] challenged WBA Light Flyweight "regular" champion Carlos Canizales (22-0-1, 17), and lost a clear decision.
At the weight in things looked good for Kimura, who appeared to make weight with ease, but making weight and being 100% fit to fight your fight are different things and that showed with Kimura lacking his trademark late fight stamina and work rate.
Early on it looked good for Kimura, who was employing the tactics we'd come to expect. He was applying pressure, using a high guard and pressing forward. Canizales was forced to work super hard to create space, using a lot of foot work to make room for his shots and to prevent Kimura from getting inside and using his strength and weight. It seemed the perfect gameplan from Kimura, playing the long game.
Canizales boxing and moving saw him taking the first 4 rounds, as many would have expected, though he was taking the odd heavy blow to the mid-section, which again seemed to suit the obvious game plan of Kimura. Make Canizales work, and take his wheels away. That lead to Kimura having success in round 5, a round that was clearly his, and some some success in round 6. Sadly for his success in the sixth he was rocked on the bell, and it seemed like Canizales then got his second wind, whilst Kimura began to slow. This was the point where Kimura was supposed to come on strong, as he had done in previous bouts, but instead he looked heavy legged, zapped of his hunger and energy.
As we went through the later rounds Canizales began to using Kimura's slowing tempo to his advantage and conserve his own energy, moving less and and picking his spots more conservatively. It was a smart game plan, and compensated for a potential late charge form Kimura, a late charge that never really came.
Kimura managed to have some moments in the final rounds, but they were few and far between, his foot work was as if he was going through lead, his punches were incredibly slow and his pressure was almost completely ineffective. Things weren't helped by accidental fouls, which caused breaks in the action, breaking up any momentum Kimura could get.
Instead of being the stronger man, it was Kimura who was actually the man being hurt, especially at the end of round 11 as Canizales launched one of his most eye catching assaults with Kimura pinned in a corner.
To his credit Kimura never stopped trying, fighting hard in round 12, a round that saw both men looking spent, but ended in thrilling fashion with both throwing hayemakers.
It was a brave effort from the Aoki gym fighter, but it was a performance that lacked his usual energy, his well known late charge and his typical fire. The move down in weight may have seemed easy, but in reality it had a price and that price was paid by taking some of Kimura best assets away from him.
As for Canizales it was another brilliant performance from him, building on his 2018 wins over Reiya Konishi and Lu Bin, and it seems almost certain that he will return to Asia for a bout for the WBA "super" title, currently held by Hiroto Kyoguchi, at some point down the line. His performance can't be downplayed by Kimura coming down in weight. If Canizales fought anyone else in the division the way he fought today, there is a very real chance he's have beaten them as well.
Earlier this year we saw Chinese fighter Can Xu (17-2, 3) [徐灿] shock a large portion of the boxing world by defeating Jesus M Rojas in the US to claim the WBA "regular" Featherweight title. Today he made the first defense of that belt, taking on Japanese challenger Shun Kubo (13-2, 9) [久保隼].
On paper this didn't really promise a lot but actually delivered a really, really fan friendly battle, at a high tempo, fought at mid to close range and had some eye catching back and forths, before the champion broke down the challenger and forced the referee to stop the contest. It was not a fight of the year contender, but still a very, very enjoyable contest to watch.
The first round was a solid one for Kubo, who managed to use his southpaw jab and long arms to control the range pretty well, taking advantage of Xu being a relatively slow starter. Sadly for Kubo, who was picking some really classy shots, he was totally unable to get Xu's respect. That meant Xu could gradually pick up his pace, and like a steam trainer he build up some real momentum.
Round 2 and 3 were still somewhat competitive, with Kubo standing his ground and having some success, but it was coming at a cost with Xu landing more and more shots per round.
It was in round 4 that it was becoming clear Kubo was feeling the pace and being broken down. He was starting to break away from the action more often, trying to create space to catch his breath and not staying on the inside. He was also struggling to avoid the fire of Xu, who was increasing his output round by round, and landing more and more clean shots.
The problems Kubo was having with the volume of Xu got worse in round 5, and he was dropped towards the end of the round, after being badly hurt and eating some solid combinations. It was a testament to Kubo that he fought back as hard as he did, but it was clear he was being broken down, and as we heard the bell he was staggered again.
By now the referee and Kubo's corner were keeping an eye on the challenger and was he was rocked again in round 6 the referee, Gustavo Padilla, stepped in and halted the bout.
Interestingly this was Xu's third stoppage in 5 bouts, and whilst no one would call him a puncher he is certainly hitting hard than his record would suggest. Sadly for Kubo this is his second stoppage loss, and it's really hard to see where he goes from this. Domestically and regionally the Featherweight division is a mine field and it's really, really hard to imagine him making a mark on the sport at 126lbs given how he was broken down here.
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.
On Saturday night we had a WBA Light Heavyweight title bout, that saw defending champion Dmitry Bivol (16-0, 11) [дмитрий бивол] successfully defend his title against heavy handed American challenger Joe Smith Jr (24-3, 20). On paper this looked like it could have been a potentially tricky assignment for Bivol, but he managed to really just neutralise the dangerous challenger in what was a clear but unexciting win for Bivol.
Smith showed ambition from the off, and came forward, trying to set the pace but quickly found Bivol's footwork and movement to be too much. Bivol would land, get out of range and watch Smith miss. For the first 3 rounds it was clear that Bivol was too good, too sharp and too smart for Smith who had been made to look second best through the early stages.
Thankfully for Smith he did change things in round 4, when he began to let his hands go a bit more, and up the intensity. It worked and Smith would land one of his more notable shots, seemingly shaking Bivol for a moment with a right hand. The danger of Smith loomed but Bivol was too smart through the middle rounds to really come face to face with the danger. In fact the only real damage in the middle rounds was in round 7 when Smith's knees buckled big time from a huge left hand of Bivol's, though to his credit Smith withstood the follow up attack.
By round 10 it seemed clear that Smith was needing to land something huge, and he actually managed that, right on the bell to end round 10, when he sent Bivol stumbling to his corner. It was too late in the round to follow up on, but did show that the power was there for the American. The shot seemed to leave an effect on Bivol who was less with it in round 11, but never looked in any trouble as he continued to control the bout late on.
In the end there was no questions about the judges scorecards, with the judges turning in scores of 119-109, twice, and 118-110, all in favour of Bivol. It was a clear win for the champion, but a bit of a dull one, and it does seem like Bivol is becoming less and less interesting, a real shame. There is however a feeling that he will be heading down in weight and it may be that facing smaller men than Smith will allow Bivol to put on more entertaining performances than this.
Every so often a supposed mismatch ends up being less of a mismatch than expected, in fact instead of a mismatch we get a Fight of the Year contender as the perceived under-dog fights as if their career depends on their performance.
That was the case tonight when Chinese fighter Can Xu (16-2, 2) [徐灿] played his part in a bout with Jesus M Rojas (26-3-2-1, 19), for the WBA "regular" Featherweight title. The bout was a thrilling, pulsating and action packed 12 round war from two men who's style gelled perfectly.
Rojas was expected to win with ease. Most had predicted him to walk through Xu, score an easy early victory and defend his title without any issues. It seemed Rojas also expected that as he put intense pressure on Xu from the open bell. Xu backed off, but unloaded combinations when there space to work with, whilst Rojas worked hard on the inside, trying to make the fight a war.
As the rounds went on Xu's confidence grew and Rojas became less and less intense. The first 5 rounds were insane, all action, incredible intensity. The 4th may well go down as one of the best rounds of the year. But from then on the pace slowed, Rojas seemed to be the one feeling the tempo, and round 6 was a fantastic one for Xu who seemed to begin backing Rojas up.
Xu would go on to back Rojas up again in rounds 7 and 8 as the tempo really seemed to effect Rojas, who was only able to keep a high intensity for a minute or so in a round, rather than the 3 minutes he was pressing in earlier rounds.
Those rounds going to the Chinese fighter made things very interesting, though Rojas did do much better in round 9 as he stopped the rot. That a momentary respite for the Puerto Rican champion as Xu charged again in the final 3 rounds, again pressing, forcing Rojas back and stopping the champion from getting his breath.
Through the 12 rounds there was clear momentum shifts, Rojas easily the dominant fighter in the early stages, Xu in charge in the later rounds. The amount of leather both threw was insane, and it seemed an incredibly close fight as we went to the judges.
The first score read was 118-110, a score that didn't reflect the fight, the second was 117-111, and that didn't reflect the fight, and the third was 116-112. The third card was arguably, at best. Surprisingly however they all went for Xu, who scored a major upset here with a unanimous decision.
Rojas should feel aggrieved by the scores. It was a close fight, it could have gone either way, but it was not a 9-3 or 10-2 type of fight.
For Chinese boxing history was made, with Xu being the first Chinese fighter to win a world title above Flyweight, even if it is only the "regular" title, and we suspect he will be returning to China to fight in front of a huge audience in his first defense. A rematch with Rojas would be very welcome, we suspect it'll be a much easier bout than that for the new champion!
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.