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!
To end the a busy Saturday of boxing we saw WBA "regular" Welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39) easily defend the title for the first time, as he defeated American Adrien Broner (33-4-1-1, 24) in a lopsided decision.
From the opening round Pacquiao looked the sharper, quicker, more intense fighter. Despite that he did only look a shadow of the fighter he once was. There was very little output from Broner, who did his usual thing of throwing little and tried to look flashy with what he did throw. The difference in activity and output saw Pacquiao taking the first 3 rounds, with his jab being the key to his success.
Broner would show glimpses of what he can do in round 4, landing a number of good right hands, countering well and showing that he could time Pacquiao. It was a round that really showed what the American was capable of, though was a short lived and brief show of what he could do. In round 5 Pacquiao settled himself again, and by the end of the round Broner was looking like a clown as he missed with some wild shots at the bell.
Despite landing body shots through the first 5 round, the number of them picked up in round 6 as Pacquiao began to really bang the body of Broner. The American had done well in avoiding left hands up top, but struggled to avoid them to the body in what was the start of really clear Pacquiao dominance. The Filipino would hurt Broner in round 7, with a left hand, and show glimpses of his incredible combinations as he tried to take the American out soon afterwards. Broner, managed to hold, spoil and survive, but was clearly feeling the shots.
Body shots continued to land from Pacquiao in round 8, though it was in round 9, when Pacquiao landed a brilliant left hand. Once again Broner's toughness and defenses saw survive the storm, but it was clear he had been hurt, again.
As the fight went into the championship rounds it was clear Broner needed to find something else. In fairness to him he did have a good 10th round, making things more competitive as he began to box off his jab and landed one or two eye catching right hands. It was one of his most productive rounds, and arguably one of the few you could give to him.
Despite being competitive in round 10 Broner essentially did nothing in the final 2 rounds, once again going back into a defensive shell and trying to avoid a fight, rather than do what was needed to turn things around.
By the final bell there was no real question as to who won, despite Broner celebrating and being caught on camera stating that he had out boxed Pacquiao, and the judges cards were never in question. All 3 scored the bout to Pacquiao, with scores of 117-111 and 116-112, twice. The only thing surprising about the scores were how close they were, and it seemed like the judges gave Broner a sympathy round or 2.
After the bout Pacquiao stated he'd like to face Mayweather, if Mayweather is returning to boxing. That bout has been rumoured for a while and would be a smart decision for both men, as it would be a financially lucrative contest that would keep both men away from the young lions in the division. Talking about those young lions, none of them would be worried what either Pacquiao or Broner has to offer, and in fairness there is clearly bigger fish out there bigger fish to fry for the likes of Terence Crawford and Errol Spence.
The Light Flyweight division is one of the most interesting right now and today we saw interesting changing of the guard as the WBA Light Flyweight "Super" title was ripped from the hands of South African Hekkie Budler (32-4, 10) by Japanese sensation Hiroto Kyoguchi (12-0, 9) [京口 紘人], who became the first man to score a stoppage over Budler.
From the opening round Kyoguchi pressured the champion. That pressure wasn't successful early on, with Budler countering well, and making Kyoguchi pay for his technical mistakes. It was however pressure that began to pay off as early as round 2, when Kyoguchi began to land on the body of the champion with regularity. That regularity seemed to take a toll on, even if Budler was himself landing plenty of solid blows of his own.
In round 3 Kyoguchi continued to find the body of Budler, and also found success with more and more headshots, Budler seemed to have felt the power of Kyoguchi and was less willing to take risks, but used his speed, reach and footwork well to fight at range, a range heeded to be out. Sadly for Budler round 4 was his last with any notable success, as he seemed to grit his teeth, sadly the body shots seemed to take away some of his movement and he was being given more and more punishment, being stung notably in the later stages of round 5. From then on it was essentially more and more dominant from Kyoguchi.
The shots from Budler sounded like they were slapping blows, rather than real punches, whilst Kyoguchi was digging in his shots, really trying to hurt the champion. Something he did visibly in round 7, to both head and body. The consistency of Kyoguchi's work seemed to be slowly beating the fight out of Budler who was taking an increasing amount of head shots as the bout went on, especially uppercuts to the head. Budler's legs were still their but they were no longer getting him out of danger.
By the end of round 9 it seemed less a case of whether Kyoguchi would win, and more a question of whether he would stop Budler, who had been beaten up, battered and taken a lot of punishment. That question was answered at the end of round 10, a round that had seen Budler really dig into his reserve of toughness. That toughness was too much, and he was pulled from the bout between rounds 10 and 11, with his corner deciding enough was enough.
Despite a competitive start Budler began to look like an old fighter by the middle rounds, a combination of the body shots from Kyoguchi and his long career. When that happened Kyoguchi just broke his man, round by round.
For Kyoguchi this wasn't an amazing performance, it was a solid one though, but it was a fantastic result as he became the first man to stop the South African veteran, and a 2-weight world champion in just 12 bouts! A potential unification fight with Kenshiro looks on the cards and would be a massive fight for Japanese boxing. This also saw him gain revenge for stablemate Ryoichi Taguchi, from whom Budler took the title from earlier this year.
In 2016 we saw the WBA Minimumweight title being won by Knockout CP Freshmart (19-0, 7) [น็อคเอาท์ ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท] as he over-came Nicaraguan fighter Byron Rojas (25-4-3, 11) in a mandatory title fight. Today the two men met again, this time with Rojas as the mandatory challenger to Knockout's title. Sadly however the bout was an unmemorable wrestle-fest, much like their first, with fouls, holding, lunging, and very messy work through out, much like their first bout which started well but became one of the most gruelling 12 round watches of recent memory.
Rojas started this bout looking sensational. He looked sharp, huge and powerful as he established his work very early, fighting at a high work rate and almost coming out like a fighter who knew he had to make an early impression. By round 2 however that work rate had slowed, and it allowed Knockout to get inside and work away up close, going to the body of the challenger, and even hurting him with a body shot.
Sadly round 3 was the start of the bouts messy down fall, with Rojas struggling to create distance, and Knockout doing everything he could to get inside, leading with the head, going low and generally spoiling. It made life difficult fro Rojas who was unable to create space, and often unable to free himself from the holding of Knockout.
Rounds 4,5 and 6 all followed a similar pattern, with a lot of holding and messy action, neither man clearly distinguishing themselves from the other. It seemed, perhaps, that Knockout was edging them, but a strong case could be that he was also the one responsible for the lack of action with Rojas at least looking to fight, rather than wrestle. Sadly for Rojas his frustrations became clear in round 7 when he suffered a cut to his right eye and seemed to argue with the referee. It seemed Rojas had also gotten annoyed by the style of the fight.
Knockout Finally started to have eye catching success in round 8, and that success lead to more success in rounds 9 and 10 as he began to let combinations go, and slurry the Nicaraguan, who looked tired, and frustrated. It seemed like Knockout wanted to go for the finish, and make a statement. In round 11 however Rojas began to land clean shots, including a massive right hand that would have taken down a lesser man, that was the start of a good round for Rojas who seemed to also do enough to take the final round, as Knockout cruised through the last 3 minutes.
At the final bell Knockout rush to celebrate in the corner whilst Rojas seemed to know he wasn't getting the decision. Something that was confirmed when the cards were read out as 115-113, 117-111 and 116-112, all to Knockout who retained his title, but once again bored fans.
For a fighter with such a great moniker Knockout really has failed to deliver excitement in recent bouts, and we do wonder how good he really is. On this performance he's better than Rojas, but not by a lot, and he's certainly not an exciting fighter to watch
The penultimate HBO card saw Kyrgyzstan born Russian Dmitry Bivol (15-0, 11) [дмитрий бивол] headlining, as he successfully defended the WBA Light Heavyweight title against former champion Jean Pascal (33-6-1-1, 20), who proved to be much gamer than expected.
The opening moments of the fight saw Pascal coming forward, but it was short lived ambition from the 36 year old Haitian-Canadian, who seemed to stop in his tracks when he was caught with a right hand late in the round. Although Pascal wasn't out and out hurt the shot it did seem like his confidence and desire disappeared almost instantly.
In round 2 Bivol began to land more consistently, using his excellent and busy jab. That jab was then used to set up all of Bivol's work, as he methodically broke down Pascal with clean shots to head and body. Pascal, to his credit, did have some moments but they were few and far between early on as Bivol slowly and carefully chipped away at him, seemingly scoring a knockdown in round 4, though it was ruled a slip.
In round 8 Pascal suddenly came alive, catching Bivol with a wild shot and following it up with hard, looping sloppy hooks. He seemed to Bivol who, for the first time, look a little worried, before holding and regaining his composure. It was Pascal's only chance, and it cost him as he seemed to put everything in to the follow up, which Bivol survived, before returning fire with interest.
The start of round 9 was delayed due to the tape on Pascal's glove, giving him additional time to recover his gas before the round began. That extra rest proved to be useful for Pascal who seemed again had moments in round 9 as he upped the tempo, at least for burst, and found the range for his jab and his hook in what was another good round for the challenger.
Bivol seemed like he had had enough of Pascal in round 10 as he upped the pace and began unloading straight shots on to the head of Pascal. Pascal dug in deep and survived the onslaught before pushing Bivol back. Bivol picked up the pace again in round 11 as Pascal was made to look slow through the round, due to Bivol's movement and output, both of which picked up during the round.
Going into the final round it seemed clear that Pascal needed a KO to win. He had done enough to take a round or two, but wasn't even close to being level on the scorecards. Despite Pascal needing a KO it was actually Bivol who was pressing the action in the final round, and it seemed like Pascal was happy to just see out the final bell, something very few expected from him.
At the end of the bout there was no doubting the winner, Bivol had been a clear winner. He had however taken far more shots than he'd have wanted, and ended up with a nasty bruise under his left eye, and had clearly not had the result he was wanting. Sadly for Bivol this is the second bout where he's failed to really shine this year, and although still unbeaten there is clear work to be done before he attempts to unify.
For those interested in the score cards, they were 117-111 and 119-109, twice for Bivol.
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.