Late last night in the US we saw a WBO Light Flyweight title fight, as Mexican champion Elwin Soto (16-1, 11) made his first defense, narrowly defeating Filipino challenger Edward Heno (14-1-5, 5) in a genuine nail biting.
Soto seemed to take the first round, in what was a pretty even back and forth. The Mexican champion seemed to land the better punches and make the most of his defenses, neutralising the challenger's attacks. The champion also had success in the second round, as his power and speed let him take control.
The bout shifted in round 3, when Heno began to build on the bits of success he had had earlier in the bout. Heno was also helped by a slightly lucky call that saw the referee score a knockdown in his favour, even though it seemed like a less than legitimate punch and more like a push. That knockdown, whilst perhaps not the most legal of shots, did secure Heno a 10 round and began a real surge from the Filipino, who began to find the range and timing for his uppercuts. Heno seemed to take the 4th, closely, before building right through the middle of the fight and getting ahead of steam.
By the start of round 8 it seemed the Filipino was in control, though that began the next momentum shift, with Soto having a good round 8 and a big round 9. The champion was turning the bout around with big body shots, that were sapping the movement and energy from Heno. The Filipino gritted his teeth and fought back, going through some hell in round 10 as Soto's pressure began to tell, and took him through the championship rounds. The Mexican's work rate in the final round was incredible, as he seemed to know he had to put on a big finish.
In the end it felt incredibly finely balanced, and had been compelling through out. Despite being competitive, and another Light Flyweight thriller, it seemed Soto had just edged it, and that proved to be the case on the scorecards with the judges scoring it 114-113 and 115-112, twice, all in favour of the Mexican.
What we saw really was a bout that swung one way, than another. It was Soto early, Heno through the middle and Soto late. The bout showed up what makes each fighter great, with the power and will to win of Soto going up against the more refined skills of Heno, but Heno's stamina played a major part in his loss and showed something he needs to work on going forward.
A rematch, down the line, would be great and both of these men are legitimate world class talents in a division full of world class fighters.
A great bout and both fighters had the chance, and took that chance, to increase their standing and profile in the sport. Fans should be more than happy to see both men and follow both going forward. This was great and another show case of how good the little men can be.
The great Gabriel "Flash" Elorde was one of the all time great Filipino fighters. Today we saw his grandson, Juan Miguel Elorde (28-2, 15) attempt to make the most of an unexpected world title opportunity as he took on WBO Super Bantamweight champion Emanuel Navarrete (29-1, 24). Unfortunately however this wasn't a night to remember for the Elorde family, with "Mig" being dominated by the Navarrete.
From the opening round Navarrete looked a danger, but it was actually Eldorde who seemed to land the best shot of the round, and did much better than expected. It was however, a case of Navarrete looking to see what Elorde had in his arsenal before going through the gears.
Sadly for the Filipino we began to see what Navarete had in the locked when he began to turn up the heat and seemed to wobble Elorde for a second. Elorde was showing his heart and determination, and had decent moments in round 3, though was left bloodied by Navarete's power. That power also earned the Mexican a knockdown in the dying seconds of the round, when the ropes kept the challenger up right.
In all honest as soon as Elorde was wobbled at the end of round 3, it felt like the start of the end, and it would take less than 30 seconds of round 4 for the referee to see enough and stop the Filipino.
For Navarete this was his second win in around a month, a busy schedule to say the least, and there's a chance he could fight again this year. As for Elorde it's really hard to know what his future holds. The Filipino is no youngster and this could be the end for him, in what would appear like a cash out, though he could easily return to Asia and compete on the regional title scene, something he really should have done more before getting this shot.
On Saturday night Vic Saludar (19-4, 10) saw his reign as the WBO Minimumweight champion come to an end, as he was widely out pointed by mandatory challenger Wilfredo Mendez (14-1, 5) in Puerto Rico.
The talented Saludar, who had won and defended the title in Japan, found himself in with a stylistic nightmare as Mendez, a talented though sometimes negative, fighter neutralised him with movement, skills and intelligence.
It was rare for Saludar to have any sustained success, though he did in round 5 when he dropped the Puerto Rican in what was his best round. Sadly though that was never going to be enough and after 12 rounds it was clear he hadn't done enough to retain his title, at least not on foreign soil. Instead the decision went to Mendez, with scores of 117-110, 116-111 and 115-112.
For Mendez this was a huge step up in class, and sees Puerto Rico taking another world title, in fact he becomes the third Puerto Rican to hold the WBO Minimumweight title. Sadly for Saludar the bout ends his reign and also ends talk of a prospective unification bout with WBA champion Knockout CP Freshmart, which had been mooted in the Thai press in July.
Mendez may have taken the win though we do suspect he now has a target on his back, due to his style and lack of power. We wouldn't be at all surprised to see some notable prospects from the Asia region begin to target Mendez, who is a talented fighter, but a much less dangerous champion than Saludar.
The second major show today saw us turn our attention to the Philippines, where we got a really entertaining main event. The card's headline bout was for the WBO "interim" Bantamweight title, as John Riel Casimero (28-4, 19) and Mexican foe Cesar Ramirez (18-4, 11) traded blows in an action packed bout.
Casimero was the big favourite entering the bout. He was always expected to win, though he should a real hunger to win in style. He didn't just want the victory but wanted an eye catching win.
The fight started with a feeling out round but as early as round 3 Casimero was beginning to get significantly more aggressive. It was in round 3 the had scored his first knockdown, which really seemed more of a slip than a legitimate knockdown, and that he first showed that he wanted to take out Ramirez.
Ramirez bounced back excellently in the following round, as he upped his work rate, but had another 10-8 scored against him in round 5. This was another another case of a push being scored a knockdown, though it was clear that Ramirez was taking some punishment, despite giving all he had, and making it clear he wasn't going to just fold.
Ramirez's fire and desire showed again in round 6, as he forced a war and Casimero, for one of the few times, looked like he might be in some trouble. Whatever problems Casimero had were short lived however and he would score a very legitimate knockdown in round 7, nearly sending him out of the ring to secure a third 10-8 round. By now it was clear that Casimero was hunting a KO win, not just a win.
By now almost everything Casimero threw was a bomb, with either the left or right. It was a very energy sapping tactic for Casimero who appeared to get out worked in round 9 and even showed some signs of tiring. It was however a tactic Casimero felt comfortable with and was one he was trying to make a statement with. In round 10 that statement was made with a huge barrage from Casimero who hurt Ramirez with a body shot, the landed a right hand up top sending the Mexican to the canvas again. This time Ramirez was out, and the referee quickly waved off the action.
For Casimero this is his first defense of the WBO interim title, and should set up a shot with WBO regular champion Zolani Tete, in what should be an excellent match up. For Ramirez this was a painful loss. He gave everything and everything wasn't even close to enough, and it's really hard to see him competing at the fringes of world level any time soon. He's a gutsy and brave fighter, but technical limitations will always hold him back.
Japanese youngster Kosei Tanaka (14-0, 8) got one of his toughest tests today as successfully retained the WBO Flyweight title, making his second defense, and over-came Puerto Rican challenger Jonathan Gonzalez (22-3-1, 13).
Prior to the bout Tanaka really struggle to make weight and showing signs of dehydration at his medical. He has looked unhappy through fight week and rumours had grown that he had really taken a lot out of himself to make Flyweight.
That looked to be the case early on, as the Japanese fighter didn't look his usual sharp, aggressive self. Instead he looked clumsy, almost plodding, as he struggled to keep up with Gonzalez. The Puerto however looked sharp, crisp and like a man who was confident of picking up the upset. Gonzalez fought off the back foot excellently, moving and landing his straight left hand with alarming regularity.
Tanaka managed to have a huge break through in round 3, when he dropped Gonzalez with a huge body shot. To his credit Gonzalez got back to his feet and continued the round, though was perhaps fortunate there was only seconds of the round left. He looked badly hurt and had the shot come 30 seconds earlier the bout could have looked very different.
Tanaka looked to try and build on his knock down in the following round but was dropped himself in round 4, from a Gonzalez left hand behind the ear. It was a balance issue, rather than Tanaka being hurt or buzzed but it essentially wiped out his success from round 3.
Gonzalez would manage to build on his knockdown, using his speed and ring craft to out landing, out move, out speed and out box this lethargic looking Tanaka. Tanaka was being caught regularly by Gonzalez's flurry's and looked incredibly conservative with his output. Not the Tanaka we'd seen recently. Whilst a lot of that could be put down to Gonzalez's skills, and movement there was a lack of crispness to Tanaka's work as he followed Gonzalez around the ring, looking to land single big shots, and was being out worked as a result.
Thankfully in round 7 Tanaka finally moved through the gears, chose to let his hands go. The flurry's we all loved from Tanaka were finally on show, and they were having success, especially the body shots. One thrown early in the round hurt Gonzalez and a follow up dropped him. From then on Tanaka could smell blood, dropping Gonzalez twice more in the round. Every time Gonzalez got up ready to continue, but he had done little to show there was anything left in the tank and the referee wisely chose to stop the fight, rather than let it continue on.
For Gonzalez this was a great chance to show how good he was, and he looked excellent at times, though it also showed his flaws. His lack of power and lack of durability, two issues that have been brought up in the past, were again apparent here. He can come again, but those issues will always be issues, and won't be things he can easily change. We do however wonder whether or not he could make 108lbs.
As for Tanaka the bout, or rather the performance, surely spells the end of his time at Flyweight. A move to the talent laden Super Flyweight division would have him in with more recognisable names, and an all Japanese super fight with Kazuto Ioka is one he has mentioned in the past.
Sadly Tanaka has had these hot and cold performances in the past, and this was similar, in some ways, to his performances against Vic Saludar and Palangpol CP Freshmart. Like both of those bouts he was dropped and pushed hard. Notably after both of those bouts he also moved up in weight, citing issues making the Minimumweight and Light Flyweight limits respectively.
Earlier today we saw a new WBO Super Flyweight world champion champion being crowned, as Japanese star Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14) [井岡一翔] put together one of his best performances to date, and stopped Filipino foe Aston Palicte (25-3-1, 21) in 10 rounds. The win saw Ioka becoming the first Japanese man to become a 4-weight champion, and only the second Japanese fighter to win world titles over 4 weights following Naoko Fujioka.
The two men had both looked great during their walk ins. Palicte looked calm but confident whilst Ioka, flanked by Japanese hip-hop artist AK69, looked determined and as if he was arriving for his destiny.
From the opening moments there was two things that were clear. One was a purely physical thing, Palicte dwarfed Ioka. They looked a division, if not two, apart. The other was that Ioka was much quicker, sharper and had the speed edge in terms of hand speed, footspeed and overall movement. It seemed like the bout could come down to who could make the most of their advantages.
It quickly became apart that it was Ioka's speed advantage that was the big difference, with Ioka often avoiding the big, booming power shots of Palicte, whilst managing to find a home for his own shots, especially his straight right hand up top and his body shots.
As the rounds went on it seemed more and more like Ioka's speed was the telling factor, with Palicte often being countered, regularly with lovely left hooks that Ioka was finding from round 3 on wards. Palicte's issues were worsened by the effective body work from Ioka, who has quickly become a forgotten man in the conversation of best body puncher in the sport, and in round 4 Ioka really showed off what he could do with shots to head and body.
Other than in round 4 Palicte generally looked like he was in the rounds, but losing them, and falling behind on the score cards but doing enough to be in them with an odd combination and some solid jabs. It seemed like something he and his team knew was happening when they sent him out for round 7, a round that really was something special.
Palicte came out for the seventh with bad intentions, pressing Ioka in a way he hadn't done in the first 6 rounds. He was there looking to take Ioka out, and unlike the earlier rounds where he was typically trying to land the odd combinations, he went full throttle. The increase in output from the Filipino seemed to shock Ioka, who seemed to wobble at one point, but Ioka would later turn the round on it's head and hurt Palicte, with body shots being a key late in the round. In many ways the round was Palicte's last hoorah, and form then on he never really seemed to have any more sustained success with Ioka's technical ability and combinations becoming a clearer focal point.
Going into round 10 it looked like Palicte's toughness, durability and chin might see him to the distance but Ioka had other idea's after he hurt the Filipino with a big right hand. Ioka waded in, looking to close the show, eventually forcing the referee to step in. Palicte, and his team, weren't happy at the stoppage, and you could argue it was a slightly early stoppage, but the Filipino did take 6 or 7 clean head shots and left the referee in the position where he could step in, especially given the damage Palicte had taken in the earlier rounds.
The question as to what is next for Ioka will be an interesting one, though there are big potential bouts with fellow Japanese fighters Akira Yaegashi and Kosei Tanaka, both of whom have mentioned becoming 4 weight champions themselves. Of those two bouts a showdown with Tanaka would appear more likely, given that both are TBS affiliated fighters.
Lats year we saw a pleasant surprise as Japan's Masayuki Ito (25-2-1, 13) [伊藤 雅雪] travelled to the US and won the WBO Super Featherweight title, upsetting Christopher Diaz with a 2 round decision. That was an entertaining fight, a fun fan, fan friendly contest with Ito building a bit of a fan base in the US. Today he returned to the US and lost that title, losing a forgettable decision to Jamel Herring (20-2, 10) in a bout that rarely caught fire. Much to the credit of Herring.
Herring looked establish distance from the opening moments, using his southpaw jab and footwork to neutralise Ito and his aggression. It worked brilliantly to prevent Ito from landing his right hand during the opening round, though Ito did manage to have more than his share of success in round 2.
The success of Ito in the second round seemed to make Herring aware of what he had to do and the American got back on his toes, used his jab and made Ito miss, a lot. It wasn't so much that Herring was lading significantly more, but he was controlling the range and tempo of the but, and making Ito look wilder and cruder than he usually is.
Ito would occasionally have moments, such as in round 5, but that success was limited due to Herring's gameplan, a gameplan that was smart and that he stuck to incredibly well.
Going into the second half of the bout it was clear that Herring was the much more skilled fighter, but he was starting to tire and in round 7 we did see Herring slow, resorting to clinching. That tiredness showed more in round 8, as Herring, for the first time, began to stand his ground, trading with Ito, fighting Ito's fight. That began a really solid fight back from Ito, who had success in rounds 9 and 10 as well, as he began to crawl his way back into the bout. It seemed that there was a glimmer of hope for the Japanese fighter, but then Herring seemed to get his second wind, he got back to moving, jabbing, and landing left hands before Ito could get his shots off. It was the movement that was key, forcing Ito to regularly reset and keeping him off balance.
At the end of 12 rounds the bout seemed like a clear win for Herring, their was certainly rounds that Ito had won and several close rounds, but it seemed like Herring fights. That was agreed with by the judges who had it 116-112 and 118-110, twice.
The 116-112 card seemed to be right, but the scores of 118-110 seemed to be off and not reflective of what was a somewhat competitive contest.
For Ito this ends his reign, and probably forces him to really look at his style, which was made it look rudimentary here. The movement and jab of his earlier career had gone, and his looked to be forcing things, rather than relaxing and working on what he can do. Herring, of course, neutralised a lot of Ito's work, but Ito made it easier for him than he should have.
For Herring this was a great win, a career defining victory that fell on a really important day for him and his family, the day his daughter would have turned 10 years old. The performance was solid, without being a spectacular one, though that will be forget, unlike the result and the fact he can now call himself a world champion.
Whilst we were obviously cheering Ito on, we can't help but feel this is a great win for a very classy and affable champion. The bout was a contest between two of boxing's good guys, and it's hard to dislike Herring.
The plan now, for the new champion, appears to be a show down with WBC champion Miguel Berchelt, and that is likely to take place later this year in what will be an interesting unification bout between a boxer and a brutal, aggressive puncher.
PBC is, at times, brilliant, with some great match making, competitive fights and big names facing off. Sometimes however the whole PBC series is a mess with mismatches, over-payment to certain fighters and other fights being included on shows due to favours, and not actually getting the TV exposure they deserve.
We saw a case of that last night when PBC failed to televise a thrilling, up and down war between John Riel Casimero (27-4, 18) and Ricardo Espinoza Franco (23-3, 20) for the WBO "interim" Bantamweight title.
The bout, which had only had it's title confirmed this past week by the WBO, looked like an amazing match up on paper. It had a talented Filipino looking to become a "3-weight champion" and a big punching Mexican, who was in great form. It had the ingredients to be one of the best bouts of the weekend and looked wonderfully competitive, unlike many of the bouts which did actually get television coverage.
Whilst we could sit and bemoan things that we didn't get, we would love to congratulate the fans who were able to catch the fight from the crowd, as they got a treat. A treat they had had to watch for, a treat that has been worth staying at the venue for.
The Mexican fighter started fast, taking the early rounds with his aggression, forcing Casimero to soak up the heat. The Filipino veteran, a true road warrior, showed his experience boxing on the back foot, holding when he needed to blunt the threat of Espinoza and countering well. As the Mexican's intensity fell it was going to give Casimero openings and that happened in rounds 5 and 6 as Casimero began to have more success. The power of Casimero, which has always been thudding to say the least, paid off in round 6 when he dropped the Mexican with a hard right hook towards the end of the bell.
Espinoza began to pick the pace back up after the knockdown, knowing he had to swing momentum back in his direction. That however came at a cost, and the Mexican was needing to work harder and harder to try and take Casimero down.
Heading into the final round it seemed like an ultra close one. There was seemingly little to pick between the men. Espinoza had been the aggressor, but the knockdown and smart counter boxing of Casimero had been winning him rounds. It seemed like both knew it was close, but a big combination early in the final round from Casimero took the judges out of the bout, dropping Espinoza for the second time. That, along, should have been enough, but Casimero didn't want to take any risks, and jumped on Espinoza after he beat the count, forcing the referee to stop the action.
The scores going into the final round, for those interested, were 105-103, 103-105 and 104-104, meaning it really was amazingly well balanced heading into the final 3 minutes.
With the win Casimero claims his third "world title", and sets himself up for the winner of the WBSS, meaning a potential clash with Zolani Tete, Nonito Donaire, Emmanuel Rodriguez or Naoya Inoue, though he is one of a growing queue to get a shot at the eventual tournament winner.
Some fighters are must watch fighters who really do provide amazing entertainment and action every time they are in the ring. One such fighter is Kosei Tanaka (18-0, 7) [田中恒成] who again delivered a FOTY contender, as he recorded his first defense of the WBO Flyweight title and defeated former unified Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4-2, 12) [田口良一].
The bout, as we've come to expect of Tanaka fights, started fast and it never really slowed down. The opening round wasn't a typical opening round, instead it was an action war, fought at a frightening tempo, more a typical round 4 or 5, when both men have settled. Both unloaded shots with Tanaka having the edge in speed and power and Taguchi landing some very solid looking right hands. The second was all Tanaka, it was a clear demonstration of his gameplan, overwhelming Taguchi with combinations, getting in and out, and finding ways to connect to the head and body of Taguchi. Taguchi had moments but they were easily out numbered by those of Tanaka.
Round 3 saw Tanaka being wobbled but he seemed to out land Taguchi by some margin, especially with heavy shots, and although Taguchi never looked hurt, it was clear the blows were taking a toll on him and that he was slowing down. The proved to be the case in every round afterwards, with Tanaka finding it easier and easier to out work Taguchi. To his credit Taguchi never gave up, but through rounds 6, 7 and 8, he took a real pound as Tanaka tightened his grip on the bout and seemed to begin looking to break down the challenger. Taguchi seemed to realise and in round 9 he began to really make things messy with clinching and spoiling, slowing the pace of the fight. It was an effective tactic in some ways, though didn't win him rounds.
As we headed into the championship rounds it was clear Tanaka was in the lead. He could have cruised his way over the line. Instead he seemed to want to put on a show, and did so, especially in round 12. The round saw Tanaka go all out, looking for a stoppage. Taguchi, to his credit, held, spoiled, fought and survived the onslaught, to make it to the final bell, in what was really a moral victory. He had looked, for several rounds, like a man who was on the verge of being stopped.
After 12 rounds the judges turned in score cards of 119-109, and 117-111, twice, to give Tanaka a clear decision victory. For him the future is incredibly bright and there was talk earlier in the weak about a move up to Super Flyweight in 2020. For Taguchi however the end seems nigh, and it's really hard to see how he becomes a world champion again.
The first world title fight on Japanese soil in 2019 took place earlier today at the Korakuen Hall as the WBO Minimumweight champion Vic Saludar (19-3, 10) faced off against Japanese challenger Masataka Taniguchi (11-3, 7) [谷口 将隆]. As expected the fight was a hotly contested and fierce one, with both men landing big shots through out, despite being well contested, it ended in a rather clear win for Saludar who seemed to have that extra experience and know how.
Reports from ringside stated that both men looked to land their back hand early on, with Saludar looking to land right hands and Taniguchi looking for left hands. It was Saludar who seemed to get better of those early exchanges before he managed to create distance began to fight well at mid-range, something that Taniguchi couldn't match him at. Fighting at range and grabbing the bout by the neck was smart, given the huge reach advantage that Saludar had.
Taniguchi began to cut the distance in round 5 and had notable success in the middle rounds, clearly taking round 7 and seemingly doing enough to take round 8 as well.
Whilst Taniguchi had been turning the momentum in his favour his sustained success were short lived and it wasn't long until Saludar would take control again, taking the final rounds as his more proven stamina, and ring craft proving to be the difference.
By the end of the bout that no real doubt over who had won, with Japanese fans ringside all suggesting their man hadn't done enough, and that proved to be the case with the judges scoring the bout to Saludar with scores of 118-110, 117-111, twice.
The win sees Saludar scoring his first defense, and building on his great win from last year over Ryuya Yamanaka. For Taniguchi however this is a third loss, a third decision loss, and he really will need to work incredibly hard to earn another world title fight following this defeat.
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.