The Bantamweight division has been dominated over the last 12 months by the WBSS, and the destruction left by Naoya Inoue. Outside the WBSS however we've seen the WBC Bantamweight picture become a mess, with Takuma Inoue claiming the interim title, Luis Nery being in the mix and the crowning of Frenchman Nordine Oubaali (16-0, 12) as the champion.
Today Oubaali made his first defense of the the title, and did so in easy and dominant fashion, stopping over-matched Filipino challenger Arthur Villanueva (32-4-1, 18) in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
From the opening seconds Oubaali looked in a different class to Villanueva, who looked like a man who wasn't sure he deserved to be in the ring with the champion. The opening round was all Oubaali, even though he was only fighting in first gear he looked in a class of his own. From there on Oubaali chipped away at the Filipino, breaking him down with clean, accurate shots in rounds 2 and 3. There was very, very little coming back from Villanueva, who did enough to look like he was trying, but not enough to get Oubaali's respect.
By the end of round 3 Oubaali was starting to beat up Villanueva who realised he had to fight back. Sadly for Villanueva fighting back lead to him being tagged cleaner, and in round 4 the Filipino was rocked again.The following round the challenger began to look scared once again whilst Oubaali changed tactics. The champion had gone from landing combinations to looking for more hurtful single shots, trying to actually hurt the challenger with every shot. Those shots were doing damage and by the end of the right the challenge's right eye was nearly closed.
In round 6 the continued beating resumes, with Oubaali scoring a knockdown after a combination. It wasn't a combination of hard shots, but they were clean and the Filipino took a knee. Following that Oubaali went for the kill, with Villanueva managing to do just enough to convince the referee not to step in, but he was now a beaten man.
Knowing that he was out classed, out boxed, out punched and being dominated Villanueva took the decision to retire to retire between rounds 6 and 7, making a wise choice.
Whilst this was an unexpected opportunity for Villanueva it was also an undeserved one, and it's hard to see him getting any more opportunities at world level. As for Oubaali he has an interesting future. His next defense if expected to come against Takuma Inoue, though he will also have eyes on the winner of the WBSS, which will be either Naoya Inoue or Nonito Donaire, and will also have the controversial Luis Nery as possible future foe. This was an easy first defense, but hopefully we'll find out how good Oubaali really is in the near future.
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.
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.
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.
Earlier today we saw unbeaten Thai veteran Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] make his 11th defense of the WBC Minimumweight title, doing so against former WBO king Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-7-6, 7) [福原 辰弥], with a technical decision.
The bout started pretty evenly, though it seemed like Fukuhara had done enough the take the opening round. Sadly the Japanese fighter was cut in round 2, from a clash of heads, and from then on Wanheng would begin to look like the sharper man, getting his shots off better, landing cleaner and being the one with the more eye catching blows.
Although the better blows were from Wanheng Fukuhara wasn't there to make up the number and the Japanese fighter tried to press the action, come forward and set a higher work rate. The contract in styles made the rounds feel close, but like Wanheng was taking them, something that was back up on the open scoring at the start of round 5
The two would remain competitive at times, though it continued to feel like Wanheng's quality was the difference maker. Fukuhara really had some great moments, including a flurry of body shots in round in round, but it wasn't to be enough, as Wanheng remained composed and on his feet, loking to attack after Fukuhara's assault.
Sadly in round 8 a clash of heads saw Wanheng cut, taking us to the scorecards early on. The judges, unsurprisingly, had him winning, moving 53-0 and securing his 11th world title defense. For Fukuhara it's a second loss to Wanheng and sees him pushed don the pecking order another world title bout.
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.
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.
To end a super busy weekend of fights attention turned to the Portopia Hotel in Kobe as Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7) [小西伶弥] challenged hard hitting IBF Light Flyweight champion Felix Alvarado (35-2, 30).
The bout, which had no live TV coverage, promised a lot. Whilst the TV coverage lacked it was streamed via the team of Konishi's and proved to be a genuinely compelling contest, from start to end, with Alvarado's power punching going up against Konishi's physical strength and toughness. It wasn't the all out war we were expecting, but it sure was an engaging, and thrilling contest.
From the opening round it was clear neither man was there just to pick up a pay cheque, with Konishi pressing forward, trying to smother the power of Alvarado, whilst the Champion found room to get his shots off. Konishi, to his credit, got plenty off himself in the early stages, often forcing Alvarado backwards and unleashing flurries of shots to head and body, but it was the blows of Alvarado that caught the eye, especially his uppercuts as Konish came in with his head down.
Konishi's best moments came in the middle rounds, as he landed most of his best work, stopped Alvarado from creating the space here needed to get full extension on his shots. By smothering Alvarado's power shots and pushing him backwards Konishi had real success, and left the Nicaraguan looking a little bit like a bully. It did however come at a cost, and the energy that Konishi had to use, and the shots he took in return for his success, were apparent in the later rounds.
The final third of the bout was Alvarado's best. Konishi had slowed, his work rate had dropped, and his ability to cut the distance effectively was waning. This allowed Alvarado the space he needed to land his thunderous power shots, and in rounds 10 and 11 he hurt Konishi, who was left wobbling and looking ready to go. Unfortunately for the Nicaraguan the bell came to give Konishi both times, but it was clear that Konishi was relying on his toughness by then, and his chance to turn things round had all but gone.
The brave and determined challenger managed to put up a really spirited effort in round 12, despite losing the round. It was clear he knew he'd lost but he'd put up a great effort against one of the hardest hitting champions in the sport.
After 12 rounds the judges had the bout a clear win for the Nicaraguan, with scores of 117-111, 118-110 and 116-112.
In a sign of real class Alvarado stayed with fans on his way backstage, bumping fists with the locals, taking pictures with kids and really spending a lot of time with those who had been cheering on Konishi. The fans however had clearly been won over by the champion, and it was great to see from both sides.
Sadly for Konishi this is the second time he has lost in a world title bout, and it might just be that whilst he is very good, and very strong, he isn't quite good enough to win a world title.
Fighters will, one day, learn not to disrespect Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16) [井上 尚弥]. He hands out beatings when disrespect, as Jamie McDonnell found out last year, and as Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-1, 12) found out just moments ago.
The two men, meeting in the WBSS semi final, had entered as unbeaten champions, with Inoue as the WBA "regular" champion and Rodriguez as the IBF champion. It was supposed to be Inoue's biggest test, his toughest fight and a real chance for him to answer questions, questions that fans who hadn't followed him from the start of career still had. It was however another procession from the Monster, just like his previous two bouts at Bantamweight, against Jamie McDonnell and Juan Carlos Payano. An execution that was likely as quick as it was due to the over-confidence of Rodriguez and his team, who had pushed Inoue's trainer and father Shingo at the media work out in the week.
The first round started well for Rodriguez who landed a good right hand in the opening seconds, before Inoue settled behind his jab, and managed to take the round thanks to a steady stream of jabs left hooks. Inoue landed a couple of right hands during the round but didn't seem to budge Rodriguez who applied pressure, and had one or two moments of his own, but was out landed over all.
Having got a read on his man early in round 2 Inoue began to turn up the hear and let his shots go with the free flowing aggression we've seen of him since early in early in his career. A big body shot hurt Rodriguez who was then given a huge head shot, then a left hook moments later dropped Rodriguez. To his credit Rodriguez got up, but was down again from a sickening body shot. That could have ended the fight but he returned to his feet, narrowly beating the count, before being dropped again. That was it. After just 79 seconds of round 2 Rodriguez, supposedly Inoue's stiffest test to date, was dispatched.
This was the 6th time in a row that Inoue had stopped someone who had never been stopped, including not only McDonnell and Payano but also the teak tough Kohei Kono, a former 2-time world champion. It was also his third second round stoppage following wins against Omar Andres Narvaez and Warlito Parrenas.
More notable for Japanese boxing it is the first time, in history, a Japanese fighter has won a world title fight in Europe, ending a 51 year, 20 fight losing run in the continent.
As for the future this win books Inoue a showdown later in the year with Filipino legend Nonito Donaire, in the WBSS final. That should be a huge fight for Asia, and arguably the most notable opponent that Inoue will have faced so far, certainly the most dangerous. Donaire might be on the slide but he is certainly a lot more proven that Rodriguez and Payano.
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.