The Filipino scene at Light Flyweight is scary with the amount of depth and talent there. The division, probably the strongest globally in the sport right now, not only has recognisable world class fighters like Rey Loreto, Jonathan Taconing, Randy Petalcorin and Merlito Sabillo but also a host of rising prospects. These include the likes of Christian Araneta, Jess Espinas, Mark Vicelles and Mark Steven Ragoro.
Potentially the best of the bunch right now is 25 year old Edward Heno (13-0-5, 5), who has edged his way closer and closer to a world title fight over the last few years, despite a very inauspicious start to his professional career. He has really emerged on the scene as a potential world champion over the last 2 years or so, and is a very long way removed from the fighter who debuted back in May 2011 as an 18 year old kid.
Heno, like many Filipino fighters, took up the sport for money and like many didn't have a particularly strong amateur background. That's not to say he hadn't fought as an amateur, but his bouts really were just on the local scene with no major honours to speak of. Despite the lack of amateur gold he had hunger and drive, and often that can be the key to a fighters success.
On debut, in May 2011, Heno fought the then 1-0 Jomar Acedera, fighting to a majority draw in Binan City. Heno would fight again 4 months later and draw with another 1-0 fighter, this time Michael Enriquez. Although neither man was well known at the time it is interesting to note that since that bout Heno has become a leading contender at Light Flyweight whilst Enriquez has given fits to the likes of Jake Bornea, Rex Tso and Stamp Kiatniwat. Bizarrely Heno's third bout, against the then 0-2 Ruben Traza, also ended in a majority draw, leaving Heno with an incredibly strange looking 0-0-3 record.
Despite being unbeaten in his first 3 bouts Heno's career hadn't gotten off to a great start and it would be over a year before he would return to the ring. Thank his wait to fight was worth it as he picked up his first win, taking a decision over Julius Bala in and up down 4 rounder that saw both men being dropped. Less than 3 months later he would secure his second win, defeating Jessie Caballes over 6 rounds to move to 2-0-3.
Just as things looked like they were getting going Heno would take more than a year away from the ring, his second long break during the early stage of his career. Thankfully though he didn't seem to miss a beat and on his return he scored his third straight victory, overcoming Rommel Berwela in a 6 round contest to keep the moment going when he returned to the ring in January 2015.
Heno seemed to want to make up for lost time in 205, scoring wins over Ruben Traza and Jihn Ray Logatiman, in 8 round bouts, before scoring his first stoppage over Jovel Romasasa. The only blotch on the year was majority draw, yes another one, in December against Roque Lauro. The draw was another set back, but Heno could take positives from it, it was a step up in quality, and came during a great run for Lauro which included a win over Ryuya Yamanaka, and it was in a 10 round bout, Heno's first 10 rounder.
After taking just 4 months out Heno world return to score his second stoppage win, taking out Jopher Marayan in 4 rounds, before defeating JC Francisco in an 8 rounder. Those wins helped prepare Heno for a rematch with Lauro, and this time Heno wouldn't be denied, stopping Lauro in 6 rounds to avenge one of his draws and continue to show his improvement and development.
Although 2015 and 2016 were good years for Heno's career things really took off in 2017. He would claim his first title in March, stopping the then 12-0 Cris Ganoza in 9 rounds to claim the PBF Light Flyweight title then add the the OPBF tittle in September as he stopped Seita Ogido in Japan. The only problem with the year was a draw with Ogido between his two title wins, a draw that he was originally announced as the winner of, before a scoring correction took the title from him and lead to the rematch between the two men.
Strangely Heno was robbed of the title later in the year, to allow Rey Loreto to face Ivan Soriano for the title. That bout would fall through with OPBF then giving Heno the title back in what was a messy situation for the organisation.
With the title back around his waist Heno has gone from strength to strength, successfully defending the title against former world champion Merlito Sabillo, in February 2018, and then against Jesse Espinas. Against Sabillo the talented youngster seemed to be the clear winner though some how Romeo Sumalapao has the bout scored 116-112 for Sabillo, who was fighting at home. The win over Sabillo essentially cost Sabillo a shot at WBO world champion Angel Acosta whilst the win over Espinas has pushed Heno closer to a world title fight of his own.
Heno is a really confident fighter. It's no an arrogance, but it's true self belief, and he backs it up every time he's in the ring. He's got under-rated power, a very good boxing brain, a tight defense and the ability to find holes in opponents on a regular basis. There is, clearly, still work to be done before Heno gets in the ring with the likes of Ken Shiro, Hekkie Budler or Carlos Canizales but he has the tools to give any other those men real issues, if he can get the experience and just tweak a few things before facing them.
With the competition in the Philippines Heno has the opportunity to get some great domestic tests before fighting for a world title, and we hope he does just that and gives himself a real chance when he steps up to that world level.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)