By Eric Armit
-Joe Smith Jr kayos Steve Geffrard in nine rounds in WBO light heavyweight title defence
-Jade Bornea beats Mohammad Obbadi in three rounds in IBF super flyweight eliminator
-Super Featherweight Abraham Nova stops William Encarnacion to go to 20-0
-Hugo Roldan and Jaime Arboleda both climb off the canvas twice to score wins in Panama
-Yamil Peralta remain unbeaten as floors Mariano Gudino three times on the way to retaining the Argentinian cruiserweight title on points.-
World Title/Major Shows
Verona, NY, USA: Light Heavy: Joe Smith Jr (28-3) W KO 9 Steve Geffrard (18-3). Feather: Abraham Nova (21-0) W TKO 8 William Encarnacion (19-2). Heavy: Lyubomyr Pinchuk (14-2-1) W PTS 8 Jose Flores (8-3-2). Middle: Troy Isley (4-0) W PTS 6 Harry Cruz (6-2). Super Light: Omar Rosario (6-0) W PTS 6 Raekwon Butler (4-2).
Smith vs. Geffrard
Smith beats substitute Geffrard in nine rounds in a low key title defence of his WBO title.
Smith immediately went on the attack forcing Geffrard to the ropes and firing clubbing shots. Geffrard was hiding behind a high peek-a-boo guard and not throwing punches allowing Smith to bang away finding gaps. Eventually Geffrard started throwing jabs but then retreated behind his guard again as Smith landed some hurtful shots late in the round.
Score: 10-9 Smith
Smith changed tactics in the second. He backed off and allowed Geffrard to come forward. Geffrard scored with some stiff jabs and a couple of rights but instead of staying there punching Geffrard was then hiding behind his guard again allowing Smith some target practice. Smith was not pressing his attacks although he did enough scoring in short bursts to win the round.
Score: 10-9 Smith Smith 20-18
Smith started this one coming forward throwing punches but then again backed off letting Geffrard do some work with his jab and straight rights. Geffrard stood and traded more but at the end of the round had backed to the ropes allowing Smith to pound him with body punches.
Score: 10-9 Smith Smith 30-27
They traded jabs early in this round until Smith suddenly launches a fierce attack driving Geffrard around landing hooks and uppercuts with Geffrard just covering up and having to absorb some painful body shots. Geffrard dropped his hands to show he wasn’t hurt but it was another round for Smith.
Score: 10-9 Smith Smith 40-36
Official Scores: Judge Glenn Feldman 40-36 Smith, Judge Tom Schreck 40-36 Smith, Judge Don Trella 39-37 Smith
This was a totally one-sided round. With Geffrard just hiding behind his guard it was target practice for Smith who was getting through with uppercuts and hooks. There was nothing coming back from Geffrard and as Smith continued to pour on the punches the referee was taking a long hard look at Geffrard at the end of the round (one judge scored this a 10-8 round).
Score: 10-9 Smith Smith 50-45
After his fireworks in the last round Smith took a more measured approach in this one. Too measured as he was landing a few hooks and then backing off and setting himself to repeat the exercise. Geffrard found a little more room for his jab but was just not throwing enough punches.
Score: 10-9 Smith Smith 60-54
Smith looked to be operating at about 60% power but it was still enough. For much of the round Smith was content to throw jabs and then follow with a few hooks and uppercuts. Geffrard landed a sneak straight right but Smith shook it off and scored with some bludgeoning hooks.
Score: 10-9 Smith Smith 70-63
Smith backed up at the start of this round and that allowed Geffrard to find some room and he scored well with jabs and straight rights. A heavy hook from Smith sent Geffrard back into his shell and Smith scored heavily with hooks and uppercuts with Geffrard being bounced along the ropes and not throwing any punches of his own.
Score: 10-9 Smith Smith 80-72
Official Scores: Judge Glenn Feldman 80-72 Smith, Judge Tom Schreck 79-73 Smith, Judge Don Trella 79-72 Smith
There was sense of purpose behind Smith in this one. He came out throwing punches and forced Geffrard to the ropes. Geffrard made no attempt to fight back and dropped to one knee under a hail of punches and was counted out.
Smith was making the first defence of the WBO title he won with a majority verdict over Max Vlasov in April. He now wants a unification fight against WBC/IBF champion Artur Beterbiev. However with Anthony Yarde jumping to the No 1 spot after beating Lyndon Arthur and Frank Warren having a good working relationship with the WBO Warren may press for a shot for Yarde. Geffrard was never really in this fight and as he only stepped in at eight days notice when Callum Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 it was unrealistic to think he would be a serious threat. Johnson himself will be pushing for the chance he missed and Gilbert Ramirez is also in the picture so plenty of options for Smith.
Nova vs. Encarnacion
Nova wears down and halts Encarnacion in the eighth, Encarnacion had a good first round catching Nova with a strong right but Nova upped his pace in the second. Nova began to score heavily in the third and Encarnacion switched to southpaw to try to stem the tide. From the fourth Nova was scoring with some scorching body shots and Encarnacion was holding to stop Nova scoring inside but Nova was also mixing in some rights to the head. As heads bumped in the sixth Nova suffered a cut over his right eye but it did not slow his attacks. He punished Encarnacion over the sixth and had him reeling under a series of rights at the end of the seventh. A right shook Encarnacion early in the eighth and Encarnacion’s second waived for the fight to be stopped. Fifteenth win by KO/TKO for 27-year-old Puerto Rican-born Nova who is rated No 3 with the WBO. Dominican Encarnacion, 33, was knocked out in four rounds by newcomer Giovanni Gutierrez in July 2019 and was then inactive until recording a low level win in December 2020- his last fight.
Pinchuk vs. Flores
Pinchuk scores wide unanimous decision over Flores but the fight was closer than the scores indicate. The 6’3” Ukrainian used his longer reach to score well in the first. In the second a clash of heads saw Pinchuk cut over his left eye and shaken by a right just before the bell. Pinchuk worked hard with his jab over the third and fourth outscoring Flores and landed with good shots in the fifth but with Flores connecting with some accurate counters. A punch from Flores re-opened the cut over Pinchuk’s left eye in the sixth and Flores also had a good seventh. Pinchuk put the result in the bag in the eighth as he landed a powerful right on Flores that sent his mouthguard flying and clearly won the round. Scores 79-73 twice and 80-72 for Pinchuk who is 10-1-1 in his last 12 outings. Flores had lost one of his last ten fights.
Isley vs. Cruz
Tokyo Olympian Isley cruises to victory in his first six round fight with comfortable points victory against Puerto Rican southpaw Cruz. The Puerto Rican took the fight to Isley but paid for that as Isley’s counters had him bleeding from nose and mouth. Isley shook Cruz a few times but Cruz showed plenty of determination giving Isley some useful ring time. Isley went low in the sixth which cost him a point but he won on scores of 59-54 twice and 59-53. Isley, 23, was twice US National champion and won bronze medals at the World Championships and Pan American Games but did not medal in Tokyo. Cruz had won his last two fights but Isley was much too polished for him.
Rosario vs. Butler
Like Isley Puerto Rican Rosario, a former amateur star, was moving up to six rounds for the first time. He came close to ending this early blasting Butler with punches in the first and carrying that on into the early part of the second. Butler overcame the crisis and fought well over the remaining rounds although generally being outscored by Rosario. Butler was shaken with a right in the sixth but recovered and competed well. Scores 59-54 twice and 58-55 for Rosario who was Puerto Rican champion in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Butler out of his depth but did his job.
Monterrey, Mexico: Super Fly: Jade Bornea (17-0) W KO 3 Mohammed Obbadi (22-2). Bantam: Francisco Rodriguez (35-5-1) W TKO 7 Arnulfo Salvador (15-2-1). Light Fly: Daniel Valladares (26-3-1) W PTS 8 Gabriel Loranca (4-6-1).
Obbadi vs. Bornea
Bornea wins IBF eliminator with third round victory over Obbadi. Moroccan-born Obbadi took the opening round with plenty of movement and a quick jab that consistently pierced Bornea’s guard. Bornea kept marching forward looking to score to the body but Obbadi’s speedy footwork took him away from Bornea’s attacks. Bornea began the second round switching to a southpaw stance and connected with a couple of right hooks and knocked Obbadi off balance with a straight left. Obbadi found the target with a pair of rights late in the round but was under continuous pressure. Bornea hunted Obbadi down in the third and landed a wicked left hook to the body. Obbadi froze for a second and then dropped to his hands and knees and was counted out. Filipino Bornea will now leap into the mandatory challengers slot with the possibility of a challenge to fellow-Filipino Jerwin Ancajas later in the year. Second inside the distance defeat for Obbadi who has a rebuilding job on his hands.
Rodriguez vs. Salvador
Rodriguez batters Salvador to defeat in seven rounds. Fighting in his home town Rodriguez bossed the fight against the less experienced southpaw Salvador. Rodriguez exerted constant pressure and was getting his punches off first with Salvador looking tentative. Rodriguez put Salvador down with a straight right in the third but Salvador got up and fought hard to make it to the bell. Rodriguez scored with scorching body punches over the fourth and fifth and had Salvador reeling at the end of the sixth. Salvador put in a big effort at the start of the seventh but when Rodriguez connected with a series of head punches the referee stopped the fight. Rodriguez, a former IBF and WBO minimumweight champion, lost on points to Kazuto Ioka for the WBO super flyweight title in September. He was above Bornea in the IBF ratings before the two fights on this card so should also be in line for a shot at Ancajas. This was too big a step-up for Salvador.
Valladares vs. Loranca
Local light flyweight Valladares outpoints Locarno. Valladares had late substitute Loranca under heavy pressure for all eight rounds but never looked like ending things early. He scored heavily with hooks and uppercuts and rocked Loranca a few times but Loranca took the beating and survived a fifth rounds inspection by the doctor of a cut and swelling by his left eye and fought hard to still be there at the end. Scores 80-71, 79-72 and 79-73 for Valladares who claimed an injury to his right hand hampered him in this fight. He fought a technical draw with Pedro Taduran for the IBF minimum title last year but that was followed by two losses. Loranca’s recent form is now 0-1-5.
Bella Vista, Panama: Super Light: Hugo Roldan (21-0-1) W PTS 10 German del Castillo (10-2-2). Light: Jaime Arboleda (18-2) W PTS 10 Nicolas Polanco (20-2-1). Fly: Gabriela Fundora (5-0,1ND) W PTS 8 Nataly Delgado (8-5-1).
Roldan vs. del Castillo
In both of the main bouts on this card the eventual winner had to suffer two knockdowns before winning a majority decision. There was plenty of speed and plenty of movement and guard changes from Roldan as he outscored del Castillo. In the second de Castillo swung a left hook. His fist missed but his forearm connected with the side of Roldan’s head and sent him down. Roldan was not badly hurt and took control of the action in the third. At the end of the fourth del Castillo rushed forward pushing Roldan back and Roldan lost his balance and fell into the ropes. It was a push not a punch and also the push happened after the bell to end the round but it was counted as a knockdown. From there Roldan used his speed and footwork to bamboozle del Castillo and deservedly won the decision. Scores 96-92 twice for Roldan and 94-94. Only the second fight outside of his native Argentina for Roldan who needs tougher tests to establish his credentials. Colombian del Castillo had won his last four fights but his victims have been easy touches.
Arboleda vs. Polanco
Panamanian Arboleda survived a near disaster in the second round to take a majority verdict over Dominican Polanco. After edging the first round Arboleda was down twice in the second. Late in the round he was dropped by a left hook from the wild swinging Polanco. After the eight count he shipped some more punches but then slipped to the floor. There was no count and then both fighters just stood flinging wild shots and Arboleda was shaken a couple of times and put down by a right. After getting up he clinched and made it to the bell. From there he kept the pressure on the erratic Polanco to outbox him over the middle rounds and held off a late effort by Polanco to wrap up the victory. Scores 95-93 twice for Arboleda and 94-94. Arboleda was halted in eleven rounds in December 2020 by Chris Colbert for the interim WBA title but had stopped former WBA secondary featherweight title holder Jonathan Barros in August. Polanco had lost a wide unanimous decision to Javier Fortuna in 2017 and since then only faced mediocre opposition.
Fundora vs. Delgado
Floridian southpaw Fundora outpoints Panamanian Delgado. The 5’9” Fundora towered over Delgado and won all the way flooring Delgado with a southpaw right hook in the fifth as she eased to victory. All three judges gave it to Fundora 80-71. She wins the vacant WBC Latino belt. She is the sister of world rated super welterweight Sebastian Fundora. Delgado had lost on points to Micaela Lujan for the IBF female super fly title in November.
Lagos, Nigeria: Cruiser: Olan Durodola (37-9) W RTD 1 Idowu Okusote (2-5).
This was a waste of a canvas. Durodola had height, reach, weight and experience over Okusote and just trundle around the ring as Okusote skittered about trying to stay out of trouble. Durodola managed to land a couple of glancing blows and Okusote did not come out for the second round.
Mar del Plata, Argentina: Cruiser: Yamil Peralta (13-0) W PTS 10 Mariano Gudino (14-5).
Peralta retains national title with points victory over Gudino. It was an easy defence for Peralta as he floored Gudino three times on the way to victory. The first knockdown came from a straight in the second round. Gudino protested that the punch that put him down landed on his neck but he beat the count only to be dropped again in the sixth by a left hook. The fight should have ended then as Gudino’s corner tried to throw in the towel but it got caught up in the ropes and was ignored. A right counter put Gudino down for the third time in the tenth with Pe4ralta settling for a points victory. Scores 99-88 twice and 98-89. Peralta was making the first defence of the Argentinian title and he retained the WBC Latino belt. A double-Olympian Peralta should now be looking to face some better class opposition if he wants to crash the ratings. Gudino falls to 2-5 in his last 7 fights
Tijuana, Mexico: Super Welter: Carlos Ocampo (32-1) W TKO 1 Omir Rodriguez (11-4-1). Super Bantam: David Picasso (20-0-1) W TKO 7 Cesar Paredes (15-4-1). Super Light: Carlos Sanchez (22-0) W KO 1 Jorge Pacheco (9-2-1).
Ocampo vs. Rodriguez
Ocampo massacres poor over-matched Rodriguez. Panamanian Rodriguez had only very rudimentary skills and just walked in head down swinging his arms. Ocampo battered him with punches to and then around the ropes until Rodriguez went down. He got up and despite taking more punishment kept slinging wild punches until he was dropped face down by a series of shots just before the bell. He tried to rise but tumbled backwards and the referee waived the fight over. Twentieth inside the distance win for Ocampo but really nothing worth saying about this sorry spectacle.
Picasso vs. Paredes
Prospect “King” Picasso adds another victory as he stops Peruvian southpaw Paredes in seven rounds. The 21-year-old from Mexico City is trained by former champion Erik Morales. The draw on his record is a case where he lost on a fourth round stoppage early in his career but the Mexico City commission changed the result to a technical draw and this is his seventeenth win since then. Paredes has lost a split decision and a majority decision against Chilean Jose Velasquez who challenged for the WBA super bantam title in November.
Sanchez vs. Pacheco
Another terrible mismatch saw Sanchez beat Pacheco in 60 seconds. Sanchez scored with a couple of hefty body punches that had Pacheco backing to the ropes and a right to the ribs dropped Pacheco who took the ten count kneeling in a corner. Eighteen wins by KO/TKO for “The Shark” but again nothing worth reporting. Pacheco hardly threw a punch.
Cheswick, PA, USA: Super Feather: Avery Sparrow (11-3,1ND) W TKO 10 Matt Conway (20-3,1ND).
Sparrow was not supposed to win this one. He had been beaten in his last two fights and with only three inside the distance wins did not look a danger. However he outlasted the favourite Conway in a war. By the tenth Conway had nothing left and Sparrow actually signalled to referee he should
step in. He didn’t but a left from Sparrow sent Conway stumbling across the ring to the ropes and as Sparrow bombarded Conway with head punches the referee stopped the fight. Sparrow wins both the vacant IBA title and Pennsylvania State title. The No Decision on Sparrows record was a win that was changed to a ND when he tested positive for a banned substance. Conway had been outpointed by Gabriel Flores in February 2020 but had then won three in a row.
Fight of the week (Significance): Having retained his WBO title Joe Smith can now look either to further defences or a unification fight.
Fight of the week (Entertainment) Not much to get excited about this week.
Fighter of the week: Joe Smith
Punch of the week: The left hook to the body from Jade Bornea that finished Mohammed Obbadi was a corker.
Upset of the week: Avery Sparrow (10-3,1ND) was an outsider against 20-2,1ND Matt Conway but stopped Conway late.
Prospect watch: Puerto Rican super light Omar Rosario 6-0 was a top class amateur and is looking good as a pro.
There is no doubt that the Fundora family like to do things in a big way. Super welterweight Sebastian is 6’5 ½” and his sister Gabriela although a flyweight is 5’9”. Taller than most welterweights.
The IBF super flyweight eliminator between Jade Bornea and Mohammed Obbadi shows what a whacky sport ours is. The first two spots in the IBF ratings were vacant. Obbadi was No 3. He had gone from being unrated in the IBF ratings posted 10 January 2020 to No 3 in the ratings posted 2 February 2020 without even fighting and in fact did not have a single fight between December 2019 and April 2021! The situation was not nearly so blatant with Jade Bornea who went from unrated to No 7 for wins over unrated opponents with 10-10-1, 11-0-2 and 15-7-1 records. Putting that to one side the real condemnation of the IBF ratings is that the No 1 and 2 spots were vacant as to fill one of those spots you have to have a win over another rated fighter-and no one in their ratings qualified! But if you can get to No 3 without facing a rated opponent why take the risk-only in boxing is this stupidity tolerated and looked upon as “normal”.
A new year is here, and we get a chance, again, to show how little we know about the sport with more wild and outlandish predictions about boxing. Sadly for 2022 we're not expecting things to go amazingly well for the sport, though we do anticipate a big improvement from the year we've just had, and we do expect far more big bouts to take place, and for the sport to move forward after 2 years of relatively frustrating action.
So lets take a look at 10 predictions for this year.
The last couple of years has seen a staggering amount of upsets and shocks, and whilst they do add to the enjoyment of the sport, and show the sport really is the theatre of the unexpected, we don't think we're going to see as many in 2022. We've put a lot of the shocks down to inactivity and covid related issues. Fighters who were struggling for activity not looking great when they fought, and in some cases losing bouts that they really shouldn't have lost. Whilst inactivity is one reason for losses another is the fact that training camps were different, and fighters tried to rush back from Covid infections. We think in 2022 a fighter who suffers Covid will take their time to recover and training camps will focus on making sure a fighter is sharp, mentally and physically. We'll still get upsets, of course we will, but not the regular massive shockers we had in 2021.
2-PPV becomes a major factor in Japan
One of the best things about Japan was that, traditionally, big fights were on free TV, allowing fans across the country to see the biggest domestic names in action. Sadly 2021 saw a move to PPV, with more and more major bouts being put behind paywalls, including bouts featuring major stars like Naoya Inoue and Kenshiro Teraji. Sadly we suspect that Japan, like the UK, the US and Australia, will begin to rely more and more on PPV, and subscription services, to the detriment of the sport, the fans and the fan base. Whilst some see PPV as a necessary part of the sport we also need to see PPV as the way of cutting fans out. There is a fine balance, but we worry Japan, like other countries, will fail to find the balance.
3-The Bantamweight division will fail to deliver
Going in to 2021 the Bantamweight division looked like it had so many obvious match ups that we were going to get at least one major unification and the division was going to give us some super fights. Sadly 2021 saw the division whimper out, with Nonito Donaire winning the WBC title then facing a mandatory, John Riel Casimero defeating Guillermo Ringodeaux then talk the talk before pulling out of a mandatory title fight, and Naoya Inoue retaining in a mandatory before failing to secure an opponent of note for his year ending bout. For a year that promised so much this was underwhelming and we see something similar happening next year, with Inoue abandoning the division in frustration and chasing Super Bantamweight glory. It's a shame the top guys in the division couldn't get together, but we're certainly not surprised that boxing has failed to sort out what seemed so obvious.
4-Bouts get re-arranged
One thing that really hurt 2021 was the big cancellations at the end of the year. Among those that were cancelled were the John Riel Casimero Vs Paul Butler bout, the Kazuto Ioka Vs Jerwin Ancajas bout, the Ryota Murata Vs Gennady Golovkin bout, the Masayuki Ito Vs Shuichiro Yoshino, and the Junto Nakatani Vs Cristian Gonzalez bout. Thankfully we expect all of those to be re-arranged for 2022. The bouts all make sense to re-arrange and fingers crossed we get all of them this year. Sadly boxing does have a way to tease us before ripping things away from us, but we think in these particular examples we'll end up getting pretty much all the bouts in question. Especially the two big unification bouts, at Super Flyweight and Middleweight.
5-A super slow start to the year
Whilst there are bouts scheduled for the first few months of the year, we get the feeling that 2022 will be a year where things are very, very, very slow to get going. This isn't just an Asia issue, but something we suspect will affect boxing globally, as Omicron forces various countries to do different things to slow it's spread. The UK is set to have no boxing in January, and we suspect some other countries will follow suit. Although there is boxing scheduled for most of Asia for early in the year we expect to see February and March have threadbare schedules, and things take until, potentially, May to get going. This is going to be another year where opportunities are few and far between for some fighters, and where some fighters will struggle to stay active. Fingers crossed by the back end of the year however things are heading back to normality.
6-Hiroto Kyoguchi to miss out on unification... again
Over the last few years Hiroto Kyoguchi has been linked, time and time again, to unification bouts. Originally it was with Kenshiro Teraji, in a bout that made incredible sense and seemed set to be something huge for Japanese boxing, and then it was Elwin Soto, with both Soto and Kyoguchi being promoted by Eddie Hearn, and then Soto lost. To begin 2022 Kyoguchi will have to make a mandatory against Esteban Bermudez and whilst unification bouts will be possible later in the year it does seem like they are destined to pass Kyoguchi by, and he really needs to ask his team why he hasn't been able to secure the huge divisional bouts he has been chasing. Watanabe failed to get him them and now Matchroom are failing, and it's a real shame as he deserves to prove he is the best in the division, before he out grows it.
7-The Year of Rematches!
It's fair to say that 2021 was a weird year, especially with all the upsets and we expect to see them re-done in the new. Amazingly however we also expect to see a lot of other rematch, not just from last year, but from the last few years. Some of these are already schedule, including Panya Pradabsri Vs Wanheng Menayothin II and Gakuya Furuhashi Vs Yusaku Kuga, whilst others are said to be in the works, such as Masamichi Yabuki Vs Kenshiro Teraji II, Israil Madrimov Vs Michel Soro II and Donnie Nietes Vs Norbelto Jimenez II. We might even see bouts like Masataka Taniguchi Vs Kai Ishizawa II, a rematch of their 2017 clash. We won't complain about rematches, though we do think there's going to be a lot of them. And not just in Asia. Given Matchroom's propensity for rematches we're also expecting to see quite a few rematches from Eddie Hearn's stable, including the obvious rematches Oleksandr Usyk Vs Anthony Joshua, and Kiko Martinez Vs Josh Warrington.
8-Amazon Prime will become a major player
In late 2021 Amazon announced that they would be the Japanese broadcaster for Ryota Murata Vs Gennady Golovkin. Whilst those plans were delayed it does seem obvious that Amazon are very interested in getting their claws into more and more professional sport to go with their rights on things like Tennis and the English Premier League. Due to the often weird way that boxing works, our great sport could well be a great target for Amazon to get involved in, and to try and secure global rights to fights, rather than merely picking up regional rights. With that in mind we wouldn't be surprised by a promoter working alongside Amazon in a similar, although less frequent, manner to how DAZN and Matchroom work. There is talk of Amazon doing a deal with Teiken in Japan, but we again think there will be some sort of global movement from Amazon, adding value to the Amazon Prime platform.
9-Central Asian fighters finally crack it
The last few years has seen a lot of talk about Central Asian fighters, with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan being two countries that look like they have a lot of promising talent. Sadly that talent, on the whole, hasn't yet cracked the big time as expected. In 2022 we think that will, finally, change with the likes of Hasanboy Dusmatov, Israil Madrimov, Shakhram Giyasov and Zanibek Alimkhanuly finally breaking through and winning world titles. It seems inevitable that this crop of Central Asian fighters will be the ones to break through and we suspect 2022 will be the year that they finally give up waiting and do it. Alimkhanuly and Madrimov are right on the verge of world title bouts as we enter the year, and we suspect others will end the year fighting for top honours in a huge year for the two countries.
10-Japanese fighters to travel more!
On trend we think will continue from the last few years is Japanese fighters travelling for major fights, something that we think the on going Pandemic makes even more likely, especially with it being so hard to travel in to Japan. We already know that Kenichi Ogawa is planning a defense of the IBF Super Featherweight title in the UK, and we also expect to see Junto Nakatani, Hiroto Kyoguchi, Kazuto Ioka and Naoya Inoue all travel for major bouts at some point in 2022. We wouldn't be surprised by Japanese fighters travelling to challenge for titles as well, with the success on the road of fighters like Inoue in recent years opening the door for them to fight more and more on the road. We've seen more Japanese fighters travelling in the last 3 or 4 years but we expect to see that number genuinely exploding this year. And with that in mind we also wouldn't be surprised if a Japanese fighter finally won a world title over in Thailand, something they've not yet done.
Before the new year we were asked by our good friend @PollitoDiablo2 to do a "22 for 2022" which is not something I had any intention of doing. Not this year. Sadly 2021 has taken away a lot of the love of the sport I once had. It's drained me like no other year. Both the sport it's self and the year in general. It was, for lack of a better term, a year to forget, and a year that really saw the output on this site die down, from regular daily features, along with the news, to basically just the news. The cancellations, the politics, the frustration of Covid continuing to ravage the sport, and my own personal frustrations all made me want to hide in a corner and not touch a keyboard over Christmas, and into the new year.
Despite that it's clear for this site to even be worth continuing, we do need to let people become aware of fighters! And with that in mind a 22 for 2022 seems like a great starting, so take a look at 22 fighters who will have something meaningful, hopefully, in 2022.
To be included on this list a fighter can't have won, or fought for, a world title. They can, however, have a world title lined up as we head into the new year. They are either contenders, prospects, or fighters that have the potential to make some sort of mark in 2022.
22-Garen Diagan (8-1, 4)
Dubbed the "Hellboy" Garen Diagan is someone who has quietly been making a name for himself on the Filipino domestic scene over the last few years. Unlike most hopefuls he's not been matched easily, at all, and from his 9 professional bouts 6 have been against unbeaten opponents. Notably he has ended the unbeaten records of Arvin Magramo (8-0-1), Jerry Francisco (7-0) and April Jay Abne (7-0) in his last 4 bouts. Aged 25 Diagan is coming into his prime, his results speak for themselves and this coming year should be one where he begins to target a regional title. The Light Flyweight and Flyweight divisions are incredibly interesting divisions, but a guy like Diagan would be a welcome addition in either and we expect that's what we'll see in 2022.
21-Jong Seong Kang (14-0-2, 7)
South Korean boxing has been in a mire since the very early 00's and the country, which was once a major force in the sport, is now one which lacks any notable name outside of Hyun Mi Choi. Thankfully that could be set to change thanks to the rise of Jong Seong Kang, who looks like he might end up carrying the sport in South Korea over the coming years. The 20 year old Featherweight is everything we love about Korean boxing. He brings the in ring Korean mentality to life, he is all about aggression, work rate, desire and the fighters mindset. Technically he is limited and can be caught, but his offense is his best form of defense and his exciting style will capture fans and attention. Notably he is also scoring good, solid, wins with victories over Tomjune Mangubat and Pete Apolinar in his last 5 wins. He is set to become the face of Korean boxing, and we would expect his team to move him towards more regional honours, to add to the WBO Oriental Featherweight title that he won in January.
20-Bek Nurmaganbet (6-0, 4)
When we talk about Asian fighters there's not many Super Middleweights that stand out, but that could all change over the next few years with the rise of the Central Asian fighters. One of the leading hopefuls for the division is unbeaten Kazakh Bek Nurmaganbet, who was a sensational amateur before beginning his professional campaign in 2020. Aged just 23 time is certainly on his side, but so to is ability, and we would be very surprised if his handlers didn't let him loose on better and better opponents this year. In just 6 fights he has beaten opponents with a combined 150 wins and his team have seemingly got a lot of confidence in him, which leads us to believe that his team will look to match him with a former world champion or a former world title challenger this year. Hopefully his team will also get him a run out in the US to help build his international profile ahead of a potential world title eliminator in 2023 or 2024.
19-Talgat Shayken (7-0, 4)
Aged 21 Talgat Shayken is one of the most exciting young Welterweight prospects in the sport. He has a good amateur pedigree, he has good skills, he has a strong backer, with MTK Kazakhstan behind him, and he's incredibly young yet incredibly strong. Watching him since he turned professional we've seen Shayken develop from a rather clumsy but effective and aggressive teen, into a very talented and composed young fighter who brings effective pressure to the ring. He's not the polished fighter yet, and that's probably a couple of years away still, but he's proving himself to be an excellent prospect and has already won the WBC Youth title. In 2022 we expect to see his competition step up, and whilst we're not expecting him to face anyone world ranked, we wouldn't be surprised to see him break into the fringes of the world rankings by the end of the year and score at least one notable win before we see the start of 2023
18-Nutlai Lalbiakkima (3-0, 3)
Heading into we haven't got too many wild cards in this list, most of the names on the list are probably somewhat familiar to fans, even if one or two are surprises in the list they are names that we think most fans who follow Asian Boxing will be familiar with. One of the few wildcards however is Indian Minimumweight Nutlai Lalbiakkima, who is the IBA Intercontinental Minimumweight champion and the potential Indian star of tomorrow. India has never really embraced professional boxing, yet, but a country as big as India certainly has the potential to create stars and Lalbiakkima looks to be the best bet, for now. With Marine Boxing backing him he has a powerful backer, an exciting style, a good amateur pedigree and he's an aggressive and hard hitting Minimumweight. Given how big an Indian contender, or even a world champion, could be for the sport, Lalbiakkima is definitely one to keep an eye on, and someone who could make a big splash in 2022. He might be one of our wild card entries here, but that's more down to 2022 maybe being a year too early for him, but time will tell.
17-Yudai Shigeoka (4-0, 2)
The older of the two Shigeoka brothers Yudai Shigeoka had a stellar 2021, after the covid19 pandemic kept him out of the ring for over a year. Heading in to 2020 he seemed on the verge of something big, following a great win over Lito Dante, but 2020 was a total write off. In 2021 he thankfully made up for lost time pretty well, winning the Japanese Youth Light Flyweight title in February before winning the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title in November, with a hard fought win over Tsubasa Koura. Those wins showed that Shigeoka was a very, very promising prospect, but there is still a lot of work to do for him, and we expect to see him defending his regional title a couple of times this year, whilst climbing up the world rankings and moving towards a world title shot in 2023 or 2024. The biggest for him might well be that he's probably the #3 guy at the weight in his own stable, and that could slow his ascent to the top, though it seems like a case of "when" and not "if", Yudai Shigeoka will win a world title.
16-Ryosuke Nishida (5-0, 1)
One of the big revelations of 2021 was Japanese Super Bantamweight-come-Bantamweight Ryosuke Nishida, who had impressed in 2020, with a win over Shohei Omori, then went better in 2021 with a big win over Daigo Higa to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title. That win over Higa made fans sit up an take note, especially given how dominant he was, but it's fair to say there is still work to do for Nishida, who's only defense of the regional title came against Tetsuro Ohashi. Nishida has shown what a great boxer he is, and there is a lot to like about him. Sadly we don't see him getting a world title fight in 2022, but we do see him moving towards one, and the WBO regional title will certainly help him there. The one issue we see holding him back, for now, is his lack of power, but we suspect experience and confidence will help him there. Whilst we don't see him getting a world title fight this year, we wouldn't be surprised at all if he's one of the men sniffing around titles when Naoya Inoue eventually moves up in weight.
15-Carl Jammes Martin (18-0, 15)
Dubbed the "Wonder Boy" Carl Jammes Martin is someone who has been on the radar for a few years now, and is widely seen as one of the next stars of Filipino boxing. The youngster has had plenty of exposure in the Philippines, but the attention so far has been very firmly based at home and he's yet to travel for a bout, something we hope might change this year. Early in his career Martin was an aggressive monster, all about offense, combinations and aggression. In recent years however we have seen him tone that down a little bit, whilst getting valuable rounds against the likes of Mark Anthony Geraldo and Richard Rosales, which will have served him really well and proven he can't take everyone out. An important lesson at this stage of his career. In recent bouts we've seen more boxing from him, less fighting, and it seems he is mentally maturing into a very good young fighter. In 2022 we're expecting to see him continue to get good rounds, continue to get some seasoning fights and potentially take on a former world title challenger towards the end of the year, to add some quality to his record and moves towards a world ranking. He's not ready for a top guy, and won't be by the end of 2022, but we certainly anticipate him moving towards a big bout and possibly landing one in 2024.
14-Sadriddin Akhmedov (12-0, 10)
The Light Middleweight division is one of the most interesting in the sport right now, with not just recognisable names on top but a lot of emerging hopefuls chasing through the ranks and looking to make a name for themselves. One such fighter is Canadian based Kazakh prospect Sadriddin Akhmedov, who has managed to fly well under the radar of fans who don't follow the Canadian fight scene. The 23 year old has been a professional since 2018, and although he's yet to have a break through win he has shown a lot to like with a wide variety of tools in his arsenal, good stamina, great shot selection and a very good style that should allow him to go a very way in the sport. We don't see him getting a world title fight in 2022, but we certainly wouldn't be surprised by him making his US debut and moving towards a world title eliminator.
13-Hironori Mishiro (11-0-1, 4)
The idea of Japanese fighters being moved quickly is something we're all well aware of, and was certainly the plan for Hironori Mishiro, who won the OPBF Super Featherweight title in just his 6th bout, 15 months after his debut. He would defend that title 4 times before leaving the division and beating former world champion Masayuki Ito at the end of 2020, and then score an excellent stoppage in 2021 over Kazuhiro Nishitani. Those two wins, as well as his OPBF title reign, have shown what he's capable of in just 12 bouts, and the win over Nishitani seemed to show more belief in his power than we've seen from him previously. Despite his good form he hasn't yet received much recognition by the world title bodies, but we expect that to change in 2022 and we're anticipating a big year for Mishiro who will likely look to make a climb up the rankings this year. We doubt he'll get a world title shot, but expect to see him climb up the rankings rather notably at Lightweight this year.
12-Chainoi Worawut (14-0-1, 12)
The Super Bantamweight division is one of the best in the sport right now, and has been providing so much great action over the last few years, right across the various levels of the sport. One man looking to move into the mix for big fights, at least regionally, in the division will be hard hitting Thai fighter Chainoi Worawut, who is one of the key faces on the WP Boxing series of shows. The unbeaten puncher, like many Thai's, had a frustrating 2021 as the on-going pandemic limited his in ring activity, with him only fighting once in the year. Whilst that is disappointing it did give him another year to physically mature, and now aged 24 he's slowly coming into his prime. We suspect 2022 will be a year where he looks to build some new momentum, and whilst a world title fight this year is highly unlikely, he will certainly find himself climbing up the WBC rankings by the end of the year.
11-Thanongsak Simsri (20-0, 18)
The pandemic era of boxing has effected numerous fighters and fights over the last two years, and 21 year old Thai fighter Thanongsak Simsri is certainly one such fight. He was set to get a world title fight against Hiroto Kyoguchi in last 2020, before Kyoguchi contracted Covid19, forcing the bout to be cancelled. The hope was for Simsri to then get a shot at the Japanese champion the following year, but that never happened and Simsri has gone from a man literally on the verge of a world title fight, to the forgotten man at 108lbs. Notably however he has been staying busy, and amazingly fit in 6 bouts in 2021 and got some valuable ring time whilst also maturing, and allowing his body to fill out a bit more. Whilst we're still not sure he'd have much of a chance with Kyoguchi, the fact he's not sulked and been inactive is great, his high level of activity will help him, and if Covid restrictions can be scaled back in Asia this year then we suspect he'll be right in the mix for a major regional title. Whilst 2020 was the year of disappoint and 2021 was the year of activity for Simsri, 2022 should be the year where his competition toughens up again and he begins to move towards a world title shot, yet again.
10-Phoobadin Yoohanngoh (12-0, 7)
Thai teenage sensation Phoobadin Yoohanngoh had a break out in 2020, when he won a regional title and defended it in style against Atchariya Wirojanasunobol. Sadly we didn't see much of him in 2021, fitting just two professional boxing bouts into the year Covid19 forced Thailand to essentially lock down sports events for a large portion of the year. Now aged 18 Phoobadin and his team will likely be looking to make an impression this year, and we wouldn't be surprised at all to see him chase a more notable regional title, perhaps even and OPBF title. It's hard to imagine any domestic opponents facing him in 2022, and instead they'll have to import opponents, likely from Japan and the Philippines, so we wouldn't be surprised to see him taking on some of the top regional competition at 140lbs and maybe even make his international debut. His talent is undeniable, his potential is incredible, and fingers crossed 2022 will be the year where he shows his skills against some noteworthy opponents and begins to move into the fringes of a world ranking.
9-Joe Noynay (19-2-2, 8)
Over the last few years Filipino fighter Joe Noynay has slowly, but surely, been proving his ability and the 26 year old jaw breaker has been slept on time and time and time again. With 2 losses and just 8 stoppages from 23 bouts it can be easy to over-look Noynay, but the Filipino has notched wins on the road against the likes of Jinxiang Pan, Kosuke Saka, Satoshi Shimizu and most recently Liam Wilson. He is also someone who has a technical draw with Kenichi Ogawa and has 2 defenses of the WBO Asia Pacific title to his name. One thing we've learned in recent years is that Filipino fighters have a scary reputation for coming out of nowhere and scoring wins, for Noynay that happened when he beat Saka and Shimizu and we wouldn't be surprised at all if he ends up travelling West for a fight and upsetting a notable US or British name. He's easy to over-look, but dangerous, confident in the ring, very calm and self assured, and far more dangerous than his record suggests. Do not be surprised at all if he ends up landing a world title eliminator, or a world title fight this coming year.
8-Mark Magsayo (23-0, 16)
There is only one man on this list with a scheduled world title fight and that is unbeaten Filipino Featherweight Mark Magsayo, who faces Gary Russell Jr on January 22nd. Sadly for Magsayo that bout is a good reason why he's so low on this list. He's going to make a mark, of course he is, by getting a world title fight in the US against a long reigning champion. Sadly however he will go into that bout as a massive under-dog, especially given his performances in recent bouts, which included a very poor performance against Rigobero Hermosillo in 2020 and huge come from behind win against Julio Ceja in August. Those two bouts may have resulted in wins, but they showed the talented Magsayo was still missing things he will need at world level. Whilst we're expecting him to come up short against Russell Jr, we hope to see him put in a good performance and bounce back later in the year.
7-Kamshybek Kunkabayev (4-0, 3)
Unbeaten Kazakh Cruiserweight Kamshybek Kunkabayev is a man who appears to make the sport look really, really easy. The big man from Kyzylorda is a former amateur standout who has been moved through the ranks like a special fighter, he has already picked up the WBO Asia Pacific and WBA Gold titles, and is already towards the world rankings. Although not the most flashy or exciting fighter, he's a big, talented, relaxed and heavy handed southpaw who has yet to be forced out of second hear since debuting in 2020. We really wouldn't be surprised at all if he picked up 2 or 3 wins in 2022 and ended the year banging on the door of a world title fight. Interestingly the Cruiserweight division does look like one that is ready for some new faces and Kunkabayev is potentially the right guy, in the right place at the right time, to make a lot of noise in the division.
6-Seigo Yuri Akui (16-2-1, 11)
One of the very few men on this list without an unbeaten record on this list is Japanese Flyweight Seigo Yuri Akui, who had a frustrating 2021, but is already set to kick off his 2022 campaign, and move towards a world title fight towards the end of the year. The hard hitting Japanese Flyweight champion impressed in July, when he stopped Taku Kuwahara in the 10th round, and will be back in the ring in February to defend his title again against Takuya Kogawa. If he gets past Kogawa, as expected, we expect to see him actively pursue a rematch with WBO world champion Junto Nakatani, one of only two men to beat Akui. He's dangerous, heavy handed, and very much under-the-radar, despite having a very notable win over current world champion Masamichi Yabuki.
5-Hinata Maruta (12-1-1, 9)
Long tipped as a special talent Japanese Featherweight Hinata Maruta has long flattered to deceive. It's always been clear he has incredible ability but struggled to get things to click. That has has changed in the last few years however and 2021 was a huge year for him, as he scored a very impressive stoppage over Ryo Sagawa, to claim the Japanese title, which he defended in December against Ryo Hino. Those two performances showed the progression of Maruta, who is world ranked by the IBF and WBC, and who could well be on the verge of a world title fight by the end of the year. He's slippery, he's sharp, he's heavy handed and whilst we don't think he'll get a world title fight this year, we do expect big things from him. Fingers crossed the year will begin with either a Japanese title defense or a bout for a regional title, before a potential US or UK bout as he looks to increase his international profile. This should be the year where the Morioka Gym allow him to make a statement, and 2023 should be the year where he gets a shot at the big time. His loss to Hidenori Otake in 2017 was a set back but he has developed so much since then and looks like one of the best emerging Featherweight contenders on the planet right now.
4-Hasanboy Dusmatov (4-0, 4)
There are are very, very, very few fighters ready to be unleashed on the divisional elite in their first 5 or 6 fights. One such fighter is Hasanboy Dusmatov, the former Uzbek amateur sensation who was talking about fighting for world titles from almost the day he made his debut. Sadly he's not yet landed a major fight, of any note, and his biggest wins as a professional are at a very low level, but he's showed he is head and shoulders above the 4 guys he has already beaten and now needs to move onwards and upwards. At the age of 28 there is no point in him wasting more time, and with that in mind we are expecting huge things of him in 2022. Sadly the Light Flyweight division does appear to be one with a lot of champions being tied up, at least early in the year, but if Dusmatov and his team are smart they could end up being primed for a world title fight towards the end of the year. If not they need to end the year with a big win and put pressure on the champions for a 2023 world title fight. He's already ranked very highly with the WBA, his team should look to push forward and chase the winner of the planned, though yet to be scheduled, Hiroto Kyoguchi Vs Esteban Bermudez bout.
3-Israil Madrimov (8-0, 6)
When he made his professional debut in 2018 Israil Madrimov looked like someone special, and his first 4 bouts showed what could do, as he showed everything a prospect could want to show, against solid competition. Sadly however disappointing performances against Eric Walker and Emmany Kalombo saw some of the shine being taken off Madrimov's rise. Thankfully for him however he managed to notched a notable win at the end of 2021, stopping Michel Soro, albeit in very controversial fashion, to essentially book himself a WBA world title fight in 2022. There is talk of a rematch against Soro, which we think would be a good move for Madrimov, but regardless he is now knocking on the door of a world title fight, and we would be very surprised if he didn't get a world title fight by the end of the year.
2-Ginjiro Shigeoka (6-0, 5)
We honestly believe that were it not for the pandemic and the issues to the boxing calendar and travel situations we've seen over the past 2 years Ginjiro Shigeoka would be a world champion today. The talented, hard hitting, exciting, explosive, young Minimumweight looked primed for a huge 2020, following an excellent win over Rey Loreto at the end of 2019, to retain the WBO Asia Pacific title. Sadly the pandemic stopped his career in it's tracks. He had very, very, very few options domestically, and with travel limited over the last 2 years his career essentially stalled out, big time. The only saving grace was the emergence of Toshiki Kawamitsu, who Shigeoka fought this past July, and stopped without too many issues. Ranked by all 4 world title bodies now, we suspect Watanabe Gym will be pushing hard for him to get either a world title crack or a world title eliminator by the end of the year. He won't chase the WBO title, held by stablemate Masataka Taniguchi, but any of the other 3 titles are well within his reach for the year.
1-Zhanibek Alimkanuly (11-0, 7)
Unbeaten Kazakh Middleweight Zhanibek Alimkhanuly, aka "Qazaq Style", looks set to get his first world title fight in 2022 and is a man coming in to the year with a lot of momentum. Unlike many fighters he set his eyes on someone, calling out Demetrius Andrade in late 2019, and then took steps to try and secure a fight with the man he was calling out, winning the WBO "Global" title and defending it, to push his case with the WBO to let him fight for their world title. He not only did what the WBO wanted, but also notched good wins in 2021 over Rob Brant and Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam. The only real questions going into the new year is whether Andrade, the supposed "most avoided man in boxing" will be defending his title against Alimkhanuly or whether the Kazakh will be fighting for a vacant title, either way it seems almost a given that 2022 will be a huge year for him.
Honourable mentions (yes there's another 22, albeit in no order!):
Sung Min Yuh
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features