During the next year we're expecting to see the Light Flyweight division become the “must watch” weight class. Given that it's often been an over-looked weight class we're really hoping that 2016 can be a year where fans do get excited and do start to give the division the attention that it deserves, and of course we also hope to see some great match ups. Ahead of any major announcements we've thought of 5 fights that we want to see this coming year in what is the second part of out "Bouts we want..." series, following on from the Minimumweight version here.
Boxing might be the sweet science but, if we're all being honest, it's also a fight. Due to it being a fight we of course love the true fighters, the ones who come to the ring with the intention of stopping their opponents and are willing to do all they can to finish a fight early. In this feature we're going to take a look at 10 of the most fun to watch Asian fighters. Some fighters you will be familiar with whilst others you may not be too aware of, one thing is for certain however, these men mean business every time they step in the ring.
-Wanheng Menayothing-Intelligent pressure fighter, even though he lacks lights out power he is great fun to watch
-Akira Yaegashi-A real warrior who is coming to the end of his career though will always go out on his shield and give fans good value.
-Takuya Kogawa-A warrior through and through. Though he lacks power he does enjoy a tear up and is scarcely in a dull fight
-Suguru Muranaka-Another warrior who enjoys a tear up and is more than happy to let his hands go despite not being a note puncher.
-Knockout CP Freshmart-With a name like “Knockout” you already know he's looking for the stoppage every time.
-Rex Tso-Like many featured above this man from Hong Kong is flawed but that's what makes him so much fun with every fight being a war
-Kyoo Hwan Hwang-Korean teenage has got ability though often lets his "Korean instinct" kick in and turns every fight so far into a slugfest
The interim Champion
The Philippines have several other notable fighters in this division including WBA interim champion Randy Petalcorin who is a much touted southpaw with venomous power and an exciting style. “Razor” is exciting fighter though one who hasn't yet scored a major win with his best scalp to date being against Walter Tello. Hopefully this year we will find out a lot more about the 23 year old southpaw and find out if he has the ability to claim a “real” world title.
Milan Melindo will be the next Asian fighter to fight for a Light Flyweight title when he steps up to take on IBF champion Javier Mendoza on April 25th. Melindo is a fabously talented fighter but one who seems to struggle when he steps up a level and he has struggled with both Jean Piero Perez and Martin Tecuapetla in recent bouts. He's talented but lacks the power and consistency to be genuinely world class.
The notable none Asian (I)
Having just mentioned the IBF champion it makes sense to talk about him a little bit. The heavy handed Javier Mendoza is a wonderfully fun fighter to watch with serious power, aggression and pressure. He's not the most technically capable nor the fastest but it may well take a very good fighter to beat him. Melindo, in our eyes, lacks the style to get the job done in Mexico but it will be fun when the two collide.
The notable non Asian (II)
Mexico's Pedro Guevara may well be the best fighter in the division and yet the 25 year old is generally over-looked by many in the division. Part of the reason he is over-looked is that he lost his first step up bout, coming up short against John Riel Casimero, however since then he has scored 4 straight wins including notable victories over Raul Garcia, Mario Rodriguez and most recently Akira Yaegashi. This kid is extremely talented and appears to have all the tools to be a star.
Images courtesy of:
WBO Boxing (Nietes)
Essam Sanbani (Raymi)
The year really got going in March with a lot of action building on the momentum from February.
The month kicked off with two very interesting cards on March 1st. In Japan we saw Middleweight titles unified as Akio Shibata defeated Daisuke Nakagawa to add the Japanese title to his OPBF belt. Sadly for Nakagawa he would retire after this loss. As for Shibata he has defended the unified crown twice, including a very recent win over Makoto Fuchigami.
In the Philippines on the same day Genesis Servania showed his class as he stopped former world champion Alexander Munoz in 12 rounds. This win saw Servania continuing his rise through the ranks and it now looks likely that he will kick off 2015 with a WBO world title bout.
The busy start to the continued on March 3rd when Japanese boxing fans had “Women's Day” and saw a trio of female world title bouts at the Korakuen Hall. These bouts saw wins for all 3 of the Japanese champions in action with Momo Koseki, Naoko Shibata and Ayaka Miyao all retaining their world titles.
On March 4th we had more title action with a Japanese title double header. These saw Hiroki Okada claim the Japanese Light Welterweight title with a decision win over Masayoshi Kotake and Takayuki Hosokawa upsetting Tadashi Yuba for the Light Middleweight title. For Okada this was his first decision win after starting his career with 7 straight stoppages whilst Hosokawa's reign was a short lived one and he had to give up his title before making a single defense.
In Thailand, also on March 4th, we saw one of the most controversially scored bouts in Asia this year as Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep retained the WBA “interim” Flyweight title with a highly debatable majority decision over Japanese visitor Takuya Kogawa. Kogawa appeared to out work and out fight Yodmongkol though was unable to convince Wan-Soo Yuh, Derek Milham or Pierluigi Poppi that he deserved the win. Sadly the judging over-shadowed what had been a genuinely fantastic and hard fought contest.
After the insanely busy start to the month it was a few days before we saw another Asian fighter in a major bout. This came on March 8th as Nihito Arakawa returned to the US following his thrilling loss to Omar Figueroa, sadly however he was unable to claim a win here either as the Teiken managed Jorge Linares clearly defeated “The Baby Faced Sniper” in a WBC Lightweight eliminator.
On March 11th Japanese fans got a treat as the heavy handed Koji Numata fought to a thrilling draw with Takehiro Shimokawara. The bout was a 12 round war that was incredibly close leading to a split decision draw. A rematch between the two later in the year saw Numata stopping Shimokawara for the title before Numata announced his retirement, incidentally he had also announced his retirement after this draw.
Our “Prospect of the Year”, Kosei Tanaka, fought his first bout of the year on March 16th as he defeated Filipino foe Ronelle Ferreras. Ferreras entered the bout as a world ranked foe though never came close to genuinely testing the Japanese youngster who lost a round en route to a clear 8 round decision win.
Also on March 16th was “The Bloodbath of the Year” as Takuya Watanabe give an-in ring blood donation in his loss to Jaesung Lee. Watanabe was cut early in the bout and although blood was going everywhere the referee was happy for the bout to continue it's 10 round schedule. By the end of the bout Lee's shorts were covered in claret and it was a mystery as to how Watanabe had managed to continue the distance despite leaving much of himself in the ring.
A day later Japanese Welterweight champion Suyon Takayama recorded a narrow defense of his title as he only just over-came Tetsuya Suzuki. Takayama would defend the belt once more, later in the year, and again seemed fortunate to keep the belt with it being very clear that he was one of, if not the, weakest domestic champion in the country.
On March 22nd we got one of the months biggest upsets as Merlito Sabillo was battered by the then unknown Francisco Rodriguez Jr. Sabillo, defending the WBO Minimumweight title, was never really in the bout as his young Mexican foe was too good, too strong and too big. Going in to the bout it was widely seen that Sabillo was taking on a weak foe, oh how wrong we were and Rodriguez was one of the year's genuine revelations, also scoring a win over Katsunari Takayama later in the year.
Just a couple of days after Sabillo's loss we saw another Filipino come up short in a title bout as Vinvin Rufino suffered an 8th round TKO at the hands of Hisashi Amagasa, the OPBF Featherweight champion. On the same show Hidenori Otake retained the Japanese Super Bantamweight title with a narrow decision win over Takafumi Nakajima. Fans in attendance here would almost certainly have been surprised if they were to be told that both Otake, against Scott Quigg, and Amagasa, against Guillermo Rigondeaux, would fight in world title bouts before the year was out.
Staying with disappointment for Filipino fighters we saw Richard Pumicpic come up short in an OPBF Bantamweight title bout against Ryosuke Iwasa. Pumicpic really did give Iwasa a nightmare for 12 rounds though was unable to do quite enough to take the win over “Eagle Eye” who hinted that he had had problems making the 118lb weight limit. Before the year was out however Iwasa had agreed to an IBF Bantamweight world title eliminator, suggesting he was making a little bit of an excuse for a below par performance.
It wasn't all bad for Filipinos however and on the same day Jonathan Taconing claimed the OPBF Light Flyweight title which had been vacated by Naoya Inoue. Taconing took on fellow Filipino Vergilio Silvano and the two men were involved in a full on brawl with Silvano eventually being stopped in round 11. The bout was regarded by many in attendance as one of the year's best contests in the Philippines though sadly full fight footage doesn't seem to have emerged.
On March 26th it was the turn of Thai's to feel disappointed as veteran Denkaosan Kaovichit was stopped by Kohei Kono in a bout for the vacant WBA Super Flyweight title. Kono dropped the Thai in round 4 before finishing him off in round 8 to begin a second reign as a world champion. Sadly for Kono he has been inactive since this win with problems regarding mandatory challenger Koki Kameda delaying any chance of Kono to really build on his momentum. Thankfully however the champion will be back in action on December 31st. For Denkaosan this was the start of a forgetable year which also saw him suffer a KO loss to the exceptionally talented Ryo Matsumoto in September.
On March 29th Russian “Krusher” Sergey Kovalev defended the WBO Light Heavyweight world title with a clear win over the out matched and negative Cedric Agnew who was stopped in 7 rounds after being thoroughly dominated.
The final notable bout of the month saw Ryuji Hara claim the OPBF Minimumweight title with a narrow decision over Filipino Donny Mabao. Mabao failed to make weight though still couldn't defeat the then unbeaten Japanese fighter who took a majority decision over the tough and experienced Filipino who had a 5lb weight advantage on the scales.
This past week saw Boxnation publish an article on the biggest punchers in the sport. The article whilst having solid selections overall did seem to have a general "main stream" bias with only several of the fighters being somewhat unproven American or fighters that are certainly not what they once were.
On the whole the selections they had were solid and credible though we tend to feel that the article failed to really give a fair representation of the fighters from outside of their own broadcasts and when you consider many of their shows are from Europe or North America it explains their bias. Like wise it tended to feel like the article was done by someone who had watched the channel rather than someone who actually watched world wide boxing.
With the issues in the Boxnation article I've decided to do my own "Biggest Punchers" article with 11 fighters.
Gennady Golovkin (29-0, 26) [89.66%]
The one Asian who was represented on the Boxnation article was Kazakhstani Middleweight Gennady Golovkin who has the highest KO % of any active world champion.
Golovkin is really a man who can do anything in the ring though is at his destructive best when he cuts down the ring, forces an opponent to throw then counters with precision and power. It's this power that has made him a star in the US and has helped him become one of the true "must watch" fighters.
Although a highly accomplished amateur Golovkin has become less about "point scoring" in the professional ranks and more about destruction which he has shown in both vicious beat downs and 1-punch KO's. The beat downs, given out to the likes of Gregorz Proksa and Gabriel Rosado, were bludgeoning affairs where every punch took a toll whilst his 1-punch KO's over Lajuan Simon, Nobuhiro Ishida and Matthew Macklin were highlight reel KO's that showed off the explosiveness of the Kazakh.
With 16 straight stoppages, including a number against decent world level opponents, there is little doubting the power of "GGG".
Takashi Uchiyama (21-0-1, 17) [77.27%]
Arguably the hardest punching fighter, pound-for-pound, currently based in the Orient is WBA Super Featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama who's power has lead to his brilliant nickname of "KO Dynamite".
Uchiyama, at 34 years old, does look to be a man on the slide slightly but with his power no one will be in a rush to mix it up with him and one clean shot to either head or body from the huge punching Watanabe Gym fighter can end a fight at any moment.
Uchiyama burst on to the world scene in 2009 when he stopped Juan Carlos Salgado in 12 rounds and has since shown his power by stopping 6 of his subsequent 8 opponents inside the distance including scoring a highlight real KO over the very capable Jorge Solis and a sickening body shot KO over Jaider Parra.
Of the two recent fights that Uchiyama hasn't scored a stoppage in one was a technical draw with rough Filipino Michael Farenas whilst the other was a decision against Daiki Kaneko, a man we feel is a future world champion. Sadly however there is some questioning of just how long Uchiyama has left at the top though for now it's hard to argue with the power of "KO Dynamite"
Shinsuke Yamanaka (21-0-2, 16) [69.57%]
If Uchiyama is Japan's biggest puncher then it's fair to say that Shinsuke Yamanaka is the second biggest despite his record not actually showing it, in fact Yamanaka's record is one of the most misleading in the sport.
The WBC Bantamweight champion stopped just 2 of his first 8 opponents as he began 6-0-2 (2) though from then on he has stopped 14 of 15 opponents with several stoppages over very tough fighters like Ryosuke Iwasa, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Alberto Guevara and Stephane Jamoye. Impressively Yamanaka hasn't just been stopping foes fighter after fight but they have pretty much all been dropped at least once.
Known as the "God of Left" Yamanaka really does have thunder bottled in his left hand and he has developed how he uses it excellently to score real beat downs as well as eye catching KO's. There is little doubt that his level of competition is higher than most fighters, worldwide, and the fact he is stopping world class opponents on a regular basis really does show up just how confusing his KO% actually is.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (27-3-1, 25) [80.65%]
The only Thai on this list is WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai who is a true whirling dervish in the ring. Srisaket's KO rate may be just shy of 81% but, as with Yamanaka, it's a misleading figure with the Thai having stopped 24 of his last 26 foes.
Srisaket of course started his career with an unspectacular 1-3-1 beginning though has risen through the Super Flyweight division by simply destroying opponents with a vicious and never ending assault. It's the not actually raw power which has really helped Srisaket though every punch he lands is hurtful and the cumulative effect of those shots is simply too much for many fighters to take.
In terms of 1-punch power Srisaket is probably lacking though every single shot is nasty, spiteful and hurtful. He's the sort of fighter who my not take your head off with a single shot but will break over the course of a fighter.
Manny Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38) [60.32%]
Filipino puncher Manny Pacquiao was once seen as a phenom in the ring stopping a who's who of top tier fighters from Chatchai Sasakul to Marco Antonio Barrera, from Erik Morales to Ricky Hatton from Oscar De La Hoya to Miguel Cotto. A few short years ago he'd have topped this list based on his scalps alone. Unfortunately however the "Pacman", whilst still hurtful, is no longer the wrecking machine he once was and he hasn't scored a stoppage in his last 8 fights. That has dropped him from 69.09% all the way down to 60.32% despite the drop off in KO's few would argue that Pacquiao is solid puncher.
Part of the drop off in Pacquiao's knockouts has come due to the fact he is facing naturally bigger men, such as Antonio Margarito and Joshua Clottey whilst also facing incredibly tough men such as Timothy Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez and Brandon Rios. He still hits hard but those men are big and tough guys themselves.
Aged 35 the Filipino star is surely on the back end of his illustrious hall of fame career though it's fair to say the KO's he scored through out his career will serve him well with highlight videos being published across the net.
Naoya Inoue (6-0, 5) [83.33%]
When we talk about super stars the new star in world boxing in Naoya Inoue who, after just 6 fights, is already a world champion and already looks like a scary fighter. The 21 year old has managed to claim Japanese, OPBF and world titles in just 6 fights and a combined 36 rounds.
With an 83.33% KO rate Inoue has one of the highest stoppage rates of any active champion and is showed that power to great effect in his title winning effort which saw him stopping Adrian Hernandez for the WBC Light Flyweight title.
It may be a little early to declare Inoue as one of the hardest punchers in the world but his record speaks for it's self and his nickname of "Monster" really does seem accurate with his physical strength as well as his power. Even the jab of the 21 year old seems spiteful never mind his true power shots, such as the beauty he landed against Ngaoprajan Chuwatana in just his second professional contest.
Ryota Murata (4-0, 4)
Arguably the hardest pure puncher currently plying their trade in the Orient is Ryota Murata. The Middleweight sensation may not yet be fighting at the world level though has been cruising through opponents and improving fight after fight.
On debut he of course stopped the OPBF champion Akio Shibata, a man who is stoppable but is in no means soft. He then followed that up with a very good win over the surprisingly tough Dave Peterson before scoring stoppages over former world title challenger Carlos Nascimento and tough Mexican Jesus Angel Nerio.
Whilst no one would suggest Murata is ready for a world title fight he is beating tough guys by breaking them down with his heavy handed assault to head and body and the way he is racing up towards the world rankings is impressive. He is still a work in progress but his power is certainly there, just as it was in the amateurs where he was sensational.
Kanat Islam (16-0, 13) [81.25%]
Gennady Golovkin, our #1 power puncher, isn't the only Kazakh impressing with his power, another is the US based Kanat Islam.
Although Islam is based in Florida he has been making his name in Latin America with fights in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic and has not only been scoring stoppages but has been rising in to the rankings whilst picking up WBA regional titles.
Of course the biggest issue with Islam is that he's not been stopping well known fighters or quality fighters. In fact his best win to date has come over Humberto Toledo, who lasted less than a minute with the big punching Islam. Incidentally Boxnation's list included Randall Bailey who took 8 rounds to take a DQ win over Toledo which would suggest that Islam does hit incredibly hard.
Ranked #11 by the WBA at Light Middleweight Islam is a man who looks likely to make a mark on the wider boxing world in the next year or so. He will need to continue his winning streak though it's hard not to be impressed by a man who is averaging just 2.75 rounds per fight!
Keita Obara (11-1, 10) [83.33%]
One more Japanese fighter who has serious power is OPBF Light Welterweight champion Keita Obara who has thunderous power which has helped him string together 11 straight wins with 10KO's. Those wins have seen him claiming the Japanese and OPBF titles whilst walking through the likes of Jay Solmiano and So Takenaka.
Obara isn't the most skilled or the hardest working but when he tags someone he does serious harm often rendering a fighter void of their senses with just 1 clean shot. This guy has the sort of power that generates excitement, at least domestically.
The problem with Obara is that we're not certain of how well his power will carry up as he moves through the levels to fringe world class. We're hoping it carries up and that he could become a star on the international scene though we will have to wait in the hope that he fights a world ranked fighter like Czar Amonsot, Patomsuk Pathompothong or Min Wook Kim, all of whom would make for fun to watch bouts and a real test for Obara.
Jonathan Taconing (18-2-1, 15) [71.43%]
Another OPBF champion included in this list is Light Flyweight champion Jonathan Taconing who really has spite in his punches despite fighting in the 108lb division.
Taconing first came to the attention of hardcore fans when he went toe-to-toe with Thailand's tough Kompayak Porpramook and appeared to be getting the better of the bout before a controversial technical decision cost Taconing what should have been the WBC Light Flyweight world title, the title that is now around the waist of Naoya Inoue.
Since the loss to Porpramook fans have been able to see Taconing score 5 wins in a combined 23 rounds, including a very impressive stoppage over Vergilio Silvano to claim the OPBF title.
Taconing isn't a big name but he's a fighter with a genuinely exciting style, an aggressive mentality and the ability to give anyone at 108lbs real trouble. We'd love to see him given a second world title fight and with his style he could well
Rey Megrino (21-20-3, 18) [40.91%]
The true "joker" amongst the hardest Asian punchers is the under-rated Filipino Rey Megrino. Although Megrino boasts a KO rate of less than 41% he is a true banger and what he connects with he hurts. Unfortunately he does have one of the most odd and misleading records due to the start of his career which was certainly less than stellar.
Although Megrino has won less than half of his fights he has shown distinct improvements in recent years and those improvements have seen him learning how to use his natural god given power to it's full effect. Those improvements have seen him stopping 5 of his last 6 opponents including the legendary Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, the once touted Kenji Kubo and the unbeaten Ernesto Saulong. In fact the only fighter to survive the distance with Megrino in the last year was Myung Ho Lee who was dropped even though he saw out the distance.
Megrino's current run has seen him climb into the WBC world rankings with a #9 Flyweight ranking and although the ranking, in theory, makes him an attractive target his power has put opponents off and it's completely understandable as to why.
Boxnation logo courtesy of boxnation.com
Images of Golovkin, Srisaket, Pacquiao, Islam, Taconing and Megrino Boxrec.com
Image of Uchiyama courtesy of watanabegym
Image of Yamanaka courtesy of Teiken
Image of Inoue courtesy of Ohashi Gym
Image of Murata courtesy of boxingnews.jp
Image of Keita Obara courtesy of Keita Obara's facebook
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