Earlier this year we did a number of “Divisional Overview” pieces before taking a hiatus with the Bantamweight division due to the fact there was a number of big bouts lined up one after the other the space of a few weeks. Now we've had those bouts and we can finally let loose with out “Divisional Overview-The Brilliant Bantamweights”.
To begin we look at 9 of the best from Asia, then we take a look at some lesser figures from the Asian boxing scene and then some international fighters. Hopefully we'll help to show just how interesting the division is right now.
Other notable Asians-
Malcolm Tunacao (35-5-5, 20)-Former Flyweight champion Tunacao is 37 and father time will certainly end his career shortly but he's still a real threat in the division and the 2-time OPBF champion still can't be forgotten about given his ability and experience. In fact he gave Yamanaka one of his toughest fights so far back in 2013.
Hideo Sakamoto (16-1-2, 5)-Japanese 29 year old Sakamoto isn't a world beater by any means but he is one of the divisions most over-looked fighters and he is currently on a 6 fight winning streak, dating back 4 years, since losing a close one to Eita Kikuchi. Among those wins are stoppages against Hiroki Shiino and Kazuyoshi Niki.
Yu Kawaguchi (23-6, 10)-Current OPBF champion Kawaguchi isn't the best fighter in Asia but he's a feel good story and his recent win over Takahiro Yamamoto was certainly career defining. We suspect he may be a target for fighters like Omori or Matsumoto if they can't secure bigger fights next time out.
Kazuki Tanaka (2-0, 2)-Japanese prospect Tanaka is viewed as one of the most exciting young fighters in Japan and his team are suggesting he could go all the way. Whilst it's hard to say for now we don't expect to need to wait too long with the view being that he will fight a JBC ranked opponent next time out.
Petch Sor Chitpattana (30-0, 19)-Unbeaten Thai youngster Petch is only 21 but has been racking up wins at an alarming pace since his 2011 debut. His competition so far has been poor to say the least but he already has a WBC world ranking.
Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym (47-2, 27)-Thai veteran Panomroonglek is best known for losing to Koki Kameda though it seems he now has every intention of making a move towards a WBA title fight.
Jamie McDonnell (26-2-1, 12)-Englishman McDonnell recently defeated Tomoki Kameda to retain his WBA "regular" title and it now seems like we could describe him as the #2 in the division. His title might only be a "secondary" title but the win over Kameda was a big one.
Juan Carlos Payano (16-0, 8)-Dominican fighter Payano is the current WBA "super" champion and is the man who eventually defeated Anselmo Moreno, albeit it in controversial circumstances. Payano is "the man" in terms of the WBA but he's yet to defend his title and has done nothing to inspire us into believing he'll be a long term title holder.
Randy Caballero (22-0, 13)-IBF champion Caballero made a splash in Japan last year when he stopped Kohei Oba in an IBF eliminator. A fight later Caballero claimed the IBF title though unfortunately suffered a serious injury before his first defense. On his return he's expected to face Ryusoke Iwasa or...
...Lee Haksins (31-3, 13)-Haskins is another Englishman and will be fighting Iwasa on June 13th. He's a tricky southpaw who holds notable wins over McDonnell and Stuart Hall and has done everything but fight for a world title.
Julio Ceja (29-1, 26)-Big punching Mexican is a serious threat and has spoken of fighting Shinsuke Yamanaka in the past. On paper he's a major threat and a really good boxer-puncher, though he has been beaten by McDonnell and was surprisingly taken the distance by Oscar Blanquet last time out.
If you were to ask me what I think of 2014 so far, I'd say that the year has been very quiet. Whilst some fight fans will say that the first few weeks of any new year is quiet for boxing this one just seems quieter than usual.
I understand, that the lack of fights is, at least partially, down to the winter Olympics. I can appreciate that no promoter wants to go head-to-head with one of the biggest sporting events of the year. Though what I can't understand is the real lack of action in almost every country. Some weeks haven't just been quiet but have been pretty much silent in terms of notable fights (and I really stretch the definition of "notable fights" right here).
Thankfully though the lack of action in the ring hasn't stopped us from getting word of several major bouts which are either signed or strongly rumoured for this year. It appears that the battling in the ring might have been unexciting but the battle of the match makers, promoters and lawyers has been highly enticing.
I've decided that, instead of talking about the lack of bouts for once, I'd take a look at some of the best ones that have either been signed, are getting signed or seem likely to be made later this year.
Naoya Inoue v Adrian Hernandez (April 6th, Ota-City General Gymnasium, Tokyo)
The first big major bout that we've got coming up was announced just a few short days ago and features Japanese youngster Naoya Inoue (5-0, 4) taking on Mexican Adrian Hernandez (29-2-1, 18) for the WBC Light Flyweight title.
Aged 20 Inoue is still a boxing baby though his potential was clear from his days as an amateur and his desire to be one of the fastest moved fighters in the history of the sport has been a real breath of fresh air. For some however he is being rushed too fast and should have had a few more fights before fighting a dangerous for like Hernandez.
From where I am sat Inoue is more than ready for a world title fight. He is wonderfully gifted, exciting, and more advanced than almost anyone else his age. As well as that he has also been given top training by his father, Shingo Inoue, and has shared a ring with both Akira Yaegashi and Ryota Murata, both of whom have had nothing but glowing words about the youngster.
Hernandez is dangerous and experienced. He does however have numerous flaws and could well be the weakest of the champions at 108lbs. It's a huge ask for Inoue, of course it is, but this is the aggressive matchmaking which has made the Ohashi Gym so well liked by fans and fighters alike.
(Picture, left to right: Shingo Inoue, Naoya Inoue, Akira Yaegashi and Hideyuki Ohashi)
Hozumi Hasegawa v Kiko Martinez (April 23rd, Castle Hall, Osaka)
The second great looking match up takes place less than 3 weeks after the Inoue/Hernandez fight and will see former Bantamweight and Featherweight champion Hozumi Hasegawa (33-4, 15) attempting to become a 3-weight world champion. As with Inoue's bout Hasegawa will be taking on a dangerous world champion as he battles Spain's Kiko Martinez (30-4, 22), the current IBF Super Bantamweight champion.
Martinez was a man courted by a number of fighters, including Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg, though it seems that Hasegawa's team have done enough to convince him to travel for his first bout in Asia.
Whilst Hasegawa, at 33 years old, is a man coming to the end of his career he will feel like he has one more great performance left in him. He'll be hoping that that great performance happens here as Kiko is a very dangerous puncher with an all out pressure mind-set. The Spaniard isn't the most skilled but is very strong and has a brutal attitude in the ring.
If Hasegawa, who some are already writing off, can beat Martinez he will become Japan's second ever 3-weight world champion and cap off a remarkable career. He may not have become the star of Japanese boxing like some had hoped but his name, win or lose, will be very fondly remembered by the boxing fans in his homeland. A win however would see him being put up amongst the genuinely great Japanese fighters.
Picture: Hozumi Hasegawa and Shinsuke Yamanaka
Tomoki Kameda v Pungluang Sor Singyu (Date and venue yet to be announced)
There is something about the Japanese/Thai rivalry that really adds an extra something to bouts. This will next be seen at the world level later this month as Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep defends his WBA interim Flyweight title against Takuya Kogawa. That fight however pales in comparison to the bout between WBO Bantamweight champion Tomoki Kameda (29-0, 18), pictured, and Pungluang Sor Singyu (46-2, 31).
Whilst no date has been set for Tomoki/Pungluang it's a bout that is very difficult not get very excited about. Tomoki looks to be the best fighter in Kameda family and can do it all. He can box wonderfully on the back foot or he can fight going forward. Pungluang on the other hand is an in your face fighter from Thailand who comes forward and tries to make every bout a real fight. If he can cut the ring off from Kameda this could be a potential fight of the year.
The few details that have been leaked about this contest is that it could take place in either Japan or the US. I'm personally hoping it's in the US so that every fan state side gets a chance to see these two men in action and gets to see a very even looking all-Asian bout that could well reignite the interest in watching these sorts of bouts in both the US and Europe.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai v Carlos Cuadras (Date and venue yet to be announced)
If I'm excited about the prospect of Tomoki Kameda fighting Pungluang Sor Singyu then I'm even more excited by the potential Super Flyweight clash between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (24-3-1, 22) and Mexico's unbeaten Carlos Cuadras (29-0, 24).
This, a WBC mandatory for champion Srisaket, has all the ingredients of being a special contest between two big hitting fighters and aggressively minded fighters.
Srisaket was one of the break out stars of last year and scored an impressive 7 victories, 6 by KO, which included a shockingly destructive victory over Yota Sato and impressive beat down of the brave Hirofumi Mukai. Although he's relatively unknown outside of Thailand and Japan Srisaket is nothing short of terrifying.
Like Srisaket, Cuadras is also aggressively minded and with the bout rumoured to be in Mexico he may well have a notable advantage in terms of home field. Saying that though Srisaket is by far the best fighter that Cuadras will have ever stepped in to the ring with and may well have too much power, aggression, strength and toughness for the unbeaten Mexican.
The only things confirmed about this bout is that Teiken will be the promoters and this it will be a sure fire war for as long as it lasts.
Picture is from Srisaket's Sor Rungvisai's victory over Yota Sato
Shinsuke Yamanaka v Leo Santa Cruz (Speculative)
The first of two "speculative" bouts that I'm excited about sees WBC Bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka (20-0-2, 15) moving up to Super Bantamweight to challenger WBC champion Leo Santa Cruz (26-0-1, 15).
The bout is one that Yamanaka has been talking about a lot to the Japanese press and seems to be a contest he really wants even though he would have to step up in weight and travel to the US to get it, two things he has been very happy to accept.
Yamanaka has helped pressure the fight by doing a better job on former Santa Cruz opponent Alberto Guevara and seems set to do the same against Stephane Jamoye when the two meet on April 23rd. Whilst some may view this as Yamanaka fighting Santa Cruz's "cast off's" the fact he is looking to do a better job than Santa Cruz could well be enough to make fans question just how good Santa Cruz really is.
As for Santa Cruz, the all out Mexican fighting machine will need to get past slippery and skilful Cristian Mijares on March 8th for this bout to take place. We don't imagine Santa Cruz will have any problems with Mijares though we'd not be shocked if Santa Cruz tries to show more to his boxing than his pressure style, at least for a few rounds.
Akira Yaegashi v Roman Gonzalez (Speculative)
Last week saw Ohashi gym announcing a show for April 6th that included not only Naoya Inoue's bout with Adrian Hernandez, see above, but also a contest between WBC Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi (19-3, 9) and Odilon Zaleta (15-3, 8) as well as an under-card contest involving Roman Gonalez (38-0, 32).
When that card was announced Yaegashi seemed to strongly suggest that his next defense, if he gets past Zaleta of course, will be against Gonzalez in what is a Flyweight contest to really be excited about.
Gonzalez, who fought this past weekend against Juan Kantun, is arguably the best offensive fighter on the planet. He is a destructive machine that combines speed, power, skill and an outstanding array of punches.
If the bout, as expected, gets signed for fall or winter then we have a bout that will see Yaegashi's toughness and experienced put against Gonzalez's intelligent aggression. One thing is certain, this one will have the potential to be a fight of the year.
Of course, no date has been set for this one and both men will need to win on April 6th but that shouldn't be a problem.
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