By Daniel Sharman
Of all the heated debates that occur within the boxing fandom, perhaps that which rages most fiercely concerns the matter of various boxers' place within the so-called 'pound for pound' rankings. And this is no merely theoretical matter: a boxers' having his P4P status recognised is one important way in which he can advance his career, attract fan attention, increase his earnings, and open up new opportunities for himself. In this article, I want to look at WBO flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka's case for being considered P4P, a fighter whose achievements, due in large part to his size and nationality, have gone relatively unnoticed, and who is coming off his most polished performance to date against overmatched Wulan Tuolehazi. To highlight these achievements, and to support the claim that Tanaka's lack of P4P recognition is in large part due to factors unrelated to his talent and skill, I want to contrast Tanaka's case with a fighter who has received much fanfare and critical acclaim in recent months, Errol Spence Jr.
Whilst I could have chosen other fighters from the current P4P rankings, it seems that Spence's P4P recognition in particular owes more to his promotional presence, media advocacy, and fan following, than his actual achievements in the sport to date.1 This becomes even clearer when the matter is viewed from the perspective of Spence's first recognition as a P4P fighter, prior to his fights with Mikey Garcia and Shawn Porter (whilst P4P archives are relatively inaccessible, it seems that Spence has been listed as P4P for getting on for about 2 years now. For instance, TBRB listed him at number 10 as of 22 April 20182). Unlike Spence, Tanaka, despite achievements comparable to others ranked in the P4P, has never been listed, and, as far as I'm aware, has never been close to being listed. This seems to owe to two factors. Firstly, Tanaka is a lighter, smaller fighter (currently fighting at 115lbs), and, secondly, he is a little-promoted Japanese fighter who is yet to fight abroad. Conversely, Spence is an American fighting at welterweight, and has been selected by PBC's promotional machine (and their licensed media acolytes3) as a brand leader, and as such has been heavily promoted.
Now, the method most commentators adopt when drawing up their top 10 pound for pound lists is the same as that used when drawing up divisional top 10 rankings. To determine the overall quality of a fighter relative to his peers, multiple different factors, each of which is taken to be indicative of a fighter's quality, are taken into account. For example, number of championships held, number of weight divisions conquered, quality of opponents, quality of wins, career trajectory, and so on. What is most definitely not relevant to a fighters' P4P status is incidental facts about them, such as their nationality, their fan base, their name recognition, and, most importantly, their size and weight (after all, the whole point of P4P is that it doesn't take this fact into account). Of course, there are some factors which are partially relevant. For instance, whilst the fact that a boxer fights exclusively in his home nation is not necessarily indicative of a lack of skill on his part, a boxer who has travelled around the world beating home fighters in their backyards may be legitimately seen as more talented as a result. Nevertheless, with all this in view, I think it's more than fair to claim that Kosei Tanaka not only deserves a spot on the P4P lists, but should in fact take the spot currently held by Errol Spence.
To begin, lets quickly recap Tanaka's achievements in the sport so far.
Tanaka is a three weight world champion in just fourteen fights, and after only 6 years of being a professional. As such, he is tied with long-reigning P4P top 3 star Vasyl Lomachenko for being the fastest ever fighter to become a three weight division champion, both achieving the feat in just 12 fights.
Indeed, Tanaka has also bested another top 3 P4P entrant, his illustrious countryman and current unified bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue, to become the fastest ever Japanese fighter to win a world title, taking only 5 fights to do so. He achieved this feat whilst only 19 years old, making him at the time one of the youngest belt-holders in the sport. Despite being only 24 years old currently, each of Tanaka's three championships have all been full world titles, and not secondary trinkets such as the WBA 'regular' belt or an interim title (this cannot be said of those such as Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez or Gervonta Davis). Further, Tanaka won these titles legitimately in the ring, not being 'upgraded' from a secondary or interim status (such as in the case of Devin Haney or Jean Pascal).
Furthermore, Tanaka has a record of 9-0 (5 KOs) in world title fights, and a record of 5-0 (2 KOs) against former or current world champions: these include wins against Vic Saludar, Moises Fuentes, Angel Acosta (then undefeated), Sho Kimura, and Ryoichi Taguchi. Given that several of the fighters listed later went onto become world champions speaks well of the quality of Tanaka's defences, and demonstrates his willingness to face tough opponents. Compare this with Spence's current record of 5-0 (3 KOs) in world title fights, and 5-0 against current or former world champions. Also note that when Spence was first listed as P4P, his record stood at only 2-0 (2 KOs), and 3-0 (3 KOs), respectively.
Despite his short career and lack of professional experience (compare his 15 fights with Spence's 26), Tanaka has faced good quality opposition throughout his career. Perhaps his best opposition has come in his fights against Sho Kimura and Ryoichi Taguchi. Kimura, the only reigning champion Tanaka has fought in his career thus far, had only lost on his debut, and so was essentially undefeated going into his fight with Tanaka. Further, Kimura was riding a four fight KO streak going into the bout. Despite being only his second fight at flyweight after moving up, Tanaka and Shimura put on a brilliant display, making for a strong fight of the year candidate. Tanaka won the bout by majority decision, thus becoming a three weight world champion.
Contrastingly, the only reigning champion that Spence has beaten is Kell Brook. Whilst Brook was once a brilliant fighter, at the time of his bout with Spence he was coming straight off a KO loss, having moved up to middleweight to receive an absolute bludgeoning from then unified, undefeated champion Gennady Golovkin. In addition to taking heavy punishment in general, Brook sustained a gruesome orbital fracture on his right eye socket in the fight. Despite undergoing surgery, Brook had no tune-up fight and went straight into his mandatory defence against Spence. Even though Brook was still able to keep the bout competitive, he ultimately had to withdraw from the bout in the 11th round after suffering another orbital fracture, this time to his left eye socket.
Furthermore, and perhaps more impressively, Tanaka voluntarily chose as his first defence the skilled and respected Ryoichi Taguchi, a former unified, Ring magazine light flyweight champion. Whilst Taguchi was coming off his first loss in 5 years, this had been to the highly regarded Hekkie Budler, and the loss was a close unanimous decision. Tanaka won the bout by UD, cementing his place within the division, and is now almost universally regarded as the number one at flyweight, being recognised as such by organisations such as TBRB and the Ring magazine. Notably, despite this tough first defence, Tanaka proceeded to fight twice more in 2019, against skilled mandatory challenger Jonathan Gonzalez, and Chinese breakout Wulan Tuolehazi.
Spence has also made respectable defences of his title, such as against former unified super lightweight champion Lamont Peterson, and undefeated contender Carlos Ocampo. However, whilst Spence's and Tanaka's current championship reigns are roughly equal in terms of quality of opposition, it should be noted that this is Tanaka's third title reign, not his first. As mentioned, he has previously faced stiff challenges as a champion at lower weights against Acosta, Saludar, and so on. Now, of course, Spence, unlike Tanaka, currently stands as a unified champion after his win over WBC champ Shawn Porter. This is a very respectable win, and the fight between the two was exceptional. Indeed, some commentators, such as the Ring's Michael Montero,4 erect new standards that fighters like Tanaka must meet in order to be considered pound for pound, such as needing to unify their title.
However, two things have to be noted. First, Spence won his unification bout by close, somewhat controversial split decision, being taken to his very limits, and leaving a good number of commentators feeling that Porter did enough to win the fight. Second, this standard is not imposed across the board for P4P inclusion, and was not imposed in the case of Spence. Thus, it appears to be no more than a moving of the goalposts to try and justify Tanaka's exclusion from the current P4P rankings. Indeed, not only was this standard not imposed on Spence, but he was actually moved up the pound for pound lists simply for beating an overmatched Mikey Garcia (whose career started at 125lbs) in a more-style-than-substance PBC showcase fight, prior to any form of unification.
Nevertheless, it worth mentioning for those like Montero, who actually claims that Japanese fighters don't care to unify that, if not for injuries sustained against Palangpol CP Freshmart, a unification bout against Ryochi Taguchi likely would have occurred in 2018. If Tanaka had won this bout (and it is likely given that he beat Taguchi just a year later), this would have made him a unified champion in only 11 fights. Also, it is perhaps worth mentioning here that Spence himself has shown relatively little serious interest in pursuing the most obvious unification fight in his own weight class, a fight against P4P star Terence Crawford; this would not appear to be the behaviour of a genuine P4P fighter.
Of course, like everyone else, I want to see Tanaka unify his flyweight title sooner rather than later. My preference would be for a fight against IBF champ Moruti Mthalane, who has dominated in the lower weight classes for years, and is coming off a very impressive stoppage of Akira Yaegashi. If that fight were to happen next, I would give Mthalane a very good chance of winning it.
It might be objected that Tanaka cannot be considered P4P given that he has been knocked down in several fights, and sustained a fair amount of punishment. He was also being outboxed up until his stoppages of Gonzalez and Saludar. To the first objection, I would respond that countless quality fighters (and hall of famers) have been down multiple times throughout their careers, and, more importantly, given how quickly Tanaka has progressed through the upper echelons of the pro-ranks, it is no surprise that his has experienced some setbacks and adversity along the ways (recall that Tanaka fought Saludar in his 6th pro fight).
Indeed, the fact that he has overcome this adversity speaks to his quality as a fighter, showing that he has heart, belief, and the will to fight back when things are not going his way. To the second objection, I would simply note that, one, every fighter has off days (it is known that Tanaka has a virus that prevented effective weight-cutting for the Gonzalez bout), and, two, Deontay Wilder's being comprehensively outboxed up until his stops his opponents is seen as a reason to rank him as P4P and as a top heavyweight, rather than exclude him from it.
Lastly, some might complain that the lighter weight divisions are less competitive than some of the heavier divisions because there are far more boxers in the larger weight divisions. This is a fair objection, and, in general, the greater the number of fighters in a division, the harder it is to get and stay at the top of that division. Nevertheless, I do not think is sufficient reason to exclude Tanaka from the P4P ranks in place of a fighter such as Errol Spence. This is because Tanaka has repeatedly sought out difficult challenges, and these top contenders are easily comparable, from a P4P perspective, with contenders from higher weight divisions. Indeed, despite having many boxers within them, the general quality of some higher weight divisions is for all that is still relatively low.
So what more could Tanaka could? If my argument has been correct, then he has already achieved more than a highly ranked P4P entrant such as Errol Spence Jr. Perhaps he could unify his current division, or, as seems more likely, move up in weight to fight WBO super flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka. If Tanaka were to win this latter bout, he would thereby be a four-weight champion in a record number of bouts; perhaps if Ioka fights and beats Juan Francisco Estrada next, Ioka will take Estrada's current P4P ranking, and then this will be up for grabs if and when he fights Tanaka. However, this is all speculation, and P4P recognition for Tanaka in the near future seems doubtful. After all, it seems a good deal of fans simply can't accept the foundational principle of P4P in the first place: that weight class is irrelevant to fighter's right for a place within it. Rather, they incoherently suppose that being in a glamour division like welterweight or heavyweight makes a fighter more deserving of P4P recognition. If this is indeed the case, it seems all we can hope is that Tanaka keeps winning, and, as he does so, gradually begins to gain the recognition his talents and achievements deserve.
1 As this article is primarily intended to highlight Tanaka's case for a place within the P4P top 10, I have left out any substantial discussion of the notion of P4P itself; nevertheless, I have attached an appendix briefly discussing the idea of the P4P and its purpose.
3 At least amongst hardcore boxing fans, inclusion in the P4P rankings is an effective way to promote a fighter.
4 See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-ZHb0b7Aq4&t=1257s timestamp: 19:35
(Image courtesy of A.McGovern)
By Daniel Sharman (email@example.com)
In November 2019, a most remarkable event occurred, one which went almost unnoticed amongst boxing fans: every single major champion within the bantamweight division faced off against another consensus top 10 fighter within the division. Indeed, if Rodriguez-Nery hadn't been scuppered at the last minute, eight top 10 bantamweights would have faced off against one another within just a single calendar month. This is a truly astonishing occurrence, and one seldom witnessed in modern day boxing, wherein top fighters are routinely inactive and often reluctant to fight one another.
In the wake of this eventful month, which has seen a number of other interesting developments within the division, four fighters have emerged thick amongst the clouds: Naoya Inoue, Nonito Donaire, Nordine Oubaali, and John Riel Casimero. In this new series, I will look at each of these four boxers in turn, considering matchups and mandatories, all with a view to plotting the course of a possible route to a new undisputed, and new lineal, bantamweight champion. In this, the prelude to the series, we recap the major events leading up to the current moment, and prepare the way for an examination of the four boxers who have emerged in the current bid for bantamweight supremacy. Whilst it may not yet be clear who will ultimately come out victorious, whoever it is will have achieved true supremacy, and will have left their name boldly etched in the annals of history.
A timeline of recent events:
24/04/2019, South Africa: WBO bantamweight titlist Zolani Tete is forced to withdraw from the WBSS quarterfinal, a unification bout with WBA 'super' champion Nonito Donaire, due to injury.
18/05/2019, Glasgow: Naoya Inoue starches undefeated IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez in two rounds in the WBSS quarterfinal.
07/11/2019, 9:00pm, Saitama: Nordine Oubaali and Takuma Inoue fight to unify the full and interim WBC bantamweight titles. Oubaali outpoints a determined and skilful Inoue over 12 rounds to retain his full version of the WBC crown.
07/11/2019, 9:30pm, Saitama: Donaire and Inoue meet in a scintillating WBSS final. The fight, which goes the distance, proves to be a fight of the year frontrunner with veteran Donaire acquitting himself brilliantly.
Inoue survives a severe orbital fracture to emerge as a newly unified champion whilst cementing his spot at the top of the P4P lists. He also announces his new co-promotional deal with Top Rank, with his next fight planned to be held in Vegas in April.
Meanwhile, Oubaali immediately expresses his desire to unify with Inoue, who reciprocates likewise, stating his desire to gain revenge for his brother.
20/11/2019: Bob Arum, Inoue's new co-promoter, informs reporters that Inoue's camp has told him that Inoue's eye injury is not too severe, and so the unified bantamweight world champion should be ready to return in March or April.
22/11/2019, Las Vegas: WBC mandatory challenger Luis Nery weighs in a pound over the bantamweight limit before his final eliminator bout with former IBF champion Rodriguez. This marks at least the fourth time Nery has missed the bantam limit in his professional career.
23/11/2019: Donaire indicates he has no plans to retire, and expresses an interest in rematching Inoue or facing Oubaali for his WBC crown.
28/11/2019, Mexico City: Marking the end of a long period of continued leniency, the WBC officially withdraws Nery's mandatory status. WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman advises Nery to move up one or even two weight divisions.
30/11/2019, Birmingham, UK: WBO interim titlist John Riel Casimero scores a big upset win, icing the returning WBO champion Tete within three rounds. With this, Casimero officially becomes a three weight world champion.
In his post-fight interview, Casimero immediately calls out Inoue for a unification matchup. Inoue immediately responds via Twitter to affirm his desire for such a fight to take place.
04/12/2019, Tokyo: At their 32nd annual convention, the WBO affirm their intention to work towards making a unification bout between Inoue and their own champ Casimero.
09/12/2019, Mexico City: In light of Nery's removal from the mandatory position, the WBC board vote to instate their #4 contender Donaire as Oubaali's new mandatory challenger. Purse bids scheduled for January 3rd. Donaire shares this news positively on his social media.
09/12/2019, New Jersey: the IBF order Inoue to defend against mandatory challenger Michael Dasmarinas. Purse bids scheduled for January 2nd.
Coming up in the series...
Issue 1: Donaire, the Veteran
Issue 2: Casimero, the Wildcard
Issue 3: Oubaali, the Dark Horse
Issue 4: Inoue, the Heir Apparent
*Note: For the purposes of the current series, I have opted to ignore Luis Nery. This is due to Nery's missing weight in his latest contest, and the WBC's subsequent removal of him from their rankings. If Nery can still make bantamweight, it seems that the best he can hope for currently is a shot at the winner of the WBA 'regular' title fight between Rigondeaux and Solis. This rather lacklustre prospect fails to warrant him a spot in the bid to become 'the man' of the bantamweight division.
By Daniel Sharman
The lineal or 'World' championship has for decades held a special place in the hearts and minds of ardent boxing fans around the globe. Whilst major alphabet titles in the form of belts are both overly ubiquitous and often held by fighters without any sort of legitimate claim to supremacy within a weight class, the lineal champion is the fighter who can legitimately claim to be the best of the best, the true number one fighter within a given division. For a boxer to acquire the lineal status is for him to reach the pinnacle of the sport within his era, and serves as a notice to all other boxers in a weight class that this is the man to beat.
However, in recent times, largely due to Tyson Fury's vocal promotion of his own status as lineal heavyweight champion, it has become fairly commonplace to see boxing 'fans' criticise the very notion of a lineal champion, and label it as 'imaginary', 'made-up', and so on. Whilst these criticisms are usually made by those who are either uninformed, unable to understand the concept, or simply trolling, some more distinguished voices have spoken dismissively of the idea of a lineal championship (such as, for example, Thomas Hauser). Thus, in this two part series, I will address the two main criticisms levelled against the lineal championship, both of which I believe to be mistaken. This will also act as a follow up article to my previous one regarding the possibility of Naoya Inoue securing the lineal bantamweight title.
1.) "The lineal championship doesn't exist."
This is the main criticism directed towards the lineal championship. The criticism usually goes as follows: as there is no belt to be won for the lineal title, and no organisational rules to adhere to (e.g. enforced mandatory challenges), the lineal title isn't real; it's just 'made-up'.
This criticism gets the situation entirely the wrong way round. It is not the lineal title which is invented, but rather the championship titles proffered by various sanctioning bodies. It is the various alphabets titles which are created or made-up, whereas the lineal title is the real championship, existing separate to the dictates of any group of individuals who decide to call themselves a 'sanctioning' or 'governing' body. Fundamentally, the lineal championship is not the same as a championship which is sanctioned and controlled by a governing body (e.g. the WBC); the lineal title is not owned by any specific organisation or cabal of individuals, and was not created by them. Any group of people can get together, form an organisation, and decide to start giving out 'championships': this is what happened with the WBA and WBC, followed by the IBF, then WBO, and now the IBO. These titles only have legitimacy insofar as people are willing to recognise them as valuable (for instance, at one point the WBO was seen as illegitimate). By contrast, the lineal title is by definition legitimate: it is no more and no less than a designation which is attached to the best fighter within a given weight division, and a boxer's possessing the lineal championship amounts simply to the fact that others, both boxers and non-boxers alike, recognise that fighter's status as the best within their weight division.
Whereas the legitimacy of sanctioning body titles is subjective, or dependent on opinion, the legitimacy of the lineal championship is objective, or dependent on fact.
The word 'champion' itself implies the existence of a world or lineal champion: a champion means one who has shown his superiority to all others in some matter decided by public contest or competition, in this case, boxing. Thus, it is incoherent to maintain that there can be any more than one champion in a given weight class (let alone four or more). Indeed, the major sanctioning bodies, in mutually recognising one another's titles, themselves thereby tacitly conceding that the person whom they crown 'champion' is not really the champion, the true number one. And, it especially ridiculous that those fans who happily recognise all four major titles will at the same time denigrate the lineal championship; they are willing to accept a situation which is contradictory in itself, whilst denying the existence of something far more coherent.
Now, as regards the lineal championship, a boxer's holding the lineal status continues up until such point as he loses it to another fighter (who then succeeds him as the lineal champion), or he permanently retires (at least from the weight class in which he possessed the title). And the way a vacant lineal championship is filled is simple: the two boxers recognised as the best in the division square off against one another, and whoever wins assumes the new title.
It is almost universally agreed that there are too many titles in boxing, but most fans of the sport seem to have lost track of what championship titles are actually intended to be. Each governing body, at least in theory, intends their championship to be held by the genuine number one in a given division; when a fighter wins their championship, they are given a belt as an outward symbol or manifestation of their status as champion. It is not the belt itself which is important, and it is only supposed to outwardly show the important thing: that the person with the belt around their waist is the true champion, the genuine number one. The belt follows the championship, not the other way round.
It seems that fans, in our materially obsessed age, have got the order of things muddled. Many fans act as if the important thing is the physical act of holding a belt, and that, by holding the belt, a boxer thereby acquires the status of champion. This is all wrong: holding a belt merely indicates in a visible and aesthetically pleasing way that a given fighter is champion, no more, no less. By thinking that holding a belt makes one a champion, fans have fostered an environment in which sanctioning bodies are able to endlessly proliferate world titles on no greater basis than their ability to physically proliferate the belts themselves (note, for instance, that the WBA's 'regular' and 'super' belts are visually indistinguishable).
To recap, the lineal championship exists. It is a status or designation which is held by the best boxer in a weight class. Whilst there is no physical belt which a boxer receives to represent his status as lineal champion, he can nevertheless hold that status, and can only lose it through either retiring or being beaten by another fighter. The lineal champion is the real champion in a weight class. Unlike the championship titles of sanctioning bodies, the lineal title was not invented or contrived by an organisation or group of individuals, and its legitimacy is not dependent on people conferring legitimacy upon it; it is simply the designation given to the best fighter within a weight class, and exists above and beyond the whims of any self-purported sanctioning body whom the public may be willing to accept.
Coming up in Part 2: Responding to "The lineage has been broken, and so is no longer valid!"
(Images of Yuri Arbachakov and Daisuke Naito courtesy of http://jpba.gr.jp/, Image of Pongsaklek Wonjongkam courtesy of Thairec)
Naoya Inoue: the Next Lineal Champion?
By Daniel Sharman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
News came through earlier today that the WBC have officially rescinded Luis Nery's status as mandatory challenger to bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali. Until recently, a decision made at the WBC's 2019 annual convention had put Nery in line to get a shot at whoever was holding the green belt following a consolidation bout between Oubaali and interim titlist Takuma Inoue. Although assured a position as mandatory, Nery put himself forward to fight a final eliminator against recently dethroned, former IBF bantamweight champion, Emmanuel Rodriguez.
An issue arose when Nery scaled 1lb over the 118lb bantamweight limit, missing weight for at least the fourth time in his career (the most infamous occasion being when Nery weighed in at an egregious 123lb during his 2018 rematch with Shinsuke Yamanaka). However, rather than attempt to lose the weight (presumably because Nery felt he could go no lighter), Nery and his team made the questionable move of offering $25,000 worth of compensation to Rodriguez for the bout to go ahead. In an act of great integrity, Rodriguez refused the offer, and the bout was cancelled, with neither fighter receiving any payment whatsoever.
This courageous act of Rodriguez's seems to have been the straw which has broken the proverbial camel's back, and has set in motion a chain of events which might finally see Nery properly reprimanded for his continued misdemeanours and lack of professionalism. It seems that this latest incident has lead the WBC to finally withdraw its sustained support for Nery as a bantamweight: not only has the WBC rescinded Nery's mandatory status, the WBC's president Mauricio Sulaiman has gone a far to declare that “[Nery] can no longer campaign at bantamweight”, and that “it is [the WBC's] recommendation that he fights at (122 pounds) or even featherweight.”
Whilst this turn of events is somewhat surprising given the fact that the WBC have seemingly carried water for Nery over the past couple of years, it seems that Nery's continued errors are becoming a source of embarrassment even for them. Nevertheless, it is a very welcome outcome, and the just one given the circumstances.
More importantly, this occurrence could have a number of interesting ramifications for the bantamweight division. Whilst his being stripped of his mandatory position does not necessarily mean Nery will move up in weight, it is likely given that the only other sanctioning body he holds a ranking within is the WBA (no. 5), and it wouldn't be surprising if the WBC installed him high up in their rankings at super bantamweight, especially given that Rigondeaux, who most recently won a WBC final eliminator at super bantamweight, is moving down to fight for the vacant WBA regular bantamweight title this December. In this connection, it should be seriously noted that Rigondeaux, like Nery, is a PBC fighter, and it would be entirely unsurprising if Nery in his next fight challenged Rigondeaux for that title. The WBA has shown a complete willingness to facilitate PBC's isolationism through the use of its 'regular' titles, allowing exclusively in-house fights to have the veneer of being 'world championship' bouts.
However, putting these issues to one side, and assuming that Nery will be exiting the bantam division due to an inability to make weight, let us assess the situation how his absence may affect the issue of the vacant bantamweight lineal or 'world' championship, that is, the fighter who can truly claim to be the best in a given weight class.
In the last year of so, the general consensus has formed that Naoya Inoue and Luis Nery respectively represent no. 1 and no. 2 in the bantamweight division. For instance (current as of 28/11/2019):
The Ring has Inoue as their champion, and Nery as their no. 1 contender;
Boxing Monthly has Inoue at 1, Nery at 2;
TBRB has Inoue at 1, Nery at 2;
ESPN has Inoue at 1, Nery at 2;
Boxrec has Inoue at 1 (650 pts), Nery at 2 (443.6 pts).
This has lead to the formation of a further consensus that in order for a new lineal to be crowned, Inoue and Nery must face off against one another.
This is problematic for at least two reasons. First, Nery fights under the banner of American promotional outfit PBC, whereas Inoue has recently signed a co-promotional deal with Bob Arum's Top Rank. As mentioned above, the PBC has voiced an express desire to be an isolated 'island' putting on only in-house fights, it was a serious question as to whether a fight between Inoue and Nery could ever be made, even if both fighters hypothetically wanted it (see, for comparison, the situation between Top Rank's Crawford and PBC's Errol Spence).
Second, as a consequence of his various misdemeanours in his fights against Yamanaka, Nery is serving a lifetime ban from the Japanese Boxing Commission. This would have prevented Nery fighting Inoue in Japan, and, more importantly, may have damaged Inoue's reputation if he was seen to be facilitating a fighter who had been legitimately banned by the commission of his own country.
However, given this recent news, we can now speculate as to how a fight for the lineal title may come about in Nery's absence. It is undeniable, and agreed by all, that Inoue holds the spot of number one bantamweight; the real question is who is deserving of the number two spot in the absence of Nery, and who would have to face Inoue in order to crown a new lineal champion.
There are two obvious candidates: WBC champion Nordine Oubaali, and WBO champion Zolani Tete. Both champions are undoubtedly within the top five at bantamweight, and it is likely that a consensus will form around one of them as being deserving of the number two spot.
As it currently stands (again, as of 28/11/2019):
The Ring ranks Tete as its no. 2 contender, with Oubaali at no. 4;
Boxing Monthly has Oubaali at 4, and Tete at 7;
TBRB has Oubaali at 3, and Tete at 4;
ESPN has Oubaali at 3, and Tete at 4;
Boxrec has Oubaali at 3 (372.4 pts) and Tete listed as inactive (343.3 pts prior to his injury).
Whilst these rankings are obviously not the same as a general consensus, they are all more or less respected within the boxing community (except perhaps Boxrec), and they all seem to be converging on roughly the same rank ordering. Indeed, further light will be shed on the situation after this Saturday's bout between Tete and interim WBO titlist John Riel Casimero: how Tete looks in that performance should go a long way to helping determine whether he deserves to be placed ahead of Oubaali or not.
What's more, a very interesting scenario can be envisaged. If Tete is successful this Saturday, both he and Oubaali will have satisfied their outstanding mandatory obligations. In theory, this leaves them both open to fight a WBO-WBC unification bout between each other in the first quarter of 2020, which would allow Inoue time to perhaps fight his own IBF mandatory (Michael Dasmarinas) as a coming out fight as part of his new Top Rank deal. This would hopefully achieve two things: it would help determine who was the superior fighter was between Tete and Oubaali, and it would set up a huge showdown with Inoue at a later date for the undisputed, lineal bantamweight championship. We can only dream!
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
These articles are submitted by guest writers and sites. They aren't submitted by the usual folk behind Asian Boxing and don't fall in line with our editorial stance, giving a fresh view on various boxing issues from the Asian boxing scene.