If you ask me 2013 has been one of the most remarkable years in recent memory for boxing. It seemed that every other week we had some major story or event, many of which have been forgotten simply due to the fact we've had that many.
One of the best things about the year was simply the number of great fights we had, they seemed like they were coming thick and fast with very few weeks not giving us a possible FOTY candidate. A short list for FOTY could have included the likes of Nihito Arakawa v Omar Figueroa, Kohei Kono v Liborio Solis, Ryo Miyazaki v Jesus Silvestre, Koki Eto v Kompayak Porpramook, Merlito Sabillo v Carlos Buitrago and of course Ruslan Provodnikov v Timothy Bradley amongst numerous other bouts.
For 2014 I'm hoping for some equally great fighters and with that in mind I'd like to give you my "14 fights for 2014" list.
Katsunari Takayama v Xiong Zhao Zhong
Super fights in the sports lowest weight division have been rare with the most notable being Kazuto Ioka's unification bout with Akira Yaegashi in 2012, Ricardo Lopez's 2 battles with Rosendo Alvarez in 19998 and Lopez's bout with Alex Sanchez in 1997. And, yes, I know I'm bending the term "super fight" for Lopez/Sanchez.
Right now though the sport has the possibility to give us a genuine mega fight at 105lbs with Katsunari Takayama (26-6-0-1, 10), the IBF champion pictures fighting Isaac Bustos, and Xiong Zhao Zhong (22-4-1, 12), the WBC champion, meeting in a unification bout that has every sort of story behind it you could wish for and styles that should gel.
Takayama, my choice for "Comeback Fighter of the year 2013", has a great style that features a lot of movement and a lot of aggression with his hands and feet going almost non-stop. He's a man who is widely regarded as the best fighter in the division and is also viewed as one of the sports "hidden gems". The Japanese fighter is a proven fighter, a happy traveler and someone very special to watch.
Whilst Takayama is a hidden gem of world boxing Zhong is a man who is widely derided as a paper champion, despite holding a notable win over Filipino Denver Cuello and a close loss to then Flyweight champion Daisuke Naito. Zhong is a physical freak, he's like a bull with insane strength, a clumsy style but a real toughness to him.
Style wise it's the speedy boxer against the crude fighter and they can go either way.
Aside from the styles we have the personal story of the two men. Takayama is a man who handed in his JBC license to chase the IBF title, he has previously held the WBC belt though strikes me as a man who wants to prove he's the best and will try to unify the titles. For Zhong, China's first and only male world champion, it makes sense to try and prove you're the best and unify with a guy who is viewed as being better than you.
Then you have the political story with China and Japan. The 2 countries are certainly not on "friendly terms" right now and this fight could well be viewed as the "Louis v Schmeling" of the East. You want a super-fight at Minimumweight then this is the fight we need!
Ideal venue(s)-Kunming Tuodong Sports Center, China, Beijing National Stadium, China or The Venetian Macao, Macao
Likeliness of happening-8/10. Both fighters seem happy to have the fight but Sino-Japanese relations have become strained and politics may prevent the contest
Naoya Inoue v Ryo Miyazaki
At the time of writing I'll admit I'm going to make some assumptions. One of those is that Kazuto Ioka successfully defends his WBA Light Flyweight world title on December 31st. A continuation of that is that Ioka then vacates the title leaving the door open to his stable mate Ryo Miyazaki (20-0-3, 11) to attempt to win the vacant Light Flyweight title. One man who has been open about wanting that very same WBA title is super-prospect Naoya Inoue (5-0, 4) and from where I'm sat that bout makes a lot of sense.
Miyazaki is of course the more experienced fighter but he's not looked that great in his 3 world title fights at Minimumweight, I'm not sure that will change significantly at Light Flyweight where Inoue is genuinely looking like the "Monster" he's being tagged as. I'd say that Miyazaki's experience edge would be out-weighed by the skills edge that Inoue has.
From the fighters perspective it's a fight that makes sense. Miyazaki will clearly want a world title having recently vacated his Minimumweight belt, and Inoue has said that he wants to claim a world title in 6 bouts, a Japanese record. It'd be a massive shock if Fuji TV wouldn't push this fight if the opportunity was there for Inoue's first fight of 2014 and with Miyazaki fighting on New Years Eve it'd make sense for an April or May date.
Likeliness of happening-8/10. The fight depends on a few things, but they should all run as expected with Ioka beating Felix Alvarado and Miyazaki beating Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr on Dec. 31.
Akira Yaegashi v Kazuto Ioka II
Following on with the assumptions made in the above bout I'd expect Kazuto Ioka (13-0, 9) to move to Flyweight in an attempt to become Japan's second ever 3-weight world champion. The logical bout for Ioka at Flyweight would be a rematch with former rival Akira Yaegashi (19-3, 9), the current WBC champion.
For Ioka this bout would be about becoming a 3 weight champion and adding to his already fantastic legacy. A second victory over Yaegashi would effectively put Ioka on the fringes of the "pound-for-pound" lists, especially considering what Yaegashi has done in 2013. For Yaegashi though the reasons for the rematch are clear, setting the record straight. Many felt Yaegashi beat Ioka when the men first fought, in 2012, in what was a WBC/WBA Minimumweight unification bout and a chance for revenge should be reason enough for Yaegashi to push for this fight.
The fight would be backed up with TBS's money so both men would be well paid, fans would certainly not mind this after how fantastic their first bout was and as mentioned both fighters clearly want the bout. There are very few stumbling blocks and in all honesty I can't see why this isn't one of those bouts that has been "all but signed". Yes Ioka needs to defeat Felix Alvarado first but that's about it.
Oh and can I just say that the poster for fight I, opposite, was a great poster, a rematch would likely see an equally as good one.
Ideal venue(s)-Bodymaker Colosseum, Osaka, Japan or Kokugikan, Tokyo, Japan
Likeliness of happening-9/10. If Ioka beats Alvarado then this bout really should be made for the first half of 2014. At a push Q3 2014 if Ioka has a tune up at 112 and Yaegashi takes a "gimme" in the interim.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai v Carlos Cuadras
Few fighters have impressed me in 2013 as much as Thai destroyer Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (23-3-1, 21) who ripped the WBC Super Flyweight title from Yota Sato in a year that saw him bagging 7 victories. Yes, you read that right Srisaket fought a amazing 7 times this year whilst also winning and defending a world title. The Thai has had one of the stand out years in Asian boxing though will be hoping to get a big inter-continental victory on his record in 2014.
The obvious "inter-continental" opponent for Srisaket is Mexico's Carlos Cuadras (28-0, 23), the WBC's #1 ranked fighter and a fighter with an aggressive, fun to watch style. If you've seen both men in action you'll almost certainly see this as a potential FOTY with both coming to fight and both having power, confidence and plenty of flaws defensively.
With Cuadras fighting in Japan on New Years Eve it's a fight that has the relative feeling of being distinctly possible. Cuadras's #1 ranking makes it his only real way to a world title, for now, and he'd be foolish to look else where with the IBF and WBA both having their next fights lined up whilst the WBO don't rank Cuadras at all.
The one sticking point could be venue with Cuadras having never fought in Thailand and it'd be unlikely that Srisaket would leave his homeland at this time. If Cuadras will take the fight he'd likely have to travel to the homeland of the champion which as we know is an awful place for visiting fighters, though with Thailand's Channel 7 televising the show and Nakornluang Boxing Promotion backing it, this would make a lot of sense in the first half of 2014.
Ideal venue(s)-Unsure though probably Thailand
Likeliness of happening-9/10. Cuadras has a gimme on New Years Eve, following that there is little preventing this possible FOTY from taking place early in 2014.
Koki Kameda v Omar Andres Narvaez
It was only a few weeks back that Koki Kameda (32-1, 17) vacated the WBA Bantamweight title to avoid a fight with Anselmo Moreno. The Japanese fighter may have been ducking Moreno though he himself has stated that he is merely dropping down to 115lbs to win a title before his body out grows the weight. Winning a title at Super Flyweight would further cement Koki's legacy as he would become Japan's first ever 4-weight world champion. Despite being controversial there is little doubting that Koki's name would be legendary if he managed to become a 4-weight world champion.
Unfortunately for Koki his plans to be a champion at Super Flyweight seem to be scuppered by the fact that his options are very limited at the weight. One option would be taking on Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, a man I believe would stop Koki, another would be awaiting the winner of the Kohei Kono/Denkaosan Kaovichit bout for the WBA title, a third option would see him wait to see how his brother Daiki Kameda fares with Zolani Tete in an IBF mandatory. The only "open" option would be a WBO title fight with Argentinian veteran Omar Andres Narvaez (41-1-2, 22).
Ranked highly by the WBO this bout makes a lot of sense for Koki who may well try and request that he becomes the mandatory challenger for Narvaez. Their would of course be several issues. The camps of the men would have to sort out, including venue, money and a deal with TV companies in both Japan, TBS, and Argentina, TYC Sports, but a deal could likely be thrashed out.
A few stumbling blocks, of course, but on the flipside this is a bout that could make sense to the fighters. It allows Koki a chance at a 4th title against a credible but aging champion and it would allow Narvaez to claim a nice pay day, win or lose.
Likeliness of happening-6/10. Issues involving TV, Venue and possibly even Felipe Orucuta could scupper this, as could the JBC who still haven't said whether they will punish the Kameda's for the "Daiki situation". If the JBC strip Kameda of their gym license then this bout would have to be fought away from home, be it Argentina or a neutral venue and that alone could completely scupper the fight.
Shinsuke Yamanaka v Anselmo Moreno
The Bantamweight division has certainly been an interesting one this year, however you look at it. From a Japanese perspective however they've gained a new champion in WBO belt holder Tomoki Kameda whilst lost one in Koki Kameda who showed that he was pretty scared of Panamanian Anselmo Moreno (34-2-1, 12), the WBA "super" champion. One man who doesn't seem to have that fear is Shinsuke Yamanaka (20-0-2, 15), the WBC champion, and it's fair to say that the biggest fight at Bantamweight would see those 2 men colliding.
The fight is one that Yamanaka has spoken about, though seemed to suggest that he'd rather move up a division to fight Leo Santa Cruz, and is one that would put the #1 and #2 fighters at 118lbs against each other. Something that I tend to like to see where ever possible.
Whilst it's divisionally a major bout the key issue regarding the contest would actually be a stylistic one. Yamanaka, although a capable boxer, is certainly a man who can be made to look bad by fighters with speed, as he was by Alberto Guevara early in their bout. Moreno is a fighter with speed, trickery and a style that will be a nightmare for Yamanaka. I think this is a bout that Yamanaka will know is difficult for him and would likely try to get Moreno over to Japan for it if it was to be made.
In terms of problems about the bout we may well see issues in regards to TV and money. Yamanaka, for all his skill, had his last fight shown on WOWOW and may struggle to get a better TV deal for a Moreno bout which may force him to travel to Panama, a decision that he may not be willing to take. If they could arrange a bout that suited TV in both countries or draw more money by being in the US then that's probably the most likely way this bout gets made. If it's in the US we'd imagine Golden Boy Promotions may be interested in having it on a card with the winner being set to move up and fight Santa Cruz for another big pay day.
Ideal venue(s)-Unsure, though USA is a real possibility
Likeliness of happening-6/10. Again TV issues are the biggest problems though if Golden Boy are willing to set this up with the winner to get a Santa Cruz bout then it's a possibility that we could see this probably around summer.
Tomoki Kameda v Liborio Solis
Japan's only ever WBO world champion Tomoki Kameda (29-0, 18) has got a pretty straight forward to make bout if he wants to take it and defend his family's name. Tomoki, who has already defended his belt once, should be looking at Venezuelan Liborio Solis (26-3-1, 7) the man who beat his brother Daiki Kameda late this year.
Solis has shown a willingness to travel to Japan for fights, having fought his last two there, and has also shown an ability to win on foreign soil having beaten both Kohei Kono and Daiki Kameda in Japan. Unfortunately though he was also stripped of his WBA Super Flyweight title in Japan after failing to make weight for his bout with Daiki. From Solis's view this should be a chance to reclaim a world title, beat another Kameda and finish off a hat-trick of victories in Japan, for Tomoki the chance to avenge Daiki's loss should be the key.
Standing in the way of this fight is very little. Solis's 2 fights in Japan were both action packed and exciting, he has a style that has been fun to watch, TBS of course showed his last bout and it's an easy one for TBS to "sell" to fans. I would assume both of the fighters would want to have the fight and for Solis it's possibly his biggest paying opportunity. The only issue is the aforementioned possibility that Kameda Gym get stripped of their license, something I doubt will actually happen and even if it does the fight could take place in the Philippines, Mexico or South Korea with out the JBC's blessing.
Ideal venue(s)-Bodymaker Colosseum, Osaka
Likeliness of happening-9/10. Very little standing in the way of this one, though it may take place late in 2014 as opposed to being Tomoki's first fight of the year.
Hozumi Hasegawa v Guillermo Rigondeaux
A bout I've liked for a while would be one between former 2-weight world champion Hozumi Hasegawa (33-4, 15) and Cuban sensation Guillermo Rigondeaux (13-0, 8) the WBA and WBO Super Bantamweight world champion. The bout is one that I've wanted for a while though have the feeling I'll be left wanting unfortunately.
For Hasegawa it's a bout he seems happy to have even if it involves traveling. He is highly ranked by both the WBA and the WBO and a bout that should please both of them and looks straight forward on paper. Unfortunately the problems are from Rigondeaux's position. He's become a fighter that HBO are failing to really sell, he's a man who has managed to take bums off seats and has been unable to accommodate the business side of boxing. In terms of his skills he's exceptional but his last 2 bouts have both been dour affairs.
From where I'm sat Hasegawa v Rigondeaux would be fun to watch. Hasegawa is a fighter who is unlikely to be able to take many right hands from Rigondeaux but is also likely to try and connect on Rigondeaux before he gets tagged himself. This should mean that if it gets made it will be fun to watch, and a chance for Rigondeaux to get himself back in favour with American television network HBO
Unfortunately from HBO's point of view Hasegawa is completely unknown in Japan. He's unlikely to draw much attention and although the fight would be entertaining they may not be willing to take the risk on it. Oddly though whilst they'd be unwilling to headline a show in the US with the fight they may be willing to accept the fight if it was on a major under-card, perhaps in Macao. The Maca0 cards have seen Top Rank taking some risks in terms of the fights they've been making and this would fit in perfectly with those fights whilst also drawing Japanese gamblers to Maca0, giving Hasegawa a chance to become a 3-weight world champion and giving Rigondeaux an opponent he could look very good against.
Ideal venue(s)-Unsure, USA or Macao seem possible though
Likeliness of happening-4/10. I really can't see HBO pushing for this, I can't see Rigondeaux really wanting it and I can't see the Cuban being "bullied" in to taking the fight even though the money in Macau could be worth it.
Takashi Uchiyama v Takashi Miura II
If you're an American or a Mexican you will view this as a massively controversial choice though for me Takashi Uchiayama (20-0-1, 17) against Takashi Miura (26-2-2, 19) is the bout at Super Featherweight.
Uchiyama, the long reigning WBA champion, is the guy who is the #1 in the division. His wins are the best there on paper with victories over Juan Carlos Salgado, Takashi Miura, Jorge Solis and Bryan Vazquez and he's a man who appears to look unbeatable at times. Behind Uchiyama I'd argue that Miura, the WBC champion, has the second best series of wins at Super Featherweight with wins over Gamaliel Diaz and Sergio Thompson both coming in 2013. Add on an expected victory over Dante Jardon and you have a trio of great wins on Miura's record.
In terms of the first fight it was a difficult one for both men. Uchiyama was dropped hard by Miura in round 3 before slowly breaking down Miura who was later forced to retire in his corner. Since then both men have suggested fighting each other again and with the WBA and WBC titles on the line the bout makes a lot of sense domestically.
For some though Miura's a nobody and Mikey Garcia should be the target of Uchiyama. That on paper would probably a bigger bout stateside though is unlikely to really interest Uchiyama as much as second bout with Miura. The WBO belt held by Garcia is unlikely to get Miura's interest, especially with the way Japanese fans feel about the WBO and unless Garcia will travel that fight is very unlikely to get Uchiyama's attention.
As with Yaegashi/Ioka rematch this bout depends on bouts that take place on December 31st. Uchiyama will need to get past Daiki Kaneko and Miura will need to cap out his year with a victory over Dante Jardon, though we are going with both of these 2 to come out on top in their bouts.
Ideal venue(s)-Unsure though certainly Japan
Likeliness of happening-9/10. I think this is one of the most likely bouts. If both men come out on top in their upcoming defenses expect this to be signed in 2014 with neither men expecting a mandatory in the first half of the year.
Ruslan Provodnikov v Lucas Matthysse
We, as fight fans, love wars and we love big punchers. There are few fighters in the sport right now combine heart and power like WBO Light Welterweight champion Ruslan Provodnikov (23-2, 16) and Argentinian Lucas Matthysse (34-3, 32). The two men, if they were put in to the ring together would give fireworks as long as their bodies could survive and by the end of it we may well have seen one of those rare classics that live on well beyond the careers of both men.
For Provodnikov 2013 was his break out year with 2 FOTY candidates, for Matthysse the year was disappointing with him losing to Danny Garcia. Despite the loss however Matthysse is still a man that fight fans will want to see again and again. Of course if this bout was made neither man would ever be the same, but we'd have something special to remember them both for.
When it comes to being unlikely we'd hazard a guess that this as unlikely as they come. Provodnikov appears to be on the verge of becoming a HBO staple, a man that HBO can rely on to provide excitement, action and as a result ratings. He might not be doing mega numbers but he will do if he continues to put on fights like the two he has had this year. Whilst Provodnikov is a HBO fighter Matthysse is sadly a Showtime fighter and has linked a deal with Golden Boy Promotions ruling this out as bout we're almost certainly not going to see.
Despite the bout being unlikely we do expect both men to have great 2014's with Provodnikov looking likely to face Brandon Rios in his first fight of 2014 whilst Matthysse will likely have an "easier" one before he gets back in to the swing of things on the world stage.
Ideal venue(s)-Unsure, probably in the US though
Likeliness of happening-2/10. This bout would depend on Matthysse some how becoming the mandatory for Provodnikov or the "cold war" between HBO, Showtime, Top Rank and Golden Boy coming to an end, some I can't imagine happening any time soon.
Gennady Golovkin v Sergio Martinez
At Middleweight there is some bouts set for 2014 though one that isn't is the bout that fans are clamouring for. Although we've got Gennady Golovkin (28-0, 25) lined up to fight Osumanu Adama and Sergio Martinez (51-2-2, 28) seems set to fight Miguel Cotto we've gotta say that we want the winners to fight.
We're going to assume that Golovkin stops Adama and Martinez just gets past Cotto. Following those bouts the men could then meet in a "passing of the torch" style fight that allows Golovkin to finally get the win he needs to be accepted as the champion and finally gets to end the career of Martinez.
I understand that Martinez isn't the fighter he was. His body is falling to pieces, his career is coming to and end and a fight with Golovkin would rush that ending though on the flipside I'd rather see Golovkin "win the crown" against the champion than to have to fight all the other top contender, many of which haven't shown any interest in fighting him, to become the champion. It's all well and good saying that Golovkin needs to beat the likes of Peter Quillin, Felix Sturm and Martin Murray but those 3 appear to have no interest at all in a fight with Golovkin and are happier to collect titles as opposed to proving they are the best.
Of course there are issues here. Martinez isn't a certainty to beat Cotto, and if Cotto wins I'd certainly expect him to do all he can to avoid a fight with Golovkin, there's also the argument about money and of course Martinez just saying no to fighting Golovkin. He's already breaking down and if he values his health he may not want to risk his reputation by taking on Golovkin at this late stage in his career,
Ideal venue(s)-Probably USA though Argentina would be possible
Likeliness of happening-4/10. This is a fight that fans want and that HBO would want though it has too many stumbling blocks to bother with I'm afraid. It's down to Martinez but I don't think he'll be jumping at the opportunity to face "GGG".
Beibut Shumenov v Sergey Kovalev
There is 1 Light Heavyweight bout that everyone wants. That bout would see WBO champion Sergey Kovalev (23-0-1, 21) taking on WBC champion Adonis Stevenson. Whilst I really like that bout I can't help but feel Stevenson may be wanting to delay the bout whilst he quickly beefs up his bank account with a few swift and relatively easy defenses. There is talk about Stevenson facing Andrzej Fonfara early in the year before looking for someone like Bernard Hopkins or Lucien Bute is decent pay days that won't see him detached from his senses.
If Stevenson is kept busy I'd like to see Kovalev in there with WBA "super" champion Beibut Shumenov (14-1, 9) in a bout that would unify the WBO strap with the WBA "super" title. The bout, which would never go the distance, would be fun to watch as both men are technically sound with an aggressive mindset and power, admittedly Kovalev's power is significantly more than Shumenov's.
The bout's stumbling block would be TV and the issues surround "the cold war" of HBO and Showtime. One possibility is that one of the channels will get Stevenson v Hopkins and the other channel could have this bout. More likely though is that we end up with Shumenov v Hopkins on Showtime, Kovalev taking on several B grade opponents and Stevenson fighting some second challengers as well as we get left with a number of major bouts going by the wayside.
Ideal venue(s)-USA or Canada
Likeliness of happening-3/10. The cold war between television networks would likely stand in the way of this unfortunately
As well as the 12 "world title" bouts from above, I've also included 2 bouts at a lower level-
Masao Nakamura v Jomthong Chuwatana
Hard hitting Japanese Super Featherweight Masao Nakamura (17-1, 17) is always a fun fighter to watch win or lose. I'd love to see him in with the promising and highly touted Thai Jomthong Chuwatana (7-0, 4).
For the two men 2013 has been a bit of a strange year. Chuwatana defended the OPBF title by defeating Ronald Pontillas, who had himself beaten Nakamura, but unfortunately fought just twice with the most recent of those bouts coming in March. Nakamura on the other hand fought 3 times, and will be fighting again before the year is out, though his opponents haven't been testing.
A fight between the two would see Jomthong facing his first puncher whilst Nakamura would have a chance to reclaim the OPBF title he lost to Pontillas. The winner would almost certainly be heading towards a world title fight and the loser wouldn't really be written off. Come on folks lets have this one!
Keita Obara v Min-Wook Kim
When punchers collide we get action and there isn't a better Light Welterweight bout to be made in Asia than Keita Obara (10-1, 9), the Japanese champion, and Min-Wook Kim (11-1, 8), the OPBF champion. Both bang, both come to fight and both are flawed, yet both would put on an amazing fight with the other and it could be one of those rare fights that shines due to the styles and action.
The best thing for this fight going forward is that Kim has already fought in Japan, beating Shinya Iwabuchi, and would likely be happy to travel again if the money is right. The winner, of course, would be world ranked and the fight it's self would be great so hopefully we get this one signed at some point.
Prior to this fight we imagine Obara will need to have a mandatory defense of his national title which would give Kim a chance to shake any rust having been out of action since August 2012.
If you go on to to a boxing forum you will see the name "Chris John" followed by the phrase "only fought bums". Unfortunately this view, generally held by Americans and European, seems to ignore what John actually did as they try to downplay his achievements and treat him as a second rate champion.
As a fan of course we have every right to criticise John, who was a champion for the better part of a decade, for his lack of big name fights but as a fan we should also understand who and what he actually beat. It's this, alongside the myth that he "only fought at home" which has seen John almost become public enemy #1 amongst some boxing fans. A harsh way to treat a man who did what so few do now a days, remained a 1-weight champion rather than picked a the path of least resistance to numerous weight titles.
As he's now retired I felt this was the idea time to look at Chris John's legendary career and a career that I honestly feel will see him enshrined in the Hall of Fame in a few years time, despite the view that many fans do have of John.
Home town fighter
When you see people talking about Chris John one of the first things they mention was that he was a home-town fighter. A man who never fought outside of Indonesia and never traveled. To many he was a passport-less fighter who refused to travel. The truth however is startlingly different to the much purported myth.
John, who started his career back in 1998 fought, as we know, 52 professional contests. In those 52 bouts he fought in Indonesia, obviously, but also in Singapore, Australia, Japan and the USA.
Of the 52 professional contests John fought in 44 bouts in Indonesia. The rest were shared between the other 4 countries with 3 in Japan, 3 in Australia, 2 in Singapore and 2 in the USA. 8 of his 52 contests took place outside of his homeland, that's 15% of all of John's bouts.
If we break John's fights in to 2 types. All bouts (52) and world title bouts (20) then look at how many times he traveled to fight in world title bouts then we actually get 8 of 20 world title bouts were fought away from home. That's a staggering 40% of Chris John's world title bouts were fought outside of his homeland. Hardly a stay at home champion after all.
The 40% figure is one that very, very few active champions can match.
Unfortunately however people, for some reason, don't seem to understand that Indonesia isn't part of Singapore, Australia or Japan. For a fair comparison it'd be similar to calling America, Canada and Mexico the same or Britain, France and Germany. They are all different countries and John, unlike Floyd Mayweather Jr, Andre Ward and Bernard Hopkins* has defended his title on foreign soil.
Note-The image here is the poster for John's fight with Hiroyuki Enoki which was fought in Japan.
So now that myth has been exposed lets look at who Chris John has beaten.
John's first notable victory came in 2002 when he defeated Thai Ratanachai Sor Vorapin. Ratanachai was himself on the way up though had twice fought for world titles. Admittedly it wasn't until 18 months after he lost to John that he finally claimed a world title, but Ratanachai was hardly a nothing opponent and was a clear world level fighter when John fought him,
In 2003 John claimed the WBA "interim" title by beating Colombian Oscar Leon. Despite the fact Leon had lost in his only previous world title fight, a close split decision to American Derrick Gainer he was still regarded as a solid opponent. John, who also only took a split decision over Leon, did a better job on him than Gainer, who was then ranked by Ring Magazine.
Having claimed the interim title with a victory over Leon it's worth noting that John was quickly upgraded to "regular" champion. In the first defense, in 2004, of his regular title John traveled to Japan and took on Osamu Sato. Sato, whilst unknown in the West, was a former OPBF and WBA Super Bantamweight champion and a man ranked by Ring Magazine, albeit at Super Bantamweight.
Just 6 months after beating Sato by decision John was expected to fight Derrick Gainer. That fight however fell through and instead John found himself fighting against Jose Rojas, a former 2-time title challenger and a man who had stopped Celestino Caballero. Sure Rojas was nothing special but he was another fighter who was on the fringes of being world class and his stoppage over Caballero is the only time the Panamanian has ever been stopped. Unfortunately this bout ended in a technical draw after a clash of heads in round 4.
John finally got his fight with Gainer in 2005 and although John was dropped in the opening round he did manage to take a clear decision over the American. Gainer, at that point, had been inactive for over a year but that was in part due to the issues that had forced John to fight Rojas.
John's biggest win came 11 month after the Gainer fight as he took on, and defeated, Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez. Although for many who hadn't seen it the bout was controversial, though for those who had seen it the right guy won and John scored a career defining victory. Unfortunately the myth about controversy regarding this bout has hung, like a shadow, over John's head but it shouldn't have as he had fairly beaten a future HOF fighter.
John's next notable victory came a year later as he defeated Jose Rojas in a rematch of their 2004 clash. Rojas was down twice in turned out to be a clear victory for John who seemed to be showing just how good he was at that point. He appeared to have grown in confidence following the Marquez fight and was looking sensational at times.
One of John's most over-looked title defenses came in 2008 as he returned to Japan and took on the then unbeaten Hiroyuki Enoki. Enoki, a former Japanese and OPBF champion, was a hard hitting fighter who gave John one of his most memorable challenges as the two men traded leather and put on a certifiable war with John showing the fighting spirit that many thought he lacked. The bout, a real modern classic was a perfect showing of what John could do when he had to though unfortunately outside of the truly hardcore and the Asian fans this bout was a widely ignored war. Unfortunately Enoki was never the same fighter afterwards and lost 3 of his subsequent 4 bouts before retiring. Going in to the bout though Enoki was Ring magazine ranked and seen as a very good fighter by those who had seen him.
The victory over over Enoki was then followed by John fighting back-to-back fights in the US against American Rocky Juarez. Although the first ended in a draw John showed his championship heart and returned to set the record straight with a clear decision over Juarez, then ranked very highly by Ring Magazine. The bouts with Juarez's were John's only bouts in the US though should have shown enough to have blown open the myth that he was merely a stay at home fighter.
Having fought a trio of bouts on the round with the Enoki contests and the 2 with Juarez, John fought at home for the first time in 2 years as he took on Argentinian Fernando David Saucedo. Although Saucedo was never a world champion he had been on an excellent run and was 6 years removed from his previous loss, a decision to Brazilian legend Acelino Freitas. John dominated Saucedo from the opening round and took a very clear decision in a bout that could well have been viewed as a shut out.
John continued to face notable opponents as he took on fellow Indonesian Daud Cino Yordan in his next bout. Yordan was viewed by many as the man to take the Indonesian mantle from John and had given Robert Guerrero a real scare before a clash of heads saw Guerrero bail out of the bout. John did what was needed to take a hard fought decision over Yordan in what was the first ever all-Indonesian world title bout. The bout was a tough one and another that was great to watch, though unfortunately it again went on under-the-radar of Western fans, despite being streamed by RCTI.
In 2012 John came in for some abuse for fighting Japan's Shoji Kimura. Kimura, a 2-time Japanese champion, had lost to Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym in his only previous title fight though had put that loss behind him with a good win over Ryol Li Lee. It wasn't one of John's best defenses but it certainly wasn't a "bum of the month" defense as some may suggest, especially when you consider some of the men who had come before it including Yordan, Juarez and Enoki.
Just 6 months after the "easy" defense against Kimura we saw John take on a fellow unbeaten in the form of Thailand's Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo. Sure Chonlatarn's unbeaten run wasn't full of recognisable names but at 44-0 he was a live opponent and a man who viewed as having a credible chance against John. The odds, again suggest John was the favourite, also had Chonlatarn as a well priced under-dog. Despite the odds and unbeaten record Chonlatarn was little threat to John and appeared to show his inexperienced with John taking over the bout completely in the middle and later rounds.
Earlier this year, 2013, John made his final successful defense courtesy of a 3rd round technical draw against Satoshi Hosono. For many this was "another" easy defense on paper though again it was the ignorance of some fans that made them believe it was easy without truly know about Hosono. For many all they about the Japanese fighter was that he had lost to Celestino Caballero and Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym. Sadly however few knew that "Bazooka" was a big punching and very tough Japanese fighter who had been both the Japanese and OPBF champion. Hosono could well have been a tough opponent for any world champion at 126 pounds in recent memory but unfortunately the fact fans didn't know about him saw him written off as a no hoper.
As we all know John lost last time out to Simpiwe Vetyeka, a man who, like many others, was dubbed a bum despite being a highly skilled and very talented fighter. The fact so few knew about Vetyeka seems to have perpetuated the myth that John wasn't very good, unfortunately this is how many Western fans are likely to remember John. Had they actually known about Vetyeka however they'd have known John was up against a very good fighter and a man who could pose problems to almost anyone currently fighting in the 126lb division. Hopefully Vetyeka manages to build on his win and forge a great career for himself that may see many realising that John wasn't beaten by a "bum".
Although John did have some genuinely notable defenses I can't pretend they all were. There is no way on earth that I would defend someone like Zaiki Takemoto, pictured, Stanyslav Merdov or even Roinet Caballero who weren't really fit to get in the ring with John. The bigger problem isn't actually who John fought but rather who he didn't fight.
In the US over the last few years we've seen the division heat up with fighters like Juan Manuel Lopez, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Mikey Garcia, Evgeny Gradovich, Orlando Salido, Abner Mares, Jhonny Gonzalez and most recently Vasyl Lomachenko. The fact John never faced any of them will obviously work against him.
On the flipside though none of them faced John. John, like it or not, was the top guy in the division following his victory over Marquez. The fact he defended his title regularly and faced a string of credible challengers is something that should be applauded. When you look at the opponents of say, Gamboa, you see a man who has fought Jose Rojas, a man John beat 2 years earlier, Rogers Mtagwa, a journeyman, and Whyber Garcia, who was stopped by Roinet Caballero. Gamboa fought in just 6 title fights at 126 lbs and that's 3 of them.
If you'd rather we looked at Lopez you'll find that "Juanma" only made 2 defenses of his Featherweight title stopping bother Bernabe Concepcion and Rafael Marquez. On paper they look fine but Concepcion is only a limited fighter who is a natural Super Bantamweight whilst Marquez was a 35 year old natural Bantamweight coming in on the back of a long career including 4 tough bouts with Israel Vazquez.
You can go through all the other other supposedly top fighters and find that they really haven't beaten enough top fighters themselves to be ranked higher than John. Unfortunately, in my eyes anyway, the worst thing that John did was not fight on US TV. Had he been on US TV he, his opponents and his reign would have been viewed a lot more favourably than it has been.
From where I'm sat John, like many other Asian fighters, has been a victim of the US media and the US fan base as opposed to anything else. It may sound harsh but John's career should the career, alongside Pongsaklek Wonjongkam's, that shows just how over-looked Asian fighters are when they have long and successful careers.
*Bernard Hopkins has fought 3 world title bouts on international soil, though none of them were title defenses.
If there has been one bout that has managed to remain on every boxing fans list of "fights we want" it's been Manny Pacquiao against Floyd Mayweather, a bout that we have all been wanting for the better part of 5 or 6 years. Unfortunately that bout has failed to materialise for various reasons with both sides accusing the other of various stalling tactics and other issues that have put the bout on the back burner.
The fighters, who were for a long time the #1 and #2 fighters in terms drawing value and pound-for-pound status, have been inextricably linked in the boxing equivalent of "will they-won't they". So far they've failed to get in the ring together despite the calls of the boxing community, casual fans and television networks.
There was hope however that the bout would finally happen after the WBC instilled Pacquiao as the #1 challenger for Mayweather's Welterweight title. This was a decision that was roundly supported in the boxing world as a title awarding body doing the right thing for boxing and trying to help create the biggest bout that boxing could possibly have right now. Unfortunately however the WBC's move may not work in the way we had all hoped.
We had of course hoped that the WBC would have forced the Mayweather against Pacquiao as a mandatory title fight in 2014. This seemed to be the intention of the #1 ranking of Pacquiao and it seemed clear that if the bout was forced as a mandatory the negotiations would be easier than if the parties involved with both fighters were forced to do it themselves. For example going through the typical purse bid procedure would see both men given their "just" purses.
The WBC's rules state that by default a purse bid for a fight would typically be split 70-30 in favour of the champion. In this case that would be Mayweather getting the lions share. The WBC do however allow modifications to this typical split in extreme circumstances:
2.12 Division of Proceeds in a Purse Offer. The net purse offer (after deduction of the WBC certification
Unfortunately the past few days has seen Mayweather has make his intentions regarding the bout perfectly clear. The title doesn't matter to him.
Whilst this isn't a clear "duck" it does seem that Mayweather and the WBC aren't singing from the same hymn sheet and instead Mayweather will do as Mayweather wishes, something he has repeatedly proven over the course of his career.
From where I'm sat it's always looked like everyone has been posturing and as a result everyone has been to blame for the fight not happening. Mayweather's demand of "Olympic Style Drug" testing involving blood tests seemed to be one power play whilst Arum and Pacquiao's request of a 50-50 purse split was another, Mayweather's demand that the fight was to be fought under the Mayweather banner was another one whilst another was the venue with Arum originally wanting the bout in the Cowboys stadium or a temporary outdoor arena.
Those issues seemed to stand in the way of a fight that both probably wanted, but didn't want it enough. The fight, back in 2009, 2010 or 2011 was by far and away "the fight". It was almost bound to break records in terms PPV sales, purses, gate and almost every conceivable record.
Whilst it's still a fight that boxing fans want the allure of it has certainly dropped with Pacquiao suffering a controversial defeat to Timothy Bradley and a shocking KO defeat to Juan Manuel Marquez. From my point of view Mayweather has the ball clearly in his court due to those losses. Pacquiao's drawing ability has dropped significantly, his supposedly "invincibility" has been shattered and he's dropped well down the mythical pound-for-pound charts. Mayweather on the other hand is still unbeaten, he's been granted a huge money deal on Showtime and needs a major opponent and probably more importantly he'd also get the lions share of purse if he took this bout as a mandatory as one would expect.
Whilst Pacquiao's options are limited in terms of opponents things aren't actually much better for Mayweather. The American needs a big name opponent. He needs someone bigger in terms of name than Robert Guerrero, who he faced earlier this year, and whilst options include Amir Khan and Marcos Maidana neither is likely to bring the big money and big sales that please Showtime. That would leave Mayweather in desperate need for someone able to sell big numbers and the only real fighters that can do that are Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao.
If Mayweather is willing to give up his title, as he claims, then it's almost impossible for people to defend Mayweather. He's got a chance to satisfy everyone, fans, himself, Showtime and the WBC. If he turns it down it may be hard for Mayweather to get the respect that he craves, especially given that he right now holds the better cards.
If you follow Japanese boxing you'll know that the Kameda brothers are pretty much the Japanese equivalent of Adrien Broner. They get a huge amount of viewers but on the flipside they tend to get an awful lot of people wanting to see them lose.
Whilst Broner's issue is most outside of the ring with his general attitude and behave with the Kameda's it's more what they've done in the ring.
From Koki Kameda's first world title win, a very controversial decision over Juan Jose Landaeta back in 2006, to the latest fight involving Daiki Kameda the brothers appear to have caused controversy often without trying.
Whilst Western fans have certainly aimed their ire at Koki it's fair to suggest that Japanese fans have been turned the most on Daiki. Both, East and West have however been mostly neutral on youngest brother Tomoki with Mexican fans especially being fond of him.
It's Daiki of course that appears to have almost ripped the Japanese fans away from boxing over the past few weeks. Unfortunately I think the issue involving Daiki is more deep rooted than the recent issues that I'll get on to in a minute.
Daiki first managed to turn the fans against him in October 2007 when he fought Daisuke Naito for the WBC Flyweight title. Prior to the bout Daiki had promised to commit Seppuku, the ritual suicide of the Samurai, if he lost to Naito. This was extreme to say the least and almost certainly offended various boxing fans.
In the fight it's self Daiki turned even more fans against himself. Whilst well behind on points Daiki, on advice of Koki and their father Shiro, elbowed Naito and tried body slamming the defending champion. These violent acts saw Daiki receiving a year long ban from the ring and the fans deciding they'd already had enough of the youngster.
It's fair to say that the fans have never really forgiven Daiki for his acts against Naito. He's fought 22 times since then and in all honesty proven that he has matured, he's proven that he's got a fighters mentality and he's got a fighters toughness.
Unfortunately just as it seemed that Daiki was beginning to prove himself things took a turn for the worst. He was scheduled for an IBF-WBA Super Flyweight unification bout with Liborio Solis, despite the fact Solis missed the 115lb weight limit by quite a margin. With Solis failing the weight it was decided that Daiki would still be able to unify the belts. The original comments however were that if Daiki lost he would be stripped. Later this turned out not to be the case and as we all know Daiki, despite losing has kept the IBF title.
From a personal point of view I understand the IBF's decision. Personally I'd accept that with Solis failing to make weight Daiki's title should not have been on the line. Unfortunately though the IBF's first statement, that if Daiki lost he lost his title, has lead some to feeling like they've been lied to. Heck, they have been lied to, at least once due to the IBF's own rules.
The IBF's own rules*, following the latest amendments made in April this year states:
2. Challenger’s Failure to Make Weight
Unfortunately the man that the IBF "protected" is a fighter that fans simply don't like. The performance against Solis would have convinced some fans to have lightened their view of Daiki, he was brave and took a fair beating in the middle rounds. But with the fact he kept the title the fans felt he should have lost, they almost ignored the bravery of Daiki to show their annoyance at the political situation of the champion.
The problem here isn't just that Daiki got to keep the title despite losing but also the fact the IBF have seemingly moved the goal posts. The IBF still aren't really accepted in Japan. Had it not been for Katsunari Takayama, the IBF Minimumweight champion, it's fair to suggest not a single Japanese fan would be defending the IBF. They have only been accepted in to Japan in the past year or two and and issues like this will harm how well readily fans warm to them.
If the fans get to keep Takayama at home defending his IBF title on a regular basis there is a chance that Japanese fans may accept them. Likewise if Naoya Inoue were to beat Johnriel Casimero for the IBF Light Flyweight title, or if Ryota Murata were to defeat Felix Sturm for the IBF Middleweight title they may "forgive" the IBF for this mistake. Barring those situations though it could be a very long time before the IBF can repair their reputation in Japan.
What perhaps hasn't helped the situation is that whether Daiki kept the belt or lost it he would likely have been fighting the same man anyway. If he retained with a draw or a win he'd have been facing South African Zolani Tete, the mandatory challenger. I'd have assumed that had he lost the belt here he'd have faced Tete for the vacant title anyway, effectively leaving us in the same real position as we're in.
In regards to Daiki their is a rumour that he will be handing the IBF title back due to the huge backlash against him. Regrettably that would probably be too little too late to salvage any trust between Daiki and the fans who will likely never really forgive him. They'll also be a lot less likely to tune in and watch him in action again despite the fact he is, for now, still a world champion
The IBF rules can be found here:
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces