We are now just a few days away from the return of boxing in both Japan and Thailand as Asia begins to gear up towards the sport taking off once again. Despite that we will be continuing to looks at fights we could have had with another article in the "Fight we wish we had..." series. This time we're looking relatively recent history with a bout that would have been great to watch around a decade ago, and had the ingredients to be a real FOTY contender between two little guys who always came to fight.
Denver Cuello Vs Pornsawan Porpramook
The Minimumweight division hasn't had many fights that have managed to create talking points among the wider boxing fan base. Despite that the division has always had the potential to give us something special. One man who was involved in two of the best Minimumweight fights of the 21st century was Pornsawan Porpramook, who's wars with Akira Yaegashi and Ryo Miyazaki were amazing. Likewise we don't get too many little men known for their thunderous power, and heavy hands, however Denver Cuello was certainly a big punching monster in the smallest division. Put them together and we would have had something spectacular.
The window for this particular fight is a rather large one, with both men being in and around the world title mix for several years. Pornsawan had his first world title fight in 2007, losing to Donnie Neites, winning a belt in 2011 and having his final fight coming in 2013. On the other hand Cuello was knocking on the door from around 2009 with his sole would title fight coming in 2013. The reality however is that these two could just have easily have met in an eliminator during that time. So any time, really, from 2007 to 2013 would have been great for this.
Despite the big window of opportunity the bout would likely have been at it's most notable in 2011, when Pornsawan won the WBA title. Sadly however that optimum window closed quickly with Pornsawan losing the belt in his first defense to Akira Yaegashi. With that in mind maybe 2012 would have been ideal.
Denver "The Excitement" Cuello was one of the most must watch fighters to compete at 105lbs. He was a strong, powerful southpaw, who loved to let his shots fly. He didn't have the most polished of styles but did have rocks for hands, an aggressive mentality, a solid shin and a willingness to take one to land one. His fights could get sloppy at times, but they were rarely dull with the Filipino knowing that he had to put on a show to get attention. He was all about power, aggression, toughness and intensity in the exchanges.
Sadly Cuello, who was a top contender with the WBC for years, struggled to get his shot at the world title, being over-looked by the WBC for Xiong Zhao Zhong, who managed to have the WBC help him out in the hope of getting a foot hold in the Chinese market. When Cuello did get his shot, in June 2013, he seemed to be carrying an injury into the bout that was then massively worsened during the contest, forcing him to fight much of the contest 1-handed.
Pornsawan Porpramook, known as "The Tank", was a high energy tough guy who applied constant pressure and looked to make every bout into a war. He's best known for his battles with Yaegashi and Miyazaki, two brilliant wars, but showed he was world class with his bouts against Sonny Boy Jaro, Donnie Neites, Oleydong Sithsamerchai and Muhammad Rachman. He was never the best Minimumweight in the world but was one of the world level guys who always made for fun fights, and his style, when matched with the right guys, was capable of making Fight of the Year contenders.
Whilst Pornsawan's two most memorable bouts are losses he was a world class fighter and did claim the WBA title with a win over Muhammad Rachman in Indonesia. His pressure, aggression and work rate was a nightmare, though his footwork was slow and opponents could make him chase them, leaving him open to counters.
How would we see it playing out?
Whilst he wasn't a very polished fighter Pornsawan was tough. He was stopped twice in his career, once at Minimumweight against Akira Yaegashi, and once against Edgar Sosa at Light Flyweight. His pressure and aggression would see him looking to charge down the Filipino pressing the fight hard and looking to get inside. Although he was rather basic and his game plan wasn't complicated it was a tactic he used and he knew how to make it work for him. He chipped away at opponents with work rate and aggression, but lacked single punch power.
Sadly for Pornsawan the one fighter that type of tactic was unlikely to work well against was Cuello. Walking to Cuello and looking to have a fight with him was never a good idea. Cuello's thunderous power was not something you wanted to walk on to and it was the type of power that would break down fighters.
We suspect that Pornsawan would outwork Cuello on a round by round basis, but the quality and power would be with the Thai who would be slowly breaking down the Thai, before backing him up. By the middle rounds Pornsawan would be boxing off the back foot and would eventually succumbing to the power of the Filipino.
Up to the stoppage this would have been sensational and one of the best fights of the era at the weight. A total, brutal, high octane war.
Would history of been changed?
Obviously things for both men would have been different, though it really depends on when this bout took place as to how much different things would have been. Had the bout come as an eliminator after Pornsawan lost the WBA title we may have ended up with a WBA title bout between Cuello and Ryo Miyazaki in 2012, and boy would that have been a great one, and missed out on Zhong's win over Cuello. The reality however is that it seems any changes to history would have been short lived.
Pornsawan retired after a loss to Rey Loreto in 2013, and we suspect that he would never have had a career much longer thab that. As for Cuellom who actually fought last year, he had mounting injuries. By 2012/2013 his days as a top fighter were ticking away. Repeated shoulder injuries were taking away from what he was and even if he had avoided the Xiong bout he was never going to be a top tier fighter for long due to his injuries.
There's a chance Cuello could have won a world title on the back of this bout, but any reign he would have had would have been very short lived, sadly.
Whilst we would have loved to have seen this, and to have seen Cuello against Miyazaki, the reality is that we ended up with Pornsawan Vs Miyazaki and Pornsawan Vs Loreto, and we would likely have missed both of those had we had this clash.
March is always an interesting month in Asian boxing, as bouts across the globe began to ramp up, after a relatively quiet start to the year. The month this year is packed with bouts right across the continent, including a lot of promising prospects.
Kazuto Takesako (10-0, 10) Vs Shuji Kato (10-1-1, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
The first major bout in March will see unbeaten Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako defending his belt against mandatory challenger Shuji Kato. The bout is expected to be another KO win for the champion, but the champion is certainly not unbeatable and Kato comes into this bout full of confidence following an upset win over former champion Hikaru Nishida.
Takuma Takahashi (2-0, 2) Vs Jonel Dapidran (10-3, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
Touted and unbeaten prospect Takuma Takahasi made his debut last year, and has scored back to back early wins against visitors. Now he takes a step up in class going up against Filipino opponent Jonel Dapidran. Dapidran was beaten in 3 rounds last October, by Rikuto Adachi, but we're expecting a better performance form him here. It's also worth noting that this will be Takahashi's first 8 round bout.
Masahiro Suzuki (1-0, 1) Vs Kelvin Tenorio (4-4, 2)- Tokyo, Japan
We were incredibly impressed by Masahiro Suzuki on his debut, showing all the touches of a future star, and we're really excited to see him return to the ring here as he takes on Filipino foe Kelvin Tenorio. We suspect this will be easier for Suzuki than his debut, which came against a very dangerous foe, but he's certainly not being matched softly at this early stage.
Jin Minamide (2-0, 2) Vs Marjun Pantilgan (18-7, 14) -Tokyo, Japan
Unbeaten Celes Kobayashi managed fighter Jin Minamide has fought for just over 3 minutes as a professional, taking out two experienced Filipino's already. Now he'll be taking a major step up in class to take on Marjun Pantilgan, who has been brought over to Japan a couple of times and tested very good prospects. Pntilgan is tough and will come to win, making this a very risky bout for Minamide at this stage in his career.
Charly Suarez (1-0, 1) Vs Justin Cabarles (4-0, 2) -Davao del Norte, Philippines
We travel over to the Philippines for the next notable bout, as former Olympian Charly Suarez goes for his first title. The 2016 Olympian will be up against fellow unbeaten Justin Carbarles in a bout for the MinProBA Lightweight title. It's hard to imagine Suarez losing, but he will need to be fast tracked after this bout if he's to make the most of his talent, as he is already the wrong side of 30.
Denver Cuello (36-5-6, 24) Vs Jack Amisa (21-45-2, 14) - Philippines
Former world title challenger Denver Cuello has been out of the ring for well over 3 years but returns this month to take on Indonesian journeyman Jack Amisa. Cuello was once seen as a potential star of the Minimumweight division, and had huge support from Filipino fans due to his hard hitting style, but injuries destroyed a number of his prime years. It's unclear what he has left, but it is great to see him return, and give the sport one last chance.
Sonny Boy Jaro (44-14-5, 31) Vs Frans Damur Palue (15-21-3, 10) - Philippines
Cuello isn't the only Filipino veteran in action today, as former WBC Flyweight champion Sonny Boy Jaro returns to the ring for his 64th professional bout. Jaro has been a professional since 2001 and faced a real who's who, so Indonesian journeyman Frans Damur Palue will not pose much of a threat. At the age of 36 however we do wonder how much longer Jaro has left in the tank.
Robert Paradero (17-0, 11) Vs Wilfredo Mendez (11-1, 4) - Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico
The on again off again match up between Filipino Robert Paradero and Puerto Rican Wilfredo Mendez is pencilled in again here, in what will be a WBO Inter-Continental Minimumweight title bout. This bout was supposed to take place in December, being arranged for, then re-arranged for the month, so we'd not be shocked to see this being cancelled, but it is a very good match up and hopefully does take place this time around.
Dmitry Bivol (15-0, 11) vs Joe Smith Jr (24-2, 20) - Verona, USA
Kyrgyzstan born Russian Dmitry Bivol will be making his next defense of the WBA Light Heavyweight title as he takes on big punching American Joe Smith Jr in what should be a very exciting contest. Bivol is the much more rounded fighter, but Smith is tough, heavy handed, and has proven to be very dangerous at the fringe world level. This should be a clear win for Bivol, but he won't be able to get cocky against someone who hits as hard as Smith does.
It appears that things got real this week, like really real, with some true Fight of the Year candidates, a notable upset, some stellar performances by lesser known fighters and some really under-rated fights from lesser known fighters. It was a weekend that saw attention being thrust on Asian fighters, with 3 major US bouts featuring fighters from Asia, as well as bouts in China, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia
Fighter of the Week
Can Xu (16-2, 2)
Entering his first "world" title bout as a 5/1 to one under-dog, Chinese fighter Can Xu was expected to be steam rolled by WBA"regular" Featherweight champion Jesus M Rojas. Instead however Xu shocked the bookmakers by not only surviving the bout, but also winning. The early rounds saw Rojas on the offensive, but Xu fought back and eventually came on strong in the second half, as Rojas began to feel the tempo, in what was an amazing all action bout. In the end Xu's energy and work rate in the second half of the fight was enough for him to take home the surprise win. The scorecards didn't do justice for how close the bout is, but this huge win for Xu is massive for Chinese boxing and should see the Max Power Promoted fighter become the new face of Chinese boxing.
Performance of the Week
Takeshi Inoue (13-1-1, 7)
It would be easy to crown Xu the double winner for the two main solo awards for this week, but the reality is that his performance was equalled by that of Japan's Takeshi Inoue. Inoue wasn't just expected to lose, but was expected to be stopped, and stopped early. Instead the little known Inoue was in Jamie Mungia's face from the first round to the last, pressing the touted Mexican all the way and giving him more problems than anyone as at world level. Some had suggested Inoue didn't belong in the ring with Munguia before hand but his performances here showed he belong in, and around, world level and he is certainly going to be a handful for other fighters at the world level. He may have lost, but his performance, against a supposed superstar in the making, was excellent.
Can Xu (15-2, 2) Vs Jesus M Rojas (26-2-2, 19)
The WBA "Regular" Featherweight title fight between China's Can Xu and Jesus M Rojas is likely to be forgotten at the end of the year, due to it taking place so early in 2019, but it will be one of the most action packed fighters of the year.From the opening round both men let their shots go, both set a high activity level and there was really grit and determination from both fighters. The fight changed in the middle rounds, when Rojas' work rate dropped, but he still looked the more dangerous man, and seemed to have Xu on the back foot in round 9. The only thing missing from making it a truly legendary fight was the lack of real drama and neither man ever seemed to be particularly hurt, but the action was so in tense that it was easy to ignore that flaw.
Alphoe Dagayloan Vs Danrick Sumabong, Tugstogt Nyambayar Vs Claudio Marrero, Takeshi Inoue Vs Jamie Munguia
Takeshi Inoue Vs Jamie Mungia (round 10)
The Inoue Vs Mungia fight will be marred by the scoring, which essentially made it clear that Inoue was never going to get the win on the scorecards, but it gave us some amazing action, the best of which was in round 10. Inoue started the round fast, having great success in the early going of the round, but was rocked in the final stages as Munguia finally began to show the offense and aggression that he's best known for.It was the only time Inoue looked hurt during the 12 round contest, and the only time Munguia looked like the monster he's been sold as in recent months. The assault from Munguia however didn't come until late in the round.
No fit contender - Unfortunately there wasn't any great KO's this week, that we deem worthy of attention, however if you feel there was please drop it in the comments!
ArAr Andales (9-0, 2)
There were several better known prospects in action this week but 19 year old ArAr Andales was the one that shone to us. He was aggressive, exciting and despite not being a power puncher really brought the fire before stopping Charlie Malupangue in the 5th round. On paper this was a very credible step up in class for the Filipino teenager, but he made it look easy and really put himself on the map, whilst claiming the WBA Asia Minimumweight title.He appears to be someone who could well end up in the mix in the coming years, and shouldn't be over-looked as a potential contender, at least on the regional scene.
Saddridin Akhmedov, Danrick Sumabong
Junto Nakatani (17-0, 12) vs Naoki Mochizuki (15-3, 8)
After a few weeks of top level world class fights there isn't anything at that level over the next 7 days, however there are still some interesting contests. The most interesting of those appears to be the Japanese Flyweight title bout between the highly regarded Junto Nakatani and Naoki Mochizuki, who battle for the vacant belt. The match up won't make waves internationally, but will likely help push the winner towards major international bouts, as well as seeing them pick up their major title. Nakatani is widely considered as one of the best hopes in Japan, but Mochizuki is a very live under-dog and could well have the style to over-come the 21 year old. Very interesting bouts.
Gonte Lee Vs Aphisit Namkhot, Aston Palicte Vs Jose Martinez
Denver Cuello to return in March
Former Minimumweight world title contender Denver Cuello (36-5-6, 24) has been out of the ring for well over 3 years, yet this week we saw the news break that Cuello would be back in the ring in March, to take on Indonesian veteran Jack Amisa (21-45-2, 14). It's not a match up that will get peoples attention, but it is amazing to know that Cuello will be back in the ring, even if he has had so long away, due to injuries.
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