Time feels like it's flying and we can't believe it's been a fortnight since we last had a "Fights we wish we had..." article. This week we move to the very lowest end of the scales for a bout between two men we wish we'd seen clash just a few short years ago. As we write this both men are still active, and world class, fighters, but they are now in very different divisions and the bout, for all intents, is now definitely not going to happen.
Kosei Tanaka Vs Knockout CP Freshmart
At one point both Kosei Tanaka and Knockout CP Freshmart were in the Minimumweight division and both were regarded as being among the top 10 fights at 105lbs. On paper it was a match up that few were talking about, but in reality it would have made for a very, very interesting clash of styles, strengths and weaknesses. Looking back at the potential match up now, it appears only one guy could have won, but at the time it would have been a very intriguing match up.
The window for this is, sadly, quite a small one and it's not really a wonder why the fight never took place. The only real time the fight was plausible would have been in late 2014 to the end of 2015.
During this time Tanaka won the OPBF and WBO Minimumweight titles, made one defense of the WBO belt then left the division in 2016. During the same time Knockout CP Freshmart won and defended the WBA "interim" title. At the end of 2015 they were ranked #3, Tanaka, and #4, Knockout, by Ring Magazine and it looked like a potential clash for the future.
Japan's Kosei Tanaka is one of the most notable names in Japanese boxing right now and one of the guy figures of the lower weight classes. The talented, speed, boxer-fighter is a must watch fighter who can do it all, though often makes things much, much more difficult for himself than they need to be. At his best he's a sensational boxer, able to keep opponents at range with his incredibly speed and solid straight punches, along with his under-rated body punching. The rest of the time he's someone who finds himself caught up in unnecessary wars, giving away his technical and physical advantages.
Since 2015 Tanaka has moved up the weights, winning world title titles at Light Flyweight and Flyweight and is now targeting a Super Flyweight world title. As he's moved up the weight he has put on some of his more memorable performances, including brilliant wins over Angel Acosta, Sho Kimura and Ryoichi Taguchi. Despite being unbeaten he has been notoriously inconsistent in his performances, struggling against the likes of Vic Saludar, Palangpol CP Freshmart and Jonathan Gonzalez, who have all dropped him.
Thailand's Knockout CP Freshmart, also known as Thammanoon Niyomtrong, is a technically boxer who received a lot of attention for his fighting name, but has since gone on to distinguish himself as one of the best fighters at 105lbs. Early in his career he looked exciting and was scoring stoppages, but later on he has removed the exciting aggression he once had, and polished off his boxing skills to the point where he's become "effective but dull" to watch. Despite being a but boring to watch he has secured a pretty decent resume with wins over the likes of Carlos Buitrago, Byron Rojas, Rey Loreto and Xiong Zhao Zhong.
Unlike Tanaka Knockout has remained at 105lbs for his entire career, as we write this, and seems unlikely to race up the weights like Tanaka has. Whilst that could hurt him in terms of legacy it doesn't seem like he's struggling too badly to make Minimumweight, where he looks strong and powerful. The one thing that is a question mark is his stamina, and despite often going 12 rounds he has often slowed down massively in the deeper stages of fights. It is worth noting that he is usually in a comfortable lead before taking his foot off the gas.
How would we see it playing out?
When it comes to Japan Vs Thailand one bit consideration is where the bout will take place. Japanese fighters have had a notoriously unsuccessful history in Thailand and with that in mind we wouldn't expect Tanaka's team to allow their man over to the "Land of Smiles" to face the unbeaten Knockout. As a result we're assuming this one would take place in Japan. We're also sticking with the time frame of late 2014-2015.
At the point in time Knockout was a lock way removed from the fighter he is today. In 2014 he had looked very raw and crude when he narrowly beat Carlos Buitrago in what was a bit of a controversial one. He looked like he was improving through 2015 however when he beat Muhammad Rachman and Alexis Diaz. As for Tanaka he looked brilliant in his gut check win over Ryuji Hara then eased past Julian Yedras before a very, very tough come from behind win against Vic Saludar. The win over Saludar made it clear that he was taking too much out of his body to make weight, and he was a much lesser fighter than he had been 14 months earlier.
The crude offense and relatively poor defense the Knockout had at the time would allow Tanaka to get his shots off and allow him to tag the Thai, but the pressure of Knockout and the weight problems Tanaka had could certainly play against the Japanese star. Likewise Knockout's physical strength and toughness would give Tanaka fits.
We suspect that if the bout took place in the first half of 2015, or earlier, Tanaka would manage to have enough in his body to take a clear, but hard fought, decision over the Thai. Had it been in late 2015 however we would, looking back, have been seeing a very competitive bout. Tanaka's punch resistance looked poor against Saludar, he looked like he had very much lost his way, and it took a sensational body shot for him to pull out the win. There's a chance, in late 2015, that Knockout could indeed have have taken the drained, weigh cutting, Tanaka out.
Would history of been changed?
Assuming the bout takes place before, or in, December 2015 we wouldn't have seen Tanaka take on Vic Saludar, meaning Saludar may have had to wait much, much longer for a shot at the WBO belt.
Regardless of the outcome we would expect to see Tanaka abandoning the division and not looking back. A bout with Knockout would make him realise it was too tough to make 105lbs we suspect he'd go on to make his mark at Light Flyweight, as he did anyway. His rise to a second, and third, world title would have been slowed down, and he likely wouldn't have tied Vasyl Lomachenko for the fewest fights to become a 3-weight world champion.
Had Knockout beaten Tanaka he'd likely still be holding the WBO title today, instead of the WBA belt. This could have mean some interesting match ups with Knockout taking on the likes of Vic Saludar, Ryuya Yamanaka and Tatsuya Fukuhara, certainly better than some of his competition. His name would be spoken about a lot more, and he'd be more well known now than he is.
In terms of wider history the Minimumweight division would look a lot different now, with Knockout either holding the WBO title or not a world champion at all, and the Thai would never have fought for the WBA title.
For today's fight we wish we got we're not looking at world class fighters for once, but we are looking at a bout we desperately wanted, not due to the talent of the men, but due to the styles of them. In fact this was one of the bouts we clamoured for for yeas, but sadly, never got. It was the #1 present request on our Christmas list, and something we were willing to trade in exchange for birthday and Christmas gifts but still, the boxing gods denied us! Damn them!
Rex Tso Vs Jamie Conlan
For the first time in this series we look outside of Asia for one of the fighters involved as we pit Hong Kong star Rex Tso against Jamie Conlan in a bout we were desperately wanting back in the 2010's. This bout, for us, had all the ingredients for a FOTY contender and would, had it gone ahead, been one for the ages with two styles that gelled perfectly, two solid local fan bases, and cult international followings for both men. This was a bout that would have had two B level guys tearing down the house in what would have been an incredible, memorable, sensational war. On paper it was also an easy one to make, and the two men had long enough overlap in careers to have given us the bout at various times.
Unlike some bouts in this series the time window for this one spans years. It could have taken place from around 2013 right through to 2018. The earliest possible would have been 2013 when Bob Arum was taking the Zou Shiming express over in Macau, with Tso often appearing on those shows, to 2018 when both men seemingly walked away from professional boxing. To be fair both men had taken a lot of punishment by then, having been involved in numerous FOTY but had they fought in a 2018 retirement bout we'd have no complained.
Although the window for the bout is large, though bout would have made most sense in 2015, 2016 or 2017, when both were world ranked contenders at Super Flyweight and when both were were very much cult stars. Maybe early 2017 would have been the ideal time, after Conlan's 2016 war with Anthony Nelson and after Tso's battle with Ryuto Maekawa, but the window was huge for the two men to fight.
There hasn't been many fighters form Hong Kong worth talking about, but the one that was worthy of attention was Rex Tso, an all action fighter dubbed the "Wonder Kid". Tso was one of the very few faces of Hong Kong sport and seemed to realise, relatively quickly, that he was the nation's boxing hero. He was a likeable, friendly, personable man outside of the ring, but when inside the ring he was an all action punching machine. Technically he could box, and we did see him boxing at times, but it was never hard to make Tso becoming a fighter, and draw the warrior out of him. It was that warrior spirit and mentality that quickly made Tso into a star at home and a cult hero among hardcore fight fans.
Tso's career was short, with just 22 bouts, but from those he was involved in a string of instant classics. His bouts with Mako Matsuyama, Michael Enriquez, Ryuto Maekawa, Hirofumi Mukai and Kohei Kono were action packed and drama filled bouts that are all worthy of a re-watch any time you question your love of the sport. Sadly though those wars took their toll and he fell out with the head of DEF HK, his promoter, and decided to fight as an amateur after damage to his eyes forced a long break from the ring.
Whilst Hong Kong is an obscure place for boxing Northern Ireland isn't and that's exactly where Jamie Conlan is from. Despite his roots he was dubbed "The Mexican" due to his style, heart and determination. There was a lot of limitations with Conlan in the ring, as there was with Tso, but there was no doubting the love and good will Conlan had for his thrilling battles. He was very much a fighter who came to put on a show and give fans value for money. He was certainly a less skilled fighter than his brother, Michael Conlan, but in many ways he connected with the fans better than his brother due to his easy to watch bouts and the drama they often had.
Sadly Conlan's career was even short than Tso's, fighting just 20 times, but he helped give British fans some of the best bouts in recent memory. His win over Anthony Nelson was something special, his war with Yader Cardoza was spectacular and his guts against Junior Granados helped him eek out a win. Sadly his determination and heart weren't enough at world level and he was dominated by Jerwin Ancajas in an IBF world title fight in 2017, before retiring.
How would we see it playing out?
We're going to start this by admitting we have no idea who we would have favoured here. Both of these men had almost identical flaws. They were defensively limited, fought with their hearts on their sleeve, and had to grit out some tough moments, even when they took home wins. They made easy bouts hard, and made hard bouts even harder. On paper Tso would probably be the slight favourite, but it would be a 55-45 type of thing in his favour.
Although we could say picking a winner here would be hard the reality is that we, the fans, would be the winner. This would start with both men boxing, for a round or two, before the pace picked up, and from there on we'd be getting a war. Both men would be trying to out last the other in a high tempo brawl of insane proportions. CompuBox operators, if they were working the fight, would give up at the intense exchanges, and we would see a fight fit for a phone booth.
Sadly, given the limitations and determination of both men, they would both be taking a lot of punishment and it may well hasten their retirements, though they would sure give the fans something to remember them by!
Would history of been changed?
In reality this would have been little more than a blip on the wider boxing world. The winner would likely have been offered a world title fight, but we can't imagine either man coming out on top at that level. We saw Conlan being undessed by Ancajas and Tso struggled past a well beyond his prime Kohei Kono, and we suspect any world champion from the time would have done a number on either man. But in many ways we don't think that would have harmed their reputations.
Neither of these men are ever going to go down in any "all time great boxers" list, but both will go down as some of the best warriors and most exciting fighters of their era. In many ways the memories they gave us in the ring is their legacy, it is their history. They will be better remembered than many better and more successful fighters. Had they fought it would have given us another memory of both, but that's pretty much a bout in isolation, rather than a bigger picture thing.
As we write this it is worth noting that Conlan is still involved in the sport as part of MTK Global whilst Tso has seemingly still got eyes on the Olympics, though an appearance in Tokyo does look very unlikely.
In recent years the Flyweight division has been a weird division, with no one really making it their division. We've have fighters like Juan Francisco Estrada, Brian Viloria and Roman Gonzalez all fighting some top names there, but in reality we've not seen someone look to make the division their home since Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. Many of the top fighters in the division have merely passed through the division, with the likes of Kazuto Ioka, Donnie Neites and Kosei Tanaka all making relatively short stays there. As a result we've missed out on a lot of bout that could have taken place there. Today we look at one such missed opportunity for the division.
Johnriel Casimero Vs Zou Shiming
The bout we want to talk about today is a show down between Johnriel Casimero, another man whose stop in the division was a short one, and Chinese star Zou Shiming, who had the potential to face pretty much anyone he wanted. Not only was this a potential all-Asian match up but it was also one that would have pitted two very different styles against each other, could have acted as a unification bout and would almost certainly have helped bring one fighter to the public attention years before he really broke through to a wider audience.
In reality the window for this one is quite a short one. We would have pencilled in an early to mid 2017 date for it, though in reality there is a bit more flexibility to it than that. Casimero won the IBF Flyweight title in May 2016, doing so in China, and Shiming won the WBO Flyweight title 6 months later in the US. Sadly neither man managed a lengthy reign, with Casimero defending the title once before moving up in weight in 2017 whilst Shiming lost in his first defense, to Sho Kimura. Despite that there was a window for the bout and, had Casimero been offered a Shiming Showdown, we suspect he would have remained at the weight for longer than he did.
Filipino slugger Johnriel Casimero is one of the sports true road warriors and a multi-weight world champion. He won his first world title at Light Flyweight, surviving a post fight riot following a bout with Luis Alberto Lazarte, and would later go on to stop Amnat Ruenroeng and Zolani Tete to claim world titles at Flyweight and Bantamweight respectively. At his best he's a speedy, hard hitting, awkward and unorthodox puncher with true bang in his shots. At other times however he's a disinterested fighter who's very frustrating to watch and seems to be stuck in first gear.
Zou Shiming on the other hand is China's most accomplished amateur boxer who turned professional with Top Rank to much fanfare, though the good will of this Chinese hopeful didn't last long. Sadly for Shiming his amateur style was engrained and he turned professional far to late, and with too many nagging injuries, to ever become the star Top Rank had wanted. He was a quick, skilled fighter, but one who had little power, lacked the physicality and potentially even fought at the wrong weight, as he would likely have looked a lot better had he been able to move down to Light Flyweight.
Going back to when, and even explaining the where. With Casimero winning his IBF Flyweight title in China, and being a well known road warrior, and with Shiming being a Chinese fighter this bout would have made for a great event in late January 2017 as part of the Chinese new Year celebrations.
How would we see it playing out?
This is a bout where I we saw the best of both men we could be in for a very, very interesting match up between two talented fighters with very different styles. Shiming's speed and movement could be a problem for pretty much anyone, and his brain is a valuable asset at this level. Sadly though his lack of power will be a problem and he always struggled to keep fighters honest. Against a fighter like Casimero, who often lunges and throws unpredictable shots we see Shiming's boxing brain being neutralised quickly and Shiming needing to rely on his amateur fencing style.
If Casimero is not at his best we could be in for a bit of a stinker. He could sleep walk through much of the fight, letting Shiming run up an early lead and then we'd see Shiming in sruvival mode late on, cruising to a decision. It's a result we don't imagine would do the sport any good, but it's a very real real possibility with Casimero's inconsistencies.
On the other hand if Casimero was in the right mood he would stalk, cut the ring off, and press Shiming. We suspect an aggressive Casimero would take out Shiming in the middle to late rounds, with his power, speed and aggression being too much for the Chinese fighter.
One thing to note, is that for a bout like this, we would expect to see Casimero well and truly on form.
Would history of been changed?
Yes! History would look a lot different today had we got this bout. If Shiming won, and it's not the result we would expect, we would likely have seen Chinese boxing have a huge shot in the arm and we suspect we would have seen more sustained and continued investment in the countrie's boxing scene. It would however have only been a matter of time before things crashed down around Shiming, who was in his mid 30's and suffering from injuries.
Had Casimero won we would be looking at his career, and the Flyweight division, very differently. Had Casimero won he would likely have never faced Charlie Edwards, as his two titles would have drawn the attention of bigger names. He would have been a well known international name before his 2019 upset win over Zolani Tete. He would likely have never made his rather pointless foray into the Super Flyweight division, or if he had he would have gone straight into a big bout, not an eliminator with Jonas Sultan, which he of course lost.
More tellingly if Shiming had lost the WBO belt to Casimero we would almost have certainly not see Sho Kimura announce himself and become a world champion, with Kimura ending the reign of Shiming's to become the champion. If that bout failed to happen we would likely have gotten Casimero facing Toshiyuki Igarashi in a WBO mandatory, in a fight that would have truly stunk, and never ended up with the thrilling bout between Kimura and Kosei Tanaka. In fact we may never have seen Kosei Tanaka even win a Flyweight title.
Whilst we would have loved seeing Casimero make a name for himself in 2017 with a win over Shiming, which is what we would expect had this bout taken place, we can't complain too much about the reality we got. If anything, we got the better reality,, thanks to the Kimura Vs Tanaka fight!
Although we do now have fights there is a lot of fights still left to cover in our "Fights We wish we had" series. As a result this series will continue in some form, potentially moving from a bi-weekly series into a monthly, or sporadic series. When we started we had a good list of bouts we wanted to cover in mind, and we want to get through some more of those before we stop.
With that said lets have a look at another potential all Asian fighter we could have had, and we'll also explain the big stumbling block of this one, which would have potentially made it even bigger, if the hurdle could have been over-come.
Shinsuke Yamanaka Vs Koki Kameda
Although some of the other fighters we have in this series are more logical ones, and much more competitive ones, we always liked the idea of the then WBC Bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka up against the then WBA "regular" Bantamweight champion Koki Kameda. We full appreciate this wouldn't have been the best fight, the most competitive of fights or the more exciting, but it would have been one we'd have still absolutely loved.
For this bout to be at it's biggest it would require both men to be holding world titles, and we are accepting Kameda's WBA "regular" belt here. With that in mind we are probably looking at this fight taking place in 2012 or 2013.
Interestingly Kameda won his WBA title in December 2010, to become a 3-weight champion, whilst Yamanaka had to wait 11 months longer to pick up the WBC title. In the window where both were champions Kameda made 6 defenses, including one just weeks after Yamanaka won his title. Yamanaka on the other hand made 5 defenses before Kameda vacated. That's a good, solid window for this fight.
In Shinsuke Yamanaka we have a viciously hard hitting Japanese southpaw who was a natural Bantamweight. He was a boxer-puncher, who loved to work at range, get full extension on his shots and quickly became one of the faces of Japanese boxing with with his explosive power, charming personality and exciting bouts. Although he wasn't regarded as the best in the division early in his reign he did become the top man at Bantamweight, in the eyes of many, before he was dethroned in 2017 by Luis Nery in the first of two controversial fights between the men.
Fighting out of the Teiken stable Yamanaka was able to take wins over a real who's who of the division at the time. That included wins against Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Anselmo Moreno and Liborio Solis. He also had a notable Japanese title reign that included a brilliant win over Ryosuke Iwasa.
Although Yamanaka was the more exciting fighter and the bigger puncher Koki Kameda was, at least early on, the much bigger name. Kameda had won the title to become a 3-weight world champion, adding the title to a collection which had included the WBA Light Flyweight title and the WBC Flyweight title. He wasn't a big name due to his WBA "Bantamweight" title but due to his brash attitude and charisma. Those who watched him were mixed between those wanting him to win, and those wanting him to get the comeuppance for his loud mouth and cockiness. It made him a figure of major interest in Japan and the big star of Osaka.
Style wise Kameda was a quick, speedy fighter but one with a tight guard, swift foot work and lovely hand speed. At times he could get very lazy, he could get handcuffed easily and could sleep walk though contests. When he got going however he was a joy to watch. Sadly at Bantamweight the general pattern of his fights was to be lazy, be defensive and then try turning it on late, when his opponents tired. This was something that resulted in a lot of very close wins during his Bantamweight reign.
How would we see it playing out?
Lets begin with the obvious. The crowd here would be amazing. The pro-Yamanaka fans were some of the best, the pro-Kameda fans were often loud and boisterous. Big all Japanese bouts don't happen a lot and that would have poured fuel on to an already loud and excited fan base. This would have been massive news. It would have taken a long build up, with NTV and TBS both needing to sort a deal that made sense, but when that was done we would have one of the biggest fights in Japanese boxing history.
Unlike many of Kameda's Bantamweight opponents Yamanaka was a huge puncher, with only Hugo Ruiz really matching him there in regards to Kameda opponents, he was also a very skilled boxer, who could fight for 12 rounds when he needed to. We see those two things being big issues for Kameda, who would struggle with the power, tempo and size of Yamanaka. At range Yamanaka would control behind his straight left and his often under-used jab.
That's however not to say Kameda wouldn't be able to do anything. The Osakan is a smart fighter, he wouldn't just stand in front of Yamanaka but would move, have his tight guard up and make Yamanaka chase him. He would also look to land his counter right hook in the battle of southpaws. That shot could be an issue for Yamanaka, due to it's speed and the surprise element, but it would still be a risky shot for Kameda to throw as he would have to get close.
We suspect the low output nature of Kameda, in front of a big power puncher like Yamanaka would not be a great tactic. Whilst Kameda is defensively tight, and has got quick footwork, we see him being target practice at range, countered when he rushes forward and slowly broken down. In the middle rounds, or maybe a little bit later, we see Yamanaka lowering the boom and taking him out, likely beating the fight out of the smaller man rather than cleanly knocking him out.
Would history of been changed?
As with every All-Japanese world title unification bout featured in this series things would indeed have been changed.
Firstly we think that we wouldn't have seen the bout between Koki Kameda and Kohei Kono if this bout had happened. Had Kameda been flattened by Yamanaka there is little chance he would ever have faced another Japanese opponent. Notably Kameda only fought two in his career, the first was Daisuke Naito and the second was Kono. Had Yamanaka taken him out we're confident he'd have avoided a Kono bout.
Secondly Yamanaka would have been an even bigger star than he was, potentially even earlier than he was. Beating Kameda would have given him a massive rub and he'd have seen his profile boosted massively for beating Kameda, both domestically and internationally. This could, although it's not assured, have opened the door to fights in Las Vegas, as he often spoke about. That could, potentially, have included a bout with the then WBO champion Tomoki Kameda, who was fighting in the US in 2014 and 2015. If Kameda wanted revenge for his older brother's loss this would have been a great chance for Yamanaka to make his US debut.
It would also have, potentially, rushed his bout with Anselmo Moreno, rather than making us wait until 2015. It needs to be remembered that Kameda only abandoned the belt when he was ordered to face Moreno in 2014, so to have seen those titles unified before Moreno lost to Juan Carlos Payano in 2014 would have been amazing. Had that happened there's a good chance that Payano would never have become a world champion...which could have denied us the iconic KO scored by Naoya Inoue against Payano in the World Boxing Super Series.
Looking deeper down the rabbit hole there is a lot of different ways history could have been changed, but the ones that seem most likely are that Kameda would have ended his career earlier and Yamanaka would have been a bigger star. Anything further than that really does depend on the machinations of the alphabet boys, and how much they would be swayed by the potential sanctioning fees that Yamanaka's bouts would pay
One thing we haven't seen a lot of over the years are all-Filipino world title bouts, and that's a real shame. Whilst we understand, begrudgingly, champions from the same country not unifying titled what we never understand it why fighters form the same country seem to rarely face off. At least for some countries. And the Philippines is the worse country for this. With that in mind we had a think about some of the bouts we wish we'd had and came up with our latest "Fight we wish we had". Unlike some fights this one doesn't have FOTY written all over it, but would still be a very, very intriguing match up.
Donnie Nietes Vs Johnriel Casimero
As mentioned we don't see Filipino's fighting each other in world title bouts very often, unlike in the UK, US and Mexico, and more recently Japan. That's despite some bouts looking too obvious not to make, and this was one of those obvious ones. Not only was it an obvious match up between one of the most talented fighters and one of the most explosive, but it was also a match up but it was also one that could have taken place at any of 3 different weight classes. In one corner would have been Donnie Nietes, one of the most well schooled and technically brilliant Filipino fighters every, whilst the other corner would have had the wild, explosive and hard hitting Johnriel Casimero. It would have been a clash between a veteran and a hot young stud, and would have been a mouth watering clash, in terms of era and styles.
The window for when this fight could have taken place really is huge, and in theory is still technically open, but appears to on the verge of closing. In theory the bout could have taken place as early as 2009, when Nietes was considering a move up from Minimumweight to Light Flyweight and whilst Casimero was a regional Light Flyweight champion. In 2010 Casimero was WBO interim champion at 108lbs and Nietes was dipping his toes at the weight.
Had it been a little later they could have clashed at Flyweight. Nietes moved up to the weight in 2016 whilst Casimero had been there since 2014. Interestingly Casimero held the IBF Flyweight title in 2016, but vacated it in 2017 before Nietes won it. That would have been the perfect time, early 2017.
The window for the fight then actually continues into 2018 when the two could have clashed at Super Flyweight. If they were to clash now, in 2020, the bout could take place at Bantamweight, but if we're being hones the bout has lost a lot of it's potential appeal, with Nietes now the wrong side of 40 and almost 2 years removed from his last bout.
Donnie Nietes is arguable the most under-rated fighter from 2000 to 2020. He is one of the most skilled and well schooled fighters out there, and someone who proved that being a defensively responsible little guy to really prolong a career. He managed to become of the very few fighters to win world titles at Minimumweight, Light Flyweight, Flyweight and Super Flyweight and did so without having lightning speed or thunderous power. He did on his ring craft, boxing skills, and IQ.
Although there was a lot of potential opponents Nietes should have faced he did go in with a genuine who's who and took wins against Pornsawan Porpramook, Jesus Silvestre, Mario Rodriguez, Moises Fuentes, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Edgar Sosa, Juan Carlos Revecco and Kazuto Ioka. Not only did he fight a who's who but he also showed a willingness to travel, picking up wins in Mexico, USA and Macau, though didn't really get the reputation of a road warrior. In terms of skills he is criminally under-rated and knew how to adapt when he needed to. A genuinely intelligent fighter.
Whilst Nietes is a 4 weight world champion Johnriel Casimero is a 3-weight world champion, having taken titles titles at Light Flyweight, Flyweight and Bantamweight. Watching him you see almost the opposite of Nietes. Casimero is a wild man at times, a freakish puncher who could box, but often found himself believing more in his power than his skills. His biggest issues wasn't his belief in his power but instead his inconsistencies and professionalism, which actually resulted in his being stripped of a title, looking poor in some bouts and even losing a bout he should have won.
At his best Casimero was a thunderous puncher who showed no fear. He was a road warrior who travelled right around the globe to face a who's who. He travelled to face the likes of Moruti Mthalane, Luis Alberto Lazarte, Pedro Guevara, Amnat Ruenroeng, Charlie Edwards and Zolani Tete. He's very much a throw back, but again inconsistency has been an issue, and in 2017 he lost to Jonas Sultan in a world title eliminator at Super Flyweight. When he was on point he was brilliant, but there was always the worry that we were going to see him have an off night, fail to prepare properly, as he had for his 2014 clash with Mauricio Fuentes, or just not show what he could do.
How would we see it playing out?
The reality here is that we see this being a bout depending on what Casimero turns up. At his very best Casimero is a very hard man to pick against. He was so heavy handed, so quick and so explosive that he had the power to pretty much taken out anyone, and was so unpredictable in his offense that he had a chance to catch anyone clean. On the other hand we know what we'd be getting from Nietes, he was Mr Consistent. He put on solid performance after solid performance, and even against the best Casimero his skills and defense could prove to be a difference maker.
We would expect Casimero trying to box Nietes early on, a poor tactical choice from the younger man but one that showed he wanted to be more than a puncher. We saw that from him numerous times, including his career defining win over Zolani Tete. As the bout went on however we'd see more aggression and more power shots from Casimero, as he changed from boxer to puncher. That would leave him open to Nietes' counter shots and we sispect that those would prove to be the difference as the bout went on, with Nietes slowly breaking down his countryman.
Although we do favour Nietes it should be noted that Casimero is almost a decade younger than Nietes and that age gap could be a tricky obstacle to over-come, even for Nietes. The speed and power edges of Casimero will mean he's always dangerous, he's always in the bout, and he'll only be one shot from turning things around, but Nietes is not an easy man to land that big shot on.
Would history of been changed?
Depending on when the bout took place history could have been very, very different. Had they faced off earlier in the window Nietes' experience and boxing skills would likely have slowed Casimero ascent drastically. He would almost certainly have done a similar job on Casimero that Moruti Mthalane did, and just mentally break Casimero. Had that happened Casimero may never have become the fighter he later became.
Had the bout been in 2016 we would likely have seen Nietes claim the Flyweight title a bit earlier, sending Casimero up in weight a bit earlier and maybe even avoided Casimero's stinking effort against Jonas Sultan. Had that happened there's a good chance that Casimero may have found himself fighting for a Super Flyweight title at some point, maybe even leading the two men to a rematch at 115lbs.
Had the bout been in 2017 or 2018 there's a chance that we would never have seen Casimero make an impact at Bantamweight, and we would almost certainly have not had his upset win over Zolani Tete, leading to a very different look at the Bantamweight scene.
Of course had Casimero managed to beat Nietes at any point his career would have been very different and we wouldn't be talking about Nietes as being so under-rated. Instead we'd be talking about Casimero, potentially, being a pound for pound fighter. Their careers would look very different on reflection.
The Super Flyweight division has been one of our favourites with a lot of great bouts, fantastic fighters and intriguing match ups, even if some fail to live up to expectations. Despite the division being so good in recent years there are bouts that we did miss out on, and with that in mind we bring you the latest bout in the "Fights we wish we had.." series. This time we look at a bout that would have been a brilliant, fun and exciting match up, though one where we do have a clear favourite going in.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai Vs Kohei Kono
As we did when we first started this series we're looking at an all out war that could have taken place at various in the 2010's. The bout would pit one of the most destructive fighters of the last decade against one of the toughest. It would put an offensive monster against a true fighter. It would have been mayhem between two men who both became 2-time world champions between 2010 and 2019 but were never really spoken about as potential opponents for each other, sadly. So with that in mind lets talk about a potential show down between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Kohei Kono.
Of the two men it was actually Kohei Kono who had his first world title first, with Kono coming up short in a WBC title bout way back in September 2008 and again in September 2010. It wasn't until the very end of 2012 that he won his first world title, stopping Tepparith Kokietgym in a major upset. His reign was short but he became a 2-time champion in March 2014 and held that title until 2016 and was still regarded as a world class fighter into 2017, and maybe even 2018.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai on the other hand won his first world title in May 2013, when he stopped Yota Sato, and would hold that belt until May 2014, making just a single defense. He then reclaim the title in March 2017 and held it until April 2019.
The window for the two men to unify really didn't exist, but in reality a bout between the two at some point 2013 and 2016 would have been a recent decent sized window and would have made for a great match up in that time between two definitive world class fighters.
As mentioned both men were 2-time world champions.
Japan's Kohei Kono was a 2-time WBA champion and a real tough guy. He had built a reputation early in his career as a tough, hard working but crude fighter who's win over Tepparith Kokietgym, at the age of 32, seemed to essentially save his career. He was a rugged fighter who let his hands go a lot, and was involved in some amazing bouts, not just at world level but also at Japanese and Oriental level. Despite not being one of the best boxers he was very much a great fighter, with heart, desire, energy and a brilliant chin. Boxing out of the Watanabe gym his career was often over-shadowed by that of Takashi Uchiyama, but was a fighter involved in more excited wars that Uchiyama, for the most part.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai was, and still is, a Thai Super Flyweight who held the WBC title twice and was, in his pomp, and avoided fighter. He was an unknown outside of Thailand until he defeated Yota Sato for the WBC title and then became a man with a belt, that no one wanted to face, resulting in his only world title defense coming against Hirofumi Mukai. Despite struggling to get contenders in the ring with him he was staying busy, destroying regional fighters in stay busy fights. He lost the title in a competitive bout with Carlos Cuadras in a mandatory but couldn't secure a rematch, needing to wait almost 3 years for second crack at the title. At his best he was a power, perpetual punching machine, fighting out of the southpaw stance with an iron chin. He wasn't polished, or the smoothest fighter but was an aggressive monster with terrifying physical strength and power.
How would we see it playing out?
We see this as a genuinely fun mismatch. Whilst we absolutely love Kohei Kono as a fighter his style is almost made to order for a fighter like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. The aggression, and brave mentality of Kono would see him walking into Srisaket's wheel house, fighting at mid-to-close range and try to have a war with the Thai. Kono would certainly have moments early on, his chin holding out during the early few rounds. As the bout went on however Kono would start to have his toughness question, his heart would be the only thing keeping him in there against a stronger more powerful fighter.
By the middle rounds Kono would be backing up, where he's a lot less effective, and begin wilting under the pressure with Srisaket eventually getting him out of there in the second half of the bout. It would be a gallant effort from Kono, and he wouldn't go down without swinging, likely landing some really solid shots on Srisaket...though they'd have little to no effect.
This would be fun, but we can't see any way in which Kono would come out on top, sadly.
Would history of been changed?
With this bout potentially taking place between 2013 and 2016 we would certainly have seen history changing. We may have, potentially, see Srisaket winning the WBA title from Kono, had the bout come during Kono's reign, or he could have defended his own WBC title against Kono, strengthening his first reign.
As a result of this bout we don't imagine Kono would have fought with Naoya Inoue, at the end of 2016, or Rex Tso, in 2017. Two bouts that would have been genuine losses. On the other hand there's also a good chance that we may not have gotten Srisaket's big wins in the US against Roman Gonzalez or Juan Francisco Estrada, which would also have been big losses.
In reality whilst we do wish we had got this bout, we suspect the bouts we would have missed out on would have been a big price to pay. This would have been an amazing bout in it's own right, and would have been one of the most fan friendly 1-sided bouts we'd ever get.
The lines of the WBA and WBC titles would be different had we had this bout. It's hard to be sure exactly what would have changed, with their being such a big window of opportunity for this bout, but we're glad with the reality we ended up getting instead.
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.
We love going back over the fighters of yesteryear and thinking about the fights we could have seen had history a little bit differently to how it has done. We love to think about these fights and how they could have played out, when they could have taken place and who would have won. We all think of dream fights pitting fighters from different eras, but we prefer to think about ones that could have taken place, with fighters from the same, or over-lapping, eras. Today we look at another Fight we wish we had.
Pongsaklek Wonjongkam Vs Daiki Kameda
For today's fight we look at a Flyweight bout that had a few windows of opportunity, and actually could have taken place had just one result changed. In fact had one result changed, this bout would been almost certain to take place. Had Daiki Kameda beaten Daisuke Naito in October 2007 his first defense, in 2008 would almost certainly have been against Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. Instead Kameda lost to Naito and we we went on to see Wonjongkam and Naito clash for a fourth time, before Wonjongkam went on to beat Koki Kameda in 2010. But we'll come back to that a little bit later.
Sadly Kameda's loss to Naito did scupper any plans to hold this in 2008, a year that Kameda spent mostly away from the ring due to a suspension. However there is a second, very interesting window where this bout would have made a lot of sense. That's between summer 2010, after Wonjongkam beat Koki Kameda to become a 2-time WBC Flyweight champion, to March 2012, when Wonjongkam was upset by Sonny Boy Jaro. That window would have left us open for either a WBC title fight, with Wonjongkam defending the belt, or even a unification bout after Kameda won the WBA belt in late 2010, before vacating it in 2011, as he began to campaign at Super Flyweight.
It's a small window, but Summer 2010 to Spring 2011 was a great window for this bout which would have been a really interesting one. Not only a potential unification bout, but also a chance for Daiki to avenge his brother's loss to Wonjongkam, and, a chance for Daiki to become a Japanese hero, taking a victory over a man who was a thorn in the side of Japanese fighters in the past.
Pongsaklek Wonjongkam was one of the modern day Flyweight greats. The Thai great twice held the WBC Flyweight title, and essentially monopolised it from 2001, when he blew out Malcolm Tunacao inside a round, to 2012. During that 11 year span there was less than 3 years in which he didn't have the title, and for 11 months of that he had the "interim" title. During his amazing career he went 22-2-2 in world title bouts and ran up a number of very strong victories, including wins over Daisuke Naito, Luis Alberto Lazarte, Hidenobu Honda, Trash Nakanuma, Tomonobu Shimizu, Koki Kameda, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Takuya Kogawa and Edgar Sosa. The talented Thai could box, could punch, could fight, and is often over-looked by fans in the West who look at his weaker competition, rather looking at his competition overall.
Whilst Wonjongkam was a long term champion, a star of the division and a man who ran up 17 straight defenses, Daiki Kameda is arguably the least well regarded fighter in his family. Daiki was the middle brother of the fighting Kameda family, he was younger than the more well established Koki but older than Tomoki Kameda, who turned professional in 2008. Although Daiki is the least well remembered of the Kameda brothers he did actually try to set a Japanese record for the youngest world champion, losing to Daisuke Naito in his attempt. He was strong, aggressive, tough, and physically imposing at Flyweight. Sadly though he was quite basic, and although he was strong he lacked world class power. He was a little bit slow, a little bit clumsy, wild and open but typically he was aggressive and exciting to watch.
How would we see it playing out?
For all his flaws Kameda was a fighter. he liked to fight, and was dangerous with his hooks, that he loved to throw, especially during his time as a world level Flyweight. This could see him having moments against Wonjongkam, much in the same way that Trash Nakanuma did. One difference between Nakanuma and Kameda however was that Kameda was easier to hit, and when Wonjongkam sat on his punches he could hit.
We would expect to see Kameda trying to snuff out space and work up close, and rough up Wonjongkam. It's a tactic that would certainly see him have moments, but one that would potentially play to Wonjongkam's strengths, of foot work, accurate punchings.
Wonjongkam on the other hand would be boxing and moving. Choosing to back off when he wanted and then engaging in Kameda's fight when he wanted to. The one thing that we expect to see Kameda have issues with is Kameda's rough house tactics. Kameda's bouts often had dirty elements. There was, of course, his final round melt down against Naito, that saw him have 3 points deducted, but in other fighters his head was certainly an asset.
We would anticipate a fun fight, most Kameda fights were fun, but one where the skills, the class, the genius of Wonjongkam would prove too much. Kameda would take rounds, but it would only be 2 or 3 rounds, he would make a fight of it. But he would come up short, and, if we get the fight in the time window we're looking at, we wouldn't see Daiki avenge his brother's loss to Wonjongkam, despite a valiant effort.
Would history of been changed?
Barring a controversial decision in Kameda's favour we would anticipate a clear win for Wonjongkam. If the bout served as a unification bout then yes, we believe history could have been drastically changed by this potential contest.
If this ends up being a unification bout the WBA and WBC titles would be put together around the waist of the best fighter in the division at the time.
The WBA reign of Kameda was terrible, with Kameda defending against Takefumi Sakata and Silvio Olteanu, narrowly retaining against Olteanu before vacating. We wouldn't have been surprised to see Wonjngkam defend the unified thrones against Sakata, possibly Olteanu as well, before potentially either being stripped of the WBA or losing both. There's a chance we may have gotten Wonjongkam defending against Luis Concepcion, Hernan Marquez or Juan Carlos Reveco, which would have been amazing bouts.
Sooner or later however we would have expected the belts to find their way into their current hands. Likely with Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada or Kazuto Ioka all playing a part. It should be remembered that those three men all won some share of the titles and all vacated them on their pursuit of Super Flyweight glory. The titles would likely all end in the hands of one of, if not all 3, of those men.
If, some how, Kameda got the decision then we would expect the Flyweight titles to be split up very quickly, when he vacates the division, realising he had out grown it.
Sadly we don't imagine we would see Daiki's bout with Rodrigo Guerrero, if we got this bout, and that's a shame as that we an amazing bout, but we also don't think we'd have seen Daiki fight Liborio Solis, and the Kameda Vs JBC legal argument would likely have never started. We would almost certainly have seen the Kameda gym stay open and the Kameda's would likely have remained a major factor in Japanese boxing. Amazingly, given the potential financial implications of that legal case, we may end up seeing the JBC needing to go bankrupt.
It's funny to ponder just how different things could have been had we seen Wonjongkam take on Daiki Kameda.
We return this week with another "Fight we wish we had" and the great thing about this series is that we can think of some really intriguing match ups that, for whatever reason, never seemed to get much demand. That's a shame as there really is so many amazing match ups that we could have had. Today we have one such bout, and it's a bout that really is a mouth watering match up at Super Bantamweight.
Toshiaki Nishioka Vs Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym
Around 2010, we'll be more specific in a few moments, the Super Bantamweight scene was one that had a lot of very good Asian fighters in it. These included the then WBC champion Toshiaki Nishioka, the then WBA champion Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym, as well as the likes of Ryol Li Lee, Masaki Serie, Somsak Sithchatchawal and Rey Bautista. Whilst some of the top Asian's did clash we didn't see much conversation regarding a unification bout between the two top Asian fighters of the era.
As mentioned this bout would be perfect around 2010. Nishioka had won the interim WBC title in 2008, and was quickly upgraded to the regular champion by the start of 2009 whilst Poonsawat won the WBA title in September 2009. Poonsawat's reign did end in 2010, when he was upset by Ryol Li Lee, but even after he lost the belt this would still have been an attractive bout until 2011, when Nishioka focused on fighting the American stage.
Toshiaki Nishioka was an excellent Japanese boxer-puncher. He was a sharp punching, technically sound southpaw who had first tried to make a mark at Bantamweight, but come up short in 4 world title bouts at the weight, all against Veeraphol Sahaprom with whom he had 2 draws and two losses against. In 2004 he moved up in weight, and proved himself before winning the WBC Super Bantamweight title. Unlike most Japanese fighters he actively chased big fights around the globe and scored a huge win against Jhonny Gonzalez in Mexico in 2009 and then went in to beat Rafael Marquez in 2011. That should have been the end but instead he returned for a one off bout in 2012 against Nonito Donaire.
Poonsawat on the other hand was a heavier handed boxer-puncher, and unlike Nishioka, who was about speed and drawing mistakes to strike on, was more of an aggressive fighter. He would bring pressure on a regular basis and had solid power in his hands, as we saw in his brilliant win over Bernard Dunne. One area where he succseeded, where Nishioka failed, was at Bantamweight. Poonsawat had won the WBA "interim" title at Bantamweight, with a hard fought win over Ricardo Cordoba, and had defended it against Leo Gamez before moving up in weight following a loss in Germany to Volodymyr Sydorenko. One area where Poonsawat and Nishioka were similar was their willingness to travel. Poonsawat had won his WBA Super Bantamweight title in Ireland and travelled to Japan for his first defense, against Satoshi Hosono.
How would we see it playing out?
We'll be honest, we love both these guys and find both to be compelling fighters. We love their styles, despite the fact the two men were very different. With that said we could see either man winning, because of the way they matched up.
Nishioka would bee the favourite, in our eyes, but only just. We suspect his speed, movement and southpaw stance would be real problems for Poonsawat. The movement of Ryol Li Lee showed that good footwork and movement was something that could bother Poonsawat, and Nishioka knew his way around the ring. He was smart and could counter well.
On the other hand Poonsawat could amp up the pressure, he was physically very strong, and when he hurt opponents he let shots go. He could change the tempo of the bout at will and had the sort of power that could cause real issues, despite not being a 1-punch KO artist.
We would expect Nishioka's foot work and defensively smart boxing brain to be the difference between the two men in a very close bout. We would expect that to neutralise the aggression of Poonsawat at times, but it wouldn't be easy, it wouldn't be straight forward and Poonsawat would certainly have his share of moments.
We'd suspect this would be a very exciting, hotly contested bout, a very close one on the cards, with Nishioka taking the early lead before Poonsawat began to claw it back. After 12 rounds we'd expect Nishioka to take a close decision and further enhance his reputation as one of the best Super Bantamweight's of his time.
Would history of been changed?
Had the bout taken place when both men were champions we would have seen a unified champion and that would have been great. The reality is that had we seen these two clash we wouldn't have seen Poonsawat facing off with Ryol Li Lee, so the reigns of Lee, Shimoda and Rico Ramos would likely have been scratched from the record books.
What would be more likely is that the unified champion would have been offered a big money fight. This would likely have seen the winner following something similar to what we saw Nishioka do, a bout with Rafael Marquez, Nonito Donaire or eve Guillermo Rigondeaux, who Poonsawat had signed to fight several years later.
It's rare to see unification bouts and this one would have been genuinely fantastic. A real shame it didn't get much demand, and didn't end up happening when it would have been a brilliant highlight for Asian boxing, and the Super Bantamweight division.
Whilst boxing is now on the horizon, with July looking likely to be when we see fights return to Japan, there is still no in ring action. With that in mind we're going to look back in to past and look at another bout we could have had in the world of Asian boxing! Today we look at a bout that would have been brutal, fantastic an all action. It's also one we don't really see mentioned despite the fact it could have taken place in the mid 1990's and it would have been fire!
Saman Sorjaturong Vs Hi Yong Choi
We know the Light Flyweight division doesn't get the love it deserves, but over the years the division has given us some legendary fighters, some amazing fights and some fantastic "ones we missed". A great example of one we missed would have seen Thai Saman Sorjaturong take on Korean Hi Yong Choi in what would have been an instant epic. It wouldn't have been pretty, it wouldn't have been clean, but it would have been thrill a minute stuff between two men who knew how to go to war.
If we're being honest the window for this would be from around late 1993 to early 1996, which is a pretty good window of time. The bout would have been especially notable in late 1995 or early 1996 when between them the due held 3 of the 4 major world titles. Not only meaning this would be a sensational war to enjoy, but would have also seen the IBF, WBA and WBC titles all end up around the wait of one man, at least for a while.
The time window of late '95/early '96 would also come when both men were red hot. Saman had just beaten Humberto Gonzalez in an epic in July, with that bout later being deemed the Fight of the Year, whilst Choi had become a 2-weight champion early in 1995, and had managed to fit in his first defense in September that year. There's a very clear, but short lived, time frame for this one to have been staged and to have been something incredibly special.
We suspect hardcore fans will be more familiar with Saman Sorjaturong than Hi Yong Choi. The Thai had turned professional in 1989 and had fought in his first world title bout in 1993, losing to Ricardo Lopez. He rebuilt from that loss to get a fight with "Chiquito" Gonzalez in 1995, in what turned out to be a sensational war that saw both men being dropped, multiple times. That win netted Saman the WBC and IBF Light Flyweight titles. His reign with the IBF title was short, but he would hold the WBC title until 1999, losing it to Yo Sam Choi in Seoul in his 11th defense. Despite being a little man Saman was heavy handed, scoring stoppages in over 60% of his career bouts. Although not the most polished fighter Saman was dangerous, with capable skills, heavy hands, smart footwork. He was an exciting boxer-fighter, who could be dragged into a war, very easily, though was at his best with his jab flowing and a bit of space between himself and his opponent.
Hi Yong Choi on the other hand was as crude, rough, tough and clumsy as they come. He had first made his name at in the amateurs before mounting a charge at Minimumweight. In 1991 he claimed the WBA Minimumweight title, beating Bong Jun Kim, and defended it 4 times before losing to Hideyuki Ohashi. A move up in weight followed, in 1995, and Choi would become a 2-weight champion by beating Leo Gamez in an extraordinary battle of machismo. That was an ugly, messy scrap for the ages that some will love, and some will absolutely hate. He defended that belt once, against Keiji Yamaguchi, before losing the belt in the US to Carlos Murillo and retiring.
Interestingly both men managed to defend a world title against Yuichi Hosono, who Choi stopped in 10 rounds in 1992 and Saman stopped in 4 rounds in 1995.
How would we see it playing out?
In terms of pure boxing ability Saman was levels ahead of the Thai, despite the fact Choi was a solid amateur. Saman was much, much better on his feet, he knew how to create distance and how to fight smartly. He also, however, had a questionable chin. He had great heart, but the knockdowns to Gonzalez do show a flaw, and he was stopped in 4 of his 8 losses, though 3 of those did come at the end of his career.
Choi was so crude, but came with such raw energy and anger. Choi just came forward, fighting as if every second of every fight needed to be fought with intensity. He would have to walk through some huge shots to get close to Saman, but walk through them he would do. Rightly or wrongly. The Korean was not only tough but he was also quite liberal when it came to using us head, and we suspect that could be a problem here, especially with Saman backing off whilst Choi marches forward.
We would expect to see Saman picking his moments, slamming his heavy jab into Choi's face and following up with well timed right hands, to head and body. He wouldn't, however, discourage the Korean who would repeatedly walk forward, looking for a fight. As we get into the later rounds and Saman begins to tire Choi will look to grind down Saman with some incredibly fun to watch offensive charges.
We don't imagine Choi's offense would be polished enough to over-come a prime Saman, but Saman would know he's been in a fight by the end of it.
Would history of been changed?
Well actually yes, yes it could have been! The winner of this could have been the first Asian fighter to have won 3 different world titles at once. The IBF wasn't recognised in Korea at the time, and so if Choi won his reign would have been a mega short one but it would have been an historic moment. We had to wait for Gennady Golovkin to unify Middleweight titles before an Asian fighter managed to hold 3 world titles at once.
We probably wouldn't have seen Choi facing Murillo in his US debut, so the WBA Light Flyweight title history would have been very different, and there's a good chance Murillo and Keiji Yamaguchi would never have been world champions.
Given that Saman vacated the IBF title soon after he won it, and the IBF's status in Korea in the mid 1990's, we suspect that the IBF title history would be very similar to what it was, and the WBC title would likely have ended up with Yo Sam Choi, who eventually dethroned Saman.
For Saman a win here would have enhanced his reputation and helped make him stand out for more than just the Gonzalez fight. It would have been a legitimate world level title defense, and unification. And we believe he would have won. However had Choi won there's a good chance he'd have had a bigger fight, rather than the Murillo fight, though his days as a world level fighter at Light Flyweight always seemed limited.
As fans this would have been a messy epic, and both fighters would have come out with damage, so maybe it was best for both that we never got to see them fight, but it really would have been a damn fun battle!
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