This coming weekend is an interesting one, with a lot of attention being put on a card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The main event of that card, the rematch between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder, is obviously the bout that everyone will focus on but before that we'll get a WBO Super Bantamweight title fight, as 23 year old Filipino Jeo Santisima (19-2, 16) takes on defending champion Emanuel Navarrete (30-1, 26). As if often the case with Filipino fighters making their debut in the states, the question is "Who is Jeo Santisima?" Or as we like to ask "Who are you? Jeo Santisima"
Obviously, as mentioned, Santisima is a 23 year old Filipino fighter with a couple of losses to his name and really no recognition on the international stage. He is however someone who Filipino fans have been talking about for a few years now, and we've seen him rebuild from a 2-2 start to becoming a legitimate contender, in one of boxing's most compelling divisions.
Like many Filipino fighters Santisima turned professional as youngster, in fact he was only 17 when he made his debut back in August 2013. He lost that bout, by decision, to Roniel Parcon at Featherweight, but bounced back just a month later by beating Filipino based Japanese fighter Takaomi Noma. A second win, just months late, saw him build some momentum before falling to his second defeat, losing to Marlon Arcilla at Bantamweight.
After just 9 months as a professional it would have been easy to write off the young Santisima, but he refused to write himself off, and he has since found his groove in the ring, built into his frame, and began fighting at his natural weight.
Given he was 2-2 after 4 bouts Santisima wasn't getting much attention, but slowly began to prove himself in the last half of 2014, before building up a head of steam in 2015 with 4 stoppage wins, including victories over Peter Apolinar and Alan Alberca, both of whom were 5-0, and the experience Jerry Nardo, then 21-8. Those wins saw Santisima begin to create quite a bit of buzz and go into 2016 with some momentum.
Things went from good to better for the youngster who scored 5 more stoppage wins in 2016, including stoppages over Marco Demecillo and Rex Wao. Those wins secured him a 5 year contract extension with ALA Promotions, who obviously saw him as a major part of their future. He was getting shots to shine on televised events, with his win over Junior Bajawa being one of the main events on an ALA show and his win over Terdchai Doungmontree coming on the under-card of a Nonito Donaire card.
To begin 2017 Santisima was surprisingly taken the distance by Indonesian journeyman Master Suro, ending a 10 fight T/KO run for the Filipino. Suro was dropped in round 6 but managed to survive the 10 round schedule in what was a televised bout on Pinoy Pride 40. Coming in to the bout the commentary team has been building up Santisima's power, and rightfully so, but Suro was super tough and not only showed Santisima couldn't blow everyone out, but that the Filipino youngster hard work to do on his stamina, work rate and shot selection.
Having gone 10 with Suro we expected Santisima to have to work for subsequent victories, but instead he blew out the previously unbeaten Goodluck Mrema, in 78 seconds, and Kichang Kim, in 56 seconds. He then needed only 3 rounds to beat Thai foe Yodsingdaeng Jor Chaijinda, aka Likit Chane, to claim the WBO Oriental Super Bantamweight title. That was the first title he won, and 5 months after winning it he defended it, for the first time, in the toughest bout of his 17 winning round. That bout saw Santisima going 12 hard fought rounds with Mexican tough guy Uriel Lopez. It was a clear win for the Filipino, but a very hard fought one, that saw Santisima needing to prove his toughness, engine and will to win, against an opponent who simply refused to be stopped.
Sadly since the gut check against Lopez we've not really seen Santisima prove himself. He stopped the poor Alvius Maufani inside a round and then stopped the once talented, but by then very faded and naturally much smaller, Rene Dacquel. On paper the win over Dacquel was good, but in reality it was against a man who was at his best 2 divisions lower, had been stopped in his previous bout and was more than 2 years removed from his last win, at Super Flyweight.
In the ring Santisima is a big Super Bantamweight, powerfully built and a heavy body puncher. He is however someone who fights in spurts, throws a lot of round shots, and although heavy handed his shots can be seen coming and can be ridden. Defensively he's open to counters during his bursts of shots and even when he's not in aggressive mode his hands still drop, he's there to be hit and will be hit by someone like Navarrete.
Do we give him a chance against Navarrete? Well yeah, there's always a chance, but it's a slim one and he is really up against it against here.
(Image courtesy of ALA Boxing)
After one of the quietest weeks in a long time we followed up with a genuinely solid, if rather over-looked, week featuring a lot of solid action, and bouts featuring 3 former champions! It may not have matched some of the weeks at the end of 2020, but this was an excellent week and one we really enjoyed thanks to free streams, from CBC and the GAB, a brilliant Boxing Raise show and a tape delay Fuji TV show.
Fighter of the Week
Ryoji Fukunaga (12-4, 12)
A week after our rule on "Fighter" of the week bit us on the backside, with the most significant win coming in a relative nothing bout, normality resumed this week with Ryoji Fukunaga being the well deserving winner this following a gutsy, brave and excellent win over Froilan Saludar. The unheralded Japanese puncher went into the bout as the major under-dog in what was a very big step up in class, but fought through some massive swelling to out gut Saludar. The performance wasn't an outstanding out, but the win was huge, and netter Fkunaga the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title. We don't imagine he'll hold it long, but this week was his week!
Performance of the Week
Mark Sales (23-43-5, 8)
It's rare that we'll ever see the performance of the week come from a journeyman with more than 40 losses, but this week Mark Sales is well and truly worth attention and accolades. Sales had been out of the ring for almost a year, he'd only fought once in 2019 and once in 2018, and was more than 4 years removed from his last win. He wasn't expected to defeat Prabjhot Singh, but that's exactly what he did, relying on his more than 70 bouts of experience to out work, out fight, out punch and out smart his taller, younger opponent. Well done the "Slam Man"!
Kento Hatanaka vs Roland Jay Biendima
We really had some fantastic bouts this week, including a thriller between a pair of Richard's, Claveras and Rosales, in the Philippines. For us though the pick of the bunch was a 10 round action thriller between Kento Hatanaka and Roland Jay Biendima. This was absolutely thrilling, after a quiet first round Biendima came alive and gave us a brilliant, action packed 10 round bout that swung one way, then the other. Biendima was often on the wrong of the action, but hurt Hatanaka a number of time, bloodying his nose in round 3, damaging his ribs later in the bout and rocking him a number of times. This is the weeks must watch bout, and is really worth going back and rewatching. A brilliant fight.
Kento Hatanaka vs Roland Jay Biendima (RD 10)
There were amazing rounds through the week, though for us the final 3 minutes of the war for the WBC Youth Flyweight title between Kento Hatanaka and Roland Jay Biendima was the best. The round was one of a number of thrilling rounds between the two warriors, tried to make sure they didn't hear the final bell. At the end of the round it was clear the two men had fought to a standstill.
Yuki Nakajima vs Shisui Kawabata (Rd 4)
Elmar Zamora vs Justin Espejo (Rd 6)
Hiroki Hanabusa KO1 Sorawit Bamrungrai
We love body shot KO's, they don't come around too often, but we love seeing them when they do. With that in mind it was hard to note repeatedly rewatch Hiroki Hanabusa's left hook to the body against over-matched Thai Sorawit Bamrungrai. The talented Hanabusa, who will be fighting for a Japanese Youth title later in the year, did what he was supposed to do against an opponent who shouldn't have been in the ring with him, and left him in a heap on the canvas. This was perfect placement, took a fraction of a second for Sorawit to feel it, and left the Thai down and out. Pure brilliance
Elmar Zamora (3-0, 2)
The GAB show on Saturday was frustrating one to watch live with the official GAB stream being rather a nightmare at times. It was however worth watching for the performance of Elmar Zamora, who took a decision over Justin Espejo. Zamora showed he could box, bang, brawl, had a really exciting style and looks like the sort of fighter the Filipino scene should be looking to nurture. The youngster debuted in 2018 and fought twice that year before taking a year out and returning to face Espejo. Not sure if the break was the best thing for his career, but his performance this weekend was brilliant, keep an eye out for this talented and exciting youngster!
Emanuel Navarrete (30-1, 26) vs Jeo Santisima (19-2, 16)
The biggest show of the weekend is at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and we an Asian interest with Emanuel Navarrete taking on Filipino Jeo Santisima, in what is a genuinely quiet week for Asian fighters. Before we go any further, we see this as a massive mismatch, however we also see this as a fun mismatch, with two men expected to try and out slug each other. Santisima is a massive under-dog, but fights in a style that should be fun, until he is eventually worn down by Navarrete. Expect this to be a lot of fun and brutal!
Whilst February certainly didn't start quickly it does get going in the second half of the month with a flurry of fights taking place with Asian fighters involved.
Shuichiro Yoshino (11-0, 9) Vs Izuki Tomioka (7-2-1, 2) -
In the headline bout of a Dimond Glove card in Tokyo we'll see Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino defending his title again mandatory challenger Izuki Tomioka in the second of this year's Champion carnival bouts. For Yoshino this is expected to be a test of his technical boxing skills, as Tomioka is a genuinely talented boxer-mover. On the other hand Tomioka is taking on, arguably, his toughest opponent to date and did come up short in his last bout at this type of level.
Daigo Higa (15-1, 15) Vs Jason Buenaobra (7-4-3, 3)
After almost 2 years away from the ring former world champion Daigo Higa returns, and takes on rugged Filipino foe Jason Buenaobra. This should be a win for Higa, but we expect him to be very emotional, and he is going up against someone who has never been stopped before, so he will have to work hard for the win. It's also worth noting that Buenaobra is the naturally bigger man and will not be there looking to just make up the numbers.
Froilan Saludar (31-3-1, 22) Vs Ryoji Fukunaga (11-4, 11)
Filipino Froilan Saludar returns to Japan to make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title, as he battles hard hitting, but technically limited, Japanese challenger Ryuji Fukunaga. On paper this looks like it could be very explosive, and we wouldn't be surprised at all with the bout ending early. Fukunaga hasn't been able to show his power when he has faced his toughest opponents, and Saludar is certainly among the best opponents that he has faced.
Yuki Nakajima (3-1, 3) Vs Shisui Kawabata (2-1, 2)
In a mouth watering clash of young prospects we'll see Yuki Nakajima take on Shisui Kawabata. On paper this doesn't look like one that will get fans outside of Japan too excited, but given the skills of the two men we are really excited by this one. Nakajima, the younger brother of Kazuki Nakajima, is a former amateur standout and made a real mark on the domestic amateur scene whilst Kawabata has been used as a sparring partner by Naoya, showing the quality that he has shared the ring with. We expect this to be very, very good.
Ryota Yamauchi (5-1, 4) Vs MJ Bo (8-3-2, 4)
World ranked Japanese fighter Ryota Yamauchi looks to build on August's win over Alphoe Dagayloan. Sadly Yamauchi's win over Dagayloan cost him a Japanese title eliminator, due to the injuries he suffered in that bout, and he'll be lookign to make up for it in 2020. MJ Bo, from the Philippines was stopped last time he fought in Japan, by Yuta Nakayama, but is a capable opponent and should ask questions of Yamauchi.
Emanuel Navarrete (30-1, 26) vs Jeo Santisima (19-2, 16)
Mexican fighter Emanuel Navarrete looks to make his fifth defense of the WBO Super Bantamweight title as he takes on Filipino challenger Jeo Santisima. The bout is expected to be a mismatch by many, especially given Navarrete's run since winning the title in late 2018. The champion is seen a real monster in the Super Bantamweight division and will come into the bout full of confidence. Although the 23 Santisima isn't well known outside of the Philippines he is riding a 17 fight winning run and has stopped 15 of those, so he certainly enters with a punchers chance, if nothing else.
Riku Nagahama (11-2-1, 4) Vs Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8)
Unbeaten Japanese-Afghan fighter Kudura Kaneko looks to extend his perfect record as he goes up against the talented Riku Nagahama in a bout for the vacant OPBF Welterweight title. Although neither of these two are well known outside of Japan the bout is a significant one and the winner will see their hopes of landing a big international fight given a huge shot in the arm. Of the two Nagahama has faced better competition, but has lost in his 2 most notable bouts, whilst Kaneko looks to be a fighter on the rise. A very interesting clash.
Jae Woo Lee (7-2, 6) Vs Shingo Kusano (12-8-1, 5)
Potentially the hidden gem for the month is a clash between Jae Woo Lee and Shingo Kusano, who clash in one of the two Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi finals. The little known Lee made fans sit up and take note last November, when he stopped Tsuyoshi Tameda in a thrilling little war. Shingo Kusano also thrilled when he fought on the same November card, pulling himself off the canvas and battling back through some real scares against Qiang Ma. Expect this one to be exciting, and not to go the distance.
Richard Pumicpic (21-10-2, 6) Vs Daisuke Watanabe (9-4-2, 6)
The other Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi final bout will see Filipino veteran Richard Pumicpic battle Japanese foe Daisuke Watanabe. This has the potential to be very exciting, or a total mess. Both guys like to let their hands go but with 6 technical decisions between them there's a real risk of headbutts derailing the fight. Fingers crossed the heads don't come in to contact too often and we instead get a bit of a thriller!
The start of August was like a house on fire, with title bouts things taking place in 3 successive days, and 7 title bouts in 8 days. Thankfully things slow down in the middle of the month, at least a small bit, with fewer notable title bouts, but still a lot of action, cramped into not a lot of time. Also, unlike the start of the month, we really see the action spread all over the place.
Jung Kyoung Lee (7-2-1, 3) vs Akinori Watanabe (37-7-1, 31) - Seoul, South Korea
The first big bout from this section of the month will see OPBF Light Middleweight champion Jung Kyoung Lee make his first defense of the title, as he battles Japanese veteran Akinori Watanabe. Lee won the title earlier this year, stopping Samuel Colomban, and hastily arranged his first defense, before an injury pushed it back. Now rescheduled the bout is a big test for the champion, and a chance to find out what exactly the challenger has left in the tank. A great match up and a rare chance to get excited about what's happening in a Korean ring.
Aidos Yerbossynuly (11-0, 8) vs Rocky Jerkic (17-1, 13) - New South Wales, Australia
In Australia we get two bouts featuring unbeaten Kazakh hopefuls. One of those is unified minor title holder Aidos Yerbossynuly defending his belts against once beaten Australian Rocky Jerkic. The 27 year old Yerbossybuly has proven to be a decent fighter, but this is a clear step up in class a proper chance to see what he's like against some one else with with hunger and ambition. Jerkic on the other hand is 31, can ill afford another loss, after a 2017 defeat to Anthony Buttigieg, and will be seeing this as a big chance to claim a WBA minor title. This could be one of the hidden gems of the month
Nursultan Zhangabayev (7-0, 5) Vs Steve Gago (11-0, 4) - New South Wales, Australia
The other Kazakh in Australia is 26 year old Nursultan Zhangabayev, who will be up against fellow unbeaten Steve Gago. The talented Zhangabayev was given a real test last year by Arnel Tinampay, one of the sports most under-rated fighters, and has since gone on to drop to Welterweight, where he stopped Ivan Matute to claim a minor title at Welterweight. Gago on the other hand is a 30 year old who has padded his record against limited Thai's and may well be unprepared for the talented, if unheralded, Kazakh. It is worth noting Gago did notch his best win last time out, defeating Adam Diu Abdulhamid, but this is a big step up from that bout.
Jing Xiang (16-4-2, 3) v Jomar Caindog (10-1-1, 4) - Shenzhen, China
Highly skilled Chinese prospect Jing Xiang drops in weight as he looks to make his mark at Minimumweight, rather than in the stacked Light Flyweight division. The talented Xiang is one of China's brightest hopefuls but he's going to be pushed hard here by Filipino Jomar Caindog, who's only loss so far was to upcoming world title challenger Samuel Salva more than 3 years ago. The winner of this will become the WBO International Minimumweight champion and will likely find their self on the edge a shot at the WBO world title. Caindog doesn't have much on his record, but won't be travelling to los, whilst Xiang is one of the sports most well hidden talents.
Xiang Li (4-0, 3) v Do Jin Lee (6-2, 3) - Shenzhen, China
Unbeaten Chinese hopeful Xiang Li will be looking to build on January's win over Arvin Yurong as he takes on Korean foe Do Jin Lee, in a bout for a couple of minor titles. Li looks a bit rough around the edges, but can certainly punch and there is a lot to like about him. Despite the talent Li he does need to be much more active than he has been, and start to rack up some momentum, after a very stop-start opening to his career. Lee on the other hand is an 18 year old Korean with patchy form to say the least, going 1-2-2 in his last 5, but got a taste of international experience last time out, losing a decision in June to Mirai Naito, and may feel more confident for this road bout than he was for that one.
Jeo Santisima (17-2, 14) v Alvius Maufani (6-3-2, 3) - Leyte, Philippines
The year has been a really disappointing one for ALA Promotions and their top fighters have had much of their momentum stopped in 2019. Now we see some of those fighters trying to get back on track with the hard hitting Jeo Santisima being one of them. The 23 year old banger, who was last seen scoring a win over the incredibly tough Victor Uriel Lopez, is having little more than a tick over bout here as he takes on limited Indonesianm Alvius Maufani. Santisima is a great prospect, who could have been on the verge of a world title fight with some more activity, Maufani on the other hand is very limited and has failed to take a win in any of his last 3, and was actually stopped last time out. We don't see this one going the distance.
Albert Pagara (31-1, 22) Vs Lucky Tor Buamas (12-3, 12) - Leyte, Philippines
Another ALA prospect looking to put a frustrating year behind him is Albert Pagara, who takes on hard hitting Thai foe Lucky Tor Buamas. The touted Pagara is looking for his 6th win since a loss to Cesar Juarez in 2016, though his career really has slowed down and it's a real shame that he appears to be both inactive, and taking a massive step backwards here. Whilst Pagara has been disappointingly inactive Lucky will be fighting for the first time in over a year, and has lost his last 2, and 3 of his last 8. Not only has Lucky been shown up recently in terms of his defeats but he has been stopped, and has typically been fighting at Super Flyweight. Pagara should be too good, too strong, too big and too powerful for the limited Thai.
Apichet Petchmanee (4-0, 2) Vs Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo (61-4, 41) II - Bang Phun, Thailand
In Thailand we see fighters go again as talented prospect Apichet Petchmanee takes on former world title challenger Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo. These two fought earlier in the year and despite picking up the win Apichet really failed to shine, with a good argument that he didn't do enough to win. Whilst it was a big step up in class for the unbeaten man he was expected to have the skills, youth, size and amateur pedigree to over-come the much older and naturally smaller Chonlatorn without any problems. Instead it was the experience and ring craft of Chonlatarn that proved to be the biggest factor and we'll see whether or not Apichet will have learned from that first bout.
Jayr Raquinel (10-1-1, 7) v Takuya Kogawa (30-5-1, 13) - Tokyo, Japan
Once beaten Filipino fighter Jayr Raquinel looks to make his second defense of the OPBF Flyweight title as he takes on former world title challenger Takuya Kogawa. The 22 year old champion has been out of the ring since losing to Wulan Tuolehazi last September, and that sort of inactivity could be a major issue here, though he is an excellent young fighter who will be hoping to show what he can really do. As for Kogawa the Japanese veteran is 34 and will know that this could be his final title fight. With almost 250, hard, rounds under his belt he is a stalwart of the Japanese scene, who has taken a lot of punishment in a very memorable career.
Ryota Yamauchi (4-1, 4) vs Alphoe Dagayloan (13-2-5, 5) - Tokyo, Japan
We love seeing talented youngsters face off in their careers, taking risks early and not sitting pretty whilst running up big unbeaten records. With that in mind we have to admit we really love the look of this match up between rising Japanese hopeful Ryota Yamauchi and the under-rated Alphoe Dagayloan of the Philippines. For Yamauchi the bout is a chance to bounce back from his close and controversial loss to Wulan Tuolehazi, the man who also beat Jayr Raquinel. For Dagayaloan on the other hand it's a chance to get another notable win on his record, following solid wins over the likes of Esneth Domingo, Madiyar Zhanuzak and Rongguo Wu. The winner of this will almost certainly find themselves in the regional title mix sooner rather than later, and the loser will have a lot of time to rebuild. A fantastic match up, and one that could outshine the main event.
Mikio Sakai (0-0) v Elfelos Vega (7-6, 5) - Tokyo, Japan
Former Japanese amateur standout Mikio Sakai makes his debut, and does so against the dangerous Elfelos Vega in a very tough looking debut bout. Sakai is very highly regarded following a genuine solid amateur career on the Japanese national scene, and given how many top "bigger" fighters train at the Kedoebi gym it's clear Sakai will get great sparring. Vega, whilst not the most talented, can bang and is tough so this should be a great test of Sakai and what he has to offer. If Sakai looks good we wouldn't be surprised for Kadoebi to have him in with some sort of ranked fighter by the end of 2020. For Vega a win would kick start his career, but he will enter as the clear under-dog.
Ryo Nakai (0-0) v Jay Lloyd Quidlat (4-0-1, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
Another former Japanese amateur standout making his debut is Ryo Nakai, who could well end up the better of the two debutants. He will be up against unbeaten Filipino foe Jay Lloyd Quidlat, in a very good looking test. Although naturally much smaller than Sakai we have heard that Nakai has the more long term potential, given he's younger and was more accomplished in the unpaid ranks. Quidlat has been a professional for a little over a year but this is a very clear step up in class from the low level Filipino foes than he's been facing off with so far.
Shohjahon Ergashev (16-0, 14) v Abdiel Ramirez (24-4-1, 22) - Oklahoma, USA
One of Uzbekistan's top hopefuls, Shohjahon Ergashev, will be up against Mexican puncher Abidel Ramirez in what looks like a really good fight. Ergashev looked poor when he defeated Mykal Fox earlier in the year, despite winning he looked predictable, open and very technically poor, here however he should be up against someone less awkward and more willing to fight. Ramirez is no world beater, but is someone who believes in his power, and that should make for an entering, if short lived, war between two men looking to take each other out early. We'd suggest you don't blink if you're watching this one!
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