This past week has been a strange one for Asian boxing, as very little notable action actually took place in Asia, with very few shows taking place in the Orient. There was the odd card, such as the Rookie of the Year shows in Tokyo and the show in Singapore, but in reality there wasn't much of note. As a result many of the awards winners this week fought outside of Asia, though really did provide so much excitement.
Fighter of the Week
Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0, 9)
Tajik born Russian based Super Featherweight Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov proved his value with a great on Sunday when he stopped the previously unbeaten Azinga Fuzile in an IBF Super Featherweight world title eliminator. Rakhimov went in as the under-dog, fighting in Fuzile's back yard and for the most was out boxed, out sped, out thought and out fought. Fuzile's success left Rakhimov in a hole on the scorecards but the heavy handed fighter refused to accept defeat and in round 8 went about changing the nature of the fight, roughing up Fuzile. When he did that he broke through, dropping the South African twice to secure the win, and a huge title showdown with Tevin Farmer.
Performance of the Week
Batyr Akhmedov (7-1, 6)
Whilst we were massively impressed with Rakhimov the performance of the week belongs to Uzbek born fighter Batyr Akhmedov, who put in an amazing performance against Mario Barrios in a bout for the WBA "regular" Light Welterweight title. Akhmedov was dropped in round 4 then seemed to come alive, setting an incredible pace from round 5 to the final bell. Sadly Rakhimov was dropped in round 12 but had put in a performance that will leave fans talking for a while. He may have lost the bout, by decision, but Akhmedov impressed, proved he belonged at world level and showed he had the energy and style to be a genuine fan favourite. The bout may have come a touch too early in his career, but he made the most of his chance and will almost certainly have improved his standing, despite the defeat.
Batyr Akhmedov vs Mario Barrios
Akhmedov's effort in his loss to Barrios was incredible. The fight was fought at a high tempo through out, the momentum shifted, from a good start to Barrios, a strong middle for Akhmedov and then a big turn around in round 12 with Barrios knockdown. This was one of the most dramatic fights of the year, and it's just a shame that the judges scorecards left a bad taste over what had been an incredible fight, and a great showing of heart, determination and will from both.
Batyr Akhmedov Vs Mario Barrios (Rd12)
We stick with the Akhmedov Vs Barrios for the round of the week, which wasn't the most exciting round, but was the most dramatic. Akhmedov was in the ascendancy, he was pressing the fight and bringing the pressure. Barrios was badly swollen, looking tired and seemingly desperate to stay up right. Then with about 20 seconds left he scored his second knockdown of the fight. This wasn't an all action round, and put into isolation it wasn't an amazing round, but in context of the fight and the drama the round had this was amazing.
Jin Sasaki TKO1 Tetsuya Kondo
Although not the most significant KO of the week the one that really stood out as being the most aesthetically pleasing came in a Rookie of the Year bout, as teenager Jin Sasaki took out Tetsuya Kondo. Aftr just over 2 minutes Sasaki dropped Kondo for the first time. Kondo got back to his feet and about 20 seconds later Sasaki landed a truly sweet left hook that sent Kondo crashing to the canvas. This was a gorgeous KO, and whilst not the most destructive or important it was worth watching over and over.
Rei Nakajima (2-0)
Despite the Rookie of the Year action there wasn't much action featuring notable prospects. There was some talented Filipino's in mismatches at the start of the week but the mismatches certainly don't help their claim. Instead the one that stood out was was Rei Nakajima, who went 6 rounds in a clear win over Korean Se Yul Yang. Nakajima is a genuine talent and whilst Yang wasn't competitivehe did travel to win and forced Nakajima to remain sharp. It's a shame the top Filipino prospects didn't fight some what testing opponents at the start of the week.
Junto Nakatani (19-0, 14) vs Milan Melindo (37-4, 13)
There are a number of compelling match ups over the next 7 days, including 2 world title bouts and numerous bouts featuring prospects. For us the bout that stands out the most is the cross roads bout between rising contender Junto Nakatani and former world champion Milan Melindo. For Nakatani this is expected to be a legitimate test, his first real test since his Rookie of the Year days, whilst Melindo is looking to keep his career alive, and move towards one final world title bout. This is a really intriguing bout, and although there's no world title up for grabs, we see this as being the best of this weeks upcoming fights and the one which has the potential to launch a new star.
The month of October is promising a lot of action. Of course some of it's not amazing, but the month has a lot of highlights and a lot of reasons to be excited. Here we take a look at the first part of the month, and the highlights we're set to get over the first week or so of the month.
Hiroto Kyoguchi (13-0, 9) vs Tetsuya Hisada (34-9-2, 20) -Osaka, Japan
In an all Japanese world title fight we'll see WBA Light Flyweight "super" champion Hiroto Kyoguchi take on veteran Tetsuya Hisada in Osaka. This will be Kyoguchi's second defense of the title, following his title victory in December against Hekkie Budler, whilst Hisada will be getting his first world title bout, just weeks short his his 35th birthday. The champion will be strongly favoured, but the challenge will go in knowing this will almost certainly be his only shot at a world title
Hiroshige Osawa (35-5-4, 21) Vs Jason Butar Butar (29-26-1, 19)- Osaka, Japan
Former world title challenger Hiroshige Osawa is currently ranked #1 by the WBA at Featherweight, which we admit is a weird ranking given what he's done since losing to Oscar Valdez in a WBO title fight. Here he'll be looking to just stay busy as he takes on limited Indonesian journeyman Jason Butar Butar. Osawa doesn't deserve his #1 world ranking, but that doesn't lead us to thinking this will be anything other than an easy win for the Japanese fighter.
Gennady Golovkin (39-1-1, 35) vs Sergiy Derevyanchenko (13-1, 10) - New York, USA
One of the real highlights of the month will see Kazakh puncher Gennady Golovkin look reclaim a portion of the Middleweight throne as he battles Ukrainian fighter Sergiy Derevyanchenk in a bout for the IBF Middelweight title. This is expected to be a really thrilling bout and a major test to see what Golovkin has left in the tank,and whether Derevyanchenko can get over the line in what is his second world title shot. This could be a really brilliant fight, though one that will leave the loser looking down the proverbial barrel of retirement.
Junto Nakatani (19-0, 14) vs Milan Melindo (37-4, 13) - Tokyo, Japan
Unbeaten Japanese Flyweight hopeful Junto Nakatani looks to continue his rise as he takes on his most notable test to date, former world champion Milan Melindo. The fast rising Nakatani has shown a lot to like so far, but has been fighting at a lower level, with the feeling that he needs to face better competition before getting a world title fight. Melindo is not the fighter he once was, and has lost his last 2 bouts, but still has a bag of tricks up his sleeve and should ask Nakatani some question that he has never been seen before.
Ryo Akaho (34-2-2, 22) Vs Kyung Min Kwon (7-5, 3) - Tokyo, Japan
Former world title challenger Ryo Akaho looks to score his 9th straight victory as he takes on Korean foe Kyung Min Kwon. The Japanese slugger is unbeaten since losing to Pungluang Sor Singyu in 2015, but his competition hasn't been the best during that run, including a close win over the relatively unknown Hiroaki Teshigawara. Kwon on the other hand is a former OPBF Featherweight title challenger, but is 2-3 in his last 5 and will obviously enter as the under-dog. Kwon has proven to be tough, and should give Akaho a solid test, but will almost certainly come up short here.
Ikuro Sadatsune (9-4-3, 3) Vs Robin Langres (10-3, 4) - Tokyo, Japan
The under-rated Ikuro Sadatsune might not be a star in the making but he's a hugely entertaining fighter has a very under-rated record, and should probably have a better record than he does, with 3 of his losses being very close. Robin Langres on the other hand is a Filipino with a similar record, looking to make his mark on foreign soil following 13 bouts at home. This looks competitive and every bout featuring Sadatsune is worth making a note of, especially ones which will be shown on TV, like this one.
Shigetoshi Kotari (0-0) Vs Lasben Sinaba (3-2, 3) - Tokyo, Japan
MT Gym's newest signing is solid former amateur fighter Shigetoshi Kotari. The youngster makes his pro debut, following sparring sessions with the likes of Junto Nakatani and Masayuki Ito, as he takes on Indonesian foe Lasben Sinaba. The reality is that this should be a show case for the Japanese novice, who has the skills and size to go a very long way. Sinaba really has little chance here and it's more a case of getting a chance to see Kotari in his debut, than anything competitive here.
Rikki Naito (21-2, 7) vs Gyu Beom Jeon (9-3-1, 4) -Cheonan, South Korea
At about the 4th time of asking we'll finally get OPBF Light Welterweight champion Rikki Naito defending his title in Korea against Gyu Beom Jeon. This bout has been scheduled a number of times before one issue, or another, has caused it to be rescheduled. Those issues have seen Naito remaning out of the ring for pretty much a full year, with his last botu coming last October against Daishi Nagata.On the other hand Jeon will be fighting for the third time this year, and will be hunting his 6th straight win. Despite the winning run Jeon will be stepping up, massively, here.
Sung Jae Jo (9-0, 7) vs Wulamu Tulake (8-2-1, 4) - Cheonan, South Korea
Unbeaten Korean puncher Sung Jae Jo looks to extend his unbeaten record to 10 wins as he takes on Chinese foe Wulamu Tulake. The Korean Middleweight is a small but powerful fighter at 160lbs and we expect to see him getting into the regional title mix in the near future. Tulake will have size and reach advantages over the Korean, but has been stopped in both of his losses and will almost certainly struggle with the power of Jo.
Shuichiro Yoshino (10-0, 8) Vs Harmonito Dela Torre (20-2, 12) - Tokyo, Japan
Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino looks to become a triple champion as he faces Filipino Harmonito Dela Torre in a bout for the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Lightweight titles. The two regional thrones are both vacant coming in to this and will establish the winner as a world ranked contender, as well as the proverbial Lightweight king of Asia. Coming in to this Yoshino has looked brilliant, a sharp, heavy handed boxer-puncher who has stopped his last 6, and looks to be on the way up. Dela Torre on the other hand was once a touted 19-0 (12) prospect, but losses in 2 of his last 3 bouts have taken much of the shine from his career and left him in desperate need of a win here.
Kenichi Horikawa (40-15-1, 13) Vs Yuto Takahashi (10-4, 5) -Tokyo, Japan
Japanese Light Flyweight champion Kenichi Horikawa looks to continue his reign, and secure his second defense, as he takes on the unheralded Yuto Takahashi. The 39 year old champion is a true stalwart of the Japanese scene and despite his age is still a really talented warrior who has won his last 8 in a row and become a 2-time champion. The challenger is a 26 year old who has had some mixed success, but has earned a title fight thanks to wins over the likes of Ryoki Hirai and Yuta Nakayama. This is a big ask for the challenger, but given the age and wear and tear of Horikawa this is, perhaps, the perfect time to challenge him, and take the title before someone else the chance.
A new month is upon us and once again we have a lot to look forward to, in fact just over the first 8 days of the month we have more action than we typically get in a month, with some absolutely huge bouts taking place in Japan and in Thailand!
Joana Pastrana (13-1, 4) Vs Samson Tor Buamas (40-4, 22) – Spain
The month, for us, kicks off on Friday in Spain and will see Thai female veteran Samson Tor Bumas, aka Siriporn Taweesuk, take on IBF female Minimumweight champion Joana Pastrana. The Spanish fighter will be making her first defense of the title whilst Samson will be looking to roll back the clock and score her biggest win in over a decade.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (46-4-1, 41) Vs Iran Diaz (14-2-3, 6) – Thailand
Thai icon Srisaket Sor Rungvisai returns to ring Saturday to make his third defense of the WBC Super Flyweight title, taking on Mexican foe Iran Diaz. The destructive Thai had a huge 2017, defeating Roman Gonzakez twice, and began thus year with a win over Juan Francisco Estrada. This bout however is huge for another reason, with it headlining a One Championship card. For Diaz this is a huge step up in class but he has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Hironori Mishiro (6-0, 2) Vs Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1, 11) – Japan
Srisaket's bout isn't the only major bout on Saturday as OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro takes on Japanese champion Masaru Sueyoshi in a compelling title unification bout. The unbeaten Mishiro claimed his title in June, when he defeated Carlo Magali, but this is a very tough first defense. On the other hand Sueyoshi on the other hand has made two defenses of the title and is much more experienced in the professional ranks.
Kirill Relikh (22-2, 19) Vs Eduard Troyanovsky (27-1, 24) – Japan
The first part of a triple header in Yokohama on the first Sunday of the month will see WBA Light Welterweight champion Kirill Relikh defending his title against Eduard Troyanovsky, in a bout that will see both men kick off their WBSS campaign. This has the potential to be very explosive, given that both have solid power, and being a real treat for fans tuning in. We know the WBSS is a big attraction and this bout could well be the real gem of the first round bouts
Ken Shiro (13-0, 7) Vs Milan Melindo (37-3, 13) – Japan
The second part of the Yokohama triple header is a brilliant looking Light Flyweight title bout between WBC champion Ken Shiro and former IBF champion Milan Melindo. The bout pits two very high skilled fighters against each other and although neither is a huge name on the global scene but are notable fighters globally. Both are genuine top 10 fighters in one of the toughest divisions in the sports and both are continuing to face tough opponent after tough opponent to make a name for themselves.
Naoya Inoue (16-0, 14) Vs Juan Carlos Payano (20-1, 9)– Japan
The final part of the triple header sees WBA “regular” champion Naoya Inoue take on former champion Juan Carlos Payano in another WBSS bout. The “Monster” is hotly tipped to win the WBSS tournament but is up against a talented southpaw here, who has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Payano is a former 2-time Olympian but is seen as being as little more than fodder for the Japanese sensation.
Unfortunately October looks to be a somewhat front heavy month with a lot of the highlights coming in the first weekend. We will however cover the rest of the month in part 2, which should be available to read in a couple of weeks time!
Over the last few weeks we've looked at the Light Flyweight world champions, the key contenders and a number of prospects. So to end this feature we'll look at one more thing that Light Flyweight has going for it, the match ups. And if we're being honest this is where the division really comes into it's own as it's set to give us some amazing bouts in the coming weeks and months. These include bouts for all the world titles!
Ryoichi Taguchi (27-2-2, 12) vs Hekkie Budler (31-3, 10)
On May 20th we get the first of 4 mouth watering world title bouts. This bout will see WBA “super”, IBF and Ring Magazine champion Ryoichi Taguchi defending his collection of title as he takes on former WBA Minimumweight champion Hekkie Budler. For Taguchi the bout will be his 8th defense of the WBA title and his first defense of the other two belts as he looks to build on a big win over Milan Melindo last year. As for Budler this will be his second shot at a Light Flyweight title, after a thrilling 12 round split decision loss to Melindo last September. The winner of this bout has a strong claim to be the divisional number #1 but given the depth in the division things aren't really that clear.
We're expecting this to be a really thrilling war as the gangly and hard working Taguchi takes on the quick and gritty determination of Budler. We're expecting something very exciting here, and wouldn't be surprised by the bout being a very thrilling 12 round war.
Ken Shiro (12-0, 6) vs Ganigan Lopez (29-7, 18) II
Less than a week after the Taguchi Vs Budler bout we get another fantastic match up, with WBC champion Ken Shiro defending his title against Ganigan Lopez, the man he took the belt from just over a year ago. Since winning the title Ken Shiro has made a couple of defense, beating Pedro Guevara and Gilberto Pedroza and has physically matured. At the age of 26 the champion is just coming into his prime and has the opportunity to become one of the faces of Japanese boxing. Lopez on the other hand is 36 years and this will be likely be his final big bout, if he loses, so will not be travelling to pick anything but a win and the title. As we saw in the first bout these two are well matched and this should be a compelling match once again.
Notably the winner of this will also have a great claim to be the best in the division. The champion has already scored notable wins over Lopez, Guevara and Pedroza whilst the challenger holds wins over the likes of Mario Rodriguez, Yu Kimura and Jonathan Taconing.
Angel Acosta (17-1, 17) vs Carlos Buitrago (30-3-1, 17)
On June 16th it's the turn of WBO champion Angel Acosta, with the huge punching Puerto Rican defending his title for the first time, and battling against Nicaraguan Carlos Buitrago. The champion won the title last year, when he stopped Juan Alejo, and looked back to his destructive best following a May 2017 loss to Kosei Tanaka. As for Buitrago the 26 year old challenger has lost 3 of his last 6 and will have to look at this bout as potentially his last chance, especially given how badly he was beaten last time out by Hiroto Kyoguchi. For Acosta this bout is a chance to score a win over a well known name, and prove that he really belong to remain in the world title mix whilst Buitrago will almost certainly see this bout as a do or die opportunity.
With Acosta's power this could be over early, especially given that Buitrago was simply broken into submission by Kyoguchi, however the Nicaraguan has always seemed more suited to the Light Flyweight division and may well see the recent success of Cristofer Rosales as something of an inspiration. This isn't likely to be the best bout coming up, but should be very exciting.
Carlos Canizales (20-0-1, 16) vs Bin Lu (1-0, 1)
WBA Regular champion Carlos Canizales will be making his first defense of the title that he won this past March, when he beat Reiya Konishi. Despite being the champion the Venezuelan won't actually be the focus of the bout, instead that will be China's Lu Bin, who looks to create history and become the first man to win a world title in just his second professional bout. The task is a huge one for Bin but if he can come out on top here he will get his name written into the record books and set a record that we don't imagine will be beaten any time soon, if ever. The Chinese fighter is a former amateur stand out, a break out success of the APB and someone willing to chase greatness. Canizales enters as the unbeaten champion, but won't have the pressure associated with being a champion for this bout.
With the winner in line to face Taguchi, by virtue of the WBA title, this bout is not only a major one between a defending champion and total novice, but also indirectly with the winner potentially getting such a big opportunity later. We expect Bin to play safe, use a lot of movement and try to move his way to a win, but Canizales can box and bang and may be a bit too powerful and experienced for Bin's history chasing moment.
As well as the bouts that have been signed there are also some great match ups we could see later this year, as the contenders look to eliminate each other and force themselves into a title fight. Here are some that we really would love the look of, and really hope get made.
Felix Alvarado (32-2, 28) Vs Jonathan Taconing (27-3-1, 22)
A bout between two crude but tough and huge punching fighters would sure deliver fire works, and that's exactly what we'd expect if Nicaragua's Felix Alvarado fought Filipino Jonathan Taconing. Both of these men have fallen short in 2 world title fighters and are chasing a third crack at a title and what a better way to get that fight than by going through another of the division's monster punchers.
Tetsuya Hisada (31-9-2, 19) Vs Reiya Konishi (15-1, 5)
Japanese boxing is well known for it's warriors and exciting back and forth wars. A bout between Tetsuya Hisada and Reiya Konishi would certainly deliver us another war with both fighters loving to let their hands go and have a fight. We wouldn't expect anything too explosive or defensively impressive here, but it would be a toe-to-toe war with both men looking to out work, out land and out punch he other. Both fighters would be looking to impress and with their style's we would get something enthralling.
Milan Melindo (37-3, 13) Vs Randy Petalcorin (28-2-1, 21)
We don't get enough top tier all-Filipino bouts, though we would like to see more and a bout between former IBF champion Milan Melindo and former WBA “interim” champion Randy Petalcorin would be just that. Both fighters will be looking to move towards getting a world title fight later in the year and both will know that a win over the other would put them forward as one of the leading Filipino contenders. Not only that but this would be a highly skilled, fast paced chess match.
Christian Araneta (15-0, 13) Vs Jesse Espinas (18-2, 11) II
Another all Filipino bout that makes a lot of sense is a rematch between Christian Araneta and Jesse Espinas. These two met back in 2015 with Espinas being stopped in 8 rounds of a fantastic bout in Danao City and with a few years since that bout a rematch does make sense. From what we under-stand both men have shown interest in a rematch and it would really push the winner towards a world title fight. High risk, high reward and high potential for an exciting bout.
Edward Heno (12-0-5, 5) Vs Rey Loreto (24-14, 16)
Yet another potentially thrilling all-Filipino bout, really showing how strong the country is at 108lbs, would see OPBF champion Edward Heno take on former world title challenger Rey Loreto. Heno is a rising contender who has made his mark over the last 12 months or so with notable results against Cris Ganoza, Seita Ogido and Merlito Sabillo but really could do with one more testing bout before looking at a world title fight. Loreto on the other hand has been matched hard through his career but has proven his ability some excellent fighters and could see a win over Heno as his chance to move towards a second world title bout, and bounce back from a loss to Knockout CP Freshmart.
If there is a boxing god out there we'll get some of those extra bouts to go alongside the currently scheduled contests as the Light Flyweight division continues to impress and make it's mark.
If you missed the other parts of this series
Part 1 is available here - The Depth at Light Flyweight - Part 1 - The World Champions
Part 2 is available here - The Depth at Light Flyweight - Part 2 - The Contenders
Part 3 is available here - The Depth at Light Flyweight - Part 3 - The Prospects
(Image of Acosta courtesy of www.promocionesmiguelcotto.com)
The argument over which division in boxing is the best is an interesting one and is often one where there is a number of divisions of real consideration. For me however one division currently stands out above all the others due to a combination of talent, depth of competition and the match ups we've been getting in recent times, along with the bout scheduled to take place in coming months.
The division is the Light Flyweight division, which is scarily deep right now, has a brilliant mixture of talent and styles and is delivering top quality bouts on a regular basis. It also has one of the sports few unified champions and is a division with so many exciting contenders that it's almost inevitable that some top fighters will miss out on big opportunities.
For part 2 of this 4 part series we'll begin by looking at the division's most notable contenders, ranging from veterans and former champions to rising hopefuls looking to get a chance at breaking through. The depth here really is incredible and although we've made a solid effort to include a big number of contenders, we know we've missed some, the problem is the division really is too deep for it's own good.
For those who missed part 1 that's available here - The Depth at Light Flyweight - Part 1 - The World Champions
Ganigan Lopez (29-7, 18) – Former WBC champion
Mexican veteran Ganigan Lopez is the division's stalwart. Aged 36 he is certainly an old fighter for the weight class, but he lives up to his moniker of “El Maravilla” and is one of the most rounded fighters in the division. He's a 15 year veteran of the sport who has really improved with age and taken on a who's who whilst fighting all over the world.
Among the fighters Lopez has faced include Juan Palacios, Adrian Hernandez, Denver Cuello, Luis Ceja, Mario Rodriguez, Pedro Guevara, Yu Kimura, Jonathan Taconing and Ken Shiro. Whilst he has come up short against some of those, including a loss to Ken Shiro last year, he is still very much a leading contender who has not only got experience and ring craft but under-rated power and stamina and he really is a fighter who controls the ring like very few men in the division.
Sadly his single world title reign was a short one, with his title win coming in March 2016, his sole successful defense in July of that year before losing the title the following May to Ken Shiro. With a rematch against Ken Shiro due in May it could be do or die for Lopez who is getting on in year is probably looking at his last chance to make a big mark on the sport before retirement. A win in the rematch Ken Shiro would however open some big doors for the veteran.
Pedro Guevara (30-3-1, 17) – Former WBC Champion
Another former WBC champion who remains as a contender is Pedro Guevara, who just 28 but already a 10 year veteran of the sport. Guevara is a brilliantly intelligent boxer who is incredibly smart both in and out of the ring. It's his brain which has helped him make the most of his talent, and he really does have a lot of natural boxing ability as well as a very experienced team around him. Added to that is his experience, which includes fights around the likes of Mario Rodriguez, John Riel Casimero, Raul Garcia, Akira Yaegashi, Yu Kimura, Oswaldo Novoa and Ken Shiro.
Guevara's most notable win was his 2014 win over Akira Yaegashi for the WBC title, which he defended against Richard Claveras and Ganigan Lopez, before losing in a upset to Yu Kimura 11 months after winning the belt. Since then he has gone 4-1, with the loss being to Ken Shiro. The worrying thing for Guevara is that his last 7 bouts have gone to the score cards, and there are question marks about his power. Although he does have the skills and ring craft to not need to rely on paper, the lack of it at world level is somewhat a problem for him and could prevent him from reclaiming a world title.
Interestingly, at the time of writing, Guevara is pencilled in to fight his next bout on May 5th against Roman Gonzalez at Super Flyweight. If that bout does take place then it's very unlikely we'll see Guevara back at 108lbs. However until we see what Guevara's future holds he is still widely regarded as a leading contender at Light Flyweight.
Milan Melindo (37-3, 13) – Former IBF Champion
The division's most recently deposed world champion is technically excellent Filipino boxer Milan Melindo, who lost the IBF title in December 2017 to Ryoichi Taguchi. The Filipino made his debut way back in September 2005 and has racked 40 fights into his career already, yet is only 30 years old. Sadly though for Melindo his future is probably a little bit limited as he's a very old 30 with 300 professional rounds already under his belt and some very draining fights, including recent wars with Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, Hekkie Budler amd Taguchi.
Melindo, like the aforementioned Guevara, is a thinking man's boxer. His understanding of range, tempo and timing are brilliant. At his best Melindo is razor sharp, a perfect punch picker and has the ability to throw some of the best combinations in the division. Sadly, like with many smart fighters, he can be found to be lazy and can struggle when the pace moves up a gear and he has also shown issues with cuts in recent bouts, suffering bad cuts against Fahlan and Budler.
At the moment it's unclear when Melindo will be back in action but it's hard to imagine him being out for too. It's likely going to be a case that he will be given time to totally heal up after some very hard bouts, then look to retain later in the year.
Hekkie Budler (31-3, 10) – Former WBA Minimumweight Champion
One other former world champion in the Light Flyweight title mix is South African speedster Hekkie Budler, who claimed his world title at Minimumweight where he had a pretty solid run as the WBA champion. His wins at the lower weight include victories over Nkosinathi Joyi, Pigmy Kokietgym, Xiong Zhao Zhong, Jesus Silvestre and Simphiwe Khonco. His most notable bout at 108lbs was a razor thin less last year to Melindo for the IBF title and due to the competitive nature of that bout he's stayed well and truly in the mix.
Budler is a gutsy warrior who lacks power but has a great engine, throws a lot of punches and is quick. On paper he's likely to have a hard time with almost anyone in the top 10, but they are also going to have a hard time with him. His determination is really impressive and his output is amazing, even at the lower weights. Sadly he does look like he can be out powered, and he was dropped in the final round by Melindo.
Budler will return to the ring on May 20th to take on Taguchi in a bout for the IBF, WBA and Ring magazine titles. The bout comes just 2 days after his 30th birthday and although he does still have quite a bit left he has been in some wars and will likely know that his shots at the top are numbered, with the Taguchi bout likely to be one of his last.
Edward Heno (12-0-5, 5) – OPBF Champion
One of the more notable rising Filipino's in the division is OPBF champion Edward Heno, an unbeaten fighter who has began to shoot up the rankings and is on the fringes of getting a world title fight. Unlike many on this list he isn't a former champion but already holds a number of notable wins, including stoppages against Cris Ganoza and Seita Ogido as well as a decision over Merlito Sabillo. Whilst those wins don't mean a massive amount on the world stage they are solid wins for a fighter who just moved from a prospect to a contender.
Heno's record is littered with draws and close decisions but 3 of those draws came in his first 3 bouts and he is certainly improving with every fight, as he showed by stopping two of the fighters who have held him to a draw. He is a powerful fighter who is building on his strengths and is becoming a real threat in the division.
Heno is probably 12-18 months away from being truly ready for a world title fight, but all 4 world title bodies rank him in the top 15 and he could be a voluntary defense for any of the champions later in the year. With his youth, power and development he could well be a real nightmare for any of the top handful of fighters and should be viewed as one to watch, even if he does lack the name value of some of the former champions.
Tetsuya Hisada (30-9-2, 19) – Japanese Champions
Another lower level champion looking to get a world title shot this year is Japanese national champion Tetsuya Hisada, who at the age of 33 really doesn't have the time to waste if he intends to make the next step up in class. It's worth noting that he hasn't got a pretty looking record, but he is better than those numbers suggest, and is in great form, having remained unbeaten in almost 3 years. His current 9 fight winning run has seen him go 9-0 (8) and score really good domestic wins over the likes of Shun Kosaka, Kenichi Horikawa, Atsushi Kakutani and Takeri Kamikubo.
Hisada, like many on this list, has got his next bout organised already, an April 14th title defense against fellow Japanese veteran Koji Itagaki, and if he comes through that he, and his team, do seem likely to chase a world title fight and ditch the Japanese title. It's worth noting he is in the top 10 with all 4 world title bodies and seems open to facing any of the world champions.
In the ring Hisada is a real battler. He throws a lot of shots, seems to get stronger as bouts go on and although not a monster puncher he's a heavy enough handed fighter to wear opponents down from sheer accumulation. At 33 his ability to keep coming in the later rounds might begin to wane, but for now he's a fighter full of confidence and with a serious point to prove, especially given that Ken Shiro gave up the Japanese title to fight for the WBC belt, just weeks before a scheduled 2017 bout with Hisada. That along gives Hisada a clear hunger to face the current WBC king.
Felix Alvarado (32-2, 28)
The Light Flyweight division has some massive puncher, in fact Angel Acosta and Carlos Canizales are world champions mostly due to their incredible punching power. They however probably don't have the heaviest hands in the division, instead that honour is probably with Nicaraguan terror Felix Alvarado, who in all honesty is the division's real boogey man. The 29 year old from Managua has 14-0 (13) since suffering back to back defeats to Kaztuo Ioka and Juan Carlos Reveco and he is a nightmare to fight.
Although Alvarado has lost his two biggest bouts he has remained a contender with notable wins over fringe contenders like Luis de la Rosa, Larluis Diaz, Jose Antonio Jimenez and most impressive Fahlan Sakreerin Jr. Not only is he a big puncher but he is an ultra aggressive fighter who appears to take a really hard shot very well, and is always swarming opponents looking to take them out as early as possible, with 15 opening round T/KO's already.
Alvarado's next bout isn't set yet, but he's in line for an IBF title fight, having scored his win over Fahlan in eliminator for the IBF title, and is looking like a fighter who wants to stay busy rather than just waiting for his shot. In 2017 he fought 6 times, and he already has two bouts under his belt this year. With that in mind he may well fight in the coming weeks and continue to tick over until getting his third world title shot.
Jonathan Taconing (27-3-1, 22)
Another of the division's tough guys with a serious punch is the limited, and some what crude, but wonderfully hard hitting Filipino Jonathan Taconing, who is also a 2-time world title challenger. The 31 year old “Lightning” debuted back in 2007 and looked like a savage puncher straight away, stopping his first 3 foes in a combined 4 rounds. A couple of set backs on the domestic scene slowed his ascent but he would go on to climb the rankings quite quickly and get a shot in 2012 against Kompayak Porpramook, losing a very controversial technical decision in Thailand. That loss put Taconing on the map but made him a fighter to avoid.
A4 year unbeaten run would follow for Taconing, who would go on to claim the OPBF title and score notable wins over Vergilio Silvano and Ramon Garcia Hirales before he would lose his second shot, a clear defeat to Ganigan Lopez in 2016. Since that defeat Taconing has gone 5-0 (4). He;s not as naturally talented as Alvarado, and doesn't quite set up his shots as well, but is hard hitting and teak tough and not many fighters will engage him in toe-to-toe war.
Taconing last fought back in March, in a domestic bout against Robert Onggocan, in what looks to have been a surprisingly competitive bout. It's worth noting, like many on this list, he is ranked by all 4 world title bodies, with 3 of the 4 having him in the top 5, and it's clear that he is on the verges of another world title fight. That fight might come this year, though we doubt any of the champions will be in a rush to face him.
Rey Loreto (24-14, 16)
Yet another puncher in the division is Rey Loreto, another of the talented Filipino fighters plying their trade at Light Flyweight, though also capable of fighting at Minimumweight. Loreto has the most messed up record of any contender in the division, if not the sport right now, but is a true nightmare of a fighter to face. Aged 27 Loreto is in his prime, but is already a 10 year veteran and and a fighter who has developed from a 0-4 teenager to being danger man and a true contender.
Loreto's career turned around in 2013, when he beat Pornsawan Porpramook in Thailand, and then had a huge show in the arm the following year when he scored a monster upset against Nkosinathi Joyi, something he repeated the following year. Sadly for Loreto he saw a 7 fight unbeaten run come to an end last year, losing to Knockout CP Freshmart in a Minimumweight title bout, but that set back may well have served as a blessing in disguise and a chance for Loreto to realise that his best weight is Light Flyweight.
Having fought in February Lerot may not fight again for a while, but is world ranked by the WBC, at Light Flyweight, and the WBA, at Minimumweight, and is certainly a fighter who has time on his side to rebuild and work on getting a second world title fight. It's unlikely he'll get a shot thus year, but 2019, or 2020, could well be his year.
Randy Petalcorin (28-2-1, 21) – Former WBA “interim” Champion
Another Filipino in and around the world title scene is former WBA “interim” champion Randy Petalcorin, who once looked like he was right in the mix before his career stalled, massively. Back in 2014 Petalcorin claimed the interim crown and defended it once, blitzing Ma Yi Min in Beijing. Sadly though he has gone 5-1 since impressive display, over 4 years ago. Worse than the inactivity is the quality he has been fighting, and from being on the edge of a world title fight he has found himself fighting regional journeymen.
As a fighter Petalcorin is a natural talent. He's a wonderfully crisp boxer-puncher and despite having been a professional for 9 years he is still only 26 and whilst it does feel like he is wasting his time at the moment he does have a lot of youth on his side. Hopefully that won't give him and excuse to waste more time, as he really is such a pure joy to watch.
Whilst it's easy to look at Petalcorin's record and see two losses one of those was a very early career defeat to future world champion Marlon Tapales whilst the other was a hotly disputed split decision loss to Omari Kimweri 2 years ago. That loss to Kimweri has been followed by 5 straight wins, and it's now time Petalcorin showed his skills are against more testing opponents than he's been up against in recent times.
Tibo Monabesa (17-0-2, 8)
Indonesian boxing has lacked a star since the retirement of Chris John though they may be on the verge of having a new one thanks to the talented Tibo Monabesa. The 27 year old southpaw has been a professional for a little under 6 years but has already progressed far beyond domestic level and is the current WBC International Silver champion, having already notched two defenses of the belt and become a bit of hit at home.
To date his best wins are only over regional opponents, but still they have come against decent fighters, such as Rene Patilano and Lester Abutan. Those wins, along with his title, have helped him creep into the world rankings without getting much international fan fare. At the time of writing he is in the top 15 with the WBA, WBO and WBC and although not quite ready for a world champion he's certainly not far off a title fight.
With one fight already under his belt in 2018 we're expecting to see a busy and eventful year for the man from Jakarta and we suspect he'll fight progressively better opponents through to the end of the year as he and his team prepare for a world title fight, possible as early as 2019. Sadly though for his growing local fanbase it's unlikely he and his team will manage to secure home advantage and he will likely be on the road when a world title fight is offered to him.
Reiya Konishi (15-1, 5) Former Japanese Minimumweight Champion
Former Japanese Minimumweight champion Reiya Konishi is another in the long line of young Japanese fighters making a mark in the lower weight classes. The 24 year old from Kobe made his mark on the domestic scene by winning the Rookie of the Year in 2014 before claiming the Japanese title in 2017. As the Japanese Minimumweight champion Konishi impressed with wins against Shin Ono and Kenta Matsui before moving up in weight and vacating the title. Sadly for Konishi he lost earlier this year, coming up short to Carlos Canizales.
Despite losing to Canizales, in a bout for the WBA “regular” title, we were impressed by Konishi who gritted his teeth after being knocked down early on and really gave Canizales problems with his fantastic work rate and desire. It may have been a loss but it was a “good loss” in many ways and showed that he really does belong in the title mix going forward.
Konishi's loss to Canizales was less than a month ago so it's unlikely he'll be racing back into the ring, but he will likely be back in last summer as he looks to bounce back and rebuild. That could well see him fighting another contender, or drop down to domestic level and really get used to the weight. At 24 he really has time on his side and there is no need to rush him until he's ready, especially given that his style is one that could burn him out if he has too many wars too soon together.
As well as the 12 fighters mentioned above other notable contenders include:
Palangpol CP Freshmart (14-2, 8) - Thai fighter Palangpol CP Freshmart is best known for challenging Kosei Tanaka in 2017 and dropping the then WBO champion before being stopped himself in round 9. It's unclear when Palangpol will return, but he is a genuine threat to the division
Jesse Espinas (18-2, 11) - Jesse Espinas is an in-form Filipino who is climbing up the rankings thanks to a 7 fight winning streak, which included a big upset win on the road over the then unbeaten Paipharob Kokietgym in 2016
Ryuji Hara (23-2, 14)-Japanese speedster Ryuji Hara has been linked to facing WBO champion Angel Acosta and despite his two stoppage losses, to Kosei Tanaka and Katsunari Takayama, the Ohashi fighter is a talent, and could ask serious questions of the Puerto Rican puncher if that bout manages to take place.
(Images courtesy of boxrec and boxmob.jp)
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