As we head towards a new year we've decided to look into our glass balls, our tea leaves and our palms to come up with 20 predictions which will be posted over the coming weeks for what we think will happen in 2020. So far our predictions haven't been the best though they've not all been wrong.
In 2013 we predicted that Naoya Inoue, his brother Takuma and Kosei Tanaka would all win world titles. Between them they've won a few world titles, though Takuma has yet to win a proper world title. That same year we also predicted a growth in Chinese boxing, and this arguably happened despite the fact the Macau side of things has died off. We also predicted a growth in Asian fighters making a name for themselves in the US, this was before Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Naoya Inoue or Kazuto Ioka had fought on US soil, and before the wave of Uzbek's had began to attract US attention.
Unlike the past, where we have made all of our predictions in 1 article, we'll be spreading these ones out with 1 prediction per article, and going more in depth than we have in the past.
Prediction number 18-Filipino Boxing struggles get worse
One thing that was remarkably disappointing about 2019 was Filipino boxing. There were certainly a number of highlights, including Manny Pacquiao's wins over Adrien Broner and Keither Thurman, and Nonito Donaire's excellent performance against Naoya Inoue. We also had some huge upsets by Filipino fighters including Lito Dante's massive win over Tsubasa Koura. On the whole however the year was a disappointing one for Filipino's.
Just a small list of what has hurt Filipino boxing this year include:
The year lacked a big show from former promotional powerhouse ALA Promotions Donnie Nietes didn't fight at all during the year, and essentially gave up the WBO Super Flyweight title for no reason
Jerwin Ancajas failed to build any moment.
Losses for Mark Anthony Barriga and Vic Saludar at world level
ESPN5's broadcasts becoming less and less frequent as the year went on
Christian Araneta losing his unbeaten record in a world title eliminator
and Lito Dante not defending his OPBF title after beating Koura for it
Trust us the list is longer, but we had to stop somewhere,
Sadly we see 2020 being a worse year for Filipino boxing.
Sooner or later father time is going to retire Manny Pacquiao, Nonito Donaire and Donnie Neites, who are all having success much later in to their careers than we would have expected. We don't see ALA turning things around, and if anything promoters will likely look to have a talent raid on what is left of their fighters, either than or ALA send their guys in to fights away from home as huge under-dogs. We also see the champions from the Philippines being dragged away from home to defend, or more accurately, lose their titles.
Worst of all we don't see where the money to go into Filipino boxing is going to come from. A few big shows aside, put on by MP Promotions, we don't see the highlight nights for the Philippines in 2020. The lacks of those big shows also means that the prospects, the life blood of a countries boxing scene, won't get a chance to shine. The Philippines has some amazing prospects, many of which have been featured in our 20 for 20, but we don't see them all getting a chance to shine. In fact our biggest worry is that we could be several years away from the Filipino boxing scene getting another star to build behind.
This is a prediction we hope we get wrong. We hope ESPN5 will return with vengeance in 2020, we wish that ALA have just had a lazy year whilst planning the next few years out, we really crave success for the Filipino prospect and yearn for more big upsets. Sadly however we expect more frustration, more fading and less and less investment in the young hopefuls.
Boxing in Cebu has all but vanished, and with out a lively Cebu boxing scene, boxing in the Philippines is always going to struggle.
Last weekend Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38) showed he still has what is needed to compete at the top as he out pointed American Timothy Bradley (31-1-0-1, 12) and reclaimed the WBO Welterweight title. I think we all accept that it was a great win for Manny and the sort of thing that he needed just to prove he still had. Unfortunately however he is 35 and at that sort of age a fighters career is certainly on the slide and we'd not expect Manny to be fighting for more than 2 years.
With that in mind I've been asking myself, who is the next Filipino star? Can anyone ever even be comparable to Pacquiao in terms of success, popularity and the effects he has had on both his sport and his people?
The likely answer is that there isn't anyone who will compare to Pacquiao but there are emerging Filipino stars coming through. They are all still in the shadow of Pacquiao but there are enough out there to have Filipino fight fans excited about the future and with that in mind let me introduce you to some of the emerging Filipino prospects. Some of these might not go all the way, others almost certainly will but the one thing they all have in common is that they all hope they can have a career than can be compared to the great Pacquiao.
The unbeaten Genesis Servania (24-0, 10) is one of the highest regarded youngsters in the Philippines and at just 22 years old he is a talent that is just getting better and better.
Early in his career Servania's natural talent was obvious as he quickly became "one to watch". That early natural talent kept Servania racking up wins though unfortunately for him it didn't seem like he had the power to score knockouts or score the eye opening knockdowns. He was talented but not sensational.
In recent fights for Servania that has changed and he has stopped 4 of his last 5 whilst also competing in an absolute barn burner with Konosuke Tomiyama. The worries that Servania wouldn't be exciting enough have certainly vanished in recent fights and he's been able to add excitement to his skills and is now one of the most watch prospect in world boxing.
Ranked very highly by the WBO Servania will likely be moved into a world title fight in the next 12-24 months and if he wins he'll have to expect the comparisons to Pacquiao even though the two are vastly different in styles.
When we talk about the forgotten men of Asian boxing few compare with Froilan Saludar (18-0-1, 11). The talented "Sniper" seems to have been promising a break out year for as long as we can remember and unfortunately he's yet to deliver. We think he will at some point and with several world rankings it's hard to see Saludar sitting and waiting much longer.
Like Pacquiao the unbeaten Saludar is heavy handed and has great speed. He combines those traits with tremendous timing, well schooled boxing, plenty of patience and an understanding of the ring. That might not seem that Pacquiao-like when we think of Pacquiao as a whirring dervish type of fighter but Pacquiao at his best has the immaculate sense of timing that he showed to great effect against Ricky Hatton.
Aged 25 Saludar has to start thinking about pushing on with his career though with just 2 fights last year his career has really hit a wall after it seemed he was set to fight for an IBF title in 2013. From what we under-stand he's not got the best of promoters and should either try to get away from his team or hope that his management can link up with someone more significant to help him reach his potential.
Although he's a Flyweight Saludar is big 112lbs, he's exciting, he's strong and he's the sort of fighter fans like to see.
One of my favourite Filipino prospects is Mark Magsayo (5-0, 4) who at just 18 years old possess all the traits you want to see in a young and promising fighter. He has fire in his hands, he has speed, skills and desire and most importantly he's a very mature 18 year old who is swiftly becoming one of the fastest rising youngsters in Filipino boxing.
ALA may be hyping him a little domestically but we'd be genuinely shocked if this hotly tipped young star doesn't, somewhere down the line, go on to fight at the world level. He may not become the next Pacquiao be he looks like the sort of kid who does have all the triats that will draw comparisons with Pacquiao.
We're hoping ALA can get the most out of this talented youngster though realise he's already becoming very difficult to match. He's only had 5 fights but is already competing in 6 rounders and we'd not be shocked if he is moved quickly up to 8 round bouts as his talent and skills live up to his nickname of "Magnifico". I cannot say enough positive things about Mark Magsayo and if he does become "the next Pacquiao" many will say "I told you so"
Mark Andrew Acub
When you think Manny Pacquiao you think hard hitting southpaw and in Mark Andrew Acub (13-0, 10) we have a hard hitting southpaw who combined speed and sting as well as a good amateur pedigree, something that of course Pacquiao lacks.
Aged 24 Acub is a Super Featherweight/Lightweight who is powerful, fast, not the most skilled but developing his skills. Unfortunately at 24 he is starting to reach his physical prime but yet hasn't really been stepped up and it's hard to see how good he is from his competition so far. In fact in Acub's most notable bout to date he really struggled with the teak tough Rene Bestudio.
Whilst many will look Acub and go "oh he almost lost to Bestudio" others, myself included, suggest that 10 rounds with a fighter like Bestudio will do more for a fighters development than 20 wins against easy opponents who fall over when you hit them. Bestudio withstood the assault and showed Acub that not everyone will be hurt by his power, an incredibly important lesson for a young fighter to learn.
It'll be interesting to see Acub develop but I don't think he'll quite have what it takes to go on to OPBF titles though he'll be a lot of fun to watch.
One man who we really like the look of is Mark Bernaldez (12-0, 8) who, like Pacquiao, has plenty of power to his game. At 22 he's a boxing baby, but a fighter who is likely to become a major name.
What Bernaldez has done really well so far is step up a level. He's no longer feasting on domestic journeymen and novices but it taking on international opponents and has already stopped Khunkhiri Wor Wisaruth of Thai and Indonesian pair Arief Blader and Marangin Marbun. With ALA behind him it's likely he will be kept in with international opponents for a whilst longer then progressively stepped up.
What Bernaldez has going for him is a lot. He's young, got a great team behind him, has power, he's fun to watch and as he's fighting in and around the Featherweight division there will be interest to see him in the US and in Mexico both countries that have a lot of at interest at 122lbs and 126lbs. As he get older there is no doubt he'll fill in to a 130lb or 135lb fighter and if his power carries up he could easily find himself becoming a fighter that fans on both sides of the pacific tuen in to watch
Others worth at least thinking about are:
The much spoken about Joebert Alvarez (14-0-1, 6) who is actually known as "The Little Pacman"
The 20 year old Harmonito Dela Torre (12-0, 7) who has massive potential and is being showcased in Macau and Australia
The very fun to watch Albert Pagara (20-0, 14) who is as exciting as they come and is likely to burst on to the world rankings in the next year or two
The very touted Jhaleel Payao (8-0, 5) who is the current Philippines Boxing Federation Super Flyweight champion despite being just 20
The very heavy handed Dodie Boy Penalosa Jr (12-0, 11) who is of course the nephew of Gerry Penalosa a man closely linked to the Pacquiao team
The fast rising Neil John Tabanao (6-0, 5) who scored a very impressive stoppage over Elmar Francisco last year
(All pictures courtesy of boxrec.com other than the picture of Mark Magsayo)
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