The month of Dacember really doesn't give room to think or catch our breath, and over the coming days we have prospects in action, Rookie of the Year action, world title action, a fighter heading off to the UK to face on one of the sports most promising youngsters, and so, so much more!
Akinori Watanabe (38-7-1, 32) vs Sitthidet Banti (12-5, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
The always entertaining Akinori Watanabe looks to make his first defense of the OPBF Light Middleweight title as he takes on limited Thai foe Sitthident Banti. On paper this should be little more than a home coming defense for Watanabe, who won the title in Korea. Although we're not fans of the fight it's hard to criticise Watanabe for having an easy fight given his competition over the last few years, and the punishment he has taken. Given Banti was stopped by a Japanese novice a few months ago this should be an easy win for the champion.
Mikio Sakai (1-0) vs Ran Tomomatsu (1-0) - Tokyo, Japan
A much more attractive bout in Tokyo will see former amateur standouts Mikio Sakai and Ran Tomomatsu clash in a brilliantly matched contest. Of the two Sakai is the one who has impressed us more, with his better all round boxing skills, but Tomomatsu looks like a very strong fighter with an edge in power. It can be hard to get excited about two 1-0 guys facing off, but we really are looking forward to this clash, and we are expecting something very impressive from two men who are very, very capable.
Daniyar Yeleussinov (8-0, 4) vs Alan Sanchez (20-4-1, 10) - Arizona, USA
Unbeaten Kazakh hopeful Daniyar Yeleussinov looks to continue his climb through the rankings as he takes on experienced foe Alan Sanchez. On paper this looks like a good test for the talented, yet often frustrating, Yeleussinov but in reality it's hard to get too excited about the contest. Sanchez has proven to be a banana skin, taking the unbeaten record of John Carlo Sosa and beaten Pabo Cesar Cano, but he's only had 3 wins in 4 years, has been out of action for more than a year, and was last teen being stopped by Alexander Besputin, in September 2018. A win for the Kazakh is expected, and it's a shame we won't be able to read much into it.
Kyotaro Fujimoto (21-1, 13) Vs Daniel Dubois (13-0, 12) - London, United Kingdom
Former Japanese Heavyweight champion Kyotaro Fujimoto makes his international debut as he takes on destructive Englishman Daniel Dubois. On paper this looks like a solid step up in class for Dubois, but in reality it seems very much like Fujimoto is being thrown to the wolves. Fujimoto has been treading water looking for a big bout, but this is likely to be far too much for Fujimoto. The small, speedy Japanese Heavyweight will lack the power to get Dubois respect, and will lack the chin needed to take the bombs from "DDD". A mismatch and oddity.
All Japan Rookie of the Year finals - Tokyo, Japan
One of the highlights of the boxing calendar! The All Japan Rookie of the Year is a culmination of the various regional tournaments and will be shown live on G+. Whilst this likely won't get much international attention the Japanese Rookie of the Year is, by far, the best annual tournament in boxing, and had often been a launchpad for Japanese fighters who on to big things. Whether you get to watch it or not this is worth making a mental note of.
Yuki Strong Kobayashi (15-8, 9) vs Ki Chang Go (8-3, 4) - Osaka, Japan
Japanese warrior Yuki Strong Kobayashi looks to make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title as he takes on Korean challenger Ki Chang Go, in what looks like a very safe match up. Kobayashi is a gutsy fighter, who has limitations but will always fight his heart out and has improved through his career to become a very solid fighter. Go on the other hand is just a few fights removed from losing to Kobayashi's then stable mate Masahiro Sakamoto, a man who is best known for losing a Flyweight world title fight. Kobayashi should be far too strong and big for the Korean here.
Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18-2, 11) Vs Yuta Matsuo (15-4-1, 8) - Osaka, Japan
The final Japanese title eliminator of 2019 will be at Super Flyweight and see former world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka take on Yuta Matsuo for the right to fight the newly crowned Kenta Nakagawa. Although neither Kudaka or Matsuo are world beaters they do make for an interesting match up, and we think their limitations and styles should gel well for a very fun action bout. Don't expect a boxing bout here, but instead expect a fight! A real potential gem, among a month of great fights.
Ryota Murata (15-2, 12) Vs Steven Butler (28-1-1, 24) - Yokohama, Japan
Japanese mega star Ryota Murata looks to have a longer second reign with the WBA "regular" Middleweight title than his first, and faces off with hard hitting Canadian Steven Butler in his first defense. Murata really impressed when he avenged his loss to Rob Brant earlier this year, and another performance like that here should see him over-come Butler. The challenger is however dangerous and will be in Japan looking to score his biggest win to date. This could be very explosive.
Moruti Mthalane (38-2, 25) vs Akira Yaegashi (28-6, 16) - Yokohama, Japan
South African veteran Morruti Mthalane returns to Japan for this third defense of the IBF Flyweight title, and he takes on fellow veteran Akira Yaegashi. We don't just see this as being a bout for the title, but a bout for survival, and the loser really is going to struggle to have any sort of a future in the sport. Both have had great careers, but with both men now on the wrong side of 35 their future in the sport is limited, and fighting back up the ranks after a loss would be very difficult. Although the older man, and more experienced fighter, Mthalane has looked the fresher man, but 37 is ancient for a Flyweight and father will catch up to him sooner or later. Then again Yaegashi, at 36, is no spring chicken either. A very interesting and massively significant match up for the Flyweight division.
Kenshiro Teraji (16-0, 9) Vs Randy Petalcorin (31-3-1, 23) -Yokohama, Japan
Japanese fighter Kenshiro Teraji, who is mow fighting by his full name, was supposed to face IBF Lught Flyweight champion Felix Alvarado in a unification bout, until Alvarado fell ill. To replace Alvarado they've brought in Randy Petalcorin, who will challenger the unbeaten Japanese for the the WBC Light Flyweight title. The champion is looking for his 7th defense, and will be strongly favoured here but Petalcorin is a solid challenger and should give Kenshiro something of a test here.
Roman Gonzalez (47-2, 39) vs Diomel Diocos (14-5-3, 4) -Yokohama, Japan
Nicaraguan great Roman Gonzalez fights in his 50th professional bout as he takes on Filipino foe Diomel Diocos. The talented Gonzalez is clearly past his best, but looked great last time out, when he beat down Moises Fuentes and likely has more than enough in the tank to take a stoppage win here. Interestingly it's more than a year since Gonzalez last fought, and more than 5 years since he last stepped foot in a Japanese ring. Diocos has faced limited opponents, other than Daigo Higa who stopped him. We suspect Gonzalez does a number on Diocos like Higa did.
After a truly hectic May, which has had big fights littered through the month, we drop back to reality in June as the schedule almost tails off completely and we sort of struggle to get too excited about too much taking place over the coming weeks. Thankfully here there is still enough to talk about without feeling the month is threadbare, but it's less about big fights, and more about emerging fighters.
The first weekend of October is huge for fight fans who follow the Asian scene, as we covered in “What's to come in October - Part 1”. Thankfully there is still a smattering of action during the rest of the month.
Hiroaki Teshigawara (17-2-2, 10) Vs Glenn Suminguit (21-3, 11)-Japan
The first of two OPBF title fights on October 11th will see Japan's Hiroaki Teshigawara and Filipino Glenn Suminguit battle for the vacant OPBF Super Bantamweight title, a title that was vacated by Hidenori Otake earlier this year. Teshigawara is rarely in a bad bout, due to his aggressive styles which is defensively open but yet very exciting. Suminguit is a relative unknown out side of the Philippines but should be a tricky assignment for the Japanese fighter given his smart movement and accurate counter punching.
Rikki Naito (20-2, 7) Vs Daishi Nagata (11-1-1, 5)
The second OPBF bout for the day will see Light Welterweight champion Rikki Naito defending his belt against Daishi Nagata, in what will be Naito's second defense. The champion narrowly scraped a win last time out, against Jheritz Chavez, and showed that he can be hurt, especially late. Despite that Naito is a talented boxer-mover and will feel confident of a win here. Nagata on the other hand has reeled off 3 wins since his 2017 stoppage loss to Vladimir Baez and looks to have rebuild his form and confidence. We expect this will be a highly skilled battle between two light hitting but talented fighters.
Ryota Murata (14-1, 11) v Rob Brant (23-1, 16) – USA
In the US on October 20th we see two major Middleweight bouts. One of those will see WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders defending his title against Demetrius Andrade whilst another will see WBA “regular” champion Ryota Murata defending his title against Rob Brant. Sadly the Murata bout is the weaker of the two contests and is expected to serve as little more than a straight forward mandatory defense for Murata, as he continues to pursue Kazakh icon Gennady Golovkin. This really should be a straight forward win for Murata, who is seen as being levels above Brant, but the Japanese fighter will be looking to impress and not just do enough to win. He know that to add interest to the Golovkin fight he needs to look great and that will be in his mind when he steps in the ring.
Kenny Demecillo (14-4-2, 8) Vs Lee Haskins (35-4, 14)- Philippines
On October 21st we get another notable show, this time in the Philippines. One of the biggest bouts on the card will be an IBF Bantamweight title eliminator, with the winner becoming the future mandatory for the IBF title and likely getting a shot at the belt at the end of the WBSS. The bout will see Filipino fighter Kenny Demecillo facing off with English visitor Lee Haskins, in what will be one of the very first bouts where an Englishman has travelled to fight in a bout of note in the Philippines. The visitor will be favoured, given he is a former world champion, but give he is 35 and has had a long career this could where father time catches up with him. Demecillo on the other hand is 26 and comes into this out on the back of a career defining win over Vyacheslav Mirzaev in Russia. A very interesting match up.
Randy Petalcorin (29-2-1, 22) v Felix Alvarado (33-2, 29) – Philippines
Whilst the Demecillo Vs Haskins bout is an interesting one it pales, massively, compared to the main event on the same card, which will see Filipino Randy Petalcorin take on Nicaraguan Felix Alvarado for the vacant IBF Light Flyweight title. The Filipino has been hovering on the world scene for a while but due to various issues he hasn't been able to secure a world title fight until now, and is being pitted with arguably the most dangerous man in the division. Petalcorin is a sharp boxer-puncher with lovely movement and an intelligent ring style, though perhaps isn't quite as destructive as his record suggests. Alvarado on the other hand is one of the sports most fearsome punchers, and whilst a little bit crude and rough around the edges he is a real dangerman that no one will be in a rush to face off with. This could be the bout of the month, and promises a lovely battle between boxing skills and frightening power.
It's also worth noting that on October 12th there will be a show with 6 Japanese title eliminators on it. The bouts are only Japanese domestic level fights but could prove to be significant in the new year, with the winners all getting a chance to fight in the 2019 Champion Carnival.
Over the last few days there have been a number of stories that have linked together to suggest that the Light Flyweight division, arguably the best division in the sport right now, is set to be shaken up. So rather than cover all the news pieces individually we've decided to roll a number of them into one and look at the possible knock on effects to the division.
Hiroto Kyoguchi heading up
The first bit of news is that hard hitting Japanese youngster Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0, 7) [京口 紘人] will be vacating the IBF Minimumweight title. There had been talk about the Watanabe gym fighter remaining at Minimumweight for a potential unification bout at the end of 2018 but it now seems like those plans have changed and he is set to vacate the IBF title and move to Light Flyweight.
The exciting 24 year old had made 2 defenses of the title, stopping Carlos Buitrago and taking a decision win over Vince Paras, but had spoken about weight struggles and suffered cramps from weight loss during the bout with Paras in May.
Ryoichi Taguchi returns
Former WBA "super" and IBF champion Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12) [田口良一], who is a stablemate of Kyoguchi at the Watanabe Gym, returned to the gym recently. Although he hasn't set his flag out on what he's going to be doing going forward he is certainly back in the gym and getting back into fighting shape. Originally it seemed like he was going to return at Light Flyweight, but it now seems to be for Taguchi to move up in weight and compete in the Flyweight division, which is going through a lot of changes at the moment.
Hekkie Budler vacates IBF
The man who beat Taguchi for the WBA "super" and IBF titles was Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10), who is now set to vacate the IBF title rather than defend the title against mandatory challenger Felix Alvarado (33-2, 29). This is likely to lead to a bout between Budler and Kyoguchi for the WBA "super" title, in what will be a very exciting and action packed bout as Kyoguchi looks to become a 2-weight champion.
The knock on of the IBF title becoming vacant is that the heavy handed Alvarado will fight for the vacant belt. At the moment Alvarado is ranked #1 by the IBF with the #2 ranking being vacant and the #3 position being held by Filipino fighter Randy Petalcorin (29-2-1, 22), in what would be an incredibly good fight for the vacant title. Another possible option to be Alvarado's opponent would be Japanese national champion Tetsuya Hisada (32-9-2, 19) [久田 哲也], who is ranked #4 by the IBF.
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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