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 1 of this 4 part series we'll begin by looking at the division's word champions. The second part will look at the contenders, part 3 will look at the divisions top prospects and part 4 will be a brief look at some of the match ups coming up in the division over the coming weeks, and there are several big bouts coming up as the divisions continues to deliver.
Ryoichi Taguchi (27-2-2, 12) - WBA “Super”, IBF and Ring Magazine Champion
The 31 year old from the Watanabe Gym made his debut back in 2006, as a 19 year old and after an inauspicious start to his career, fighting in 4 rounders he would go on to claim the 2007 Rookie of the Year. A loss in 2009 slowed his rise but he would continue to develop and in 2012 he got his first title fight, fighting to a draw with Masayuki Kuroda in a bout for the Japanese national title. After Kuroda vacated the title Taguchi would claim the vacant Japanaese belt, by over-coming Yuki Chinenin 2013. Sadly for Taguchi his national title reign was a short one, lasting less than 5 months, as he came up against the sensational Naoya Inoue and was dethroned in his first defense, losing a decision to the "Monster" and becoming the first fighter to last the distance with the rising Ohashi fight.
The set back to Inoue was a big one but Taguchi bounced back and has subsequently gone 9-0-1 (4). He claimed the WBA title in late 2014 by defeating Alberto Rossel and after several defenses he went on to add the IBF and Ring titles last year, defeating Milan Melindo in an excellent bout to end 2017 and unify three world title. His current 10 fight unbeaten run has seen him defeat not only Rossel and Melindo but also Ryo Miyazaki, Kwanthai Sithmorseng and Robert Barrera, and he has also fought to a draw with big punching Carlos Canizlaes.
Tough with a great engine, the ability to adapt and freakish size for a Light Flyweight Taguchi is going to be a tough man to dethrone and is already lined up for his next defense, on May 20th against former WBA Minimumweight champion Hekkie Budler. That bout is an IBF mandatory, and Taguchi is likely to be be returning in September and December as he looks to finish 2018 with 10 defenses of some version of the WBA belt.
Ken Shiro (12-0, 6) – WBC champion
Aged 26 Ken Shiro is significantly younger than Taguchi, but is already an accomplished fighter on the professional scene, and that's despite the fact he's been a professional for less than 4 years. In what has been a really short career he has already claimed the WBC Youth, Japanese, OPBF and WBC world titles. He was earmarked for success from his debut and aggressively fast tracked, winning a title within 3 years of his debut. His record already features wins over the likes of Pedro Guevara, Ganigan Lopez, Gilberto Pedroza and Kenichi Horikawa and clearly shows the belief that his team, headed by his father, have in him.
Ken Shiro a former amateur stand out on the Japanese doemstic scene and is blessed with speed, a high boxing IQ and the youthfulness to develop his skills further. Those traits are why Ken Shiro looks like he will become one of the key faces of Japanese boxing over the next few years, along with the likes of Daigo Higa and Kosei Tanaka. Although unfortunate to have his first two world title fights, both thrillers, shown on delay in Japan he did have his opportunity to shine on live TV last time out. And he took that chance as he impressed by showing off his boxing, power, skills, speed and personality, which will certainly have won over fans who hadn't seen him before.
Although more of a pure boxer than many in the division he really does have the ability to box, brawl or fight and and is very much a chameleon in the ring.
Ken Shiro will make his next defense of the WBC title on May 25th against former champion Ganigan Lopez, the man that he originally beat for he belt last May. A win there, in impressive fashion, could well secure Ken Shiro's place as one of Fuji TV's top fighters, and could see them building shows around him in the future.
Angel Acosta (17-1, 17) – WBO champion
Puerto Rican puncher Angel Acosta is one of the divisions many big punchers and the 27 year old not only has power but also heart, skills, under-rated speed, a very good amateur back ground and stamina. He blew out his first 15 opponents in just 41 rounds, but has since gone 32 rounds in his last 3 bouts, proving his power carries late in to bouts, with 10th round stoppages against Japhet Uutoni and Juan Alejo. His only loss has also come in his last 3 bouts, suffering a decision loss to Kosei Tanaka last May, though he has since bounced back with the win over Alejo, which came in December 2017.
At the moment Acosta is one of two Puerto Rican world champions, along with Alberto Machado, and will likely have his team try to build him as one of the new faces of Puerto Rican boxing. He lacks the star power of a Tito Trinidad, Miguel Cotto or even a Juanma Lopez but like those 3 he is a naturally heavy handed fighter and will certainly thrill fans, especially given he has such brutal power at such a low weight
Acosta was pencilled in to fight Ryuji Hara earlier this year but Hara was injured in the build up, a potential bout with Merlito Sabillo also fell through for Acosta but he is now set to defend his title on June 16th. His opponent for that bout isn't yet set, though Hara is said to be the front runner. That will be his first defense as he looks to begin to establish his reign as a world champion and build on his repuation as one of the divisions stars. It's worth noting he has also been linked to potential unification bouts with both both Taguchi and Ken Shiro, and both of those bouts would be great
Carlos Canizales (20-0-1, 16) – WBA “regular” champion
The most recent man to pick up a “world” title is 25 year old Venezuelan punch Carlos Canizales, who claimed his title this past March with a close decision win over the previously unbeaten Reiya Konishi. That win saw Canizales claim a “world” title in his second attempt, having previously been held to a draw by Ryoichi Taguchi in 2016. Although a powerful puncher Canizales has shown an ability to box and move, brawl and punch. Though he has got question marks about his own durability and about his stamina, as he did appear to slow down massively against Konishi.
Canizales's best win was the one over Konishi, but he does hold one other win of note, a victory over Robert Barerra. Sadly Canizales is some way from really proving himself as a top tier fighter, but his bouts against Konishi and Taguchi proved that he was much, much better than we'd think given his competition. Sadly though he does look to be a step behind in terms of accomplishment compared to the others. Saying that however with the depth in the division Canizales has the opportunity to prove that he is world class and establish himself as a top fighter, much like the other champions.
Having only won his title in March it's unclear when Canizales will return to defend it. He may be in the queue to face Taguchi, in a rematch of their 2016 draw, or may look to have some lower tier defenses to try and help with his development. Given how the rankings currently look their will be a lot of options of Canizales and he has a great chance to establish his name as a top fighter, rather than just a secondary title holder.
(Images courtesy of Watanabe Gym, Boxmob and promociones Miguel Cotto)
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