One of the great things about this "Who are you?" Series, at least for us writing them, is that there really isn't a limit on who we can cover, and whether we think they can win or lose their upcoming. The reality is that this is a chance to just shine a light on someone who isn't a prospect, look at their career, their style, their records and their achievements, without really being limited by how big of a name they are, or that they will become.
This week we look at someone who is a great example of hard work, dedication, and crafting a style that works for him. He's never going to be a world champion, but will always be a really good gate keeper, and someone who can test anyone over 12 rounds. Today we look at Lito Dante (17-11-4, 9), the man with one of the most misleading records in the entire sport.
The 20 year old Lito Dante is pretty much a 10 year veteran as we write this, and with 32 on his ledger he's a genuine young veteran. On paper he may look like a typical journeyman. A "win some, lose some" type of fighter, but the reality is he is so much more than that. He is a world level journeyman, he is one of the most rugged and mentally challenging fighters in the sport. He's technically not the best, but everyone will have problems with his toughness and tenacity.
Lets rewind! Dante made his professional debut in 2010 as a 20 year old. He would go unbeaten in his first 6 bouts, running up a 3-0-3 record before back to back losses to Louie Arlos and Raymond Tabugon in 2012 saw him fall to 3-2-3 after 8 bouts. Although Dante stopped the rot, with a TKO win over Gilbert Magos, he struggled to build momentum due to another loss, this time to Michael Enriquez.
After his unbeaten 6 fight start Dante had quickly dropped to 4-3-3 (1) and seemed unlikely to make any sort of a mark on the sport. Even when he managed to build some moment, though 2013, with a trio of wins the momentum was killed the following year, with a loss to Richard Barrios.
The loss to Barrios was followed by 11 months out of the ring for Dante, who returned to stop Dexter Dimaculangan and then beat Oliver Gregorio just weeks later, taking his first 10 round decision win. Once again just as he started to build momentum he would suffer another loss, losing in South Africa to Siyabonga Siyo, in what was not only Dante's first 12 round fight but also his first bout outside of the Phlippines.
The loss to Siyo saw Dante fall to 9-5-3 (5), and it was the fourth time he had lost a decision to an unbeaten fighter. Despite the loss Dante's hunger didn't fade, and 4 months later he won the LuzProBA Minimumweight title by taking a decision over Lester Abutan. That was Dante's first title win and the perfect way for him to end 2015.
To kick off a very busy 2016, in which Dante fought 5 times, he stopped Junel Lacar in 4 rounds before facing future world champion Vic Saludar for the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title. Dante came up short to Saludar, who was fighting for the first time since losing to Kosei Tanaka in a WBO world title fight, but became the first fighter to survive 10 rounds with Saludar, something he would beat in 2017. In his third bout of 2016 Dante travelled to Japan and gave the then touted Takumi Sake fits, before the bout was curtailed in round 4, resulting in a technical draw. Just weeks later Dante would be in the ring and would stop Jaysever Abcede, becoming the first fighter to stop the gutsy "Lion Hearted". The year would however end with another loss, as Dante lost a close technical decision to Jesse Espinas.
In 2017 we not only had Dante go 10 rounds with Vic Saludar again, something he did in December, but also notch one of his better wins, defeating Jay Loto over 12 rounds for the WBC International title. Sadly though he couldn't build on the win over Loto as that was followed, just 3 months later, by a loss in South Africa to Simpiwe Konkco, in an IBO world title fight.
Dante came into 2018 on the back of his second loss to Vic Saludar and didn't have the start to the year he would have wanted, losing a technical decision to Tibo Monabesa, when Monabesa was cut from a clash of head. Despite the back to back losses Dante would go on to beat Naoya Haruguchi in Japan, taking his first win on international soil in his fifth bout outside of the Philippines.
Following on from the win over Haruguchi we would see Dante return to Japan and score his biggest to date on March 31st 2019. He had travelled over to Yokohama to take on OPBF Minimumweight champion Tsubasa Koura. Koura, then 14-0, was expected to move on to a world title fight later in the year but Dante ripped up the script completely and pressed Koura, out boxing him, out fighting him, and then, mid way through round 12, stopped him. Dante had not only gone over to Japan, but had battered their rising star to claim the Oriental title, and put himself in the world rankings.
More than 8 months after his massive win over Koura we saw Dante return to Japan, looking to make it a hat-trick of wins in the country, but lose a clear 6 round decision to talented youngster Yudai Shigeoka. The highly skilled Shigeoka, fighting for the second time as a professional, used his speed and movement to out box, out think, out speed and out skill Dante, and made the most of the shorter distance of the bout. It was a brilliant bit of match making from Shigeoka's team, who knew that the win over the OPBF champion would massively enhance his standing, but also be a good test.
To begin 2020 Dante took on Indonesian Sulis Barrera, and battered Barrera into submission in 2 rounds, dropping him from a barrage of body shots.
Next for the Filipino, we suspect, is a return to Japan to take on Masataka Taniguchi. The bout will not only be Dante's first defense of the OPBF title he won last year, but also be for the vacant Japanese Minimumweight title, giving the bout really big stakes. The bout was announced for the middle of March, but is expected to be postponed until the JBC lift's their suspension on professional boxing activity in Japan.
In the ring Dante isn't the best, he's not the most skilled, he's not the biggest puncher, or the quickest, or the most accurate. What he is, however, is a nightmare. He's really physically strong, scarily so for a Minimumweight, he's insanely tough, and he's mentally durable. If he doesn't have early success that's not a major problem to him, he just keeps coming. He's defensively smart, though knows he can get away with errors due to his toughness, offensively smart, delivers wicked body shots and is a physical monster. To beat him you need to either have excellent speed or stamina, or hope your fighting over a short distance.
Dante's fights can be ugly, real ugly, and he has 3 technical decisions on his record but ugly or not he will always be a handful, for anyone.
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