Akira Yaegashi and Roman Gonzalez is a fistic feast that Western TV networks shouldn't miss out on!
Earlier this week we broke the news that Hideyuki Ohashi had finally announced the Flyweight dream fight between WBC Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi (20-3, 10) and Nicaraguan sensation Roman Gonzalez (39-0, 33). The fight was one we had been talking about most of the year and knew fans from around the world were really interested in. It isn't just a Flyweight title bout but is the lower weight equivalent to Manny Pacquiao Vs Floyd Mayweather Jr. It pits the linear champion against the most destructive fighter in the 112lb division and at the end of the day everyone who knows boxing knows this one will be great, especially with the mentality of both men.
In all honesty we rarely get the best men in any division fighting each other but in this case really we do have 2 of the elite fighting each other and better yet it seems very likely that the winner will be moved on to a fight with Juan Francisco Estrada next year in a bout that really would tie up all 3 of the divisions of the elite fighters.
Despite it being such a major bout it does seem highly unlikely that it will be shown in the US or the UK where a vast majority of our readers are from. In my eyes that's a huge shame and it tells us a lot about the boxing media in those two countries and the way they are both missing out on not just some of the best fighters but also some of the best fights.
I understand that channels in both countries have their reasons for not showing the bout but in some cases the arguments seem to be more like excuses.
Firstly the "time zone" of the bout. We understand that Asian fights are a problem, especially for US TV, due to when they take place however they have been showing some footage of the Bob Arm's cards from Macau on tape delay allowing fans in the states to see the fights "as live" the same day. Sure by then the results are out in the open but it's a step they have shown to be willing to take for fighters like Nonito Donaire. With that in mind I can't see a reason for the channels, especially smaller ones like AWE, ESPN or Boxnation, not to be willing to show the Yageashi/Gonzalez bout on tape delay giving an hour of their time for the bout. Incidentally if the bout finishes early they could then include highlights from the co-feature between Naoya Inoue (6-0, 5) and Samartlek Koietgym (16-4, 5), it's self a world title bout.
If the bouts were shown on tape delay it would give the teams on those channels a chance to piece together highlights from the fights and even give the men a small build up before they showed the actual fights, as if introducing the fighters to a new audience.
Of course another problem is the profile of the fighters involved. Whilst Gonzalez is a big name in Latin America he's almost unknown by all but the most hardcore of American fight fans. Yaegashi is even less well known and for many American fans it's a case of of knowing that Yaegashi has beaten Edgar Sosa and lost to Kazuto Ioka whilst also having a thriller with Pornsawan Porpramook. Thankfully however there is more than enough high quality, high octane action involving the two fighters to do excellent build up trailers involving things like Gonzalez's battering of various fighters and Yaegashi's fianl few rounds with Pornsawan Porpramook.
It wasn't too long ago that HBO took a punt on Gennady Golovkin and we all know how well that went, like wise Yoshihiro Kamegai and Nihito Arakawa have been involved in thrillers on US TV giving a chance for a US audience to see just how exciting Japanese fighters are. Whilst I wouldn't say Yaegashi was the same stylistically as Arakawa or Kamegai he is equally fun to watch and in Gonzalez he has an opponent who is also known for putting on a show. With the two of them it's almost guaranteed to be great back and forth action. If you give the fighters a chance to show themselves they will excite fans.
Another argument would be the price of the fights however no one is suggesting the networks send over their own commentators to Tokyo. What the channels would need would be the footage, which is being aired in Japan by Fuji TV, and their own commentators, who could be in a studio anywhere on the planet. Whilst we're not suggesting Fuji TV would just give away the footage for international distribution we wouldn't assume the cost for it would be much and a "token payment" would likely be accepted as the company would be getting a new line of revenue that wasn't previously there. Likewise the channel would likely be happy to build up some good will knowing that the Inoue brother's have seriously long term potential to make the channel long term money in international fees.
Of course one more thing we often hear from fans in the west is that no one cares about the lower weights. Whilst we know that this does apply in some ways a big part of that is due to a lack of exposure. If you don't let someone see something how are they to know they would enjoy it? Funnily this has seen fans missing out on dozens of modern day wars including, but not limited, to: [Note fights with links are to videos of the fights]
Katsunari Takayama Vs Roman Gonzalez (2009)
Giovani Segura Vs Ivan Calderon I (2010)
Akira Yaegashi Vs Pornsawan Porpramook (2011)
Kompayak Porpramook Vs Adrian Hernandez I (2011)
Hernan Marquez Vs Luis Concepcion I (2011)
Roman Gonzalez Vs Juan Francisco Estrada (2012)
Koki Eto Vs Kompayak Porpramook (2013)
Giovani Segura Vs Hernan Marquez (2013)
Kohei Kono Vs Liborio Solis (2013)
Katsunari Takayama Vs Mario Rodriguez (2013)
Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep Vs Takuya Kogawa (2014)
Koki Eto Vs Ardin Diale (2014)
I dare say if fans were given a chance to watch those fights they'd love the little divisions just as much as I do. Maybe it's time that the channels gave the fans a chance to decide for themselves if they enjoy the lighter divisions by letting them watch this one without need to go and hunt it down for a Japanese stream or a youtube video after the fight. Maybe, just maybe, the western media can give Akira Yaegashi and Roman Gonzalez a chance to impress fans on a wider scale than they have been able to in the past. You never know what happens when you give someone a chance and with both of these fighter being fun, action based men a US network could have some very cheap thrillers on their hands in the coming years if they decide to not only show this fight but continue to run with similar fights and fighters.
(Images courtesy of Ohashi Gym and Teiken Promotions)
What next for Nonito Donaire?
This past Saturday fans saw the popular Nonito Donaire (33-2, 21) claim the WBA Featherweight "super" title with a technical decision victory over the tricky South African Simpiwe Vetyeka (26-3, 16). The victory saw Donaire claiming a divisional "world title" in his 5th division and saw him becoming one of the few men to successfully move through so may divisions bridging from Flyweight to Featherweight.
Whilst the victory appears to be an excellent one on paper, beating the guy who stopped Daud Cino Yordan and retired Chris John, it's one that has left many questioning the referee, Luis Pabon and the legitimacy of the result. I'm not saying Donaire didn't deserve the victory, far from it in fact I feel that if the bout continued Donaire would have stopped Vetyeka, but the ending certainly left a nasty taste in the mouths of many including myself.
Rather than focus on the past I would like to take this opportunity to instead towards the future and try to see what Nonito Donaire's next step is, where his options lie and what would be the right move for the "Filipino Flash".
The obvious move, and one that does seem plausible given poor ending to his last fight, is a rematch with Vetyeka. Donaire himself hinted at that being something he wanted in the ring after the bout, it's a bout that makes sense and gives the chance for the Filipino to remove the bad taste that we have lingering on our tongues and down our throats.
It's a bout that makes sense to everyone. Donaire, as mentioned, gets to put the bout beyond doubt, Vetyeka gets a chance to avenge the loss, fans get to see the bout come to a natural conclusion and promoter Bob Arum gets to have a rematch of a fight that almost everyone wants to see again. The only man who loses face is Luis Pabon but in all honesty the damage to his reputation is already done and he'll certainly not be getting an invite back to Macau for a major fight any time soon.
Whilst this bout appears to make sense there is always some issues in boxing. This time around those issues could be the WBA who may want to force Donaire to fight someone else, after all they haven't had a Featherweight mandatory title fight since, er...anyone? You just know that after a while without a mandatory someone will be given one just to screw up a bout that makes sense.
There is also an issue regarding purses with Donaire possibly not getting the biggest payday to fight Vetyeka, especially compared with a number of fighters stateside who can draw more money than the hard to market South African.
Having mentioned the WBA briefly above it makes sense to perhaps second guess them and assume they'd want to see Donaire fight their "regular" champion Nicholas Walters (24-0, 20).
Walters, who stopped Vic Darchinyan on the same Macau show that Donaire beat Vetyeka on, is a big puncher though one with little in terms of hype and marketing. Hailing from Jamaica he's not got much of a loyal fan base and doesn't bring in big purses, despite his fun to watch KO's.
If the WBA want to force Donaire to fight Walters it makes sense for them, as they get a nice chunk of the purse and effectively "free up" a title, ergo have a revenue stream that may produce more money than Walters. It's also a bout that the WBA will feel is an easy sell to the promoter of both men, Bob Arum. Arum loves in house fights and this one which would easy to make from his side.
The purse wouldn't be great for Donaire and the bout certainly has danger written on it due to Walters's size and power but if the WBA order it then it could be a difficult one to avoid, especially given that they have the same promoter.
If the WBA is willing to leave Donaire alone then we have several other options that could bring in a lot of attention and possibly even go to pay per view in the US. Pay per view would mean a nice tasty purse for Donaire and a bigger payday for his promoter Bob Arum.
Possibly the most logical unification bout would see Donaire fighting against IBF champion Evgeny Gradovich (19-0, 9), another of Arum's Featherweights who featured on the recent Macau card. The bout would have a lot of sub stories and not just be a basic unification bout. Both men have been trained by Robert Garcia, though there is speculation that Garcia has had little involvement in Donaire's recent training camps and this could either be used as an excuse not to make the bout or as a story used to sell the bout.
If a bout with Gradovich can't be made due to Robert Garcia's relationship with both fighters then the next logical unification bout would be with the monstrously hard hitting Mexican Jhonny Gonzalez (56-8, 47), the current WBC champion. This is the sort of bout that everyone in boxing would be interested in as it pits two solid punchers against each other, both of whom can box and both of which are highly regarded in their division. This would be more than just a typical unification bout, this would be more like the #1 and #2 guys in the division meeting and that doesn't happen very often.
A third option would be a unification bout with the WBO champion. At the moment there is no WBO title holder though on June 21st Vasyl Lomachenko (1-1, 1) will be fighting Gary Russell Jr (24-0, 14) for the vacant belt. Lomachenko is yet another Arum fighter which would make that fight easy to make if the Ukrainian beats the currently unbeaten American. If Russell Jr wins that bout then Arum may pull out the stops to force a unification bout with the purpose of "getting revenge" over Russell Jr and their team with them having out bid Arum for the promotional rights for that fight.
Any of those 4 match ups would be great to see, they'd make sense in the US, they'd help clear up the division, and could all possibly pass for PPV. They'd likely offer bigger pay days than bouts with Vetyeka or Walters and, on the whole, they'd be easy to make.
If Donaire is the biggest name at 126lbs right now then the nearest "rival" is Abner Mares (26-1-1, 14) who appears to have had his path to a Donaire fight opened up by the recently separation of Golden Boy Promotion and their former CEO Richard Schaefer. Schaefer had refused to work with Top Rank, Donaire's promoter, though with Schaefer now gone we could end up seeing Top Rank Vs Golden Boy fighters on a regular basis.
With that in mind what better fight could be made than this one between the two biggest draws in the division?
It's a bout that has been mooted for a while though was always trapped in the political minefield of American boxing. Offers had been made back and forth but a deal was never likely to be made. Now however with the door open this bout could be the biggest Featherweight clash in years. It's just a shame that since the bout was first mooted both men have lost. Donaire was of course out pointed by Cuban slickster Guillermo Rigondeaux whilst Mares was stopped, in a round, by Jhonny Gonzalez, despite those losses it's still a bout almost everyone wants to see and it's the perfect way for Golden Boy and Top Rank to begin what could be a fruitful relationship.
Of course these aren't Donaire's only options but to me they are the ones that make the most sense and seem the most likely. They aren't guaranteed to happen but they do illustrate the fact he has a lot of options out there and, which ever choice he makes, will be a great choice that many fans will likely whilst a small minority will question. He's one of the very few fighters in boxing who has so many options that he really can take his pick based on what he wants rather than what the promoters want, a very powerful position for a fighter to be in right now.
(images courtesy of:
Top Rank -Donaire, Gradovich, Lomachenko and Walters
Boxrec.com-Vetyeka and Mares)
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.