When it comes to notable emerging talents at Flyweight the division is rather crazy. It has a lot of contenders, though very few of them have really been tested at world level. In fact only 2 of our 6 to watch have actually challenged for a world title, and one of those is a former world champion, though it seems likely that at least 3 of them will fight for a belt in the next 12 months.
Angel Acosta (21-2, 21)
The most notable of the contenders here is hard hitting Puerto Rican Angel Acosta. "Tito" is a former WBO Light Flyweight champion who now appears set to make his mark at Flyweight, where he currently holds the IBO title. Acosta was rather unlucky to lose the WBO Light Flyweight title last year, with Thomas Taylor seeming a bit too eager to stop his bout with Elwin Soto, but a move up to Flyweight will likely serve him well and suspect he'll be a handful at 112lbs. The heavy handed and talented Acosta has unfinished business with WBO champion Kosei Tanaka, and a bout between him and Martinez would absolutely sensational.
Muhammad Waseem (10-1, 7)
The only other contender making our list who has previously fought at world level is Pakistani fighter Muhammad Waseem. The talented Waseem came close to beating Moruti Mthalane in 2018 but hasn't done enough to earn a second shot at a title yet. He spent 14 months out after the Mthlane fight before disposing of the hapless Conrado Tanamor in 62 seconds. Last time out Waseem looked poor as he took a decision over Ganigan Lopez, and it seems clear that someone needs to light a fire under his ass to get the best from him. He has the ability, he has the amateur experience, he has the financial backing and he has the tools to make an impact at world level. No the question is whether he has the desire to do so. If he has that hunger still, after what has been a frustrating career, he could still go on to become a world champion. At 32 however time is ticking on his career.
Junto Nakatani (20-0, 15)
Japanese hopeful Junto Nakatani is just 22 years old, but the 5'7" southpaw looks ready for a world title fight, and we suspect that he will get a shot during 2020, likely for either than the WBA or WBC title. He's impressed through his career and has already won the All Japan Rookie of the Year, the Japanese Youth and Japanese national titles. Our view is that he should try and get 1 more solid win in before getting a world title fight, so he can get a solid 10 rounder in, but the reality is that he and his team will feel they are ready for the top guys and that this could be a huge year for the popular, lanky southpaw puncher.
Giemel Magramo (24-1, 20)
Often overlooked Filipino fighter Giemel Magramo is on the verge of a world title fight, and has really built his reputation rather quietly. In fact if you don't follow boxing in Asia there's a good chance you've never seen or heard of Magramo, despite the fact he is legitimately one of the top Flyweight contenders out there. The 25 year suffered his only loss back in 2016, a close loss to Muhammad Waseem, and since then has gone 7-0 (7) with notable wins over Petchchorhae Kokietgym, Wenfeng Ge and former world title challenger Richard Claveras and John Mark Apolinario. Magramo seems to be on the verge of a WBO title shot, and is a very exciting hopeful.
Jayr Raquinel (12-1-1, 9)
One of the many emerging youngster in the division is OPBF champion Jary Raquinel, another young Filipino puncher. Raquinel has been a frustrating fighter since bursting on to the since in 2018, when he knocked out Keisuke Nakayama for the OPBF title, but he has proven to be a devastating puncher with notable KO's against Shun Kosaka and Takuya Kogawa. When Raquinel is on point he a brutal fighter and has the power to be a nightmare for anyone. Sadly however a 2018 loss to Wulan Tuolehazi slowed his momentum, and a win over Jack Amisa in November 2019 did little to boost his stamina. Hopefully 2020 is a year where he just gets it right and begins knocking on the door!
Jay Harris (17-0, 9)
One man who does now seem to have secured himself a world title fight is Welshman Jay Harris, a 29 year old who had a sensational 12 months, from November 2018. In that that 12 months he claimed the Commonwealth title, stopping Ross Murray, the European title, stopping Angel Moreno, and the IBF Inter-Continental title, stopping Paddy Barnes. Although not a big name he has been really impressive recently and will be fighting WBC champion Julio Cesar Martinez on February 29th in a bout that really promises a lot of violence!
The 3 bouts we want in 2020:
Julio Cesar Martinez Vs Angel Acosta
Kosei Tanaka Vs Moruti Mthalane
Artem Dalakian Vs Junto Nakatani
We began our "State of the Division" series by looking at the Minimumweight division, which we feel is actually pretty strong at the moment with a good mix of champions, contenders and prospects. Amazingly however it looks poor when compared to the division just 3lbs north. In fact most divisions look weak in comparison to the incredible depth at Light Flyweight.
Again we'll start out look at the division by going through the current world champions.
Kenshiro (14-0, 8) - WBC (4 defenses)
Regarded by many as the division's premier fighter is Japan's unbeaten Kenshiro, who is the longest reigning active champion in the division, having held the title since May 2017. He won the belt with a narrow decision over Ganigan Lopez and his first defense was also a close win, over Pedro Guevara, but since then the Kyoto man has looked amazing, stopping Gilberto Pedroza, Ganigan Lopez, in a rematch, and Milan Melindo. Kenshiro is a pure boxer, and the best boxer in the division. He'll be looking for his 6th defense on December 30th against Saul Juarez.
Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10) - WBA "super" (0 defenses)
Whilst Kenshiro is regarded by many as the "best in the division" it's fair to say that South African veteran Hekkie Budler has the next best claim to that, following his huge win earlier this year over Ryoichi Taguchi. The 30 year old has been a professional for over 11 years and has had a tough career but his win over Taguchi was one of his very best. He's a bit of a brawler who first made his name at Minimumweight and is now a 2-division champion. Notably he will be defending his title on December 31st against Hiroto Kyoguchi as he looks to strengthen his claim as the best in the division.
Felix Alvarado (34-22, 30) - IBF (0 defenses)
One of the great thing about the Light Flyweight division right now is that, despite the fighters being small, a lot of them are pure punchers with aggressive mentalities. Perhaps the heaviest handed champion there is Nicaraguan Felix Alvarado, who took the IBF title earlier this year by stopping Randy Petalcorin in the Philippines. Alvarado has been beaten by Kazuto Ioka and Juan Carlos Reveco, but neither of those tried to go to war with Alvarado, and in fact we suspect no one in the division will ever want to go toe-to-toe with him. A real thunderous, yet rather crude, puncher.
Angel Acosta (19-1, 19) - WBO (2 defenses)
Another major puncher in the division is Puerto Rican Angel Acosta, who came up short in his first world title fight against Kosei Tanaka then took the title Tanaka vacated. Acosta is more of a boxer-puncher than Alvarado, who is a much cruder puncher, and at 28 years old could have a lengthy reign here. Through his career he has rarely had to go long in fights, but has shown good stamina, scoring 3 of his 19 wins in round 10 or later. His reign has seen him scoring stoppage wins over Carlos Buitrago and Abraham Rodriguez and he's expected to return in the Spring to defend the title against Ryuji Hara.
Carlos Canizales (21-0-1, 17) - WBA "regular" (1 defense)
The third huge punching champion in the division is Venezuelan Carlos Canizales, known as "CCC". The Venezuelan has not faced the best competition, but when he's been put in with good fighter's he's looked fantastic holding Ryoichi Taguchi to a draw and scoring notable wins in Asia over Reiya Konishi and Lu Bin. Canizales has a fantastic engine, brutal power and under-rated skills, as he showed against Konishi. Sadly you take out his 3 bouts in Asia and there is next to nothing of note on his record. Interestingly the 25 year old is expected to return to Japan in the new year to face off with former Japanese champion Tetsuya Hisada.
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.