A couple of days ago we looked the champions currently holding world titles at 108lbs and now it's time to pick some of the notable contenders looking to get themselves into the title mix for the coming year. As with our Minimumweight list this isn't an extensive list, but we have tried to look at 7 fighters with difference styles and different backgrounds.
Daniel Matellon (10-0-2, 6)
One of the most interesting of the contenders in the division is Cuban born Panama based slickster Daniel Matellon, who returns to the ring on February 7th to fight for the WBA "interim" title. The unbeaten 31 year old, who turns 32 days before his next fight, is a very highly skilled boxer-mover who has stopped 4 of his last 5. Although not a big name he's awkward, very skilled and incredibly sharp. The hidden gem among the contender.
Edward Heno (14-1-5, 5)
Filipino fighter Edward Heno came up short in 2019, when he ran Elwin Soto close in a WBO title fight, and will be hoping to get a second shot in 2020. He's skilled, rugged and comes to fight, though likely needs to get some more experience over 12 rounds to have any chance against the best in the division. If his team can get him a couple of tough opponents in 2020 before a world title fight towards the end of the year he could give any of the champions problems. Not as skilled as Matellon but at just 27 time is certainly on his side and there is no reason for him to be rushed into a bout he's not ready for.
Hekkie Budler (32-4, 10)
It's hard to know what to make of South African veteran Hekkie Budler, who hasn't fought since losing to Hiroto Kyoguchi at the end of 2018. He was supposed to be on a Kazakh show back in December 2019 but that bout appears to have not taken place and the 31 year old really is in no-mans-land. If, or when, he fights again he will have a point to make though it's so unclear what the future currently holds for the Hexecutioner. At his best Budler was a hard working, aggressive and skilled handful, though with ring rust and his first stoppage loss, it's unclear what is left in the tank for the popular fighter form Gauteng.
Petchmanee Kokietgym (30-1, 19)
Thai fighter Petchmanee Kokietgym, also known as Panya Pradabsri, is a talented fighter who has his eyes on a world title fight in 2020. The 28 year old had a busy 2019, winning his 5 fights, all by stoppage, and has claimed two OPBF silver titles. Although not a big name he has been on a tear on the regional scene since a controversial 2017 loss in China to Xiong Zhao Zhong, going 12-0 (10) since then. He's knocking on the door and has told the Thai press he wants Kenshiro Teraji. Although the Thai would be the under-dog against the Japanese champion he would make for an interesting assignment and would enter as a man with dangerous reputation.
Thanongsak Simsri (13-0, 11)
Thai teenager Thanongsak Simsri is not someone we expect many fans to be familiar with coming into the year, but by the end of 2020 we expect him to be knocking on the door of a big fight. The youngster debuted in June 2018 and has already squeezed 13 fights into his career, with the most recent being a solid win over the then world ranked Filipino Christian Bacolod. The youngster is heavy handed, rough, and tough. Although he clearly needs some work rounding off the rough edges this young kid has a very bright future and the Thai fight fans are very excited about someone who has been dubbed "Srisaket II".
Agustin Mauro Gauto (14-0, 9)
Argentinian boxing isn't what it was a few years ago, despite how good Brian Carlos Castano is, though it does appear things could be set to change with a number of emerging hopefuls. Among those hopefuls is Light Flyweight Agustin Mauro Gauto, who just recently turned 22. The youngster hasn't really been tested too much yet, but has shown a willingness to travel and has already picked up wins in Panama and Mexico, as well as his homeland. Although not tested his competition hasn't actually been bad, it's just he's been a level above them. Expect him to be banging on the door of a world title bout by the end of the year.
Shokichi Iwata (4-0, 3)
Another youngster expected to do big things is Japan's Shokichi Iwata. The Teiken man is a former amateur standout who turned professional in 2018, making his debut in the US. In 2019 he notched 3 wins in Japan and moved towards bigger and better fights. Whilst we don't expect him in world title fights this year we would be very surprised if he didn't pick up some form of a title before the year is over, and he must surely be eyeing up a regional or national title. He's proven he can box and brawl and now it's time to see him doing that against better competition as he begins his journey through the ranks.
The 3 bouts we want in 2020:
Kenshiro Teraji Vs Hiroto Kyoguchi
Felix Alvarado Vs Elwin Soto
Carlos Canizalez Vs Daniel Matellon
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.