The Super Featherweight division is one that has an interesting feel to it right now, with a good mix of champions, and a solid variety of challengers. Sadly the division hasn't been giving us the fights we want, but it's not been boring either with a number of solid bouts taking place at 130lbs in recent years.
WBC-Miguel Berchelt (37-1, 33)
Heavy handed Mexican Miguel Berchelt has become a bit of a forgotten figure in the division, yet he's probably the most interesting fighter at 130lbs. "El Alarcran" is 28 years old and has held the title for around 3 years, since stopping Francisco Vargas way back in 2017. Berchelt not only has a win over Vargas but also victories over Takashi Miura, Miguel Roman and Jason Sosa. Heavy handed, exciting, and aggressive Berchelt should be a focal point for the division but needs a suitable dance partner in 2020, rather than fighters who are on the slide, like he's faced in recent bouts.
IBF - Tevin Farmer (30-4-1, 6)
One fighter who has been given a lot of attention is American Tevin Farmer, who has been one of the big winners from Eddie Hearn working with DAZN, who have really tried to make Farmer into a star despite serving him up some awful challengers. The "American Idol" is a slippery and highly skilled defensive fighter who has run up 4 defenses since winning the title in August 2018. Sadly his competition has, for the most part, been against European level challengers who were horribly unproven at world level. Thankfully at the end of this month he steps up, massively, to take on Joseph Diaz in what should be a genuine, and well over-dug, test for Farmer.
WBO- Jamel Herring (21-2, 10)
American fighter Jamel Herring is a real good guy, a former US Marine and a man with a fantastic story. He was a former amateur standout who struggled to make an impact at 135lbs but has really found his footing at Super Featherweight with wins against Masayuki Ito and Lamont Roach. Aged 34 his time on top is likely limited, though there is talk of a big money bout with Carl Frampton fight later in the year. Despite a likely short reign he'll make the most of it and is a very skilled southpaw boxer-mover with fantastic height and reach for the division. Probably the "weakest" of the champions but still a very good fighter, who seems to want the big bouts.
WBA "super" - Leo Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19)
The WBA have a mess on their hands at 130lbs, with Leo Santa Cruz winning the "super" title in November when he moved up in weight and took on Miguel Flores for the then vacant "super" title. Santa Cruz is a legitimate big name, and a "4 weight" world champion, but a title like this does him no favours at all. Sadly his reign at Featherweight was relatively poor and although still a fun fighter to watch the Mexican has lost much of the good will fans had for him when he was at Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight. A high guy with a solid chin and under-rated skills Santa Cruz had the tools to be a star, though like Berchelt a lack of credible opponents and in ring activity, has helped him back from being a real star.
WBA - "Regular" Rene Alvarado (32-8, 21)
The WBA really do want us to never forget the mess they have created at 130lbs. We've just mentioned Santa Cruz winning the "super" title, the supposedly more legitimate version of their "world" title. The reality however is that Rene Alvarado is the true champion in the division. Alvarado beat Andew Cancio in November for the belt, which was the same belt Cancio had taken from Alberto Machado, who in turn had beaten Jezzrel Corrales who had beaten Takashi Uchiyama, who's reign had been 6 years. The WBA really have created a mess and it doesn't end here. As for Alvarado he's an under-rated, aggressive, rugged type of guy who is riding an excellent 8 fight winning run. Although he has 8 losses he's very much better than the record he sports and a true nightmare at 130lbs.
WBA "interim" - Chris Colbert (14-0, 5)
When we said the WBA have made a mess here we weren't joking. It was on November 23rd that Alvarado claimed the WBA "regular" title, beating Andrew Cancio. On the same night the WBA let Santa Cruz and Flores fight for the Super title. Less than 2 months later they manufactured an "interim" title that talented 23 year old American Chris Colbert won when he beat Jezzrel Corrales. Colbert is a genuine talent, but this title is a farcical one and the heads of the WBA are really making a mockery of themselves with things like this. Colbert is a very good contender on a good run of wins, and fought 5 times in 2019. He should be a top contender, not a plastic title holder.
The Super Featherweight division is an interesting one at the moment, with out being one stacked with well known contenders. In fact most of the leading contenders are older fighters, who have moved up in weight or on the slide whilst others are much more obscure hidden gems of the boxing world.
For those who want to know about the divisions champions we have covered those here - The state of the Division - Super Featherweight - The Champions
Francisco Vargas (25-1-2, 18)
One of the top contenders is former WBC world champion Francisco Vargas, who is certainly a fighter on the slide following a hard career. The 34 year old Mexican warrior holds notable wins over the likes of Will Tomlinson, Takashi Miura, Juan Manuel Lopez, Abner Cotto and Stephen Smith. Sadly, he is very much a man at the end of his career and the wars have certainly began to catch up on him, as we saw in 2017 when he lost the title to Miguel Berchelt. Vargas might have 1 more big bout in him, though until he returns and we see what he has he is still a top divisional contender.
Scott Quigg (35-2-2, 26)
Englishman Scott Quigg is a former WBA Super Bantamweight champion who has out-grown the 122lb weight class, and in 2018 seemed to out grow the Featherweight division too, failing to make weight for a WBO title fight against Oscar Valdez. The 30 year old looks to have regressed in recent fights, relying just on his toughness, size and stamina rather than skills. If Quigg can put it together he could be a handful for some of the champions, and with Eddie Hearn behind him there will be opportunities, but the feeling is that he's also on the slide, and he was given a lot of punishment earlier this year, suffering a broken nose against Oscar Valdez.
Jason Sosa (21-3-4, 15)
American fighter Jason Sosa is a former WBA champion who is just hanging on to being a contender, though will need a good 2019 to be taken seriously as a threat to the champions. He made his name on the back of a massive 2016 upset win over Javier Fortuna and successfully defended the belt once, beating Stephen Smith, before vacating the belt to fight WBO Champion Vasyl Lomachenko, who toyed with him. Having retired after 9 rounds against Lomachenko Sose has gone 1-1, losing a close dcision to Yuriorkis Gamboa and scoring a low key win over Reynaldo Blanco. It's hard to see where he goes from here but he will be back in the ring on January 18th in what looks to be a stay busy fight.
Jamel Herring (19-2, 10)
American fighter Jamel Herring is a 33 year old who has been strongly linked to a fight with WBO champion Masayuki Ito. The former amateur stand out, who competed at the 2012 Olympics, is a long rangy southpaw who had long fought at Lightweight before dropping down in weight last year and stringing together a few wins to establish himself at 130lbs. Although not the biggest name Herring is a talented fighter, who could be a nightmare given his size and frame, though isn't known for giving us much excitement and is very much a safety first fighter. At 33 it's fair to say that 2019 has to be a big year for him.
Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (13-0, 10)
One of the few rising young contenders is 24 year old Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov, a Tajik born Russian boxer-puncher. The southpaw has had a couple of very good years recently, without getting much attention. Althoigh he's only had 13 fights he has beaten the likes of Rogelio Jun Doliguez, Jimmy Paypa, Malcolm Klassen and Robinson Castellanos. Rakhimov is likely to be moved towards a world title fight in 2019 and we'd not be surprised to see him in big fights by the end of the year. A real gem in the division and a brutal natural puncher.
Azina Fuzile (13-0, 8)
Another of the division's hidden gems is South African fighter Azina Fuzile, who has been making a bit of a buzz in South Africa without too many fans outside of his homeland knowing much about him. He's a talented boxer-puncher with a relaxed style in the ring, a huge frame, freakish reach and a lot of skill. Dubbed the "Golden Boy" the 22 year old Fuzile has already scored wins against the likes of Macbute Sinyabi and Malcolm Klassen, and claimed some regional IBF titles, hence his current IBF ranking. It might be a touch too soon for a bout at world level, but by 2020 we would be very surprised not to see him in with another contender.
Miguel Roman (60-13, 47)
Another of the old guard is the insanely tough Miguel Roman, who has a long and hard career. With 73 bouts on his record Roman has legitimately fought a who's who of who in and around the division. Sadly the 33 year has been stopped twice in recent years, and both of those losses came in extremely punishing bouts, that his toughness really worked against him in. Until we see Roman back in the ring, or officially hanging them up, he will remain a contender, but there is a worry that he may now be damaged goods and not the fighter he once was.
Jono Carroll (16-0-1, 3)
Unbeaten Irish southpaw Jono Carroll is a 26 year old battler who sets a high tempo and looks to make every fight into a war. He has great stamina a fantastic work rate and an exciting style, though is technically flawed, defensively questionable and lacks the power to make the most of his style. He's expected to fight Tevin Farmer in 2019, and we'd find it very hard to back Carrol against the IBF champion. Whilst he'd be the under-dog against Farmer it's hard to dislike Carroll, his all action style or his passionate fan base.
Guillaume Frenois (46-1-1, 12)
Once beaten French veteran Guillaume Frenois recently fought Jono Carroll in an IBF eliminator and earned a draw, a draw that many felt Frenois should have won. At 35 years old the French fighter won't want to waste time and will likely try to get a shot at Farmer before Carroll, does. Frenois is a tall boxer with long reach, a defensively smart style and a tricky southpaw stance who has gone unbeaten since September 2013, when he lost in a European title fight to Devis Boschiero in Italy. Since that loss he has gone 15-0-1 and forced his way into world title contention.
Masao Nakamura (25-3, 24)
Hard hitting Japanese fighter Masao Nakamura is the current WBO Asia Pacific champion and is a feared fighter in the East. He's had a strange career, having debuted back 2006 and won the OPBF title in 2010. His OPBF reign was a short one, losing the belt in his first defense, in 61 second to Ronald Pontillas, before rebuilding through to 2014, when he would then suffer back-to-back losses to Masayuki Ito and Rey Labao. More rebuilding lead him in to the world title mix, before he retired in 2016, citing health issues. He returned in 2018 and has looked a force, going 3-0 (3) and taking the Asia Pacific belt. Although not currently ranked by any world title body Nakamura will likely change that in 2019 and will almost certainly be wanting a rematch with Ito.
Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1-1, 11)
Japanese champion Masaru Sueyoshi is highly ranked by the WBO and is climbing up the rankings one step at a time. The 28 year old is not a major name outside of his homeland but is unbeaten in 16 bouts, with his sole defeat coming back in July 2012 to current world champion Masayuki Ito. Since then we've seen Sueyoshi grow into a frustrating boxer, who sets a unique tempo in the ring and controls distance with subtle nuances, and smart footwork. He's not the prettiest fighter to watch but he's extremely hard to beat, and his KO against Nelson Tinampay in 2017 showed he could bang, despite not having a reputation as a puncher. Interestingly, he was last seen fighting to a draw with the OPBF champion Hironori Mishiro last October.
Hironori Mishiro (6-0-1, 2)
Having just mentioned the OPBF champion it makes sense to talk about him in a bit more details. The Watanabe promoted 24 year Hironori Mishiro was a top amateur before making his debut in 2017 and racing through the ranks to win the OPBF title in just his 6th professional bout. He's impressed regularly since his debut, but has shown areas of clear improvement that need making, and we suspect those areas something his team will be wanting to develop on whilst he's holding the Oriental title. He's quick, a shap boxer and can fight aggressively with a pressure style. There's a lot to like about Mishiro, but a lot for him to still work on.
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.