For a second week in a row we are looking at a world title bout from late in 2019 as he head to the Treasure Trove again, and bring you a very interesting bout. In fact this was the final world title bout of 2019 and is one we feel is very much an over-looked bout, which combined skills, heart, toughness and competitiveness. It was a bout that was very well fought, swung one way then the other, and saw both men having moments, with very, very different styles. Was it a Fight of the Year contender? No, was it a damn good bout? Hell yes!
Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14) vs Jeyvier Cintron (11-0-0-1, 5)
Japan's Kazuto Ioka is one of the most accomplished fighters to ever come from the country. He is, at the time of writing, the only Japanese man to win world titles in 4 weight classes and is a genuine star in his homeland. The Osakan won the WBO Super Flyweight title in June, stopping Aston Palicte in another under-rated bout, and was making his first defense here as he took on his mandatory challenger. Although not too well known in the West, sadly, Ioka has managed to win titles from Minimumweight to Super Flyweight, and has a genuine who's who of lower weight fighters on his resume. He's beaten the likes of Oleydong Sithsamerchai, Akira Yaegashi, Felix Alvarado, Juan Carlos Reveco and McWilliams Arroyo, and has spent a huge chunk of his career fighting at the top. Although technically a well schooled fighter Ioka is a small Super Flyweight, he makes up for that however by being versatile and one of the best body punchers in the sport.
In the opposite corner to Ioka was talented Puerto Rican Jeyvier Cintron, a 2-time Olympian. The 24 year old Cintron was a wonderfully talented technical boxer, who looked like a natural Super Flyweight when compared to Ioka. He was big at the weight, very polished from his days as an amateur and a southpaw. In the eyes of some it was perhaps a bit too early for Cintron to get his shot, though he had earned it by beating Koki Eto in a title eliminator and he had also beaten the likes of Eliecer Quezada and Marvin Solano in the professional ranks. Although clearly a talented fighter this was seen as a big leap up in class, despite how good of an amateur he was, and this was to be his first bout at world level. He had travelled to Japan with a lot of self belief and seemed confident of upsetting the Japanese star.
From the opening moments it was clear that Cintron had the edge in speed, size and reach, and he was using his jab brilliantly to dictate the distance and tempo of the bout. Ioka was being coming forward but was struggling to cut the distance as Cintron began to show he was ready for this level of a bout. The challenger looked every bit a star in the making, whilst Ioka was quickly forced to change from trying to box with Cintron.
As we went through the early rounds Ioka managed to adapt. He moved from trying to box, to turning things into a fight, cutting the distance and working the body of Cintron. It was a needed change, and was something that managed to get Ioka a foot hold in the contest, something he was starting to need. The change in tactics not only got Ioka some control of the action but also began to see him slow Cintron, as the challenger had to dig deep and look to change his own tactics.
For those seeking tactical chess matches this is a real over-looked gem.
The Super Flyweight division not only has 4 excellent champions but also has wonderful depth in terms of contenders, with several former world champions knocking on the door, and a former world title challenger now mandated for another world title. What's notable is not just the sheer depth in the division but also how varied it is, with a lot of different countries being represented. Due to how deep the Super Flyweight division is we've decided to not just look at contenders here, but two prospects who we expect to cross over into contenders in 2020, showing just how interesting the division is right now.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-5-1, 41)
Hard hitting Thai Srisaket Sor Rungvisai announced himself to a global audience during an 11 month run that saw him score 2 wins Vs Roman Gonzalez and one over Juan Francisco Estrada. Sadly since then it's been a weird time for Srisaket, who hasn't looked the same. A loss in April 2019 to Estrada killed his moment and we've not seen the Thai in action again. Despite the fact he's promoted by Eddie Hearn talk of a Srisaket Vs Yafai bout has never really been heard and it seems like the English promoter has forgotten all about his destructive Thai. If Srisaket's not able to get a meaningful fight in 2020 it could well be that he ends up being remembered as a flash in the pan by international fans.
Roman Gonzalez (48-2, 40)
Nicaraguan legend Roman Gonzalez might not be what he once was but he is still arguably the biggest name in the division and now with his wear and tear and age, he's got a target on his back. Both Kazuto Ioka and Kal Yafai have began to circle like vultures. We hope Gonzalez has more in the tank than his detractors realise, but the reality is that his 50 fight career has been a long and hard one, and Super Flyweight was never the best for his career. If he can land a big fight this year, he has a chance, but if he's forced to wait until 2021 it could be too late for "Chocolatito" to reclaim a title. Given how little he's fought in recent years he is, oddly, a bit of a dark horse in the division right now, and that might serve him better than being the rampaging monster he once was.
Francisco Rodriguez Jr (33-4-1, 24)
The criminally under-rated Francisco Rodriguez Jr is best remembered for his incredibly fight with Katsunari Takayama down at 105lbs but has quietly become a force at 115lbs. Notably he's likely to have been written off for a run of bouts that saw him going 1-2-1 in 2014/2015 but he's now riding a 14 fight winning run. That run has included notable wins over Yohei Tobe, Hernan Marquez, Oswaldo Novoa, Ramon Garcia Hirales. He does still need a win over a top contemporary contender to earn a shot, but he's certainly having a resurgent run and deserves a mention.
Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23)
If any fighter "done fucked up" in 2019 it was Filipino Donnie Nietes. He entered the year the WBO Super Flyweight champion and ended the year on milk cartoons with the word "missing" above his head. The 4 weight champion looked set for a tremendous end to a brilliant decade but instead wasted the whole year on the outside looking in. At 37, he turned 38 in May, it's hard to know what Neites has left, but the crafty "Ahas" is as skilled as they come and if he lands a big fight this year it's hard to rule him out, even against the very best in the division. Fingers crossed ALA Promotions in the Philippines can secure Nietes a career defining opponent this year, or else he might as well retire, having had a truly legendary career.
Andrew Moloney (21-0, 14)
Unbeaten Australian Andrew Moloney is one of the hidden talents in the division, and like many top contenders in the division appears to be getting frozen out. He's the current "interim" champion and in theory lined up to fight Kal Yafai, though it seems likely that Yafai and his team will do what they can to avoid the high risk-low reward Australian. Moloney isn't unbeatable, but he is a very hard man to look good against, and he combines power, skills and speed very well. He has future world champion written all over, but of course, needs a shot at the top. We suspect he finally gets his crack at the back end of 2020, though with the WBA and their games we wouldn't be surprised if Yafai is promoted to "Super" champion and Moloney is only able to fight for the regular title.
Jeyvier Cintron (11-1-0-1, 5)
Puerto Rican fighter Jeyvier Cintron lost on New Year's Eve in a WBO title bout against Kazuto Ioka, but he impressed through out and certainly shouldn't be written off on the back of that loss. If anything the loss to Ioka should be seen as more of a learning experience for Cintron, who learned the real value of body shots through the bout. With a little more professional seasoning the 2-time Olympian is likely to win a world title, and at 24 years old his handsome mush is likely to be one of the key faces in the lower weights.
Israel Gonzalez (25-3, 11)
Although Israel Gonzalez has come up short twice, losing by stoppage to Jerwin Ancajas and losing a very debatable decision to Kal Yafai, the Mexican has booked himself a third world title fight. Gonzalez recently won an IBF eliminator in Japan to force a second shot at the IBF title. Sadly he was so easily beaten by Ancajas in their clash we don't imagine he'll have much success in their inevitable rematch, but we do need to applaud Gonzalez. Unlike many in the division he has been chasing fights and going in as the under-dog. The 23 year old has, excuse our language, "given no shits" about facing good fighters and we really want to applaud him for that. Maybe, though, he does need another bout or two against a good southpaw to prepare for Ancajas. Given his age we genuinely do see him winning a world title down the line, but it might well be a few years down the line.
Ryusei Kawaura (7-0, 4)
Ryusei Kawaura is one of the two prospects we want to speak about here. The 25 year old is a protege of former world champion Hiroshi Kawashima, and although certainly not a big name international Kawashima was one of the smartest boxing in Japan. With Kawashima passing knowledge down to his young charge, expect to see big things of Kawaura, who will likely look for a national or regional title in 2020. He's a long way from a world title fight, but as we've seen from Japanese prospects in the past, it only takes 1 big year and they suddenly end up in the mix.
Sunny Edwards (14-0, 4)
Englishman Sunny Edwards, the brother of former WBC Flyweight champion Charlie Edwards, is a long way from a world title fight but is certainly one to keep an eye on in terms of the British and European scene. A flashy and skilled boxer Edwards will get a lot of attention in 2020. Sadly for the 24 year old he is in arguably the toughest division in the sport today and although many in the UK may see him as a future world champion he will need to be matched very carefully to get there. Despite that he's charismatic, an interesting character and well worthy of some attention. A very skilled youngster who Frank Warren will likely look to use a lot in 2020.
3 bouts we want in 2020:
Kazuto Ioka Vs Juan Francisco Estrada
Donnie Neites Vs Roman Gonzalez
Kal Yafai Vs Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
The Super Flyweight division has a host of contenders, many of whom seem to be in a queue to get a title fight. That's taken a lot of pressure off the prospects, who don't need to be rushed into title fights, though there are a lot of good prospects in the division.
If you missed our previous pieces on the Super Flyweight division they can be read here:
The state of the Division - Super Flyweight - The Champions
The state of the Division - Super Flyweight - The Contenders
KJ Cataraja (9-0, 7)
For us the stand out prospect at Super Flyweight is 23 year old Filipino sensation KJ Cataraja, who appears to have it all. He's quick, a wonderfully sharp puncher, heavy handed, throws wonderful combinations, has a fantastic work rate, has proven his stamina by going 10 rounds recently and can take a shot when he needs to. In 2018 we saw him score his biggest win, defeating Victor Hugo Reyes, and it seems like he's ready to make a big step up in class in 2019. He's probably a year or two away from a world title shot, but that's not going to be a problem given the amount of contenders that are in front of him, and in fact really gives him time to prepare fully for a world title fight.
Jeyvier Cintron (9-0, 4)
Puerto Rican prospect Jeyvier Cintron is a second generation fighter, following in the footsteps of father Javier, and is a 2-time Olympian, fighting in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, becoming the first Puerto to fight at 2 different Olympic games. He turned professional without too much fuss but the 23 year old did impress as an amateur and those in the know did tip when he made his debut in the Spring of 2017. So far he's impressed and has already notched good wins against Gregory Vera and Marvin Solano, done 10 rounds and made a march up the rankings. There's still a lot for him to do, but he's showing enough to be excited about.
Judy Flores (6-0, 3)
Another Filipino prospect in the division is 20 year old Judy Flores, who has just turned 20 years old and actually made his debut days after his 19th birthday. Given he's only been a professional since November 2017 it's obvious that he's not been tested too much, but impressed in September, stopping Wiljan Ugbaniel, and looks like he could end up being a real threat in the division, in the long term. He's already fighting in 8 rounders and looks likely to be kept busy through 2019 before stepping up his competition in 2020 or 2021. He's younger than almost everyone on this list, but could end up being a rela diamond in the rough.
Dynamic Kenji (10-3, 7)
At 27 years old, and soon to be 28, Japan's Dynamic Kenji is on the older side for a prospect but really only began to prove himself in 2017, before building on that success this past year. He's been a professional since late 2013 and struggled early on, losing 2 of his first 4 and 3 of his first 8. Now he's seemingly found his groove and has scored 5 straight stoppage wins, and over come the likes of Futa Akizuki and Shota Kawaguchi. He's proven to be a fighter who has developed, hits hard, and has the skills to back up his power. Sadly his age is a worry and he may well fall short of fighting for a world title, though we'd be very surprised if he doesn't mix it up at the top of the regional scene.
Dylan Price (7-0, 5)
Mayweather Promotions may not have a great track record of developing talent, and keeping it busy, but they have a real prodigy on their hands in the form of youngster Dylan Price. The American ran up an excellent 112-12 amateur record and now looks like he could be a real future star of the lower weights. He made his debut in early 2017 and whilst he's not been matched hard, at all, yet he has already completed a couple of 6 rounders and looks like he combines skills, speed and power. We're waiting to see him step up, but there is real hope that he could be one of the few "smaller" Americans to leave a real mark on the sport.
David Cuellar (10-0, 4)
Touting teenagers as something special is always risky, but 17 year old David Cuellar looks like he's a risk worthy of noting. The youngster, dubbed "El General", debuted at the age of 15 and after a string of low level wins stepped up this year with a victory over Victor Trejo Garcia. It's unclear if his future is at Flyweight, Super Flyweight or Bantamweight, yet, but we suspect he'll be fighting as a fully fledged Super Flyweight sooner, rather than later. The footage of Cuellar shows a decent boxer-puncher, but someone who needs to improve technically, with flawed defense and a lack of man strength. There's a lot to like about Cuellar, even at this very early stage in his career.
Ernesto Delgadillo (11-0-2, 2)
Whilst Dylan Price looks likely to be the biggest name prospect in the US he's some way behind Ernesto Delgadillo in terms of development. The unbeaten Delgadillo has impressed in 2017 and 2018, beating the likes of Bryan Aquino, Oscar Mojica and Nate Green and looks to be marching up towards the rankings. Although Delgadillo isn't fighting at a particularly high level he is worthy of some attention and looks like he could smash into the WBC rankings in the new year.
Alexandru Marin (17-0, 11)
American based Romanian 26 year old Alexandru Marin isn't a big name in the division but has slowly built himself into prospect with wins against the likes of Michael Ruiz Jr, Bruno Escalante and Juan Palacios, albeit a shot and out of shape Palacios. With 17 fights under his belt he's an advanced and experienced prospect, but still a prospect and one that maybe a year or two from a a bout with a top contender. His career has a lot of potential, but he seems likely to be moved slowly through the ranks and not given too many risks for the time being.
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.