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
Whilst many fans, especially those in the West, openly over-look some of the lower weight classes, it's hard to deny the fact that the Light Flyweight division is one of, if not the, most interesting division in the sport right now. It has the best overall variety of champions, and although it has lacked unification bouts it has seen the champions facing top contenders on a regular basis. The style match ups, not just of possible bouts but of fights we've been getting in recent years, have been interesting and the division looks set to have another stellar year.
With that in mind lets take a look at the champions at 108lbs, including a fantastic "regular" champion.
WBC - Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10)
Quite possibly the face of the division right now is WBC champion Kenshiro Teraji, who has made 7 defenses of his title and done so against some genuine world class fighters. The talented Japanese fighter took the belt in May 2017 and since then has defended it against Pedro Guervara, Ganigan Lopez, Milan Melindo, Jonathan Taconing and Randy Petalcorin. He's an excellent little boxer-puncher and since winning the title has developed into a real talent, who judges distance well and has some of the most under-rated body punching in the sport. Unlike most fighters isn't looking to move weights any time soon, and instead wants to establish himself in the division, and has no issues making the weight.
WBA (Super) - Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9)
Another Japanese fighter is Hiroto Kyoguchi, who is now holding a world title in his second weight class. The talented Watanabe Gym fighter looked like a wrecking ball at Minimumweight but has looked a lot less destructive since moving to Light Flyweight, where he's had to depend more on his skills, than his physical strength. Although not as imposing as he was 3lb lower down the scales he did prove he can still break fighters down, as we saw at the end of 2018 when he stopped Hekkie Budler. Sadly he hasn't faced a big name since then, and perhaps needs a high profile bout after two tougher than expected defense against talented, but overlooked, opponents.
IBF - Felix Alvarado (35-2, 30)
One of a number of destructive fighters in the division is brutish Nicaraguan puncher Felix Alvarado. The 30 year old won his IBF title in late 2018 and has defended the belt once, beating Reiya Konishi in Kobe in May 2019. Sadly a planned unification bout with Kenshiro Teraji fell through when Alvarado fell ill, and at the moment it's unclear when, and even if, he will return to the ring. The rumour from some circles is that he may be suffering dengue fever and if so he may never quite be the same fighter again. At his best he is a tough, rugged, hard hitting fighter who is crude, but very tough to beat. Not many will stand toe to toe with Alvarado and come out on.
WBO - Elwin Soto (16-1, 11)
Another man who is a destructive force in the division is WBO champion Elwin Soto, who announced himself as a world class fighter last year, at the age of 22. The Mexican youngster is a tough guy, with spiteful power, a solid engine and a will to win. He can be out boxed, but given his power few will last the distance with him. He won his title with a questionable stoppage against Angel Acosta, and a rematch of that bout would make sense, and was tested big time in his first defense, against Edward Heno. Despite not dominating since fighting at world level the two title bouts he's had will help him develop as a fighter and he could be the dark horse among the current champions.
WBA (regular) - Carlos Canizales (22-0-1, 17)
One of the few WBA "regular" champions actually worth talking about is Venezualan boxer-puncher Carlos Canizales, who is a man to avoid. He first proved himself on the world level in 2016, when he fought to a draw with Ryoichi Taguchi, and would go on to take the regular title in 2018, when he out pointed Reiya Konishi. Defenses of the regular title against Lu Bin and Sho Kimura have enhanced his reputation, but a lack of activity has hampered him and his career really needs a boost. He last fought in May, when he beat Kimura, and it's really time that a promoter with some backing gets behind him, and lets unleash what he can do.
The Light Flyweight division is a division that is developing quickly at prospect level with a lot of exciting, young, new talent in the division. Some of those fighters are perhaps a little early in their career but are expected to be fast tracked, as we often see in the division. Here we look at some of those prospects, following on from our look at the champions in the division, The state of the Division - Light Flyweight - The Champions, and the leading contenders,
Christian Araneta (16-0, 14)
The Light Flyweight division may be stacked with punchers, but there are more coming through. One of whom is Filipino 23 year old Christian Araneta, who is rising through the ranks an living up to his nickname of "The Bomb". The youngster has stopped 13 of his last 14 opponents, and scored notable wins over domestic foes such as Jesse Espinas, Jerry Tomogdan, Philip Luis Cuerdo. He can be out boxed, and has been at times already, but is certainly a puncher who knows he can rely on his power, when he needs it.
Jesse Espinas (19-3, 11)
Another Filipino prospect, on the verge of being a contender, is the aforementioned Jesse Espinas. Espinas was last seen losing to OPBF champion Edward Heno, in a bout that showed Espinas still has a lot to learn, but the 26 year old has got a lot of promise and should be regarded as one to following in the division. Sadly though he is relatively low down the picking order in the Filipino domestic scene, which could end up being a blessing in disguise giving him extra time to develop from prospect to contender, whilst the others get shots before him.
Taku Kuwahara (3-0, 2)
Japanese 23 year old Taku Kuwahara was a fantastic amateur who only debuted in May of this year but has already shown touches of genius and could well end up being the next Ohashi star to break out. He's intelligent in the ring, has fantastic timing and speed and very solid power. His first 2 bouts were opening round blow outs, but he proved he do more than blow opponents away last time out, taking an 8 round decision over another highly touted Japanese hopeful. Kuwahara is perhaps the dark sheep among the prospects, as he looks likely to be fast tracked into contendership very quickly, but for now, at least, he's just a very exciting prospect.
Jesse Rodriguez (8-0, 4)
American teenager Jesse Rodriguez is only 18 years old but is already one of the most promising prospects at 108lbs, and not just because he's a rare American hopeful at the weight. He was a stand out amateur, who claimed a silver medal at the 2015 World Junior Championships and has been touted as a potential star of the little men. The unbeaten southpaw debuted early last year and is developing well, with great skills, an exciting style and impressive patience for such a youngster. Although not a massive puncher he is accurate and picks his shots well, and looks like he could develop power when he gets his man strength
Shokichi Iwata (1-0, 1)
American based Japanese fighter Shokichi Iwata is a bit of a prospective wildcard in the division thanks to his link ups in the West. It's still very early in his career, but he was a stand out amateur before deciding to turn professional and is now looking to go a route of his own in America. Notably he appears to be learning English, something that could really help him increase his fan base in the West, and he looked really exciting on his debut. Maybe not as technically developed as countryman Kuwahara he's still a fantastic addition to the division and could be someone who has a real impact in the West
Takamori Kiyama (2-1, 2)
One final Japanese prospect worthy of note is Takamori Kiyama, who battle Taku Kuwahara earlier this year and lost a decision to the Ohashi man. Kiyama is a very promising southpaw, who lost to a sensationally prospect, but shouldn't be written off for his early career loss. At 22 years old Kiyama has the potential to go a very long way, he's proven he's tough, skilled, his hard and is willing to be tested, having faced 3 successive unbeaten fighters. The fact he's already gone 8 rounds bodes well for the southpaw who has a lot to be excited about.
The Light Flyweight division is one of the most interesting in the sport right now, with a lot fantastic fighters in an around the world level, some really interesting prospects and some fantastic match ups being put together.
Earlier we looked at the champions, The state of the Division - Light Flyweight - The Champions, and now we'll take a look at the contenders. These aren't ranked in a specific order, other than the top fighters who listed first and second due to upcoming title bouts later this year.
Saul Juarez (24-8-2, 13)
Mexican 28 year old Saul Juarez has been a professional for close to 9 years and has become known as world class fighter who can give problems to very good fighters, even if he does come up short against the better opponents. His only stoppage loss came way back in 2011, to Martin Tecuapetla, and since then he has lost to the likes of Jose Argumedo, Juan Hernandez Navarrete, Milan Melindo and Wanheng Menayothin. Despite having a good record he is very much out of form, going 1-4-1 in his last 6, and will have to be at his best on December 30th when he challenges WBC champion Kenshiro.
Hiroto Kyoguchi (11-0, 8)
The heavy handed Hiroto Kyoguchi burst on to the pro ranks in 2016, following a successful amateur career, and raced away to a world title, winning the IBF Minimumweight title just 15 months into his career. His reign as a world champion at 105lbs saw him record 2 defenses before out growing the division. In the ring Kyoguchi is an aggressive fighter, with under-rated inside skills, very heavy hands, good speed and a killed instinct. He'll be looking to become a 2-weight champion on December 31st when he challenges WBA "super" champion Hekkie Budler in Macau.
Tetsuya Hisada (33-9-2, 19)
Japanese veteran Tetusya Hisada recently vacated the Japanese national title, which he had defended 5 times, as he intends to move into world title fights in early 2019, with the rumour being that he will face Carlos Canizales in the Spring. At the age of 34 Hisada hasn't got time to waste, and he also doesn't have the glamour looking record, but he comes into his next bout, whoever it's against, with a lot of self belief and 12 fight winning run. He's not a big name in the division but is world ranked across the board and certainly deserves a chance before his career comes to an end.
Jonathan Taconing (28-3-1, 22)
Filipino puncher Jonathan Taconing is a 2-time world title challenger, having lose decisions to both Kompayak Porpramook, a technical decision, and Ganigan Lopez. Despite those losses he has remained a very live contender in the division and will be hoping to get one more title shot before his career is over. At 31 years old he doesn't have long left, but with his toughness and his power he is a nightmare to face, as Vinca Paras found out earlier this year when Taconing over-came him. At the moment Taconing is ranked by all 4 world title bodies and is likely to get another shot in the near future.
Edward Heno (13-0-5, 5)
The current OPBF champion is unbeaten Filipino Edward Heno, who was touted for a shot at IBF champion Felix Alvarado but appears to accept he needs more experience before a fight at that level. Heno has impressed in recent years, scoring notable wins over Cris Ganoza, Seit Ogido, Merlito Sabillo and Jesse Espinas. Strangely he began his career 0-0-3 but has really come a long way since then, and will be looking to continue his development on February 11th, when he defends the OPBF title against Japanese veteran Koji Itagaki.
Reiya Konishi (17-1, 7)
Japan's Reiya Konishi is an All Japan Rookie of the year, a former Japanese Minimumweight champion and is the current WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight champion. Despite his success he's actually best known for his competitive decision loss to Carlos Canizales earlier this year, where he was dropped but came bout and gave Canizales hell. Konishi isn't much of a puncher, and is technically pretty flawed, but he has a high work rate, he's a proper battler and he comes to fight for every minute of every round. He was expected to fight for a world title in early 2019 but it sounds like plans have changed and that he'll push a title fight back to make some technical improvements first.
Randy Petalcorin (29-3-1, 22)
Filipino fighter Randy Petalcorin is one of the division's better pure boxer's, with sharp movement and punching and the ability to punch on the move. Sadly for him his last out saw him face off with Felix Alvarado for the vacant IBF title, and he was broken down by the Nicaraguan monster, who fought like a man possessed. Despite the loss to Alvarado the Filipino remains a top contender, and could well find himself getting another world title fight in the near future, especially given that loss. At the age of 26 he's still got a lot of his career left, but will need to be given more backing to secure the fights he needs to, something that has been lacking at times.
Palangpol CP Freshmart (16-2, 9)
Former world title challenger Palangpol CP Freshmart, also known as Rangsan Chayanram, is a heavy handed fighter who is in and among the better Thai contenders in the sport. He's technically a little stiff, but is tough, hard hitting and a nightmare to face. His only world title fight saw him come up short against Kosei Tanaka in 2017, though he did drop Tanaka and fractured both of Tanaka's orbitals. Sadly his recent competition hasn't been great, though in fairness he seems like a fighter itching to face better competition, and just fighting low level foes to stay busy, rather than boosting a ranking. Fingers crossed he gets another shot in 2019, as he's already 33 and going to be on the slide.
Milan Melindo (37-4, 13)
Filipino veteran Milan Melindo is a former IBF champion who has scored big wins over Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, Akira Yaegashi and Hekkie Budler. Despite those big wins the 30 year old has had a string of tough bouts, including a TKO loss last time out to Kenshiro and damaging battles with Budler and Ryoichi Taguchi. At his best he was a fantastic fighter, but right now it's unclear what he has left to offer. Until he returns to the ring he'll still be, rightfully, considered a top contender, though that could all change with a loss, or a poor showing, next time out.
Vince Paras (13-2, 11)
Another Filipino contender is Vince Paras, who lost in an IBF Minimumweight title fight to Hiroto Kyoguchi and has also lost to Jonathan Taconing. Despite those set backs the 20 year puncher has shown enough to be considered a top contender, and he'll likely be competing at world level again in the future. He's beyond the typical "prospect" stage, and is a former title challenger, but still needs development to get over the line in a big one, and we expect to see him really come into his own in 2019, and work on the flaws that Taconing and Kyoguchi both exposed. Those losses could turn out to be vital for his development.
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.