A few days ago I looked at state of the Minimumweight division by looking at the champions, now we take a look at a handful of fighters who make up some of the more interesting contenders and ones to watch.
Vic Saludar (20-4, 11)
The hard hitting Vic Saludar is a former WBO world champion who will be looking to become a 2-time world champion in 2020. He lost the WBO title to Wilfredo Mendez in August 2019, in what was his second defense, though will be sniffing around another title fight. Although not the quickest Saludar is a good technical fighter, with very heavy hands, and he has proven his quality with wins against the likes of Ryuya Yamanaka, Masataka Taniguchi Lite Dante, the current OPBF champion.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (5-0, 4)
Rising Japanese superstud Ginjiro Shigeoka is expected to fight for a world title before the end of 2020 and comes into the year following an excellent win over Rey Loreto, becoming just the second man to stop the Filipino veteran. Shigeoka is quick, well schooled and heavy handed. Although he is lacking in experience as a professional he did have more than 50 amateur bouts and certainly knows his way around the ring. So far he has already proven his ability to box, brawl and bang and if he continues the way he's going he could end up have a very long reign at the top.
Yudai Shigeoka (2-0, 1)
Ginjiro Shigeoka's older brother Yudai Shigeoka looks to be just as promising as his sibling, in fact if we're being honest Yudai maybe the more promising of the two. Yudai looks to be the better the better pure boxer, the more defensively sound fighter and the one more willing to use his legs to get out of range, rather than fight in the trenches. He is, however, also regarded as the less physically imposing of the two. His debut was a show case, but his second win saw him take a decision over current OPBF champion Lito Dante in a non-title bout, and the odds are that he will be looking for titles himself in 2020.
Jing Xiang (17-4-2, 3)
Chinese boxing is riding a high following a sensational year for Can Xu, which saw Xu win and and defend the WBA Featherweight title. The next potential world champion for China is Jing Xiang, a skilled pure boxer from the same promotional team as Xu. Although not a big name Xiang has been banging on the door of a world title fight at 108lbs and 105lbs in recent years, dropping down in weight in 2019. With wins against Merlito Sabillo and Kompayak Porpramook he has created a buzz in Asia though still needs to face a top, prime, opponent to really make his mark and that could be a world title fight in 2020!
Hasanboy Dusmatov (1-0, 1)
One final interesting novice in the division, arguably the most interesting of the bunch, is Uzbek fighter Hasanboy Dusmatov. The 2016 Olympic champion is a sensational talent and should be fast tracked like the star in the making that he is. He debuted in 2019, after years of rumours and scored an easy win over a Mexican youngster. That win was little more than an introduction to the professional ranks for Dusmatov who already has his eyes on bigger and better things, including a potential world title fight in 2020 with WBA champion Knockout CP Freshmart
Kai Ishizawa (6-1, 6)
Whilst we have included fighters above who we think will be in the world title mix in 2020 we don't believe that will be the case for Kai Ishizawa, but he deserves a place on this section due to the fact that we want him to be on everyone's mind as we enter the new year. The 23 year old brawler is one of the most exciting fighters in the division, and although rather crude he is the type of fighter who puts bums on seats. Everything Ishizawa throws is with bad intention and he combines that with a high output. If you get the chance to see him fight in 2020 make sure you take it, as you'll not regret watching the exciting youngster from Kanagawa. He will likely be in the mix for a regional title at some point in 2020 and that's good enough for us!
The 3 bouts we want in 2020:
Wanheng Menayothin Vs Ginjiro Shigeoka
Knockout CP Freshmart Vs Jing Xiang
Wilfredo Mendez Vs Hasanboy Dusmantov
The 105lbs division, called either Minimumweight or Strewweight by most, is the lightest in the sport, and in 2019 it had a stinking year. There was so little that happened at the top that it's easy to forget that two world titles changed hands and that the rest of the division really went over looked. Thankfully, for those paying attention, it was also the division with one of the biggest upsets of the year and a division that has seen 3 sensational talents begin their rise to the top.
To start the new we'll again be breaking down the divisions in the sport, starting with the champions in the Minimumweight division!
WBC - Wanehng Menayothin (54-0, 18)
Unbeaten Thai Wanehng Menayothin comes into the year seeking his 13th world title defense and his 55th professional win. The talented Thai, who has gone unbeaten since his 2007 debut, may not be a big name but on paper his record certainly looks impressive. He had a relatively quiet 2019, fighting just twice, but wins over Tatsuya Fukuhara and Simpiwe Koncko were solid and helped establish him as the best of the bunch. He has signed a deal with Golden Boy Promotions and clearly the hope is to fight in the US, but with his 35th birthday later this year it seems likely that time is running out on Wanheng's hopes of becoming a household name.
WBA - Knockout CP Freshmart (20-0, 7)
WBA Champion Knockout CP Freshmart had a year to forget, with just one fight, a win against ArAr Andales, on his ledger for 2019. Much more is expected of the Thai though the reality is that his career has really toiled in recent years. He was once seen as the better of the two Thai's but he's not shined in a long time and with 5 straight decision wins, 7 decisions in his last 8, his name is becoming a joke. It may be that he needs some easy fights in 2020 get going again, but whatever it is he seems like a the low hanging fruit from the two Thai's that sit atop the division.
WBO - Wilfredo Mendez (15-1, 5)
Puerto Rican fighter Wilfredo Mendez was one of two new champions crowned in 2019, when he out pointed Vic Saludar. A the age of 23 he is certainly fresh blood in the division, and with 4 fights in 2019 he was a breath of fresh air in a division that didn't have much going for it last year. Sadly his first defense, a narrow win over Mexican teenager Axel Aragon Vega, made it clear that his reign wasn't going to be a distinguished one. He likely already has a target on his back as someone with a title that can be taken relatively easily and we wouldn't be surprised to see fighters battling to get their hands on Mendez in the new year.
IBF - Pedro Taduran (14-2, 11)
Another newer champion, having won the IBF title that Deejay Kriel vacated, Pedro Taduran is arguably the wild card of the champions. He lost a competitive bout to Wanheng in 2018 but has bounced back well and won the IBF title with a brilliant win over Samuel Salva. He's the only of the champions that would be described as a power puncher, and although crude as a fighter he's an aggressive nightmare who can take a shot and refuses to back off. Technically he's crude, and can be tagged, but his work rate, power and physicality make him an absolute nightmare to fight.
In part 2 we'll look at 6 of the contenders and prospects who we expect to make a mark on the division in 2020.
The Minimumweight division is the focus of our first look at the divisions as we head in to the new year. Over the past day or so we have looked at the world champions, "The state of the Division - Minimumweights - The Champions" and the leading contenders, The state of the Division - Minimumweights - The Contenders now we look at our final part of the division, the prospects, and other notable fighters.
Kai Ishizawa (5-0, 5)
Unbeaten Japanese 22 year old Kai Ishizawa has been a professional for about 18 months but already appears to be one to watch. He's a pretty basic pressure fighter, but his flaws make him a must watch fighter, with his attitude being to stop opponents no matter what. He can be out boxed, as we've seen in the past, but his power is thudding and consistent. Potentially a real danger man of the future.
Samuel Salva (16-0, 10)
Samuel Salva is another, from the many, Filipino fighters who is making their mark on the division. The 21 year old has done his stuff relatively quietly, with out making a lot of international buzz, but is rising through the ranks and will hopefully begin taking on international opponents in 2019. He's young, active, heavy handed and building up his experience, he just needs to share the ring with better opponents now.
Daiki Tomita (12-1, 4)
The once beaten Daiki Tomita made his debut in 2015 and went on to win the Rookie of the Year the following year. In 2017 he scored his biggest win to date, defeating Desierto Nagaike and proved his ability in a loss, losing in September 2018 to Tsuaba Koura, who made it into the Contenders section. He's only 21 but has shown plenty to be excited about and he has the potentially to take his loss and really build on the lessons Koura gave him
Yuga Inoue (7-1-1, 1)
Another once beaten Japanese youngster looking to be a big success is 19 year old Yuga Inoue, who isn't related to the Ohashi promoted Inoue clan. Yuga made his debut in 2016 and won the 2017 Rookie of the Year. His sole loss has come to the aforementioned Kai Ishizawa, and prior to being stopped he looked the better fighter. Young, skilled and promising, the one thing Inoue needs is a but more physical development.
ArAr Andales (8-0, 1)
Filipino teenager ArAr Andales has only just turned 19 but has already fought in a couple of 8 rounders and looks to be developing quite nicely. He has a lot of work to do before getting a major international bout, but by the time he steps up in class there is a chance he will develop his punching technique, power and physical strength.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1)
Another 19 year old prospect looking to make their mark at 105lbs is Ginjiro Shigeoka, who was a Japanese amateur stand out, and who looked sensational on debut this past September. He looks like something very special, with power, speed, skills and at only 19 he is already a physically imposing fighter. Possible the best prospect in Japan right now.
Leroy Estrada (16-3, 6)
Panamanian southpaw Leroy Estrada is a former world title challenger, who is regarded by some as a top contender. For us however he's more of a "wildcard" entry in the division. He was stopped this year by Wanheng Menayothin, and made to look like a boy against the champion, but is ranked highly due to a big win over Saul Juarez. We tend to see him as someone who isn't likely to be a major player in the division, despite the high regard that some hold him in.
Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (10-0, 4)
Unbeaten Thai Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart is seen by some in Thailand as the future of the division, though his performances as a professional boxer suggest other wise. He's been matched mostly in soft matches as a professional, but was pushed all the way last time out by Marco John Rementizo and we suspect that performance tells us more than his other 9 bouts. He might be unbeaten but we don't see him as being good enough to carry the flag at the top of the division any time soon, if ever.
Shin Ono (23-9-3, 6)
Japanese champion Shin Ono is one of the division's elder statesmen, with his 36th birthday coming later this month. He's been a professional for close to 18 years and is a 2-time world title challenger. We don't expect him to win a world title, though he does have a place as a gate keeper and only very good fighters will beat him at the weight. It's worth noting that he defends the Japanese title in January, against Norihito Tanaka, and if successful he may get one more shot at a title. A loss to Tanaka would likely spell the end of his career, but a win keeps him on the fringes of another title shot.
The Minimumweight division is a criminally over-looked division, due to the fact many fans, especially those in the west, don't have the access to know who's who, and instead see the fighters as under-sized and lacking the power and skills to be worthy of watching. The reality however is that the division, right now, is a very interesting one.
We recently looked at the champions in the division, "The state of the Division - Minimumweights - The Champions", which range from the under-powered IBF champion Carlos Licona to the dangerous WBO champion Vic Saludar to the longest active reigning world champion in boxing.
Now we have a look at a number of the leading contenders in the division.
Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9)
OPBF champion Tsubasa Koura is expected to fight for the WBC title in Spring and has so far been very impressive. He won the Rookie of the Year before becoming the OPBF champion and is now widely regarded as a leading contender. He's skilled, quick and heavy handed but now needs to show it at the highest level
Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6-6, 7)
The 29 year old Tatsuya Fukuhara is a former Japanese and WBO champion who is technically a bit limited, but has an amazing work rate, a real toughness and a willingness to travel for big fights. It's expected that he'll get another world title shot in 2019, and he'll be a handful for any champion.
Simphiwe Konkco (19-5-0-1, 7)
South African fighter Simpiwe Konkco is a tricky fighter with a good work rate and proven world class skills who has lost just once in the last 8 years, with that loss coming to Hekkie Budler. Despite that good form it is worth noting Konkco has had a hard career and has racked up a lot of tough rounds in recent years. Perhaps he's just on the slide now.
Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7)
With 2 losses in 13 bouts it would be easy to write Masataka Taniguchi off, however his losses have both been razor close and have come to the aforementioned Koura and Reiya Konishi. He's a handful for anyone and is really chasing a world title fight, with the WBO title likely to be his target following his recent victory for the WBO Asia Pacific title.
Mark Anthony Barriga (9-1, 1)
Highly skilled Filipino Mark Anthony Barriga is one of the sports most natural boxer's, regardless of weight, with fantastic timing and a very high ring IQ. Sadly though what Barriga has in defensive movement and he lacks in power and every bout he has is likely to go long. If he can't hurt his opponent, or stop them coming forward, as we saw against Licona, he leaves himself open to losing close bouts.
Robert Paradero (17-0, 11)
The unbeaten Robert Paradero is one of the many Filipino fighters on the verges of a title fight, in fact he was supposed to get a world title eliminator earlier in December. The unbeaten Filipino is a 4 year pro, despite only being 22, and seems ready for a big step up in class, which hopefully we see next year.
Joey Canoy (14-3-1-1, 7)
Filipino 25 year old Joey Canoy doesn't have a perfect record but has had a very, very interesting career so far. He's a 6 year pro who has scored very notable wins over Toto Landero and Melvin Jerusalem, dropped Simpiwe Konkco en route to a No Contest and only lost to decent fighters like Hekkie Budler, Jessie Espinas and Jerry Tomogdan. A very interesting contender.
Pedro Taduran (13-2, 10)
Another young Filipino to consider at Minimumweight is Pedro Taduran, who gave Wanheng Menayothin hell earlier this year in a really hotly contest 12 round bout. At 22 Taduran is a boxing baby, but the southpaw has a great work rate, solid power and a real hunger. He just needs to work on his technical skills and if he does that he could go all the way.
Byron Rojas (25-4-3-1, 11)
It's unclear if former WBA champion Byron Rojas will fight at 105lbs much longer, as he looked huge in his recent loss to Knockout CP Freshmart, but if he can make the weight then the 28 year old Nicaraguan does remain a top contender. He has lost twice to Knockout but holds a massive win over Hekkie Budler. A key player in the division if he doesn't move up.
The Minimumweight division is one of, if not the, most maligned division among Western fight fans due to the small size of the fighters and the perceived lack of power among the little men. Right now however the division is a really interesting one, with a great combination of champions, contenders and prospects. There's great variety in the styles in the division and, for once, the division has a good number of punchers as well as high out put guys.
We start our look at the state of the divisions by looking at the champions at Minimumweight. With the contenders and prospects to be looked at in the coming days.
Wanheng Menayothing (52-0, 18) - WBC (10 defenses)
The unbeaten Wanheng Menayothin, from Thailand, holds a lot of records right now. Among those are the fact he's got the longest active winning run, 52 fights, and he's the longest reigning male world champion, having held the WBC Minimumweight title since November 2014, when he dethroned Oswaldo Novoa. Although he's really only gotten attention due to surpassing Floyd Mayweather's 50-0 record Wanheng is an accomplished fighter with an exciting style, who comes forward behind a tight guard and works well on the inside. Sadly however his competition at times has been dire.
Knockout CP Freshmart (19-0, 7) - WBA (6 defenses)
Another unbeaten Thai world champion at 105lbs is Knockout CP Freshmart, who often fails to shine, despite being very talented. He has one of the best monikers in the sport but sadly had failed to live up to the name in recent years, winning 7 of his last 8 by unanimous decision. Overall his competition has been better than that of Wanheng, but he has struggled to really show what he can do since fighting at world level and it feels like he's perhaps not going to hold the title for as long as his compatriot. At the moment the WBA rankings are a bit weak and he could well hold the title in to 2020 with no issue.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) - WBO (0 defenses)
One of the division's biggest punchers is Vic Saludar, who hits like a mule despite just being a touch over 5'2". The Filipino suffered an early career set back, losing in his third bout, but has rebuilt pretty well and showed what he could do in late 2015, when he dropped Kosei Tanaka before being stopped himself in what was a real test for Tanaka, Since then he has gone 7-1 and was last seen taking the WBO title from Ryuya Yamanaka, who sadly had to retire following the bout due to a brain injury suffered against Saludar. The Filipino lives up to his nickname of "Vicious" and is very dangerous.
Carlos Licona (14-0, 2) - IBF (0 defenses)
The lightest punching champion in the division is Mexican-American Carlos Licona, who won the IBF title when he defeated Mark Anthony Barriga at the start of December. The win over Barriga really is the only one of note on his record, and even that was a close one so we're not totally how good Licona is, though even holding his own with Barriga is pretty impressive. Licona will probably be the odd man out in the division, unless someone can lure him over to Asia, as the other 3 champions are based in the East though that may well leave a bullseye on his back for the Latin American fighters.
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.