The Super Bantamweight division has been an interesting one in recent years, despite some issues. We've had some really interesting fights, fighters who appear willing to be busy and prove themselves. Whilst we've not seen a host of unification bouts we have seen top fighters facing legitimate contenders and the division has moved on nice in the last few years, without really setting it's self on fire. Right now we have good champion, a good amount of talented contenders, and a lovely mix of styles.
WBA "super and IBF - Daniel Roman (27-2-1, 10)
Aggressive technician Daniel Roman is, at the time of writing, the unified WBA and IBF champion and went about things the hard way. He won the WBA title in Japan, stopping Shun Kubo, went back over to Japan for his first defense, against Ryo Matsumoto, and then went to war with TJ Doheny in a unification bout. The wonderfully respectful Doman was sadly forced out of a mandatory defense against Murodjon Akhmadaliev last September, but will face Akhmadaliev at the end of January in a mouth match up.
WBC - Rey Vargas (34-0, 22)
The 29 year old Rey Vargas may not be the most exciting or explosive fighter at 122lbs but the WBC champion is going to be a very tricky man to dethrone. Standing at close to 5'11" and with freakish reach Vargas is a guy that fighters will struggle to get close to and will have to take risks against. Sadly for all his talent, and he is talented, his bouts lack drama and excitement. Potentially set to change his promotional affiliation in 2020 there are options out there for Vargas, though we suspect he'll out grow the division before someone takes a title from him. Decribing Vargas in a word is easy, "awkward", beating him however is not easy in the slightest.
WBO - Emanuel Navarrete (30-1, 26)
Every division needs a destructive force and at Super Bantamweight we have Emanuel Navarrete, the Top Rank fighter who went 4-0 (4) in 2019 and has only seen the final bell once in his last 13 fights. His 2018 win over Isaac Dogboe saw him winning the WBO title and since then he has shown no mercy in stopping his opponents. Sadly his opposition hasn't been great since winning the title, a rematch with Dogboe aside, so hopefully 2020 brings a step up in class for the 24 year old "Vaquero". Quantity was fine in 2019, now lets see him in with some quality this year.
IBF "interim" - Ryosuke Iwasa (27-3, 17)
Former IBF champion Ryosuke Iwasa enters 2020 as the IBF "interim" champion, and is in an interesting position as the year kicks off. He'll be the mandatory challenger to the Roman Vs Akhmadaliev winner, if they wish to keep the unified titles and is in a great position to build on an excellent win against Marlon Tapales. The Japanese fighter, dubbed "Eagle Eye", does blow hot and cold but he looked really good against Tapales and will hopefully show that level of performance more often going forward.
Currently the contenders in the Super Featherweight division are some of the most interesting, with a large number of former champions along with a good mixture of upcoming talent and recognised contenders.
If you missed our look at the division's champions that's available to read here - The state of the Division - Super Bantamweight - The Champions
Isaac Dogboe (20-1, 14)
Former WBO champion Isaac Dogboe had a huge 2018, stopping Cesar Juarez, Jessie Magdaleno and Hidenori Otake before losing the WBO belt in December to Emanuel Navarrete. At the age of 24 the British based Ghanaian has a long time to bounce back and may even find himself moving down a weight class, as he is small, but very powerful, at 122lbs. Dogboe is an exciting and likable fighter, but he really did take a beating to Navarette and it could be a while before we see him fighting at the top-level again.
Jessie Magdaleno (25-1, 15)
From one former WBO champion to another, Jessie Magdaleno was the man that Dogboe took the title from in April in what was a pulsating 12 round fight that saw both men being dropped. Although Magdaleno started well, dropping Dogboe in the first round, he was eventually broken down himself. The Nevada resident was one tipped as a future star, but he seems to have fallen short of reaching super stardom. He is, however, a talented fighter who will likely rebuild towards a second world title fight in the near future.
Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3, 18)
Staying with former champions Japan's hard hitting Ryosuke Iwasa is a former IBF champion, who lost the belt in August to TJ Doheny. Iwasa is a hard hitting southpaw who is managed by the Celes gym in Tokyo and is expected to climb back up towards a world title fight in 2019. Iwasa is an exciting puncher, but failed to really shine after winning the IBF title, going through the motions against Ernesto Saulong and then losing the belt to TJ Doheny. If he can perform like he did in his title winning effort he could be very hard to beat, but we've only seen glimpses of that talent.
Yukinori Oguni (20-2-1, 8)
The man Iwasa ripped the IBF title off was fellow Japanese fighter Yukinori Oguni, whose reign was a short one but had seen him defeat Jonathan Guzman for the belt. After losing to Iwasa in 2017 Oguni retired, before returning in December 2018, having had surgery and a good rest. He didn't look amazing on his return, with a lot of ring rust showing, but looked excellent with his body shots and it's clear that he's looking to progress quickly through 2019 and may well end up finding himself getting another world title fight by the end of the year.
Shingo Wake (25-5-2, 17)
Another talented Japanese fighter at Super Bantamweight is sharp shitting Shingo Wake, a charismatic boxer-puncher who is best known for being stopped by Jonathan Guzman in an IBF title fight. Despite the stoppage loss to Guzman, which forced Wake to have considerable time away from the ring to recover, he has looked great on his return to the ring and stoppage Yusaku Kuga in 2019, to claim the Japanese national title. Wake has publicly called for a fight with Tomoki Kameda, but will likely have to wait for a shot at the top. His next bout is scheduled for January 19th, against Takafumi Nakajima, as he attempts to avenge one of his 5 defeats.
Shohei Omori (20-2, 15)
One more Japanese southpaw at the weight is Shohei Omori, a former world title challenger at Bantamweight who moved up in weight following his second loss to Marlon Tapales. The talented and exciting Omori looked like a future world champion before running into Tapales the first time, but bounced back and had a rematch, that saw him being broken down in a damaging less that saw him suffering a bad facial injury. Since moving up he's looked fantastic, with the same speed and power that he had at Bantamweight, and potentially more durability. It's going to be very fun to see how he is at the top-level of the division.
Franklin Manzanilla (18-4, 17)
Little known Venezuelan Franklin Manzanilla is pencilled in for a world title fight with the WBC champion Rey Vargas in February, in what will be a huge bout for Manzanilla. He's got his shot following an unexpected win over Julio Ceja back in May 2018, that win aside he really doesn't have any wins of note and has lost to the likes of Belmar Preciado, who was recently stopped by Hiroshige Osawa. We'll learn a lot about Manzanilla when he takes on Vargas, though we can't see him putting up much of a test to the Mexican world champion.
Deigo De La Hoya (21-0, 10)
Unbeaten American hopeful Deigo De La Hoya has proven that he's not only known because of his relationship with Oscar De La Hoya, but also because he's an excellent fighter himself. The 24 year old Mexican has been banging on the door of a world title fight for a while, and has picked up very credible wins over Luis Orlando Del Valle, Randy Caballero and Jose Salgado, albeit a Salgado who was fighting well above his best weight. He's talented, quick, has a good boxing brain and could go a long way, it's just a case of seeing whether the 24 year old can add some power to his game before he challenges for a world title.
Lodumi Lamati (14-0-1, 9)
As with many South African contenders Lodumi Lamati looks to be a potential hidden gem. Dubbed "9mm" Lamati has already scored notable wins over Luis Melendez and Alexis Boureima Kabore. Sadly he's yet to fight outside of South Africa, though hopefully that happens in the new year and he continues his development. Footage of Lamati is limited, but he looks sharp, accurate and quick and is expected to have a big fight early in 2019.
Cesar Juarez (23-6, 17)
Mexican veteran Cesar Juarez is a 27 year old contender who really deserves a lot more attention than he gets. He first came to the attention of the hardcore fans in 2015, with notable wins over Cesar Seda and Juan Carlos Sanchez, before pushing Nonito Doinaire all the way in a thrilling FOTY contender. Since losing to Donaire Juarez has gone 6-2, including notable wins over Albert Pagara, Richard Pumicpic and Jorge Sanchez, as well as losing to Isaac Dogboe.
Albert Pagara (31-1, 22)
Having just mentioned Cesar Juarez it makes sense to talk about Albert Pagara, who suffered his only loss to Juarez and is likely wanting to avenge that loss one day. The talented Pagara looked like a future world champion in the making early in his career, but the loss to Juarez really slowed his assent. Since the loss Pagara has won 5 bouts in a row, but has been in with limited competition and now needs a step up in class. At 24 he has time to develop but shouldn't be given any more knock over jobs, he's simply too good for that level of competition.
Abigail Medina (19-4-2, 10)
Spanish based Dominican Abigail Medina recently lost a clear, but competitive, decision to Tomoki Kameda in a bout for the WBC "interim" title. The early part of the bout saw Medina look unable to cope with Kameda's speed, but later gave Kameda hell, showing that he belonged to stay in the title mix. Medinina had been on a good run before the bout with Kameda, including wins over Jeremy Parodi, Martin Ward and Anthony Settoul. He's not an elite level fighter, but certainly deserves a second shot, if he can continue to pick up decent scalps.
Murodjon Akhmadaliev (5-0, 4)
Last, but certainly not least, is 24 year old Uzbek Murodjon Akhmadaliev. The talented, exciting and hard hitting Akhmadaliev only turned professional earlier this year but has raced off to winning the WBA Inter Continental title and is ranked #1 by the WBA. A world title shot is expected in 2019, and we can't help but feel that Akhmadaliev has the potential to win a win a belt as early as his next fight. Unfortunately for him we think the champion he seems to be targeting, Danny Roman, is the toughest champion in the division and the one who could pose him the most problems. He's powerful, hard hitting, fast and unorthordox, and incredibly exciting to watch.
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.