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 Bantamweight division doesn't just have notable names at the top of the division, but also a deep amount of contenders in what is one of the more overlooked and deep divisions in the sport.
The division also has an incredibly bright future with a lot of fantastic young prospects coming through the rankings, and better yet it appears that it's not just Eastern prospects that are being fast tracked, but also some from Europe and the Americas.
If you missed out on our previous articles about the Bantamweight division they are here:
The state of the Division - Bantamweight - The Champions
The state of the Division - Bantamweight - The Contenders
Carl Jammes Martin (11-0, 10)
Not many teenagers could get away with being called "Wonder Boy" but 19 year old Filipino prospect Carl Jammes Martin certainly seems to be living up to the moniker. He debuted at the age of 16 and has already worked his way into the world rankings. The youngster is in need of a step up yo see how good he really is, but he's already won the WBA Asia and WBO Oriental Youth titles and looks to be one of the brightest prospects in the Philippines with his mixture of power, speed, aggressions and skills. It's just a shame that, so far, he has been blasting people out before we've managed to see just how good he actually is.
Tenta Kiyose (15-2-1, 7)
Japanese 22 year old Tenta Kiyose isn't one of the country's many "super prospects" who turned professional with a depth of amateur experience. Instead he's someone who has had to turn his career into a success. Afer losing on debut, being 1-1-1 after 3 bouts and losing in the 2015 Rookie of the Year final to Matcha Nakagawa we have finally seen Kiyose develop into a genuine prospect, winning his last 8 bouts. During his current winning run he has won the WBC Youth Super Bantamweight title, with a shut out over Joe Tejones, and scored a career defining stopping over Oleydong Sithsamerchai. He's big at the weight and with his current form he will be full of confidence.
Ukashir Farooq (11-0, 4)
British-Pakistani fighter Ukashi Farooq is dubbed "untouchable", and given how few rounds he's lost during his 11 bout career he does live up to that nickname pretty well. In 2017 he took the Scottish Area title, stopping Scott Allan in 8 rounds in their second meeting, and has since won and defended the British title. He looked sensational in his British title win, stopping Jamie Wilson in a round, and his win over the once touted Iain Butcher in November was very impressive. There are question marks around this power, despite the blow out of Wilson, but he is undeniably skilled and will begin chasing international honours shortly.
Kazuki Nakajima (6-0, 5)
The Ohashi gym is packed with top talent and highly regarded prospects, meaning it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle. One man looking to avoid that position is touted Bantamweight puncher Kazuki Nakajima, a 25 year old Southpaw, who debuted in summer 2017 and, one bout aside, has looked sensational. He struggled in his third bout, against the under-rated Taiga Higashi, but since then has gone from strength to strength, and looked fantastic beating veteran Yoshihiro Utsumi. Nakajima won't be the next big Ohashi star, but he has the potential to reach the top, and do so rather quickly.
Lee McGregor (5-0, 5)
Arguably the most under-rated and overlooked prospect in Britain is "Lightning" Lee McGregor, a 21 year old Bantamweight from Edinburgh who has won the IBF Youth and Commonwealth Bantamweight titles, and done so against decent competition, stopping both Goodluck Mrema and Thomas Essomba in 4 and 12 rounds respectively. McGregor was a former amateur standout before making his professional debut in November 2011 and has risen rapidly under the guidance of Cyclone Promotions. If you like the way Josh Taylor has been managed then we suspect you'll like how McGregor has been moved too.
Jade Bornea (13-0, 9)
Unbeaten Filipino 23 year old Jade Borena has been quietly rising through the ranks without too much fuss, though is a quality fighter, as he proved in the amateur ranks beating the likes of Murodjon Akhmadaliev and Kosei Tanaka in the 2013 Asian Confederation Youth Boxing Championships. At the moment Bornea is lacking a "big" win but has picked up some minor titles since his 2014 debut and is a natural talent. We really hope 2019 is a year where he begins to make a real mark on the regional scene.
Junior Almonte (11-0, 8)
Dominican puncher Junior Almonte isn't a well known fighter, but like many Dominicans rising through the ranks he's heavy handed, exciting and busy. He debuted in July 2017 and already has 11 bouts under his belt , those 11 bouts combine for 33 rounds showing how dangerous he is early on. Sadly his best wins are against the likes of Rafael Rodriguez and Donny Garcias, but we expect to see him make a step up in 2019, and hopefully make his international debut.
Fumiya Fuse (7-0, 1)
The 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year quietly won the Rookie of the Year tournament last year as a 19 year old, just 11 months after his debut. Since then he has added a couple more wins, gone 6 rounds for the first time, made his international debut and genuinely looked like a pure natural talent. He's a skilled boxer-mover who's only question mark at the moment appears to be his power. He's only 20 years old now, so may have his man strength to develop in the coming years and if so the talented southpaw really could be one of Japan's many notable Bantamweights.
Ryusei Kawaura (5-0, 4)
From a Japanese non-puncher to a Japanese puncher, Ryusei Kawaura is a heavy handed boxer-puncher who stepped up in 2018 to over-come Marjun Pantilgan, with an 8 round decision, and Yuki Yoshimura. He's currently fighting between Super Flyweight and Bantamweight, though suspicion is that his 24 year old frame will fill into a fully fledged Bantamweight in the new year. Kawaura is a southpaw who's career has developed slowly but has a lot of potential
Seiya Tsutsumi (4-0, 3)
Another Japanese fighter looking to find their ideal weight is 22 year old Watanabe prospect Seiya Tsutsumi, who won a Danagn B Class tournament at Bantamweight in September but has since flirted with Featherweight and spoke about fighting at Super Flyweight. We're really unsure where Tsutsumi will settle, and it seems like he's also unsure, but what we do know is that he's an exciting, aggressive, hard hitting fighter who brings a lot of pressure and a lot of action. Given his age his body will almost certainly grow into that of a fully fledged Bantamweight, and we see that being the weight that he makes his name at.
Elie Konki (5-0, 1)
It's strange referring to a national champion as a prospect, but French national champion, and 2016 Olympian, Elie Konki is certainly a prospect, and one with a lot of upside. The "Spider" is a tall Bantamweight who has raced to a national title, doing so last time out, racked up experience over 10 rounds and looks like a genuine one to watch. He needs more seasoning before stepping up, but at 26 time is on his side, and there is a growth in the French scene at the moment, suggesting that Konki may get promotional backing in the near future.
Jonathan Lopez (5-0, 3)
Unbeaten "Bum Bum" Jonathan Lopez is a Puerto Rican hopeful who debuted in 2017 but really made a mark in 2018, which included a massive career win over former world title challenger Jose Alfredo Rodriguez in December. Whilst Rodriguez is no world beater, he is a the type of fighter that prospects don't tend to face in just their 5th professional bout. Given that Lopez has fit 4 bouts into 2018 we're looking forward to seeing what he and his team have in store for the new year.
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.