As well as the champions at 130lbs we also have some interesting contenders in the division, with a mix of established names and emerging hopefuls.
Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0, 12)
IBF mandatory contender is Tajik born Russian Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov, an aggressive, raw fighter with heavy hands and brutal body shots. He's mostly fought in Russia where he has notched solid wins over Malcolm Klassen and Robinson Castellanos, though did travel outside of Russia for his last bout, an 8th round TKO win over Azinga Fuzile. Rakhimov can certainly be outboxed, but he's a hard man to beat with his power, toughness and physicality.
Oscar Valdez (27-0, 21)
Former WBO Featherweight champion Oscar Valdez has abandoned the 126lb division and began his pursuit of a second divisional world title as he's moved up to 130lbs. On paper this looks like a move that may not be the best for the Mexican. At 126lbs Valdez was a brutal, explosive boxer-puncher but he didn't look good at all in his Featherweight debut, where he was dropped by Adam Lopez and given a real test. At 29 years old we understand him outgrowing the Featherweight division, but we do wonder whether he can replicate his success at 130lbs.
Andrew Cancio (21-5-2, 16)
American puncher Andrew Cancio lost the WBA "regular" title last time out, when he was stopped by Rene Alvarado. That bout saw Cancio lose the WBA title and later leave Golden Boy Promotions under a cloud dissatisfaction, following a very public falling out between fighter and promoter. Cancio has since signed with Top Rank and is likely to get opportunities under Bob Arum who has several top names in the division under his promotional banner. Although not the most talented fighter out there the 31 year old can punch and a bout between him and some of the other contenders in the division would be fantastic to watch.
Joseph Diaz (30-1, 15)
Joseph "Jo Jo" Diaz is a former is a 2012 Olympian who has banged on the door a few times, albeit at Featherweight. He lost a competitive bout in 2018 to Gary Russell Jr, then beat Jesus M Rojas, but failed to make weight. Since the Rojas mishap Diaz has moved up to the Featherweight and looked a bit hot and cold. He looked solid against Freddy Fonseca but struggled with journeyman Jesus Cuadro. He'll be getting his first crack at a Super Featherweight world title at the end of the month, when he takes on IBF champion Tevin Farmer. For Farmer the bout is a chance to legitimise his much maligned reign whilst Diaz will be looking to prove he's world class.
Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov (15-0, 9)
Another Tajik born Russian in the division is 24 year old Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov. He's not on the same level of development as Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov, despite the two men having the same number of bouts, but he is another very talented, very aggressive and very fun to watch fighter. In recent years Yaqubov has beaten the likes of Ernie Sanchez, Emanuel Lopez, Jhon Gemino and Abraham Montoya. The unbeaten Yaqubov is really fun to watch but will need to alter his style if he's to make the most of his abilities, and is likely to take longer to get into the mix than some of the other contenders in the division.
Carl Frampton (27-2, 15)
Former Super Bantamweight champion Carl Frampton singled his intent to be a player at 130lbs last year, when he took on Tyler McCreary and took a clear win over the previously unbeaten American. At the age of 32, and turning 33 in February, time is ticking on Frampton's career and it really does seem like it'll have to be this year for him to make a mark on the 130lb weight class. There has been a lot of talk of the "Jackal" fighting against Jamel Herring, though the original plans for that bout have had to be pushed back.
Joe Cordina (11-0, 7)
Welshman Joe Cordina is a former Olympian who is inked to the powerful Eddie Hearn. Talented, well schooled and at 28 years old Cordina looks like he's ready to push on with his career and 2020 could be a really big year for him. He turned professional with a very strong amateur background, though didn't have much hype. He has since developed carefully and it would seem almost a given that Eddie Hearn will secure the Welsh Wizard a title fight sooner rather than later. Expect him to fight in at least 1 eliminator this year, and potentially make his US debut to try and drum up interesting in him facing the Tevin Farmer or JoJo Diaz winner.
3 bouts we want to see in 2020:
Leo Santa Cruz Vs Rene Alvarado
Oscar Valdez Vs Andrew Cancio
Miguel Berchelt Vs Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov
The Super Featherweight division is an interesting one at the moment, with out being one stacked with well known contenders. In fact most of the leading contenders are older fighters, who have moved up in weight or on the slide whilst others are much more obscure hidden gems of the boxing world.
For those who want to know about the divisions champions we have covered those here - The state of the Division - Super Featherweight - The Champions
Francisco Vargas (25-1-2, 18)
One of the top contenders is former WBC world champion Francisco Vargas, who is certainly a fighter on the slide following a hard career. The 34 year old Mexican warrior holds notable wins over the likes of Will Tomlinson, Takashi Miura, Juan Manuel Lopez, Abner Cotto and Stephen Smith. Sadly, he is very much a man at the end of his career and the wars have certainly began to catch up on him, as we saw in 2017 when he lost the title to Miguel Berchelt. Vargas might have 1 more big bout in him, though until he returns and we see what he has he is still a top divisional contender.
Scott Quigg (35-2-2, 26)
Englishman Scott Quigg is a former WBA Super Bantamweight champion who has out-grown the 122lb weight class, and in 2018 seemed to out grow the Featherweight division too, failing to make weight for a WBO title fight against Oscar Valdez. The 30 year old looks to have regressed in recent fights, relying just on his toughness, size and stamina rather than skills. If Quigg can put it together he could be a handful for some of the champions, and with Eddie Hearn behind him there will be opportunities, but the feeling is that he's also on the slide, and he was given a lot of punishment earlier this year, suffering a broken nose against Oscar Valdez.
Jason Sosa (21-3-4, 15)
American fighter Jason Sosa is a former WBA champion who is just hanging on to being a contender, though will need a good 2019 to be taken seriously as a threat to the champions. He made his name on the back of a massive 2016 upset win over Javier Fortuna and successfully defended the belt once, beating Stephen Smith, before vacating the belt to fight WBO Champion Vasyl Lomachenko, who toyed with him. Having retired after 9 rounds against Lomachenko Sose has gone 1-1, losing a close dcision to Yuriorkis Gamboa and scoring a low key win over Reynaldo Blanco. It's hard to see where he goes from here but he will be back in the ring on January 18th in what looks to be a stay busy fight.
Jamel Herring (19-2, 10)
American fighter Jamel Herring is a 33 year old who has been strongly linked to a fight with WBO champion Masayuki Ito. The former amateur stand out, who competed at the 2012 Olympics, is a long rangy southpaw who had long fought at Lightweight before dropping down in weight last year and stringing together a few wins to establish himself at 130lbs. Although not the biggest name Herring is a talented fighter, who could be a nightmare given his size and frame, though isn't known for giving us much excitement and is very much a safety first fighter. At 33 it's fair to say that 2019 has to be a big year for him.
Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (13-0, 10)
One of the few rising young contenders is 24 year old Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov, a Tajik born Russian boxer-puncher. The southpaw has had a couple of very good years recently, without getting much attention. Althoigh he's only had 13 fights he has beaten the likes of Rogelio Jun Doliguez, Jimmy Paypa, Malcolm Klassen and Robinson Castellanos. Rakhimov is likely to be moved towards a world title fight in 2019 and we'd not be surprised to see him in big fights by the end of the year. A real gem in the division and a brutal natural puncher.
Azina Fuzile (13-0, 8)
Another of the division's hidden gems is South African fighter Azina Fuzile, who has been making a bit of a buzz in South Africa without too many fans outside of his homeland knowing much about him. He's a talented boxer-puncher with a relaxed style in the ring, a huge frame, freakish reach and a lot of skill. Dubbed the "Golden Boy" the 22 year old Fuzile has already scored wins against the likes of Macbute Sinyabi and Malcolm Klassen, and claimed some regional IBF titles, hence his current IBF ranking. It might be a touch too soon for a bout at world level, but by 2020 we would be very surprised not to see him in with another contender.
Miguel Roman (60-13, 47)
Another of the old guard is the insanely tough Miguel Roman, who has a long and hard career. With 73 bouts on his record Roman has legitimately fought a who's who of who in and around the division. Sadly the 33 year has been stopped twice in recent years, and both of those losses came in extremely punishing bouts, that his toughness really worked against him in. Until we see Roman back in the ring, or officially hanging them up, he will remain a contender, but there is a worry that he may now be damaged goods and not the fighter he once was.
Jono Carroll (16-0-1, 3)
Unbeaten Irish southpaw Jono Carroll is a 26 year old battler who sets a high tempo and looks to make every fight into a war. He has great stamina a fantastic work rate and an exciting style, though is technically flawed, defensively questionable and lacks the power to make the most of his style. He's expected to fight Tevin Farmer in 2019, and we'd find it very hard to back Carrol against the IBF champion. Whilst he'd be the under-dog against Farmer it's hard to dislike Carroll, his all action style or his passionate fan base.
Guillaume Frenois (46-1-1, 12)
Once beaten French veteran Guillaume Frenois recently fought Jono Carroll in an IBF eliminator and earned a draw, a draw that many felt Frenois should have won. At 35 years old the French fighter won't want to waste time and will likely try to get a shot at Farmer before Carroll, does. Frenois is a tall boxer with long reach, a defensively smart style and a tricky southpaw stance who has gone unbeaten since September 2013, when he lost in a European title fight to Devis Boschiero in Italy. Since that loss he has gone 15-0-1 and forced his way into world title contention.
Masao Nakamura (25-3, 24)
Hard hitting Japanese fighter Masao Nakamura is the current WBO Asia Pacific champion and is a feared fighter in the East. He's had a strange career, having debuted back 2006 and won the OPBF title in 2010. His OPBF reign was a short one, losing the belt in his first defense, in 61 second to Ronald Pontillas, before rebuilding through to 2014, when he would then suffer back-to-back losses to Masayuki Ito and Rey Labao. More rebuilding lead him in to the world title mix, before he retired in 2016, citing health issues. He returned in 2018 and has looked a force, going 3-0 (3) and taking the Asia Pacific belt. Although not currently ranked by any world title body Nakamura will likely change that in 2019 and will almost certainly be wanting a rematch with Ito.
Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1-1, 11)
Japanese champion Masaru Sueyoshi is highly ranked by the WBO and is climbing up the rankings one step at a time. The 28 year old is not a major name outside of his homeland but is unbeaten in 16 bouts, with his sole defeat coming back in July 2012 to current world champion Masayuki Ito. Since then we've seen Sueyoshi grow into a frustrating boxer, who sets a unique tempo in the ring and controls distance with subtle nuances, and smart footwork. He's not the prettiest fighter to watch but he's extremely hard to beat, and his KO against Nelson Tinampay in 2017 showed he could bang, despite not having a reputation as a puncher. Interestingly, he was last seen fighting to a draw with the OPBF champion Hironori Mishiro last October.
Hironori Mishiro (6-0-1, 2)
Having just mentioned the OPBF champion it makes sense to talk about him in a bit more details. The Watanabe promoted 24 year Hironori Mishiro was a top amateur before making his debut in 2017 and racing through the ranks to win the OPBF title in just his 6th professional bout. He's impressed regularly since his debut, but has shown areas of clear improvement that need making, and we suspect those areas something his team will be wanting to develop on whilst he's holding the Oriental title. He's quick, a shap boxer and can fight aggressively with a pressure style. There's a lot to like about Mishiro, but a lot for him to still work on.
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.