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
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.
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.