One of the sad things about boxing is when we see a fighter get their big chance, a bit too late. It's something that leaves us wondering what could have been, and wondering whether or not the fighter could have gone all the way with a big more luck and good fortune. One of the hidden treasures of 2019 was a great performance, in a loss, by a 34 year old Light Flyweight against one of the rising of the division.
Hiroto Kyoguchi (13-0, 9) vs Tetsuya Hisada (34-9-2, 20)
We suspect anyone who follows us has heard of, and seen, Hiroto Kyoguchi's rise through the ranks. The Watanabe Gym promoted fighter raced through the early part of his career and took the IBF Minimumweight title just 15 months after making his professional debut. He then moved to Light Flyweight and became a 2 weight world champion at the end of 2018, stopping Hekkie Budler.
We suspect many won't have been too aware of Tetsuya Hisada however, at least not until October 2019, when he challenged Kyoguchi for the Light Flyweight title. He was, until then, a fighter who had mostly been fighting on the Japanese domestic scene. He was in great form, but with 45 bouts under his belt the 34 year old was expected to put up a brave effort before being stopped by the much younger Kyoguchi. Even with the Osakan fans well and truly behind him, he was still being given next to no chance to even see the final, never mind make the bout interesting.
What we ended up getting was a real thriller, that wasn't a purely competitive bout, but was certainly fought on a much more even keel than many had anticipated, and at times it seemed like the old man was coming out on top. Overall it did seem like Kyoguchi, the younger yet more proven fighter, was stronger, but after being wobbled and left with some serious swelling there was a sense of drama. Especially with Hisada digging deeper and deeper. It was, potentially, Hisada's only chance to become a world champion, and unlike many he wasn't willing to give up that dream without giving everything he had.
What we ended up with here, was something special, something thrilling, yet had technically skills on show through out. It was overshadowed just a few days later by Gennady Golovkin going to war with Sergiy Derevyanchenko, a bout with bigger names, but in reality little separated them in terms of quality, action, heart, desire and drama. This was a real hidden gem, despite being a world title bout.
The Light Flyweight division is one of the most interesting in the sport right now, with a lot fantastic fighters in an around the world level, some really interesting prospects and some fantastic match ups being put together.
Earlier we looked at the champions, The state of the Division - Light Flyweight - The Champions, and now we'll take a look at the contenders. These aren't ranked in a specific order, other than the top fighters who listed first and second due to upcoming title bouts later this year.
Saul Juarez (24-8-2, 13)
Mexican 28 year old Saul Juarez has been a professional for close to 9 years and has become known as world class fighter who can give problems to very good fighters, even if he does come up short against the better opponents. His only stoppage loss came way back in 2011, to Martin Tecuapetla, and since then he has lost to the likes of Jose Argumedo, Juan Hernandez Navarrete, Milan Melindo and Wanheng Menayothin. Despite having a good record he is very much out of form, going 1-4-1 in his last 6, and will have to be at his best on December 30th when he challenges WBC champion Kenshiro.
Hiroto Kyoguchi (11-0, 8)
The heavy handed Hiroto Kyoguchi burst on to the pro ranks in 2016, following a successful amateur career, and raced away to a world title, winning the IBF Minimumweight title just 15 months into his career. His reign as a world champion at 105lbs saw him record 2 defenses before out growing the division. In the ring Kyoguchi is an aggressive fighter, with under-rated inside skills, very heavy hands, good speed and a killed instinct. He'll be looking to become a 2-weight champion on December 31st when he challenges WBA "super" champion Hekkie Budler in Macau.
Tetsuya Hisada (33-9-2, 19)
Japanese veteran Tetusya Hisada recently vacated the Japanese national title, which he had defended 5 times, as he intends to move into world title fights in early 2019, with the rumour being that he will face Carlos Canizales in the Spring. At the age of 34 Hisada hasn't got time to waste, and he also doesn't have the glamour looking record, but he comes into his next bout, whoever it's against, with a lot of self belief and 12 fight winning run. He's not a big name in the division but is world ranked across the board and certainly deserves a chance before his career comes to an end.
Jonathan Taconing (28-3-1, 22)
Filipino puncher Jonathan Taconing is a 2-time world title challenger, having lose decisions to both Kompayak Porpramook, a technical decision, and Ganigan Lopez. Despite those losses he has remained a very live contender in the division and will be hoping to get one more title shot before his career is over. At 31 years old he doesn't have long left, but with his toughness and his power he is a nightmare to face, as Vinca Paras found out earlier this year when Taconing over-came him. At the moment Taconing is ranked by all 4 world title bodies and is likely to get another shot in the near future.
Edward Heno (13-0-5, 5)
The current OPBF champion is unbeaten Filipino Edward Heno, who was touted for a shot at IBF champion Felix Alvarado but appears to accept he needs more experience before a fight at that level. Heno has impressed in recent years, scoring notable wins over Cris Ganoza, Seit Ogido, Merlito Sabillo and Jesse Espinas. Strangely he began his career 0-0-3 but has really come a long way since then, and will be looking to continue his development on February 11th, when he defends the OPBF title against Japanese veteran Koji Itagaki.
Reiya Konishi (17-1, 7)
Japan's Reiya Konishi is an All Japan Rookie of the year, a former Japanese Minimumweight champion and is the current WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight champion. Despite his success he's actually best known for his competitive decision loss to Carlos Canizales earlier this year, where he was dropped but came bout and gave Canizales hell. Konishi isn't much of a puncher, and is technically pretty flawed, but he has a high work rate, he's a proper battler and he comes to fight for every minute of every round. He was expected to fight for a world title in early 2019 but it sounds like plans have changed and that he'll push a title fight back to make some technical improvements first.
Randy Petalcorin (29-3-1, 22)
Filipino fighter Randy Petalcorin is one of the division's better pure boxer's, with sharp movement and punching and the ability to punch on the move. Sadly for him his last out saw him face off with Felix Alvarado for the vacant IBF title, and he was broken down by the Nicaraguan monster, who fought like a man possessed. Despite the loss to Alvarado the Filipino remains a top contender, and could well find himself getting another world title fight in the near future, especially given that loss. At the age of 26 he's still got a lot of his career left, but will need to be given more backing to secure the fights he needs to, something that has been lacking at times.
Palangpol CP Freshmart (16-2, 9)
Former world title challenger Palangpol CP Freshmart, also known as Rangsan Chayanram, is a heavy handed fighter who is in and among the better Thai contenders in the sport. He's technically a little stiff, but is tough, hard hitting and a nightmare to face. His only world title fight saw him come up short against Kosei Tanaka in 2017, though he did drop Tanaka and fractured both of Tanaka's orbitals. Sadly his recent competition hasn't been great, though in fairness he seems like a fighter itching to face better competition, and just fighting low level foes to stay busy, rather than boosting a ranking. Fingers crossed he gets another shot in 2019, as he's already 33 and going to be on the slide.
Milan Melindo (37-4, 13)
Filipino veteran Milan Melindo is a former IBF champion who has scored big wins over Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, Akira Yaegashi and Hekkie Budler. Despite those big wins the 30 year old has had a string of tough bouts, including a TKO loss last time out to Kenshiro and damaging battles with Budler and Ryoichi Taguchi. At his best he was a fantastic fighter, but right now it's unclear what he has left to offer. Until he returns to the ring he'll still be, rightfully, considered a top contender, though that could all change with a loss, or a poor showing, next time out.
Vince Paras (13-2, 11)
Another Filipino contender is Vince Paras, who lost in an IBF Minimumweight title fight to Hiroto Kyoguchi and has also lost to Jonathan Taconing. Despite those set backs the 20 year puncher has shown enough to be considered a top contender, and he'll likely be competing at world level again in the future. He's beyond the typical "prospect" stage, and is a former title challenger, but still needs development to get over the line in a big one, and we expect to see him really come into his own in 2019, and work on the flaws that Taconing and Kyoguchi both exposed. Those losses could turn out to be vital for his development.
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.