A few days ago I looked at state of the Minimumweight division by looking at the champions, now we take a look at a handful of fighters who make up some of the more interesting contenders and ones to watch.
Vic Saludar (20-4, 11)
The hard hitting Vic Saludar is a former WBO world champion who will be looking to become a 2-time world champion in 2020. He lost the WBO title to Wilfredo Mendez in August 2019, in what was his second defense, though will be sniffing around another title fight. Although not the quickest Saludar is a good technical fighter, with very heavy hands, and he has proven his quality with wins against the likes of Ryuya Yamanaka, Masataka Taniguchi Lite Dante, the current OPBF champion.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (5-0, 4)
Rising Japanese superstud Ginjiro Shigeoka is expected to fight for a world title before the end of 2020 and comes into the year following an excellent win over Rey Loreto, becoming just the second man to stop the Filipino veteran. Shigeoka is quick, well schooled and heavy handed. Although he is lacking in experience as a professional he did have more than 50 amateur bouts and certainly knows his way around the ring. So far he has already proven his ability to box, brawl and bang and if he continues the way he's going he could end up have a very long reign at the top.
Yudai Shigeoka (2-0, 1)
Ginjiro Shigeoka's older brother Yudai Shigeoka looks to be just as promising as his sibling, in fact if we're being honest Yudai maybe the more promising of the two. Yudai looks to be the better the better pure boxer, the more defensively sound fighter and the one more willing to use his legs to get out of range, rather than fight in the trenches. He is, however, also regarded as the less physically imposing of the two. His debut was a show case, but his second win saw him take a decision over current OPBF champion Lito Dante in a non-title bout, and the odds are that he will be looking for titles himself in 2020.
Jing Xiang (17-4-2, 3)
Chinese boxing is riding a high following a sensational year for Can Xu, which saw Xu win and and defend the WBA Featherweight title. The next potential world champion for China is Jing Xiang, a skilled pure boxer from the same promotional team as Xu. Although not a big name Xiang has been banging on the door of a world title fight at 108lbs and 105lbs in recent years, dropping down in weight in 2019. With wins against Merlito Sabillo and Kompayak Porpramook he has created a buzz in Asia though still needs to face a top, prime, opponent to really make his mark and that could be a world title fight in 2020!
Hasanboy Dusmatov (1-0, 1)
One final interesting novice in the division, arguably the most interesting of the bunch, is Uzbek fighter Hasanboy Dusmatov. The 2016 Olympic champion is a sensational talent and should be fast tracked like the star in the making that he is. He debuted in 2019, after years of rumours and scored an easy win over a Mexican youngster. That win was little more than an introduction to the professional ranks for Dusmatov who already has his eyes on bigger and better things, including a potential world title fight in 2020 with WBA champion Knockout CP Freshmart
Kai Ishizawa (6-1, 6)
Whilst we have included fighters above who we think will be in the world title mix in 2020 we don't believe that will be the case for Kai Ishizawa, but he deserves a place on this section due to the fact that we want him to be on everyone's mind as we enter the new year. The 23 year old brawler is one of the most exciting fighters in the division, and although rather crude he is the type of fighter who puts bums on seats. Everything Ishizawa throws is with bad intention and he combines that with a high output. If you get the chance to see him fight in 2020 make sure you take it, as you'll not regret watching the exciting youngster from Kanagawa. He will likely be in the mix for a regional title at some point in 2020 and that's good enough for us!
The 3 bouts we want in 2020:
Wanheng Menayothin Vs Ginjiro Shigeoka
Knockout CP Freshmart Vs Jing Xiang
Wilfredo Mendez Vs Hasanboy Dusmantov
The Minimumweight division is one of, if not the, most maligned division among Western fight fans due to the small size of the fighters and the perceived lack of power among the little men. Right now however the division is a really interesting one, with a great combination of champions, contenders and prospects. There's great variety in the styles in the division and, for once, the division has a good number of punchers as well as high out put guys.
We start our look at the state of the divisions by looking at the champions at Minimumweight. With the contenders and prospects to be looked at in the coming days.
Wanheng Menayothing (52-0, 18) - WBC (10 defenses)
The unbeaten Wanheng Menayothin, from Thailand, holds a lot of records right now. Among those are the fact he's got the longest active winning run, 52 fights, and he's the longest reigning male world champion, having held the WBC Minimumweight title since November 2014, when he dethroned Oswaldo Novoa. Although he's really only gotten attention due to surpassing Floyd Mayweather's 50-0 record Wanheng is an accomplished fighter with an exciting style, who comes forward behind a tight guard and works well on the inside. Sadly however his competition at times has been dire.
Knockout CP Freshmart (19-0, 7) - WBA (6 defenses)
Another unbeaten Thai world champion at 105lbs is Knockout CP Freshmart, who often fails to shine, despite being very talented. He has one of the best monikers in the sport but sadly had failed to live up to the name in recent years, winning 7 of his last 8 by unanimous decision. Overall his competition has been better than that of Wanheng, but he has struggled to really show what he can do since fighting at world level and it feels like he's perhaps not going to hold the title for as long as his compatriot. At the moment the WBA rankings are a bit weak and he could well hold the title in to 2020 with no issue.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) - WBO (0 defenses)
One of the division's biggest punchers is Vic Saludar, who hits like a mule despite just being a touch over 5'2". The Filipino suffered an early career set back, losing in his third bout, but has rebuilt pretty well and showed what he could do in late 2015, when he dropped Kosei Tanaka before being stopped himself in what was a real test for Tanaka, Since then he has gone 7-1 and was last seen taking the WBO title from Ryuya Yamanaka, who sadly had to retire following the bout due to a brain injury suffered against Saludar. The Filipino lives up to his nickname of "Vicious" and is very dangerous.
Carlos Licona (14-0, 2) - IBF (0 defenses)
The lightest punching champion in the division is Mexican-American Carlos Licona, who won the IBF title when he defeated Mark Anthony Barriga at the start of December. The win over Barriga really is the only one of note on his record, and even that was a close one so we're not totally how good Licona is, though even holding his own with Barriga is pretty impressive. Licona will probably be the odd man out in the division, unless someone can lure him over to Asia, as the other 3 champions are based in the East though that may well leave a bullseye on his back for the Latin American fighters.
It's fair to say the recent WBO Flyweight title fight between Sho Kimura and Kosei Tanaka created a lot of buzz with fans who perhaps haven't followed the Japanese scene too well. Thankfully this has been a brilliant year for Japanese fights, even if it's been a rather disappointing one for Japanese fighters on the global scene.
For those new fans, and for those who perhaps missed some of what has gone on this year, we've decided to look at some of the very best fights in Japan these year. For the sake of this particular piece we've only included fights that were either on Japanese TV or have been made freely available via online sources. This unfortunately means that anything on boxingraise won't be included, though I do suggest that fight fans do give Boxingraise a look, as it is a fantastic service well worthy of a subscription.
This is part two of a multi-part article and will look at 5 bouts that took place from May 20th to July 23rd. More parts to this will be posted in the coming weeks, so please keep your eye on for those!
If you missed part 1 than can be read here The best Japanese Fights of 2018 (Part 1)
May 20th – Ota-City General Gymnasium
Hiroto Kyoguchi (9-0, 7) vs Vince Paras (13-0, 11)
In May we saw the then IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi take on little known Filipino challenger Vince Paras. This bout was sadly not shown live, instead being made to go the way of the already frustrating TBS tape delay, but it was worth the wait with the challenger not being intimidated by the champion, and instead he held his own in a brilliant war that was regularly fought on the inside at a hectic pace.
May 20th – Ota-City General Gymnasium
Ryoichi Taguchi (27-2-2, 12) Vs Hekkie Budler (31-3, 10)
Whilst fans had to wait to see Kyoguchi's bout with Paras the same how actually had a live televised bout between the then WBA “Super”, IBF and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi and former WBA Minimumweight champion Hekkie Budler. This wasn't quite as smooth as the Minimumweight title bout, but was thrilling, rough, and exhilarating, with the two men regularly standing their ground and unloading punches. The final rounds of this one were particularly enthralling as both men fought through exhaustion.
July 13th- Central Gym, Kobe
Reiya Konishi (16-1, 5) vs Orlie Silvestre (11-3-1, 7)
After having had a thrilling bout in March with Carlos Canizales, featured in part 1, we saw Reiya Konishi return to the ring in July and get involved in another memorable contest as he battled little known Filipino Orlie Silvestre. The Filipino hadn't read the script and really did travel to win, cutting Konishi early on and forcing the Japanese fighter to dig deep to just keep up with him in a hectic, bloody, pulsating contest that was fought an incredible pace. Not only was it a great fight but it was one where both men came out with enhanced reputations.
July 13th- Central Gym, Kobe
Ryuya Yamanaka (16-2, 5) Vs Vic Saludar (17-3, 10)
Whilst the Konishi Vs Silvestre bout was great, you could make a strong case that it was only the second best bout on the card, with the WBO Minimumweight title bout between Ryuya Yamanaka and Vic Saludar being an even better bout. Yamanaka was looking to secure his second defense of the title, and he had really impressed in his first defenses when he schooled Moises Calleros. Saludar on the other hand was looking to claim a world title in his second attempt, having come up short when he faced Kosei Tanaka in 2015, being stopped whilst leading the contest. This enthralling with the only dark mark being that this was Yamanaka's final career bout.
July 23rd – Korakuen Hall
Masayuki Kuroda (29-7-3, 16) vs Akinori Hoshino (14-7-2, 9)
Asign boxing delivered again in July when they put the Japanese Flyweight title bout between Masayuki Kuroda, the defending champion. and Akinori Hoshino online. This looked weak on paper but delivered in the ring as both men managed to land solid shots through out. Hoshino proved, as he had done in a number of previous fights, that his record was misleading, and he certainly landed the best shot from the early portion of the fight. This was a high intensity bout, like the others in this list, but was a brutal, gruelling contest that left both men showing battle scars at the end.
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.