With no fights currently taking place we've had a bit of time on our hands, and with that in mind we've decided to look at the sport in terms of how divisions sit, and do something that had previously been requested. The Asian divisional top 10's. We'll be starting this at Minimumweight and working our way through the divisions over the coming days and weeks. We know there will be some debate about some rankings and there is certainly some area for discussion, and that is certainly not a bad thing at all!
The third division in this series is the rather weird looking Flyweight division. Historically it's been a rich division, full of excellent Asian talent, but right now it's a division that is very much transitional in Asia and there is no recognised #1, like their is in most other divisions. Despite that it's not actually a poor division, in fact it's a deep one, just one lacking in terms of star power.
1-Junto Nakatani (20-0, 15)
Whilst we don't know who the true #1 is in the division it's probably fair to suggest that Junto Nakatani is one of the leading pack now that Kosei Tanaka has left the division. The 22 year old Japanese southpaw is regarded as one of the best youngsters in the sport and with wins over Dexter Alimentoo, Shun Kosaka, Naoki Mochizuki and Milan Melindo in recent bouts he's clearly among the very best in Asia, if not the best. Given his age, his style, his performances and his freakish size he's going to be a very, very hard man to beat. He was supposed to fight for the WBO Flyweight title earlier this year, but as of now, given everything going on, it's unclear when, and even if, that will end up happening.
2-Giemel Magramo (24-1, 20)
The man that Nakatani was supposed to fight for the WBO title was Filipino fighter Giemel Magramo. The once beaten 25 year old is a real talent, who was unfortunate in his only loss more than 3 years ago. Since suffering his sole loss he has scored 7 wins, all by stoppage. They have included victories over Richard Clavers, Petchchorhae Kokietgym and Wenfeng Ge. It's really the win over Ge that has strengthened Magramo's claim as a top Flyweight. Whilst Magramo's record suggests he's a pure puncher he's not, instead he's actually a very heavy handed boxer-puncher. He's aggressive, exciting, talented and has solid pop on his shots. There are area's for him to improve, and he can look a bit raw, but there is no doubting his ability and how much of a danger man he is in the division.
3-Sho Kimura (19-3-2, 12)
Despite being the only former world champion on this list it's hard to really know where to place Sho Kimura. In terms of achievement he's the number one, by some distance, but since losing the WBO Flyweight title to Kosei Tanaka he's not really shown much. Last year he made an ill fated move down in weight, where he was easily beaten by Carlos Canizales, and since then he has only beaten Merlito Sabillo, who suffered what looked like an horrific injury. If Kimura is still the same fighter he was against Zou Shiming, Toshiyuki Igarashi, Froilan Saludar and Kosei Tanaka he'd be the #1 in the division, but at the moment question marks do hangover him. Those questions are magnified by the fact he's also changed gyms, leaving the the Aoki gym that lead him to his success.
4-Muhammad Waseem (10-1, 7)
The most successful amateur on this list Pakistani fight Muhammad Waseem looked like a star in the making early on, when he was impressing in Korea. In his first 5 bouts he had not only won the South Korean Bantamweight title but also beaten Jether Oliva and Giemel Magramo. Sadly financial backing failed to materialise and he would struggle to build on that early success. More than 3 years on he has managed to have only 2 more bouts of note, a close decision loss in an IBF title bout against Moruti Mthalane and a close win over Ganigan Lopez last year. Although clearly talented the 32 is no spring chicken and will likely be 33 by the time he returns to the ring. A real example of why a financially strong backer is needed, even at the lower weights.
5-Jayr Raquinel (12-1-1, 9)
Filipino hopeful Jayr Raquinel is one of the hidden gems in the division. The 23 year old boxer-puncher has scored some very big wins over the last couple of years or so, stopping Keisuke Nakayama, Shun Kosaka and Takuya Kogawa in OPBF title bouts. Clearly a heavy handed fighter Raquinel still has work to do, and we saw him suffer a disappointing loss in China in 2018, when he seemed to be old manned by Wulan Tuolehazi. That loss hopefully serve as a turning point for Raquinel's training, and help him increase his activity in bouts, rather than sleep walking through portions of bouts. He's not yet ready for a world title fight, in our eyes, but is quickly moving towards one and could be ready in 2021 for a very big fight.
6-Wulan Tuolehazi (14-4-1, 7)
With wins over 2 fighters in the top 10 there will be an argument that Wulan Tuolehazi should be higher up the rankings, but in reality he's a hard man to judge. He beat Jayr Raquinel in 2018 but then squeaked some questionable decisions against Ryota Yamauchi and Ardin Diale in 2019, before being decimated by Kosei Tanaka at the end of last year. Had his bouts with Yamauchi and Diale not been in China we would be looking at a very different career for Tuolehazi, and there's a good chance he wouldn't have got the Tanaka fight. Although not a world beater he's proven himself a solid fighter, just maybe not as good as his results suggest. It's going to be very, very interesting to see what he does in his next few fights, as they could make or break him. At 27 he's in his physical prime, but it really is unclear as to how much further he can develop.
7-Masayuki Kuroda (30-8-3, 16)
Former 2-time world title challenger Masayuki Kuroda is one of the more well known names on this list and has certainly proven to be a legitimate fringe world level fight during his 41 fight career. He's been a professional since 2005 and whilst his career is definitely coming to an end, the 33 year old is looking for one more shot at the top. Last year he put on a brave effort against Moruti Mthalane en route to a clear decision loss. That defeat ended a 6 fight winning run for the Japanese veteran who had taken wins over Takuya Kogawa, Yuta Matsuo and Katsunori Nagamine. Given his age and wear and tear he'll not have long left in the sport, but could well have one more crack at the top before hanging them up.
8-Seigo Yuri Akui (14-2-1, 10)
Fast starter Seigo Yuri Akui should be regarded as one of the division's true danger men, though also someone who perhaps struggles if bouts don't finish early on. His 17 fight career has seen him scoring 9 opening round wins, but being stopped every time he has gone beyond 5 rounds. Akui is currently the Japanese champion and holds wins against Ryuto Oho, Masamichi Yabuki, Yoshi Minato and Shun Kosaka, but needs a solid international win to back up his ranking. Interestingly Akui could certainly see beat some of the man ranked higher up this list than himself, but also lose to some of the un-ranked fighters. That makes him very tricky to rank but also very exciting to watch.
9-Tetsuya Hisada (34-10-2, 20)
Another tricky man to rank is Japanese veteran Tetsuya Hisada, who announced that he was intending to compete as a Flyweight for the final few bouts of his career. The former Light Flyweight world title challenger had his best success at 108lbs, where his strength and physicality proved vital, and a move up could see him losing those assets. At 35 years old we can't begrudge Hisada's move up in weight, but he'll likely be 36 by the time he fights again and unless he can land a big fight at the weight we'll maybe never really know what he could do in the division. With 10 losses to his name he's unlikely to lure a big opponent in to the ring with him before calling a close on his career.
10-Ryota Yamauchi (6-1, 5)
One of the divisional stars of the future 25 year old Ryota Yamauchi looks like he could be unleashed back on a fast track when the sport resumes in Japan. He looked red hot early on but a controversial loss to Wulan Tuolehazi in China, in a great bout that saw both being dropped, and he followed that up with a disappointingly messy bout against Alphoe Dagayloan. Whilst he defeated Dagayloan he suffered a cut that prevented him from fighting in a Japanese title eliminator, and miss out on a bout with Akui. He did manage to return to the ring in February but it's hard to know when he'll be back out there and who he'll be against. A talented boxer who can brawl and fight he's one of the division's most interesting hopefuls.
On the bubble:
Wenfeng Ge, Jayson Mama, Taku Kuwahara, Kento Hatanaka, Jaysever Abcede, Alphoe Dagayloan and Dave Apolinatio
*Kosei Tanaka has signalled his intention is to move up and fight at Super Flyweight so isn't included here.
Many Western fans who follow boxing make a horrible mistake in not following the lower weight divisions whilst maintaining the mentality that none of the best fighters fight each other. Whilst it's true that the big names in some divisions don't fight the concept simply doesn't hold water in the lower weights where we keep seeing the top fighters battling each other time and time again.
Over the next 6 weeks or so we are expecting to see a frenzy of activity in the Flyweight division with every major title on the line, 4 big bouts and another bout of significance. It's fair to say that over the next few weeks we will see a divisional reshuffle and the division transform in ways that should make it clearer who is really the best in the division.
Akira Yaegashi Vs Roman Gonzalez (September 5th)
The "Flyweight Frenzy" kicks off this coming Friday as the WBC and Linear champion Akira Yaegashi (20-3, 10) defends his belt against one of boxing's most highly regarded little men, Roman Gonzalez (39-0, 33). The bout is one of those that really should excite every single boxing fan whether you're Japanese, Nicaraguan American, British, Thai, Filipino, Mexican or from any other country. It is one of those dream fights and is as close to a sure fire war as you can get.
For those who haven't seen these two guys in action the question is "why not?" Gonzalez has long been one of the sport's most exciting fighters. He has great power, fights with intense pressure and throws some of the sports most brutal combinations. Whether you're typically a fan of the lower weights or not Roman Gonzalez is a fighter who really should transcend any feeling of ill will or contempt towards the sport's smaller men. As for Yaegashi the Japanese fighter is a man with a warrior's heart who has been involved in thrillers with Pornsawan Porpramook, for the WBA Minimumweight title, and Kazuto Ioka, in a Minimumweight unification bout. Unlike many warriors Yaegashi doesn't have power to bail him out of a war though has the toughness to hang in with anyone from the first round to the last and doesn't know the meaning of the world quit.
Both men go against the grain in boxing as both are highly respectful of each other and the sport. Both have the mentality of "let the best man win" and neither has ducked a rivalry. These two are what the sport of boxing really is about and it's little wonder international fans are talking about this bout in the way they are. This is a special bout and the perfect way to kick off "Flyweight Frenzy"
Juan Francisco Estrada Vs Govani Segura (September 6th)
If we suggest that Flyweight has 3 major fighters in the division we can openly state that two of them are Gonzalez and Yaegashi, the other is Juan Francisco Estrada (26-2, 19). Estrada is a former foe of Gonzalez though has managed to leap frog the Nicaraguan in terms of where he stands in the Flyweight division. Gonzalez, who took a very hard fought decision over Estrada, decided to remain at Light Flyweight whilst Estrada made the move to Flyweight and claimed the WBA "super" and WBO title with an excellent victory over Brian Viloria.
This Saturday, just a day after the Yaegashi/Gonzalez bout, we see Estrada defending his belts against WBO mandatory challenger Giovani Segura (32-3-1, 28), a major puncher with bad intentions in every shot and a real mentality of beating his opponents up as opposed to just winning. When Segura is in the ring we are guaranteed excitement and his battles with Ivan Calderon and Hernan Marquez tell you everything you need to know about him.
As with the bout on Friday this contest promises a lot and it fails to deliver a FOTY contender many fans will disappointed, no matter how good it actually is. The styles of the men involved should make for a thriller, the mentality of the men should make for a war and with it being an All-Mexican bout we know there is going to be a real show of machismo in the ring.
Notably for many reading this there is no Asian involved in the bout. Despite that the bout means a lot to the division and it's likely that the winner could end up fighting an Asian fighter in the near future. This bout is a vital one to division and deserves all the attention given to the other bouts.
Amant Ruenroeng vs McWilliams Arroyo (September 10th)
Less than a week after the bouts we've already mentioned we will see the IBF champion Amnat Ruenroeng (13-0, 5) in action. Ruenroeng is the dark sheep of the division and isn't a warrior or a puncher though is one of those talented boxers who no-one will ever look good against. A typical member of the "who needs him" club. Gifted with very long arms, excellent skills, impressive speed and an astonishing sense of calmness Ruenroeng has the ability to beat anyone in the division though is clearly regarded by many as a secondary champion to the other fighters in the division.
Having won the title earlier this year Ruenroeng will be defending his title against mandatory challenger McWilliams Arroyo (15-1, 13), a Puerto Rican with major power. Last time out Arroyo impressed by knocking out Froilan Saludar and he'll be hoping to do the same here however Ruenroeng looked incredibly skilled as he over-came Japanese star Kazuto Ioka and he'll be hoping to showcase those same skills here.
Whilst the previous two bouts are sure fire excitement with two action fighters this one looks like a boxer vs puncher bout and those sorts of contests are usually not entertaining as when two warriors battle. Saying that however this bout could show how good Ruenroeng is at neutralising a big puncher or could launch the career of a future Puerto Rican star. Another key point about this bout is that if Ruenroeng wins he's expected to fight Chinese star Zou Shiming in early 2015, another major bout to add the list of great possibilities at Flyweight.
One thing to note about this bout is that lacks the name value of some of the others however both are talented fighters and their styles should make for an interesting bout, even if it's not the most exciting.
Kazuto Ioka Vs Pablo Carrillo (September 16th)
The only non-title bout listed here takes place less than a week after Amnat's fight and see's his former foe Kazuto Ioka (14-1, 9) returning to the ring for the first time since his loss to the Thai. Ioka, a former 2-weight world champion will be fighting against the WBA #14 ranked Flyweight Pablo Carrillo (15-2-1, 8).
Although Carrillo is world ranked he is relatively unknown however this bout is all about Ioka. It's thought that if Ioka wins he'll be moved towards a world title bout on New Years Eve. If the unthinkable happens and he loses however then his career will really be in tatters and many would be assuming that he'll have to rethink his future, and maybe even return to Light Flyweight where he is a somewhat more physical fighter than he appeared to be last time out.
I enjoy watching Ioka though need to admit that he is still a very flawed fighter for a 2-weight world champion. He looked like he was fighting to the wrong game plan against Ruenroeng and almost as if his experience and relative immaturity came back to haunt him. This bout coming up will be a chance for Ioka to get some experience as a Flyweight, to fill into a Flyweight and to help rebuild some confidence be fore another big bout in the division.
Whilst the Colombian is being over-looked he has proven his toughness in twice going the distance with the vicious Luis Concepcion who has disposed of the likes of Denkaosan Kaovichit, Manuel Vargas, Odilon Zaleta and Eric Ortiz. This will be tougher than it looks for Ioka though the Japanese fighter should, if he has his head straight, take a wide decision.
Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep Vs Juan Carlos Reveco (October 17th)
The final major bout comes on October 17th in Argentina as WBA interim champion Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep (34-2, 20) travels in an attempt to unify his belt with the regular title held by Juan Carlos Reveco (34-1, 18). This bout, like the Ruenroeng/Arroyo bout, is clearly a second tier title bout but is one that will help shape the division over the next year or two.
For Yodmongkol it's a chance to upgraded his standing boxing and to prove himself on the international stage. It's a chance to prove that he belong at world level and that his controversial decision last time out over Takuya Kogawa wasn't the real Yodmongkol. Sadly for the Thai however he can be lazy in the ring and that could bite him in the back side as he becomes the away fighter for this upcoming contest against one of the sports most impressive body punchers.
As for Reveco he too needs a big win after failing to impress against Felix Alvarado last time out. In that bout Reveco got the win though many felt he didn't deserve it and that the title should have gone to the Nicaraguan, who was incidentally beaten in a Light Flyweight title bout by Kazuto Ioka. Reveco has blown hot and cold at times though will be built up as an enemy of Thailand courtesy of his win over Nethra Sasiprapa more than 7 years ago.
This bout might not have the allure of some bouts on this list but both men will know that they will be linked to really big fights if they win this one.
Other upcoming bouts at Flyweight include:
Takuma Inoue (2-0) Vs Chanachai Sor Siamchai (0-0)-This bout will be this coming Friday and will see Takuma Inoue return to the ring. Many have described Takuma as a future world champion and he is already world ranked after just 2 bouts. Don't be surprised if he becomes a star over the net few years.
Atsushi Kakutani (14-4-1, 7) Vs Dawut Manopkanchang (0-1)-This bout is supposedly an OPBF prelude for for Kakutani, a former world title challenger. Although we'd not describe Kakutani as a future world champion he could very easily be involved in memorable contests on the regional level and that's never a bad thing.
Renan Trongco (15-4, 9) Vs Hayato Yamaguchi (12-4-1, 2)-In a bout for the WBC International title fans in the Philippines will get to see Trongco take on Yamaguchi. This is for a world ranking though neither man has shown the traits needed to become a world champion, it should however be competitive.
Moruti Mthalane (30-2, 20) Vs Odilon Zaleta (15-4, 8)-Although this is a bout with no Asian link it's a key divisional bout as Mthalane attempts to defend his IBO title. Although only the IBO title holder at the moment Mthalane is a divisional dark horse and appears to have gotten his career back on track after a horror run as the IBF champion and being ordered into some horrific mandatory defences.
Suguru Muranaka (20-2-1, 6) Vs Yusuke Sakashita (12-4-2, 7)-The world ranked Muranaka defends his Japanese title against the little known Sakashita. The bout isn't a major one though we do expect to see Muranaka working his way towards bigger and more prestigious belts in the near future so for him this is an important bout, even if the wider boxing world will see it as a mismatch.
Ardin Diale (23-9-3, 10) Vs Renerio Arizala (11-0-1, 4)-On the same day that Muranaka defend his Japanese title we also get to see former world title challenger Diale defend his Philippines Games & Amusement Board title. Diale, who was last seen in a thriller with Koki Eto will know that Arizala will be putting his unbeaten record on the line in what appears to be a very significant bout for both men, at least domestically.
Valery Yanchy (23-3-2, 7) Vs Kevin Satchell (12-0, 2)-Another none Asian bout will see Spanish based Belorussian Yanchy defending the European title against unbeaten British hopeful Satchell. The bout will be Satchell's second since he struggled past Iain Butcher in 2013 and although Yanchy is in his late 30's he looks like he has plenty left in the tank. A great fight even if it's not got any Asian connection.
Zou Shiming (5-0, 1) Vs Kwanpichit OnesongchaiGym (27-0-2, 12)-Going into the future a bit further for this one but the bout is pivotal for 2015. Shiming, the biggest money draw in the division, is thought to want a fight with Amnat though first he will need to get past Kwanpichit. As for Kwanpichit we're not impressed by him but his edge in experience and unbeaten record will look pretty up against Shiming's "inexperience".
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Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).