Over the last few days we've worked our way through the top 10 rankings for the Asian scene at Minimumweight through to Super Flyweight and today we add the Bantamweight rankings, and this is one of the divisions with incredible depth. We feel the #1 is a consensus pick, #2 and #3 are interchangeable and then the other 7 are a mix of really talented fighters in one of the most packed top 10's that we'll be covering. There could be some debate about the placements, but in reality there's not a lot separating some of these guys. However, that's not a bad thing, and it helps show the competitive nature of the division right now.
1-Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16)
The current WBA "Super" and IBF unified champion champion is arguably the face of Asian boxing right now, Naoya Inoue. The heavy handed 27 year old from Kanagawa is already a 3 weight world champion and within just 19 fights is one of the sports genuine stars. After winning world titles at Light Flyweight and Super Flyweight Inoue moved to Bantamweight and decimated Jamie McDonnell, Juan Carlos Payano and Emmanuel Rodriguez, before working hard to defeat Nonito Donaire in the WBSS Finale last November. The bout against Donaire saw Inoue needing to prove his toughness, chin and will to win and proving them in the way he did really boosted his standing in our eyes, and he answered some real questions. Having now shown he can fight through adversity we know Inoue is much, much more than just an offensive "Monster".
2-Nonito Donaire (40-6, 26)
Having given Inoue such a tough bout in the WBSS final it's fair to suggest that Nonito Donaire is #2, or at worst #3, in division in regards to Asian fighters. The 37 year old Filipino veteran is a physical monster at the weight, with huge size advantages over almost everyone else at 118lbs. He's not just big but he's also strong, very powerful, incredibly tough and a nightmare to fight. He's not as quick as he once was, though as he's lost speed he has adapted and certainly throws fewer wild shots than he once did. There is a case of father time being on his back, but the "Filipino Flash", is experienced, skilled, strong, and has become a more intelligent fighter as the years have gone on. We don't imagine he'll have a Bernard Hopkins-esque career, but he did show there is more than just a bit of life left in his career.
3-John Riel Casimero (29-4, 20)
We mentioned that Donaire was either #2 or #3, the man he is potentially interchangeable with is WBO champion John Riel Casimero. Casimero is a 3-weight world champion, and is someone who has long been over-looked by fans of the sport. He's won titles at at 108lbs, 112lbs and now Bantameight. Blessed with confidence, speed and power Casimero is nightmare to face when he's on song. He is however rather unpredictable and he can look both amazing and terrible in the same fight. He won the WBO title last year, stopping Zolani Tete, and seems to be enjoying a good run of form, though that could change at any moment. Originally the plan had been for Casimero to face off with Inoue in April though that bout was cancelled by on going global situation. Now it appears the two men could end up going in different directions with Casimero now looking likely to face Joshua Greer Jr, in a mandatory title defense instead.
4-Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13)
After the top 3 we end up with 4 or 5 guys who are very tricky to split, and matching any of them would give some compelling bouts. Among those "chasing group" is OPBF champion Keita Kurihara, a hard hitting 27 year from Japan. On paper Kurihara shouldn't be here, with 5 losses from his 20 bouts, however those losses don't tell the full story of where Kurihara is now. In fact 4 of his losses came in his first 7 bouts and he has only been beaten once in his last 13, with that coming to Hiroaki Teshigawara. In that time he has beaten Ryan Lumacad, Yuki Strong Kobayashi, Warlito Parrenas and Sukkasem Kietyongyuth. He's not the most talented of the ones in this area of the rankings, through he is very much among the most dangerous.
5-Reymart Gaballo (23-0, 20)
The most overlooked man in the division, by some margin, is 23 year old Filipino Reymart Gaballo. Gaballo is a joy to watch, but also a freakishly good fighter with some absolutely terrifying traits. He's lightning quick, tall and rangy, with frightening power, very confident and despite look a bit raw around the edges appears to take a good shot, and throw and even better one. His best win to date is probably over Stephon Young, more than 2 years ago, and since then has been supposedly decent opponents. We're really looking forward to seeing the leash being off Gaballo and allowing him to back up our high ranking of him as he looks like the sort of fighter who really could stamp his authority on the division.
6-Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3)
Naoya Inoue's little brother, Takuma Inoue, is pretty much the opposite of Keita Kurihara. Whilst Kurihara is all about power Inoue at the cost of skills Takuma Inoue is very much about skills and movement, at the expense of his power. He's a smart boxer-mover, with under-defense, very good movement and sharp punches, but a lack of punching power a strange lack of physical strength, despite visibly looking strong. His 2019 loss to Nordine Oubaali saw him being bullied for much of the fight, though his will to win shined through late on and he pushed Oubaali hard late on, answer questions about his heart and his stamina. We do wonder whether he could drop back down to Super Flyweight, where he fought earlier in his career. If he could he would a great addition there, but instead might find his success being a bit limited at Bantamweight. Saying that however he's only 24 and is still a boxing baby, despite being a pro since 2013. He might not be the generational talent that his older brother is, but don't write him off at after just a single loss.
7-Nawaphon Por Chokchai (48-1-1, 38)
Former Flyweight world title challenger Nawaphon Por Chokchai, also known by various other names, has reeled off 12 wins since being stopped by Juan Hernandez back in 2017. Whilst his competition hasn't been the best he has scored notable victories over Amnat Ruenrroeng, Richard Claveras, Sonny Boy Jaro and Ryan Lumacad since his sole defeat, putting him back among the contenders looking for a shot. His record is padded, but watching him, you know he can step it up and would be a nightmare for many of the divisional elite. Some how he's only 28 at the moment, and right bang in his prime, despite already having 50 bouts to his name. Another fighter we can't right off for just having a loss against his name.
8-Michael Dasmarinas (30-2-1, 20)
There's an argument that 27 year Filipino Michael Dasmarinas should be much higher up this list, and we do appreciate those arguments. Wins over Karim Guerfi and Kenny Demecillo are very good wins. Sadly however we can't the gift he got against Manyo Plange out of our head, and his win over Demecillo was certainly not the clear cut win that many would have expected for a supposed top divisional talent. He's skilled and talented, but we do wonder if he has maybe hit an early peak and is now, perhaps, heading the wrong way. He's been a sparring partner for both of the Inoue brothers, and is technically a mandatory for the IBF title, but we do wonder whether he'd last long with the Monster if, or when, they fight.
9-Yusuke Suzuki (11-3, 7)
Japanese national champion Yusuke Suzuki is another fighter with a record looks out of place in this top 10, but he certainly belongs here. He would also be an absolute nightmare for many in the rankings. The 31 year old southpaw is a solid puncher, teak tough, with an insane work rate and excellent will to win. He can be out boxed, and he cant be out manoeuvred, but but he's a dark horse in the division and certainly deserves a mention. Last time out he over-came some awful facial swelling to out point Yuta Saito. To date he has only lost once at the weight, and that was a split decision in the Philippines to the touted Jeffrey Francisco. Since then he has reeled off 5 wins and come back from a nasty injury. He's not in the mix for the higher positions but is pretty much interchangeable with the man ranked #9.
10-Yuki Strong Kobayashi (16-8, 9)
Another fight who's record doesn't scream "top 10" is Yuki Strong Kobayashi, who is in the list due to his recent results. In the last 60 months he had gone 6-1 (3) with his only loss being a close one to Keita Kurihara. In that same time he has beaten Satoshi Ozawa, Vicent Astrolabio and Ben Mananquil. The win over Mananquil saw him net the WBO Asia Pacific title and score a recent big surprise last year over the talented Filipino. Kobayashi has improved from the fighter he once was, and when he was 10-7 (5) his career very much seemed like it was going nowhere but the 28 year old is now an experienced regional champion and with Muto gym well and truly behind him his future is bright. He's not near the top of this list, but certainly belongs on it. A rematch between him and Kurihara would be good, as would a bout with Suzuki.
On the Bubble:
Ben Mananquil, Kenny Demecillo, Renz Rosia, Yelshat Nikhemttolla, Petch Sor Chitpatttana, and Carl Jammes Martin
We began December with John Riel Casimero being the toast of Filipino boxing after he beat Zolani Tete to become a 3-weight world champion. The Filipino star is currently being linked to a 2020 showdown with Japanese super star Naoya Inoue in what would make for a great bout for Inoue's Top Rank debut, in front of an audience who perhaps aren't as familiar with the Super Flyweight division as they should be. With Casimero's recent win it only made sense to feature him in our latest Six Degrees of Separation, and today we take you on a journey from Casimero, to WBC Light Flyweight champion Kenshiro Teraji.
1-Filipino power puncher John Riel Casimero has made his name as a road warrior, picking up wins in countries as far apart as the UK and Nicaragua and from the US to China. Another of the sports true road warriors was Alicia Ashley, a female fighter from Jamaica who truly fought all over the globe in her 37 fight career.
2-Although not too well known by boxing in general Alicia Ashley was a fantastic fighter who who travelled the globe for fights, and she fought as far and wise China, Germany, Austria and North Korea.
3-Boxing doesn't have many North Korean fighters. It never has. Despite the poverty of the country the sport hasn't been seen a way out due to the countries political strangle hold and ideology. There has however been a handful of notable fighters who can have their roots traced back to Pyongyang, including Hyun Mi Choi.
4-Choi, who was born in Pyongyang though fled North Korea as a youngster alongside her family, has been a bit of a boxing peculiarity. Not only was she a North Korean born fighter who won a world title, but she also won a world title on her debut, winning the WBA female Featherweight title in her 2008 debut. In her 4th defense of that title, against Sandy Tsagouris, the referee was Biney Martin.
5-Although now a well established referee in Japan before that Martin was a professional fighter himself, a fairly solid one who left a decent mark on the Japanese domestic scene. In 1993 and 1994 Biney Martin would twice face off with, and lose to, Hisashi Teraji, the then Japanese Middleweight champion.
6-Before the fights with Martin Japan's Hisashi Teraji would have a baby boy, born on January 6th 1992. That boy was Kenshiro Teraji.
Following his win this past weekend the big question now is, what is next for WBO Bantamweight champion John Riel Casimero (29-4, 20). Obviously he called out Naoya Inoue, but that certainly isn't the only for the hard hitting Filipino, who has a lot of potential fighters looking in his direction.
With that in mind we will look at Five For... John Riel Casimero, with Inoue being one of the 5 fighters we'll look at, alongside the WBO mandatory challenger and other interesting potential foes.
1-Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16)
The obvious choice for Casimero is, Naoya Inoue, the man he called out after his win over Tete. The bout would be a huge all-Asian unification bout that could take either side of the Pacific. In Japan the bout would be a huge follow up to Inoue's win over Donaire in the WBSS final, whilst in the US it would be a monster introduction for US fans to the winner in Inoue's Top Rank debut. Obviously Inoue would be the favourite, but Casimero has regularly been the under-dog and hasn't cared about his opponent being the favourite. This could be mouth watering, but really depends on which Casimero turns up.
2-Joshua Greer, Jr (22-1-1, 12)
Loud, brash and confident American Joshua Greer is the #1 contender to Casimero and the WBO title, and is the Inoue bout can't come off, for whatever, then Gree is the man Casimero should be looking to face as quickly as possible. A win over Greer would get rid of him as the mandatory challenger and help to further enhance Casimero's reputation as a road warrior. If we're being completely honest we don't see Gree being competitive over a half focused Casimero, though of course seeing Casimero fighting at less than half of his best is never a surprise. Gree has managed to create plenty of hype with his pillow gimmick, and we suspect that if he got in the ring with Casimero he'd need the pillow himself, rather early on.
3-Jason Moloney (20-1, 17)
The well travelled Casimero has genuinely fought all over the place, but has yet to pick up a stamp from Australia on his well used passport. A trip "down under" to face the talented and heavy handed Jason Moloney would certainly be an interesting assignment, and would come against a legit top level opponent. Moloney proved his ability in 2018, when he beat Kohei Kono and the lost a hotly contested bout with Emmanuel Rodriguez, and would make for a fantastic opponent for Casimero. This wouldn't be as high profile as Inoue or Greer, but from a neutral point of view this would be a brilliant match up between heavy handed and talented fighters.
4-Nonito Donaire (40-6, 26)
One thing we still don't get enough of is All-Filipino world title bouts, and yet we have to truly top level Filipino Bantamweights, both of which are at an interesting cross roads and both are seemingly interested in a future showdown with the same man. Why not have them face off? Both Casimero and Nonito Donaire have made it clear they want to face Inoue down the line, and whilst Donaire has just faced the Monster he wants to go again, and Casimero has made his intention clear. A bout between the two wouldn't just be an Inoue eliminator but would also be a potentially explosive clash between two very heavy handed fighters. This could be made in either the Philippines, in what could be sold as Donaire's last bout, or in the US, with Casimero looking to boost his profile and Donaire being seen as the perfect foil. It would be a potential passing of the torch for Casimero, or one more final hurrah for the Filipino Flash.
5-Jonas Sultan (16-5, 10) II
A left of field choice, but maybe a more personal one for Casimero, would be a rematch with fellow Filipino Jonas Sultan. In 2017 Casimero was out pointed by Sultan in a Super Flyweight world title eliminator, and suffered his first, and only, loss to a fellow Filipino fighter. The bout saw Casimero look totally off, and the cards of Carl Zappia and Glenn Trowbridge really were both kind to Casimero who never looked good at any point against Sultan. Since then Sultan has gone 2-2 and looks like a fighter who has peaked and is on his way down, whilst Casimero looks to be having an Indian summer of sorts. The loss is one that looks wrong on Casimero's record, and the only one which has come to someone who has never won a world title. He has a chance to avenge it, and why wait? Yes this is much less high profile and big name, but we certainly see the appeal of this bout, if Casimero wants to get revenge for what happened in their first bout.
This past weekend Filipino road warrior John Riel Casimero (29-4, 20) became a 3-weight world champion with a sensational win in the UK over Zolani Tete to claim the WBO Bantamweight title.
Whilst that win was huge it would have left a lot of fans wanting to know more about Casimero, who has now scored 2 big wins in the UK. With that in mind here are 10 facts you probably didn't know about... John Riel Casimero
1-In a 2009 article for Phil Boxing by the brilliant Rene Bonsubre, Jr, it was revealed that had he not become a professional fighter Casimero had wanted to become a police men.
2-Casimero's first international title was the WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight. In his first defense he stopped Ardin Diale, becoming the first man to stop Diale. That bout was however over-shadowed by a bizarre incident on the card when former world champion Ratanachai Sor Vorapin kicked Ramie Laput and suffered a DQ loss. This was Ratanachai's 86th bout, and his only career DQ loss.
3-In 2014 Casimero lost his first world title, the IBF Light Flyweight title, when he came in over the Flyweight limit to face Mauricio Fuentes. More than 2 years after that he would become a 2-weight champion and by claiming the IBF Flyweight title.
4-Casimero's nickname of "Quadro Alas" is Tagalog for "four of a kind", a poker hand, and in this case relates to Four Aces
5-Although well known as a road warrior what isn't always remembered is that Casimero has won 3 world title, and 2 interim world titles, all on the road and all in different countries. He won the WBO interim Light Flyweight title in Nicaragua, the IBF interim Light Flyweight title in Argentina, the IBF Flyweight title in China, the WBO interim Bantamweight title in the US and the WBO Bantamweight title in the UK
6-The most infamous bout of Casimero's career lead to letters being sent by the then Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez, who filed a protest with Argentinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The was sent after a riot was sparked following Casimero's win against Luis Alberto Lazarte. This bout later led to the IBF banning Lazarte from fighting for their titles.
7-Whilst John Riel Casimero has had a very successful career his older brother Jayson Casimero had a very forgettable one, fighting twice in 2009 and losing both bouts by decision.
8-Not only did Casimero claim his first "world title", the WBO interim Light Flyweight title, in Nicaragua but did it on an event dedicated to local hero Alexis Arguello.
9-Interestingly 2 of the men Casimero has defended titles against, Pedro Guevara and Charlie Edwards, have gone on to win world titles of their own.
10-Casimero never actually won the IBF Light Flyweight title in the ring. Although he beat Lazarte that was only for the interim title. The IBF later upgraded him after Ulises "Archie" Solis, was unable to defend the belt against him. The reason Solis was unable to defend was due to facial injuries, reportedly, given to him by Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in a street in Guadalajara in 2011.
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).