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!
We'll begin by looking at Minimumweight today and work our way through the weights in the future one by one.
1-Wanheng Menayothin (54-0, 18)
There is, of course, some debate about the #1 and #2 in the division between two Thai's. Of the two we have Wanheng Menayothin, the WBC champion, as the #1 guy in the division. His 54-0 record might not be full of quality, but in terms of his overall record his resume is better than anyone else's in the division. Wins over Florante Condes, Oswaldo Novoa, Saul Juarez, Melvin Jerusalem, Tatsuya Fukuhara, Pedro Taduran and Simpiwe Konkco are do put him ahead of anyone else. At 34 years old his career hasn't got long left, but until he's dethroned it's hard to put anyone above him, especially given his resume to date. It's also worth noting that he has already ran up a very impressive 12 defenses of the title since winning it more than 5 years ago.
2-Knockout CP Freshmart (21-0, 7)
The other Thai in the running for top spot is Knockout CP Freshmart, the WBA champion. The 29 year old Knockout has been inconsistent at times, in both his performances and his competition. At his best he looks fantastic, but unfortunately he has built a reputation as someone more than happy to stink out the joint, as he did against Byron Rojas in 2018. Wins over the likes of Carlos Buitrago, Byron Rojas, Muhammad Rachman, Rey Loreto and Xiong Zhao Zhong look good on paper but in reality he's not looked the most impressive in some of those and really has managed frustrate fans. He did look good earlier this year, when he beat Norihito Tanaka, but that came after a number of uninspired performances.
3-Pedro Taduran (14-2-1, 11)
IBF Minimumweight champion Pedro Taduran is an interesting case here. On paper the 23 year old is some way behind the WBA and WBC champions, though he did give Wanheng one of his toughest bouts to date. He impressed in his title win last year, when he stopped Samuel Salva in a 4 round thriller, and was unfortunate to see his first defense to end in a technical draw in February. Unlike the men ranked #1 and #2 Taduran is a real fun fighter to watch, with an aggressive and exciting style, though it does seem likely that he will lose the title sooner rather than later. We suspect his next bout will be a rematch with Daniel Valladares, and given their bout earlier this year we will not be complaining about them re-running that, as it was a great fight.
4-Vic Saludar (20-4,11)
Former WBO champion Vic Saludar is a hard man to place on this list. The 29 year old has looked great at times, such as in his loss to Kosei Tanaka and his wins over Ryuya Yamanaka and Masataka Taniguchi. At other times however he has looked questionable. His title loss last August, to Wilfredo Mendez, ended what had been a reign that started well but never really got going. He's talented, heavy handed, has an under-rated boxing brain but is a touch on the slow slide and can be out boxed. At his best he's a nightmare for anyone in the division, though we do wonder if his days at Minimumweight are numbered.
5-Ginjiro Shigeoka (5-0, 4)
One of the most exciting and promising prospects in the sport, Ginjiro Shigeoka is a special fighter and the youngster has already claimed the WBO Asia Pacific title and put himself in the running for a world title fight. Aged just 20 years old he has already shown he can box or punch. His body shot KO of Clyde Azarcon was truly brutal and his stoppage of Rey Loreto, in just his 5th professional bout, legitimised him as a true contender. The rating here might be a little high however that is, in part, due to his potential, which we expect we will see a lot of when the sport returns to the ring.Don't be surprised at all if Shigeoka fights for a world title in his next fight or two.
6-Melvin Jerusalem (15-2, 9)
Another Filipino youngster who needs to be mentioned is 26 year old contender Melvin Jerusalem. Jerusalem does have a couple of losses to his name, but one of them was a razor thin loss to Wanheng Menayothin and another was a close loss to the always tricky Joey Canoy. Since losing those fights, which were back to back in 2017, Jerusalem has won his last 4 including solid wins over Philip Luis Cuerdo and Toto Landero. He's yet to have a win at the world level, but our feeling is that will change sooner rather than later and he prove himself as a world class fighter in the next year or two. A really exciting, talented youngster with a lot of promise.
7-Lito Dante (17-11-4, 9)
On paper Lito Dante doesn't belong on this list, with 11 losses in his 32 bout career. The reality however is that the records of fighters don't always reflect their ability, or how dangerous they are and that's the case with Dante. The 30 year old Filipino is the current OPBF champion and is one of the division's hidden danger men. He's got 11 losses but has never been stopped and most of his losses have come in 6 rounders. We mention that because Dante's big strength is not just his toughness, but also his insane stamina, making him a total nightmare to fight over the longer distances. Over 10 or 12 rounds he will be a handful for anyone and would give any of the champions fits.
8-Masataka Taniguchi (12-3, 7)
Japan's Masataka Taniguchi is another of those hard men to place, like Vic Saludar who holds a win against him. Taniguchi is a very real talent, and we were looking forward to his proposed showdown with Lito Dante before boxing in Japan was put on hiatus. He's a solid puncher, had under-rated skills, an exciting style, but still has a lot of work to do. The 26 year old isn't a KO artist, he's not got the best stamina, and he does have areas to work on. But, he's also a very, very good fighter and has been unfortunate in 2 of his 3 losses, with the other coming to Saludar in a world title fight. Don't be surprised to see Taniguchi banging on the door of future world title fights down the line. He does however need to find that extra gear in the coming years if he's to win a top level belt.
9-Yudai Shigeoka (2-0, 1)
The 23 year old Yudai Shigeoka is the older brother of Ginjiro Shigeoka and actually appears to bee the more polished fighter of the two, though he lacks the explosiveness and physical strength of his younger brother. Yudai made his debut just over a year ago and then really impressed as he beat Lito Dante, over 6 rounds, in his second professional bout. The talented southpaw looks to be an excellent, sharp boxer, with some brutal body punching, educated foot work and a very smart boxing brain. He certainly fights to his strengths, though we do wonder whether or not he can fight the way he does over 10 or 12 rounds. That's the one big question over Shigeoka and one we hope to see answered later this year.
10-Samuel Salva (18-1, 11)
Former world title contender Samuel Salva is someone who came up short in his biggest bout to date, being stopped by Pedro Taduran, but at 23 years old has a lot of time to rebuild and learn from that loss. Against Taduran we saw a really talented young fighter, with good power, good technical ability and good speed, but a fighter who lacked the mental toughening he needed against Taduran. He had early success but didn't like it when he was on the receiving end of Taduran's pressure. There's a chance that Salva will never like being under intense pressure, as he was against Taduran, but we're going to give him the benefit of the doubt and go with the idea that that loss will actually make him a better fighter. He now knows what he needs to work on, he'll hopefully learn to bit down on his gum shield a bit more, and maybe even take a bit of a whooping in sparring to mentally preparing him for when the going gets tough again. He's got the skills, now he just needs maturing, and mentally toughening up.
On the bubble:
ArAr Andales, Jing Xiang, Marco John Rementizo, Tsubasa Koura and Hasanboy Dusmatov
Note - Typically a fighter with a win against a ranked fighter would be above the ranked opponent. Here though we've decided that the 6 round limit neutralises Shigeoka's win over Dante a little bit, and have left Shigeoka behind Dante, however not a lot separates the two of them, or Taniguchi at this present moment in time.
Five For...Pedro Taduran
Last weekend we saw the exciting Pedro Taduran (14-2, 11) claim the IBF Minimumweight title, with an excellent win over countryman Samuel Salva. The 22 year old Taduran looked like a really exciting fighter, who despite being flawed, really just broke down and beat up Salva for the title and the biggest win of his career.
Following Taduran's win we decided to begin our newest feature, "Five For...", where we we look at 5 potential opponents for a particular fighter, starting with Taduran.
1-Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18)
For these "Five For..." features we won't be focusing on unification fights, as great as they are, because they are so hard to secure, especially in the lower weights. Saying that however one unification makes a lot of sense for Taduran, that's a bout with WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin. The reason fight makes sense, more than a bout between Taduran and either Wilfredo Mendez or Knockout CP Freshmart, is that Taduran and Wanheng have some history. Two the men fought in August 2018, with Wanheng taking a close and competitive win over Taduran. The loss for Taduran was a bout filled with funny business, including Stephen Blea taking 2 points from Taduran without clear warnings, letting Wanheng get away with a lot of holding and generally being on the challenger's back. This potential unification would have a lot going for it, though obviously depends on Menayothin successfully defending his WBC title in his upcoming mandatory against Simpiwe Konkco in October.
2-Jing Xiang (17-4-2, 3)
Chinese fighter Jing Xiang has been really impressing us in recent years, and his style of being a pure boxer is the complete opposite of Taduran. Where as Taduran is an aggressive, straight ahead pressure fighter Xiang is a boxer-mover, he has some combinations in his arsenal, great timing and speed, but is very much a fighter who will try to avoid a tear and instead use his skills to be and win. At 108lbs he looked strong, despite not being a huge puncher, but at 105lbs there is probably more on his punches than his record suggests. His style should make for the perfect foil for Tadruan's pressure, but will also give Xiang openings of his own, to counter the wild mistakes of the Filipino.
3-Ginjiro Shigeoka (4-0, 3)
Japan's Ginjiro Shigeoka has been put on an incredible trajectory and is already on the fringes of the world rankings, after just 4 bouts and a year in the professional rankings. Shigeoka has already beaten the first man to beat Taduran, more about him later, and would likely love to get a world title fight sooner rather than later. According to rules from the JBC he wouldn't bee allowed to fight for a title next in Japan, but could leave the country for a shot at Taduran. Stylistically this would be an amazing fight, with both men being aggressive front foot, offensive machines. In a perfect world this would be something to get very excited about, though we do suspect Shigeoka will have to wait a few fights to get his shot at a world title.
4-Melvin Jerusalem (15-2, 9)
Ranked #7 by the IBF Melvin Jerusalem would, stylistically, make for an excellent match up with Taduran and is a highly ranked contender for his title. Both men have similar mentalities in the ring, both throw a lot of leather and whilst neither is a 1-punch KO artist both fighters they do get stoppages. Both men have also given really tough bouts to Wanheng and both would be facing off with some moment here. Taduran has obviously just won the biggest fight of his career whilst Jerusalem has won his last 4, including wins over good Filipino domestic fighters like Philip Luis Cuerdo and Toto Landero.
5-Joel Lino (10-3-1, 3)
Fellow Filipino Joel Lino was the first man to bear Taduran, taking a split decision over Taduran back in 2016. Than win saw for Lino move to 3-0 whilst Taduran fell to 6-1 (5). Since then Taduran has, of course, gone 8-1 (6) whilst Lino has gone 7-3 (3) but the desire to avenge his first loss must be there for Taduran and this bout should be a really good one, if they re-run it. The only real problem however is Lino's standing in the sport, and it's unlikely many would accept him as being next for Taduran given he's lost his last 3, including a loss to Ginjiro Shigeoka. If Lino can get a couple of wins under his belt however this fight will become something that would make sense.
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).