Many division's out there are really interesting, and have a lot of brilliant match ups that could be made at any moment. One of the most interesting is the Featherweight division, which isn't the "deepest" but is among the most "interesting", not just in Asia but globally. Despite not being as deep as the Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight division's it's still a very, very good weight class.
Again we're only considering Asian fighters for these rankings.
1-Can Xu (18-2, 3)
The stand out Asian fighter in the division is Chinese "Monster" Can Xu. Unlike another monster, who is known for his power and being a physical freak, Xu is a monster in terms of stamina, chin and output. The 26 year old is the current WBA "regular" Featherweight champion and really came along wonderfully in 2019, when he beat Jesus M Rojas, Shun Kubo and Manny Robles III. Although not a technically perfect boxer, or a big puncher Xu is a nightmare to fight with a swarming busy style and an ability to take a punch whilst letting his shots go. A total nightmare to take on.
2-Tugstsogt Nyambayar (11-1, 9)
Earlier this year we saw Tugstsogt Nyambayar come up short in a competitive, but clear, loss against Gary Russell Jr. That may have ended Nyambayar's unbeaten record but with wins over Harmonito Dela Torre, Oscar Escandon and Claudio Marrero it's hard to question his #2 ranking. Yes he's not scored a world level win yet, but in reality he's done more than anyone on this list, other than Xu. The heavy handed boxer-puncher was a former amateur standout and is a quality professional, but needs to be much more active and he has fought only 4 times in the last 36 months, completely wasting some of his prime years. Incidentally enough that's the same accusation that has been sent Gary Russell Jr's way over the years as well.
3-Ryo Sagawa (9-1, 4)
The Japanese domestic scene at Featherweight is legitimately crazy with 6 very good and interesting fighters in and around the top top. The best of those is, probably, Ryo Sagawa, who holds wins over 2 of the other top Japanese guys at the weight. Sagawa is the current Japanese national champion, an excellent boxer, who controls distance well and looks like a true natural in the ring with a really eye pleasing and smooth style. When he needs to brawl and fight he can, though at his best he is an excellent boxer. Despite being a genuine talent Sagawa also has some questions still hanging over him, and his chin is certainly still suspect, meaning that whilst he's talented, there is always a risk he'll be stopped, making his fights the type that will have you on the edge of your seat.
4-Reiya Abe (19-3-1, 9)
The man Sagawa beat for the Japanese title was Reiya Abe, another of the excellent Japanese fighters at Featherweight. Abe is a brilliant technical boxer, an intelligent southpaw with a very good jab and he controls distance fantastically well. He was unfortunate in 2019 to fight to a draw with Taiki Minamoto and then lose a very close one against Ryo Sagawa. Abe is clearly below Sagawa in the rankings, but there was much that separated the men when they fought and in reality there's still not much between them. In fact whilst Sagawa does have the head to head win, Abe has solid wins himself over the likes of Daisuke Watanabe and Satoshi Hosono, among others. With a tough 2019 behind him we're really looking forward to seeing what the future brings for the skilled Abe.
5-Mark Magsayo (20-0, 14)
As well as a bunch of fantastic Japanese fighters at Featherweight we also have a number of talented Filipino's. The best among the Pinoy's is Mark Magsayo, who has been banging on the door of a world title fight for a while now, but not managed to get the shot at the big time yet. Despite not getting a fight at world title level yet Magsayo already has wins over Chris Avalos, Shota Hayashi and Pungluang Sor Singyu. He made a smart move a few years ago, in leaving ALA Promotions but hasn't yet managed to secure a big fight with his new promoter. Magsayo is an excellent boxer puncher, and like many fighters we feel he will look better when he steps up faces tough competition.
6-Hinata Maruta (10-1-1, 8)
Back to Japan for our #6 entry in the form of 23 year old Hinata Maruta. The talented Maruta has promised a lot since making his professional debut way back in 2015 and whilst he's yet to accomplish what was expected of him there is no doubting his ability. The one thing we need to see from Maruta is his chin being tested and his ability to move through the gears. It's often felt like he's only had 3 gears and that really did cost him against Hidenori Otake, in his sole loss. Thankfully since his defeat to Otake he has shown a lot to be excited about and wins over Tsuyoshi Tameda and Takenori Ohashi have been excellent. If Maruta can continue to improve as he has done recently he'll be finding himself with some big wins soon. Interestingly he is mandated to fight Abe in a Japanese title bout, though it now seems likely that that bout could slip to 2021 due to the ongoing situation. That may actually be a good thing for Maruta, give him extra time to grow into his man strength.
7-Jhack Tepora (23-1, 17)
It's really hard to know what is going on with Jhack Tepora. At times he looks fantastic hi KO of Lusanda Komanisi in 2017 was brutal, and his win in Malaysia against Edivaldo Ortega should have helped launch him to some huge fights. They didn't and instead he fought a meaningless bout to Jose Luis Gallegos last June before being upset by Oscar Escandon in December 2019. That loss was among the bigger upsets of 2019, and completely killed what moment he had. Rumour from the Philippines circulated suggesting he had fallen out with his team, and that they had gotten fed up with some of his out of the ring habits. Whether their is truth to those rumours or not is unclear, but what is clear is a lack of activity has been a major issue for Tepora, who has fought just 3 times since the start of 20918. He needs to sort his career out before it's too late.
8-Musashi Mori (11-0, 6)
Talented youngster Musashi Mori is the current WBO Asia Pacific champion and is very much "one of the future". At the time of writing he's just 20 years old but has already accomplished a hell of a lot, winning the 2017 Rookie of the Year and winning his regional title, taking it from Richard Pumicpic, which he has defended twice. Although still a work in progress two wins over Pumicpic and one over Takuya Mizuno pretty much show that he's already incredibly talented. For recent bout he has been training under the guidance of Ismael Salas so we're expecting to see significant improvements form the youngster in his next few fights. He's a talented southpaw, though does lack his man strength and power, and it will be interesting to see if he can develop that side of his game as he matures.
9-Richard Pumicpic (21-11-2, 6)
With two close losses to Musashi Mori and a close loss to Ryosuke Iwasa it's easy to understand why Richard Pumicpic had double digit defeats. He has been matched hard, had to travel for bouts, and still run good fighters very close. He has now lost 3 in a row, but in reality he's deserved better from the judges. He's not the most powerful, or the quickest, or the biggest, but he's a nightmare. He's tough, rough, knows his way around the ring and really makes life difficult for anyone in the division. On his day he could beat men ranked well above him on this list, but has certainly lacked any form of luck and good fortune during his career. Fingers crossed we see the now 29 year old getting another opportunity to show what he can do in the near future. He's one of those fighters where you need to ignore his record, and just watch what he can do.
10-Ryo Matsumoto (23-3, 21)
Arguably the most over-looked man in the division is former world title challenger Ryo Matsumoto, who moved up to Featherweight in 2018 following his loss to Daniel Roman. Matsumoto has all the things needed to be a star. He's good looking, powerful, quick, skilled, has great size for the division and is someone with an amazing story, fighting through a nasty illness. He also has a sense of vulnerability, with 2 stoppage losses against him. He has the things needed to be a feel good story in boxing, but needs to be given time to adapt to the division, which he has naturally grown into. A rematch with Ryo Sagawa would be interesting and is potentially something he and his team are viewing for the future.
On the bubble:
Satoshi Shimizu, Jhon Gemino, Genesis Servania, Shohei Omori and Shun Kubo
Man what a crazy week we've had. We were expecting the WBSS semi finals to be announced, and although that hasn't happened, we have had some notable news across various part of Asian boxing from contract signings to announcements about up coming bouts, to a pretty notable legal case. Unlike last we've we've tried to break our stories in subsections this week, grouping similar stories together.
Srisaket inks deal with DAZN! Details of Feb 8th ring appearance confirmed!
During the week we saw Eddie Hearn announce that he, and Matchroom USA, had inked a deal with WBC and Ring Magazine Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) [ศรีสะเกษ นครหลวงโปรโมชั่น], making the Thai a DAZN exclusive fighter. This is a huge coup for DAZN who will be showing his rematch with Juan Francisco Estrada, with that bout being eyed for an early April date.
Before Srisaket fights his first bout on DAZN however he will be "fighting" in Thailand in an exhibition bout as part of a stacked February 8th card to raise money for a local hospital. The line up for that card was also announced this week, and more details on that show can be read here:
Muhammad Waseem signs with MTK Global, said to be targeting an April ring return
Another notable fighter signing a contract with a new team was Pakistani Flyweight Muhammad Waseem (8-1, 6) [محمد وسیم] who has now signed with MTK Global ahead of the next chapter of his career. He is best known for his 2018 bout with Moruti Mthalane, and his work with Korean promoter Andy Kim, but it seems like he is needing a promoter with big pockets, and that is what he has got here with MTK Global. Whilst this doesn't explicitly tie Waseem to a particular channel it does seem like it will land him some big fights in the UK, and we're really looking forward to seeing what he can do with MTK Global now guiding his career.
Ryosuke Iwasa to face Cesar Juarez in February!
Former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3, 16) [岩佐 亮佑] will be returning to the ring on February 16th to take on exciting Mexican Cesar Juarez (23-6, 17). This is a bout that was rumoured late last year, but was announced until this week, when Juarez let the cat out of the bag. It was later confirmed by the Iwasa team. The contest will be an IBF world title eliminator, and will also be Iwasa's US debut. The match up was announced at short notice, less than 4 weeks before taking place, but with both men being aware of the bout it's hard to imagine either man being ill prepared for what could be a sleeper FOTY contender.
Eri Matsuda and Nanae Suzuki to battle in unification bout!
We all want to see Champion Vs Champion bouts, fighters unifying titles and looking to prove who is the best. This week we saw the announcement that OPBF Atomweight champion Eri Matsuda (2-0) [松田恵里] would be facing Japanese female champion Nanae Suzuki (8-2-1, 1) [鈴木 菜々江], in a mouth watering unification bout. Matsuda looks to be one of the hottest prospects in female boxing, but will need to show what she can do against a more experienced and equally hungry opponent. This is likely to push the winner on to a world title fight, and should be seen as a very significant match up, at least for the fighters involved.
Musashi Mori Vs Richard Pumicpic II set for April 14th, Tsutsumi, Shigeoka and Takeda on undercard!
Last year we saw Musashi Mori (8-0, 5) [森 武蔵] defeat Filipino Richard Pumicpic (21-9-2, 6) to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title, in what is clearly his best win to date.The first bout was curtailed due to a headclash, but the fact we're getting a rematch in mid April is certainly not a bad thing.
Not only was the rematch announced here but the under-card was also a lovely bonus, with Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1) [重岡銀次朗], Seiya Tsutsumi (4-0, 3) [堤聖也] and Rookie of the Year winner Sora Takeda (4-1) [竹田宙] all announced for the show. Sadly none of them have their opponents announced, but we would be very surprised if at least one of them does face a Japanese ranked opponent. A great main event with a potentially solid under-card.
Yuko Kuroki to face Nao Ikeyama in April!
On the same day as the previously mentioned Mori Vs Pumicpic rematch we'll get a mos win female bout, as WBO Atomweight champion Nao Ikeyama (18-5-3, 5) [森脇恵子], who is edging towards her 50th birthday, take on former WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (17-6-1, 8) [黒木優子]. Female boxing might not be huge but that doesn't stop the sport giving us some huge female bouts, and a contest between Ikeyama, a legend who has competed with the best despite being well beyond the retirement age of most fighters, and Kuroki should be sensational. The loser really has no where to go, but the winner will be on the verge of another world title fight. A high risk, high reward bout between two recent world champions.
Kasumi Saeki to fight for a world title in April!
Staying with female boxing, unbeaten prospect Kasumi Saeki (3-0, 2) [佐伯霞] got informed, live at an event she was speaking at, that her team were pencilling her in for a world title fight on April 27th. The details are lacking, but the WBO Asia Pacific female Minimumweight champion, looks set for a huge step up in class as her team look to make her into a star. We're expecting more details to be announced in the coming weeks, but it's clear that w could see Saeki announce herself on the world stage in just a few weeks.
Notable the April 27th date is also being rumoured as the date for Reiya Konishi's bout with IBF Light Flyweight champion Felix Alvarado.
Suzumi Takayama passes B license test, set for debut on February 26th!
Former amateur standout Suzumi Takayama [高山 涼深] is pencilled in to fight on February 26, he has been for quite some time, but he didn't actually take his B license test until this past week. He has, as expected, passed all the tests and there isn't any issue with him being licensed, and joining the strong stable of hopefuls at the Watanabe Gym.
Shokichi Iwata takes part in B class pro-test
Japanese youngster Shokichi Iwata (1-0, 1) [岩田翔吉] may have made his professional debut last year, but he wasn't allowed to fight under a JBC license until this week, when he claimed a B class licensed and linked up with Teiken. It doesn't seem totally clear on what direction Iwata's career is going to take, but he has opened up doors to fight in Japan, as well as the USA.
Golovkin suing former managers
On a really serious issue, former unified Middleweight king Gennady Golovkin (38-1-1, 34) has began court action as he looks to sue former managers Maximilian and Oleg Hermann, who he claims owe him $3.5 million. The legal action has been filed with claims the Hermann's had their contract ended in 2017 but continued to make money off their relationship with Golovkin. It's going to be very interesting to see how this story develops in the coming months.
One thing we all do with fighters is look at their records. I don't mean the who, when, where and how but the raw numbers, the wins, losses, draws and KO's. For some foolish reason we repeatedly think that these numbers tells us about a fighter, we think a fighter with a lot of wins is automatically great and a fighter with a number of losses is bad. We think that a fighter who has a lot of KO's is a power puncher and a go with a lesser number of KO's is feather fisted.
Usually these numbers do tell us a lot, of course they do, but all too often they are misleading and tell us a lot, lot less than we may think and funnily enough we see this coming back to bite us in previews, in general articles and as fans. It's funny that no matter how many times we see an upset we still fail to spot how these records are so misleading and, more often than not, it can make us look rather silly and completely blow apart our predictions.
There is no country out there with such misleading records as the Philippines. The country has numerous talented fighters with less than impressive records whilst other fighters have records that are more padded than anything else. These two groups make up the "misleading Filipinos" a huge group of fighters.
"Better than they are"
The key group, for me, are those that are better than their record indicates. These are the fighters who have suffered a lot of losses though are genuinely talented fighters capable of giving more established foes a very tough test, if not scoring a major upset here and there.
One of the most obvious examples is the WBC ranked Flyweight Rey Megrino (21-20-3, 17). If you just looked at Megrino's "numbers" you'd assume he was rubbish, he was never going to be much more than a journeyman and in fact he's never score any sort of win of note. The truth however is much different to what you'd assume.
Megrino turned professional back in 2005 aged just 19. On his debut he lost to Roderick Agong and after 3 fights he was 1-2, after 15 fights he was an appalling 6-8-1. If that happened anywhere else on the planet we'd write a fighter off as a lost cause, a man likely to be little more than a domestic journeyman.
What we have to remember however is that Megrino, at the point, was taking fights on a week or so's notice, and often against more experienced foes or those who were viewed as either going places or already having gone places, such as Kaichon Sor Vorapin, Fernando Lumacad and Pongsaklek Wonjongkam.
Things continued to be relative poor for Megrino for another few years as he record fell to 12-15-2 after 29 fights and 15-20-3 after 38. Most would have accepted their place in the sport as being nothing more than a domestic level fighter though Megrino knew he had thunderous power, when he was winning he was often winning by KO.
Amazingly though Megrino wasn't just losing to domestic scrubs but was actually losing to very good fighters like Sonny Boy Jaro, Nawaphon Por Chokchai, and Pungluang Sor Singyu. Those losses were marking up his record but few were looking at his actual performances which were often much better than one would suspect of someone with his record with the loss to Nawaphon being a narrow decision loss in Thailand.
Surprisingly Megrino has stayed with the sport and has won his last 6 bouts scoring genuinely notable victories over Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Myung Ho Lee and, the then unbeaten, Ernesto Saulong.
Just looking at his record it may be amazing to consider this but Megrino has beaten numerous world class opponents such as Denver Cuello, Ratanapol Sor Vorapin and Wonjongkam. On the opposite side he has lost to Wonjongkam, Paipharob Kokietgym, Denkaosan Kokietgym, Tepparith Kokietgym and Sonny Boy Jaro, all of whom have held world titles.
Currently ranked #9 by the WBC Megrino has a real chance to fight for a world title and at just 28 years old it's very likely he has the time to wait for that opportunity.
Whilst Megrino is arguably the best example of a Filipino fighter having a misleading record he's not the only one, and not even the only notable one. Another, that made the headlines this year, is Rey Loreto (18-13, 10) who debuted at just 17 years old with 4 straight loss.
In the past year Loreto has scored back-to-back victories over former world champions in the form of Pornsawan Porpramook and Nkosinathi Joyi. Those victories have turned Loreto from unknown journeyman to world ranked title contender who is seen as being a top 15 fighter by the IBF, WBA and WBC.
Another is the Filipino "Cinderella man" Gerpaul Valero (17-14-3, 11), pictured, who has managed to turn around from 5-13-3 start to becoming a top 30 Flyweight, according to the IWBR and Boxrec. Valero, like Megrino and Loreto, has scored a major upset in recent fights, out pointing former WBC and Linear Flyweight champion Sonny Boy Jaro. The victory over Jaro might be the only "stand out" win on Valero's record but it is a major one and one that could well help him move towards a genuine world ranking.
One final example of a "better than they look" record that we'd like to mention is Richard Pumicpic (14-6-2, 4) who is best known for 2 bouts he fought in Japan. The first of those saw him fighting to a draw with Yohei Tobe, who has since gone on to claim the Japanese Super Flyweight title. At the time of the Tobe bout Pumicpic was 11-5-1 with his most notable wins being his preceding bouts which saw him beating Ratchasak Kokietgym and Rex Olisa. More recently Pumicpic returned to Japan and gave the very highly regarded Ryosuke Iwasa a very tough fight when Iwasa narrowly retained his OPBF Bantamweight title.
Although currently unranked we are certain that Pumicpic will, one day, make a mark on the world stage.
"Worse than they are"
Whilst many fighters from the Philippines are better than their records indicate there are also some with records that make them look significantly better than they are.
One example of that is Lorenzo Villanueva (25-1-0-1, 22), pictured, who looks like a monster on paper though hasn't actually beaten a fighter of note. In fact from his 27 professional bouts his most significant win is probably his 10 round decision over the incredibly tough Jamie Barcelona. In his 27 fights Villanueva has stepped up once and was stopped in a thrilling contest by Duad Cino Yordan in just 2 rounds.
Talking about Villanueva his name sake Arthur Villanueva (25-0, 14) is also not as good as his record indicates, though he is a capable fighter. "King" Arthur isn't as good as his record indicates and in fact he has been fortunate to keep his unbeaten record in fact with very narrow wins over Mark Anthony Geraldo, Jeffrey Cera, Taiki Eto and Fernando Aguilar. Whilst he does have good wins over Megrino and Marco Demecillo there is enough reason to be suspicious about whether or not he should really be 24-0 or not.
One final fighter that I want to mention is Lightweight prospect Roskie Cristobal (7-0, 7). On paper Cristobal looks like a great prospect, and from looking at him as a physical specimen he does look a bit like one to keep an eye on. He's a 5'10" Lightweight who, from his record, would look like he has power and real potential. Unfortunately we have no idea how good he is due to his competition which saw far has been awful. Between his 7 opponents they have had a combined record of 3-21-0, with 3 debutants and 2 other win-less fighters. It's a shame that such an interesting prospect is being matched this lightly but it does appear that either his team wants to protect him or they know he's going to be a long term project, sadly however we can't imagine he's learning much from his current bouts and they aren't helping him in the long term.
Of course not every Filipino has a misleading record. Most are, like fighters from other countries, spot on and accurate. There is no doubting, for example, Donnie Nietes who has earned his very good record, in fact you could make a solid argument for him being undefeated, or Genesis Servania, pictured, who has really developed into a sensational young fighter.
What it comes down to however is a number of things.
Firstly the fighter themselves, some are naturally blessed with talent that they work on to improve and thus pick up the wins in their early fights.
Secondly the promotional situation of the fighter. Some are lucky that their promotional backer can "help" them get the wins in close fights, as seen in the case Arthur Villanueva who has probably escaped with a win or two due to his relationship with ALA gym.
Thirdly is the opposition. In the case of Megrino this has worked against him in regards to his record, a lot, whilst in the case of Cristobal his level of competition has certainly helped bolster his record even though it is seriously padded.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, is the attitude of a fighter. Someone with a record like Megrino could have given up but he believed in himself, he believed he could do something in this sport and will continue to try and reach the top. We've seen a lot of cases where a fighter goes unbeaten for a long time then lose and give up mentally, for example Naseem Hamed. We're not going to suggest that if "King" Arthur or Cristobal lost they'd leave the sport but for a fighter to lose a lot and continue on with the sport is impressive and for that I have the utmost respect for the likes of Loreto, Valero, Pumicpic and Megrino all of whom are a credit to the sport and the perfect examples of a fighters mentality.
(Images courtesy of boxrec.com)
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).