This coming Saturday we'll see IBF Super Flyweight champion Fernando Daniel Martinez (14-0, 8) look make his first defense, as he faces the man he beat for the title earlier this year, Filipino "Pretty Boy" Jerwin Ancajas (33-2-2, 22). The two men, who clashed in February, are having an immediate rematch which given the nature of their first bout feels wholly unnecessary, but does give Ancajas a chance to reclaim the title that he had held from September 2016 to February 2022, and recorded 9 defenses, the most anyone has defended that title in a single reign. As for Martinez the bout serves as a chance to prove he isn't a flash in the pan, and didn't just get Ancajas on a bad night, but is instead the better fighter.
Of the two men the more well known is Ancajas. The talented Filipino, one of the nicest boxers to watch, is a 30 year old who was a top Filipino amateur before turning professional in 2009, at the age of 17. He began his career in relative obscurity and was 24-1-1 when he landed a mandatory title shot at IBF world champion McJoe Arroyo. The bout was expected to see Arroyo retain his title but instead Ancajas controlled the bout to score a notable upset, at least at the time, to dethrone the much touted Arroyo. Notably since that loss Arroyo never really re-captured any form, going 1-3 in his following 4 bouts. Following that title win Ancajas would later link up with Top Rank, who did a great job in building his following in the West, but a failure to land major fights with the top fighters at 115lbs long harmed his reign, despite racking up 9 defenses. He missed out, for one reason or another, on clashes with the likes of Roman Gonzalez, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Juan Francisco Estrada, Carlos Cuadras, Naoya Inoue and Kazuto Ioka, and the failure to defend his title against that top tier opposition will always haunt his legacy. After ending his deal with Top Rank Ancajas joined PBC, and hasn't quite looked the same, with matches on PBC coming against fighters who's style was incredibly troublesome for Anacjas.
In the ring Ancajas really is a pretty boy. He's a wonderfully smooth, polished boxer, with impressive hand speed, good movement, good boxing IQ and solid, though not concussive, power. He's big and strong at 115lbs, and there has long been talk of him moving up, but he can be bullied and he's never been a fan of fighters pressing him, pushing him on the back foot and putting him under intense pressure. That style has always troubled him, with Alexandro Santiago and Jonathan Rodriguez both running him incredible close, before Martinez used that same tactic to defeat him in February. That pressure, high intensity, fast tempo style is one he has shown he struggles with and unfortunately it's one he will be up against again here.
Martinez, despite entering as the champion, is still something of an unknown quantity in the eyes of many fans. He first made his name in the amateur ranks, as one of the best amateurs in South America, and competed in both the Olympics and the World Series of Boxing (WSB). In in 2017 he began his professional campaign, and quickly took the Argentinian Super Flyweight title, doing so just 9 months after his debut. After going 10-0, against very limited opposition at home, he was given a notable step up as he travelled to South Africa and beat Athenkosi Dumezweni for the WBC Silver Super Flyweight title, with that win coming in 2019. Like many Super Flyweights of the era he was messed about by the WBC, and rather than choose to wait for a potential shot at the WBC merry-go-round he turned his attention to the IBF title, and landed a mandatory IBF title shot, against Ancajas in early 2022. That was his big chance, and he made the most of it, pressing and out-hustling Ancajas from the early going to take a clear decision win.
In the ring Martinez is a night mare. He's not a big puncher, or heavy handed. He is however incessant, hyper aggressive and tough as hell. He presses and barely takes a backwards step, and through pure will he breaks fighters, mentally and physically. He doesn't have the most rounded or technical skill set out there, but he's something of an unstoppable monster who just keeps coming like a human terminator. Watching him he can be wide, he can be open, and he does give opponents chances to counter, but unless his opponent hits like a mule he won't be discouraged. To beat him a fighter either needs incredible power, or the ability to out work him, and we don't think many will be able to do either. Outside of Estrada, Roman Gonzalez and Bam Rodriguez we're not sure anyone in the division would be favoured over him, an that includes WBO champion Kazuto Ioka, who also struggles with the all pressure style Martinez brings to the ring.
Given the nature of the first bout, which was a comprehensive win for Martinez, it's hard to see how Ancajas will turn this around. It wasn't like he was caught with a bomb, or suffered a freak injury. Instead he was dominated, and broken down mentally and physically by a fighter who fought like a possessed monster. We imagine something of a similar bout here, with Martinez pressing the action through out, setting a tempo that Ancajas can't match, and beating the fight out of Ancajas. One difference we do expect here however, is for Ancajas not to see the final bell. Instead we expect his corner to pull him out in the later stages, call it a day at Super Flyweight and let him move up to Bantamweight for the final few years of his career. We expect this to be a very, very painful bout for the talented Filipino, who's simply up against someone with a style that he can't deal with.
Prediction - TKO10 Martinez
This coming weekend we'll likely see the end of one of the most personal rivalries in modern day boxing, as Mexican star Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (57-2-2, 39) and Kazakh icon Gennadiy Golovkin (42-1-1, 37) meet in their third, and likely final, bout. Like the previous two the bout is expected to be a thriller between two incredibly talented, well rounded fighters, with different styles, but the same hunger to prove themselves and the same desire to take home the win over their greatest nemesis.
The two men, who's careers will always be linked, first fought in September 2017, with Golovkin holding 3 of the 4 major world titles. That bout saw the men fight to a much disputed draw, with many feeling that Canelo had been protected from a loss by the judges, especially Adalaide Byrd who some how gave Golovkin just 2 rounds with an awful 118-110 card for Canelo. The two were scheduled to rematch the following May but a failed drugs test by Alvarez saw the bout being pushed back to September 2018 when Canelo controversially defeated Golovkin to claim the WBA and WBC Middleweigjt titles. Since that bout the two men went their separate ways, though it always seemed like a third was, ultimately, in their destiny.
Since losing to Canelo we've seen Golovkin go 4-0 (3), he has looked like he has lost a gear, though still had enough to beat top competition in the form of Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Ryota Murata, and not just reclaim world honours at Middleweight but also unifying the IBF and WBA "super" titles. Canelo on the other hand has gone 7-1 (5). Along the way he claimed the WBO Light Heavyweight title and unified all 4 world titles at Super Middleweight, before losing last time out, at Super Middleweight, to Dmitriy Bivol. That loss was his first since 2013, when he lost to Floyd Mayweather Jr, and much like Mayweather Jr.
For this bout, unlike the other two, the fight will take place at Super Middleweight. The move in weight could be an interesting factor. It's the weight class that has seen Canelo control in recent years, with notable wins over Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant, to secure all 4 titles, but also a weight that he will be dropping back down to, which is rarely an easy task. Likewise for Golovkin the bout will be his first at 168lbs, though he has had catch weight fights above 160lbs early in his career, and it will be very interesting to see what he looks like at the higher weight.
In the ring not a lot needs saying about either man, afterall they have both been fighting at the top level for over a decade and we suspect everyone who follows the sport will have seen a lot of both men. Canbelo is a smooth punching, intelligent pressure fighter, with a good boxing brain, solid power and decent work rate. He isn't the quickest, the most powerful, or the strongest, but he's a smart fighter who has under-rated defense, excellent offense, and lovely combination punching, especially up close. At range he can look poor, and a fighter who keeps him chasing can make him look poor, but his pressure tends to get to fighters, sooner or later. As for Golovkin he's a defensively limited fighter, but someone who has rocks for hands, a very good work rate, a stunning chin, and can land brutal shots to head or body. Sadly Golovkin has slowed down, a lot, from the fighter he once was, and looked only a shadow of himself at times against Murata.
Coming in to this we don't expect to see anything new from the men involved. Aged 40 isn't suddenly going to develop into a defensive master and at 32 Canelo, with 61 fights to his name, we don't expect to see anything new from Canelo either. Saying that we don't expect this fight to fully look like their previous two, which were instant classics. We, sadly, expect Golovkin to again look old. Especially early on, and that will work to Canelo's strength, with Alvarez being an excellent body puncher. It seemed that Murata hurt Golovkin with a body shot in their bout, and Alvarez might not have the single punch power of Murata, but places shots better, is a better combination puncher and is clearly quicker and sharper. With that in mind we expect to see Canelo going to the body early, landing there a lot in the first 3 or 4 rounds, and take gas out of Golovkin's tyres. Later on we expect to see Golovkin begin to show what he can do, but not have the intensity needed to make a major impact, before slowing down again as Canelo gets his second wind and does enough to earn a clear decision, if not a very late stoppage against a tired Golvokin.
Although we do favour Canelo here, we do expect the move up in weight will be a good one for Golovkin, and perhaps something he should have done in 2019, following his loss to Canelo. We can't help but feel his frame would have suited the division well, and bouts against the likes of Callum Smith, Caleb Plant and Billy Joe Saunders would have been interesting for him at 168lbs.
Prediction - UD12 Canelo
On August 31st we'll see WBC Minimumweight champion Panya Pradabsri (38-1, 23), aka Petchmanee Kokietgym, seek his third defense as he takes on former Japanese national champion Norihito Tanaka (20-8, 10) [田中教仁] in Nakhon Ratchasima. The bout, which was made when Tanaka replaced fellow Japanese fighter Tsubasa Koura for the opportunity a few weeks ago, is potentially the final one in the career of Tanaka, who knows it's now or never for him at the top level.
The once beaten champion, aged 31, is arguably the best fighter in the division, though there is a strong argument to be had that that honour lies with either with WBA Knockout CP Freshmart. He earned that honour in 2020 when he beat the previously unbeaten Wanheng Menayothin to claim the WBC title, in what was a career defining win and one that put him on the map of many fans who hadn't heard of him before. Just beating the then 54-0 Wanheng meant a lot, and it's a win that will likely go down as the best win of his career when Panya eventually retires. Sadly outside of that win, and another in a rematch against Wanheng, there is little of note on his record. His best "other" wins are against the likes of Jaysever Abcede, Jerry Tomogdan, Dexter Alimento and Robert Onggocan.
Despite having a paper thin 38-1 record there is no doubting Panya's ability in the ring. He is a talented boxer-puncher, with good hand speed, nasty body shots, and a good understanding of the ring. He could, and probably should, have done much more with his career and as mentioned he is arguably the best at 105lbs right now. He can box, he can punch, he can move and at times it looks like he can pretty much do anything. He does however sometimes flatter to deceive and can make tactical errors, such as fighting the wrong fight against Wanheng, with both of their fights being very close, and following fighters rather than cutting the ring down, an issue that we saw against Danai Ngiabphukhiaw last November.
The Japanese challenger, who's now 37 years old, has had a rollercoaster like career with a number of ups and downs. He began his career 9-0 and despite going 11-8 since then there is no doubting his achievements, including his Japanese title 2in in 2019, when he stopped Shin Ono. There is also no questioning the talent he's gone in against, with losses to Kenichi Horikawa, Akira Yaegashi, Ryoichi Taguchi, Tsubasa Koura and most recently Knockout CP Freshmart. He has held Japanese honours and managed to fight for world and Regional honours during his career. Sadly though at the age of 37, and with out a fight since the end of 2020, it's hard to say just what he has in the tank.
At his best Tanaka was a sharp, awkward and tricky fighter who used good hand speed and movement to land and get out of range. He understands the ring and range and where to move, how to move and how to land without taking much in return. Sadly though at the age of 37 and with extra ring rust we see that speed slowing, the timing going and with his lack of physicality, power and size he is going to really struggle to put up a legitimate challenge for Panya. He might ask questions, at times, of the champion, but it's very hard to imagine him really testing Panya.
We expect Tanaka to have moments early on, but as the rounds go on those moments will become less and less regular, with Tanaka eventually deciding to just survive to the final bell, knowing that he's too far behind to really make a fight of things.
Prediction - UD12 Panya
For much of the last 6 years the Minimumweight division has been dominated by two Thai's, with wide spread calls for them to clash. At the time the pair were the WBA "super" champion Knockout CP Freshmart (23-0, 9) and WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin (55-2-0-1, 19), who were both unbeaten at the time and had styles that could have gelled to give us a classic. Sadly however those calls went unheeded, with the Thai promoter, Petchyindee, and corporate sponsors preferring to have two world champions they could market shows over, rather than a single unified champion. As a result the unification bout between, arguably, the two best fighters at 105lbs never came to be.
At least not when it most mattered.
This coming Wednesday we will actually get the bout, though it's a bout that has lost some allure to what it once had. No longer is it two unbeaten world champions facing off. Instead it's only Knockout defending his world champion, as the twice beaten Wanehng lost the WBC title in late 2020, to fellow Thai Panya Pradabsri and also lost a rematch to Panya in 2021. Although both of those bouts were close they were both losses and saw a lot of the intrigue of Knockout Vs Wanheng dissipating as a result. Despite the allure dying down, sometimes it's better to get something late, than never at all and that is very much the feeling with this bout. The fight isn't as red hot as it was, but it's still one of the most interesting bouts that can be made at 105lbs.
Of the two men it's the champion here that has more to lose than the challenger. The 31 year old Knockout has held some version of the WBA title, be it interim, regular of Super, since 2014 and has quietly built a solid, though unspectacular, resume for himself. His most notable wins are two decision victories over Carlos Buitrago, along with victories over Muhammad Rachman, Byron Rojas, Xiong Zhao Zhong and Robert Paradero. For a man who has been in and around the top of the sport as long as he has, the resume is thin. Despite that there is no doubting his ability and he's one of the more technically polished boxers at 105lbs, and someone who has clearly developed from a somewhat raw fighter, when he first faced Buitrago, to an accomplished boxer in more recent bouts. He has also been sitting on his shots more in recent contests, and although not a huge puncher, he has solid power at 105lbs, something he showed us last year against Robert Paradero.
At his best Knockout is a very, very good all rounder. He doesn't blow anyone away in any particular area, but he's well schooled, he knows his way around the ring, has solid power, good timing and impressive physical strength for such a small man. He is somewhat under-whelming when it comes to out put and his style isn't the most fun, with Knockout often fighting to get his nose in the lead early on, before cruising through much of the bout to take a decision, but he's smart and uses his brain well. For fighters looking to beat him, work rate is key, and fighters who set a high tempo do cause him problems, as we saw in the first fight with Buitrago, as well as his 2019 bout with ArAr Andale, but standing off and trying to box with Knockout is very much playing to Knockout's strengths. In many ways a smart, intelligent pressure fighter, with solid rate and an ability to cut the ring off, does seem likely to be the style to beat him. A style several notable fighters in the division current have.
As for Wanheng, the 36 year old was, for quite period of time, the best fighter at 105lbs and had a very impressive 54-0 (14) record. Not only that but he had a very impressive 12 world title defenses to his name and had notable wins against the likes of Florante Condes, Oswaldo Novoa, Tatsuya Fukuhara, Pedro Taduran, Melvin Jerusalem, Simpiwe Konkco and Saul Juarez. He resume wasn't screaming out as something stacked with big names, but it was a solid record, and it was highly impressive how he had stayed at one weight essentially his entire career, rather than picking and choosing his way to different titles. Sadly the two losses to Panya ended his incredibly unbeaten run, though both was questionable and they felt something akin to the the powers that be in Thailand passing the torch onto the next generation of top fighters in the division, rather than Wanheng actually being done at the top.
Despite being 36 Wanheng is really incredible. He is a committed fighter, who has dedicated himself to one weight, and had been dedicated to his craft in the ring. He's never been the quickest, the biggest puncher or the man with the highest work rate. Instead he has been crafty, intelligent and fights with a style that combines intelligent pressure, great footwork and quick, sharp combinations that catch the eye. He's not the quickest fighter out there, but he cuts the ring down well on the front foot, he has a tight guard, and he gets where he wants to be to fire shots off. Although not heavy handed he is someone who hits harder than his record suggests, and certainly gets respect from fighters, in terms of both his combinations and his single shots, which do have some pop on them.
Had this bout been when the two men were in their prime, we feel that Wanheng would have had the better of this. He would have been too accurate, to smart with his flurries, and able to dig deep late on to take a hard fought, hotly contest, but clear decision, an 8-4 or possible 9-3 type of decision. Likely after going behind early on. Now however it's a hard call. At Minimumweight 36 is ancient, and that could be a major issue for the former WBC champion. However we also wonder how easily Knockout makes weight, and whether his low work rate has had something to do with struggling to boil down to 105lbs in more recent years. If that's the case, Wanheng is not the man he wants to face. Instead Wanheng is a nightmare for him. The pressure from Wanheng, which doesn't always come with punches but, is draining to fight against and if that pressure can take the movement away from a 31 year old Knockout he will become something of a target for Wanheng's eye catching combinations in the later rounds. Knockout might well find himself being out-Knockout'd here by a smart, more experienced, more polished, and busier version of himself.
We imagine Knockout will look to get a lead and keep it, only to see it slip away from him late on, with Wanheng's having an intensified late march to the title, and potentially retiring on top of the sport.
Prediction - UD12 Wanheng
Back at the very end of 2018 we saw two legendary Asian fighters face off in Macau, as Donnie Nietes (43-1-6, 23) claimed a career defining win, and picked up the WBO Super Flyweight title, with a controversial and highly disputed win over Kazuto Ioka (28-2, 15) [井岡一翔], to become a 4-weight world champion. Sadly for Nietes poor decision making, and issues involving ALA Gym, saw him fail to build on that victory with Nietes giving up the title rather than defending it and establishing a reign in what was his 4th weight class.
With Nietes giving up the title we then quickly saw Ioka win the title, stopping former Nietes foe Aston Palicte to win the belt, and become a 4-weight champion himself, the first Japanese male to achieve the feat. Since then he has established himself as one of the top fighters at 115lbs, with 4 defenses of the title, whilst Nietes has been left on the outside looking in.
Now aged 40 Nietes looks to repeat his win over Ioka, and reclaim the title he gave up so cheaply in 2019, whilst the 33 year old Ioka looks to avenge one of his two professional losses and continue his reign. For both men the title is key for them to move towards divisional super fights against the likes of Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada and Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez. Nor fights however the bout promises to be an excellent show case of ring craft and boxing IQ, between two smart, talented veterans each looking to prove they still have a lot left in the tank.
The talented Ioka was a stand out amateur in Japan before making his professional debut in 2009, aged 20. Within 18 months of his debut he had claimed the Japanese Light Flyweight title and just a fight later he dethroned long reigning WBC Minimumweight champion Oleydong Sithsamerchai, in just his 7th professional bout. In the years that followed he proved that wasn't a fluke victory against a weight drained fighter as he has gone on to unify the WBC and WBA titles at 105lbs, whilst also winning the WBA title at Light Flyweight and Flyweight and the WBO Super Flyweight title. During his career he has already notched up a legendary resume with wins over not only Oleydong but also Juan Hernandez Navarrete, Akira Yaegashi, Felix Alvarado, Juan Carlos Reveco, McWilliams Arroyo, Aston Palicte, Jeyvier Cintron, Kosei Tanaka and Francisco Rodriguez Jr.
In the ring Ioka is a very clever fighter. He's always been smart and it's been the boxing brain that has allowed him to move through the weights and have success. He's smart, has excellent timing and whilst he's not the biggest, strongest, faster or heaviest handed he has the skills and ring craft to have success against fighters through out the lower classes. He picks shots well, he can take a good shot, and he can mix things up. He can box, he can fight, he can counter puncher and he can pressure, and with Ismael Salas working with him he seems to have brilliant game plans developed for each opponent. Great examples of that can be seen in his recent bouts as we saw him fight as a body attacked orientated pressure fighter against the taller, quicker Jeyvier Cintron and a smart counter puncher against the quicker smaller Kosei Tanaka. Durign his career Ioka has spent more than a decade at the top of the sport, though there has been poor performances from him, and his last two were poor, by his very high standards, though there is a feeling that he simply couldn't get up for those bouts, and as a result wasn't at 100%, this bout however, we expect him at his best.
The 40 year old Donnie Nietes has been a professional since 2003 with the Filipino have had an excellent career, over a prolonged time period. For much of his career he has been the #3 Filipino, behind Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire, and despite being over-shadowed there no doubting he is a future hall of famer himself. He won his first title in 2007, when he claimed the WBO Minimum title, and he would defend the belt 4 times before claiming the WBO title at 108lbs, in 2011. He notched 9 defenses of the title before moving up to Flyweight and winning the IBF title, in 2017, and then moving up to Super Flyweight in 2018, winning the WBO title there in his second shot at the belt. As mentioned though he gave up that title and wasted around 2 and a half years of his career before returning to the ring last year.
Like Ioka, it's best to say that Nietes is an intelligent, smart boxer. He's smooth, relaxed in the ring, and excellent at picking the right shot. His experience, which has seen him facing a veritable who's who of the lower weights, has seen him have success against fighters with a huge mixture of styles, and he can tweak game plans for every style. Defensively he's smart, tight and hard to catch clean. Offensively he's very smart, finding ways to land clean. As he's gotten older he has slowed, and we saw him struggle with the 10 round distance last time out against Norbelto Jimenez, but he still has that world class talent to be a nightmare for many fighters. Sadly though father time is unbeaten in this sport, and given his age we do see this as a huge ask for him. Especially against someone who has taken the upcoming bout personally.
We expect this bout to be fought at a very, very high level. Both men will be adapting on the fly, round by round. We expect to see Nietes make a really good start. For 3 or 4 rounds he will be able to go pretty much evens with Ioka, however we're expecting Ioka to take control in the middle portion of the bout, as Nietes begins to show his age. By round 9 or 10 we expect to see Ioka in a comfortable lead, and we wouldn't be surprised at all to see him really go after Nietes in the championship rounds, trying to not just beat the Filipino, but send him into retirement with his first stoppage loss. Given Ioka has taken this bout personally, we really do see him trying to hurt Nietes, and body shots in the final rounds, could well be the key he needs to stopping the Filipino icon.
Prediction - TKO12 Ioka
Earlier this year we saw the long reign WBC Featherweight title reign of Gary Russell Jr, one of the sports premier talents yet most frustrating fighters, come to a surprise end as he was beaten by Filipino fighter Mark Magsayo (24-0, 16). This coming weekend Magsayo looks to build on that career defining victory as he takes on former WBC Super Bantamweight champion Rey Vargas (35-0, 22), in a very tough first defense.
Prior to his win over Russell Jr the talented Magsayo had been earmarked as a special talent. The Filipino, dubbed "Magnifico", had been hyped by the Filipino boxing press straight off the bat and ALA Gym seemed to be grooming him as the net face of their iconic promotion. Sadly though his ascent was a slow one, and despite the early hype his development seemed slow. He debuted in 2013 and beat former contender Chris Avalos in 2016, but then seemed to stall with no significant steps up in class whilst under ALA, who he was with for another 3 fights. He would then split from ALA and spent the entire of 2018 out of the ring, before restarting his career in 2019, picking up a notable win against Pungluang Sor Singyu later in the year. His career really changed in 2020 when he linked up with Freddie Roach and based himself in the US, where he has had his last 4 fights. The first of those was a very close win over gritty under-dog Rigoberto Hermosillo, he was also tested in the third of those bouts, a 10th round come from behind KO win over Julio Ceja, before sneaking past Russell Jr this past January.
In the ring Magsayo, much like Russell Jr, is a frustrating fighter. He is an undeniable talent. The Filipino is a wonderful natural talent, with good hand speed, good movement, and good size. He is also an incredibly determined fighter, with real resiliency, and his wins over Hermosillo and Ceja showed that he has incredible desire to success. Also, despite not being much of a puncher, he can certainly hurt fighters, and his KO of Ceja was a brutal KO, showing him to his hard enough to make a genuine impact, when he lands clean. He has the tools be a fixture on the top of the division for years to come, and aged just 27 he is still improving. He will however need to improve, significantly, if he's to keep the title, and establish his reign. For all his talent he is a very frustrating fighter, with questionable stamina, a lack of a true boxing brain. He switches off a lot, often through the middle of the bout, losing a lot of momentum and control as a result. He is also someone who dislikes pressure, often being put into something of a negative and defensive shell against pressure, and despite being solid defensively, he doesn't appear to have a world class chin, having been down several times already in his career and given the level of fighters he's now expected to face that chin could well be his downfall.
Vargas first made a name for himself in the amateurs, competing at the 2009 World Championships. The following year he began his campaign as a professional, and reeled off 6 wins before the year was over. He would remain relatively active early on and claimed his first title in early 2012, winning the IBF Youth Super Bantamweight title. It was at Super Bantamweight where he would really establish himself over the years that followed. Having ended 2016 with a 29-0 record, including notable wins against the likes of Alexander Muñoz, Christian Esquivel and Sylvester Lopez, he finally got his shot at a world title as he faced Gavin McDonnell for the vacant WBC Super Featherweight title in England. The bout saw Vargas dominate McDonnell en route to a Majority Decision, due to a terrible scorecard from the consistently poor Ian John-Lewis. He would go on to defend that title 5 times, beating the likes of Ronny Rios, Oscar Negrete, Azat Hovhannisyan and Tomoki Kameda. Sadly though a broken leg suffered in 2020 saw Vargas sitting on the side-lines, for well over a year, before returning in November 2021, and beating Leonardo Baez in a bout at Featherweight. That bout was essentially a tune up for a shot at the WBC title, for which he was the mandatory challenger, and loomed in shadows for the winner of Magsayo's bout against Russell Jr.
Vargas is as far from your typical Mexican boxer as you can get. The tall, rangy framed fighter isn't the macho driven tough guy we think of when we think of Mexican fighters, but instead he his a cerebral boxer, using footwork, busy jabs, and his physical tools. He keeps opponents at range, he handcuffs them with volume, and he refuses to be drawn into a war. He is very much a fighter who was groomed as a pure boxer, in part due to a good amateur career. His style can be hugely frustrating to watch, but it's also incredibly effective, and is the epitome of hit and don't get hit. Interestingly he started his career looking like something of a puncher, stopping 15 of his first 16, but has now had just 7 stoppage in his last 19 bouts going the distance in his last 7 and 10 times in his last 12. Despite that he has scored notable decision wins over the likes of McDonnell, Rios, Negrete, Hovhannisyan and Kameda showing his boxing skills to be excellent at the highest level. Technically he may be the best boxer at 126lbs, and it's hard to imagine anyone having an easy time with him, with potentially Emanuel Navarrete being the only fighter who would be strongly favoured against him.
With both fighters entering this one unbeaten, and both being very high level boxers, this is a really interesting match up. The bout is a chance for Magsayo to build on a career best win, show he belongs in and around the top of the division, and didn't just get lucky Vs Russell Jr, who fought much of the bout with an injury. Likewise it's a chance for Vargas to become a 2-division champion, and complete a remarkable comeback from his broken leg to world champion.
Technically the bout will be fought at a high level. Both are pure boxers, and the bout should be a very skilful one. Sadly for Magsayo however we get the feeling that Vargas's style will be a total nightmare for him. We expect to see Vargas establishing control behind his long arms, his quick footwork and his busy work rate. We don't expect to see him hurting Magsayo physically, but mentally force Magsayo to question himself, and over 12 rounds Magsayo will simply not be able to change the flow of the fight, at least not long enough, to over-come Vargas.
We expect Vargas to take a round or two to get a read on Magsayo, who does start pretty fast, but by round 4 the challenger will have figured out his man and will go on to control the middle and later portion of the fight to take a clear decision, and the WBC title. Magsayo's only real hope is to force the pace, take risks and land a bomb, as he did on Ceja. Sadly we don't see him doing that here. We don't imagine he will even come close to landing a bomb, with Vargas simply being too good and too smart for him.
Prediction - UD12 Vargas
This coming Friday we'll see IBF Minimumweight champion Rene Mark Cuarto (20-2-2, 11) look to make his second defense, as he takes on under-rated Mexican challenger Daniel Valladares (26-3-1, 15) in a really exciting looking bout set to take place in Monterrey.
Although not well known outside of the Philippines the 25 year old Cuarto, dubbed the Mighty Mouse, has managed to carve out a pretty decent career so far. He made his professional debut in 2014 and reeled off 3 wins before slipping up against Jeralrd Paclar in 2015, in the first of 3 bouts between the two men. He bounced back from that loss with 6 wins before rematch Paclar in a bout that resulted in a technical draw between the two men. An instant rematch saw Cuarto avenging the two early career blotches and begin his move towards bigger and better bouts, winning the WBO Oriental title in 2018 before losing in an IBF eliminator against Samuel Salva. Since that loss we've seen him going 4-0-1 (2) with a win in 2021 against Pedro Taduran, for the IBF title, and a highly controversial second win against Taduran earlier this year to record his first defense.
In the ring Taduran is a technical boxer, who likes to use his legs, move around the ring and use his speed and timing to punish mistakes from opponents. Sadly his style isn't the most fan friendly and it can get sloppy at times, as we saw in the rematch with Taduran. He is certainly talented, but he lacks the physicality to be an elite level Minimumweight, and his style almost begs for pressure fighters to take the fight to him. He's tricky and quick, but in all honest there is little that makes him feel like anything other than a short term champion. Sadly for him he's not been able to "sell" a shot to the highest bigger, which is likely what he and his team would have hoped for, but instead has had to travel to Mexico for a mandatory in just his second defense.
Aged 28 Daniel Valladares has long been on the radar for fans of the lower weights. "Cejitas" also debuted in 2014, and like many on the Mexican domestic scene, he was busy, really busy, early on. He would fight 4 times in 2014, 4 times in 2015 and 4 tomes in 2016, as he developed his experience and his style against limited opponents. During that run he went 11-1, losing his final bout of 2016 to Genaro Rios in what looks to be something of an oddity. That loss was his first 8 rounders and he quickly bounced back, whilst slowly stepping up his competition and winning his first minor title soon afterwards. In 2018 he stepped up and beat Adrien Curiel Dominguez, less than a year later he beat former world champion Merlito Sabillo and then beat Christian Araneta in an IBF world title eliminator. He got his shit at the IBF Light Flyweight title just 5 months later, in a bout that ended in a draw against Pedro Taduran. Following that loss things went off the boil completely, as we suspect his motivation died as he suffered back to back upset losses, before bouncing back last year with 3 wins, including one against former world title challenger Julian Yedras.
In the ring Valladares is dangerous, at least when he's focused. He's big and tall at the weight, and although somewhat crude, he knows he can often get away with taking risks as his offense is his best defense. He his hard enough to get respect, has a decent enough chin to take a shit and a high work rate. He lacks in terms of polish, and is more of a fighter than a boxer, but his action style is a hard one to deal with. There is very much a case of machismo with him, and when he was cut by a headclash against Pedro Taduran you could tell he was angry and wanted revenge. Despite that it's clear he is a solid and well schooled boxer, who has got technical ability, but prefers a tear up.
Sadly for Cuarto travelling to Mexico for a world title fight, either as the champion or challenger, is much like travelling to the UK, Argentina or Thailand. The away fighter will not get any favours from the officials and will also be fighting in front of crazy fans cheering on their man. For a fighter like Cuarto, who is technical, wants to fight off the back foot, and rely more on counter punching and skills than fire power and work rate, a fight in Mexico is never going to go his way, especially not against a rugged, aggressive fighter like Valladares.
We suspect the pressure, work rate and sheer violence of Valladares will play a major role here in dragging Cuarto into the wrong type of fight. That, along with vociferous fans going crazy when Valldares does anything, leads to the Mexico to a clear lead on the cards, before head clashes force an early end to the bout, with a few rounds left.
Prediction - TD9 Valladares
This coming Saturday in San Antonio, we'll see unified Super Bantamweight champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev (10-0, 7) defending his WBA "super" and IBF Super Bantamweight titles, as he takes on Ronny Rios (33-3, 16). The bout will be Akhmadaliev's third defense of the title he won in 2020, when he beat Danny Roman in a sensational bout, whilst it will also serve as the second world title shot for Rios, who came up short in 2017 against Rey Vargas in a competitive contest. It will also be a bout between two legitimate top 10 fighters at 122lbs, which is one of the most interesting division's in the sport right now, and is one that has the potential to be something very special.
Aged 27 Akhamdaliev has been moved through the ranks like very few others. He turned professional after an impressive amateur and was world ranked within a year of his professional debut. By late 2019 he was knocking on the door of a world title fight, and were it not for an injury to Danny Roman there's a good chance that "MJ" would have won a world title in September 2019. Instead he had to wait for Roman to recover, with the two men clashing in January 2020, with Akhmadlaiev taking a split decision, and the the unified IBA/WBA "super" titles. That was in just his 8th professional bout. Sadly Covid has stopped his rise to stardom, and since winning the titles he has fought just twice, beating the then IBF mandatory challenger Ryosuke Iwasa and beating late replacement Jose Velasquez, who replaced Rios for a bout late last year when Rios contracted Covid19.
In the ring Akhmadaliev can pretty much do it all. At his best he's a patient, but aggressive, pressure-puncher. He's naturally heavy handed, puts his shots together well, picks his moments and applies mentally draining and consistent front foot pressure. When he needs to box he can, as we saw against Roman, he can also change the tempo of bouts, and it a very complete all rounder. At times he can fight the wrong fight, an unfortunate consequence of being such a brilliant all rounder, but he's able to adapt and take control when he needs to. For a man with just 9 bouts to his name he has already proven he has world class power, hurting Danny Roman and stopping Ryosuke Iwasa, he has great stamina, going 12 rounds and picking up the pace in some of the later rounds against Roman, and he's proven he can take a shot, as he showed against Roman. The one question mark about him, is whether he can come out on top in an intense inside war, and that's hopefully something we'll see later in the year in a potential clash with Stephon Fulton.
Rios was a solid amateur himself, not the level of Akhmadaliev who competed at the very highest level of the sport but a solid one who twice won US national championships. Aged 31 Rios is a very experienced professional who debuted as a professional back in 2008 and ran off a very impressive 23-0 (10) record before losing in an upset to the always unpredictable Robinson Castellanos. Prior to his first loss he had notched notable wins over Andrew Cancio and Rico Ramos. Rios would bounce back well from the loss to Castellano by scoring 5 wins, including a victory against Jayson Velez, before getting a shot at WBC Super Bantamweight champion Rey Vargas. Despite losing to Vargas he did give the talented Mexican a really tough bout and showed he belonged at that level, but soon afterwards suffered his third loss, a KO defeat to Azat Hovhannisyan, which seemed to spell the end of his career at the top level just as it seemed he belonged there. Amazingly however he has rebuilt and won 4 in a row, including very solid wins over Diego De La Hoya and Oscar Negrete, to earn this show at Akhmadaliev.
In the ring Rios is a fun fighter to watch. He likes to set a good tempo, let his hands go, and is a technically very good fighter, usually. He is however a fighter who has been stopped twice, and does make mistakes, as we saw repeatedly in his bout to Hovhannisyan who rocked him in round 3 and stopped him in round 6. His recovery ability is questionable, and whilst he knows how to survive, he is the type of man who can take a long time to clear his head when hurt. When facing fighters who don't have fight changing power, he is an awkward, aggressive fighter who can be a nightmare for many in the division. Sadly though with his stoppage losses, and his overall performance against Hovhannisyan, there will always be question marks about his heart, desire, and will to win. He has done a lot to answer those questions, but we will always wonder if he can turn things around when the going gets tough.
We suspect Rios will be hungry to make a statement, and will look to press the fight early, taking the fight to Akhmadaliev. Sadly for him we don't see this as a tactic that will actually work. Instead we see his aggression being used against him as he essentially walks into Akhmadaliev's range, and ends up taking big shots from the champion. He might have some moments, but Rios' success will come at a price and he will take a lot of punishment. In the middle rounds that punishment will take a toll on Rios who will come undone completely and be stopped, for the third time in his career.
Prediction - TKO7 Akhmadaliev
By William Ridgard
Jesse "Bam “Rodriguez (15-0) makes his first defense of his WBC Super Flyweight Championship against the experienced and dangerous Wisaksil Wangek (50-5-1) (aka Srisaket Sor Rungvisai) , who is famous for beating and KOing P4P king and all-time great in Roman “Choclatitio” Gonzalez (51-3).
This is a brilliant crossroads fight between a hungry young prospect in Jesse Rodriguez and the veteran in Wangek, who is vying to prove he still has the capabilities to become world champion at the age of 35. This is another great fight in a division that just keeps on giving.
The keys to victory for Bam are to use his brilliant footwork and dance around Wangek, landing his key shots via his brilliant pivots which allows him to create angles and land shots. A great example of this was in his last fight against Carlos Cuadras, where he dropped him in the 3rd round via his brilliant footwork which led to him landing a flush uppercut.
The keys to victory for Wangek will be to let Jesse feel his power early and make him hesitant to engage. A weakness in his fight with Cuadras was that Jesse sometimes looked weak to the body, so if he also targets that area, it could make him less likely to engage and could lead to him winning the rounds.
Overall, I believe that Bam will outpoint Wangek in a close fight and will hopefully highlight how good Jesse Rodriguez is. Alternatively, it could be too much too soon for the youngest world champion in boxing, and this could lead to the experience of Wangek prevailing.
The past few years have been incredibly interesting in the Light Flyweight division, without the division managing to get the attention it's deserved. One of the most notable results of recent years was the 2021 upset win scored by Jonathan Gonzalez (25-3-1-1, 14), over Elwin Soto to claim the WBO title. This coming Friday we'll see Gonzalez return to the ring for the first time since that win, as he defends his title against talented Filipino challenger Mark Anthony Barriga (11-1, 2), who gets his second shot at a world title, in Florida.
The 31 year old champion was long seen as a special fighter. He had been a stellar amateur with "Bomba" winning gold at the 2008 Youth World Championships, as well winning the Central American & Caribbean Games Gold, in 2010, and winning the Puerto Rican National championships 3 years in a row, 08, 09 and 10. When he debuted, in 2011 against namesake Jonathan Gonzalez, he was a fresh faced 19 year old and was expected to be groomed to stardom. That certainly seemed to be the case through his first 14 bouts, in which he went 13-0-0-1 (11). Sadly though aged 22 he was pushed to far too fast and came up short against the heavy handed Giovani Segura in 2013 losing in 4 rounds. Sadly it then took him time to rebuild and his next bout of real note saw him come undone, in a notable shock, to Filipino Jobert Alvarez in 2016. That loss could have been the end of him, but instead he seemed to really knuckle down and scored notable wins over Ricardo Rodriguez, Julian Yedras and Juan Alejo Zuniga to get his first world title fight. That bout saw him give Kosei Tanaka absolute hell in a really hotly contested bout, but one that ended when Tanaka stopped him in the 7th round to retain the WBO belt. Since that loss he has gone on to biggest success, beating Saul Juarez, Armando Torres and Soto, to finally live up to the expectation of him one day becoming a world champion.
Early in his career "Bomba" lived up to nickname. He was a destructive fighter, stopping 9 of his first 10 foes, often in the first 2 rounds. He was quick, slippery, heavy handed and that scary explosive quality to him, which combined well with his high level boxing brain and amateur fundamentals. Sadly though as he stepped up it was his chain, not his skills that were letting him down. Since the loss to Alvarez however he has become a smart fighter, taking fewer risks, using his speed and skills more and being less "Bomba" and more "brainy". That change has fared well and earned him the big upset over Soto last year, but it is worth noting that he does have those explosive and heavy hands in his arsenal.
Like Gonzalez big things were long expected of Barriga, who competed at the very highest level in the amateurs, including the Olympics in 2012 and the World Amatuer Championships twice, beating Irish great Paddy Barnes in the 2011 World Championships. He also competed in the WSB, further showing his ability with wins over the likes of Bin Lu, and he got "semi-pro" experience under the AIBA Pro Boxing banner. He finally made his professional debut in 2016 and showed incredibly ability as a pure boxer whilst rising through the ranks, with a notable win in 2017 against Samartlek Kokietgym and one against Gabriel Mendoza in 2018. Sadly however Barriga would come up short in his first world title fight, losing a split decision in LA against Carlos Licona for the IBF Minimumweight title. After that loss he took 2 years out away from the ring, though one of those, 2020, was a year that saw boxing disrupted due to Covid. Since returning he has gone 2-0 (1).
In the ring Barriga is very much a sensational technical boxer. He lacks power and he can't really get opponents respect, but he is slippery as an eel, with fantastic counter punching, a great ring brain, a good work rate and great ability to control range and tempo with his feet and movement. He really is just lacking power, though if he had that he would be very much a nightmare for anyone in and around the lower weights. Technically he might be among the very best pure boxers in the sport today, but that lack of power and the lack of B+/A tier wins doesn't do him any favours and against most of the top fighters in the talent heavy Light Flyweight division he will likely need to do more than just be a sensational boxer.
Going in to this bout we're expecting an all out chess match early on, fought at hyper speed, with the two men boxing using their boxing brains. They will be out thinking each other and both will be looking to set traps, and counter traps. They will both need to get a read on the other, with both being southpaws, and it could be very much be one fo the pursist early on. For Barriga it is vital he marks a mark by the mid-way point, because unfortunately for him he has the fewer tools to turn things around .We suspect Barriga will have the early success, and he needs to. In the second half however Gonzalez will begin to mix things up more, he will begin to be more aggressive, and his power will prove to be a key factor. He might not be the "Bomba" he was touted as, but he's still got plenty of power and we expect to see that power catch the eye of the judges, and be pivotal in the second half of the bout.
After being behind by the mid-way point we expect Gonzalez to take a narrow, potentially split, decision thanks to a gritty and determined charge in the second half of a bout that starts technical but becomes a real fight in the final rounds.
Prediction - SD12 Gonzalez
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.