In 2021 we saw Rene Mark Cuarto (19-2-2, 11)claim the biggest win of his career, defeating Pedro Taduran (14-3-1, 11) to claim the IBF Minimumweight title, in a still rare all-Filipino world title bout. This coming Saturday, 11 months after their first bout, the men will be facing off again, with Cuarto seeking his first defense, and Taduran looking to become only the third man to reclaim the title.
In their first bout it was Taduran was seeking his second defense he had won the belt in 2019, stopping Samuel Salva in a really fun 4 rounder, with his first defense coming in 2020 when a head clash forced a technical draw against Daniel Valladares. Had it not been for the pandemic we suspect there would have been a rematch of that bout, but instead the pandemic limited travel, and Minimumweight world title bouts became few and far between. As a result Taduran took more than a year year to return following his first defense, as he took on Taduran and lost a close and competitive 12 round decision bout. For Cuarto the win was the biggest of his career, by far, and that came despite the fact he had been out of the ring for well over a year himself.
The key to the first bout was the style clash between the two men. Taduran was the aggressor, taking center ring and often chasing Cuarto around the ring. Cuarto on the other hand used a lot of movement, picked nice counter shots, and prevented Taduran from really setting his feet and letting big shots go. It was a smart game plan from Cuarto and one that, ultimately, won him the fight, though one that really didn't leave a lot of margin for error over 12 rounds, the negativity could have cost him, had the judges swung just a single round against him.
Notably we expect that first bout to be very, very similar to how the rematch will go. Cuarto will continue to use the ring, move around, use his counter punching and look to draw errors from Taduran, errors he can counter. As for Taduran we expect him to be more aggressive, more intense and hungrier than he was in the first bout. At times he was following Cuarto, rather than cutting the ring off. This time around we expect to see more him using body shots early to take Cuarto's legs away, side stepping to cut the ring down rather than following his man, and timing Cuarto better than he did in their first bout.
Of the two men it's hard to argue that Cuarto is the better boxer. He showed that in their first bout. He's a crisper puncher, a better mover, picks his shots better and holds when he needs to. However Taduran is the stronger fighter, the bigger puncher and arguably the tougher man. He needs to make those traits matter here. He needs to be aggressive, more so than last time, and he needs to bully Cuarto around up close. Especially in the early rounds. Sap his energy, and make Cuarto work harder to create space.
Interestingly we suspect this bout will see Taduran take home the victory, with him coming in much hungrier than he did in his first bout. It won't be tidy, and it won't be clean, and Cuarto will try to make the bout messier and messier it as it goes longer, but we see the judges siding with the former champion, his aggression, his work rate, and his forward march, rather than Cuarto's movement, boxing and somewhat negative tricks.
Given how tired Cuarto seemed at times in their first bout there is a chance he could be stopped, but instead we expect his survival tactics will keep him in the bout, but he will come up short on the cards.
Prediction - UD12 Taduran
In our predictions to begin the year we predicted 2022 was going to be the year of rematches, and after a number of those in January they continue to come this weekend, as we see a highly anticipated, and long over-due, rematch between former 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (50-5-1, 43) and the man who first dethroned him, Carlos Cuadras (39-4-1, 27), with the two looking to reclaim the currently vacant WBC Super Flyweight title. The very title Cuadras took from Srisaket in their first meeting.
In recent years the Super Flyweight division has been getting the respect it deserves, and the fighters are getting the credit and audience it has long been due, but sadly when these two first fought in 2014 things weren't like that, and many missed out on the bout, and the controversy and bad taste that it left. The expectation was that the two men would rematch some time after that bout, but few watching that bout would have expected an almost 8 year wait for the two to go again.
When they first fought Srisaket was an unknown outside of Asia, and was looking to make his second defense of the title which he had won by destroying the under0rated Yota Sato. Cuadras on the other hand was an unbeaten contender, and seen as one of the future stars for Mexican boxing having had a solid amateur career and been co-promoted by Teiken. Interestingly Teiken won the purse bids for that bout and arranged for it to be in Mexico, giving Cuadras the best chance of winning. And win is what he did, when the bout was stopped prematurely, giving Cuadras a technical decision victory, and seemingly bailed him out as Cuadras was starting to come on strong and wear down his man. It seemed the ending was very much a lucky escape for the Mexican fighter, who had looked great boxing and moving in the early rounds, but had burnt a lot of energy with his movement, and was visibly slowing in the rounds prior to the finish. Had the bout not been stopped there's a fair shout that Sriskaet would have either stopped Cuadras, or reeled him in on the scorecards.
Following his title win Cuadras seemed to do what he could to avoid a rematch with the Thai, who became mandatory for the WBC title when he beat Jose Salgado a year later in a final eliminator, but ended up waiting almost 2 years longer for his eventual shot, which came against Cuadras' conqueorer Roman Gonzalez. Despite the long wait he made the most of that bout, taking a questionable decision over Gonzalez, before destroying the Nicaraguan legend in a rematch to put himself firmly on the international stage. Sadly for Srisaket, despite his success against Gonzalez, he has had to wait 8 years now to get his hands back on Cuadras, and neither man has quite looked the same in recent bouts. Despite that this is a bout fans of the division will be looking forward to, and will be expecting real fireworks from. Fireworks we were denied somewhat in their first bout when Cuadras' movement played such a major factor in the action.
Thankfully neither man really needs much of an introduction thanks to the fact both have had numerous big bouts available around the world in recent years. But still it is worth quickly looking over what the two men have done, and what they bring to the ring.
The heavy handed Srisaket is a beat of a fighter with a physically imposing style that combines relentless pressure, physical toughness and strength and freakish punching power. At his best he was a total monster, and someone fighters did their best to ignore. He showed how good he was in his prime against Yota Sato, destroying the talented Japanese fighter who retired soon afterwards. He also showed it when he dismantled Jose Salgado. Sadly though his most notable bouts came when he was perhaps on the slide a little bit, with both of his wins over Roman Gonzalez and his win over Juan Francisco Estrada coming after his 30th birthday. He wasn't shot, not by any means, but he was starting to lose something and that became particularly clear when he faced Hiram Irak Diaz, in 2018 just 18 months after the first Gonzalez fight, and against Amnat Ruenroeng in 2020. It's been a slow regression, hidden by his power, but it has been clear for those following him over the last decade or so.
Cuadras on the other hand is more of a boxer-puncher than Srisaket. He's light on his feet and was a very good amateur boxer who has kept much of those amateur skills in his locker. Prior to facing Srisaket he was seen as more of a puncher who could box, and at the time sported a 29-0 (24) record, but in recent years his power has proven to be less effective at the higher levels, but his boxing skills, shot selection, movement and hand speed have all been great weapons for him. Like Srisaket he is best known for his bouts with Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada and sadly like Srisaket his career is certainly winding down his career. He's currently 33 and has gone 4-4 in his last 8 bouts, suffered his sole stoppage loss last time out, to Estrada, and only narrowly squeaked past Jose Maria Cardenas in 2019, in his last win. He looks to have aged, and whilst he put in a great performance against Estrada last year, he was still stoppage in what looks likely to have been one last hurrah from him.
Given both men are past their best, and are likely coming to the end of their careers, which have both been excellent, it can be hard to judge this one. Sadly for Cuadras however we get the feeling this bout is rather personal in the eyes of Srisaket. He will feel that his loss of the title to Cuadras was wrong, and needing to wait so long to get his hands on the Mexican in a rematch would have just infuriated him more. The Thai will be hungry for revenge and that hunger, we feel, will drive him on. Not just to win, but to win quickly than Estrada did, afterall he's hunting another bout with Estrada himself. We suspect a very fired up Srisaket starts fast, looks to bully Cuadras, who will be slower than he was in their first meeting, and will break him down to the body. The Mexican, has lost some of the speed and movement which kept him out of harm at times in their first bout, and that will be a major issue here against the pressure of Srisaket.
We expect to see Cuadras make a fight of it at times, but will be broken down in the middle rounds and stopped as Srisaket becomes the first ever 3 time WBC Super Flyweight champion.
Prediction - TKO7 Srisaket
In 2020 the Minimumweight division got one it's most notable results in recent years as Panya Pradabsri (37-1, 23) dethroned long term WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (55-1, 19), ending Menayothin's unbeaten record, at 54 fights, and 6 year reign as the WBC champion. The bout wasn't just a changing of the guard at 105lbs, but was also a really good bout, with fantastic back and forth, and was, genuinely, one of the best bouts the division has seen in the last decade or so, with Panya taking a close, and some what controversial decision.
Interestingly going into that bout Wanheng had announced his retirement, he had complained about health issues, and it seemed almost as if the bout was little more than a passing of the torch from one of the faces of Thai boxing to the next generation. In the bout however Wanheng didn't look like someone wanting to retire. In fact he looked like someone who was angry about the way his promoter had treat him, and he gave Panya all he could handle, as if Wanheng was himself wanting to ruin the plans of the promoters of the event.
Coming in to this bout things feel very, very different to how they did ahead of their first bout. Wanheng isn't openly talking about retirement, he hasn't got a 54 fight unbeaten run, or the WBC title and instead he's coming in as the challenger. He's also coming in as a man who will want to reclaim what he lost in November 2020. He is however now 36 years old, and that is absolutely ancient for a Minimumweight fighter. Sure we have had an older Minimumweight world champion, with Muhammad Rachman winning the WBA title aged 39, but 36 is still very, very old for the division. For a fighter with the style of Wanheng, age is a potential issue, as he presses forward, uses pressure, and combinations to win rounds, and doesn't have the "Rock Breaker" power of someone like Rachman.
On the other hand Panya has shines as a champion. He won the title, as previously mentioned, back in November 2020, but since then he has only defend the title once, and that was a surprisingly competitive bout with Danai Ngiabphukhiaw, more competitive than the scores cards suggested. He has taken the title and improved since winning the belt, but has seemingly plateaued, or even started to regress. He's 30 himself, which is certainly youngster for the division, and he has got people breathing down his neck for a world title fight, not just Wanheng. We get the feeling that, whilst Wanheng was a long term champion, Panya is going to be something akin to a transitional champion, holding the belt for just a few short years before someone really takes the title, and runs with it.
In the ring Wanheng is one of the smarter Minimumweights. He's not a heavy handed fighter, like some of the emerging fighters in the division, or a man with a huge work rate, or incredible speed. Instead he's a consistent, intelligent pressure fighter, who uses a tight guard, deliberate foot based pressure, a good solid jab, and lets combinations go when he's up close. He's tough, he has a very solid defense, and knows how to win rounds, when to put his foot on the gas, and when to cruise. He's crafty, skilled, and even at 36 it's hard to imagine his skills fading too much with his age, though his work rate might be less than it was back in 2020. The one main issue for him is his footwork, he was never the quickest, and at 36 we imagine his feet will be slower than ever before.
Panya on the other hand is a boxer puncher. He likes to have full extension on his shots, have some space to work with and his straight punches are his keys to victory. Notably he is one of the best body punchers at 105lbs, and he has got a good work rate. He's struggled when fighters have been quicker than him, something we saw against Danai where he never really pinned down his man, but he's not slow himself and when he is the quicker man he can use the ring really well on the back foot, as well on the front foot. He's heavy handed for a Minimumweight, without being a truly destructive fighter, and his shots do have an effect, though we do wonder if that power can hold against genuine world level fighters.
In their first fight Panya started well, took an early lead, and managed to just keep his nose in the end. That was despite a huge effort from Wanheng late on as he looked to take out Panya and keep a hold of his belt. It was an effort that showed the veteran still had plenty of life in his legs, and was a good enough finish to make many feel he had done enough to retain his title, though that wasn't a view shared by any of the judges.
This time around we expect something similar. We expect to see Panya start well, but we expect his good start to continue deeper into the fight, before Panya gets on his toes in the final rounds, neutralising the pressure and big finish of Wanheng. Much like the first bout this be competitive, it will be exciting, and much like the first bout, Panya will retain his title with a close decision. Though this time around this will be less close than their first bout.
Prediction - UD12 Panya
The first world title fight to contain an Asian this year will see unbeaten Filipino Mark Magsayo (23-0, 16) get his long awaited first shot at a title, as he takes on WBC Featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr (31-1, 18). On paper this is a really good match up, between a top champion, albeit a horrible inactive one who has been wasting his career since winning the title, and an unbeaten contender who is incredibly talented, but also very clearly flawed. It's a bout with a lot of questions about both men going in, and it's a bout which will end with either one man paying for inactivity, or another paying for the flaws which have plagued in recent bouts.
If he was more active there is a very, very genuine chance we'd be talking about Gary Russell Jr as a future hall of famer. His talent is incredible, he's staggeringly quick and he's made good fighters look poor and his performances have had glimpses of boxing genius. He made Jhonny Gonzalez look terrible, when he won the WBC title in 2015, he went on to defend the title against future champions Joseph Diaz and Kiko Martinez, who holds a title in the same division today, and has good wins over the likes of Tugstsogt Nyamabayar. Sadly those those wins are spread over 5 years. Since winning the title, in March 2015, he has only defended it 5 times in almost 7 years, and has shown that whilst he's incredibly skilled, he's lacking hunger to show how good he really is.
Whilst he's not in the ring often enough, for anyone's liking, there is no denying Russell Jr's ability. He is a brilliant boxer, with legitimately scary hand speed, great movement, very impressive reactions and timing, and some of the most blistering combinations in the sport. He's not the biggest puncher out there, but thanks to his speed his shots carry plenty of pop, and stoppages over the likes of Gonzalez and Martinez have come from his speed. Afterall, it's the punches a fighter doesn't see that do the most damage and when Russell lets shots go fighters don't typically see them. When looking for flaws with Russell Jr they are genuinely hard to come by. One of the few is his lack of reach, and that could be a problem if he was to face someone like WBO champion Emanuel Navarrete or Mexican contender Rey Vargas, and another is the fact he slows as fights go on, and if he doesn't stop an opponent, things do tend to get tougher for him in the second half of a fight, an issue likely exacerbated by his inactivity. Even then, when he does slow down, he is still lightning quick, but does often look a little bit human for a few rounds, and that is likely where a top fighter could make him pay.
Aged 26 Mark Magsayo is a fighter coming in to his prime, and he does so with a lot of experience, having debuted back in 2013 at the age of 17. In his early years as a professional the Filipino boxing press were really excited about him and he was seen as a future star of Filipino boxing for ALA Gym, who were the big promoter in the Philippines at the time. Whilst his talent was obvious, he was moved somewhat oddly. His first 13 bouts really didn't see him tested, and then he was thrown in with Chris Avalos in 2016, that was a real test, and saw Magsayo digging deep to pull himself off the canvas to stop Avalos. Then there was some poor opponents again before he was given a real test in 2017 by Japan's Shota Hayashi, in what was much closer than the 116-112 scorecards suggested. Having moved to 17-0 the then 22 year old Magsayo should have been kept on the fringes of world rankings, with more character building bouts against fighters similar to Avalos and Hayashi. Instead however he fell out with ALA and eventually left the Filipino promotional power house, and was out of the ring for over a year. In recent bouts we've seen him finally taking on the sort of bouts he should have had a year or two earlier, including a tough test with Rigoberto Hermosillo and a real gut check over Julio Ceja. Both of which showed he could dig deep, but both also showed that there was a lack in his boxing education and development.
In the ring there is no denying that Magsayo is a talent. He's quick, sharp, has good foot work, lovely variation in his shots, real grit and determination, and it's clear there is the foundation there for a future world champion. Sadly however he often relies too much on his skills and looking good in the ring, and can often look incredibly lazy as a result. He looks brilliant when he lets his hands go, but doesn't do it enough, he can be backed up too easily, giving the view that his opponent is having more success than they really should, and he also looks really bad under pressure. Were it not for his heart and determination it's possible he could have had 3 or 4 losses to his name, in all honesty without his heart we suspect he'd have lost against Avalos, Hayashi, Hermosillo and Ceja, and being truthful they weren't world class, at least not when they fought Magsayo.
Another issue with Magsayo is since linking up with Freddy Roach, he has tried to adapt his style somewhat, and looks like a fighter wanting to conserve energy, making us wonder whether Roach is maybe aware of a stamina issue with Magsayo, something that could explain some of his in ring laziness.
Early on we expect this to be at least a little bit interesting. Magsayo isn't as quick or as sharp as Russell Jr, but there is certainly some speed in his hands, and we suspect he will look to time and counter Russell Jr. Sadly though that will only work for a round or two as Russell Jr takes a look at what Magsayo has to offer, and shakes some ring rust. As we go through the rounds however Magsayo's laziness will show and that will come at the same time as Russell Jr begins to feel more and more confident. When that happens we expect to see the American pick apart the Filipino to force a stoppage in the middle rounds.
Prediction - TKO6 Russell Jr
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.