Over the last year or so the Minimumweight division has, sadly, been asleep. In 2020 we only had each world title fought for once, and three of those bouts came within weeks of each other. The pandemic pretty much shut the division down at the top level with very few fighters in action and very few bouts of note taking place in the division. In fact not only did we only have 3 world title bouts but we also only had a single OPBF title bout, a single Japanese title bout, and no WBO Asia Pacific title bouts. The division damn near stood still, other than Panya Pradabsri's upset win over Wanheng Menayothin.
With that in mind we hope 2021 is a much better year for the division, and in fairness we expect it to be, with several interesting looking bouts at 105lbs now being lined up. One of which comes on February 27th and will see IBF champion Pedro Taduran (14-2-1, 11) defending his title against fellow Filipino Rene Mark Cuarto (18-2-2, 11) in a rare All-Filipino world title bout. The bout will be Taduran's second defense of the title he won in 2019 and it will be Cuarto's first world title bout. It will also be a bout that will help shape the division for the foreseeable future, given that both fighters are only 24 years old.
Of the two men the hard hitting Taduran is the more well known. He first came the attention of the wider boxing world in 2018, when he challenged the then WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin, and gave the Thai all he could handle in a compelling and highly competitive 12 rounder. That bout proved that Taduran belong in, or around, the top 10 and just 13 months later he beat Samuel Salva in a thrilling war to claim the then vacant IBF title. That win saw Taduran sit on the verge of something big, though sadly he was unable to capitalise. His first defense saw him travel to Mexico last February and battle Daniel Valladares, with a headclash resulting in a technical draw. Had Covid19 not been an issue there is a very good chance we'd have seen Taduran return to the ring in the summer or fall to make his second defense, but sadly it wasn't to be.
In the ring Taduran is a genuine handful. He's a southpaw, he's heavy handed, he's aggressive, he throws a lot, he comes forward and he's really awkward. Technically he's a very, very flawed fighter. He's raw, crude, and often open. Something that Salva punished him for early on in their bout. He is however the type of fighter who doesn't understand what it means to quit, and won't back off. He's relentless and uses his awkwardness and energy to break fighters down. It seems clear he can be out boxed, and he can be out skilled, but very few will have the tools to out box him for 12 rounds, or the durability to survive with his whirlwind offense.
When it comes to Rene Mark Cuarto we suspect very few, outside of the Philippines at least, have seen him in action. That's despite the fact he's been a professional since 2014 and has 22 professional bouts to his name. The main reason that many won't have seen Cuarto is because, for the most part, he's not really fought anyone of note. In fact his most notable bouts are a close win in 2018, against Clyde Azarcon, and a 2019 loss to Samuel Salva. Those two bouts aside his only other bout of real was a 6 round decision with the unbeaten Jayson Vayson. Thankfully there is footage of him out there, and on tape he looks solid enough. He's got a busy jab, he's quick on his toes, he moves around the ring well, and technically looks solid.
Sadly for Cuarto there's a big gulf between looking solid and being world class. We like a lot of what we see of Cuarto, but there are issues that will be a problem here. He doesn't look powerful or particularly strong. He doesn't seem to impose himself very well, and his jab aside it's hard to really be impressed by much in is arsenal. He simply doesn't enough at times and appears to be just a tad lazy at times. In his bout against Salva, for example, he really failed to move through the gears, happy to try and win the bout with his jab, rather than letting shots fly late on when he was behind.
Technically we think that Cuarto is the better boxer. He's certainly the more polished and has the more technical approach to in ring action. Sadly however his lack of power, and lower work rate will not help him here. His jab might keep Taduran at bay for a few rounds, but as the contest goes on that jab by it's self won't be enough. Instead Taduran's pressure and work rate will be the difference maker and get to Cuarto.
We suspect Cuarto will show a lot of heart and determination, but we also expect to see Taduran's power and output get too much, and we're expecting a late TKO win for the defending champion, who may well be behind on the scorecards after the first 6 rounds.
Prediction - TKO9 Taduran
By Troy Parslow
Boxing has seen it’s share of mercurial talent—fighters whose blowing hot and cold is often independent of their brilliant skill or opposition. This fickle sport rewards their drama, but not without frustration.
In the context of current fighters, I think of Kosei Tanaka’s silver bullet left hook to body bailing him out in the fights he couldn’t help himself, and I think of one it’s victims: Vic Saludar.
Next week, one half of the impossible Saludar clan’s two championship contenders, Vic, 20-4 (11), takes on obscure Robert Paradero, 18-0 (12), in an all-Filipino clash for a secondary WBA ‘regular’ minimumweight title. Months in the making, this Elorde promotion will take place outdoors at the Binan football stadium on February 20th.
Vic, born Victorio Saludar, in Polomolok, is perhaps conspicuous by his absence amongst reigning minimumweight champions. He’s long since had the ability, and in 2019 he had the belt (WBO). Even then it had taken him until his second attempt to realise; having built a lead, with the help of a knockdown, challenging Kosei Tanaka earlier in the same WBO lineage, before the aforementioned falling victim to a left hand solution. There’s no shame in succumbing to a rare dynamism, of course, but the same inconsistencies would follow Saludar in his career. If he wasn’t already rebuilding, he would go on to be shocked by the warring Toto Landero a year later, dropping a ten round split decision.
In 2018, having recovered from shock defeat with two wins over Mike Kinaadman and a second over Lito Dante, Saludar won WBO glory at the second time of asking. Travelling away to Japan to strip underrated Ryuya Yamanaka of his title in a well-contested fight, and returning to successfully defend against talented Masataka Taniguchi, just as it looked for all the world that Saludar could pass championship muster, his second defence saw him so desperately drop his belt to inexperienced Puerto Rican Wilfredo Mendez. Not a favourable style match up, or one that covered either of them in particular glory, more disappointing was Saludar’s lack of urgency or worse yet, answers.
Just in his last fight (December 2019), despite going on to win by stoppage, Saludar was dropped by journeyman Mike Kinaadman for the first time in three meetings. Now 30, if he is to put it to rights and redefine his career, he has to start against Robert Paradero.
If Paradero, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, is equally conspicuous, it would in his absence of meaningful fights. Still early in his career, just 24 years old, it’s not for us to decide how he builds, but, naturally, there’s the question of his ability to contend. Of his 18 wins, the one of most significance came in his last fight, in which he stopped Jonathon Almacen in the first round. Fine form, if lacking in real substance for it’s early finish. I don’t think anyone would argue that with Almacen and seventeen much of a muchness journeymen to his name, ‘Inggo’ isn’t charitably ranked. But, for now, it won’t matter to him: his competition has afforded him the opportunity, and there’s nothing immaterial about this next step up.
In the ring, one might describe Paradero’s fighter as a livewire. That is to say, although he’s erratic and not technically sound, he’s elastic and busy. His movement has looked excessive on occasion, and much of his defence relies on reflexes: reacting in time to slip punches he’s seen coming or bounce out of range. He is improving here though, and in the short time against Almacen he was moving his head more as he circled. I think Paradero looks at his best here, circling, raiding and bouncing back out at a new angle. Raiding like this gets the most out of his in and out footwork and leaping attacks, without exposing him for as long in the pocket. He can mix it up close with dedicated body punching and the use of throwaway punches to engineer the space, but his balance is poor and his loose punching form and lack of proactive defence can leave him wide open.
By contrast, Saludar is a tight, neat puncher. He’s more balanced than Paradero, more proactive and in turn, a lot more comfortable moving in the pocket and punching off of sidesteps and pivots. He’s a bona fide puncher, but in the shape of a very capable boxer, occupying his opponents guard to take an angle to exit the pocket, step around them or circle, he doesn’t always look for opportunities to set his feet and punch enough. Regardless, a dexterous right hand and sensitivity for distance and timing keep him dangerous when any opponent is stepping to him.
Saludar has tended to looked comfortable enough all the time he’s been allowed the freedom to step in and out of range at his own discretion—and even then he can get complacent—but without that same autonomy, he’s less fluid. Against Wilfredo Mendez, for example, with the onus on him to pressure, he was exposed for his inability to cut off the ring and he couldn’t get anything going.
Granted, it’s a fight largely of unknowns, namely the form of Saludar and Paradero’s ability to step up, but it’s not one I’d want to back against a former champions relative cunning. I do think, if he approaches it maturely and Saludar obliges him, Paradero can enjoy success baiting, circling and raiding when Saludar picks his feet up. Ultimately, though, he’s not better than Saludar at any one thing, and I doubt he has the consistency himself, at this stage, to gameplan to win this fight raiding off the back foot. He leaves himself exposed in transition too often and he hasn’t had the fights to prove it won’t be a problem.
Saludar is a heavy favourite. But he’s also a Saludar, and thereby no sure thing.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
A massacre will take place one day before Valentine’s Day, as Maksim Vlasov & Joe Smith Jr are set to go to war for the vacant WBO Light Heavyweight championship.
The 16 year veteran Maksim Vlasov (46-3/25 KOs) will soon be entering his 50th professional fight, with the chance to cement his legacy and finally call himself a world champion. The road to that dream however has been quite long and not without its hiccups.
Vlasov began his career back in 2005 at Super Middleweight, where he ended up being undefeated. His most significant win in the division was against former European champion & 4x world title challenger Khoren Gevor (34-10).
As a Light Heavyweight, Vlasov suffered only 2 losses, a controversial one to Isaac Chilemba (26-7), which was avenged in 2019 and a close match with the unbeaten Gilbert Ramirez (41-0). In that bout, Vlasov had problems with his endurance, due to the weight cutting, which is why he then moved up to Cruiserweight.
It was there, where the Russian had his big moment, when he came face to face with 2008 Olympic champion Rakhim Chakhkiev (26-3) for the vacant WBA International title. Vlasov shined that night. He scored a fast knockdown in the 2nd with a short right hook and rocked Chakhkiev hard at the end of the round. The fight could have possibly ended there, had it not been for the timekeeper mistakenly ringing the bell 15 seconds earlier than he should have. Vlasov nailed him again with a straight right hand in the 5th, scoring a second knockdown. The action picked up in the next round, as Chakhkiev dropped him with a liver shot of his own. The two men continued to trade bombs until Vlasov returned the favour, flooring the Olympian for the third time. At the 7th round, Vlasov put Chakhkiev down for good this time, after connecting with a plethora of punches and another straight right to the jaw. It undoubtedly was the most spectacular battle of an already great night of boxing. (Gassiev vs. Lebedev was the co-main event, while names like Kudryashov and Troyanovsky were also competing)
Vlasov qualified for the 2018 Cruiserweight WBSS tournament, after dominating former WBC Silver champion Olanrewaju Durodola (34-8), only to be eliminated by Krzysztof Glowacki (31-2) at the quarter finals. After that defeat, he switched back to Light Heavyweight and quickly captured the WBO Global title, winning 4 fights in a row over Omar Garcia (16-4), Isaac Chilemba (26-7) as aforementioned, Emmanuel Martey (15-1) and Sergei Ekimov (18-2), earning himself another crack at the gold. In order to fulfil his longtime goal though, he will have to go thrown a very rugged opponent.
A bona fide KO artist that possesses massive power in both hands, Joe Smith Jr (26-3/21 KOs) has ended most of his fights within 6 rounds.
His first major victory came in 2016, when he took on former IBO champion Andrzej Fonfara (30-5) for the WBC International title. In a surprising turn of events, Smith put the Polish fighter down midway of the opening round with a thunderous right hook, before finishing him off just a few seconds later.
Smith would then go on to knock an aged Bernard Hopkins (55-8) out of the ring, successfully defending his belt and moving up in the rankings. However his momentum was momentarily cut short after losing to Sullivan Barrera (22-3) in a world title eliminator. Despite dropping him in the 1st, Smith didn’t do enough as the fight progressed to get the decision. He returned to action almost a year later (Smith’s jaw was broken in the Barrera match) and quickly earned himself an opportunity at the WBA champion Dmitry Bivol (17-0), but was completely outclassed during their encounter, giving the undefeated Russian some trouble only in the 10th round.
In 2020, he made another strong comeback, this time against 2x world title challenger Jesse Hart (26-3). A relentless Smith kept the pressure on, continuously moving forward and throwing way more punches than his opponent. After 10 punishing rounds and 1 knockdown, Smith was once again back on track.
He solidified his place at the top of the Light Heavyweight rankings last August, with an impressive performance over Eleider Alvarez (25-2). Smith overwhelmed the former WBO champion, virtually leaving him no room for an offense of his own. By the 5th round, Alvarez had already a bruised face and was bleeding profusely from the nose. Smith finally connected with a sharp straight right in the mush, following it up with a left, to drop Eleider and become the #1 contender for the vacant WBO crown. The “working” Joe is now only a step away from realizing his full potential and claim his first world title.
When you take a closer look at these 2 guys, you can find similarities in their careers as well as their styles. Both are pressure fighters and even though they have a strong right hand, usually it’s not a one hit punch that does the job. They tend to beat down their opponents before finishing them off with it. Moreover, both men have a good chin. Vlasov has never been stopped in his entire career, while Smith has only been once, but that was a decade ago. Power wise, Joe has to be considered the stronger fighter. In spite of Vlasov having more knockouts, Smith has the higher KO ratio. On the other hand, Vlasov has the better footwork and knows how to properly use his reach to his advantage. As far as their resumes are concerned, each man hold wins over accomplished boxers, but the main difference is in their career’s trajectory. Smith’s best performances came last year, whereas Vlasov’s “best hits” belong in the past. It’s also worth mentioning that the Russian fighter seems to have lost some of his knockout power since moving back to Light Heavyweight, where Smith is looking stronger than ever before.
All things considered, Smith must be considered the favourite in this match, but at the same time, Vlasov has proven to be a formidable fighter and not an easy one to dispose of. If he manages to keep his distance and cuts off Smith’s barrage, we might be looking at the 4th Russian born Light Heavyweight champion of the world.
This coming Saturday in Indio, California we’ll see IBF Super Featherweight champion Joseph Diaz (31-1, 15) make his first defense as he takes on mandatory challenger Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0, 12) in what looks like a really exciting match up. This is not just a step up for the challenger, who gets a great chance to compete in front of a global audience for the first time, but also a match up that stylistically, should be something very exciting due to the mentality of the two men involved, who can both put on a show.
Diaz, the champion, is the much, much more well known fighter and was a US Olmypian in 2012, where he was beaten by Cuban star Lazaro Alvarez. After turning professional there was huge expectations on Diaz and he would begin his career with 26 straight wins before taking on WBC Featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr in 2018, in Diaz's first world title fight. Sadly against Russell Jr we saw Diaz suffer his first loss, losing a competitive but clear decision to the speedy and slick Russell Jr. Following that loss Diaz attempted to win the WBA Featherweight title, but failed to make weight leading to him moving up in weight and fighting at Super Featherweight. Since moving up in weight he has looked impressive, and scored noteworthy wins against Charles Huerta, Freddy Fonseca and, most notably, Tevin Farmer, with that win over Farmer netting him the IBF world title.
Diaz isn’t the quickest, the smoothest, the most powerful or the best fighter out there. He is however, a fighter. He comes for a fight, he likes to dictate the action, let his hands go and be responsible for the way the fight is going. He is, at heart, a pressure fighter, and a physically strong one at that. Despite moving up in weight recently he is physically imposing at 130lbs, and will bully and push people around. Against a speedy boxer, who uses their feet, he can be left chasing shadows, but against a fighter who stands and fights, or tries to slip and side in the pocket, he can end up out working and out fighting them. That’s where he’s most dangerous, and where fighters need to try and avoid him, his work rate, energy and will to win are incredible, and it showed against Farmer when he fought much of the bout with a brutal cut.
Whilst Diaz is a well known fighter in the US, and is someone who has been in and around the world level for a few years now, it’s fair to say that few, outside of those who watch Russian shows held by RCC Promotions, will have seen him. If we’re being honest that’s actually a shame as the Russian based Tajik is a very fun fighter to watch and someone who fans should be more aware of before this coming weekend.
The Tajik was a solid amateur before beginning his professional career back in 2015, fighting in low key Russian shows whilst slowly building his experience and his record. In 2016 he began to step up, and scored a number of decent wins over well known Filipino fighters. Soon afterwards he began to face progressively better opponents, beating the likes of Emanuel Lopez, Malcolm Klassen and Robinson Castellano to build his name. In 2019 he finally got a chance to move towards a world title fight as he travelled to South Africa and took on Azinge Fuzile in an IBF world title eliminator. The bout saw Rakhimov struggle with the move, speed and skills of Fuzile early in the bout, but as the bout went on, and as Fuzile began to slow down, we finally saw the power of Rakhimov, who scored a great come from behind stoppage win.
Rakhimov, much like Diaz, is an aggressive fighter who wants to come forward, he’s a bit more basic than Diaz, and doesn’t apply a busy pressure style like the American, but does have a very brutal body attack and he is a bigger puncher than the American. Sadly though he is also someone with a questionable chin, and he has been dropped several times in his career, at a much lower. At his best Rakhimov is an aggressive boxer-puncher, and if he can maintain range he is very good. Sadly for him that won’t be an easy task here, and there is a very real chance he’ll struggle to create the space he needs to work with against Diaz. If he can create that space however, he does have a real chance here.
If we’re being honest Rakhimov is a good fighter. He’s a dangerous fighter, with solid power, a nice strong base and good fundamentals. He’s genuinely heavy handed and someone who can hold their own in a genuine firefight. Sadly though his suspect chin, added to his lower work rate will be an issue here. Diaz can be out boxed, he can be out manouvered and out skilled, however if a fighter isn’t too quick and too sharp for him, he will grind a result out against them. That’s exactly what we expect to see here. We suspect that Rakhimov will have success at times, especially when he can create range and land some solid body work, however we suspect that the pressure, work rate and energy of Diaz will be too much. We’re expecting Diaz to simply out work and out land Rakhimov, to end up taking a clear, but hard fought, decision win.
Although we do favour Diaz, we are expecting this to be a fantastic fight. Diaz’s pressure and work rate will make the fight fun and exciting to watch, with Rakhimov’s power potentially adding some drama to the bout. Despite thinking Rakhimov will lose we do think he’ll connect with fans and fans will want to see him again afterwards, and he will do enough to be competitive at times. He’ll lose, but put in a very good effort.
Prediction - UD12 Diaz
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.