The Minimumweight division is one of the most frustrating in the sport, right now. There is a lot of talent in the division, not something that can often be said about the 105lb weight class, but that talented doesn't seem to be on a collision course of any kind. Instead it seems like the 4 champions are likely to be kept apart. Whilst that's frustrating there is, thankfully, enough contenders to keep the division interesting. One of those is Mexican Moises Calleros (28-7-1, 16), who will be in Japan this coming weekend to challenge WBO champion Ryuya Yamanaka (15-2, 4), who will be making his first defense of the title.
For those who haven't followed the division Calleros fought in Japan in February 2017, losing to Tatsuya Fukuhara for the then vacant WBO title. In his first defense Fukuhara lost the title to Yamanaka. Interestingly both of those fights were razor thin action bouts, and Fukuhara later went on to prove he was world class with a fantastic losing performance to WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin.
Since losing the Fukuhara just over a year ago the 28 year old Calleros has been busy with 3 fights, all wins. These haven't been against the best fighters but they have included a win against former world champion Mario Rodriguez.
For those who haven't seen Calleros he's an ultra aggressive, come forward fighter with a high work rate, a very exciting style and someone who will be a handful for pretty much anyone at 105lbs. He's not the biggest puncher, but has under-rated power, which combined with his volume does make him very dangerous. At 28 he's coming into his prime, he's fairly big fighter for a Minimumweight and has fought at Flyweight a number of times.
At the lower weights competition for contenders to face on their way up can be a bit thin. Calleros however has faced good fighters through his career. This has included a narrow loss to Julian Yedras, 12 round decision loss to Francisco Rodriguez Jr, a win over Carlos Perez, the loss to Fukuhara and the aforementioned win over Mario Rodriguez. He might not be in the top 10 of the division, but he's certainly not too far outside of that group.
As mentioned Fukuhara lost the title to Yamanaka in his first defense, last August. Since the the 22 year old champion hasn't fought, but has clearly been preparing hard for his first defence and to continue his 8 fight winning run.
The Japanese youngster made his professional debut at the age of 17 and struggled at times early in, going 7-2, with an opening round loss to Kenta Shimizu in his 5th bout and an upset loss to Roque Lauro in 2014. Since that loss to Lauro however we're see Yamanaka his his stride with notable wins against Takahiro Murai, Ronelle Ferreras, Merlito Sabillo and Tatsuya Fukuhara. Like the challenger he's a busy fighter, who will throw a lot of punches. Technically he's a bit limited, but with his youthful energy he's got good stamina, beating Fukuhara at his own game, good speed and an under-rated boxing brain.
Sadly Yamanaka does lack fire power. He's only scored 4 stoppages in 18 bouts, and only 2 in his last 11 bouts, with the last two of those coming against terrible Thai visitors. His lack of power will be an issue at world level, and whilst he has got the energy, speed and skills to hold the title for a bit against the right types of opponents, though against someone like Hiroto Kyoguchi he would likely be ripped apart due to the significant differences in power and physical strength.
Coming in to this one we're expecting a really thrilling bout. Sadly though we feel that the maturity and physical strength of Calleros will be the difference. The two will have an insane action bout, but the challenger will be too strong for the champion, who is one of the sports youngest current champions and will obviously be able to come again in the future, with a bit more experience and physical development.
The Light Flyweight division is, arguably, the strongest ion the sport right now and also the most varied. It has boxers, like Ken Shiro and Pedro Guevara, it has action swarmers like Ryoichi Taguchi and Tetsuya Hisada, it has big punchers like Angel Acosta, Felix Alvarado and Jonathan Taconing and it has insane depth with about 15 world class fighters, many of whom are facing each other. It really is an incredible division mixing talent, depth and styles in a way that no other division is really doing.
This coming Sunday we again see the division look to deliver something special as two talented and unbeaten fighters, with different styles, face off for a world title.
The bout in question sees Japanese swarmer Reiya Konish (15-0, 5) risking his unbeaten record against Venezuelan puncher Carlos Canizales (19-0-1, 16), with both men looking to become the WBA “regular” Light Flyweight champion, and earn a shot at getting a fight with the aforementioned Taguchi.
Fighting at home Konishi will be the fan favourite for the bout, but in the eyes of many internationally he is the unknown having never fought above Japanese domestic level. The 24 year old from Kobe is however someone who is pretty proven having won the 2014 Rookie of the Year and the Japanese Minimumweight title, which he defended twice during a 9 month reign. He won the domestic title last April, defeating the talented Masataka Taniguchi, before defending hit against multi-time world title challenger Shin Ono and mandatory challenger Kenta Matsui. After the win over Matsui we saw Konishi vacate and turn his attention on to the Light Flyweight division, as if to admit his body was struggling to continue to boil down to 105lbs.
In the ring Konishi is an incredibly busy fighter with a style that involves boring forward with his hands flowing freely and a lot of leather being thrown. It's not the prettiest of styles, but it is an exciting one to watch, and he seems to be able to combine his high level of activity with accuracy and toughness. Technically he's not the most talented, or fluid of fighters, but he's someone who looks very tricky to beat, and almost impossible to out work. A big question is whether or not his style will be effective at 108lb or at world level.
Hardcore fans might remember Canizales for his draw, which happened at the end of 2016 when he challenged Ryoichi Taguchi. The bout saw some suggest that Canizales was hard done to, others suggest Taguchi had been the clear winner, but the judges were all over the place with one judge scoring the bout 116-112 to Canizales, another giving the same score to Taguchi and the third giving it a 114-114 draw. The reality, in some ways, is that Taguchi under-performed in that bout, however Canizales is a very solid fighter. The Venezuelan is a naturally heavy handed fighter, with a solid jab, a good rate and a dangerous mixture of aggression, combinations and power.
Whilst Canizales certainly looks incredibly dangerous, and has a record which backs that up, there is huge question marks about his competition. His biggest bout is the Taguchi bout, obviously, and then a win over Robert Barrera comes a somewhat distant second. Other than that, there is almost nothing of note on his record. If anything his record suggests he's merely cleaned out the local scene in Venezuela, taking on limited foe after limited foe. His record might look impressive but it's paper thin and a win over Konishi would be a career best.
Given that both men are aggressive, action fighters who throw a lot of leather we're expecting something very special. Both men like to come forward, and we're expecting to see that happen here in a FOTY contender. On paper Canizales has the edge in power whilst Konishi has the home advantage. On paper Canizales is the fighter more proven at 108lbs, but Konishi the fighter with more experience against good competition. It's a hard one to call, but we're leaning toward Konishi taking the decision in a truly action packed war, which will see a lot of punches thrown and a lot of fantastic, jaw dropping exchanges.
This will be close, great fun and something for the fans at the Portopia Hotel to really savour, and we think those fans will help Konishi take the win and the title.
Last year we saw Kazakh born Sergey Lipinets (13-0, 10) claim the IBF Light Welterweight title, as he out pointed Japan's Akihiro Kondo in a tougher than expected bout. The competitiveness of the contest took a lot of shine from Lipinets' rise to a title, which had otherwise been brilliant with wins over the likes of Cosme Rivera, Kendal Mena, Haskell Rhodes, Levan Ghamichava, Walter Castillo and Leonardo Zappavigna, stopping all but Rhodes. This coming Saturday Lipinets will be looking to get back to his destructive best, and record his first defense, but will be facing the biggest test of his career so far, multi-weight former world champion Mikey Garcia (37-0, 30).
The Kazakh born Russian, who is now based in the US, looked great on his rise through the ranks. We've already listed most of his opponents, and for a fighter with just 13 fights that is stiff competition. He looked tough, aggressive, very hard hitting, exciting and explosive. Those traits however failed him somewhat against Kondo, who took his biggest shots and marched forward, as if to ask for more, before timing Lipinets and dragging him into deep water in later rounds.
Despite the bout with Kondo being a disappointment in many ways for Lipinets it did manage to have some positives. It showed he could win a big one, he could grit out a tough fight, go 12 rounds and despite not being as good as we thought he was, he's still a world champion. And we've all seen fighters get better after winning world titles, with some fighters really finding themselves after winning a world title and refusing to let it go.
In the ring Lipinets is a bit basic. He's got some touches of flash, but overall it's his power and toughness which has shone. He appears to take a very good shot, and have series power of his own. He's not the quickest, but he does have that surprising speed and timing that really does seem to be common with a lot of those fighters who have come through the Eastern European ranks, but he stills has some traits from being a kickboxer and can regularly be found low hands, and a stance that looks little off, and could be taken advantage of by a talented fight.
In Mikey Garcia we have one of the sports best technical fighters. He controls the ring brilliantly behind a really smart boxing brain. He sets the tempo, he knows how to back off and come forward behind his jab and footwork, he knows how to use the ring, and has the frightening power that makes all fighters respect him. That power has managed to carry up from Featherweight, where he won his first world title back in 2013, to Lightweight, where he iced Dejan Zlaticanin last year. When opponents can take his power, as Adrien Broner could, he boxes behind his jab and right hand, staying away from risks to rack up the points and take the decision.
When we're looking for flaws with Garcia we are sometimes looking to pick holes in tiny little things. For example Garcia has looked effective up close, but has still shown some great touches when he's had to fight an opponent in his face, his stamina hasn't looked flawless, but few will force him to fight 12 rounds, and he has been dropped, though recovered well from the knockdown. Few have managed to catch him clean, but it's possible that his chin is his weakest asset, but even then there is little real proof of it.
During his career Garcia has beaten a strong line up of opponents, including He's over-come Orlando Salido, Juan Manuel Lopez, Rocky Martinez, Juan Carlos Burgos, Dejan Zlaticanin and Adrien Broner. Sadly though a 30 month break from the ring during his prime denied him some career defining bouts, including a proposed contest with Yuriorkis Gamboa. Lipinets is less proven than a number of those though is probably the naturally biggest, and hard hitting, fighter Garcia will have faced. Garcia will need to be aware of Lipinet's power and strength, but should feel at ease with his speed and skills.
We suspect that Lipinets will fight different to how he did against Kondo. Kondo is naturally the same size as Lipinets, is teak tough and would walk through a lot to get his own shots off. Garcia on the other hand will be looking to suck Lipinets into coming to him, and as the bigger fighter Lipinets will be looking to use his physicality to pressure Garcia. In a boxing contest this bout will be a huge mismatch, Garcia is too good, too smart and too quick. But Lipinets' power, strength and aggression could be a nightmare for Garcia, especially if the champion can get Garcia out of his comfort zone.
We favour Garcia to come out on top, keeping his wits and fighting his fight, but there is certainly a hint of danger here for excellent Californian fighter, who will need to avoid the power of Lipinets as best he can.
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.