Over the last few years we have had some real frustrations at Light Heavyweight, where we have a lot of potentially interesting match ups to be made. Sadly however the bouts to define the division hasn't taken place, and instead two main fighters in the division have haf major issues securing the career defining bout they need. One of those is the much avoided Artur Beterbiev, who punches like a truck and has long been avoided, and the other is Dmitry Bivol (17-0, 11), who is skilled but lacks in terms drawing power and excitement.
Bivol has been the WBA "Super" champion for several years now, and has a string of good victories to his name, including the likes of Sullivan Barrera, Jean Pascal and Joe Smith Jr, but has failed to land a massive monster fight. That wait for a career defining bout will need to continue, but thankfully he is in action on May 1st as he looks to keep his WBA "Super" title and his unbeaten record in tact. Sadly though his up coming defense is certainly not one to get the pulse racing. Instead of sharing the ring with a leading divisional fighter he'll be up against Englishman Craig Richards (16-1-1, 9).
The talented Bivol, who was born in Kyrgyzstan and now fights out of Russia, is one of the most technically correct boxers in the Light Heavyweight division and also, potentially, the biggest threat to Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. In fact Bivol has repeatedly offered himself as a potential "Canelo" opponent and offered to drop to Super Middleweight for that bout. Whilst technically very skilled he is, somewhat boring to watch and that seems to be something that he doesn't care about. He's happier to win a dull decision, boxing his way for 12 rounds, and controlling every minute of the bout than to take any risks and give fans anything exciting and memorable.
In terms of quality few match Bivol. He's got a brilliant jab, his understanding of the ring is top notch, he moves around the ring with a lot of ease and sets a high out put. But he keeps everything pretty much the same. He'll set the table with his jab, and then look to follow through with the occasional power shot, all at range. On the inside he holds, forces the referee to reset, and does the same in an attempt to keep the bout being fought as his bout. There is next to no drama in his bouts, which is a shame as early on he was exciting and fought like a man with a point to prove. He began his career 13-0 (11), but recently has been putting on controlled, but dominant displays against some very decent, but unspectacular, competition.
His challenger is much less well known and much less proven. In fact fans outside of the UK probably haven't seen too much of the 30 year old Richards, who has fought all 18 of his bouts in the UK. As with nay British fighters guys early career was relatively unremarkable, with fights against a string of limited journeymen, though his did show enough to be moved towards bigger and better domestic fights, fighting for the British title in his 11th bout. That was a huge step up, against Frank Buglioni, and he gave a really good account of himself, despite losing. Since then he has gone unbeaten, won the British title and proven himself as a solid domestic level fighter. Of course the step up from British level to world level is huge, and despite winning the British title there's still a fair argument that he's only the 5th best in the UK.
Before we get on to Richard's style we will quickly discuss the British Light Heavyweight scene, which is even more frustrating than the global scene. The UK has 5 very good Light Heavyweights. Callum Johnson, Josgua Buatsi, Lydon Arthur, Anthony Yarde and Craig Richards. From those 5 men we've only had one bout between two of them, and that only came last year. We've also seen two of the fighters fight for world titles, and soon to be 3, without any of them proving they are the best domestically. The division, domestically, has so much talent and potential, but politics has really left things feeling underwhelming.
In the ring Richards is a big, tall, rangy fighter. He looks incredibly relaxed and calm in the ring and has real patience behind his work. He's not the quickest, but he is a smart fighter, and a smart, tall fight can be a nightmare for anyone. His footwork is solid, and he uses it will to create distance, but he's not the quickest on his feet. What he does really well is he allows bouts to be fought at a slow pace. He's not an exciting fighter, he's not a fun fighter to watch, but he's technically very solid, with a sharp jab, good counter punching and he applies very intelligent pressure, without taking risks. He's physically imposing and that allows him to pressure in the way he does. Although certainly not a puncher he does have some sting on his shots and his TKO of Shakan Pitters last year was very impressive.
Sadly for Richards this is a monster step up and we think that the step up will be far, far, far too much for him. His patient pressure style has success at domestic level, but we can't see that carrying up to world level, especially not against someone as skilled, strong and focused as Bivol.
We expect to see Richards have some moments early on. He's awkward enough to have some success. But as the rounds go on and the tock ticks away Bivol will get a read on his man, then begin to break him down, grind away at him, and, eventually, beat him into submission. In fact we wouldn't be surprised at all if Bivol manages to score his first stoppage in 3 years and ends a 4 fights decision win.
Prediction - TKO9 Bivol
In 2020 we expect to see a lot of long running saga's come to an end, such as the recent over-due IBF Super Flyweight mandatory title fight between Jerwin Ancajas v Jonathan Javier Rodriguez and the on going WBC Bantamweight title situation between Nordine Oubaali and Nonito Donaire, which was ordered in 2019. Perhaps now saga, however, is quite like the one between Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10) and Tetsuya Hisada (34-10-2, 20), which is now set to take place around 4 years after it was first scheduled! And for honours much, much higher than it would have been for the first time around!
For those who haven't followed the Japanese scene until very recently this bout was originally pencilled when Kenshiro was the Japanese and OPBF Light Flyweight champion, and was supposed to be a mandatory of the Japanese title, as part of the Champion Carnival in 2017. The bout was cancelled at short notice when Kenshiro was able to secure a WBC world title fight with Ganigan Lopez, which he went on to win via majority decision. Whilst Kenshiro became a world champion things didn't stand still for Hisada who ended up beating Kenichi Horikawa in a bloody battle, marred by repeated headclashes, to win the Japanese title and worked his way into a WBA world title fight in 2019 with Hiroto Kyoguchi, losing a competitive decision to Kyoguchi.
If that was chapter 1 in the "Kenshiro Vs Hisada rivalry", and if that ended well for both parties, chapter 2 was a little bit different. The men were to fight late last year, with the bout essentially the worst kept secret in Japanese boxing. It however fell apart weeks before it supposed to take place after news revealed Kenshiro has been involved in a drunken incident that resulted in him being suspended by the JBC. That left a sour taste in the mouth of Hisada and saw some fans question the behaviour of Kenshiro, who in had committed his drunk acts in the summer, well before the bout was supposed to take place but the act hadn't come to light until much later.
Now, with more than 4 years history between the two men, but no bouts, we are now, finally, set to see the two men face off.
Of the two fighters it's Kenshiro, the current and long reigning WBC Light Flyweight champion, who is the much more well known fighter. The baby faced 29 year old is one of the longest reigning active world champions in the sport, having held his title since 2017 and running up 7 defenses. He is from a boxing family, with his father Hisashi being a former Japanese and OPBF champion, and he looks a natural in the ring. Though that should be little surprise for a fighter who was a good amateur and seemed for success when he turned professional in 2014. In the professional ranks he has been moved aggressively but smartly, and won WBC Youth, Japanese and OPBF titles before taking the WBC title in 2017. Since winning his world title he has moved from strength to strength and has visibly grown as a fighter since winning the belt in his 10th professional bout.
Kenshiro is, unlike many active Light Flyweights, a boxer first and foremost, with a style that is based around his speed, movement, and jab, rather than his power and physicality, like many of the top guys in the division. He looks to set the tone with his foot work and jab, picking holes in opponents defenses, making them make errors to counter. He has one of the most under-rated jabs in the sport, with it being quick, sharp and accurate, and also some of the over-looked punch picking of any active fighter. He picks his shots well, whether he's on the front foot or back foot. Given his record, and style, it would be fair to assume he lacked power, but that isn't true and he has stopped 5 of his last 6, Ganigan Lopez, Milan Melindo, Jonathan Taconing and Randy Petalcorin. He can punch, but he doesn't base his style around that power, rather allowing that power to aid his boxing.
Aged 36 Tetsuya Hisada is a true veteran of the sport. With 46 professional bouts to his name is among the most experienced active Japanese fighters and his career dates all the way back to 2003, when he was still a teenager. His record, on paper, isn't all that impressive, but like a fine wine Hisada bloomed late into his career, as he finally found the weight that was suitable for him, a style that worked for him, and gained the experienced he needed to become a success. Proof of that can be seen by looking at Hisada's career after 32 professional bouts. At that point he was aged 30 at the time and was sporting a record of 21-9-2 (11). Since then he has gone 13-1, with his only loss coming in a hotly contest bout with Hiroto Kyoguchi. It's also not like he was padding his record either, instead he beat the likes of Shun Kosaka, who came runner up in the 2014 All Japan Rookie of the Year, Hayato Yamaguchi, who was was a former Japanese title challenger, Atsushi Kakutani, a former world title challenger, and Kenichi Horikawa, who is currently the OPBF Light Flyweight champion.
Many of Hisada's early losses came due to him fighting above his natural weight. He picked a number of losses at Super Flyweight and Flyweight. And a lot of those were close, with 4 split decision losses.
In recent years Hisada has settled at Light Flyweight and become of of the more over-looked fighters in the sport. Hisada defies logic. Despite being the wrong side of 30 he appears to have fantastic stamina, fights at a high work rate, throws a lot of leather, but does so in an educated manner. It's clear he uses his experience well, knowing when to go forward and when to back off. Unlike so many fighters who like to come forward he actually uses his jab as a key weapon, and even doubles it up nicely, whilst looking to line up his straight right hand. Despite fighting at a solid tempo Hisada also does some little things very well. He moves his head a lot, applies pressure behind good footwork and has under-rated power, something his record doesn't reflect due to his numerous bouts above his best fighting weight. Sadly though he is ancient for a Light Flyweight, and having been out of the ring since late 2019 we do wonder what ring rust and father time will have done to him. It's also a massive shame Hisada didn't get the big fights until late in his career, something that is understandable given his losses but still a shame given his ability.
In this bout we're expecting to see some of the history between the two men come out, and we expect to see a frustrated Hisada looking to start fast, with emotion, anger and a sense of resentment coming out. He's usually a calm, collected character, but he was clearly disappointed last year, and we think some of that will come out here. Sadly for himself that would be a mistake, as Kenshiro will pick him away at any error he makes.
Even without the errors this is not a good stylistic match up for Hisada. His pressure works brilliantly against fighters who stay still, or back on to the ropes and don't have the educated feet and counter punching of Kenshiro. Here however he's up against a brilliant counter puncher, a smart mover, and someone who will soak up the pressure, target the counters and look to break him down. Kenshiro will look to use Hisada's strengths against him.
For Hisada to win he needs to not only pressure, but also physically bully Kenshiro. His activity is good, but he needs to get the bout on the inside, completely cut the distance, and don't let Kenshiro establish his rhythm. As soon as Kenshiro finds his groove it will be very, very hard for Hisada to work his way into the bout. If Hisada doesn't make a big impact early, in an educated fashion, he will fall a long way behind.
Given Kyoguchi wasn't able to stop Hisada the popular view will be that Kenshiro won't be able to. We however feel that Kenshiro will be able to, late on, as he looks to make a statement, and lay down the gauntlet to the other champions. He is talking about wanting to unify and we suspect he'll want to make a big statement here, to do that, he needs to stop Hisada.
We are expecting Hisada to come forward early, have mixed success as Kenshiro finds his range, and through the middle rounds Kenshiro will begin to dominate with his counters, before forcing a late stoppage in a complete performance against an excellent, and over-looked, challenger.
Prediction - TKO10 Kenshiro
(Image credit - Boxingnews.jp - from the announcement of the 2017 Champion Carnival bouts, Kenshiro and Hisada are both in the front line)
Way back in October 2019 we previewed an IBF Super Flyweight title bout between champion Jerwin Ancajas (32-1-2, 22) and mandatory challenger Jonathan Javier Rodriguez (22-1, 16), with the two men set to clash on November 2nd. That bout was then cancelled, days before taking place when Rodriguez was unable to enter the US. The bout was supposed to be on a top Rank card and instead of taking on Rodriguez we saw Ancajas defeat late replacement Miguel Gonzalez a month later.
Now, 16 months later, we are finally getting the bout on a PBC show, in Connecticut, with the bout still looming as a mandatory defense of Ancajas. Sadly the Covid19 pandemic ended up affecting both men. It kept Ancajas out of the ring for the entire of 2020, kept Rodriguez out of the ring for much of 2020 and forced this bout, which had been planned for the year, to get pushed back. Again. Despite that we are now here. We are on the verge of the fight, again, and we'll again take a look at what to expect.
More than 4 years ago we saw Jerwin Ancajas announce himself as one to watch as he dominated Teiru Kinoshita on the Manny Pacquiao Vs Jeff Horn under-card. The performance was a break out showing and was Ancajas' second defense of the IBF Super Flyweight title he had won the previous year. It was the type of performance that he needed on the biggest showcase of his career. Soon afterwards he was given more big opportunities, facing Jamie Conlan in Ireland and then making 4 defenses in the US as he quickly became one of the notable Super Flyweights of his era.
Blessed with good looks, fantastic hand speed, spiteful power and a good boxing brain Ancajas seemed to have it all. Except for competition. Sadly for him the Super Flyweight division was moving on around him, the likes of Naoyta Inoue, Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Donnie Nietes and Kazuto Ioka were all off limits to him. Rather than those divisional stars Ancajas was stuck facing the best of the rest, , like the aforementioned Kinoshita and Conlan, along with Jonas Sultan and Alejandro Santiago Barrios. The inability, or in some cases unwillingness, to face the top dogs in the division has seen his reign being a long one but one that is relatively low profile and not one that has made him into the star he should have been.
Sadly his B, and sometimes C, rate challengers haven't helped Ancajas look great. It's a shame as the 29 year old Filipino is a fantastic boxer-puncher. He's gorgeously smooth in the ring, throws wonderful combinations, has an excellent understanding of the ring, and combines skills, speed and power wonderfully. He is also a big kid at the weight and a southpaw, making him a nightmare.
Aged 25 Rodriguez is an up and comer who is looking to announce himself on to the world stage after fighting his entire career, so far, on the Mexican national scene. In fact this is only really the third time he has taken on a fighter of some note. Thankfully though his career has picked up in recent years, and his first 21 bouts were pretty much bouts where he learned on the job without making much fuss. In more recent bouts however he has beaten former world title contenders Felipe Orucuta and Julian Yedras, and established himself a lot more in 2 fights than he did in his previous 21.
Despite a couple of solid wins Rodriguez hasn't done all that much to really earn a world title fight, especially not given the talent in the Super Flyweight division, but the IBF will IBF and he is the IBF mandatory with only a couple of notable wins on his record. Which in fairness to the IBF is 2 more than some other recent mandatory challengers of theirs.
One notable thing about Rodriguez, and why he may be dangerous for Ancajas, is the relative lack of footage of him. From the footage that is available Rodriguez looks strong, tough, and aggressive. Like many Mexican fighters he comes to fight and he comes with a lot of desire and hunger. Sadly though he is rather methodical, a big slow, and a little bit clumsy. He looks like he could be hit, a lot, and may be stepping up too much from the competition he has faced so far. He's the sort of fight who should make for some fan friendly fights, but he looks like he would struggle with any of the top guys in the division. Including Ancajas.
The pressure and aggression of Rodriguez could make this fun and interesting, and if he can take sustained punishment whilst continuing to come forward he could be an absolute nightmare for Ancajas. We have seen Ancajas struggle on the inside, when fighters have got close to him, and if Rodriguez can get close and rough him up the Mexican might have a real chance. Especially give the fact Ancajas has been out of the ring since December 2019.
We suspect the speed, movement and skills for Ancajas will be the key. He'll neutralise the pressure, lure Rodriguez in, and tag him. Repeatedly. Rodriguez will not show any quit, and will be looking to make a fight of things in each of the 12 rounds, but we see Ancajas picking his spots and racking up the rounds en route to a clear decision.
Interestingly the delay for this fight may end up helping Rodriguez, but we still don't think it will be anywhere near enough to get him a victory here.
Prediction - UD12 Ancajas
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.