We often wonder what the WBA are playing at. They seem happy to try and turn their own legacy into a joke and their titles into something every fighter can claim a version of. That's going to be the case again on June 20th when two men, who really should be nowhere near the Cruiserweight title scene, battle for the very lightly regarded WBA “interim” Cruiserweight title.
The fighters in question are part-time fighter part time commentator BJ Flores (31-1-1, 20) and former Light Heavyweight title holder Beibut Shumenov (15-2, 10), of Kazakhstan.
For us the fighter of note is Shumenov. He's a Kazakh fighter who made his name very early in his career. At one point he was among the most interest and fast rising prospects in the sport. Within a year of his debut he had raced out to 6-0 (5) and scored notable wins, including a wide decision over former Light Heavyweight champion Montell Griffin. It seemed, during that early stage, that we were on the verge of a special career. Sadly though that year wasn't really a glimpse at what was to come, Shumenov never really managed to improve from the fighter he was. He did, in fairness, claim the WBA Light Heavyweight title, in his second attempt, in just his 10th bout, a divisional record, but he needed a massive gift to get him the title.
As the champion Shumenov's reign was nothing but disappointing. He held the title for more than 4 years, recorded 6 defenses, yet didn't score a single relevant win a division that had fighters screaming out for opportunities. Instead of facing the likes of Nathan Cleverly, Glen Johnson, Chad Dawson, Jean Pascal, Chad Dawson, Isaac Chilemba, Juergen Breahmer and countless others Shumenov took on fighters like Danny Satiago and William Joppy. It was a disgusting title reign that the WBA allowed by not enforcing Shumenov to face a mandatory and essentially allowing him to put the title on ice for 18 months, whilst they upgraded him to “Super champion”.
Thankfully Shuemnov's reign came to an end in 2014 when he was clearly beaten by Bernard Hopkins, despite the disgraceful card of Gustavo Padilla, who seems to have been the only person on the planet who felt Shumenov actually won the fight. Since then Shumenov has fought once, beating Bobby Thomas Jr via a 5th round TKO. Despite only fighting once as a Cruiserweight Shumenov is ranked #1 by the WBA, in a division that is genuinely stacked with talent. Boxrec.com have Shumenov a much more realistic #22 in their rankings, and even that seems a touch kind to the Kazakh.
Style wise Shumenov is very basic. He's got heavy hands, like it seems most Kazakh fighters now a days, and he's tough and very game but technically he's very limited, defensively open, has a face that marks up easily and seems to some how combine respect with arrogance. In the Hopkins fight it seemed Shumenov was too respectful in the build up though had no trainer work his corner, as if he though he'd beat Hopkins with out any help. A foolish mover against someone was wiley and intelligent as Hopkins.
American fighter Flores is a solid boxer, but solid is about the nicest we can be about him. On paper his record is impressive but scratching below the surface leaves us thoroughly under-whelmed. His first career set back came very early, as he fought to a draw with Gabriel Taylor, 1-2 going in to that bout, and was dropped twice as Flores luckily escaped with a draw. That was back in 2003.
Scratching a bit deep into Flores's record he lacks a really big win. His best win to date was a very close one over Darnell Wilson, back in 2008. He did later claim a win over Epifanio Mendoza, though pulled him up to Crusierweight for the bout, incidentally 8 months earlier Shumenov took a wide decision over Mendoza at Light Heavyweight and Mendoza had entered the Flores bout 1-3 in his previous 4.
Whilst Flores managed to get the W against Wilson he was no where to close to beating his first live opponent, Danny Green. Green took a very comfortable win over Flores who often seemed unwilling, or unable to, pick up the pace despite being behind from early in the bout. Green wasn't hugely impressive but managed to out box Flores who showed glimpses of real ability but lacked the mentality to build on his successes.
To be fair to Flores he's technically a decent fighter with a nice jab and relatively decent speed for a big guy. He's also a smart guy out of the ring, which he proves when he's doing commentary work. Sadly however that intelligence isn't shown when Flores is fighting and his inability to turn up the pace and change his tactics really is an issue. He's coming into this bout on a 7 fight winning streak since the loss to Green but those wins have come against some terribly limited opposition, not the type of fighters that should lead someone to a “world” title fight, or a WBA #7 world ranking! Again boxrec's ranking, #29 at the time of writing, is much more accurate.
Given the depth at Cruiserweight, which includes not only champions like Marco Huck, Denis Lebedev, Grigory Drozd, Yoan Pablo Hernandez and Victor Emilio Ramirez but also fantastic contenders like Rakhim Chakhkiev, Oleksander Usyk, Dmitry Kudryashov, Ilunga Makabu and Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, this seems like a genuinely pathetic match up. The WBA should really be ashamed of it.
As to what's likely to happen in the ring, we suspect Flores will be too technically capable for Shumenov. The American has a longer reach and should be able to keep Shumenov at range with his jab. However if Flores sleep walks through the bout there is good chance he gets out worked by the clumsy Shumenov.
The one good bit of news from this bout is that the winner should be forced to fight Denis Lebedev, who would easily see of either man. Sadly however that “good news” comes with the caveat that the WBA won't be in any sort of a rush to match the winner with Lebedev, another disappointing feature of the WBA's willingness to create titles for almost anybody in the sport.
The Flyweight division really is red hot at the moment and it has such a lovely mix of fighters in it that it's got something for everyone. If you like your wars you have fighters like Koki Eto and Takuya Kogawa, if you like your boxer's you have Kazuto Ioka and Juan Francisco Estrada and if you like your seek and destroy types then you have Roman Gonzalez. It also has one of the sports most talented “spoilers”, IBF champion Amnat Ruenroeng (15-0, 5), who will be defending his title on June 27th against one of the sports most explosive little men, Johnriel Casimero (21-2, 13).
The first thing to note about the contest is that it's the second mandatory defense for Ruenroeng, who has quickly developed an impressive resume. The champion won his title in his 12th bout, beating the under-rated Rocky Fuentes, and has since defended it thrice. The first defense was a voluntary in Japan against the aforementioned Ioka, the second was back in Thailand against McWilliams Arroyo in a mandatory defense, whilst most recent Ruenroeng travelled to Macau and upset for amateur rival Zou Shiming.
The second thing to note is that this bout is in Thailand, a country that renowned for being very difficult for visiting fighters. We're not suggesting that Ruenroeng has had many gifts, though the Arroyo fight certainly could have gone the other way, but we have seen Thai's get some very dubious decisions in their favour at home. It's sometimes joked that a fighter needs to get a knockout in Germany to get a draw and, at times, the same can be said of Thailand. Of course there have been visiting fighters winning world titles in Thailand, notably Manny Pacquiao claimed his first world title in the country, but they are certainly rare.
The champion, a former amateur stand out, has quickly proven his ability and shown why he was fast tracked as a professional. He was a professional for less than 24 months when he claimed his world title and has really grown in to the role of being a world champion. Unfortunately for many of peers, and fans in general, he's not the most attractive fighter to watch but he has a style that he has almost perfect. He's quick, very sharp, accurate and strong. He's far from a big puncher but he's so sharp with his counters and has such impressive reach that he neutralises opponents on the outside and manages to tie them up and frustrate them on the inside.
Whilst Ruenroeng is widely regarded as being a level, or two, behind the likes of Gonzalez and Estrada he's got a style that will make him very difficult to beat and he always seems to look relaxed in the ring, even when he's travelled to face big names in their backyard's.
Aged 35 Ruenroeng is ancient for a Flyweight, in fact he's older than Pongsaklek Wonjongkam was the last time he held a world title, though he's a very young 35 and hasn't got the miles on the clock that many fighters his age have. In fact for a Thai he's really fresh and hasn't been through a gruelling career which has prematurely aged him. He may age over night but it doesn't seem likely, yet.
Whilst the champion has carved out an impressive resume in recent years the challenger hasn't done badly either and in fact the 25 year old Casimero may well be the sports top road warrior right now. His first 13 bouts were all at home in the Philippines though since then he has travelled to Nicaragua, Mexico, Panama, South Africa and Argentina and fought 7 of his last 10 bouts outside of his homeland.
Not only has Casimero travelled but he's done amazingly well on the road. On his travels he has beaten the likes of Cesar Canchila in Nicaragua, Luis Alberto Lazarte in Argentina, in a bout marred by a post-fight riot, Pedro Guevara in Mexico, a win that looks even better now given that Guevara is a world champion himself, and Luis Alberto Rios in Panama.
Casimero is sensationally talented boxer-puncher. He's blessed with lightening speed, real bravery, and spiteful power, something his record doesn't really reflect in terms of numbers. Despite a sub 57% stoppage rate Casimero has impressively stopped the likes of Ardin Diale, Canchila, Lazarte, Felipe Salguero and Armando Santos. He really seems to have grown into his power and, having outgrown the Light Flyweight division, he's certainly growing into a man.
Talking about Casimero as a Light Flyweight, that was here he really made his name. It was at 108lbs that Casimero claimed the WBO interim title and later the IBF title. Back then he appeared to look like a boy though now he's began to look like a man in the ring a trio of stoppages backs that up. The fact Casimero has out grown the Light Flyweight division also suggests that he's grown into being a Flyweight and isn't just some “blown up” fighter from the weight below.
Coming in to this bout the question will be whether or not Casimero can get in and land before Ruenroeng ties him up. If Ruenroeng can keep a busy jab and keep Casimero at range this really could be a very dull, frustrating and one sided bout. If however Casimero can slip the jab, something he has the ability to do, and catch the Thai with his explosive shots then there is a good chance that this ends up having it's moments of real excitement.
For Ruenroeng to win he needs to do what he does so well and use his speed and reach to land single shots at range then frustrate and neutralise his challenger. If Ruenroeng manages that then it'll be an ugly win for the Thai who will add another impressive victory to his record. For Casimero to win he needs to be as explosive as possible and land with his lightning quick shots. If he lands before he gets tied up then there is a great chance that Ruenroeng will be forced to fight back at a pace he's not comfortable with.
Sadly for Casimero we do believe he'll need to dominate to win and, due to the styles, we don't see that happening. Instead we think Amnat takes this with a clear but frustrating decision.
(Image courtesy of Kiatkreerin)
At the moment the Super Flyweight division promises a lot though has, unfortunately, failed to shine this year. A big part of that disappointment has been down to the serious hand injury suffered by WBO champion Naoya Inoue, who has been out all year. Inoue's injury has lead to the WBO sanctioning a bout for their interim title with that bout set to take place on June 20th in Mexico, and the winner set to fight Inoue up on the “Monster's” return to the ring.
The interim title bout, a real rarity for the WBO, looks like an intriguing contest on paper and will see Filipino slugger Warlito Parrenas (24-6, 21) take on Mexico's David Carmona (19-2-4, 8). We'll admit it's not a divisional super bout, such as contests involving the likes of Inoue, Carlos Cuadras or Zolani Tete, but it's still a tasty looking match up.
Of the two men Parrenas is the more experienced and, in many ways, the more well known. He's also the clear puncher coming in to this bout but has shown fragility
The Filipino 31 year old began his career back in 2007 following a solid amateur career. Sadly however Parrenas' early career didn't go too well and within 18 months of being a professional his record read 6-3 (4). It was clear he could hit like a truck but he had himself been stopped and was generally viewed as being a bit wild and even over-reliant on his power.
Unfortunately over the years that followed Parrenas seemed to progress slowly and was beaten the few times he stepped up in competition. By the start of April 2011 he was 12-5 (10) though had been stopped thrice with notable stoppages to both Marlon Tapales and Jonathan Taconing in his two most telling bouts. It was then that life changed for Parenas who went to Japan and started to really make a name for himself with wins over the likes of Atushi Kakutani, Koji Itagaki and Isaac Junior. During a 19 month stint in Japan Parrenas went 6-1 (6) and built his reputation and ability. That reputation has since been enhanced with 6 wins back home in the Philippines, include a wide decision over Espinos Sabu and stoppages over Junior Bajawa and Hengky Baransano.
Crude but powerful Parrenas is a fun to watch slugger and although he has improved his boxing he is still somewhat defensively naïve and appears to still have a questionable chin. He is however the sort of fighter who enters the ring with a “stop or be stopped” mentality and that generally makes for fun fights.
Carmona on the other hand is a 24 year old Mexican who began his career back in 2009. His career didn't start great and after just 7 bouts he was 4-1-2. Since that start he has turned his career around and is a 2-time WBO Youth Super Flyweight champion and current WBO Latino Super Flyweight champion.
Although not particularly well known Carmona's name may be familiar to fans of the lower weights. That'll be because of his 2013 fight with Omar Andres Narvaes. That bout saw Carmona challenging for the WBO world title and coming up very short against the Argentinian veteran who stopped the Mexican in the 7th round. That bout came far too early for Carmona who was out fought and bullied by the Argentinian maestro who was saved by his corner.
Since the loss to Narvaez we've seen Carmona pick up a trio of decision wins in 10 round bouts. On the whole the opponents were decent but nothing great and really shouldn't have elevated Carmona to a world title fight, or even an interim title fight, but they have and that's where we are now.
From watching Carmona in the past he's looked like he's lacking real power and can be forced backwards. He does have some nice movement and punch selection but his inability to make opponents respect him is an issue, likewise he often appears to wait too long before getting shots off. Those flaws haven't cost him too badly in the past though they will do when he steps up a level, like he is here.
Although Carmona is the home fighter we really don't see him having anything to trouble Parrenas. In fact if anything the Mexican is bringing a knife to a gun fight and Parrenas will look to walk down the Mexican and stop him. We know that Parrenas can be hurt but given Carmona's lack of power it's really hard to see him doing anything to stop Parrenas from coming forward and slowly but surely breaking him down.
It's amazing to think that during the history of boxing no Japanese fighter has ever won a world title in Europe. That may change however on June 13th as the once beaten Ryosuke "Eagle Eye" Iwasa (19-1, 12) travels to England to take on the talented and tricky Lee Haskins (31-3, 13) in a contest for the IBF “interim” title, a title that Iwasa's handler believes will be upgraded to the IBF regular title later in the year.
Firstly, as many will know, we are typically critical of the “interim” title fiasco that the WBA have on their hands. However the IBF rarely hold “interim” title fights and they are limited to when a champion is injured. In this case their “proper” champion, Randy Caballero, is indeed injured and isn't expected back in to the ring for several months. Rather than freezing up the title the IBF have elected for their two top ranked contenders to meet in what is a genuinely appealing match up.
Of the two fighters Haskins is, by far, the more experienced man. He has been a professional since 2003 and already holds a number of notable wins, including decision victories over Jamie McDonnell, Stuart Hall and Jason Booth. Sadly for Haskins however he has had a number of issues including a style that has helped keep him away from British TV for swathes of his career and issues with durability, with all 3 of his losses coming by stoppage.
Early in his career Haskins looked brilliant and quickly raced out to 15-0 (9). He showed off impressive speed, lovely countering ability and a style that saw him fighting with hands down and switching stances. That perfect record was ended in his 16th bout as he was stopped by the under-rated Tshifhiwa Munyai. Just 2 fights later Haskins suffered his second set back, courtesy of an injury against the talented but light hitting Ian Napa.
Since falling to 16-2 Haskins has gone on an excellent 16-1 run scoring notable wins against Jamie McDonnell, Stuart Hall and Jason Booth. His sole loss during that 17 fight run came against Stephane Jamoye, in what was a contender for 2012's FOTY. Of course we know Jamoye's limitations, given his loss to Shinsuke Yamanaka, but Jamoye managed to impose his style on the fight and Haskins had to fight fire with fire.
Aged 31 and stood at 5'5” Haskins typically fights as a southpaw though has shown the ability to switch hit. At his best he's an elusive and tricky type of fighter who controls distance well and uses a sharp jab to keep opponents at range. Up close Haskins can go to war and has fast hands though on the whole he is happy to fight on the outside and tie up on the upside. When he's forced to take the fight to an opponent he can struggle but most opponents are unable to really force Haskins out of his safety zone.
At 25 years old Iwasa is significantly younger than his foe though in many ways lacks the experience of Haskins. He has been a professional since 2008 and lacks a genuine stand out win. He does however have some notable wins over the likes of Kentaro Masuda and David De La Mora. His most notable bout to date however was a loss, to the tremendous Shinsuke Yamanaka back in 2011. The step up to fight Yamanaka was too much too soon for Yamanaka though he managed to acquit himself well before being stopped very late in the bout.
Although Iwasa isn't a hugely experienced fighter as a professional he was a very accomplished amateur with a record of 60-6 (42) in the unpaid ranks. Those amateur credentials have been part of the reason that Iwasa has been fast tracked and has already claimed the Japanese and OPBF titles in his short career.
As a Bantamweight Iwasa is a relatively large fighter stood at 5'7” and physically he matched up with Shinsuke Yamanaka very well. At the time of that bout Iwasa lacked the experience though showed that he had the power and ability to really trouble Yamanaka.
In the ring Iwasa is a talented southpaw boxer-puncher. He hits harder than his record suggests, as seen by the fact he troubled Yamanaka, though at times he's reckless and can be tagged himself. When boxing smartly Iwasa is very sharp though he can be put under pressure, as Richard Pumicpic showed. Whilst Iwasa put the performance against Pumicpic down to weight issues it's fair to suggest that those issues may rear their head again in the future.
Coming in to this fight it really seems like a case of the man who can enforce his style will come out on top. It's a question as to whether or not Haskins will be able to keep Iwasa at arm's length or whether the Japanese fight can get his range and land his heavy shots with the left hand. We know Haskins has scouted the left hand but there is a lot of difference between know it's a weapon and being able to prevent it from being used. If Haskins can keep his movement up and make the most of his jab the odds are that he takes a decision at home in Bristol. If Iwasa can make it a fire-fight however we see the Japanese fighter stopping the home favourite and bringing back the title, doing what others, such as Hidenori Otake and Akio Shibata, were unable to do.
It's a compelling match up of styles and a really good match up on paper, we just hope it doesn't end up having some sort of controversy hanging over the result.
On June 2nd we see the return to the ring of WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (37-0, 12) who looks for the second defense of his world title. Originally we were expecting the talented Thai to be facing South Korean foe Young Kil Bae, though after Bae suffered a training injury he was replaced by Filipino foe Jerry Tomogdan (17-5-3, 9). On paper the replacement bout is a downgrade in terms of the challenger, though it's fair to say that he'll be going in to this bout with a lot of confidence and nothing to lose.
The challenger is genuinely unknown outside of the most hardcore of fans and the fans of the Filipino domestic scene. It's on the domestic level that Tomogdan has claimed his best wins to date including a narrow decision win against Joey Canoy for the PBF (Philippines Boxing Federation) Minimumweight title just last year. Sadly it's also been his results on the domestic scene that have told us how limited he is with a notable 12 round draw against Crison Omayao being his latest result.
Tomogdan has faced a small number of notable foes with Joebert Alvarez forcing a 6th round KO against Tomogdan in 2012 whilst Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep won a technical decision against him in 2013, just 7 months before Yodmongkol went on to stop Koki Eto for the WBA interim Flyweight title. Sadly however it's a loss to Boy Tanto which stands out as the most notable defeat on his record. That loss to Tanto wasn't one sided by any means, in fact Tomogdan had good reason to believe he deserved the win, however just being in a competitive bout with Tanto is rather damning of his ability and power.
At just 21 years old we'll admit Tomogdan has improved a lot since that loss to Tanto and on paper his record is messy due to facing some good fighters whilst he was still a boxing baby. Although still a youngster he's had to develop in the ring and what we have now is a promising at 21 years old, but one who still has a lot of untapped potential. What he has going for him coming in to this bout however is that he's a southpaw and also relatively tall, standing at 5'5”, for a Minimumweight.
When Tomogdan fought Tanto he showed some nice touches. He kept calm, despite Tanto bending the rules at times, showed relatively nice movement and speed and did look like a young fighter who was finding his way in the sport. Notably as the bout wore on Tomogdan did appear to grow into the contest and times he genuinely looked really promising, though it was against a limited foe. That bout did come more than 18 months ago, and since then Tomogdan has gone 6-0-1, though unfortunately it's the latest one that we have film of and it's the most recent bout to try and get a read from.
Of the two fighters involved the champion is much more well known, in fact Wanheng is one of the most notable active fighters in Thai boxing and the 29 year old is genuinely of of their most exciting and fun to watch fighters. He has also notched up a few notable wins of his own and looks to be one of those few Thai fighters who is as good as his record suggests.
Much of Wanheng's career was spent building. He turned professional in 2007 and faced on sporadic tests, such as a bout with Ardin Diale in 2008, Florante Condes in 2011, Crison Omayao, also in 2011, and Yuma Iwahashi in 2013. It wasn't until 2014 that we saw him finally competing at the world level where he over-came Oswaldo Novoa for the WBC title. For many fans that win was a weak one to wn the title with Novoa not being a genuinely tier champion, for others however it was the much needed break out win for Wanheng who had been ranked for a while but never made that step up.
Since winning the title last November we've seen Wanheng defend it once, taking a wide decision against the previously unknown Jeffrey Galero. Although Wanheng won it decisively we'll be honest and say that Galero looks like he could become a staple on the OPBF title scene in the future. Unfortunately for the challenger he was unable to cope with Wanheng's strength, experience and over-all style, which is built on a lot of very educated but intense pressure that sees the Thai wearing down his opponents mentally and physically. His arsenal includes all the punches in the book but really it's his smart defense and intelligent footwork that has made him such a solid fighter.
When looking Wanheng's record we don't see the really big wins, yet, but we suspect they will come down the line. For now however it's a waiting game a possible fight with Denver Cuello is possible for later this year. First he will need to over-come Tomogdan in what looks, really, like a mismatch.
From the footage available of both Tomogdan actually looks “made to order”. He's a mover but with no real power there will be little to stop Wanheng from cutting the ring off, getting close and unleashing to the mid-section of the challenger. Those body blows will take their toll and we suspect that Tomogdan gets stopped in the second half of the bout by the genuinely excellent Thai.
(Image courtesy of Thairec.com)
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.