The Super Flyweight division has gone from being one of the most over-looked divisions, only really enjoyed by the hardcore fight fans to being a division that is getting massive attention thanks to the growing “Superfly” series of cards, and the fact that right now we have top fighters in the division from around the globe. This weekend we get the chance to see some of the divisions best fighters in action in Fresno California, with WBA champion Kal Yafai (23-0, 14) defending his title against David Carmona (21-5-5, 9) and IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas (29-1-1, 20) defending his title against Jonas Sultan (14-3, 9).
Of those two bouts it's the second one that particularly interests us as it will be the first all-Filipino world title bout in over 90 years, though the winners of the two bouts are expected to be on a collision towards unification later in the year.
Ancajas was one of the sports hidden gems until recently. The "Pretty boy" debuted back in 2009, as a 17 year old and went 13-0-1 before losing a razor thin decision to Mark Anthony Geraldo in early 2012. Since the Ancajas has gone 16-0 (15) and proven to be one of the best Super Flyweights on the planet. He's a joy to watch some wonderful boxing skills, fantastic sharpness, and a rare fluidity to everything he does. Not only is he a joy but he's an offensively minded combination punching southpaw, which makes him incredibly awkward to fight against.
The impressive 16 fight run of Ancajas has seen him move from relative unknown to being seen as one of the new faces of Filipino boxing. It began withg some pretty low key wins, but in 2016 he scored a major win over McJoe Arroyo to claim the IBF title. Since then his profile has mushroomed with 4 world title defenses, stopping Jose Alfredo Rodriguez in Macao, Teiru Kinoshita in Australia, Jamie Conlan in Northern Ireland and Israel Gonzalez in the US. Not only is he stopping his foes but he's looking sensational doing it, dropping his opponents and beating them up before stopping them.
Despite scoring a lot of stoppages recently Ancajas isn't actually a big puncher. He's someone who stops people through his sheer consistency. He lands a lot of shots, he finds holes in opponents defenses and uses his speed to befuddle good fighters, who are made to look really poor. His power won't effect someone like Juan Francisco Estrada or Srisaket Sor Rungvisai on a 1-punch basis, but those shots do damage over the course of a fight, and against even the very elite in the division Ancajas has a genuine shot.
Sultan, like Ancajas in may ways, was totally unknown not too long ago. He started his career in 2013, and was 4-2 (2) after 6 bouts but has since gone 10-1 (7) and made himself one of the divisions key contenders, and the IBF mandatory title challenger. In in his recent wins are victories over some really good fighters, such as Jerson Mancio, Brian Lobetania, Rene Dacquel, Tatsuay Ikemizu, Makazole Tete, Sonny Boy Jaro and John Riel Casimero. In those wins he has shown he can box, punch and take a shot when he needs to.
Although he has looked really good at times, there is still a lot for Sultan to prove and his win over Casimero left as many questions as answers, and was a very messy fight. He certainly a lot going for him here, and his only recent loss was much closer than the cards suggested. He has shown power and speed, and at 26 is coming into his physical prime.
Although going through a rich vein of form this is a big step up for Sultan. Wins over former world champions like Jaro and Casimero are impressive but Jaro was old and Casimero was a naturally smaller man. His wins over Tete and Dacquel are brilliant wins, but they are both a long way off being as good as Ancajas. In fact the champion has more to his arsenal than Tete and Dacquel combined and that will be a major issue for Sultan here.
We think this opportunity has come a little too early for Sultan. We're not sure he will ever be as good as Ancajas, but he probably needed to face another prime contender before getting a world title fight to really be prepared for a fight at that level. We suspect that Ancajas' smoothness in the ring, his speed and movement and ring IQ will be too much for the challenger. Sultan will certainly have some moments, but we suspect he'll be worn down and either stopped late or lose a wide and clear decision.
This coming Friday the boxing world will turn it's attention to the Ota City General Gymnasium as Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (15-0, 13) attempts to become a 3-weight world champion and claim the WBA “regular” Bantamweight title. In the opposite corner to the “Monster” will be defending champion Jamie McDonnell (29-2-1-1, 13) of the UK in what looks likely to be a bout not only for the title, but also for a place as a seeded fighter in the upcoming World Boxing Super Series (WBSS).
The champion will be making his 7th defense of the WBA title, and is currently enjoying his second reign as a world champion after having previously held the IBF Bantamweight title. As for the challenger he will be looking to claim a world title at Bantamweight having previously held the WBC Light Flyweight and WBO Super Flyweight titles.
Of the two men the pressure is really on Inoue to shine, and build on his reputation as the rising figure head of the Japanese boxing scene. He was tipped for the top from his days in the amateur ranks and rose quickly as a professional. He would win the Japanese Light Flyweight title in his 4th bout with a decision win over Ryoichi Taguchi and the OPBF title just a bout later as he stopped Jerson Mancio. Whilst those performance caught the eye of many hardcore fans it was his 2014 win over Adrian Hernandez that helped Inoue make his mark on the sport.
Inoue would only defend the Light Flyweight title once before moving up in weight, completely skipping the Flyweight division to decimate Omar Andres Narvaez for the WBO Super Flyweight title, stopping Narvaez in 2 rounds. As the WBO Super Flyweight champion Inoue would defend the title 7 times, scoring notable wins over Warlito Parrenas, David Carmona, Kohei Kono and even made his US debut with a win over Antonio Nieves.
In the ring Inoue is an offensively minded boxer-puncher. He's blessed with frightening power, as 13 stoppages in 15 bouts at the lower weights shows, bewildering speed and an incredibly high boxing IQ. He's flawed, and has been seen to turn off at times in fights, but like many sensational fighters there is an aura about him that screams he's in total control, even when he's on the back foot. In fact Inoue on the back-foot is really under-rated, and he can be just as brutally destructive with his counters and shots on the back foot. Not only that but he is arguably the best body puncher in the sport today, and against taller fighters, like McDonnell, that is a brilliant weapon in Inoue's arsenal.
The champion is a 2-time Bantamweight champion, as mentioned earlier, and at 32 years old is potentially on the slide physically. Despite being on the slide McDonnell is a physical freak for a Bantamweight standing at 5'10" and with a huge 72" wingspan. He's a fighter who has began to show cracks at the weight but was ½ under the limit last time out and has been under, rather than on, the Bantamweight limit in 6 of his last 7 bouts. Not only is he a physical freak in terms of stature but also energy and he has one of the most incredible engines of any fighter in the sport. He seems to get stronger the longer bouts go on, and despite being a slow starter is a real nightmare in the later stages of a fight. That stamina and his size makes him a real problem from range where he can keep up a busy output and handcuff opponents.
McDonnell started his career with out much hype and was 8-2-1 (2) after 11 bouts with losses to the recently deceased Chris Edwards and Lee Haskins, who would later go on to defeat Ryosuke Iwasa for the IBF Bantamweight title. From then however McDonnell has gone 21-0-0-1 (11) and claimed notable wins against Stuart Hall, Julio Ceja, Tomoki Kameda, twice, and Liborio Solis. He has looked really impressive at times, such as his second win over Kameda, but also rather poor at times, such as in the first Kameda fight and first bout with Liborio Solis. In those bouts he showed he can be out fought, he can be hurt and he can be beat, even if McDonnell picked up the wins in both bouts.
At his very best McDonnell could be a nightmare for any Bantamweight, just due to his size and stamina. He seems to put on his best performances when facing his best opponents and will know that this is bout against a special talent. Sadly for McDonnell he is going up against a special talent, and Inoue, we believe, will know that McDonnell has struggled to make weight, had been inactive and has a long torso to attack. The Inoue body attack is devastating and we think that it will be the key here. Although moving up in weight Inoue is still expected to carry dynamite in his shots, and we suspect we'll see that dynamite in action with the “Monster” taking out the Englishman in 7 or 8 rounds.
The Light Flyweight division may not have the sports biggest names but it is arguably the best division in the sport right now, not only with over-looked fighters but also a steady stream of great fights pitting world class fighters against each other. The next one of those top quality bouts is this coming Friday as WBC champion Ken Shiro (12-0, 6), from Japan, defends his title against Mexican veteran Ganigan Lopez (29-7, 18). The bout will be the second between the two men, who faced off last year in a bout that saw the Japanese fighter outpoint Lopez to become the champion.
Since their first meeting, which Ken Shiro won by majority decision, the champion has gone on to distinguish himself as a leading fighter at 108lbs thanks to wins over Pedro Guevara and Gilberto Pedroza. In those bouts he has shown clear improvements and looks to be a fighter who has grown since claiming the title. As for Lopez he has been he has been mostly inactive with his only bout between his loss to Ken shiro and this rematch being a win over unknown Mexican fighter Efren Bautista.
Aged 26 Ken Shiro is already a fighter who is showing signs of becoming a real star in Japan, that's despite the fact his first two world title fights were shown live in his homeland and the fact that fans had been following him from his debut. He was touted for big things when he turned professional following a solid amateur career, and was also given extra attention due to the fact his father Hisashi Teraji was a successful fighter claiming Japanese and OPBF honours. On his way through the ranks the youngster not only did what his father managed, winning the Japanese and OPBF Light Flyweight titles, but also claimed the WBC Youth title to become a triple crown winner after just 8 bouts.
In his 10th professional contest Ken Shiro would defeat Lopez for the WBC title in a coming of age performance. Prior to the bout he had shown the tools to be something special, showing he could adapt to his opponents, box, brawl and counter, but had never managed to put it all together as he did against Lopez. He not only showed he had the skills, but also the toughness to see out the final round when Lopez was really bringing the heat. His skills, and desire to win, were on show again when he narrowly defeat Guevara in what was another really tough bout. Against Pedroza however it seemed like Ken Shiro wanted to show the fans his boxing, which he did early on, before closing the show, which he did in impressive fashion in round 4. That win showed he could box or punch, and it's his ability to mix various styles that makes him such a fantastic young fighter. There are areas for him to build on, but with his speed, physical strength, ring IQ and under-rated power he could be a nightmare to dethrone in the coming years.
Whilst Ken Shiro is really just starting to capture the attention of the wider boxing fan base in Japan Lopez has been on the radar of fight fans for years. The 36 year old made his debut way back in 2003 and although he suffered some early career set backs, including a loss to the under-rated Juan Palacios and a loss to Adrian Hernandez, he would rebuild from a 13-4 record to become one of the key figures in the world title scene. Amazingly he wouldn't get a world title fight until 2015, when he was 33 with a record of 25-5 and despite a great effort he would lose a close but clear decision to Pedro Guevara. The following year he would get his second shot, and defeat Yu Kimura, who had beaten Guevara, for the WBC title. A title he would defend once, out pointing Jonathan Taconing, before losing the belt to Ken Shiro.
Despite his age Lopez is a fighter who hasn't shown anything in terms of ageing. He's a really smart fighter who uses his southpaw stance fantastically, moves around the ring intelligently and can box or brawl. His legs and boxing brain took him to a clear win over Kimura , despite the ridiculously poor scorecard of Juan Carlos Pelayo, and his win over Taconing showed just how good his ring craft is against a dangerous puncher. Sadly for him his work rate and out put isn't the best and he is perhaps due to lose some of his his movement. No one will doubt his boxing brain, but his reactions may well have slipped between the first bout with Ken Shiro and now.
At his best Lopez would be a real handful for any active 108lb fighter, and would give fits to many of those just below the divisional elite. At 36 however it's hard to know what he really has left and it's fair to say that Ken Shiro is just getting better and better. Although we don't see this as being an easy fight for the Japanese fighter we don't see Ken Shiro losing, instead we are expecting a clear, but tough, decision for Ken Shiro. A stoppage isn't totally out of the question for Ken Shiro, but it would be a bit of a surprise given that Lopez has only been stopped once in his 36 fight career.
Our prediction is a clear decision victory for the champion, who will put to bed any doubt between who is currently the better fighter and may also retire the Mexican, who has been a fantastic servant to boxing over the last few years. With a win we expect to see Ken Shiro begin the hunt for unification bouts, and could well find himself chasing any of the other champions.
The Light Flyweight division, as regular readers of this website will be aware of, is one of our favourites with so much depth and great fights taking place on a regular basis. The next one of those great match ups takes place this coming Sunday as Ryoichi Taguchi (27-2-2, 12) defends his WBA “super”, IBF and Ring Magazine titles against South African challenger Hekkie Budler (31-3, 10), himself a former WBA Minimumweight champion. For Taguchi the bout will be his first as a unified champion, in fact it will be the first ever time a Japanese fighter will be looking to defend unified titles.
Taguchi's rise in the last few years has been remarkable. The freakishly tall and rangy Tokyo fighter debuted back in 2006 and didn't get his first title fight until 2012, when he fought to a draw with Masayuki Kuroda for the Japanese Light Flyweight title. Going into that bout Taguchi had gone 16-1 (7) and wasn't really looking like a future world champion. Since the draw with Kuroda we've seen Taguchi blossom into a fantastic fighter, going 11-1-1, with his only loss coming to Naoya Inoue. Not only has he racked up a solid looking run but he's gone on to beat top fighters, such as Florante Condes, Alberto Rossel, Kwanthai Onesongchaigym, Ryo Miyazaki, Robert Barrera and, most recently, Milan Melindo.
In the ring Taguchi is a freakishly big fighter at 108lbs, he has long rangy arms and can strike from distance though more often than not he seems to enjoy an up close battle on the inside, and has surprising ability inside the pocket. He combines his size with excellent stamina and work rate and has very under-rated power and a really gritty toughness. Although not a 1-punch KO artist he has been either dropping, cutting or hurting his opponents on a regular basis at world level and not many fighters seem to engage him in a war. The Watanabe man not only combines, size, skills and his in ring traits but also confidence and experience with a wealth of experience not only in the ring but also in the gym, rising through the ranks whilst in the same gym as Takashi Uchiyama and Kohei Kono.
For Budler this bout is a second shot at a Light Flyweight title, having come up just short against Milan Melindo in a thrilling contest last year. The South African was a top Minimumweight for years and scored notable wins over the likes of Florante Condes, Nkosinathi Joyi, Pigmy Kokietgym, Xiong Zhao Zhong, Jesus Silvestre and Simphiwe Khonco. He was a long standing IBO champion and held the WBA title for a couple of years before losing to Byron Rojas in March 2016. That loss was Budler's final fight at 105lbs before he moved up in weight defeated and claimed two minor titles as he prepared to face Melindo, losing a really good split decision bout to the Filipino.
In the ring Budler is a speedy fighter who finds himself in grinding contests up close. His bouts are rarely pretty, but they are often fun with a lot of leather being thrown. Although a grinding fighter Budler can box on the outside and can use his skills to maintain distance when he needs to. Budler is impressive with his speed, his stamina and determination, but lacks in terms of power and only has two stoppages in the last 4 years, coming against Joey Canoy and Pigmy Kokietgym. The lack of power at world level is a problem for the South African, and have resulted in the 29 year old racking up over 275 rounds already in his career, an average of just over 8 rounds a fight.
Given that Budler likes to trade blows we can't see how he comes out on top here. We imagine Budler's gritty mentality will always keep him in the fight, and make for some thrilling moments, but his lack of power will fail to get Taguchi's respect and the Japanese fighter will simply out work, out battle and out punch the smaller man. Budler will certainly have some moments, especially when he uses his speed, but on the whole he'll not have the power or physicality to win the rounds. Taguchi may look to use his height at times, though we suspect he'll try not to fight at range and instead choose to swarm Budler and neutralise the South African's edge in speed.
We don't see Budler being stopped, but we see a clear decision going in favour of the unified champion.
The Minimumweight division is currently on that has a lot of potentially great match ups, and although much avoided by Western fans there is so much talented at 105lbs that the only people missing out are those who turn away from the lower weights. Among the most exciting fighters in the division is Japan's Hiroto Kyoguchi (9-0, 7), who is the current IBF champion having won the title in just his 8th bout after just 15 months as a professional fighter. This coming weekend Kyoguchi will return to the ring in his second defense, as he battles against fellow unbeaten puncher Vince Paras (13-0, 11), of the Philippines.
Kyoguchi's rise from debut to champion is the quickest in Japanese history, and one of the quickest of all time. He made his debut back in April 2016 and needed just 10 rounds to defeat his first 5 opponents, all before the end of 2016. In 2017 he stepped up, quickly winning the OPBF Minimumweight title, which he would defend once, before defeating the tough Jose Argumedo in July 2017 for the IBF title, which he defended in impressive fashion at the end of 2017, stopping Carlos Buitrago in 8 rounds.
In the ring Kyoguchi is an ultra-aggressive, hard hitting, pressure fight who is devastating with his body shots and combinations. He has got some defensively flaws, and has failed to make the most of his jab at times, but the reality is that his aggression is simply too unrelenting for most. Even those who have gone the distance with the Japanese terror, Jonathan Refugio and Jose Argumedo, have tried to avoid a tear up with Kyoguchi and gotten on their bike. Kyoguchi's flaws are visible, but are very hard to punish him for due to his freakish power, physical strength and brutal body shots.
Aged 19 Paras is looking to become one of the youngest Filipino world champions ever. He made his debut in July 2017, as a 16 year old and like Kyoguchi his power was obvious from his debut, which saw him stop Romeo Garde in 91 seconds. That power would help Paras to stop 9 of his first 10 opponents with only the tough Jimboy Haya managing to last more than 7 complete rounds with Paras. Despite his power Paras has shown some flaws, and has got a lot of questions to answer, given that he has been dropped and has yet to fight outside of the Philippines.
Footage of Paras isn't easy too easy to come by, but what is available shows a hard hitting but quite basic fighter. He is certainly dangerous but his footwork doesn't look the most natural, his movement isn't the quickest and despite being a pressure fighter he does look like he isn't the most aggressive or the quickest to close opponents down. In saying that however he does appear to have a tight guard and is certainly very dangerous early on, with 8 stoppages in the first 3 rounds.
Whilst we do see Paras as being a bit basic his power will keep Kyoguchi on his game defensively. Sadly for the challenger however this bout looks like it will have come too soon for him and he will find himself up against a similar, but more mature and more rounded, version of himself and Paras will be broken down in the middle rounds. Kyoguchi can't get reckless, but this is a massive step up in class for the challenger and one he is making before he is really ready. If we're being honest we're have preferred to have seen Paras in an OPBF title level fight before getting a world title fight, but can't blame the fighter or his team for taking the opportunity, even if he does come up short.
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.