This coming Saturday we'll see IBF Super Featherweight champion Kenichi Ogawa (26-1-1-1, 18) seek his first defense, as he travels to Wales and takes on unbeaten Welsh challenger Joe Cordina (14-0, 8). The bout will see Ogawa making his European debut, having twice fought in the US along with 27 bouts in Japan, whilst Cordina will be getting his first world title bout. The contest will also be a really interesting one, as one of the top hopes of the UK steps up from European level to face a dangerous puncher with true world class power.
Of the two men Ogawa is, as a world champion, the more established in the professional ranks. He debuted in 2010 and slowly built himself on the Japanese scene before winning the IBF title last year. His route to the top is somewhat a traditional route in Japan, winning the Rookie of the Year, which he did in 2011, before winning a Japanese title, which he did in 2015, climbing up the world rankings, and finally winning a world when he beat Azinga Fuzile last November. Despite following something of a traditional Japanese route, he's not always followed Japanese tradition. He was once stripped of the IBF title for a failed drug test, becoming the first Japanese fighter to be stripped for such a reason, and he is also one of the few Japanese fighters to have won a world title in the US. In fact if he wins this bout he will also become the first ever Japanese fighter to successfully defend a world title in Europe*.
In the ring Ogawa doesn't do a lot amazingly well and watching him we don't see a fighter with incredible reflexes, or amazing speed. Instead however he fights to his strengths, which include a destructive right hand, patience, a good chin and great focus. We have seen him out boxed in the past, and we have seen fighters prove that he struggles with movement, as Satoru Sugita showed twice, but with his power, his determination and his controlled aggression he is a real danger man who keeps his power late in bouts. His right hand is his main weapon, especially against southpaws, but he also has solid power in his jab and hook, which he does mix into his attacks when he needs to. If anything he can be made to look lazy, but at the same time he is very much controlled in his aggress. With wins against the likes of Deivi Julio Bassa, who was unbeaten at the time, Rikki Naito, Kazuhiro Nishitani and Azinga Fuzile, he has a solid resume, but one that is very much under-rated.
Aged 30 Joe Cordina is regarded as one of the big hopes of British boxing, specifically Welsh boxing. Cordina turned professional in 2017, and did so with a lot of expectations on his shoulders following an excellent amateur career. His time as an amateur saw him winning a gold medal at the European Championships in 2015 and a Bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. He also competed at the 2016 Olympics, beating Filipino Charly Suarez before losing to Hurshid Tojibaez in the second round. When he turned professional he started fact and stopped his first 4 opponents in the first round, in less than 5 months whilst fighting at both Super Featherweight and Lightweight. Within a year of his debut he won his first title, a WBA International title, before adding the Commonwealth title a few months later and then the British title a few months after that. By the end of 2019 he seemed to have some momentum building in his career, but sadly that momentum was derailed in 2020 when the pandemic kept him out of the ring for a full year. Thankfully for him he did bounce back in 2021 with 3 wins, with the most notable of those being a razor thin majority decision over Faroukh Kourbanov, but it does feel like this is a notable step up for him, from European level to world level.
During his career Cordina has been both praised for his skills, speed and slickness. And criticised for his lack of finishing and questionable power. He's a fighter who is clearly skilled, and the Welshman is a brilliantly talented southpaw boxer-puncher, with crisp clean punches, a nice sharp jab, good feints and really nice speed, both with his hand and upper body. He can be a little flat footed and although a fighter who looks relaxed and composed we do wonder whether he can still be composed and calm when he's facing someone with genuine fight changing power. In fact if we're being honest Cordina, since turning professional, hasn't really faced someone who's a puncher. Saying that he does appear to have good defense, though few fighters he has faced have ever really had the tools to even come close to unpicking him.
Historically Japanese fighters have not had great results in Europe. There are only a handful of wins by Japanese fighters in Europe, with the most notable being a win by Naoya Inoue against Emmanuel Rodriguez in 2019 for the IBF Bantamweight title. And it's fair to say that Ogawa will be the under-dog here. Despite that Ogawa has shown his ability on the road, as seen in his win over Fuzile, and he has typically enjoyed fighting southpaws, with his "Crush Right" being a devastating weapon against lefties. If Cordina can either avoid that right hand, or neutralise it all together, he has a really good chance of out boxing and out skilling Ogawa. If he gets caught however this could be a painful night for him. We suspect, over 12 rounds, Ogawa will land, and will land something big, even against someone with the defensive skills of Cordina.
Prediction - TKO11 Ogawa
*Naoya Inoue's WBA "Regular" Bantamweight title wasn't being defended when he fought Emmanuel Rodriguez for the IBF title in 2019 as part of World Boxing Super Series.
This coming Saturday we'll see unbeaten men collide as Zhanibek Alimkhanuly (11-0, 7) and Danny Dignum (14-0-1, 8) clash for the WBO "interim" Middleweight title, which is likely to be upgraded when Demetrius Andrade officially leaves the division and campaign full time at 168lbs.
Of the two men the more impressive is the 29 year old Alimkhanuly, who has began shining in recent bouts, putting things together and beating notable names in the form of Rob Brant and Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam. Prior to really breaking out Alimkhanuly had long been regarded as something of a hidden gem that just hadn't quite clicked as a professional. He had been a stellar amateur, and a lot of his amateur traits remained in the early part of his career, particularly in his wins over the likes of Carlos Galvan, Vaughn Alexander and Cristian Olivas. To his credit though it appears those bouts served as his apprenticeship to the professional scene, and his more recent wins have seen him showing more class, more killer instinct and a real bit of spite. His win over Gonzalo Gaston Coria showed that spite, with 2020 KO of the year contender, whilst his wins over Rob Brant and Hassan N'Dam saw him stopping two former world champions and going about it in a methodical and almost sadastic fashion, beating them up round after round, whilst barely taking anything in return.
In the ring Alimkhanuly is a sensationally talented boxer. He's never going to go down as a KO artist, but his shots have venom and get opponents respect. He combines high levels skills with impressive speed, a fluidity to his boxing, and a brain that thinks a few steps ahead. He's not going to take risks, or be the most exciting of fighters, but he is going to be a danger man to the division due to his ring IQ, his consistency, and his skills, which are very high level. He takes his time, he allows himself to settle and then chips away at opponents, using educated and intelligent pressure, behind his crisp clean punches. To top it all off, he's also a southpaw, making him even more of a nightmare for opponents, and allowing him to set things up from awkward angles and catch opponent from angles they aren't used to. Against a top pressure fighter, with quick feet he may struggle, but against those who try to box it's hard to see many in the division out boxing him.
Aged 30 English fighter Danny Dignum is also an unbeaten Southpaw. His competition has, however, been a lot less notable than that of Alimkhanuly with his best results being a draw with Andrey Sirotkin last year, and wins over the likes of Grant Dennis, Alfredo Meli, Conrad Cummings and Rafal Jackiewicz. In fact they are his only wins over fighters with winning records. Despite that he will know that he's expected to be the under-dog, and the pressure is on Alimkhanuly to shine, and the focus will be, in many ways, on the Kazakh allowing Dignum to focus on himself and his fight, rather than what's going on outside of himself.
In the ring Dignum is a fight who likes to come forward, stalking his opponents and get inside. He's a patient stalker in many ways and does have some nice counter punching in his arsenal. He is however a bit predictable. He doesn't mix things up too much, and despite having nice counters he does seem a bit pedestrian, without too much sharpness or fluidity to his work. In fact he quite often looks sloppy with his punched, and really slow with his straight shots. There's almost a ponderous nature to how he fights. Worryingly for him is the fact opponents can catch him with straight shots of their own, and he's not a particularly smart defensive fighter. That's not to say he's there to be hit, but his defenses are relatively limited, even at the low level he's been fighting at. He's what we consider a good continental level fighter, a bit like a solid OPBF champion, but that level is well below genuine world class and we suspect that will be seen here.
Coming in to this we suspect Dignum just doesn't have what it takes to really test Alimkhanuly and his slow, almost deliberate pressure style will actually be made to order for the Kazakh. Alimkhanuly's crisper, cleaner, harder and sharper punches will make the most of Dignum's porous defense. And round by round Alimkhanuly's shots will chip away at Dignum, who will be left swollen, bloodied, beaten and eventually stopped, either by the referee or his team, knowing that he has stepped too much in this bout.
Prediction - TKO9 Alimkhanuly
This coming weekend fight fans around the globe will be focused on the Light Heavyweight division as the unbeaten Dmitrii Bivol (19-0, 11) takes on Mexican megastar Saul Alvarez (57-1-2, 39), at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The bout will see Bivol looking to extend his WBA Light Heavyweight "super" title reign, whilst Alvarez will look to further cement his place as the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet, and one of the greatest Mexican fighters of all time.
The bout promises to be a serious test for Canelo, who has looked sensational in recent years, whilst Bivol will get a chance to make a huge name for himself and prove he really is as good as his fans believe.
Of the two fighters there is no doubting that Alvarez is the bigger name and the more prominent star. The Mexican is widely regarded as the face of the sport and the biggest global star boxing has. Not only is he regarded as a huge star but he's also widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter, and has had success from Light Middleweight up to Light Heavyweight, winning titles in all 4 weight classes. Not only that but his resume is also incredible, with wins against the likes Shane Mosley, Austin Trout, Erislandy Lara, Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Gennady Golovkin, Daniel Jacobs, Sergey Kovalev, Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant.
In the ring Canelo is a supreme fighting machine. He's an offensive fighter, who presses forward on the front foot, mentally breaks fighters with his front foot pressure, but applies that pressure in an intelligent, educated fashion. He uses smart footwork to cut the ring off, excellent head movement to make fighters miss, a tight guard to block shots that head his way, and some of the best body punching in the sport. Although not a huge single punch puncher Canelo is heavy headed, and his shots do damage right through the bout, with his power carrying late into bouts. He's often looks under-sized at 168lbs, never mind 175lbs, but he's physically imposing, thick, heavy set and incredibly strong, allowing him to push naturally bigger men around. Worryingly for opponents he's also intelligent, with a good boxing brain and he has shown an ability to adapt when he needs to. If we're looking for flaws with Canelo, he does have relatively slow feet, movement has caused him issues numerous times during his career and fighters have had success by keeping him chasing, but he his typically got to them sooner or later, Floyd Mayweather Jr aside.
Russian based fighter Bivol is a fighter who has generated a lot of buzz among the hardcore fans early in his career, with exciting performances, and highly developed skills, along with an impressive work rate and a fan friendly style. His early years as a professional gave hints at him something a bit special, and someone worth tuning into. It was noted that he was a stand out amateur, though from his early days as a professional it was clear he had a style suited to the professional ranks. Early career wins over the likes of Felipe Romero, Jackson Junior and Felix Veral, all in his first 7 fights, put him on the fast track. Sadly however as the level of competition improved Bivol's style began to move away from exciting and over the last 4 or so years he has gone from exciting to conservative, controlling and effective, turning fans against him, despite solid wins over the likes of Sullivan Barrera, Isaac Chilemba, Jean Pascal and Joe Smith Jr.
In recent years Bivol has focused a lot on boxing. Dictating the range, tempo and style of the fight. Using footwork to create space. Controlling the action behind his long straight punches, and good timing, rather than work rate, aggression and combinations. He has seemingly been happy to cruise to wins, and had disappointing performance against the likes of Isaac Chilemba and Craig Richards as a result. There is no doubting his talent, but there is a lack of fire, excitement, drive and in some ways ambition. And it has resulted in a lot of his recent fights feeling dramaless, as he sucks the excitement out of bouts. It works, and gets results, but certainly does feel like he has lost much of the good will he had.
Although a solid Light Heavyweight Bivol is certainly no physical freak at the weight, nor a massive puncher. With Canelo looking to make his name at the weight, Bivol is the ideal foe for him, unlike Joe Smith Jr and Artur Beterbiev, who can both bang. Bivol will try and box with Canelo, and will have success, with his footwork, straight punching and work at distance. Sadly though we don't see him keeping Canelo at bay long enough to rack up the rounds, and instead he will be forced to either stand and fight, or go through the motions to lost a decision.
We don't see Bivol having the hunger needed to make this into a fire fight late on. Instead we see him starting well, being caught up in the middle rounds, and then having Canelo take the lead, with his work rate and pressure, and go on to take a wide, clear, decision over the champion. Bivol will have moments, but will simply not do enough.
Prediction - UD12 Canelo
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.