Over the last few years fans of the smaller weights have had numerous treats with some thrilling wars and non-stop action. This weekend we may well see some more great bouts in the lower weights with one potential war coming in Mexico as Filipino banger Jonathan Taconing (22-2-1, 18) gets a long awaited world title shot, and takes on Ganigan Lopez (27-6, 17), the current WBC Light Flyweight champion.
Taconing has been a card holding member of the “Who needs him?” club since 2012, when he got his only previous world title fight and was controversially beaten by Kompayak Porpramook in Thailand. Although an avoided fighter after that bout Taconing has subsequently gone 9-0 (8), claimed the OPBF title and scored notable wins over Vergilio Silvano, Ramon Garcia Hirales and Jomar Fajardo.
Taconing is avoided for a number of reasons. Firstly he's a huge puncher in the lower weights. Only a small number of fighters have heard the final bell against him, and only 1 of the last 9 opponents survived his power, though that one ended early with a technical decision. He's tough having proven his chin in the past and never backing up against the likes of Porpramook, Fajardo or Hirales, and he really trusts his chin. And third he has a great engine. Despite stopping many opponents early he has shown power late in fights, and actually stopped Hirales in the last 10 seconds of the 10th round. Finally, and perhaps worth of all for his opponents, and team, is that he's a southpaw making him even more tricky.
When it comes to the champion we have a talented fighter who has proven he can travel to win bouts, but has had a long and draining career. Aged 34 he's in the twilight of his career, though this is first world title defense and he did score his biggest career victory just 4 months ago, when he travelled to Japan and defeated Yu Kimura for the title. It's worth noting that a year ago he pushed the then champion Pedrio Guevara all the way in a thrilling 12 rounder, in a bout that some thought would be his last hurrah.
In the ring Guevara can both box or fight. He's not an elite boxer but he's got the basics down excellently, as he showed against Kimura, and when he needs to have a war he can. In fact not only can he have a war, but he can take punishment as well, with only one stoppage against him, that coming to the big punching Filipino Denver Cuello who was on a genuinely destructive run at the time and that came at 105lbs.
Coming in to this one we expect a war, a full on violent, and exciting war, though given Taconing's power we eventually think he'll break down the ageing Lopez in the later rounds. Before then however this one will be a lot of fun, with both men being forced to take some seriously big shots.
The last few years have been really interesting in the lower weights, even if they have lacked the Western appeal of some of the other weigh classes. The interest has been mostly from Asia, though other countries have had a their own bits of with South Africa having Hekkie Budler and Nicaragua having both Carlos Buitrago and Byron Rojas, who actually defeated Budler earlier this year for the WBA Minimumweight title.
Later this week worlds collide as Rojas (17-2-3-1, 8) travels to Thailand to defend his title against unbeaten “interim” champion Knockout CP Freshmart (12-0 6), one of the rising stars of the Thai scene and a man who holds two wins over the aforementioned Buitrago.
Although his record might not be the most impressive in regards to numbers Rojas has got a legitimate claim to being one of the top guys in the division, with his win over Budler being one of the most credible among the current crop at 105lbs. Notably that was Rojas's 11th straight win not including a No Contest, and saw him continue turning around a career that was once 6-2-3 (4) whilst also claiming a world title on the road in his only fight outside of Nicaragua.
In the ring Rojas is fearless. He's not a big puncher, or the most skilled, or the must elusive or even the quickest but he is a warrior and he comes to fight, comes forward and is in an opponents face as he forces the tempo and pace of a fight. Not only does he control the tempo but he also sets and extremely high one with busy output and a high pressure mentality. Strangely he seems to have a style that is similar to many current Thai's with his pressure output.
Unbeaten fighter Knockout turned professional in 2012, following a lot of success in Muay Thai, and immediately fought for titles, winning the WBC Youth title in his debut. After 8 fights he was regarded as ready for world title level and fought the aforementioned Buitrago, winning a very close decision over the Nicaraguan for the WBA “interim” title. Following that win over Buitrago we've seen Knockout record 3 defenses of the “interim” title and develop significantly, rounding off some very rough edges.
In the ring Knockout does still have clear traits of being a Muay Thai convert despite that it's also clear that he's a true fighter and is constantly improving, developing his boxing skills and adapting to the Western boxing style. He's aggressive, a solid puncher and is developing his defensive abilities every fight, and actually looked defensively responsible last time out in a rematch against Buitrago, with his head movement being genuinely impressive.
Coming in to this one we're expecting something very exciting with Rojas going to Thailand for a fight with Knockout, and going there to really fight. Unfortunately in Thailand the conditions are harsh and fighting like Rojas does could be a very tough ask for 12 rounds. We suspect he'll start fast before the conditions begin to get to him slow him and inevitably allow Knockout to earn a decision win.
Over the last few years things have been hard on Chinese boxing. We have seen high profile losses for the likes of Xiong Xhao Zhong, Zou Shiming and Ik Yang and it seems like every time a Chinese fighter seems to be on the verge of something notable they suffer a setback or fail to shine in the way they are supposed to.
Thankfully however, given the size of China, there is always going to be someone else coming through the ranks and the next man is Super Bantamweight contender Qiu Xiao Jun (20-2, 9) who finally gets his shot at a world title on June 24th. The under-rated Chinese fighter will be battling for the vacant WBA crown and will be facing Venezuelan born veteran Nehomar Cermeno (23-5-1-1, 13), a 36 year old who debuted back in 2004.
Of the two men it's Cermeno who is the better known. He's a tricky fighter who has really made his name fighting away from home, basing himself in Panama for much of his career though also scoring wins in Argentina, Germany, Mexico, El Salvador and his native Venezuela, whilst also fighting a losing effort in Russia. As well as being a well travelled veteran Cermeno was, once, a very good fighter, beginning his career with 19 straight wins, including two victories over Cristian Mijares and twice pushing Anelmo Moreno all the way.
Since those losses to Moreno we've seen Cermeno struggle, and in fact he has since gone 4-3-1-1, with only a single win in the last 2 years, and even that came against a limited fighter in the form of Lester Medrano.
When we talk about Jun we're talking about one of China's hidden gems. He's not had the amateur background of Shiming, or the Western attention of Ik Yang, but he has had a genuinely interesting career and shown the type of improvement that can turn a fighter into a champion. He has also had sizeable investment put into him in China.
Aged 25 Jun is a youngster though debuted close to 6 years ago and has developed well, despite suffering two early career career set backs to Jonathan Baat in Japan. Since being 8-2 (3) we've seen Jun develop his skills, strength and natural fighting mentality and racked up notable wins. Those wins have seen him avenge his losses to Baat, defeat Jason Cooper, Silvester Lopez, Amor Belahdj Ali and Raymond Commey.
In the ring Jun still has a lot of smoothing off to do, however he is a rough and tumble fighter with heavy hands, much heavier than his record suggests, a decent work rate and a growing Chinese following. He's also a man who has been hungry for a title opportunity and will feel that this bout will be his chance to prove himself.
In his prime we suspect Cermeno would have clowned with Jun, who is still very crude. Today's Cermeno however is a shadow of that fighter and we really can't see him over-coming the younger, hungrier and naturally bigger Jun in this match up.
If Jun does win this one, as we suspect, he will become just the second man in Chinese boxing history to become a world champion, following in the footsteps of Zhong.
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.