It's not often that we can say this but there is a world title fight this coming weekend that seems to have flown under-the-radar despite the fact it features two unbeaten men. That fight will be a WBA Light Welterweight clash between the highly regarded challenger Anton Novikov (29-0-0-1,10) and the defending champion Jessie Vargas (24-0, 9)
The bout has been over-looked for a lot of reasons. Firstly it's not the best fight on it's own show, that's the potential thriller between Brandon Rios (31-2-1, 23) and Diego Gabriel Chaves (23-1, 19). The Rios/Chaves bout is the shows main event and could be the most exciting bout of the month with two men who have power and like to have a fight. Another reason the bout has been over-looked is the other world title fight on the same night which will feature the big punching Sergey Kovalev (24-0-1, 22) and Black Caparello (19-0-1, 6), for our money Kovalev is one of the most exciting men in boxing.
The final reason is connected to the previous reasons in many ways. Rios, Chaves and Kovalev are all exciting men to watch, they all bring action and they all score stoppages. Novikov and Vargas, for all the talent they have, don't stop people. Between them they have a paltry 19 stoppages in 54 bouts. They are the definition of "distance" fighters.
Being distance fighters isn't a bad thing, far from it, but in this case they are relatively boring distance fighters.
Novikov is a very tidy and wonderfully well schooled fighter who throws nice combinations and does a lot of things that are very good. But really lacks power and is defensively sound enough to defend himself when he's forced on to the back foot. He is a man who lives up to his nickname of "The Ice Pick" in many ways including the repeated way he can land with out doing a lot of damage though his is sharp with shots, he reels them off very nicely. In fact from watching him he is only "power" way from being real world class.
Vargas is, in many ways, similar to Novikov. He also lacks power, is well schooled and does a lot of things nicely. He does however move more than Novikov and throws fewer shots, though what he does throw are flashy and eye catching shots that seem to often look like slaps as opposed to punches.
For the challenger this is his first step up and his first really major fight. To US audiences, who are getting this shown to them, he's a bit of a mystery man despite having fought in American several times. Sadly what his US bouts showed is that he really lacks power and they have failed to really generate any buzz around him. It's hard to market a light hitting Russian in the US.
Whilst Novikov has failed to be marketed well Vargas was once advertised as the heir apparent to Floyd Mayweather Jr, an advert that really needed taking to the trading standards commission for false advertising. As soon as the Mayweather link was taken away fans bored of Vargas who was more talented in sending fans to sleep than opponents.
With both men having less than exciting styles and a lack of power we're expecting this one to go the distance and sadly we're expecting it to be a dull one with Novikov chasing Vargas and Vargas landing shots on the move. The by Vargas will likely be better than the limited success Novikov gets and the American will probably defend his belt but leave very few fans excited about him.
We're sorry to say this but of all the bouts this weekend this is probably the most difficult one to care about. It looks likely to be a dull one. We hope we're wrong but if it's a stinker don't blame us.
(Image courtesy of Boxrec.com)
If Gennady Golovkin (30-0, 27) is everyone's favourite fighter from a former Soviet country then close behind him is Light Heavyweight destroyer Sergey Kovalev (24-0-1, 22) who, just like Golovkin has been steam rolling through opponents with little problems.
Kovalev, the WBO Light Heavyweight champion, will be back in the ring on August 2nd as he attempts to record the 3rd defence of his title inside a year and continue his long run of T/KO's that bates back 8 fights and almost 3 years. In fact if we ignore the technical draw Kovalev suffered against Grover Young the Russian Krusher has stopped his last 12 opponents with only 2 men lasting more than 4 completed rounds.
Kovalev will be looking to extend those runs by getting rid of little known Australian challenger Blake Caparello (19-0-1, 6), a man known by the ominous moniker of "Il Capo", or for those who don't speak Italian "The Boss". Unfortunately for Kovalev this isn't a fight he'd have wanted considering some of the other big names in the division but on the other hand it's a fight he shouldn't struggle to look good in.
If you've not yet seen Kovalev then you've been missing out on one of the sports most interesting fighters. He's the very definition of heavy handed and what he hits he hurts even if it doesn't look like he's putting much effort into his shots. His jabs are like ramrods and can dismantle opponents, his power shots are like thunder and most worryingly is the fact that he combines that power with a very impressive work rate and criminally under-rated skills and movement. To the amazement of many Kovalev is far from just a power puncher.
Whilst those who haven't seen Kovalev have been missing out, big time, we can understand fans having not seen a lot of Caparello. He is a capable fighter but he has, for much of his career, been a local star in Australia rather than a fighter who has gone about marketing himself internationally. From his 20 fights so far only one, his most recent against Elvir Muriqi, was outside of his homeland and even that bout didn't prove much about Caparello when you consider Muriqi was 7 years removed from being a "contender".
From his fights in Australia Caparello has proven himself to be fairly decent, though sadly his best win is likely his decision over Allan Green who was, like Muriqi, on the back end of his career. Technically he's a capable boxer with good movement and speed but a lack of power and with his limited opposition so far it's hard to tell how he will react when he's sharing the ring with a monster like Kovalev.
What we imagine will happen is that Caparello will look confident, until the two men are in the ring together and Kovalev is staring into the eyes of the Australian who think will realise the severity of the fight. From then on it will be a case of Caparello doing his best to just survive against the very heavy handed Kovalev who is genuinely no nonsense in the ring.
We've seen Caparello in trouble in the past and we expect that trouble to be amplified and we'd be very shocked to see the Australian lasting more than 4 rounds with Kovalev who is sure to call out one of the divisions biggest names following this win.
(Image courtesy of Main Events)
Occasionally in boxing we come across a fighter who is simply box office in terms of skills and excitement. A fighter who can out box most or can dismantle them with a combination of placement and power. Whilst it's all great being skilled the casual fight fan loves knockouts and if a fighter can score knockout after knockout after knockout whilst using skill then they appeal to both the casual fight fans and the hardcore fights fans.
One of the very few who does combine world class class skills with frightening power is Kazakhstan's Gennady Golovkin (29-0, 26), AKA "GGG". Golvokin has been the long reining WBA Middleweight champion and although he has looked sensational in wiping out swatches of the Middleweight division many do question how he copes when he fights a championship level fighter. In fact many deride his competition as not just second rate but third rate, a harsh criticism when the opposition has included European champions, former title contenders and even a former world champion, albeit at a lower weight.
This weekend's fight however sees Golvokin facing a genuine world class fighter in the former of former unified IBF and WBA Middleweight champion Daniel Geale (30-2, 16).
Geale is a fighter who has proven his value with notable wins over the likes of Roman Karmazin, Sebastian Sylvester, Felix Sturm and Anthony Mundine, all of whom were world champions. He may not possess thundering power but he's skilled, very hard working and refuses to just lose, in fact both of his losses have been controversial with many feeling he got the bad end of split decisions. When you consider his career so far he's unfortunate not to be 32-0 and still a double world champion.
For Golovkin this is a clear step up in opposition. For the first time in his career he's facing an indisputable world class opponent at the weight that suits them. Despite this "step up" from the likes of Osamu Adama, Gabriel Rosada and Curtis Stevens we still don't see Golovkin really being tested, and it's a view shared by many, including the bookies who have "GGG" as a clear favourite.
For Geale to win he will have to out work Golovkin and to do that he will need to get inside the Kazakh. There are three problems there for Geale. The first is getting inside of Golovkin, a feat that often looks nigh on impossible despite the fact that Golovkin is often happy to apply constant calculated pressure. The second problem is working on the inside with out being tagged whilst he's there, sadly for the challenger he will need to avoid the power of the champion on the inside just as much as he will coming in. And thirdly Geale will need to get back out of range with out being tagged, a feat that is difficult even with footwork as good Geale's.
From Golovkin we're expecting the usual tactics that he uses to great effect. The first part of that is his constant pressure, whether he throws a lot or not his pressure can take an effect, this was shown in his fight with Makoto Fuchigami. In that fight Golovkin threw next to nothing in the opening round but applied so much pressure that Fuchigami was already crumbling at the end of the round and through the following rounds Golovkin slowly amped up the output. What allows Golvokin to apply so much pressure is his exceptional footwork and understanding of distance both of which are under-rated skills that he has down to a tee. As well as the pressure Golovkin will also be looking to utilise his excellent shot selection and heavy hands. Every shot of Golovkin's hurts. His jab is like a ram rod, his straight is concussive, and his shots on the inside are utterly destructive.
Whilst we would like to pretend that we will see Golovkin actually tested here we really don't see anything but a stoppage victory for the champion who is hunting his 17th successive stoppage, a truly remarkable number!
Hopefully a win here will be followed by Golovkin fighting against another top Middleweight. A bout with Miguel Cotto would be top of the list though bouts with Sam Soliman or Martin Murray would certainly be acceptable fights given their standing in the division. It seems however that Golovkin himself wants either Cotto or Mexican star Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and we wouldn't complain if it did end up being Canelo next time out.
(Image courtesy of thegarden.com)
We are huge fans of the Top Rank Macau shows. We'll admit they aren't the best shows, they don't often have the best fights on them nor do they seem to be all that "packed" in terms of match ups. What they do do however is show case some Asian fighters ranging from future stars like Ryota Murata to fringe contenders like Yasutaka Ishimoto, from rising prospects like Rex Tso to tough journeymen like Mako Matsuyama.
On July 19th we see the next Macau card, a show dubbed "Champions of Gold", which features 3 Olympic champions including the amazingly skilled Guillermo Rigondeaux (13-0, 8). Rigondeaux, who has butted heads with Top Rank in recent months, will be taking on an Asian veteran in the form of 37 year old Sod Kokietgym (63-2-1, 28) in a defence of the WBA and WBO Super Bantamweight titles that the Cuban currently holds.
Although very highly experienced in terms of fights, both as a boxer and in Muay Thai Sod isn't a world class boxer. His 63 wins have, on the whole, come against limited imports to Thailand such as Adones Aguelo, Falazona Fidal and Randy Megrino and although he has only lost twice in 66 bouts both losses came to a man that we all know, Daniel Ponce De Leon.
In the first bout between Sod and and Ponce De Leon we saw the Thai give Ponce De Leon real problem, dropping him in the bout though taking a narrow loss. In a rematch however once De Leon showed his power and stopped Sod in amazing fashion to enhance his reputation as one of the heaviest handed fighters in the sport at that time.
Sadly since the losses to Ponce De Leon we've not seen Sod take on a single notable opponent, instead he had been happy to run up a 37 fight unbeaten streak, including 36 wins. Sadly it's not just been a lack of "notable" opponents on Sod's record but also quality opponents. Instead of progressing with experience the slow looking Sod has been beating limited foes that have almost allowed him to regress in the ring despite picking up the victories.
In regards to Rigondeaux we have one of the the true master boxers. If you're a fan of the sweet science and the ideas behind "hit and don't get hit" then Rigondeaux is your cup of tea though his lack of aggression and risk taking can often make his bouts appear tedious, especially given his exceptional skill and speed. It's this tedium of Rigondeaux that has seen the fighter and his promoter and TV giant HBO all fall out. Rigondeaux, for all his talent, can't keeps fans entertained or keep fans in an arena, as we saw in his stink fest with Joseph Agbeko.
The issues between Rigondeaux and his promoter have seen the two parties almost put together this bout to end Rigondeaux's contract. It appears that the bout, for all intents and purposes will be the last time Rigondeaux ever works with Top Rank. Unfortunately for the talented Cuban it's a bout he can't win even if he takes an amazingly impressive victory in the ring.
Priced as a prohibitive favourite at 1/100, or -10000 for our American readers, with some British sports books this is a bout that Rigondeaux is so favoured to win that many feel he need just step in the ring to win. Unfortunately by being involved in such a perceived mismatch Rigondeaux will be slated however he wins. If he beats Sod quickly it'll be a case if "well that was expected" whilst if he puts on a 12 round clinic people will say that he should have stopped Sod. It really is a no win situation.
The differences between the two men are massive. Sod is slow, clumsy, defensively poor, lacks power, and although he has experience he's developed more bad habits than almost any other fighter out there. In comparison Rigondeaux is lightning quick, almost flawless in his defence and has serious power when he lets his shots go, in fact the Cuban's left hand, when he throws it with real with conviction, is a thing of real beauty.
We're thinking that the straight left of Rigondeaux will be the key here and with the bad habits Sod has, including dropping his hands when he throws a shot, it could be a very early night with Rigondaux almost certain to land the left as a counter early on. Sod's chin isn't awful in fairness but we don't see him standing up to many of the powerful left hand shots of the Cuban and this really could be over very quickly if Rigondeaux feels like making a statement.
Through out history boxing has taken place in a variety of venues. They have ranged from local gyms to casinos, from parking lots to prisons and even the occasional restaurant. We've never before heard of a fight taking place a hotel where one of the fighters actually works a day job but on July 18th that's exactly what will be happening as the unbeaten Teiru Kinoshita (19-0-1, 3) steps up to face hard hitting South African Zolani Tete (18-3, 16) in a bout for the vacant IBF Super Flyweight title at the Portopia Hotel. Whilst we doubt it's the first time a staff member has fought at work, we don't think it's ever been for a world title.
For Kinoshita this really is a huge step up. Up to now his biggest fights have been on the Japanese domestic scene where he has claimed the Japanese title and made numerous defences, including victories over former world title challengers Atsushi Kakutani and Junichi Ebisuoka. Unfortunately for Kinoshita those bouts are at a very, very different level to this one and to compare Kakutani and Ebisuoka to Tete would be a major mistake.
One problem with trying to see what Kinoshita is all about is a lack of footage. From what we could find only one bout, his 6th against Thailand's Petchklongphai Sor Thantip, was actually out there for us to watch without too many problems. What that bout suggested was that Kinoshita was a tricky fighter to go up against with a south paw stance, a tall and rangy body and very nice speed. Unfortunately we also saw a fighter with very little power and who was unable to really hurt the Thai, other than a head clash that effectively saw Petchklongphai mentally quitting.
We're not going to say the Kinoshita of today is the same fighter as the one who beat Petchklongphai but with little to go on we do imagine that he's still a tricky fighter with speed and little power. He's a fighter who will likely have developed technically and seems to have good stamina but he did struggle past Kenji Oba, Atsushi Kakutani and Go Onaga and has never been in a 12 round contest before suggesting that this a step up not just in terms of opponent but also length of fight.
In Tete we have a real world level fighter with experience in an around the world level. This has been shown in his bouts with Moruti Mthalane, Juan Alberto Rosas, Roberto Domingo Sosa and most recently Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. Although Tete came up clearly short against Mthalane, losing by 5th round TKO, he was very unlucky to lose to both Rosas and Sosa in bouts that could very easily have gone his way had he not been the away fighter. Thankfully for Tete he didn't let the bout with Sanchez go the distance and instead he finished off the Mexican in the 10th round to secure himself an IBF world title bout.
Whilst Tete has the obvious edge in "quality of experience" he also has the edge in power, clearly, and although he's fighting away from home he is experienced with fights outside of South Africa with 3 previous fights in South America, all of which have seen him perform very well despite only winning one of them. He also, notably, has experience with southpaws and is one himself. His experience against Sanchez is likely to be invaluable here, especially when you consider that Kinoshita's best southpaw opponent so far has been Go Onaga who isn't at world level despite a top 10 IBF ranking.
From what we've seen of the two men Kinoshita is the faster and busier of the two fighters, though of course we've not managed to see a lot of him. Tete is the puncher, he's not likely throw a lot but what he connects with tends to hurt. The big question going in to the fight is "can Kinoshita take the power of Tete?" If he can then we have to favour Kinoshita to out work Tete, especially with his co-workers all cheering him on. If Kinoshita can't handle the power of Tete then this is likely to be a painful experience for Kinoshita who would almost certainly end up being the 17th stoppage victim in 20 fights for Tete.
We'd love to see Kinoshita win, it would be a great way to announce himself on the world stage. Sadly we think Tete's high level experience and power will be the difference between the two men. Fingers crossed for Kinoshita but he's in the toughest test of his career, by far, and will have give a career defining performance to come out on top.
(Image courtesy of http://www.dio-s.com/senrima)
Right now the Bantamweight division is one of the most interesting in Asian boxing. At the top of the tree we have WBC champion Shinsuke Yamanaka, arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter currently plying his trade in Asia, and close behind him with have a list of other top fighters each looking for their chance to claim a world title at 118lbs.
That list, which include Ryosuke Iwasa, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Tepparith Kokietgym, Marlin Tapalaes, Mark Anthony Geraldo, Richard Pumicpic, Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym, Kentaro Masuda, Daiki Kameda and Drian Francisco amongst others is just showing the depth in the division and just how cramped it is up there for contenders, who really should be fighting between themselves to try and earn a mandatory position.
Between the contenders and Yamanaka is current WBO champion Tomoki Kameda (29-0, 18) who will be defending his WBO title for the second time as he takes on mandatory challenger Pungluang Sor Singyu (46-2, 31). This bout has been an on-going saga that began at the start of the year and will finally come to an end when the men finally get in the ring together on July 12th and battle it out in Las Vegas.
The bout is in Las Vegas after the camps of the two fighters agreed to have it outside of their respective homelands. For Kameda that was an obvious move as he can't actually get a license in Japan unless he wants to move gyms, something he has been unwilling to do so far. As for Pungluang we can only assume he has been offered a handsome pay package to give away home advantage, a price that Kameda's have been willing to pay due to the poor history Japanese fighters have had in Thailand. As a result the bout won't be shown live in Japan and due to the other bouts on the show in the US the bout is unlikely to be shown to the masses in the US, though is expected to feature on Sho Extreme as well Boxnation and, fingers crossed, a Thai channel as well.
Thankfully despite the issues surrounding the bout it does actually seem likely to be a brilliant clash between two men widely regarded as being amongst the top 10 in the Bantamweight division. Stylistically we're expecting something a bit special with the styles of the two men likely to gel very well and we're expecting it to also be competitive.
Of the two men the most versatile is Kameda who can fight on the front foot or the back foot. He's shown great footwork against pressure and he's also shown that he can take the initiative when wants. Compared to his brother's he's by far the most rounded of the 3 Kameda's though, just like Koki and Daiki, he does have his flaws and one of which is his lack of power which often fails to stop fighters trying to walk him down, and sometimes his mentality which can make fights closer than they should be.
With Kameda being able to box on the front foot with intelligent aggression or the back foot with sharp counter punching he does seem like a hard man to beat though we tend to feel that his lack of power would leave him in problems if an aggressively minded fighter had decent footwork, something Paulus Ambunda, his best opponent to date, lacked.
In Pungluang we have a somewhat basic fighter but one who does a lot of the basics very well. He's a come forward pressure fighter, like most Thai's, who keeps it tight defensively, applies very intense pressure and attacks both the head and body well. Although short for the weight he cuts distance very well and is extremely strong, tough and hard working.
Although fundamentally predictable Pungluang is a fighter who appears to be draining both mentally and physically. He won't back off from a fighter, he won't stop coming forward and he won't stop trying to beat you down. This draining effect of Pungluang's as seen when he scored his most notable win, a 9th round stoppage against AJ Banal.
What we're expecting to see is a determined and fired up Pungluang applying his typical pressure against Tomoki and the Japanese fighter being forced to box off the back foot. This should be similar to Tomoki Kameda's fight with Ambunda though we do think that Pungluang will manage to up the ante and get closer to Tomoki. If the Thai can get close, work the body and really take the fight to the champion then we actually feel we may see the title change hands here and Pungluang could well become a 2-time world champion.
From what we understand this is likely to be Kameda's last fight at Bantamweight before he moves up to Super Bantamweight. We actually think the young Japanese fighter will be better suited to 122lbs but he's trained hard for this one and would hate to leave the division following his first loss. We don't think he'll cut corners but we do fancy the Thai to take advantage of any struggles Tomoki has at making 118lbs.
(Image courtesy of OnesongChai)
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.