This coming Friday we'll be able to see several world title fights from the US, one of which will see unbeaten Filipino Genesis Servania (29-0, 12) challenge WBO Featherweight champion Oscar Valdez (22-0, 19). For Servania, a Filipino based in Japan, this will be his maiden world title fight whilst Valdez will be seeking his third defence, following wins over Hiroshige Osawa and Miguel Marriaga.
Of the two men it's the talented and heavy handed Mexican who is expected to shine. He has long been considered one of the top Mexican fighters and, before turning professional in 2012, he had been a genuine amateur standout. In the unpaid ranks Valdez had twice competed at the Olgmpics, had won gold at the 2008 AIBA Youth World Championships, Silver at the Pan Am games in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and a Bronze at the 2009 World Amateur Championships.
So impressive was Valdez's amateur career that when he turned professional, soon after the 2012 London Olympics, people were already talking about him like a nailed on world champion. Like so many top prospects in the West however his journey to the top wasn't particularly rushed. Instead it was a slow build as he gradually stepped up his competition, beating Jose Ramirez in his 15th bout, Christ Avalos in his 17th and Evgeny Gradovch in his 19th. Finally his world title shot came in his 20th bout, in which he stopped Matias Carlos Adrian Rueda for the then vacant title.
Valdez's rise to the title had been pretty straight forward, and that was the case in his first defense, a one sided beat down of Japan's Osawa, who was tough but out classed and eventually stopped in round 7. It wasn't until his most recent defense, a 12 round war with Miguel Marriaga, that chinks were first seen in Valdez. The Mexican showed great toughness and will to win, but was hurt several times, looked defensively open and struggled to connect with his frightening power. He still won, but for the first time he was made to look human.
In the ring Valdez is a fast handed, technically well schooled boxer puncher. Defensively there is flaws, and questions do continue to be asked about his stamina and whether or not he can be versatile enough to over-come fighters who can take his power. Whilst he did defeat Marriaga, that bout left more questions than answers.
Whilst every fight fan has likely heard of, or seen, Valdez it's fair to say far, far, fewer have seen Servania. In fact many of those who have seen the Filipino would probably have only seen one fight of his, his contest with Konosuke Tomiyama which took place in 2013 in Macau as part of Top Rank's Macau experiment. That bout was a thriller, with Servania being dropped twice in the opening round, and dropping Tomiyama twice before claiming a 9th round split technical decision. Despite the drama in that fight Servania is actually a fighter who typically fights safely and doesn't engage in wars.
In the ring Servania is a technically solid fighter, who has slowly but surely racked up notable wins, which have often gone under-the-radar. Those wins have included victories over the likes of Genaro Garcia, Angky Angkotta, the aforementioned Tomiyama, Rafael Concepcion, Alexander Munoz and Jose Cabrera. Those wins won't resonate with too many fans, but they are decent wins over decent names, even though they were mostly on the slide. They have shown that Servania is a solid boxer-mover, he hits harder than his record suggests and he has rarely lost a round during his 29 bout career. It's also worth noting that despite being a bit of a veteran he is only 26 years old, with almost 9 years of experience under his belt.
Although experienced and talented this is a huge step up for Servania, and he would need to score one of the biggest upsets of 2017 to over-come Valdez. We know Servania is talented, but we can't see him having the tools needed to really test the champion. Servania should be able to have some moments, but we suspect he'll end up being stopped in the middle rounds by the more powerful Valdez.
The Middleweight division has always been one of the most significant in the sport, and historically has one been perhaps the second or third most important weight class in boxing, with only the Heavyweight clearly defining it's self as more significant. Over time we have seen icons make their name at the weight, such as Sugar Ray Robinson, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Carlos Monzon, Harry Greb, Roy Jones Jr and Bernard Hopkins. This weekend we get the chance to see the division again come to the fore as we get the division's biggest fight in years.
The bout in question will see WBC, WBA, IBF and IBO champion Gennady Golovkin (37-0, 33) take on linear champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (49-1-1, 24). The bout is essentially to crown a single king at 160lbs, it's also to decide who is the better man, and which of the two really is a pound-for-pound top fighter. It pits the biggest name in Mexican boxing against the biggest in Kazakhstan, and in fact it pits two of the sport's genuine global stars against each other, in a bout that has split fans around the world.
The bigger name going in to the bout is Canelo. The 27 year old Mexican was long ear marked as a potential star and made his debut at the prodigious age of 15 years old. His early career was a bit slow burner but in 2010 he made his US debut, and since then he has become a focal point of boxing not only in Mexico but also in the US.
Out of the ring Canelo is a big deal, a huge one in Mexico, and in the ring he has the ability to back it up. He's a compact boxer-puncher who has heavy hands, nice combinations and has been in with a real who's who of the sport. He holds wins over the likes of Miguel Vazquez, Carlos Manuel Baldomir, Kermit Cintron, Shane Mosley, Austin Trout, James Kirkland, Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and his only loss is to Floyd Mayweather Jr, no shame there.
Although Canelo is one of the best boxer-punchers in the sport he is a flawed fighter, and one open to a lot of criticism. On paper his record looks amazing, but the reality is that he actually lacks many quality wins over prime opponents, with his stand win being a controversial one over Lara. Most of his wins, such as ones over Baldomir, Mosley, Kirkland and Cotto coming against men who were beyond their best. He can be made to look slow, his work rate isn't that high and although he has a reputation as being heavy handed, he's not a monstrous puncher, more a thudding one with every shot hurting. At 5'9” and with a 70.5” reach he is also a rather small Middleweight and although he's a thick fighter he's someone who will regularly be giving away size at Middleweight.
When it comes to Golovkin we have a fighter who splits a number of fans. His supporting will tell you about his long pursuit to get a big fight, and his inability to lure other top fighters in the ring during his pomp. At 35 years old he is probably past his best, hence why some feel Canelo took the fight, but he is coming in to this on the back of a huge win over Danny Jacobs. Having mentioned Jacobs it's worth noting the American was the latest in a long line of notable wins for Golovkin, who has beaten championship level fighters like Kassim Ouma, Daniel Geale, Marco Antonio Rubio, Matthew Macklin, Kell Brook, David Lemiuex, and the aforementioned Jacobs.
Blessed with naturally frightening power Golovkin has had a long amateur background, he uses those skills to control the ring really well, he measures distance and angles brilliantly and although he's an aggressive fighter he's one who uses a lot of intelligent pressure. He backs that pressure up with a really solid chin, that helps make up for some of his defensive flaws. For all his talent he does have chinks in his armour, notably his leaky defense, a lack of head movement, and given his age there may well be some natural slow down, along with wear and tear. Offensively he is brilliant but he can be reckless, and he often shows little respect to opponents.
In the ring it will be Golovkin's pressure against against the counter punching skills of Canelo. Canelo will look to use Golovkin's pressure against him, and make him pay for his defenses lapses. As for Golovkin he'll be looking to be more intelligent than usual, use his reach and not sit in the pocket too long. He'll be looking to use his jab and his foot work, like we saw against David Lemieux, and limit the openings for the Mexican.
We suspect that a close bout will go to Canelo, we think everyone would agree with that, so we can't imagine Golovkin sitting back with his jab too much. But we think that will be his key early on, using the jab to try and pick holes in Alvarez, probably to the body. If he can do that, and bring the hands down he will get the chances late on to take it out of the judges hands. If Canelo can hold his own early on, and not take too much punishment early on, there's a fantastic chance he'll go on to hear the final bell and take the decision. With Canelo's combinations he will impress the judges, his eye catching shots are always a joy to watch, but he'll understandably look to limit them, for fear of being forced to eat too many shots from Golovkin. We think Golovkin will chip apart at Canelo and force a late stoppage, but we wouldn't be massively surprised at a win for the Mexican.
Filipino boxing is in an interesting position right now as the older generation, such as Manny Pacquiao, Nonito Donaire and Donnie Nietes, look to be coming to the end of their career just at the same time as a new batch of top fighters are making their mark. One of those new batch of fighters is 29 year old Milan Melindo (36-2, 13), who won the IBF Light Flyweight title earlier this year in his third world title shot.
This coming weekend Melindo makes his first defense of the title and looks to continue the momentum his career has, and continue to build the growing excitement in Filipino boxing, which has a host of promising prospects. Not only is Melindo looking to defend his title for the first time, but he's willing to do it against a really notable challenger as he battles South African Hekkie Budler (31-2, 10), a former WBA and IBO Minimumweight champion.
Melindo is one of the more technically capable Filipino's making a mark on the sport. He's much more in the guise of ALA stablemate Donnie Nietes than the power punching Nonito Donaire or the whirlwind punching Manny Pacquiao. He may lack real lights out power, but he can hit solidly enough, and places shots really well, as seen in his opening round destruction of Akira Yaegashi back in May.
Not only is Melindo a very technically sound boxer but he's also someone with a record to back up his skills, with wins against the likes of Muhammad Rachman, Carlos Tamara, Francisco Rosas, Jesus Geles, Jean Piero Perez, Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Martin Tecuapetla, Saul Juarez, Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr and Yaegashi That sort of record mixes wins over champions with wins over a lot of notable divisional contenders as Melindo has kept himself in the mix, despite defeats to Juan Francisco Estrada and Javier Mendoza.
Although wonderfully skilled Melindo does have his flaws. As mentioned he lacks a bit on the power side of things and he can, at times, look very lazy and be out worked. If an opponent can press him back and get out before taking a counter Melindo can occasionally be handcuffed by an aggressive opponent. If that happens he could find himself losing rounds in bouts that can make things very close on the scorecards.
South African fighter Budler was arguably the biggest name in South African boxing the last few years, and his reign as the WBA champion at 105lbs began in 2014 and lasted until 2016, when he lost a thriller to Byron Rojas. As the champion he defended the belt 4 times, with 3 of those defenses coming in Monaco. Although a light punching fighter Budler has no issues with going to war and fights against the likes of Rojas, Simphiwe Khonco and Jesus Silvestre were thrillers through and through. It's also worth noting that before he actually won the title he had other notable wins against Florante Condes and Nkosinathi Joyi, two former world champions.
Although a former champion at 105lbs Budler isn't actually a natural at the weight, having started his career at 108lbs, before dropping down. He's now moved back up and is likely to be a stronger fighter back up at Light Flyweight, where he's not draining too much, and can instead concentrate on training first rather than making weight first. That should help him physical strength and stamina, however he has had a draining career and it's interesting to wonder just how long he can continue to fight in the draining manner that he has been recently. He is a battler, with high output, but every fighter like that eventually wears out, especially when they don't have much power and keeps going the distance.
Coming in to this bout it has the ingredients of something special. With Budler's aggression, and knowing he needs to win clearly to get a decision in the Philippines, against Melindo and his incredible skills and pure boxing. This should lead to a nice gelling of styles, with Budler getting up close and forcing the action, and Melindo having chances to land heavy counters up close. Budler will certainly win rounds, but we tend to feel that home advantage and the cleaner punches will get Melindo his first defense, in a very fun and exciting contest.
The Super Bantamweight division is a bit of a strange one globally, with the division lacking big money super fights and being a very fragmented division, with a lot of talent but no out-and-out stand out star and even the biggest name in the division looks set to abandon it in pursuit of big money bouts. Despite the lack of big names Japan is stacked with fantastic fighters in the division, and this coming Wednesday we see two of those clash, as IBF champion Yukinori Oguni (19-1-1, 7) [小國 以載] make his first defense of the belt and takes on mandatory challenger Ryosuke Iwasa (23-2, 15) [岩佐 亮佑].
For those who can't remember Oguni actually won the title in a major upset last December when he shocked big punching Dominican Johnthan Guzman, and actually dropped Guzman en route to his upset win. That victory showed how well Oguni can box to a game plan, how resilient he is and how smart he is in the ring, avoiding fighting Guzman's fight and instead controlling the contest with his movement and jab.
Prior to beating Guzman we had seen Oguni claim both the OPBF and Japanese titles and score a number of notable wins. They had included victories over the likes of Roli Gasca, Masaaki Serie, Yasutaka Ishimoto and Mike Tawatchai with his only loss coming way back in 2013 to Shingo Wake. Since the loss to Wake it's obvious that Oguni has developed and is now a much stronger, more powerful and confident fighter than he'd been previously.
In the ring Oguni is a light punching fighter, but his much harder than his record suggests, he's skilled, he's an intelligent mover and he's quick. Technically there are flaws with Oguni, but fight after fight he is tidying them up, developing his physical power and building on his ring IQ. He's no longer the fighter who lost to Wake, instead he's the guy who beat Guzman, he's the champion of the world and he's the man looking to make his first of the title.
Oguni's challenger will be the once highly touted, former amateur standout Iwasa, a hard hitting southpaw who will be getting his second world title fight, and his first at his more natural Super Bantamweight division. Iwasa debuted as a teenager following a 60-6 (42) amateur career that saw him becoming a triple crown High School winner and rose quickly through the ranks, becoming the Strongest Korakuen in 2010 thanks to a stoppage win over Kinshiro Usui. A loss in a Japanese title fight to Shinsuke Yamanaka was a set back, but one that saw Iwasa get a lot of credit from as he rocked Yamanaka and was pushing him all the way.
Less than a year after the loss to Yamanaka fans saw Iwasa claim the Japanese Bantamweight title and in 2013 claim the OPBF title. That run helped him climb up the IBF world rankings and getting a fight for the interim IBF Bantamweight title against Lee Haskins. Sadly for Iwasa the movement and trickery of Haskins was too much for him, and a slightly drained Iwasa was stopped in 6 by the Englishman. That was then followed by a move up to Super Bantamweight, where he has now gone 4-0 (3) and shown a more fluid style than he had had down at Bantamweight.
Blessed with heavy hands and an explosive style Iwasa is a nightmare if connects clean. Sadly though he likes to set his feet before throwing, it a bit predictable and even a little on the slow side. His limited movement could well play into the hands of any top mover-boxer and that maybe a huge problem here against Oguni.
Oguni sees himself as the under-dog coming into this bout, but we really think he has the style to beat Iwasa, much like Haskins did. If Oguni can box and move, avoid the heavy power of Iwasa, and strike whilst moving he could make life very easy for himself. He just needs to do all he can to stop Iwasa from setting his feet an unloading. If he can he should take a clear decision in his first defense of the title.
Whilst boxing tends to be associated with weekends in Japan no day is off limits and this coming Wednesday proves that with a mouth watering double header in Osaka. One of those bouts will see WBO Light Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka (9-0, 5) [田中恒成] defending his title against once beaten Thai challenger Palangpol CP Freshmart (14-1, 8) [คู่เอก พลังพล ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท] in what looks like a solid bout on paper.
The champion won the title last year, when he closed out the year with a destructive and one-sided beat down of Moises Fuentes, stopping the Mexican in the 5th round of a bout that really looked like a show case. In his first defense of the belt Tanaka defeated hard hitting Puerto Rican Angel Acosta, taking a comfortably decision despite having some early issues with the visitor.
Prior to becoming the Light Flyweight champion Tanaka had had a short reign as the OPBF, and WBO Minmumweight champion and had racked up impressive wins against the likes of Ryuji Hara, Julian Yedras and Vic Saludar, showing he could box, brawl, fight and grit it out in those bouts. Since moving up however he's looked more relaxed and has rounded off some of his defense flaws, whilst keeping his insane speed.
In the ring Tanaka is still a diamond in the rough, despite being a 2-weight champion, but has the natural speed, and explosiveness to make up for the rough edges. Against a really intelligent fighter his flaws come be exposed more, but the truth is that that only Vic Saludar and Ryuji Hara have really had success against him, and he's looked a much stronger fighter since moving up to Light Flyweight. He's looking to prove that later this year, with a lot of talking of a bout against WBA champion Ryoichi Taguchi, but will obviously need to be successful later this coming week to get that long awaited unification bout.
Whilst Tanaka is well known, and is 4-0 (2) in world title bouts, the same cannot be said of Palangpol who is really only known in Thailand, despite having made his boxing debut in Japan and impressing, despite coming up short. Although he's a bit of a boxing novice he is a former standout Muay Thai fighter, and was a genuine star in "the art of eight limbs". It was that experience that helped him to claim some small regional titles and take on the likes of Koji Itagaki, Heri Amol and Donny Mabao very early in his career.
In the ring Palangpol is a patient fighter, he looks for his openings with aggressive footwork and although he still has the hall marks of a Muay Thai fighter who has turned to boxing he boasts very heavy hands and good timing on his counter straight right. Given his Muay Thai background it's little wonder that he looks relaxed in the ring, though sometimes that relaxed nature shows in his shots and although naturally heavy handed he has been seen to push shots. This will give opponents counter opportunities, an against a quick and smart fighter like Tanaka this could prove to be a really big problem.
The Thai won't have travelled to lie down, and is certainly a very good fighter, but it does seem like his Muay Thai flaws will be picked apart by Tanaka. As a Muay Thai fighter Palangpol is great but as a boxer his fluidity and stance aren't quite right and although he has serious power, especially in his body shots, it's hard to imagine him landing much clean on Tanaka. Instead we suspect the Japanese fighter will use his incredible speed and movement to tag the Thai until Palangpol is eventually stopped, somewhere in the middle rounds.
Back in March fans in the west got their first real chance to see Thailand's Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (43-4-1, 39), and he immediately made an impression dropping Nicaraguan great Roman Gonzalez (46-1, 38) inside the opening round, en route to a unanimous decision win. The victory saw Srisaket becoming a 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion, though saw many dispute the decision, claiming it to have been scored wrong and that Srisaket had gotten away with dirty tactics, due to his use of the head. In the days that followed the bout the WBC ordered a rematch between the two men, and that rematch will take place this coming Saturday.
The win for Srisaket was a huge upset, with the Thai being priced at 13/1 just hours before the fight, and Gonzalez being 1/100 with some bookies. Despite being a former world champion Srisaket was, to many a total unknown. The bout however proved that he was a big, tough, powerful, strong and aggressive fighter who was always going to be a handful for anyone in the division. He was flawed, but a bit of a divisional man monster, and that showed as he seemed to dwarf Gonzalez, who was looking to make his first defense of the title.
For those who missed the first bout Srisaket really is a brutish fighter. He fights at a good pace, though did slow down in the later stages of the bout with Gonzalez, he starts fast, is one of the biggest punchers pound-for-pound and brings intense pressure every time he's in the ring. Despite having a bit of a padded record, as most Thai's do, he does hold notable wins over Yota Sato, Hirofumi Mukai and Jose Salgado, all of whom were stopped by Sriaket and he is a genuine talent.
The Thai's record is marked up, though it should be noted that he actually began his career 1-3-1, losing 3 early career bouts in Japan. Following that start he's gone 42-1 (38) with his only loss being a technical decision in Mexico to Carlos Cuadras, with Cuadras beginning to flag before the bout was stopped. With only that one loss in his last 43 bouts he's a confident fighter and one who will be entering this bout on the biggest win of his career.
When it comes to Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez we really are talking about one of the best little men the sport has seen. He's an offensive monster who has shown his skills around the globe and notched up notable wins from Minimumweight to Super Flyweight, whilst becoming the first ever 4-weight champion from Nicaragua. Fans who understand the lower weight divisions will understand how impressive Gonzalez's record is with wins against the likes of Yutka Niida, Katsunari Takayama, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Juan Francisco Estrada, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Akira Yaegashi, Brian Viloria and Carlos Cuadras.
Gonzalez is a highly skilled offensive fighter, who uses his offense as his best form of defense. He's throws silky smooth combinations of heavy shots, switches between head and body with easy and looks incredibly smooth in the ring. His movement is fantastic, his power is destructive and he really is a very special fighter. Sadly though as he's moved up to 115lbs we've seen his effectiveness decrease, his shots don't have the same destructive power they used to have and his relatively limited defense has caused the heavier shots of opponents at Super Flyweight to really mark him up and damage his face.
Prior to his first bout with Srisaket Gonzalez had had a poor camp with issues away from the ring, including the death of long term mentor Arnulfo Obando. He, and his team, will have learned from that but given the miles on the clock that Gonzalez has, and the miles added with every round he now fights at 115lbs, it's hard to know just how long he can keep going, despite “only” being 30.
Given the way the first bout went we're expecting something really exciting again here, we're actually expecting a repeat, rather than a revenge, with Srisaket again bullying Gonzalez en route to another win. That will kill any hopes of a show down between Gonzalez and Naoya Inoue, who makes his US debut on the same card, but that's perhaps best for Gonzalez's health if we're being honest.
This coming weekend is quite possibly the biggest ever weekend for the Super Flyweight division as we get a stacked divisional suer show. Part of that show is the US debut of Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (13-0, 11), who will be giving the wider boxing world a chance to see what the fuss is all about. He will be doing so as he defends the WBO Super Flyweight title against once beaten American challenger Antonio Nieves (17-1-2, 9) in a bout being aired all over the globe.
For Inoue the bout might be his US debut but he's already an established professional and will be seeking his 6th defense of the WBO title. Even more impressively is the fact that this bout will be his 9th world title bout, and his 11th career title bout, two genuinely amazing feats for a fighter who is still only 24 and has been a professional for less than 5 years.
Whilst we suspect regular readers here will be very aware of Inoue and what he brings to the ring others might be just hearing of his name for the first time. Those who have seen him will be fully aware that he's one of those special boxers who really can do anything in the ring, and seems to be constantly adding new things to his arsenal. He showed incredible pure boxing skills early in his career, then impressed with showing an ability to fight as a pressure fighter, mowing throwing Jerson Mancio for the Oriental title in his 4th professional bout. He can box, he can bang, he can move, he can counter punch and in recent outings he's also shown he can do it as a southpaw as well.
Those who haven't seen him really have missed out on his rapid rise through the ranks, but of course it's never too late to be won over by a fighter, and that's what is likely to happen this weekend when Inoue gets a chance to shine on US soil.
Dubbed “The Monster” due to his freakish physical strength and punching power he really is a brute in terms of how hard he hits, but he doesn't fight like a pure puncher. Instead he seems to switch between fighting on the back foot as a counter puncher and on the front foot as an all out pressure fighter. He controls the range whilst choosing which style he wants to employ and has every punch in the book. He switches between head and body with natural fluidity rarely seen in the ring, his movements all seem to be a step ahead of those of his opponents and his finishing instincts are among the very best in the sport.
Although a sensational talent Inoue isn't flawless. Physically he has had recurrent hand issues, with regular damage to his right hand, and in the ring he has been seen to turn off, with that issue prevalent against Petchbarngborn when he dropped his hands and ate several clean shots following a low blow. A lack of in ring experience may be to blame, but it's still a chink in his armour and something that will need to be tidied up before he moves up in weight again, as he begins to chase a third divisional title.
Of course Inoue isn't going to be shadow boxing and he will have to over-come American foe Nieves if he's to leave America as a champion, and not damage his reputation as one of the sports best fighters. The American is no push over and the Ohio native is a very credible fighter himself. He's typically been fighting up at Bantamweight, and even Super Bantamweight, and has yet to be stopped during his 20 fight career. Not only has he not been stopped but his only defeat has been a very close one to talented Russian Nikolai Potapov, with that loss coming this past March.
Footage of Nieves shows that he's an aggressive fighter, who likes to come forward and has heavy, but not concussive, power. He can apply smart pressure, switches between head and body well and looks to be a solid all-rounder, but not someone who excels in any specific area. He does however keep a solid work rate, and is pretty accurate, though this is a massive step up for him.
Although naturally fighting at a higher weight it's not expected to be an issue for Nieves, who is a relatively small Bantamweight and has come in light for the 118lb division in the past, suggesting he can easily make Super Flyweight. The fact he has been fighting at the higher weights is however a sign that he can take a solid shot but he's to face a world class fighter, and this is a major step up for him.
If Nieves can take a shot, he could make Inoue work really hard for the win, but we suspect the American will be broken down in the middle rounds as Inoue looks to make a statement and announce himself to a whole new audience. The big issue for him will be staying relaxed, not trying to force things and fighting his fight. If he can do that then he will almost instantly win over the US fans, who will be begging to see more of him. If he rushes things and becomes scrappy he could find himself looking less than sensational, and like another “hype job”, which would be considered a genuine disappointment for the Kanagawa.
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.