At their best title unification bouts allow us to recognise the best fighter in a division. Sadly those unifications are becoming less and less common. What we're getting instead are more champion Vs interim champion unification bouts. It's a shame but it seems to be the way with boxing right now.
The first "unification" of November will see the unbeaten WBO Bantamweight champion Tomoki Kameda (30-0, 19) defending his belt against WBO interim champion Alejandro Hernandez (28-10-2, 15), a man with a truly misleading record. It may not be the unification that any of us want to see at Bantamweight but it is still a very interesting bout and one that will almost certainly be interesting due to the styles, strengths and weaknesses of the two men involved.
Before we get on to the actual bout there is something that needs saying. That is that we think many American fans are going to be looking forward to this one courtesy of the fact they have seen Tomoki in action before. For the Japanese fighter this will be his second successive bout in the US following his last defense of the belt, a 7th round KO against Pungluang Sor Singyu in a finish that was really memorable courtesy of the fact it came from a single well placed and paralysing body shot.
For those who did see Tomoki's last bout but none of his others they may shocked to hear what we're about to say, but Tomoki isn't a puncher. The stoppage he scored last time out against the teak tough Pungluang wasn't a case of Tomoki having power but rather his skills, speed and punch selection which saw him landing a quick shot to an unprotected part of Pungluang's body and catching him in such a way that the Thai fighter was effectively rendered unable to continue from the agony.
Tomoki's really outstanding traits are his speed and skills. He has speed with both his hands and feet and can fight on the move with blurring combinations in an aggressive mentality or his can box behind a sharp lightning quick jab, or he can fight as a pure counter puncher, drawing opponents in and countering. Depending on his opponent he can fight as a chameleon, something very few fighters can do. It's the ability of Tomoki to alter his tactics that make him such a great boxer, he can adapt on the fly and go from combination puncher to counter puncher as and when he wants. He can chase an opponent when he's confident or he has them hurt, or he can force an opponent to chase him whilst using his light feet to get out of range.
Although not a puncher Tomoki does have power that will make most fighters respect him. It helps that he can deliver a huge variety of shots and at lightning quick speed but he's not a puncher and if someone can take his shots and make him work hard to create the distance he needs then they can make life very difficult for him. We saw that at times in the Pungluang fight and we've also saw it, a little bit, against Paulus Ambunda. Of course however not many top fighters at Bantamweight today are pure pressure fighters and it could be that there isn't a good enough pressure fighter to really give Tomoki too many issues.
When it comes to Hernandez we're talking about one of the sports real tough guys. In his 40 bouts he has failed to go the distance just once, when he suffered a damaged hand against multi-weight world champion Leo Santa Cruz. Although he's picked up losses in that time he has regularly fought at a very high level and as a result suffered losses to world class fighters, such as Omar Andres Narvaez, Carlos Tamara, the aforementioned Santa Cruz and Akifumi Shimoda. In all honesty he is probably the second or third best fighter with double digit losses, behind only Orlando Salido.
Despite suffering losses to many of the bigger names that he has fought Hernandez has actually scored some solid results himself. That includes a win over Gilberto Keb Baas, a draw with Marvin Sonsona and recent wins over Marvin Mabait and Daniel Rosas, wins that have helped to win the interim world title. Aged 28 Hernandez has been a professional since he was 15 and has had to carve out a career the hard way. He's not had the favours of some other fighters and instead has had to do things the hard way, the very hard way. That means he's had to fight on the road and has already fought in the US, Argentina, Nicaragua, Canada and Japan.
Although not the most naturally skilled fighter Hernandez has all the traits that makes fight very difficult for more talented fighters. He's stubborn, tough and keeps coming. None of his shots may have truly concussive power but they are hurtful, constant and often come from relatively unusual angles, especially his straight right which is very odd when he throws it. His ability to go 12 rounds at a decent pace is a real serious quality and unless someone can really discourage him we suspect they are in for a hard 12 rounds,
With what Hernandez brings to the table we do suspect he'll give Tomoki some problems, especially in the later rounds, but for the most part Tomoki's speed, movement and elusiveness should help him take a clear decision. We suspect Tomoki will have to work hard every round. There won't be any gimme's, however Tomoki should do more than enough in many of the rounds to take a clear, but very hard fought decision in a fight we suspect will be more competitive than the scorecards would suggest at the end of 12 tough rounds.
(Image courtesy of http://www.warriorsboxing.com)
The Minimumweight division may have been widely ignored by the casual fans through it's short history but it's a division which has given us a lot of great fights in recent years. Those fights have including unification wars, such as the Kazuto Ioka/Akira Yaegashi fight from back in 2012, or this year's scintillating war between Katsunari Takayama and Francisco Rodriguez Jr, as well as single-title slug fests like Yaegashi's war with Pornnsawan Porpramook. Sadly whilst the division is one of the very best for fans who enjoy a great fight it's also been a disappointing year for Asian fighters with 3 Asian's losing Minimumweight world titles already this year.
One of those 3 men was China's Xiong Zhao Zhong (24-5-1, 14) who had his WBC title taken in shocking fashion when he met Oswaldo Novoa and was dominated by the Mexican under-dog. Whilst it's fair to say we all under-rated Novoa, who was a relative unknown, it was still an huge upset and one of the most shocking results of the year, especially given that the bout was fought in Zhong's native China.
Zhong went into that bout as the first and only Chinese world champion. This coming weekend Zhong will attempt to become China's first 2-time world champion as he attempts to claim the WBA title from the highly regarded South African speedster Hekkie Budler (26-1, 9), a man looking for back-to-back wins against Asian fighters following his stoppage victory last time out against Pigmy Kokietgym, and in fact he'll be hunting his 4th successive stoppage.
Although a divisive fighter Zhong is someone we respect even if we don't consider ourselves fans of his. He is the figure head of Chinese boxing in the mainland and although he's over-shadowed by Zou Shiming's fights in Macau Zhong has achieved more as a professional than any other Chinese fighter. He's done that not through skill and ability but sheer tenacity, bravery, natural strength and toughness, both mentally and physically.
Zhong is one of the most diminutive professional boxers in the sport right now and even for a Minimumweight he's short. Despite his lack of height he is built like a tank and looks strong, powerful and muscular for a guy fighting in the sports lowest weight class. It's that power and toughness that has seen him achieve what he has in his career. Strangely for a fighter built like he is however Zhong isn't a big puncher and instead needs to grind opponents for stoppages. Against lower tier fighters that works perfect, as shown in his some what embarrassing win over Thailand's Lookrak Kiatmungmee. Against the better fighters that he has faced however he has struggled to really impose himself due to a lack of technical ability and a relative lack of speed compared to his fellow Minimumweights. And although some may point out that he holds a win over the exceptional Denver Cuello, those people do need to note that that came more from Cuello's health issues as opposed to Zhong's actual boxing ability.
If we accept that Zhong is like a tank, with power and rugged toughness then Budler is like the opposite. He's tough like Zhong but trades off on his speed as opposed to power. Budler is quick, sharp and highly skilled. He's a fighter who will land 2 or 3 punches whilst an opponent is thinking about their next move and then he'll get out of range before an opponent can reply. It's his speed, both with feet and hands, that makes Budler such a brilliant fighter in the division and one of the men that could become a long reigning champion at the weight.
What Budler has done over the years is improve and develop. Watching him from 2010 and 2011 he looked like a man who was going to struggle to advance. It was during that time the Budler suffered his sole loss, a split decision to fellow South African Gideon Buthelezi, and struggled with the likes of Juanito Rubillar and Evaristo Primero, since then though he has improved drastically and become his own fighter, as shown in his wins over the likes of Florante Condes and Nkosinathi Joyi.
Whilst sometimes the limited but stronger fighter can over-come the quicker and more skilled fighter those bouts are rare and we suspect that Budler will be too quick, too smart and too good for Zhong. The Chinese fighter is likely to be tough and game throughout but unlikely to actually be competitive in terms of winning rounds. He'll make Budler work in stages but not enough to really mount a serious challenger in a bout that will help enhance the standing of the South African fighter.
If he wins here wouldn't say Budler was the de facto #1 in the division but it looks to be between him and Francisco Rodriguez Jr and a bout between those two would, in our eyes, be for the #1 position. Hopefully 2015 will bring us a contest like that or we'll get the chance to see Katsunari Takayama share the ring with one of them with the Japanese fighter certainly still a proven top tier fighter in the division.
(Image courtesy of Zovi.cn)
For several years the Bantamweight division has had two rulers. One was Panamanian slickster Anselmo Moreno, a tricky pure boxer. The other Japanese destructive and unbeaten Shinsuke Yamanaka (21-0-2, 16). The two two couldn't be much more different with Moreno using movement, sharp jabs and rapier straights as well as tricky and jerky movements whilst Yamanaka often neglects the jab to set up rocket launcher left hands that have earned him the nickname "God of Left".
At the end of September one of those men was dethroned as Moreno lost a controversial, and very difficult to watch, technical decision to Juan Carlos Payano, an unbeaten fighter from the Dominican Republic. That bout may have seen Payano win the title but at the end of the day it's actual affect was leaving us with just 1 proven and dominant champion, WBC holder Yamanaka. Had Payano iced Moreno in a 1-sided show case on Fox Sports 1, as the bout was intended to be shown on, then we'd be talking about Payano as a potential threat but that bout being unaired in the US, or online, has left more mystery and intrigue than anything else.
In middle of October we will see Yamanaka back in action as he looks for the 7th defense of his belt in a little under 3 years and attempts to over-come mandatory challenger Suriyan Sor Rungvisai (37-5-1, 16), a former WBC Super Flyweight champion who is known for both his reign at 115lbs and his close bout with Pongsaklek Wonjongkam way back in 2010, a bout that saw many fans of the lower weights first take note of the Thai.
For Yamanaka this is his most interesting fight since his hard fought contest with Malcolm Tunacao back in April 2013. It's the first time since that bout that the champion is facing a former world title holder and a man with proven world class ability and toughness as well as a proven history of given world class southpaws, such as Wonjongkam, a tough time. Despite those facts it does need saying that Yamanaka is a freak of nature. His movement is criminally under-rated, his timing is sensational and his counters, especially the left straight, is deadly.
Watching Yamanaka can, at times, be frustrating with the Japanese fighter often looking like a purely 1-handed fighter. His jab is massively under-used, his inside work is good but again under-used and if you can neutralise that thunder-bolt right you can sometimes take him out of his gameplan. Despite looking like a 1-handed fighter however we've seen Yamanaka fight enough to know he has all the tools in his locker and his work on the inside can be just as devastating as his shots at range. It's just a shame he doesn't use them all unless truly needed, as was the case against Ryosuke Iwasa in a very memorable Japanese title fight back in 2011.
As for Suriyan the Thai is a very tough guy who has shown an ability to go in hard with fighters like Nobuo Nashiro, who he defended his title against, and Wongjongkam. Saying that however he was, surprisingly, dropped twice by Yota Sato, indicating that whilst Suriyan is tough there may be questions as to how tough and how well he would handle a clear shot from a fully fledged Bantamweight. Saying that however the Sato fight was Suriyan's final bout at Super Flyweight and it is possible that he was suffering with issues from making the weight limit.
Whilst the challenger is just 25 years old he is also an experienced competitor. He has a number of notable wins including decisions over Tepparith Kokietgym, Takashi Kunishige, Tomas Rojas and Nashiro. He also has experience of fighting on the road though like many Thai's his record outside of Thailand isn't great, in fact he is 0-3-1 outside of his home including an early career loss in South Korea to Jin-Man Jeon. It also need noting that he lacks a real standout win as a Bantamweight with his best Bantamweight win being a stoppage over the previously unbeaten Filipino Daryl Basadre in 2013. As well as a lack of notable Bantamweight wins he has also shown a relative lack of power, despite scoring 9 stoppages in the last 2 years or so. Those stoppages have come at such a low level that they have made Suriyan look like a bigger puncher than he is and in reality even those 9 stoppages have taken 17 bouts to accumulate.
Although Suriyan is a talented boxer with a tight defense and good over-all skills it's hard to see what he really brings to threaten Yamanaka with. He doesn't have the power to make Yamanaka think twice about taking a risk and he also lacks the size to get inside and make the Japanese fighter really work for his win. The tight defense will force Yamanaka to do something to create an opening though we suspect that Japanese fight could box off the back foot very comfortably to take a wide decision if he can be bothered to get his jab into action. If Yamanaka does let his jab go then this could easily be a white wash with out the champion really breaking sweat.
Whilst the champion could take an easy decision we actually suspect is that Yamanaka will hunt a stoppage, it's in his mentality and he appears to want to break Yoko Gushiken's 7 fight national record for most successive title defense by stoppage. If this is what Yamanaka goes for we suspect to see him soften up the challenger in the early and middle rounds before going for the kill in the latter half of the fight, it's there that we will find out how tough Suriyan really is.
On paper we like this bout, in reality however Yamanaka is just too far too good for almost everyone else in the division. Suriyan would give almost everyone in the division a tough bout but not the "God of Left".
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Unification bouts in boxing are very rare and generally they are worth getting excited about. Champion Vs Champion, the best vs the best. Sadly however with the WBA having 3 titles we seem to have seen more WBA unification fights recently than real unification bouts and we see another WBA unification bout this coming Saturday as WBA Featherweight super champion Nonito Donaire (33-2, 21) attempts to unify his title with the WBA Featherweight "regular" champion Nicholas Walters (24-0, 20) in what will be the second WBA unification bout in as many days.
Of the two men in action it's Donaire who is better known due to the fact the Filipino has long been one of the stars, and cash cows, of the lower weights. The American based fighter first made his name on the back of a scintillating win over Vic Darchinyan back in 2007 and since then has gone through the divisions picking up both world titles and notable scalps, such as Fernando Montiel, Toshiaki Nishioka and Omar Andres Narvaez. The success, and power, or Donaire has seen him become a favourite of the US boxing media and although he has struggled in recent years it does seem like there is still a lot for Donaire to achieve if he can get himself up for fights, which appears to be his biggest problem.
At his best Donaire is a counter punching destroyer as she showed against Montiel and Darchinyan. Sadly however when a fighter doesn't give Donaire some pretty clear openings he has struggled, as seen in the Narvaez fight and his somewhat recent loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux. At his core Donaire is a powerful and quick counter puncher who adds an air of excitement to every bout he's involved in with fans hoping to see him detonate a bomb on his opponent. Sadly though when an opponent is an unwilling dance partner Donaire can be made to look fundamentally limited and at times lost in the ring.
As for Walters he's a hard man to get a real read on. We've only seen a handful of his bouts and although the Jamaican has serious power he also seems to be developing in terms of timing, general skills and, worryingly for Donaire, patience. In the first few fights of Walters that we've seen he looked like a slugger and offensive mindset, the sort of guy that Donaire would typically feast on with no issues due to the openings that he used to leave.
Whilst he's a big puncher Walter's also has a few tricks up his sleeve. He's willing to take the 1/2 step back, he's willing to let the other man lead and he's capable of unleashing thunder from both hands. He's one of those fighters that others don't take risks against, in fact in many way's he's a lot like a younger version of Donaire albeit a cruder version of a young Donaire. Like a young a young Donaire Walters also appears big for the weight in which he's competing, something that certainly helped the Filipino fighter move up the weight classes. That size is likely to tell here and Walters is likely to look bigger than Donaire, by quite a margin.
Donaire at his best was brilliant. His stoppages against Darchinyan and Montiel were sensational and really made him a huge star and a real pound-for-pound fighter. Sadly those performances look to be well behind him and in recent fights he has looked like a man who is missing his sparkle and confidence. He's still talented but that lack of magic and desire is the difference between a world class fighter and an elite level fighter. and that lack of magic could cost him here.
What we think will happen is that both men will fight as counter punchers and neither will be willing to open up. This will lead to a very slow but tense fight with both men believing they have the power to stop the other. They style of fight won't be great to watch for the most part but as soon as one man leads the other will answer and we will get some very exciting exchanges between the two who will be trying to counter each other. When they do exchange Donaire will have the speed edge and Walters will have the size and power edge. It's a matter of who has the chin edge as to who will come out on top here. We tend to feel the size will be the difference and help Walters take the win however if Donaire connects clean there is every chance he will stop Walters.
The only thing we know for sure here is that we are looking forward to this fight and that either man can pick up the win in what promises to be a very interesting contest even if it's unlikely to be the most exciting bout of the weekend
On the international scene there are only a handful of Asian fighters that American fans, at the moment, are really interested in. One of those is arguably the most intimidating man in boxing and one of the most destructive with the power and skill to leave a division trembling in fear. That man is Gennady Golovkin (30-0, 27) the current WBA Middleweight champion. Golvokin is so fearsome and terrifying that it often seems that getting opponents for him is a bigger battle than the ones he actually has in the ring and the way he has mowed through the contenders and pretenders in the division has been nothing short of fantastic. It's almost like he has cut through the division and left only a small handful of foes left to conquer.
The next obstacle in Golovkin's way to becoming the undisputed king of the Middleweight division is Mexican veteran Marco Antonio Rubio (59-6-1, 51), himself a massive puncher and a full signatory to the "who needs him?" club.
Golovkin is a fighter who really has almost everything a fan can want to see in a fighter. He's technically very well schooled and his amateur pedigree speaks for it's self, he doesn't fight like an amateur however and instead of pot shotting looking for "scoring blows" he seeks and destroys with a technically astute aggressive style dependent on applying constant but calculated pressure. He combines his pressure with thunderous, lights out and soul destroying power to head and body and a very solid chin that has shots bouncing off it like a pistol to a tank.
That's not to say Golvokin is perfect. Defensively he has holes, as shown in his fight with Curtis Stevens, and in many fights he has started slowly giving away the opening round, as he almost did against Japanese fighter Makoto Fuchigami, Also he's not the quickest with his hands or feet, although he does make up for that with intelligent footwork that sees him cutting off the ring in an amazing fashion. It's that cutting off of the ring that makes Golovkin such a great fighter and although his power is his calling card it's the footwork that really impresses us as he immediately forces an opponent on to the ropes and into survival mode. It's genuinely amazing.
As for Rubio, the Mexican is a tough guy with solid power of his own and a lot of experience. He's also one of the Middleweight division's most under-rated fighters and unfortunately he's often been a fighter with more risk than reward. Had Rubio been given some of the chances he had earned there is every chance that he would have been the man to have beaten Sergio Martinez and he would currently hold the WBC world title. Things in boxing however don't often go as they should and instead he was still chasing a bout at the WBC title prior to agreeing to fight Golovkin.
Rubio is one of the division hard nosed challengers. In his 66 fights he has suffered just 3 stoppage losses with only one of those, a defeat to Kelly Pavlik, coming in the last decade. Although an avoided fighter he has battled against the likes of Pavlik, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Kofi Jantuah, Kassim Ouma, Zaurbek Baysangurov, Enrique Ornelas, David Lemieux and most recently Domenico Spada. With mixed results against those guys it's clear to say that Rubio is a qualified world level fighter, even if he's never actually held a true world title.
For this fight what we're expecting is what we expect every time Golovkin fights. His opponent will look confident though with in a round we're expecting Rubio to be on the back foot throwing shots which are more about trying to prevent Golovkin coming forward than actually winning the round. As with most fighters however Rubio will soon discover that that strategy doesn't work against Golovkin and mentally he'll crumble as Golvokin tags him with dynamite shots that appear moderately show but like a shot gun have real staying power.
Rubio is tough and won't be taken out by the first clean shot like some fighters have been but there is no doubting he will be Golvokin's 28th stoppage victim from just 31 fights. A win here should see Golovkin adding the WBC silver Middleweight title to his collection and taking a huge step towards a big money break out fight against Miguel Cotto, a win there and Golovkin will almost certainly go down as the divisions #1 fighter, at least until he decides to mount an assault on the Super Middleweight division which we suspect may come in the next 12-18 months.
(Image courtesy of http://wbcboxing.com)
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.