It's fair to say that we have a lot of really good bouts through out October, with a number of world title bouts looking really good on paper. Sadly however one one of those titles bouts sticks out like a sore thumb in terms of being genuinely disappointing. That's the WBO Light Flyweight title bout between long term champion Donnie Nietes (36-1-4, 21) and the relatively unknown Juan Alejo (21-3, 13). The bout, Nietes's US debut, is clearly to allow the champion to make a statement to US fans who may not have yet seen him in action.
For many fans Alejo is a real unknown, even for fans of the lower weights. Sadly his record, or rather his opposition, is the reason he's so unknown, and why we certainly see this a very disappointing mismatch.
Alejo began his career 0-3, those 3 bouts came against his most notable opposition with one loss coming to world title contender Jose Cabrera and the other two against one time Roman Gonzalez foe Jesus Limones.
Since those 3 bouts Alejo has run up 21 straight wins but the competition has been dire with the most notable name on his record by Jesus Faro, who was easily beaten by Yu Kimura just a few weeks ago. Sadly that level of competition really hasn't qualified, or prepared, Alejo for a world title bout, especially not against a genuine world champion like Nietes.
Sadly for us Alejo's low level of competition has made it very difficult to track down footage of the Mexican. From his record it seems like he can punch a bit but digging deeper into his opponents even his power seems questionable. In one way the lack of footage may help Alejo, with Nietes's team perhaps struggling to get a good read on the Mexican. The reality however is that footage of him being scarce isn't a positive sign of his ability and that probably tells a story of it's own.
Whilst we know little in regards to Alejo we do know a lot about Nietes with the defending champion being one of the staples of the lower weights divisions. In fact Nietes has been a world champion for 8 years across the Minimumweight and Light Flyweight divisions. His run at world level has seen him go 13-0-1, avenging the draw with a stoppage win in a rematch.
Nietes's record tells us a lot about how good he is. His one loss, to Angky Angkotta, is a very disputed and controversial one from back in 2004 and since then he has gone 25-0-3 with wins against the likes of Pornsawan Porpramook, Manuel Vargas, Jesus Silvestre, Mario Rodriguez, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Felipe Salguero, Sammy Gutierrez, Moises Fuentes and Francisco Rodriguez Jr. That might not be the sort of record needed to get into the HOF but it is a very strong resume from a man who has been the forgotten staple of the Filipino boxing scene.
In the ring there is very little Nietes can't do. Naturally he's a very confident counter-puncher, one of the best in the lower weights. Despite being an incredible counter puncher he can fight as an all round boxer and has shown an increasing belief in his punch power, in fact he's stopped 4 of his last 5 foes something that's very different to what the numbers of his record would suggest. He's not perfect but he doesn't do a lot of things wrong and it's hard to see anyone at 108lbs being favoured over him. Saying that however he is 33, and getting on for a lower weight fighter.
Given what we do know Nietes is more proven, he is in great form and looking to impress an audience that may not yet have been won over by him. He will also be hoping to make a statement ahead of a potential show down with Roman Gonzalez, who fights Brian Viloria on the same night. With that in mind we're expecting to see Nietes do a demolition job on Alejo who has been deliberately selected to make a statement again, and is unlikely to last more than 6 rounds.
Since the retirement of Floyd Mayweather Jr we have seen the world of boxing crown a new pound-for-pound #1 fighter, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (43-0, 37). The little Nicaraguan sensation has finally received the recognition that hardcore fans, lower weight fans and Japanese fans have been giving him for years. On October 16th we see Gonzalez attempt to move to 44-0 and make the next defense of his WBC Flyweight title as he takes on Filipino-American Brian Viloria (36-4-0-2, 22) in what looks to be a mouth watering test for for the new pound-for-pound king.
Gonzalez's rise from obscurity to 3-weight world champion and pound-for-pound status has been a relatively slow climb though that many fans expected of him from relatively early in his career. In fact you need to go back to 2008 for his first “break out” performance, a 4th round TKO win over the then WBA Minimumweight champion Yutaka Niida. It was in that bout that Gonzalez showed impressive power, skills maturity for a 21 year old fighting away from home. The following year he would return to Japan and take a clear win over Katsunari Takayama, in what was a clear decision with Takayama doing all he could to see out the final few rounds.
Since announcing himself in Japan Gonzalez has managed to make a name for himself in Mexico, with wins over the likes of Manuel Vargas, Omar Salado and Juan Francisco Estrada, all whom were beat whilst Gonzalez was the WBA Light Flyweight champion. For many fans in the west it was the Estrada bout, aired in the US, that brought Gonzalez some new fans, it was a 2012 FOTY contender and one of the best bouts in recent years between two men who essentially beat each other up for 12 highly entertaining rounds. An impressive win over Akira Yaegashi last year saw Gonzalez become the WBC Flyweight champion and further strengthen his claim of being one of the world truly elite level fighters.
This year we've seen Gonzalez finally break through to the mainstream with his HBO debut, a very impressive and destructive win over Edgar Sosa. That win saw HBO and American fight fans make it clear that they wanted more of him and just 5 months after his HBO debut he's back again in what looks to be a genuinely tough match up against Viloria.
Before we get on to Viloria we'll just talk about Gonzalez's style. He is able to box and move but at his best he's a marauding pressure fighter, he cuts off the ring, brings the fight to you and beats you with vicious and sharp combinations. If Floyd Mayweather was a defense genius then Gonzalez was his offensive contemporary with the best offensives footwork and combinations in the sport. He's fast, strong, powerful and staggeringly destructive. If has a flaw it's possibly his defense which can slip at times, though usually he's on point with that as well using a tight guard and good head movement.
Now Viloria, the American Olympian has long been a favourite of the hardcore fans and Filipino fans and for much of the last decade or so has been the one Flyweight who looked like he could become a US TV staple. Unfortunately he has often found himself have momentum stopping set backs just as he's looked ready to kick on with his career.
Saying that however Viloria is a 2-weight world champion himself and holds a really respectable number of world level wins. They include wins over the likes of Gilberto Keb Baas, Eric Ortiz, who be heat for the WBC Light Flyweight title, Jose Antonio Aguirre, Ulises Solis, Julio Cesar Mirando, Giovani Segura, Omaro Nino Romero and Hernan Marquez. Sadly losses to Romero, Edgar Sosa, Carlos Tamara and most recently Juan Francisco Estrada have stopped him from becoming the star that many hoped he would become.
At 34 years old Viloria is old for a Flyweight and has been through the hard, career draining, battles yet he is still a more than capable boxer-puncher who can really, genuinely, do every thing in the ring. He's been blessed with spiteful power, as seen in his win over Ortiz, and has developed fantastic boxing ability. The problem sometimes however is that he's not sure on whether he's a boxer or a puncher and can get stuck between the two, he's also shown questionable stamina, notable in his bouts with Tamada and Estrada. At 34 that stamina is unlikely to have improved.
Although a very good boxer Viloria is likely to be needing to rely on his power here as Gonzalez will almost certainly bring the intense pressure that has became a staple of his recent bouts. If Viloria can hurt Gonzalez then things could be interesting however we suspect Viloria will struggle to land clean and instead he will be forced to eat the combinations of Gonzalez until the challenger is eventually worn down.
Hopefully the winner of this will move towards another divisional super fight, with perhaps Amnat Ruenroeng, Juan Francisco Estrada or Kazuto Ioka. If that happens then it's going to be very hard for American boxing media and the casual fight fans to continue to ignore the Flyweight division, arguable the most exciting division in the sport today.
When punchers collide fan fights get excited knowing that they might end ups with either a modern classic or an early blow out. Even when the bout is a supposed mismatch the power of the under-dog prevents fans from ignoring the fight knowing that a clean shot could totally change the momentum of the fight and see the under-dog rip up the script.
We get one such bout on October 16th when Kazakhstan's monstrously hard hitting Gennady Golovkin (33-0, 30) faces off against popular Canadian David Lemieux (34-2, 31). Not only is the bout an exciting one on paper with two big hitters but it will also be for the position of “unified” Middleweight champion with Golovkin putting his WBA “super”, WBC “interim”, and IBO titles on the line against Lemieux's IBF belt. The winner will not only hold the highest level of titles from the WBA and IBF but will also be the mandatory challenger to the WBC title and will only need to hunt the WBO if they are hoping to become the undisputed champion.
On paper Golovkin is the clear favourite. He's unbeaten and looks to be the dominant force in the division having swept aside the likes of Grzegorz Proksa, Gabriel Rosado, Nobuhiro Ishida, Matthew Macklin, Curtis Stevens, Daniel Geale, Marco Antonio Rubio and Martin Murray, all of whom have been stopped by Golovkin.
The Kazakh has found himself racing through the proverbial pound-for-pound rankings almost as quickly as he's been going through his opponents and he's already regarded in the top 5 fighters on the planet by Boxrec.com, ESPN, Ring whilst the TBRB rank him inside the top 10. Whilst he has had 33 fights to his name he was a relative unknown to the US market 3 years ago, when he made his US debut, and has swiftly become a fan favourite Stateside.
Blessed with devastating power it's easy to describe Golovkin as “just a puncher” but the truth is that he's so much more than “just a puncher”. He's technically a solid boxer, helped by an incredible amateur background with more than 340 wins, his foot work is criminally under-rated as he cuts off the ring with ease and he always look in position to throw a shot. He does have chinks in his armour, notably in his defense, but he appears to have a very solid chin which makes him very difficult to discourage. Worryingly he has also proven his stamina, and despite never going 12 rounds he never looked all that bothered with stamina during his recent 11th round TKO win against Martin Murray.
What perhaps makes Golovkin stand out more than many other punchers is that he's willing to try new things. At times he has thrown some punches, including a punch that could be described as an “under-cut” or “reverse uppercut”, that certainly aren't in the text book for the sport. His variety of punches is incredible and he hit's monstrously hard with both hands causing real issues for fighters who have to worry about every shot in his arsenal.
Whilst the 33 year old Golovkin is unbeaten the same cannot be said of his 26 year old Canadian rival. In Lemieux has suffered two notable losses to opponents that perhaps were over-looked in some ways. The first of those came against Marco Antonio Rubio, who saw off an early storm from the Canadian before an exhausted Lemieux was stopped by his then corner man Russ Anber. Lemieux would lose his return bout decision to Joachim Alcine, who was considered a safe option though took a decision win over Lemieux. Those set backs, both in 2011, saw Lemieux go from one of the hottest rising fighters to a man who was written off as being little more than a Canadian pretty boy.
Since suffering those losses Lemieux has rebuilt, brilliantly, with 9 straight wins including 7 inside the distance. The first few of those wins were easy ones, designed to rebuild his confidence but over the last 18 months he has scored 3 solid wins, destroying Fernando Guerrero and Gabriel Rosado before taking a clear decision over Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam to claim the IBF title, and his biggest scalp.
Early in his career Lemieux was known for blasting opponents out. He looked sharp, powerful and very destructive with his 23 of his first 24 wins, and his first 20, all coming inside the distance. There was however question marks about his stamina and chin and it was the stamina issue that cost in his first loss, his second loss was mostly down to confidence with the fighter feeling ill effects of his first loss. Since then however he has learned how to go rounds if necessary, he wastes a lot less energy and his footwork has improved markedly. He's still a man who relies on his power but he has polished his delivery of that power.
Whilst Golovkin is a heavy handed boxer who can cut the distance distance with ease Lemieux is more of a natural fighter, a brawler a man who wants to jump into a fight and finish it with out necessarily show casing his boxing ability. There is however some good boxing in his arsenal, even if it's not show cased a lot.
Interestingly both men not only posses title belts and power but in terms of stature both are almost identical, there is just 1” separating their heights. Saying that however Golovkin is a naturally small Middleweight whilst Lemieux seems to be a man who could, or rather will, end up fighting at Super Middleweight somewhere down the line. This is likely to mean that whilst both will look a similar height Lemieux will be the heavier man. That weight may be his key to winning with it perhaps allowing him to take a shot better and lean on Golovkin on the inside.
Having watched both men we're expected to see both men trade heavy shots, the difference however will be the variation of Golovkin who we think will be able to create the distance that he wants to put full leverage on his shots. Whilst we think Golovkin will win, we do suspect this could be among his most difficult fight, along with the Kassim Ouma fight. Lemieux may not last as long as Ounma did but will ask serious questions of Golovkin's toughness and punch resistance.
All Japanese title fights aren't that rare though they certainly aren't that common, despite how recent the Katsunari Takayama Vs Ryuji Hara fight was. Whilst they aren't rare by themselves we've never seen an all-Japanese world title fight place on US soil. That changes on October 16th when WBA Super Flyweight champion Kohei Kono (30-8-1, 13) takes on long term mandatory challenger Koki Kameda (22-1, 18) in bout that has been more than a year in the making.
The fight, which was ordered last year, has been a real wrangle between not only the fighters but also promoters, sanctioning bodies and national bodies. It's due to those wrangles that the bout takes place outside of Japan, with Kameda currently “banned” from fighting in Japan by the JBC. Although Kameda is banned by the JBC he's not got a worldwide ban, and given that the WBA did order this bout it's essentially forced Kono to take on Kameda.
There had been talk of the bout taking place in various places, such as Macau, the Philippines, South Korea and even Thailand, but in the end the money to fight in the US on a PBC show made more sense that staging the bout in Asia. As a result, the two men will face off in Chicago, it will be Kameda's 2nd US bout, and 5th bout outside of his native Japan whilst Kono will be making his international debut. Despite that both have fought numerous world level bouts and both are genuinely world class.
Although both are world level fighters it's fair to say Kameda is the more recognised name and the more experienced the top level. In fact he's a 3 weight world champion seeking a 4th divisional title here, and if he gets it he will set a Japanese record. As for Kono he's “merely” a 2-time Super Flyweight world champion.
Kameda's career has been one shrouded in success and controversy. As mentioned, he's a 3-weight world champion. The first of those titles was the WBA Light Flyweight title back which he won back in 2006 with a controversial win over Juan Jose Landaeta, the second was the WBC Flyweight title which he won by out pointing Daisuke Naito in 2009 whilst the third was the WBA Bantamweight title, that he won in 2010 with a win over Alexander Munoz.
In total Kameda has a very impressive 12-1 record in world title bouts. Those numbers are more impressive than his competition which, at times, has been thoroughly disappointing. That was especially true of his reign at Bantamweight where he faced Mario Macias, Nouldy Manakane and Jung-Oh Son, who almost managed to shock the boxing world in 2013 losing by split decision to Kameda.
Although not a great fighter as a Bantamweight Kameda is certainly a very talented fighter with great timing, a fantastic array of punches, impressive speed and genuine confidence. Stylistically he can box or he can fight as a pressure fighter, something he did much better at the lower weights where his natural strength was a key to his style. Notably he's a southpaw and one who uses his stance well with a good right hand jab and solid hooks.
At Bantamweight Kameda's power and strength was relatively ineffective and he found himself needing to box and move more often than forcing the fight with pressure. Despite the lack of power he did actually go unbeaten as a Bantamweight, and his only loss came at Flyweight to Thai great Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. In that bout Kameda was lazy, out boxed, out worked and out thought by the Thai legend, who put in one of his last great performances.
Kono's career certainly hasn't been as notable as Kameda's but he has been a popular fighter in his homeland where he has consistently proven to be a tough guy, in fact his nickname is the “Tough Boy”. Technically he's not the best but he's shown real desire through his career and has bounced back from numerous losses to become a champion, twice over. He's done that through will power a refusal to be just another contender. That desire to be a champion saw Kono claim a world title in his third attempt, following a Japanese, and two OPBF reigns.
Kono's desire to be a champion saw him turn a 25-7 (9) record into his current 30-8-1 (13) record. That may not look impressive but that's included 4 world titles, in which he's gone 2-1-1 (2) and 4 stoppages in his last 5 victories, a notable turn around in terms of his power. That power has improved not because he's stronger than he once was but because he's improved significantly from the fighter he used to be.
In 2012 there was talk of Kono retiring, he silenced that talk by knocking out the then WBA Super Flyweight champion Tepparith Kokietgym in 4 rounds. Although he lost the title in his first defense he would regain it just 2 fights later, knocking out Denkaosan Kaovichit in the 8th round and he recorded his first defense last December, exactly 2 years after he first won a world title.
Technically Kono is basic. There is nothing that will send the division into fear and there is nothing that will catch the eye as being amazing about him. Fundamentally he is slow, basic and relatively predictable. Despite that he's the sort of fighter who is still a difficult man to beat, he's tough, impossible to dissuade and hits harder than his record suggests.
On paper this fight can go two ways and they both depend more on Kameda than on Kono. If Kameda wants to box and move it's very hard to see him losing. He has the speed and ability to make life very easy for himself in a performance similar to the one he used against Naito. On the other hand if Kameda looks to make a point and attempts to fight Kono then life will be different with Kono really having a genuine chance against Kameda an he may well have the power needed to stop the cocky former multi-weight world champion.
We know that there is real animosity between these two, but we don't imagine that Kameda will fight a stupid fight and instead he will likely cruise to a wide decision victory using his speed and movement to secure the decision against the clumsier Kono.
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.