Earlier this week we, and many others, expected WBC Minimumweight champion Xiong Zhao Zhong (21-4-1, 11) to face Australian based Omari Kimweri.
Unfortunately however Kimweri has been unable to fight in that contest after passport issues saw him being sent back to Australia, just days before the fight.
Zhong, China's first ever boxing world champion, may have thought he would be denied of a chance to defend his title in front of his people. Thankfully however Zhong's promoters managed to save the day as they called around and found the champion an opponent.
Unfortunately the opponent has turned out to be nothing special as Thailand's Lookrak Kiatmungmee (7-4, 4) has become the man to fill in the gap. With the late notice however it was never going to be a contest as intriguing as the Zhong/Kimweri contest would have been.
Zhong is one of the sports most over-looked fighters. For some he's little more than a paper champion though for others, those who have seen him, he's a tough and bullish fighter who will break opponents with his strength, style and mental toughness.
As Zhong showed in his first title defense, a decision over the highly regarded Denver Cuello, he's not someone who could be described as a sweet scientist. He is however someone who sums up Asian boxing, tough gutsy and always in the ring to win.
In Kiatmungmee it's obvious that Zhong has a "patsy". Kimweri did look like a credible opponent but the Thai replacement is literally someone who picked up the phone and said yes.
Kiatmungmee hasn't fought in almost two years, incidentally following a decision loss to Kimweri. Not only has he been inactive but he also suffered 4 losses in his last 5 bouts and you actually need to go back to 2006 for his last noteworthy victory.
Yes this is a mismatch, though with the conditions surrounding it, it's a mismatch that saved the show and has allowed Zhong to make the first ever world title defense in China. Something worth considering before you rip the fight a new one.
Whilst great fights happen around the world we do think that more big fights in Asia turn out to be great. Not a year seems to go by with out 3 or 4 FOTY contenders coming out of Japan or Thailand, and lets be honest we've already had more than 3 or 4 this year.
Amazingly it looks like we're about to get yet another FOTY style contest as WBC Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi (18-3, 9) takes on Mexican great Edgar Sosa (49-7, 29). Both are out and out warriors though both are also highly skilled, world level competitors with reputations for action fights against top tier opposition.
Sosa, the WBC mandatory challenger, first made his name in the Light Flyweight division where he was a very impressive WBC champion. Surprisingly however he started his career 12-5 suffering losses to Ulises Solis-twice, Manuel Vargas, Omar Nino Romero and Isaac Bustos. All of whom were, at one time, world title holders.
It was in 2007 that Sosa scored his first big win, defeating Brian Viloria for the WBC Light Flyweight title. As the WBC champion at 108lbs Sosa would defend his belt regularly and in just over 2 and a half years he had amassed 10 defenses. These saw him beating, amongst others, Takashi Kunishige, Sonny Boy Jaro, Juanito Rubillar and Pornsawan Porpramook.
Since losing his title, controversially to Rodel Mayol in 2009, Sosa has mainly been campaigning in the Flyweight division. As a Flyweight Sosa has lost just once, dropping a decision in Thailand to Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in what was Wonjongkam's last notable victory. Since then Sosa has been rebuilding his career and attempting to get another world title fight.
Following the loss to Wonjongkam Sosa has gone on a 6 fight winning streak as he's beaten Rolio Golez, Wilbert Uicab, Shigetaka Ikehara, Myung Ho Lee, Ulises Solis and Giovani Segura. More impressively is the fact that the victories over Solis and Segura have come this year as Sosa has had one of the most outstanding years in global boxing. Arguably the only manstanding between Sosa and "Fighter of the Year" is Yaegashi.
Of course Yaegashi himself made his name originally at a lower weight. In fact Yaegashi first made himself known for his exploits at Minimumweight. Despite losing in his first world title fight, dropping a decision to Eagle Den Junlaphan, Yaegashi fought on hard and claimed the WBA Minimumweight title in a barn burner in 2011 with Pornsawan Porpramook.
Unfortunately Yaegashi's reign came to a very short end, losing in a unification bout with Kazuto Ioka. Instead of wallowing however Yaegashi allowed his body to fill out and settled in to the Flyweight division where he claimed the WBC and "lineal" title by defeating Toshiyuki Igarashi earlier this year. Since then he has defended the title once, winning a messy encounter with Oscar Blanquet.
Aged 30 Yaegashi is 4 years younger than his challenger in terms of years. In terms of fights Yaegashi is much, much less worn despite the tough contests with Pornsawan, Ioka and Igarashi. In fact Yaegashi with just 21 bouts and 156 rounds is a mere boxing baby compared to the 56 fights and 415 professional rounds.
It's this difference, not in experience but in wear and tear, that we think will help see Yaegashi to a victory. He has been in hard fights, of course he has, but so too has Sosa.
In terms of this fight, as a fight, we expect to see a lot of toe-to-toe trading as each man tries to have the last in exchanges. Sure we will have our moments where the action laxes a little bit but on the most part this will be nothing short of breath taking. We don't think either guy has the power to stop the other but then again neither will be wanting to take a shot with out returning fire instantly.
At the start of this year just one of the three Kameda's had never won a world title. That changed in August as Tomoki Kameda (28-0, 18) managed to defeat Namibia's Paulus Ambunda to claim the WBO Bantamweight title.
As a result of Tomoki's victory over Ambunda the youngest of the Kameda brothers became the first ever Japanese fighter to win a WBO world title and also saw his family getting their place in the Guinness book of World Records as the first trio of brothers to become world champions.
Now Tomoki returns to the ring for the first time since claiming that title and battles Ambunda's unbeaten countryman Immanuel Naidjala (17-0-1, 11).
Although unknown outside of Namibia Naidjala is a fighter who has gotten himself a solid reputation inside his homeland. As well as his reputation he has also been well managed as he's climbed up to #6 in the WBO's Bantamweight world rankings with out beating anyone of note.
Having been a professional since 2009 Naidjala began his career with 16 straight wins before being held to a draw by Botswana's unherladed Lesley Sekotswe. Sekotswe, who was traveling to Namibia for the fight, made Naidjala look limited to say the least. Naidjala often looked wild and crude, although strong he was chasing shadows at times and being popped by the jab at others as he was made to look very much like a C-rate fighter, a long way short of what his reputation would have you believe.
Since that draw Naidjala has recorded another victory, claiming the IBF International Bantamweight title by stopping Emilio Norfat in the eighth round. Interestingly this was the seecond time Naidjala had faced Norfat who lost a very oddly scored contest to Naidjala in 2012.
With the limitations of Naidjala being clearly visible in the footage available it's hard not to envision Tomoki doing as he pleases with the challenger. The jab of the champion will almost certainly land at will and the movement of Tomoki, which frustrated Ambunda through out their contest, will see Naidjala chasing him and being reckless.
One thing Naidjala does appear to have in his favour is a genuine toughess. He looks like one of those "teak tough Africans" that can take a lot of punishment without folding though that's unlikely to do him any real favours here as he eats jabs, straights hooks and uppercuts from the champion who dominates from the opening bell to the final bell.
If Naidjala can land one of his wild shots he may be able to give Tomoki some momentary trouble but it's doubtful that'll do anything more than that.
We're hoping that if Tomoki is successful, as we assume he will be, he'll take up the challenge of Shinsuke Yamanaka next time out. A 2014 clash between Tomoki and Yamanaka will certain be on our dream list of fights we want next year. Unfortunately we're expecting Tomoki to decline that challenge, for now.
Interestingly the WBO's world rankings at Bantamweight do leave some very interesting alternatives to the Yamanaka contest. Tomoki against any of Pungluang Sor Singyu, Ryosuke Iwasa, Marvin Mabait, Kohei Oba, Ryo Akaho, AJ Banal or Konosuke Tomiyama would all be bouts that we'd tune in for!
At the start of this year Japan had only ever had one IBF champion, Satoshi Shingaki. This year that number climbed to threee as Katsunari Takayama finally won the IBF Minimumweight title and Daiki Kameda (29-3, 18) claimed the Super Flyweight title.
On December 3rd both Takayama, who defends against Vergilio Silvano, and Daiki will put their titles on the line as Japanese boxing tries to prove that allowing IBF champions isn't a bad thing for the sport.
As mentioned Takayama will be fighting Silvano in the first defense of his title. For Daiki however things are much rickier as he attempts to unify his belt with the WBA title currently held by Venezuelan Liborio Solis (15-3-1, 7). For Solis this will be his second trip to Japan this year following his victory over Kohei Kono to unify the WBA interim and WBA regular titles.
For those of you who remember Solis's fight with Kono it was a really fun fight. Both men had their moments in a give and take contest that saw Solis dropped early on before dropping Kono in the eighth and eeking out the decision late. For many that bout was so good and so close that they were calling for a rematch between the two men, instead however Solis has been inactive for 7 months.
Against Kono we saw a bit of everything from Solis. We saw him boxing and moving, we saw him going to war and brawling and we saw him showing his toughness. It was genuinely great.
Several months after Solis' victory against Kono, Daiki won the IBF title as he out pointed Mexican Rodrigo Guerrero in a contest that was fought in a much different manner. Against Guerrero we saw Daiki sticking, for the most part, to boxing and moving, being negative and trying to avoid too many moments of back and forth action. It was a forgettable contest for the most part, though there was a highlight reel tenth round as both men unloaded.
From having seen both of those fights again recently we are really hoping that this won't fall into a clash of styles. If both men attempt to box for 12 rounds then Daiki's speed could well be the difference in what could potentially be one of the worst fights of the year.
What is, thankfully, more likely is that the bout will have moments of ups and downs. Solis, despite being the shorter man, is expected to have a notable reach advantage and if he can use that to his effect he could prevent Daiki from being overly negative. If he can use that and force Daiki the bring some action to him we could have a number of rounds like the tenth of the Daiki/Guerrero bout.
We'll admit we're hoping that Solis has the ability to bring the best from Daiki. If he can then we may, again, see Solis involved in a great contest in Japan and a contest that is fitting the "unification" tag that this bout has. If we end up with a forgetable one however then we expect the Japanese will further slate the way the Japanese Boxing Commission has accepted the IBF.
It'd be a shame for the fans to refuse the IBF as organisation opens up new doors to major fighters. For example a possible Light Flyweight clash involving Johnriel Casimero and Kazuto Ioka, Ryo Miyazaki or Naoya Inoue, or a fight involving a Hisashi Amagasa and Evgeny Gradovich at Featherweight.
Oddly the winner here, despite being a unified champion, would likely only be viewed as the third best fighter at 115lbs behind both Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Omar Andres Narvaez, the WBC and WBO champions respectively. Interestingly both Narvaez and Srisaket have beaten Japanese fighters in recent bouts with Narvaez stopping Hiroyuki Hisataka and Srisaket stopping Hirofumi Mukai.
When we talk about great fighters we like to think that the very best make their name on the road. It's all too easy to stay at home and pick up easy pay days whilst not fighting the best available.
One Japanese fighter who has been on the road and proven his worth against fighters all around the world is Katsunari Takayama (25-6-0-1, 10). Katsunari, a true road warrior has been on a 4 year journey around the world fighting in South Africa, the Philippines and Mexico as he persued the IBF Minimumweight title around the planet.
Last time out Takayama finally got his hands on the red and gold IBF title as he defeated Mario Rodriguez via decision in a war in Sinaloa. It was further proof of the type of fighter Katsunari is, entertaining, gutsy and a warrior. In defeating Rodriguez, Takayama became just Japan's second ever IBF champion behind Satoshi Shingaki and became of very few Japanese fighters to have claimed a world title whilst fighting away fro m home.
Fighting in Japan for the first time since 2009, and fighting in his ome town of Osaka for the first time since 2008 Takayama will be defending his title for the first time on December 3rd as he takes on Filipino challenger Vergilio Silvano (17-2-1, 10).
Silvano is a name that few fans outside of Asia will have heard of though he is ranked by both the WBO, #3 at Light Flyweight, and the IBF, #6 at Minimumweight. Those world rankings, whilst never truly accurate, do suggest that Silvano is a real threat to Takayama.
Footage of the Filipino is somewhat difficult to come by, especially when it comes to recent footage of him. From what footage we have seen however he is a southpaw who is a little bit taller than Takayama. He of course lacks the big fight experience of the Japanese fighter though has got experience in going 12 rounds as he did last time out against Jetly Purisima.
Silvano started his career 2-2-1 though has since gone on a 15 fight winning streak. These 15 wins have seen him going 4-0 (2) in title fights and have included him winning the WBO Oriental Light Flyweight title and the Philippines Boxing Federation (PBF) Light Flyweight title.
For Takayama his record in title fights is less impressive though he has been both an IBF and WBC Minimumweight champion and a WBA interim champion. It's this level of experience that should seperate the men.
We imagine Silvano will start well but the relentless assault of Takayama will start to take it's toll in the middle rounds as Silvano is slowly ground down. The Filipino will, by the later rounds be struggling as Takayama takes a clear but hard fought victory over a man certain to come again and grow from defeat.
Interestingly this bout appears to have it's own poster courtesy of Katsunari's promoterwith the fight being dubbed "Lightning K is Back".
Filipino boxing fans are amongst the best in the world. Of course it's easy to support the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire, two global stars of the sport, but the Pinoy's seem to turn up en mass to watch any of their promising fighters.
One man who has recently gone from being an unknown to a fan favourite in the Philippines is Merlito Sabillo (23-0, 12). Less than a year ago Sabillo was a complete unknown who's most notable result had been a stoppage of Jonathan Refugio for the OPBF Minimumweight title. Now however he is the WBO world champion at 105lbs and a man hunting his second defense of that crown.
Sabillo, unlikely many, had to do things the hard way. He had to travel away from home to take the WBO "interim" title with a victory over Luis De La Rosa over in front of a hostile crowd in Colombia.
Since claiming the title Sabillo has defended it once stopping Jorle Estrada in what was Sabillo's first ever fight in Metro Manila, a place that he returns to this coming Saturday as he battles fellow unbeaten Carlos Buitrago (27-0-0-1, 16).
For years Buitrago has been viewed as the spiritual successor to Roman Gonzalez as Nicaragua's new wonder kid. He has been sparring with top fighters for years and looked every bit of a future world champion. Aged 21 however he is still a baby in terms of boxing and although he has 28 fights on his ledger he has yet to fight in Asia and is also yet to face a world level opponent, two things he will be experiencing for the first time here.
From watching Buitrago he's always appeared to be a very talented young man. He lacks the destructiveness of Gonzalez he has got stinging power that can really shake fighters when he lands cleanly. We're not sure how that will carry up to the world stage but it's certainly something that he'll believe in. What impresses us so much about Buitrago is actually his understanding inside the ring. He uses the jab excellently, moves well, controls the distance well and has a very varied arsenal.
Not only is Buitrago's attack varied but it also looks very fluid. His jab coming forward is excellent, his counter left hook is sharp, his uppercuts are snappy and his straight looks like it could be very potent.
Although we're big fans of Buitrago, as we are of any talented fighter, we do think this fight is too early for him as Sabillo is a man who really impresses us.
The Filipino champion has proven to be tough, talented and a fighter who is becoming more and more confident in his own power. This self belief has seen Sabillo stopping his last 5 opponent after stopping just 7 of his first 18 foes. The best part of Sabillo's stoppages however has been the fact they've been so varied. He stopped De La Rosa with shots upstairs before taking out Estrada with a vicious body shot.
Going in to this bout it's the body shots of Sabillo that we think will be the telling shots. Sure the Filipino southpaw will take a fair few shots from Buitrago as he tries to land them but when he manages to connect with them it'll seem like a man against a boy with Buitrago slowly coming undone in the second half of the fight.
Thankfully, for those who remember watching Sabillo's fight with Estrada, this should genuine be a much more enjoyable contest than Sabillo's first defense which was unexciting to say the least due to the negativity of the challenger who didn't seem to have any self belief. With Buitrago bringing an unbeaten record with him he won't be looking to just roll over and as a result this should be a genuinely entertaining scrap and one of the genuine highlights of "Pinoy Pride XXIII"
Although most of the smaller divisions are over-looked we feel that the Light Flyweight division is probably the most over-looked at the moment. To be fair understandable that the division is over-looked with only really Kazuto Ioka standing out.
Despite the lack of big names at 108lbs it's still a division that has been giving us some great contests in recent years thanks to the likes of Kompayak Porpramook, whose first war with Adrian Hernandez was something special and Roman Gonzalez, whose fight with Juan Francisco Estrada was a 2012 FOTY of the year contender.
This weekend again sees the division on the verge of a thriller as WBO world champion Donnie Nietes (31-1-4, 17) defends his title for a third time and takes on Mexico's Sammy Gutierrez (33-9-2, 23) as part of "Pinoy Pride XXIII".
This bout, Nietes's first since a controversial draw with Moises Fuentes back in March, looks like one that should be easy if you've been following Gutierrez's recent form which has seen him losing 3 of his last 6. Unfortunately for Filipino fans Nietes seems to struggle when he should make life easy for himself.
One a very talented boxer-puncher Nietes appears to have regressed since he moved from Minimumweight to Light Flyweight. Evidence of this has been seen in his struggles with Ramon Garcia Hirales, Felipe Salguero and of course Fuentes. Interestingly all three of those men have been Mexican's just like Gutierrez.
The problem for Nietes is that he appears to have forgotten how to box at times and seems to have some misguided belief that he's a monster puncher. Unfortunately Nietes's movement from boxer-puncher to wannabe-puncher has seen him taking away some of his own strengths and unless he can find his boxing again he could well be in for a tough contest here.
For many who follow the lower weights Gutierrez has been picked as the proverbial patsy. Unfortunately the Mexican, known as "Guty", is a fighter who will be aware that this could be his final chance at this level.
The Mexican is a proven world level fighter having been a former WBA interim Minimumweight champion who once defended that belt against Filipino Renan Trongco. Unfortunately in recent contests Gutierrez has looked a bit shop worn and suffered losses to Juan Palacios, Armando Torres and Raul Garcia. Despite those loses however he did stop another Filipino in the form of Rolio Golez.
With a record of 2-0 (2) against Filipino's it's fair to say that Gutierrez has been more impressive against Filipino's than Nietes has been against Mexicans. Saying that though it does need to be noted that Nietes has been facing much better Mexican's than the Filipino's Gutierrez has been beating.
Going into this bout we hope to see the Nietes of old. The clever Nietes who used speed, movement and skills to land his shots. If we instead see the Nietes of the Fuentes fight we wouldn't be shocked if he lost his title, which we honestly think he was lucky to keep following that contest.
Despite being the WBO champion we tend to feel that Nietes is one of the weakest champions in the sport and it'd not be a shock if the winner of the upcoming Naoya Inoue/Jerson Mancio contest looked towards Nietes as an easy world title if the Filipino retains here.
Whilst Srisaket Sor Rungvisai is the front runner for our "revelation of 2013" we feel there is one other stand out contender for that award. Koki Eto (14-2-1, 10), the current WBA interim Flyweight champion.
Whilst Srisaket destroyed Japan's Yota Sato in destructive fashion earlier this year there is no arguing that Koki Eto put on one of the most astonishing displays of the year as he defeated Kompayak Porpramook for the WBA interim belt.
Eto's victory over Porpramook was an historic one. It was the first ever time a Japanese born fighter had gone over to Thailand and beaten a Thai in a world title bout.
Rather than relying on his laurels Eto will return to Thailand on Friday in an attempt catch lightning in a bottle a second time and defend his belt for the first time, thus becoming the first ever Japanese born fighter to defend a title successfully in Thailand.
In Eto's way on Friday will be Thailand's very own Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep (32-2, 19), a man also known by the moniker Yodmongkol CP Freshmart.
Although Yodmongkol has an impressive 34 fights on his ledger he's surprisingly young at just 22 years old and even more impressively he comes to the ring on a 26 fight unbeaten run that dates back to April 2010. This staggering run of the Thai's saw him claiming the WBC Youth World Light Flyweight title in August 2010 and defending it on a very frequent basis.
The one problem with Yodmongkol isn't his experience per se but the level of his experience. To date the most notable opponents on his record have been Rolio Golez, Sammy Hagler, Jerson Luzarito, Crison Omayao, Jack Amisa and Edison Berwela. Basically journeymen and Filipino domestic level fighters. Despite that however he's active, having had 6 fights already this year, and he's talented.
Although Yodmongkol is talented we can't help but think that Eto will be coming in to this bout with a lot of confidence and the sort of mentality that nobody can beat him. Not even Thai's. This will make Eto very dangerous and we expect the Japanese fighter to go for the kill from the off with his incredible work rate and power.
Yodmongkol will try and fight off Eto though we sort of imagine this is going to be similar to the recent Srisaket v Mukai bout where the brave challenger doesn't have the fire power to stave off a determined champion. Hopefully a win here for Eto will see him returning to Japan a man who can have big fights at home. In fact Eto against Akira Yaegashi would be a phenomenal war in 2014, whilst Eto against Kazuto Ioka would be a big test for Ioka and Eto against Toshiyuki Igarashi would be nothing short of a war.
Of course if Yodmongkol wins then the future could be interesting for Thailand at 112lbs and he'll have avenged stablemate Kompayak's loss from back in August. Unfortunately however a Yodmongkol/Kompayak bout be very unlikely due to the promotional situation of the two men.
If one man from Russia has made a statement this year then that man was WBO Light Heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (22-0-1, 20).
The "Krusher" as he is known, has gone from relative unknown to one of the sports most feared fighters in the space of just 12 months. Although it has just been a year, Kovalev has had one of the most destructive years in boxing destroying a trio of credible foes in the form of Gabriel Campillo (TKO3), Cornelius White (TKO3) and most recently Nathan Cleverly (TKO 4).
Had it not been for the fact Adonis Stevenson had managed to get his hands on a shop-worn Chad Dawson it's fair to say that Kovalev would have been seen as the Light Heavyweight division's saviour. Instead however, Kovalev is a man on a collision course with Stevenson, if, and only if, both men can continue to destroy opponents as they have done this year.
Kovalev will be hoping to continue his destructive run when he returns to the ring on November 30th as he attempts to make the first defense of his WBO world title and battles Ukrainian Ismayl Sillakh (21-1, 17).
Sillakh, a man who has promised much but failed to deliver so far in his career, is a fighter who is skilled, has solid power, and impressive hand speed for a Light Heavyweight. Unfortunately he also possess a questionable mentality in the ring and a chin that has already cost him against a Russian fighter.
At his best Sillakh looks like he has the potential to give anyone nightmares. He combines power and speed excellently, he has a very impressive amateur pedigree and when he lets loose it looks like few can live with him. At his worst however he looks like a fighter going through the motions and a man who is more a talented athlete than a fighter. That sounds harsh but sadly it's the way he looks.
Whilst Sillakh is a fighter who looks like he's going through the motions it's fair to say that Kovalev looks like a wrecking ball, and one that even Miley Cyrus would be afraid of getting close to. Fighters who get hit by Kovalev know they've been hit, and whilst many big punchers are wild and reckless Kovalev is busy and accurate breaking people down with his heavy artillery which is potent to say the least.
It can be very, very easy to fall in love with power punchers. We all know that. But Kovalev is more than just a power puncher, he's a skilled, busy fighter who is as much about his skills as power.
If Sillakh attempts to go to war with Kovalev there will only be one winner, and it'll be over very quickly. If Sillakh attempts to box, he does have a chance. Unfortunately for the Ukrainian however there is little chance of him seeing out more than a few rounds with Kovalev who will connect and then move in for the finish and seeing off Sillakh inside 6 rounds.
Interestingly on the same card Adonis Stevenson will be fighting Tony Bellew. We, like many in the boxing world are hoping that 2014 will see a Kovalev/Stevenson bout, though of course both will need to win their contests here for that to be a possibility.
If, in 2006, you had asked a hardcore amateur boxing fan which fighter they would tip to become a future Cruiserweight world champion the name Alexander Alexeev (24-2-1, 20) would have been that man. No arguments about it, Alexeev was seen as the future of the Cruiserweight division.
Prior to turning professional in 2006 Alexeev had been a genuinely outstanding amateur. He had been a multi-time Russian champion, a World champion (2005), a European champion (2002) and, had it not been for Odlanier Solis, it's very likely he'd have won gold at the World Championships (2003) and Olympics (2004).
Born in Uzbekistan though fighting out of Russia, Alexeev appeared to have it all. He was a 6'2" southpaw with obvious skills, solid power, amazing fundamentals and the reach to establish a long range game against almost anyone in his division.
Unfortunately as a professional Alexeev has failed to ever come close to living up to the high expectations that were expected of him. In all honesty, and despite having a solid record, Alexeev's professional career has been nothing short of a disappointment.
This weekend sees Alexeev finally getting a chance to fulfill his promise as he fights for the IBF Cruiserweight title against talented German-based Cuban Yoan Pablo Hernandez (27-1, 13). Although Alexeev is rightfully considered the under-dog it's a bout that he needs to win just to keep his career alive.
Going in to this bout the 32 year old Alexeev will be entering with just one bout in the last year. That bout, a decision victory over Garrett Wilson, was a title eliminator which has seen Alexeev getting this bout. Whilst his inactivity is certainly an issue coming in it's not as bad as the 29 year old Hernandez who has been out of the ring for 14 months following a controversial victory over Canadian Troy Ross.
Interestingly whilst Alexeev has been disappointing it's also fair to say that Hernandez has disappointed. The Cuban was, like Alexeev, tipped to be a super-star and whilst he's become a world champion he's struggled to show why so many regarded him so highly. In fact it's fair to say that a number of Hernandez's most notable victories have come with a shroud of controversy of them, including victories over Michael Simms, Troy Ross and most notably his first bout with Steve Cunningham.
What Hernandez has is a good all-round package. He's very tall, 6'4", for a Cruiserweight, has solid speed, impressive skills and although his record doesn't show it he does hit hard. Sadly he lets those traits go to waste to often with languid rounds, a less than solid chin and some real issues that seem to be mental. If Hernandez is at his best he's excellent, on a bad night though he seems to struggle to get anything going.
With more than a year out of the ring we may well see one of those poor nights from Hernandez and if he has one of those there is every chance Alexeev could score an upset.
At his best Alexeev has the ability to box with the best of them in the division. Sadly he can be out fought and banged out. If he's too respectful of Hernandez's power he'll be stopped as he was against Denis Lebedev, if he's too reckless he'll be stopped. If however Alexeev boxes to a clever and patient game-plan he could defeat the Cuban.
Unfortunately we can't see Alexeev finally getting his act together and instead we think he's going to walk on to a big booming Hernandez shot then unravel before being stopped. We hope we're wrong, but unfortunately it's hard to trust Alexeev at this point in time.
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.