The Minimumweight division is one of the most over-looked at the moment, yet has a number of interesting match ups coming up between now and the end of 2017. One of those is a WBC world title fight which will see long term unbeaten Thai Wanheng Menayothin (48-0, 17) risking his title, and unbeaten record, against former WBO and JBC champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (19-5-6, 7). For Wanheng the bout sees him potentially tying his record with that Rocky Marciano whilst the Japanese visitor will be hoping to become a 2-time champion, and create a little bit of history.
For the champion the bout will see him seeking his 8th defense, and look to continue a title reign that began back in November 2014 when he stopped Mexican Oswaldo Novoa. Since winning the title Wanheng has won 12 bouts in a row, including victories over Jeffrey Galero, Young Gil Bae, Go Odaira, Saul Juarez and Melvin Jerusalem. In the ring Wanheng is a defensively intelligent pressure fighter, who applied constant pressure and looks to out work and grind down opponents. His lack of power is notable, but he certainly his a lot hard than his record suggests and in his 9 world title fights he has scored 4 stoppages.
With Wanheng closing in on the 50-0 record of Floyd Mayweather Jr this is a really credible test for the champion. At 32 he is getting on for a Minimumweight and with 382 rounds under his belt he has certainly got miles on the clock. He has negated damage in many of his fights, due to his solid defense, but was cut a couple of fights ago by the head of Omari Kimweri, and it could be that his body is maybe starting to feel it's age, something that also seemed to be the case in January's win over Melvin Jerusalem.
The Japanese challenger has had a strange career. After winning his first 4 bouts he quickly slipped to 5-1-2 and really saw his momentum slow, despite reaching the 2009 Rookie of the Year final. Another winning run followed before a surprise stoppage loss to Hiroyuki Otsuka, and a draw with Koji Itagaki. In 2013 Fukuhara again saw his career falter with losses to Yu Kimura and Takuma Inoue, and by the start of 2015 Fukuhara had fallen to 13-4-5 (4) with his career seemingly going no where. Since then however he has gone an impressive 6-1-1 with with notable wins over Hiroya Yamamoto, Takumi Sakai, Genki Hanai and Moises Calleros, and a draw with Fahlan Sakrreerin Jr. The win over Yamamoto saw Fukuhara claim the Japanese title and the one over Calleros saw him become the WBO champion.
The problem for Fukuhara is that whilst he has had an impressive few years, he's not actually shown himself to be that talented. He's gotten far on toughness, energy and desire rather than skills, power and slickness. He's a handful for many, given that he has a never say die attitude and always looks to have have a fight, but against truly world class fighters it's hard to see what he has to offer. This was clear when he was widely beaten by a then debuting Takuma Inoue and is likely to be seen again here against the very talented Wanheng.
Whilst Fukuhara is travelling with hunger, and the chance to become the first Japanese fighter to claim a world title on Thai soil, it's hard to see him really testing Wanheng. Fukuhara will come to fight but we believe the sharper, smoother and tighter boxing of Wanheng will be too much for the challenger, who we think will start will be take a methodical beating in the later rounds, and potentially be stopped in the championship rounds.
Right now there are a number of divisions which standout as being much more talent laden and exciting than others. One of those is the Cruiserweight division, where the World Boxing Super Series is helping the division really stand out. Another is the Super Flyweight division, which has gotten attention thanks to the number of top fighters, the repeatedly exciting contests the division is giving us, and the recent showcases from HBO.
This coming weekend we get the chance to see one of the divisions “hidden gems” taking on one of boxing's human highlight reels in what should be a very fan friendly contest for the IBF world title.
In one corner will be defending champion Jerwin Ancajas (27-1-1, 18), the least well known and famous of the reigning world champions at 115lbs, and in the other corner will be Jamie Conlan (19-0, 11), a Northern Irishman who has been in FOTY contender fights in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
The once beaten Filipino has been an under-the-radar gem of Filipino boxing in recent years. In 2016 he scored what should have been a break out win over McJoe Arroyo, though Filipino TV failed to show the bout, with Ancajas winning the IBF title with a decision over the Puerto Rican. He made his first defense this past January, stopping Jose Alfredo Rodriguez in China before travelling to Australia to stop Teiru Kinoshita on the under-card of Manny Pacquiao's loss to Jeff Horn. The win over Kinoshita saw Ancajas put himself in the limelight, though sadly many fans have seemingly forgotten his performance to instead focus on decision of the Pacquiao Vs Horn bout.
Those who remember Ancajas' win over Kinoshita, or have seen his other bouts, will be familiar with Ancajas having one of the sports most eye pleasing style. He's a wonderful fluid boxer, with gorgeous combinations, movement and fluid boxing. He's not the power puncher that fellow champions Naoya Inoue and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai are, but he is a really wonderful boxer, with enough power to stop foes, and the skills to dazzle. Not only does he have skills, but he also has an aggressive mentality, and will look to shine whilst beating opponents down mentally, rather than just take decision in a dull affair.
Whilst Ancajas has been a hidden gem with talent that should have made him a star Conlan has become a must watch fighter, despite being a fundamentally limited fighter. He isn't known for his skills, or his power, but his heart, styles and heart in your mouth action fights. These have included a sensation decision win over Junior Granados in 2015, an amazing up-and-down slug fest with Anthony Nelson in 2016 and a thrilling split decision win over Yader Cardoza this past March. He has been down in all 3 of those aforementioned bouts, multiple times in some of them, but has dug deep to win in fan friendly style.
Although a must watch fighter Conlan has taken a lot of punishment, especially for a man with just 19 fights and a combined 109 rounds under his belt. His style is one where he is defensively naive, and although it hasn't cost him his unbeaten record, yet, he has been fighting well below world class. This is a monster step up from borderline top 25 fighters, like Cardoza, to world class, like Ancajas, and that sort of step up is one that is very tough to make.
We can see Conlan have some moments, his toughness and heart will get him some moments, but they will be few and far between. Instead we suspect Ancajas will be too sharp, too accurate and simply too good. The Filipino will find the holes in Conlan's defense, and will target them at will. Unlike Conlan's previous opponents Ancajas won't let the gutsy challenger off the hook, and will instead finish off his man in the mid-to-later rounds, in what will hopefully set up Ancajas for a huge fight in 2018.
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.