On December 23rd in Yokohama fight fans get a really interesting card with 3 world title bouts taking place. One of those world bouts could quite fairly be described as a must win bout for both men, who know a loss will likely send them into retirement, and at very least give them little option but to seriously question their future in the sport.
That bout is the IBF Flyweight title bout, which pits current champion Moruti Mthalane (38-2, 25) against 2-weight world champion Akira Yaegashi (28-6, 16). Entering the bout the 37 year old Mthalane will be looking to make his third defense, of his second reign, whilst Yaegashi will be be looking to become a 4 time champion, just a couple of months short of his 37th birthday. For Flyweights these two men are ancient and bother are grizzled veterans.
As the champion Mthalane deserves to really be credited for what is a disappointingly over-looked career. He is a 2-time IBF Flyweight champion who first won the title in 2009, when he beat Julio Cesar Miranda, and never actually lost the belt in the ring. Instead of travelling to Thailand to defend it against the then unknown Amnat Ruenroeng for pennies he vacated it. A decision that was a bad one at a time when he needed fights, but one he finally recovered from when he became a 2-time champion in 2018.
Mthalane, from South Africa, is unbeaten in over a decade, with his last loss coming to Nonito Donaire way back in 2008 and since then he has gone 15-0 (10), with notable wins over the likes of Miranda, Zolani Tete, John Riel Casimero, Ricardo Nunez, Muhammad Waseem and most recently Masayuki Kuroda.
In the ring the champion is a crafty but aggressive pressure fighter. He's not the quickest, but he is incredibly sharp, with a very high boxing IQ and unerring accuracy. His composure is excellent and he judges distance brilliantly. He knows his way around the ring, he's a natural there, and he knows how to be aggressive but safe. Notably though he is ageing, and there's always a potential question over father time, especially for a lower weight fighter in their mid 30's. Overall he's not taken much punishment but with close to 240 rounds under his belt he as certainly racked up ring miles, and miles in training.
The challenger, Yaegashi, is a fighter who will be well known to fight fans around the globe for his list of world title bouts, and other thrillers. His first world title bout came way back in 2007, hen he lost to Eagle Den Junlaphan and suffered a nasty injury in that bout. Since then however he has proven to be a warrior, and someone with desire to not only win, but to put on a show. His 2011 bout with Pornsawan Porpramook, which he won to become the WBA Minimumweight champion, was regarded by many as the Fight of the Year, whilst his 2012 clash with Kazuto Ioka was a massive all-Japanese unification bout. He lost to Ioka but would then move up in weight to claim the WBC and Lineal Flyweight title, defending it several times before running into Roman Gonzalez, at his best. A short reign as the IBF Light Flyweight champion followed, thanks to an often forgotten battle with Javier Mendoza. After being blown out by Milan Melindo in 2017 his career looked over, but 3 stoppage wins have seen his team back him for one more big fight.
For those who haven't seen Yaegashi you've missed out on one of the sports most consistently entertaining fighters of the last decade or so. He's dubbed the Fierce Warrior in Japan and not without good reason. Win or lose he's been in violent wars, fight after fight. Win or lose his face has regularly swollen up in a grotesque mess, a proud bad of war worn with honour by Yaegashi. He's a talented boxer, with light feet and great stamina, but often that boxing ability takes a backwards step as he gets involved in brawls, using his hand speed to out fight opponents. As he's gotten older he's had more and more exchanges, and his 2018 bout with Hirofumi Mukai is a great example of the type of war Yaegashi has needlessly involved himself in.
Sadly for Yaegashi this is the type of match up that doesn't look good for him. Against slower footed fighters he can shine, he can get in, he can get his shots off and he can get out. Against fighters with sharp punches and good timing however he is countered, caught coming in and has his facial swelling playing an issue. As he's aged his punch resistance has dropped and this is a major problem against a fighter like Mthalane.
We see this as being an action fight early on, with Yaegashi taking the fight to Mthalane, getting in and out for a round or two. Then we suspect he gets caught, and his warrior mentality kicks in, before Mthalane begins to break him down, and by the middle rounds a swollen, bloodied and battered Yaegashi is finally stopped by the referee, who will have seen enough.
Prediction - TKO7 Mthalane
With so many world title bouts this coming weekend it's easy to over look some of them, and perhaps that's the case with an incredibly good bout set to take place on Sunday at the Ariake Colosseum. That bout is the IBF Light Flyweight world title unification bout between “regular” champion Akira Yaegashi (25-5, 13) and “interim” champion Milan Melindo (35-2, 12). The two men are proven to be world class fighters and have styles that could make for either a tactical chessmatch or an exciting high skilled war.
Of the two fighters Yaegashi is the more accomplished. He's a 3-weight champion, having won titles at Minimumweight and Flyweight before claiming a Light Flyweight title at the end of 2015. Although his record is marked up he's a true world class fighter who has only lost in a single non-world title bout, way back in 2008 against Masatate Tsuji. Not only is he world class but he's also a hardcore fight fan's favourite having faced a who's who of the lower weights over the last decade, and nearly always putting on a show.
Although a talented boxer Yaegashi has gained a serious reputation as a fighter. He's been in so many wars that a career highlight set has to be made available after his retirement, and he's shown insane courage through his fights, regularly fighting with a swollen and disfigured face. Due to those wars he has become a fighter with an international following, and fans will all remember his bouts against the likes of Pornsawan Porpramook, Kazuto Ioka, Toshiyuki Igarashi, Roman Gonzalez, Javier Mendoza and Jose Martin Tecaupetla. Those bouts, and others, have been great wars and have helped Yaegashi to become more than just another Japanese world champion, they've made him one of the highlights of the lower weights.
The 29 year old Melindo is one of the lower weights technical fighters. He's known as “El Metodico” due to his boxing brain and methodical approach in the ring and has proven to be a genuine world class talent. During his career he has scored numerous notable wins, including victories over Muhammad Rachman,Carlos Tamara, Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Saul Juarez, Jose Martin Tecuapetla and most recently Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, to claim the interim title. He's lost twice to talented fighters, coming up short against Juan Francisco Estrada and Javier Mendoa, with that loss being a relatively controversial one.
As mentioned Melindo is methodical. He's not exciting, he's not a puncher, but he's technically very well schooled, very accurate and for skilled. His style lacks the energy of some of his fellow fighters, and it's fair to say he lacks world class speed or power, but in terms of pure skills, he is a genuine talent.
If Melindo can control the bout, and make it a boxing contest, he was a great chance of putting Yaegashi off his plan, and making the bout a less than thrilling affair, taking the crowd away and claiming the win. The reality however is that even at 34 Yaegashi is still quick and still comes to fight, and is still a top fighter. He'll look to make it a fight and we expect he'll manage to make the fight a war, and come out on top.
The fight will likely have a bit of everything, action, skills and drama, but we think Yaegashi will do more than enough to take home the win here.
When it comes to popular Japanese fighters with an international fan base based more on their style than their records no one matches the all-action Akira Yaegashi (24-5, 12), who could put on a FOTY contender with a broom. Though his memorable career he has has thrillers with the likes of Kenichi Horikawa, Pornasawn Porpramook, Kazuto Ioka, Toshiyuki Igarashi, Roman Gonzalez, Javier Mendoza and Martin Tecuapetla. It's hard to think of many bad fights with Yaegashi and we're expecting another really fun one this coming Friday when he takes on Samartlek Kokietgym (33-5, 12)*, who will be taking part in his second world title fight.
Yaegashi, the current IBF Light Flyweight champion, isn't just one of Japan's most exciting fighters but is one of the sports most exciting fighters. He combines an incredible will to win, which has been a downfall in the past, with an aggressive action based style, and an incredible work rate and desire. That desire saw him break down Pornsawan in a FOTY contender, and see out some torrid rounds against Tecuapetla as well as put on a FOTY candidate with Mendoza.
Yaegashi is one of the few Japanese fighters to be a genuine 3-weight champion. He has won titles at 105lbs, 112lbs and 108lbs and it's that 108lb weight class that he seems most suited to. Sadly however he is closing in on his 34th birthday and his time at the top looks unlikely to last long, especially given how long and hard his career has been. He already has 222 rounds under his belt and although he's only fought 29 bouts he has had 17 at title level, and 11 at world title level, with those bouts often being draining wars.
Although a warrior, through and through, Yaegashi can box and has shown that through his career, sadly though his warrior mentality has kicked in more often than not, meaning that even the most simple of bouts have been wars. That has sadly left him suffering multiple injuries, from bad facial damage to a broken Temporomandibular Joint and a serious shoulder injury, that has kept him out of the ring most of this year. Those injuries, and damage, have accumulated and will almost certainly affect him going forward.
Although relatively unknown Samartlek is a fighter on a role, and a fighter who has proven his toughness in the past, along with proving he can travel and can fight, a bit. He's best known for lasting 11 rounds in 2014 with Yaegashi's stablemate Naoya Inoue but has been a success in Thailand where he has been racking up a long string of wins since losing the “The Monster”.
The 32 year old challenger was originally a Muay Thai kick boxer before turning to boxing back in 2010. In a little over 6 years he has racked up either a 31-5 (12) record or a 33-5 record, depending on the source. That record has included losses to Inthanon Sithchamuang, Denver Cuello, Yuki Chinen, Randy Petalcorin and Inoue along with wins against the likes of Inthanon and Muhammad Rachman,
At his best Samartlek has proven to be a tough and gutsy fighter, he pushed Chinen close, bounced off the canvas multiple times against Petalcorin and lasted until round 11 with Inoue. He has also shown signs of improvement and has won his last 14 bouts, 14 fought since losing to Inoue a little more than 2 years ago. The improvement is thought to be more than he has shown with work alongside Kompayak Porpramook said to have improved his body work and made him a more rounded fighter.
Wither neither man having huge amounts of power, and both being aggressively minded guys who let leather go we're expecting something a bit special here with both letting their shots go. We have to favour Yaegashi, who has the experience and proven class, but we're expecting a very special action bout here with both men standing and trading blows. Yaegashi will likely look swollen and damaged but we genuinely expect him to be the clear winner on the cards.
Japanese boxing is certainly going through some changes in recent times with a number of it's “senior” fighters suffering recent losses, and a further number announcing their retirement recently. One of the remaining stalwarts of the Japanese scene is current IBF Light Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi (23-5, 12) [八重樫 東], who looks to make the first of his title on May 8th, as he faces under-rated Mexican challenger Martin Tecuapetla (13-6-3, 10).
Aged 33 Yaegashi probably hasn't got left in his career, and given the wars he's been in it's a surprise he's still a world class fighter now. He's one of the few Japanese fighters to have won a world title in 3 weight classes, and he's not done it the easy way either. His first world title was won in 2011, when he out lasted Ponrsawan Porpramook in an incredible war, in 2013 he claimed the WBC Flyweight title, beating Linear champion Toshiyuki Igarashi, and last year he out pointed the heavy handed Javier Mendoza for the IBF Light Flyweight title.
Whilst Yaegashi always beaten reigning champions for the titles he's won, he's also faced a relative who's who of the lighter weights. Included in those opponents are Eagle Den Junlaphan, Edgar Sosa, Roman Gonzalez, Pedro Guevara and Kazuto Ioka, in what was a unification bout at Minimumweight back in 2012. That level of competition has seen Yaegashi become a fan favourite with the hardcore fight fans, whilst his style, which is an action based one that screams “warrior”, has seen him further endear himself to fans both nationally and internationally.
In the ring Yaegashi is often seen as a “hit and be hit” type of fighter. He has got under-rated defense, sharp speed and intelligent movement, but all to often those traits go out of the window as he instead looks to engage in an all our war, a battle of attrition and a high drama contest. It can be frustrating to see him ignore some of his boxing skills, but it's his willingness to have a fight that has made him so popular and we suspect has helped him remain a top fighter, despite suffering several high profile loses.
At 26 years old the challenger knows that time is on his side in regards to what he can achieve during his career, he will also know however that he is much younger than the champion and will be wanting to use that youth to his advantage here. Although less well known than the champion he has mixed with good quality opposition including Saul Juarez, Jose Argumedo, Oscar Blanquet, Milan Melindo and Gilberto Parra. He has typically lost at the higher levels, but he is certainly a very capable fighter and has shown signs of getting better as he's getting older.
In the ring Tecuapetla is a steady but aggressive fighter. Technically he's flawed, a little and a little open, but he comes forward, throws from unusual angles and really does take a lot to force him backwards. Whilst he is aggressive, and a solid puncher, he can be out boxed and a careful counter-puncher can give him fits as, possibly, could someone who gets in his face and can take his power.
In his highest profile bout to date the Mexican was narrowly out pointed by Milan Melindo. That was Tecuapetla's first bout outside of Mexico and whilst he did lose that bout he did give Melindo real issues and proved that he could box as well as fight and it was the boxing that actually gave the very talented Melindo troubles.
For Tecuapetla the bout is a step up, it's only his second bout away from home and it's his first at genuine world level. It's a really a leap up in class, however it's potentially a great opportunity for him to make a name for himself in front of an audience of several million fight fans. The reality however is that his open style is likely to give Yaegashi a lot of opportunities to counter him and as a result we suspect that Yaegashi will take a decision. The one risk for the Japanese warrior will be facial damage, and he will have to hope that his face doesn't suffer too much from his now trademark swelling. If he can avoid that, and more precisely avoid being stopped due to the swelling, he should retain his title with a decision in a very fun to watch contest.
The lower weights have been among the best in recent years with possibly the most exciting being Light Flyweight. The division has given us everything, despite the fighters being so small. We've had controversy, we've had riots, we've had FOTY contenders and we've had everything that fight fans claim they love about our great sport.
On December 29th we're expecting another war as IBF champion Javier Mendoza (24-2-1, 19) travels to Tokyo to battle the always fun to watch Akira Yaegashi (22-5, 12) in what looks like a potential FOTY candidate, albeit a very late contender.
Mendoza is the sort of fighter that fight fans tend to enjoy watching. His first thought always seems to be aggression, and his style is based on aggressive pressure. He can look predictable, and defensively awkward, but he is certainly a handful on the front foot where he likes to enforce his fight. It was that aggression that saw Mendoza claim the title last year, when he defeat Ramon Garcia Hirales in a brilliant 12 round war.
Since claiming the title Mendoza has defended his title once, claiming a technical decision Milan Melindo. That defense was somewhat controversial, with the referee seemingly bowing to the local fighter and calling a premature halt to proceedings, but it did get the mandatory out of the way for Mendoza who now looks to add another notable win to his record.
The Mexican has had an interesting career. Early on he was really just a brawler and that did get him some early success, however he was 13-2-1 (10) before going on his current 11 fight winning run. Notably the second of those losses, against the unknown Jorge Guerrero, saw him being stopped in 2 rounds in what is perhaps the most alarming result on his record. He has however improved significantly since those early losses and wins over Garcia Hirales and Melindo really do show how much he has improved and matured as a fighter, and at 24 he;s he's young, hungry and still developing.
Whilst Mendoza is just starting to make a name for himself it's fair to say that Yaegashi is one of the more popular names among the lower weight classes. He's become a hardcore fan favourite due to his heart, ability and willingness to go to war. In fact for many his 2011 war with Ponrsawan Porpramook was the FOTY and his 2012 bout with Kazuto Ioka was another thriller. Whilst he is known for wars he has also scored notable wins, including the victory over Pornsawan to claim the WBA Minimumweight title, a victory over Toshiyuki Igarashi, to claim the WBC Flyweight title, and a win over Edgar Sosa.
Sadly for Yaegashi his career has been a tough one and last year he suffered back to back stoppages against Roman Gonzalez and Pedro Guevara. Whilst there is not shame in losing to those two it did seem like he took a lot of punishment. It's also worth noting that he dropped to 108lbs for the Guevara bout, where's going to be again for this one. Dropping down a weight can often be much more difficult than climbing a weight and that may well be an issue for Yaegashi again here.
At his best Yaegashiu is speedy fighter who is light on his feet, has lovely hand speed and throws some brilliant combinations. He may lack power but he's rarely in a poor fight and has pulled out some brilliant KO's in recent years. Whilst he is a fast fighter he's not a defensively responsible one and seems much happier to engage in a brawl than to use his defense. Saying that however he did show very intelligent defensive moves against Sosa, where he moved and stopped Sosa from ever getting off.
Whilst Yaegashi was brilliant at his best he's not longer near his best. As mentioned he's going down in weight, often an issue, he's edging towards 33 and with 198 rounds under his belt he is an old fighter with a lot of hard rounds. Unfortunately we suspect those rounds will have taken their toll on him.
We'd love to see Yaegashi win here, but unfortunately we suspect he comes up short late in a thrilling bout. Mendoza will simply be too strong and too youthful in the second half for the ageing Japanese warrior.
There are a lot of fights left this year but possibly the most exciting of those is at Light Flyweight as the always fun to watch Akira Yaegashi (20-4, 10) attempts to become a 3-weight world champion and over-come Mexico's Pedro Guevara (23-1-1, 15) in a bout for the vacant WBC Light Flyweight title. A title which was last held by Yaegashi's stablemate Naoya Inoue, who vacated the belt to campaign at Super Flyweight.
Last time out we saw Yaegashi suffer the first stoppage loss of his career as he was beaten into submission by the exceptional Roman Gonzalez. That bout saw the best from both men though unfortunately for Yaegashi it always seemed that Gonzalez was too strong, too powerful, too sharp and too good. Yaegashi tried his best against though was left a broken fighter who seemed to realise that he was too small and light punching to really compete against the best men at 112lbs.
For those who haven't seen much of Yaegashi he is the sort of fighter that fans should really appreciate. He's speedy and talented though unlike many other speedy fighters he seems to enjoy a fight just as much as the fans. His propensity for a tear up has seen him in thrilling contests with his 2011 bout against Thailand's Pornsawan Porpramook being a FOTY contender just like his 2012 ruckus with compatriot Kazuto Ioka. Both of those bouts showed not only Yaegashi's willingness to fight a war but also the way he seems to force a war, whether it's in his best interest or not.
At Flyweight Yaegashi's main problem was that he lacked genuine fire power. In his 5 title bouts at the weight he scored just a single stoppage, albeit a really good one against Odilon Zaleta. Sadly we suspect that if Yaegashi had power to match his and toughness he would be fighter celebrated worldwide rather than a man only truly appreciated by Japanese fans and the hardcore boxing fans.
Of course it's not just the style and wars that fans enjoy but also Yaegashi's willingness to test himself against the best. It's that willingness to fight all comers that has seen him battle with the likes of Gonzalazs, Ioka, Porpramook, Edgar Sosa, Eagle Den Junlaphan and Toshiyuki Igarashi. That's being seen again here where he's gone from being beaten up by Gonzalez to taking on the dangerous Guevara rather than fight a confidence rebuilding bout against a weaker foe.
So on to the Mexican who at 25 years old is coming into his prime and will be hoping to become a world champion at the second time of asking, having previously fallen short in an IBF title fight with Filipino Johnriel Casimero. In that fight Guevara was stepping up notably in class and it showed early on when he was dropped in the opening round though he did warm to the task and managed to give Casimero a close fight, though not as close as the scorecards indicated.
The bout with Casimero is easily the biggest bout that Guevara has been involved in. He has however been up against several other notable names including Mario Rodriguez, Raul Garcia, Karlius Diaz and Jorle Estrada and beaten all of them. Notably he has faced Rodriguez twice, drawing in their first meeting before dominating in the rematch with a very clear decision. The improvement between those two Rodriguez bouts was clear and on the whole Guevara has been a fighter improving regularly.
Stylistically Guevara shows traits of the great Ricardo Lopez. He boxes, moves, throws sharp and correct shots and looks comfortable on the back foot, something we rarely see in a Mexican fighter. Unlike most Mexican fighters he looks happier at range and boxing rather than up close and brawling. That doesn't he can't stand there and fight but it's not his style or his strength. At a distance he has a nice variety of shots with his left hook to the body, jab and straight right being the key shots in his arsenal.
From what we've seen of both guys we suspect this bout will be won by the man who can control the distance and pacing of the bout. A slow bout fought at range favours Guevara without a doubt. If the Mexican can use his reach and straight shots to stop Yaegashi in his tracks then the title will be going back to Mexico. For Yaegashi to win he has to turn this into a fight, slip the jab and unload his trademark fast flurries on the inside. The Japanese fighter has to make life uncomfortable for the Mexican visitor and if he can do that we suspect we will see Yaegashi becoming just the second Japanese fighter in history to win world titles in 3 weights. If Yaegashi can't get inside then he'll follow in the footsteps of Kazuto Ioka and Hozumi Hasegawa who both failed in their attempts to become 3 weight world champions this year.
(Image courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
It's not every week that we get a genuine super fight but on September 5th we get one of the best match ups that the sport could possibly throw us. A bout that it genuinely amazing and a bout that not only looks good as a match up but is also significant in terms of both the Flyweight division and the legacy of both men.
The fight, a WBC Flyweight title fight, will see Japanese champion Akira Yaegashi attempt to record his 4th defence of the title whilst his opponent, Roman Gonzalez, will be attempting to become the second ever 3-weight world champion from Nicaragua and further enhance his reputation as one of the most truly elite fighters on the planet.
The defending champion Yaegashi (20-3, 10) is one of Japanese boxing's best kept secrets though like many of the lower weight fights, such as Katsunari Takayama. He possesses a number of the stereo typical Japanese qualities, the most notable of those qualities is his extreme toughness which has seen him through a number of tough battles, notably his contest with Eagle Den Junlaphan and his bout with Kazuto Ioka. Sadly for Yaegashi he has had to rely on that toughness numerous times over the course of his career due to his defensive limitation and, again like Takayama, he has had to eat more than his share of shots in a tough career.
Aged 31 Yaegashi is getting on for a lower weight fighter and despite having only fought in 23 bouts he has fought in a lot of hard bouts. Those bouts with Junlaphan and Ioka as well as his bouts with Pornsawan Porpramook and Toshiyuki Igarashi would all have “added years” to Yaegashi the boxer and that is a problem, especially considering that the damage he has received has seen his eyes and face swell in numerous bouts, sometimes to the extent that a fight could have been stopped.
As well as the wear and tear Yaegashi has found that his power really isn't effective at the world level. He may have 10 stoppages form his 23 career fights but that includes just 5 from his last 18 bouts and he has actually only scored 2 stoppages in his 7 world title bouts and just 3 in his last 11 bouts!
When we talk about Gonzalez (39-0, 33) we again find ourselves talking about a fighter who is incredibly over-looked by many in the boxing world. Out side of the ring Gonzalez is a charming young man though in between the ropes he is a pure pressure fighter who stalks behind a tight guard, unloads with vicious and quick combinations and is extremely smart in the way he applies pressure, it's constant but intelligent. Worryingly for opponents Gonzalez combines sensational speed, frightening power, smart movement, sturdy defence and a very tough chin, even when tagged cleanly he shows no sign of discomfort.
If he was fighting above 130lbs Gonzalez would be widely regarded as one of the best fighters on the planet. Instead the diminutive Nicaraguan is a man known only to those hardcore fans who make the effort to follow the lower weights. As is often the case those fans are rewarded and in this case they get the to see a destructive, vicious and spiteful fighter who goes to the ring with the intention of beating up foes and not just getting the win.
For a 27 year old Gonzalez seems to have been around for what feels like a lifetime. That's probably because he made his debut all the way back in 2005 as a very baby faced 18 year old and also because he was just 21 when he won his first world title, the WBA Minimumweight title, with a classy performance against Yutaka Niida. He is possibly “older” in terms of boxing age than a 27 year old but it's fair to suggest that he's not yet peaked and is in fact just getting better and better, still.
Although Gonzalez is similar, in a lot of ways, to Yaegashi's stablemate Naoya Inoue there are a lot of differences. Sparring with Inoue will have helped Yaegashi cope with the pressure though Gonzalez is naturally bigger than Inoue and more experienced, two things that will help neutralise the effectiveness of the sparring sessions between Yaegashi and “Monster” Inoue. At the end of the day however that sparring can't prevent Yaegashi from swelling when he takes numerous head shots and sadly we feel that will be his issue here.
Going into the fight we have a boxer with a warriors mentality and a pressure fighter who always brings the action. Unfortunately for Yaegashi the odds don't favour him, especially when we look at the way Gonzalez defeated Katsunari Takayama with intense pressure and heavy artillery that really took it's toll on “The Lightning Kid”. Yaegashi has never shown serious stamina issues but he's never been in the ring with someone as heavy handed or as capable as Gonzalez who always finds a way to cut the ring down and get to work with his thunderous shots on the inside.
Whilst we do favour Gonzalez to get the win here we do need to make fans aware of several things. Firstly Yaegashi has been talking to several former Gonzalez opponents. Amongst them are Takayama and Niida, who have both offered advice to Yaegashi on how Gonzalez goes about his work in the ring. It's obvious that advice will obviously be taken on board by Yaegashi it's hard to know just how much that advice will help him deal with the the man known as "El Chocolatito".
(Image courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
When we talk about exciting little fighters who can brawl or box few really rival Akira Yaegashi (19-3, 9). The WBC Flyweight champion won his first world title, the WBC Minimumweight title, by going to war with Pornsawan Porpramook, he lost that title in a thrilling war with Kazuto Ioka before moving to Flyweight to beat Toshiyuki Igarashi in a bloody battle.
Since winning the Flyweight title however Yaegashi has used his speed rather than his toughness to defend his title twice, including a notable victory over Edgar Sosa that saw Sosa often chasing shadows.
On April 6th Yaegashi will be hunting the third defense of his title has faces a third successive Mexican. After defending against Oscar Blanquet and Sosa, as mentioned above, he will now be facing Odilon Zaleta (15-3, 8).
Unfortunately after beating Sosa we'd hoped Yaegashi would be facing a top challenger, in Zaleta we are a bit disappointed, especially considering Zaleta's recent form which has consisted of 2 losses in his last 3 bouts.
Those losses of Zaleta have come to well known names in the form of Luis Concepcion, who stopped Zaleta in 2 rounds, and Mario Rodriguez, who took a split decision over Zaleta last time out. Unfortunately when we consider that Katsunari Takayama made Rodriguez look foolish and Rodriguez then beat Zaleta it's fair to say that Zaleta probably shouldn't be fighting for a world, at least not at the moment.
From footage of Zaleta he appears to be relatively slow, not all that aggressive, not the toughest but when he connects clean, as he did on Armando Torres last time out, he can clean an opponents clock. Although the power perhaps isn't reflected on his record he does seem to have a genuine thud on his shots. Unfortunately however that thud perhaps isn't applied properly a lot of the time with his actual punching form often looking poor, wide, wild and not particularly correct.
Against Yaegashi you need to either be able to completely out box him, something that hasn't been done since Eagle Den Junlaphan did it almost 7 years ago, or hit so hard and so fast that you refuse to let him get into any sort of a rhythm and swell up his eyes which often appear to be his key weakness.
When you consider that Eagle Den's victory over Yaegashi, back in 2007, is the only "clean" loss in 22 fights you do appreciate how difficult it is to beat him and both of his other losses have been razor thin.
If we're critical Yaegashi has two weaknesses. Firstly his eyes, as mentioned before, swell up really badly this could lead him to one day suffering a TKO defeat due to the swelling. The second is his lack of power. Whilst he can brawl and hold his own in a fight he's not going to take fighters out with a single shot, especially not at Flyweight. Back when he was an amateur he was a light puncher with just 15 stoppages in 70 fights and as a professional he's stopped just 2 of his last 10 opponents with both of those stoppages coming late in the bouts.
Against Zaleta we can't really see either of Yaegashi's "weaknesses" coming to the fore. Instead we expect the Japanese fighter to fight as a the boxer, get on the move and counter Zaleta's often clumsy looking shots. We might see a war break out late on if Yaegashi wants to make a statement, though it's more likely that the victory is the key here as opposed to putting on a show.
The reason why we think Yaegashi will be happy with a boring safety first win is that he knows a very tough assignment is just around the corner with Roman "El Chocolatito" Gonzalez. The idea is that if Yaegashi wins and Gonzalez wins on the undercard the two men will fight later this year in what would have to be described as a Flyweight super fight. It may not be a unification contest or anything like that but it's about as good a fight as you can make at any weight and a bout we hope comes off as expected in the fall.
(Image courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
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.
Courtesy of boxrec.com
When it comes to pound-for-pound conversations few can rival the pound-for-pound excitement given to us by Japanese warrior Akira Yaegashi (17-3, 9).
Yaegashi, a former WBA minimumweight champion and the current WBC Flyweight champion is one of the fighters that we watch and always expect an enthralling contest from. Be it his FOTY style war with Pornsawan Porpramook, his narrow defeat to Kazuto Ioka or his bloody victory over Toshiyuki Igarashi it appears Yaegashi just makes every fight fun.
After the run Yaegashi has been on in recent years, including the 3 fights mentioned above as well as 4 hard Japanese title fights it's fair to suggest he's one of the few fighters who does deserve an "easy one". It appears that he'll be getting that easy one in the first defense of his WBC Flyweight title.
Yaegashi's first challenger since he claimed the title from Igarashi will be Mexican veteran Oscar Blanquet (32-5-1, 23), a fighter who has an impressive looking record though one that is more style than substance.
Typically when a fighter has more than 30 victories from 38 bouts and has been a professional for 10 years you'd expect them to have mixed with fringe world level opponents. To date Blanquet has only really faced 2 "names" of note, Ricardo Nunez who stopped Blanquet in 7 rounds and Wilbert Uicab who took a majority decision over Blanquet.
Blanquet's problem so far in his career is that he's spent most of it fighting limited opponents, effectively padding his record with out ever developing the skills and experiences needed to move up through the levels.
The best victory on the Mexican's record is over Warlito Parrenas, better known as Wars Katsumata. The victory over Parrenas came just last year in Blanquet's only previous bout in Japan and whilst his record over in Japan is 1-0 (1) there is a gulf of difference between Parrenas and Yaegashi.
In terms of Blanquet as a fight he's wild with his offensive work and defensively he's not the most intelligent. His shots are often wild and looping and he's there to be countered by a good fighter. Although his defense is weak he has seemed rather tough so far and has only suffered 2 stoppage losses, with only one of those occurring in the last 7 years.
The champion, who is pure excitement bottled in to a 5'3" frame, his defense is generally under-rated though when needed to be defense he can be, as he showed in his battle with Eagle Den Junlaphan where his toughness was also shown. The reason his defense is so under-rated is because his main defense is in fact his own offense. He's none stop action who hits harder than his record shows and refuses to let an opponent off the hook if he has them hurt.
No single shot from Yaegashi will stop an opponent though he cumulative effect of blows will wear fighters down both physically and mentally. He's smart with his shots and they are often accurate and sharp and he finds his way into range with alarming easy despite being relatively short.
Although not a a super skilled and slippery fighter Yaegashi is a nightmare for anyone at 112lbs whilst Blanquet is little more than a contender in a multi-title era. It really shouldn't be competitive unless Yaegashi has slipped massively since his victory over Igarashi.
With the toughness of the challenger it wouldn't a surprise for him to go the distance though he'll certainly look like he's been on the losing end of a fight after the 12 rounds.
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