The growth of the DAZN service as a distribution network for boxing is still something of a work in progress, and there are still a lot of areas where the service needs to improve, with the commentary being one of the most notable. Despite that the service has been fantastic for a number of reasons, and one of those is the fact the service seems to have taken a very clear interest in picking up fighters from the lower weight classes. In the last 12 months alone we have seen 3 of the 4 Light Flyweight world champions compete on the service and that is something that we didn't expect to see, but something we're really happy about. Finally a major outlet is shining a light on one of the most over-looked divisions in the sport.
DAZN's foray into the Light Flyweight division saw IBF champion Felix Alvarado beat the fight out of Deejay Kriel in January and saw WBA "Super" champion Hiroto Kyoguchi defeat Axel Aragon Vega in a brilliant tear up in March. On May 8th we get the chance to see another champion, this time WBO champion Elwin Soto (18-1, 12) in action as he takes on Japanese veteran Katsunari Takayama (32-8-0-1, 12). Like the two other two recent bouts in the division this could end up being a really brutal and thrilling bout between two men at very different stages of their careers.
Of the two men American audiences will likely be more familiar with Soto, especially newer fans to the sport. Soto won his WBO title on American soil when he stopped Angel Acosta, in his US debut, and has since defended the title twice, both in the US, with decision wins over Edward Heno and Carlos Buitrago. In his title win he looked talented, but flawed, and was struggling with stamina late in the bout, until hurting Acosta, who had been dropped in round 3, and forcing a controversial 12th round finish. Since then he has again looked more like a youngster who is growing into being a champion, rather than someone close to being the complete product, with both of his defenses leaving plenty to be desired. And whilst that sounds negative, the reality is that Soto seems like the sort of fighter who maybe won a world title before he was really ready for it, and needs to take another year or two to mature into the fighter he will become.
Although not the complete article yet Soto is still a monster. He's got huge power, an impressive chin, an an economical style. He presses forward, he's strong and tough and is still really rounding off his boxing skillset fight by fight. Although still improving Soto is slow of foot, sometimes a bit too methodical, and happy to come forward behind a tight guard rather than letting shots fly. A very stark comparison to the likes of Kyoguchi and Alvarado. He looks easier to outbox than the other two, due to not working as much, but is just as dangerous and strong as the other two, and arguably has the biggest upside given his young age.
Although we have been impressed by Soto at times, it is worth noting that faltering Carlos Buitrago ran him a lot closer than the scores cards suggest, and Edward Heno also gave him a very tough bout. He's the type of fighter who, against someone with a lot of quick movement will struggle to shine.
If you're a long term fan of the lower weights Katsunari Takayama needs no introduction at all. However it's fair to say that most fight fans aren't long term watches of the lowest weights and have sadly missed out on the career of the "Lighting Kid" who is now edging towards his 38th birthday and is not the fighter he used to be. At his best he was a whirring dervish of activity, willing to skip around the ring, let shots go in bunches, and use a lot of in and out movement, without too much worry of what was coming his way. He had a brilliant chin and could rely on it when he needed to, and was able to stand and trade when he wanted. His style made for some brilliant bouts against the likes of Yutaka Niida, Francisco Rodrgiuez Jr, Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr and Jose Argumedo among others. He was also a serial belt collector winning the WBC, the WBA interim title and the WBO and IBF titles, twice. All at Minimumweight. Sadly it's hard to know just how good he is going to be at Light Flyweight.
The bigger issue for Takayama isn't so much the move up in weight, he did fight at Light Flyweight early in his career, but instead his skin. During his career the accumulated punishment has left his skin very paper like, and he has been cut numerous times during the later part of his career. In fact 3 of his last 5 bouts have ended via technical decision, dating back more than 5 years. Aged 37, moving up in weight, with paper skin, taking on a big puncher, things don't look good for Takayama.
Saying all that however Takayama hasn't taken much punishment recently. In 2016 he retired before chasing a place at the Olympics. He failed in his pursuit for a Tokyo 2020 place and returned to professional boxing last year, putting on a brilliant performance against former 2-time world challenger, at Light Flyweight, Reiya Konishi. That bout showed that Takayama still has his legs and output to go, at least for 6 rounds, though of course it's a very different proposition over 12 rounds against a big puncher like Soto.
At his best Takayama would have been a stylistic nightmare for Soto. His non stop movement, ability to take a shot and high output would have been a very tough assignment for a man like Soto, who is powerful but low activity and slow of foot. This current version of Takayama however is a very different kettle of fish, and we're really not sure if Takayama's face can hold hold up or whether his legs can go 12 rounds.
We would genuine love to see Takayama win. It would be one final chapter in a career that has been amazing to follow and really seen him tread a track rarely seen by a Japanese fighter, as he actively pursued IBF and WBO titles. The reality however is that father time and a long career has probably left Takayama with only a slim chance here.
Our expectation is that Takayama starts well, uses his feet, and stops Soto from getting set, and getting his shots off. Using a tactic similar to what Carlos Buitrago did, but busier. As the fight goes on however the power and physical strength of Soto will take over and Mexican will leave Takayama busted open and force the doctor to wave off the bout.
The real question, for us, is what will cause those cuts, and when will the bout be stopped? Takayama has been involved in head clashes and if one of those occurs it would be a surprise, at all, to see a technical decision here. On the other hand Soto is a big puncher and there's a real chance that his punches will bust up Takayama and force a stoppage.
Prior to the end we expect Takayama to set a high pace, at least early on, and force Soto to fight at a much higher tempo than usual. We expect a lot of leather to be thrown here and for the bout to be, yet another, fantastic Light Flyweight action bout. Expect regular exchanges, with Soto landing the heavier blows and Takayama landing at a high volume. Sadly though it's hard to see the bout ending in any other way, other than Takayama wearing a crimson mask.
For gamblers out there, Takayama by technical decision might be worth a shot, but a slim one. For everyone else, the obvious outcome is Soto by TKO, and that's the one we'll be picking.
Prediction - TKO9 Soto (cuts)
Over the last few years we have had some real frustrations at Light Heavyweight, where we have a lot of potentially interesting match ups to be made. Sadly however the bouts to define the division hasn't taken place, and instead two main fighters in the division have haf major issues securing the career defining bout they need. One of those is the much avoided Artur Beterbiev, who punches like a truck and has long been avoided, and the other is Dmitry Bivol (17-0, 11), who is skilled but lacks in terms drawing power and excitement.
Bivol has been the WBA "Super" champion for several years now, and has a string of good victories to his name, including the likes of Sullivan Barrera, Jean Pascal and Joe Smith Jr, but has failed to land a massive monster fight. That wait for a career defining bout will need to continue, but thankfully he is in action on May 1st as he looks to keep his WBA "Super" title and his unbeaten record in tact. Sadly though his up coming defense is certainly not one to get the pulse racing. Instead of sharing the ring with a leading divisional fighter he'll be up against Englishman Craig Richards (16-1-1, 9).
The talented Bivol, who was born in Kyrgyzstan and now fights out of Russia, is one of the most technically correct boxers in the Light Heavyweight division and also, potentially, the biggest threat to Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. In fact Bivol has repeatedly offered himself as a potential "Canelo" opponent and offered to drop to Super Middleweight for that bout. Whilst technically very skilled he is, somewhat boring to watch and that seems to be something that he doesn't care about. He's happier to win a dull decision, boxing his way for 12 rounds, and controlling every minute of the bout than to take any risks and give fans anything exciting and memorable.
In terms of quality few match Bivol. He's got a brilliant jab, his understanding of the ring is top notch, he moves around the ring with a lot of ease and sets a high out put. But he keeps everything pretty much the same. He'll set the table with his jab, and then look to follow through with the occasional power shot, all at range. On the inside he holds, forces the referee to reset, and does the same in an attempt to keep the bout being fought as his bout. There is next to no drama in his bouts, which is a shame as early on he was exciting and fought like a man with a point to prove. He began his career 13-0 (11), but recently has been putting on controlled, but dominant displays against some very decent, but unspectacular, competition.
His challenger is much less well known and much less proven. In fact fans outside of the UK probably haven't seen too much of the 30 year old Richards, who has fought all 18 of his bouts in the UK. As with nay British fighters guys early career was relatively unremarkable, with fights against a string of limited journeymen, though his did show enough to be moved towards bigger and better domestic fights, fighting for the British title in his 11th bout. That was a huge step up, against Frank Buglioni, and he gave a really good account of himself, despite losing. Since then he has gone unbeaten, won the British title and proven himself as a solid domestic level fighter. Of course the step up from British level to world level is huge, and despite winning the British title there's still a fair argument that he's only the 5th best in the UK.
Before we get on to Richard's style we will quickly discuss the British Light Heavyweight scene, which is even more frustrating than the global scene. The UK has 5 very good Light Heavyweights. Callum Johnson, Josgua Buatsi, Lydon Arthur, Anthony Yarde and Craig Richards. From those 5 men we've only had one bout between two of them, and that only came last year. We've also seen two of the fighters fight for world titles, and soon to be 3, without any of them proving they are the best domestically. The division, domestically, has so much talent and potential, but politics has really left things feeling underwhelming.
In the ring Richards is a big, tall, rangy fighter. He looks incredibly relaxed and calm in the ring and has real patience behind his work. He's not the quickest, but he is a smart fighter, and a smart, tall fight can be a nightmare for anyone. His footwork is solid, and he uses it will to create distance, but he's not the quickest on his feet. What he does really well is he allows bouts to be fought at a slow pace. He's not an exciting fighter, he's not a fun fighter to watch, but he's technically very solid, with a sharp jab, good counter punching and he applies very intelligent pressure, without taking risks. He's physically imposing and that allows him to pressure in the way he does. Although certainly not a puncher he does have some sting on his shots and his TKO of Shakan Pitters last year was very impressive.
Sadly for Richards this is a monster step up and we think that the step up will be far, far, far too much for him. His patient pressure style has success at domestic level, but we can't see that carrying up to world level, especially not against someone as skilled, strong and focused as Bivol.
We expect to see Richards have some moments early on. He's awkward enough to have some success. But as the rounds go on and the tock ticks away Bivol will get a read on his man, then begin to break him down, grind away at him, and, eventually, beat him into submission. In fact we wouldn't be surprised at all if Bivol manages to score his first stoppage in 3 years and ends a 4 fights decision win.
Prediction - TKO9 Bivol
In 2020 we expect to see a lot of long running saga's come to an end, such as the recent over-due IBF Super Flyweight mandatory title fight between Jerwin Ancajas v Jonathan Javier Rodriguez and the on going WBC Bantamweight title situation between Nordine Oubaali and Nonito Donaire, which was ordered in 2019. Perhaps now saga, however, is quite like the one between Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10) and Tetsuya Hisada (34-10-2, 20), which is now set to take place around 4 years after it was first scheduled! And for honours much, much higher than it would have been for the first time around!
For those who haven't followed the Japanese scene until very recently this bout was originally pencilled when Kenshiro was the Japanese and OPBF Light Flyweight champion, and was supposed to be a mandatory of the Japanese title, as part of the Champion Carnival in 2017. The bout was cancelled at short notice when Kenshiro was able to secure a WBC world title fight with Ganigan Lopez, which he went on to win via majority decision. Whilst Kenshiro became a world champion things didn't stand still for Hisada who ended up beating Kenichi Horikawa in a bloody battle, marred by repeated headclashes, to win the Japanese title and worked his way into a WBA world title fight in 2019 with Hiroto Kyoguchi, losing a competitive decision to Kyoguchi.
If that was chapter 1 in the "Kenshiro Vs Hisada rivalry", and if that ended well for both parties, chapter 2 was a little bit different. The men were to fight late last year, with the bout essentially the worst kept secret in Japanese boxing. It however fell apart weeks before it supposed to take place after news revealed Kenshiro has been involved in a drunken incident that resulted in him being suspended by the JBC. That left a sour taste in the mouth of Hisada and saw some fans question the behaviour of Kenshiro, who in had committed his drunk acts in the summer, well before the bout was supposed to take place but the act hadn't come to light until much later.
Now, with more than 4 years history between the two men, but no bouts, we are now, finally, set to see the two men face off.
Of the two fighters it's Kenshiro, the current and long reigning WBC Light Flyweight champion, who is the much more well known fighter. The baby faced 29 year old is one of the longest reigning active world champions in the sport, having held his title since 2017 and running up 7 defenses. He is from a boxing family, with his father Hisashi being a former Japanese and OPBF champion, and he looks a natural in the ring. Though that should be little surprise for a fighter who was a good amateur and seemed for success when he turned professional in 2014. In the professional ranks he has been moved aggressively but smartly, and won WBC Youth, Japanese and OPBF titles before taking the WBC title in 2017. Since winning his world title he has moved from strength to strength and has visibly grown as a fighter since winning the belt in his 10th professional bout.
Kenshiro is, unlike many active Light Flyweights, a boxer first and foremost, with a style that is based around his speed, movement, and jab, rather than his power and physicality, like many of the top guys in the division. He looks to set the tone with his foot work and jab, picking holes in opponents defenses, making them make errors to counter. He has one of the most under-rated jabs in the sport, with it being quick, sharp and accurate, and also some of the over-looked punch picking of any active fighter. He picks his shots well, whether he's on the front foot or back foot. Given his record, and style, it would be fair to assume he lacked power, but that isn't true and he has stopped 5 of his last 6, Ganigan Lopez, Milan Melindo, Jonathan Taconing and Randy Petalcorin. He can punch, but he doesn't base his style around that power, rather allowing that power to aid his boxing.
Aged 36 Tetsuya Hisada is a true veteran of the sport. With 46 professional bouts to his name is among the most experienced active Japanese fighters and his career dates all the way back to 2003, when he was still a teenager. His record, on paper, isn't all that impressive, but like a fine wine Hisada bloomed late into his career, as he finally found the weight that was suitable for him, a style that worked for him, and gained the experienced he needed to become a success. Proof of that can be seen by looking at Hisada's career after 32 professional bouts. At that point he was aged 30 at the time and was sporting a record of 21-9-2 (11). Since then he has gone 13-1, with his only loss coming in a hotly contest bout with Hiroto Kyoguchi. It's also not like he was padding his record either, instead he beat the likes of Shun Kosaka, who came runner up in the 2014 All Japan Rookie of the Year, Hayato Yamaguchi, who was was a former Japanese title challenger, Atsushi Kakutani, a former world title challenger, and Kenichi Horikawa, who is currently the OPBF Light Flyweight champion.
Many of Hisada's early losses came due to him fighting above his natural weight. He picked a number of losses at Super Flyweight and Flyweight. And a lot of those were close, with 4 split decision losses.
In recent years Hisada has settled at Light Flyweight and become of of the more over-looked fighters in the sport. Hisada defies logic. Despite being the wrong side of 30 he appears to have fantastic stamina, fights at a high work rate, throws a lot of leather, but does so in an educated manner. It's clear he uses his experience well, knowing when to go forward and when to back off. Unlike so many fighters who like to come forward he actually uses his jab as a key weapon, and even doubles it up nicely, whilst looking to line up his straight right hand. Despite fighting at a solid tempo Hisada also does some little things very well. He moves his head a lot, applies pressure behind good footwork and has under-rated power, something his record doesn't reflect due to his numerous bouts above his best fighting weight. Sadly though he is ancient for a Light Flyweight, and having been out of the ring since late 2019 we do wonder what ring rust and father time will have done to him. It's also a massive shame Hisada didn't get the big fights until late in his career, something that is understandable given his losses but still a shame given his ability.
In this bout we're expecting to see some of the history between the two men come out, and we expect to see a frustrated Hisada looking to start fast, with emotion, anger and a sense of resentment coming out. He's usually a calm, collected character, but he was clearly disappointed last year, and we think some of that will come out here. Sadly for himself that would be a mistake, as Kenshiro will pick him away at any error he makes.
Even without the errors this is not a good stylistic match up for Hisada. His pressure works brilliantly against fighters who stay still, or back on to the ropes and don't have the educated feet and counter punching of Kenshiro. Here however he's up against a brilliant counter puncher, a smart mover, and someone who will soak up the pressure, target the counters and look to break him down. Kenshiro will look to use Hisada's strengths against him.
For Hisada to win he needs to not only pressure, but also physically bully Kenshiro. His activity is good, but he needs to get the bout on the inside, completely cut the distance, and don't let Kenshiro establish his rhythm. As soon as Kenshiro finds his groove it will be very, very hard for Hisada to work his way into the bout. If Hisada doesn't make a big impact early, in an educated fashion, he will fall a long way behind.
Given Kyoguchi wasn't able to stop Hisada the popular view will be that Kenshiro won't be able to. We however feel that Kenshiro will be able to, late on, as he looks to make a statement, and lay down the gauntlet to the other champions. He is talking about wanting to unify and we suspect he'll want to make a big statement here, to do that, he needs to stop Hisada.
We are expecting Hisada to come forward early, have mixed success as Kenshiro finds his range, and through the middle rounds Kenshiro will begin to dominate with his counters, before forcing a late stoppage in a complete performance against an excellent, and over-looked, challenger.
Prediction - TKO10 Kenshiro
(Image credit - Boxingnews.jp - from the announcement of the 2017 Champion Carnival bouts, Kenshiro and Hisada are both in the front line)
Way back in October 2019 we previewed an IBF Super Flyweight title bout between champion Jerwin Ancajas (32-1-2, 22) and mandatory challenger Jonathan Javier Rodriguez (22-1, 16), with the two men set to clash on November 2nd. That bout was then cancelled, days before taking place when Rodriguez was unable to enter the US. The bout was supposed to be on a top Rank card and instead of taking on Rodriguez we saw Ancajas defeat late replacement Miguel Gonzalez a month later.
Now, 16 months later, we are finally getting the bout on a PBC show, in Connecticut, with the bout still looming as a mandatory defense of Ancajas. Sadly the Covid19 pandemic ended up affecting both men. It kept Ancajas out of the ring for the entire of 2020, kept Rodriguez out of the ring for much of 2020 and forced this bout, which had been planned for the year, to get pushed back. Again. Despite that we are now here. We are on the verge of the fight, again, and we'll again take a look at what to expect.
More than 4 years ago we saw Jerwin Ancajas announce himself as one to watch as he dominated Teiru Kinoshita on the Manny Pacquiao Vs Jeff Horn under-card. The performance was a break out showing and was Ancajas' second defense of the IBF Super Flyweight title he had won the previous year. It was the type of performance that he needed on the biggest showcase of his career. Soon afterwards he was given more big opportunities, facing Jamie Conlan in Ireland and then making 4 defenses in the US as he quickly became one of the notable Super Flyweights of his era.
Blessed with good looks, fantastic hand speed, spiteful power and a good boxing brain Ancajas seemed to have it all. Except for competition. Sadly for him the Super Flyweight division was moving on around him, the likes of Naoyta Inoue, Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Donnie Nietes and Kazuto Ioka were all off limits to him. Rather than those divisional stars Ancajas was stuck facing the best of the rest, , like the aforementioned Kinoshita and Conlan, along with Jonas Sultan and Alejandro Santiago Barrios. The inability, or in some cases unwillingness, to face the top dogs in the division has seen his reign being a long one but one that is relatively low profile and not one that has made him into the star he should have been.
Sadly his B, and sometimes C, rate challengers haven't helped Ancajas look great. It's a shame as the 29 year old Filipino is a fantastic boxer-puncher. He's gorgeously smooth in the ring, throws wonderful combinations, has an excellent understanding of the ring, and combines skills, speed and power wonderfully. He is also a big kid at the weight and a southpaw, making him a nightmare.
Aged 25 Rodriguez is an up and comer who is looking to announce himself on to the world stage after fighting his entire career, so far, on the Mexican national scene. In fact this is only really the third time he has taken on a fighter of some note. Thankfully though his career has picked up in recent years, and his first 21 bouts were pretty much bouts where he learned on the job without making much fuss. In more recent bouts however he has beaten former world title contenders Felipe Orucuta and Julian Yedras, and established himself a lot more in 2 fights than he did in his previous 21.
Despite a couple of solid wins Rodriguez hasn't done all that much to really earn a world title fight, especially not given the talent in the Super Flyweight division, but the IBF will IBF and he is the IBF mandatory with only a couple of notable wins on his record. Which in fairness to the IBF is 2 more than some other recent mandatory challengers of theirs.
One notable thing about Rodriguez, and why he may be dangerous for Ancajas, is the relative lack of footage of him. From the footage that is available Rodriguez looks strong, tough, and aggressive. Like many Mexican fighters he comes to fight and he comes with a lot of desire and hunger. Sadly though he is rather methodical, a big slow, and a little bit clumsy. He looks like he could be hit, a lot, and may be stepping up too much from the competition he has faced so far. He's the sort of fight who should make for some fan friendly fights, but he looks like he would struggle with any of the top guys in the division. Including Ancajas.
The pressure and aggression of Rodriguez could make this fun and interesting, and if he can take sustained punishment whilst continuing to come forward he could be an absolute nightmare for Ancajas. We have seen Ancajas struggle on the inside, when fighters have got close to him, and if Rodriguez can get close and rough him up the Mexican might have a real chance. Especially give the fact Ancajas has been out of the ring since December 2019.
We suspect the speed, movement and skills for Ancajas will be the key. He'll neutralise the pressure, lure Rodriguez in, and tag him. Repeatedly. Rodriguez will not show any quit, and will be looking to make a fight of things in each of the 12 rounds, but we see Ancajas picking his spots and racking up the rounds en route to a clear decision.
Interestingly the delay for this fight may end up helping Rodriguez, but we still don't think it will be anywhere near enough to get him a victory here.
Prediction - UD12 Ancajas
April 2021 looks set to be an incredible month for fight fans, with a wonderful mix of high profile fights at the top level of the sport and bouts at the lower level, and featuring everything in between. It is a month that really should deliver great action week after week and it kicks off in great fashion this coming Saturday. That's in part due to a bout we've been looking forward to for a little over a year now. That's a match up between unified WBA "super" and IBF Super Bantamweight world champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6) and mandatory challenger Ryosuke Iwasa (23-7, 17), who also enters as the "interim" IBF champion.
The bout will see two of the best 122lb fighters clash in what is a genuine excellent match up, and it's one that should have fans from all over the globe tuning in. That's not just because of the match up it's self, which is genuinely brilliant, but because of what it means for the division in general. The winner will be in the mix for bouts against the likes of Luis Nery, Stephen Fulton, Ronnie Riose, Brandon Figueroa and Carlos Castro, among many, many others.
Of the two men the more impressive has been 26 year old Uzbek Akhmadaliev, known as "MJ". He is, after just 8 fights, a unified champion and was a former standout amateur who has set his sights high and raced away to the top, whilst becoming one of the main faces at the forefront of Uzbek boxing. He is a fighter who has looked to prove a point every step of the way during his boxing career and has already proven himself as a top level fighter. In just 8 bouts!
Before turning professional Akhmadaliev had reportedly had over 300 amateur bouts, winning the vast majority. He had won medals at the World Amateur Championships, Olympics, Asian Championships and World Youth Championships, and had been one of the standout fights on the amateur scene. He had, however, got a reputation for being the bridesmaid and not the bride, falling short in the business end of competitions. As a professional however he has used that amateur experience and the skills he learned in the unpaid ranks to challenge himself and make a name for himself.
In just 8 bouts Akhmadaliev has already beaten the likes of Isaaz Zarate, Carlos Carlson and most notably Daniel Roman, who he beat in January 2020 for the unified titles. He has proven he can box, punch, brawl, and fight at a high tempo for 12 rounds. He has proven more in just 8 bouts, adding up to a total of 40 professional rounds, than many fights do in a career. We'll admit we thought the step up to facing Roman was too soon, but he proved us wrong and it's going to be very hard to bet against him in the future given how he performed there.
Although he is hugely impressive there are still some questions to ask of Akhmadaliev. He has impressed with his ability to box or fight, and he has shown a good chin, great work rate and highly impressive stamina, though we do wonder what happens when he's forced to chase a bout, and it'll be interesting to see what happens when he's cut, or in genuine trouble. If we ever see him in real trouble. We also wonder what he's like against a big puncher, and Iwasa does have power, as well as what he's like against a dangerous south, with his previous southpaw opponents being relatively limited. So far however he has impressed fight after fight and shown the ambition and drive that has already made us huge fans of his.
Ryosuke Iwasa is a 31 year old veteran of the professional ranks, with 30 professional bouts to his name, and over 60 amateur bouts. He is already a former world champion and a man who was long tipped to be a star in Japan, though has failed to reach the heights expected of him when he turned professional. Despite not being the fighter many hoped he would be he has managed a very respectable career and is certainly not a fighter who has failed in the sport. He has, however, been inconsistent. When he's on point he looks fantastic, but there are a number of underwhelming performance during his career as well.
For Japanese fans Iwasa made his name, originally, on the amateur stage where he went 60-6 (42) and picked up the High School Triple crown. This saw him turning professional with high expectations on his shoulders. Under the guidance of former world champion Celes Kobayashi he was moved quickly and at the end of 2010 he had secured a Japanese title fight as part of the Champion Carnival, by winning the Strongest Korakuen and becoming the MVP. Sadly for him his Japanese title fight, in 2011, came against a then rising Shinsuke Yamanaka, with Iwasa losing a 10th round TKO to Yamanaka in a sensational bout. Aged 21 at the time that was a learning experience and he would reel off a string of wins, taking the Japanese and OPBF titles before getting his first world title fight, and losing in 6 rounds, in England, to Lee Haksins in 2016.
The loss to Haskins was Iwasa final bout at Bantamweight before moving up in weight, and finding his groove once again. Just over 2 years after the defeat to Haskins we saw Iwasa have his career defining win, as he battered Yukinori Oguni in 6 rounds to win the IBF Super Bantamweight title. It was a red hot performance from Iwasa who looked sensational. Sadly though he failed to build on that win, scoring an underwhelming decision to retain his title against Ernesto Saulong and failing to really get to grips with TJ Doheny, who dethroned him in 2018. Since his title loss Iwasa has looked good, beating Cesar Juarez by technical decision and then dismantling former WBO Bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales in 2019, to win the IBF "interim" title.
In the ring Iwasa really does blow hot and cold, and he always has. He looked poor in his second fight, Edgar Allende, and again later in his career against Richard Pumicpic, Ernesto Saulong and TJ Doheny. When he's looked good however, he has looked sensational, and we saw that against Oguni and Tapales. In the ring he's a southpaws who fights as a boxer-puncher. His power is genuinely spiteful at this level, and technically he's very solid. Sadly though he often fights in a one paced fashion, struggles to go through the gears, and has struggled with southpaws through his career, with all 3 losses coming to lefties.
Of the two men we would suggest that Iwasa is the biggest puncher, at least a single punch basis, he's also the taller, longer man and if he can establish his jab he does have a chance of getting on top of the bout early on. His team have stated their game plan is to stop Akhamadliev from getting into his rhythm and we suspect that is the key to beating the Uzbek.
Sadly for Iwasa however he is the less versatile of the two fighters. He's an excellent boxer-puncher, but he's not the most creative fighter, he's not a great inside fighter and he's got slow feet. They are all things that Akhmadaliev will use against him. The Uzbek is a much, much more rounded in ring competitor. That is, we suspect, going to be the difference making.
We suspect Iwasa will come out sharp, looking to land clean straight shots and getting his range, but as the rounds go on Akhmadaliev will close the distance, get inside and begin to grind away at Iwasa. The difference in speed will be key and by the end of round 12 Akhmadaliev will have done more than enough to deserve the decision.
We expect the champion to retain, but he will have to work for it, and this will not be an easy day at the office for the talented Uzbek.
Prediction - Akhmadaliev UD12
Over the last few years we have seen more and more Japanese fighters making their mark on the international scene. This has been, in part, due to the ease with which we can now watch Japanese fighters in action. Gone are the days of Key Hole TV and in are days of HD streaming and VOD services like Boxing Raise, which have allowed us to follow Japanese fighters from their early bouts right through to the point where they are world champions.
One such fighter has been Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9), who had much of his early career shown on Boxing Raise before becoming a staple on TV broadcasts, thanks to Watanabe's relationship with TBS. He is now set to take the next step in his professional career, following the likes of Naoya Inoue and Kazuto Ioka, and make his US debut. He does that this coming weekend when he defends his WBA "super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight titles against Mexican youngster Axel Aragon Vega (14-3-1, 8), in what should be a break out bout for the exciting Japanese fighter in front of a new audience on DAZN.
For those who have followed Kyoguchi over the year they'll know what to expect from the cheeky looking Japanese fighter. The 27 year old turned professional in 2016, following his brother Ryuto Kyoguchi to the professional ranks, and he raced through the rankings. Within a year of his debut Hiroto had already won the OPBF Minimumweight, the Asian equivalent to the European (EBU) title, and had looked like a mini-Mike Tyson with an aggressive, pressure fighter style that was based around his pressure and combinations. Just 5 months later he claimed his first world title, beating Jose Argumedo for the IBF Minimumweight belt. His reign was a short one, with only two defense, though they did include a notable TKO win over Carlos Buitrago who is still a relevant contender and recently gave Elwin Soto a competitive bout in 2020.
In 2018 Kyoguchi became a 2-weight champion, stopping Hekkie Budler in Macau for the WBA Light Flyweight "super" title, which he has defended twice, beating both Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart and Tetsuya Hisada by clear, though hard fought, unanimous decision. The latets of those defenses came in October 2019 and he has been out of the ring ever since. He was supposed to defend his title last year, though had two bouts fall through. The first of those was in May, which was cancelled due to Covid19 putting a freeze on boxing, and the other was in November, when Kyoguchi himself tested positive for Covid19 cancelling the bout at the 11th hour.
Early in his career Kyoguchi did look a really destructive force. He was a pressure fighter with a hyper aggressive style, a focus on pressure, combination punching and getting close, unleashing his power shots and breaking people down in eye catching, fan friendly fashion. The move to Light Flyweight has seen him face tougher, bigger, stronger men who haven't wilted under his pressure like his early opponents, but he is still a pressure fighter at heart. We have seen him show some development and patience, and develop his boxing skills, but at his best he is still a front foot pressure fighter, who cuts the ring off well, and loves to get to work up close. It's his work in the pocket that is his best and his body shots are brutal. Unlike some pressure fighters out there he set them up properly, coming forward behind a tight guard, good footwork and a stiff, hurtful, jab. He also starts fast with his pressure, rather than build it through the fight, draining opponents mentally from the first bell.
In the opposite corner to Kyoguchi will be 20 year old challenger Axel Aragon Vega, a Mexican fighter who debuted in 2016 and has built himself a solid looking record, but on which lacks in substance. His first 10 wins all came against fighters with little experience, or losing records, and his first bout of any note was actually a loss, in 2017 to Juan Toscano. He did bounce back from that, with 8 straight wins, but suffered back to back set backs, with a draw to Edvin Ramirez Contreras and loss to Wilfredo Mendez. He bounced back again, with 3 low key wins, before a rematch with Mendez, for the WBO Minimumweight title, saw Vega suffer his third loss, this time by split technical decision. Since that loss he has fought once, beating veteran Saul Juarez in August 2020.
In the ring Vega is a tiny fighter, standing at around 5', but he's also a quick, skilled and tough one. Against Saul Juarez he looked sharp with his punches, he looked light on his feet and drew mistakes from Juarez which he countered. Sadly however that botu really doesn't tell us too much given how past his best Juarez looked, and whilst it's easy to be impressed by Vega it does need to be noted that Juarez looked beyond shot with his movement. To credit to Vega he did look smooth, he knew his way around the ring and has got nice hand speed. Sadly other footage of Vega isn't of the best quality, though it is clear he's a talented fighter and really does have plenty of skills.
Whilst we think Vega is a very talented fighter he is also a very small fighter, he's a light puncher and he looks to be a natural Minimumweight who will be taking on a strong Light Flyweight here. It seems unlikely he will have the physicality to get Kyoguchi's respect and will need to burn a lot of energy to stay at a safe distance against the champion. A champion who is known as a strong, pressure fighter with good footwork and solid body shots.
If we were in charge of Kyoguchi, Vega is the type of fighter we would have loved to have matched him with on his US debut. He looks made to order. We suspect Vega will have some success in the early rounds, he'll use his speed well, box well, but come under intense and incessant pressure and by round 4 or 5 the pressure and body shots of Kyoguchi will be taking their toll. A stoppage will then come, eventually, from Vega just simply being ground down and broken up.
Prediction - Kyoguchi TKO8
Over the last year or so the Minimumweight division has, sadly, been asleep. In 2020 we only had each world title fought for once, and three of those bouts came within weeks of each other. The pandemic pretty much shut the division down at the top level with very few fighters in action and very few bouts of note taking place in the division. In fact not only did we only have 3 world title bouts but we also only had a single OPBF title bout, a single Japanese title bout, and no WBO Asia Pacific title bouts. The division damn near stood still, other than Panya Pradabsri's upset win over Wanheng Menayothin.
With that in mind we hope 2021 is a much better year for the division, and in fairness we expect it to be, with several interesting looking bouts at 105lbs now being lined up. One of which comes on February 27th and will see IBF champion Pedro Taduran (14-2-1, 11) defending his title against fellow Filipino Rene Mark Cuarto (18-2-2, 11) in a rare All-Filipino world title bout. The bout will be Taduran's second defense of the title he won in 2019 and it will be Cuarto's first world title bout. It will also be a bout that will help shape the division for the foreseeable future, given that both fighters are only 24 years old.
Of the two men the hard hitting Taduran is the more well known. He first came the attention of the wider boxing world in 2018, when he challenged the then WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin, and gave the Thai all he could handle in a compelling and highly competitive 12 rounder. That bout proved that Taduran belong in, or around, the top 10 and just 13 months later he beat Samuel Salva in a thrilling war to claim the then vacant IBF title. That win saw Taduran sit on the verge of something big, though sadly he was unable to capitalise. His first defense saw him travel to Mexico last February and battle Daniel Valladares, with a headclash resulting in a technical draw. Had Covid19 not been an issue there is a very good chance we'd have seen Taduran return to the ring in the summer or fall to make his second defense, but sadly it wasn't to be.
In the ring Taduran is a genuine handful. He's a southpaw, he's heavy handed, he's aggressive, he throws a lot, he comes forward and he's really awkward. Technically he's a very, very flawed fighter. He's raw, crude, and often open. Something that Salva punished him for early on in their bout. He is however the type of fighter who doesn't understand what it means to quit, and won't back off. He's relentless and uses his awkwardness and energy to break fighters down. It seems clear he can be out boxed, and he can be out skilled, but very few will have the tools to out box him for 12 rounds, or the durability to survive with his whirlwind offense.
When it comes to Rene Mark Cuarto we suspect very few, outside of the Philippines at least, have seen him in action. That's despite the fact he's been a professional since 2014 and has 22 professional bouts to his name. The main reason that many won't have seen Cuarto is because, for the most part, he's not really fought anyone of note. In fact his most notable bouts are a close win in 2018, against Clyde Azarcon, and a 2019 loss to Samuel Salva. Those two bouts aside his only other bout of real was a 6 round decision with the unbeaten Jayson Vayson. Thankfully there is footage of him out there, and on tape he looks solid enough. He's got a busy jab, he's quick on his toes, he moves around the ring well, and technically looks solid.
Sadly for Cuarto there's a big gulf between looking solid and being world class. We like a lot of what we see of Cuarto, but there are issues that will be a problem here. He doesn't look powerful or particularly strong. He doesn't seem to impose himself very well, and his jab aside it's hard to really be impressed by much in is arsenal. He simply doesn't enough at times and appears to be just a tad lazy at times. In his bout against Salva, for example, he really failed to move through the gears, happy to try and win the bout with his jab, rather than letting shots fly late on when he was behind.
Technically we think that Cuarto is the better boxer. He's certainly the more polished and has the more technical approach to in ring action. Sadly however his lack of power, and lower work rate will not help him here. His jab might keep Taduran at bay for a few rounds, but as the contest goes on that jab by it's self won't be enough. Instead Taduran's pressure and work rate will be the difference maker and get to Cuarto.
We suspect Cuarto will show a lot of heart and determination, but we also expect to see Taduran's power and output get too much, and we're expecting a late TKO win for the defending champion, who may well be behind on the scorecards after the first 6 rounds.
Prediction - TKO9 Taduran
By Troy Parslow
Boxing has seen it’s share of mercurial talent—fighters whose blowing hot and cold is often independent of their brilliant skill or opposition. This fickle sport rewards their drama, but not without frustration.
In the context of current fighters, I think of Kosei Tanaka’s silver bullet left hook to body bailing him out in the fights he couldn’t help himself, and I think of one it’s victims: Vic Saludar.
Next week, one half of the impossible Saludar clan’s two championship contenders, Vic, 20-4 (11), takes on obscure Robert Paradero, 18-0 (12), in an all-Filipino clash for a secondary WBA ‘regular’ minimumweight title. Months in the making, this Elorde promotion will take place outdoors at the Binan football stadium on February 20th.
Vic, born Victorio Saludar, in Polomolok, is perhaps conspicuous by his absence amongst reigning minimumweight champions. He’s long since had the ability, and in 2019 he had the belt (WBO). Even then it had taken him until his second attempt to realise; having built a lead, with the help of a knockdown, challenging Kosei Tanaka earlier in the same WBO lineage, before the aforementioned falling victim to a left hand solution. There’s no shame in succumbing to a rare dynamism, of course, but the same inconsistencies would follow Saludar in his career. If he wasn’t already rebuilding, he would go on to be shocked by the warring Toto Landero a year later, dropping a ten round split decision.
In 2018, having recovered from shock defeat with two wins over Mike Kinaadman and a second over Lito Dante, Saludar won WBO glory at the second time of asking. Travelling away to Japan to strip underrated Ryuya Yamanaka of his title in a well-contested fight, and returning to successfully defend against talented Masataka Taniguchi, just as it looked for all the world that Saludar could pass championship muster, his second defence saw him so desperately drop his belt to inexperienced Puerto Rican Wilfredo Mendez. Not a favourable style match up, or one that covered either of them in particular glory, more disappointing was Saludar’s lack of urgency or worse yet, answers.
Just in his last fight (December 2019), despite going on to win by stoppage, Saludar was dropped by journeyman Mike Kinaadman for the first time in three meetings. Now 30, if he is to put it to rights and redefine his career, he has to start against Robert Paradero.
If Paradero, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, is equally conspicuous, it would in his absence of meaningful fights. Still early in his career, just 24 years old, it’s not for us to decide how he builds, but, naturally, there’s the question of his ability to contend. Of his 18 wins, the one of most significance came in his last fight, in which he stopped Jonathon Almacen in the first round. Fine form, if lacking in real substance for it’s early finish. I don’t think anyone would argue that with Almacen and seventeen much of a muchness journeymen to his name, ‘Inggo’ isn’t charitably ranked. But, for now, it won’t matter to him: his competition has afforded him the opportunity, and there’s nothing immaterial about this next step up.
In the ring, one might describe Paradero’s fighter as a livewire. That is to say, although he’s erratic and not technically sound, he’s elastic and busy. His movement has looked excessive on occasion, and much of his defence relies on reflexes: reacting in time to slip punches he’s seen coming or bounce out of range. He is improving here though, and in the short time against Almacen he was moving his head more as he circled. I think Paradero looks at his best here, circling, raiding and bouncing back out at a new angle. Raiding like this gets the most out of his in and out footwork and leaping attacks, without exposing him for as long in the pocket. He can mix it up close with dedicated body punching and the use of throwaway punches to engineer the space, but his balance is poor and his loose punching form and lack of proactive defence can leave him wide open.
By contrast, Saludar is a tight, neat puncher. He’s more balanced than Paradero, more proactive and in turn, a lot more comfortable moving in the pocket and punching off of sidesteps and pivots. He’s a bona fide puncher, but in the shape of a very capable boxer, occupying his opponents guard to take an angle to exit the pocket, step around them or circle, he doesn’t always look for opportunities to set his feet and punch enough. Regardless, a dexterous right hand and sensitivity for distance and timing keep him dangerous when any opponent is stepping to him.
Saludar has tended to looked comfortable enough all the time he’s been allowed the freedom to step in and out of range at his own discretion—and even then he can get complacent—but without that same autonomy, he’s less fluid. Against Wilfredo Mendez, for example, with the onus on him to pressure, he was exposed for his inability to cut off the ring and he couldn’t get anything going.
Granted, it’s a fight largely of unknowns, namely the form of Saludar and Paradero’s ability to step up, but it’s not one I’d want to back against a former champions relative cunning. I do think, if he approaches it maturely and Saludar obliges him, Paradero can enjoy success baiting, circling and raiding when Saludar picks his feet up. Ultimately, though, he’s not better than Saludar at any one thing, and I doubt he has the consistency himself, at this stage, to gameplan to win this fight raiding off the back foot. He leaves himself exposed in transition too often and he hasn’t had the fights to prove it won’t be a problem.
Saludar is a heavy favourite. But he’s also a Saludar, and thereby no sure thing.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
A massacre will take place one day before Valentine’s Day, as Maksim Vlasov & Joe Smith Jr are set to go to war for the vacant WBO Light Heavyweight championship.
The 16 year veteran Maksim Vlasov (46-3/25 KOs) will soon be entering his 50th professional fight, with the chance to cement his legacy and finally call himself a world champion. The road to that dream however has been quite long and not without its hiccups.
Vlasov began his career back in 2005 at Super Middleweight, where he ended up being undefeated. His most significant win in the division was against former European champion & 4x world title challenger Khoren Gevor (34-10).
As a Light Heavyweight, Vlasov suffered only 2 losses, a controversial one to Isaac Chilemba (26-7), which was avenged in 2019 and a close match with the unbeaten Gilbert Ramirez (41-0). In that bout, Vlasov had problems with his endurance, due to the weight cutting, which is why he then moved up to Cruiserweight.
It was there, where the Russian had his big moment, when he came face to face with 2008 Olympic champion Rakhim Chakhkiev (26-3) for the vacant WBA International title. Vlasov shined that night. He scored a fast knockdown in the 2nd with a short right hook and rocked Chakhkiev hard at the end of the round. The fight could have possibly ended there, had it not been for the timekeeper mistakenly ringing the bell 15 seconds earlier than he should have. Vlasov nailed him again with a straight right hand in the 5th, scoring a second knockdown. The action picked up in the next round, as Chakhkiev dropped him with a liver shot of his own. The two men continued to trade bombs until Vlasov returned the favour, flooring the Olympian for the third time. At the 7th round, Vlasov put Chakhkiev down for good this time, after connecting with a plethora of punches and another straight right to the jaw. It undoubtedly was the most spectacular battle of an already great night of boxing. (Gassiev vs. Lebedev was the co-main event, while names like Kudryashov and Troyanovsky were also competing)
Vlasov qualified for the 2018 Cruiserweight WBSS tournament, after dominating former WBC Silver champion Olanrewaju Durodola (34-8), only to be eliminated by Krzysztof Glowacki (31-2) at the quarter finals. After that defeat, he switched back to Light Heavyweight and quickly captured the WBO Global title, winning 4 fights in a row over Omar Garcia (16-4), Isaac Chilemba (26-7) as aforementioned, Emmanuel Martey (15-1) and Sergei Ekimov (18-2), earning himself another crack at the gold. In order to fulfil his longtime goal though, he will have to go thrown a very rugged opponent.
A bona fide KO artist that possesses massive power in both hands, Joe Smith Jr (26-3/21 KOs) has ended most of his fights within 6 rounds.
His first major victory came in 2016, when he took on former IBO champion Andrzej Fonfara (30-5) for the WBC International title. In a surprising turn of events, Smith put the Polish fighter down midway of the opening round with a thunderous right hook, before finishing him off just a few seconds later.
Smith would then go on to knock an aged Bernard Hopkins (55-8) out of the ring, successfully defending his belt and moving up in the rankings. However his momentum was momentarily cut short after losing to Sullivan Barrera (22-3) in a world title eliminator. Despite dropping him in the 1st, Smith didn’t do enough as the fight progressed to get the decision. He returned to action almost a year later (Smith’s jaw was broken in the Barrera match) and quickly earned himself an opportunity at the WBA champion Dmitry Bivol (17-0), but was completely outclassed during their encounter, giving the undefeated Russian some trouble only in the 10th round.
In 2020, he made another strong comeback, this time against 2x world title challenger Jesse Hart (26-3). A relentless Smith kept the pressure on, continuously moving forward and throwing way more punches than his opponent. After 10 punishing rounds and 1 knockdown, Smith was once again back on track.
He solidified his place at the top of the Light Heavyweight rankings last August, with an impressive performance over Eleider Alvarez (25-2). Smith overwhelmed the former WBO champion, virtually leaving him no room for an offense of his own. By the 5th round, Alvarez had already a bruised face and was bleeding profusely from the nose. Smith finally connected with a sharp straight right in the mush, following it up with a left, to drop Eleider and become the #1 contender for the vacant WBO crown. The “working” Joe is now only a step away from realizing his full potential and claim his first world title.
When you take a closer look at these 2 guys, you can find similarities in their careers as well as their styles. Both are pressure fighters and even though they have a strong right hand, usually it’s not a one hit punch that does the job. They tend to beat down their opponents before finishing them off with it. Moreover, both men have a good chin. Vlasov has never been stopped in his entire career, while Smith has only been once, but that was a decade ago. Power wise, Joe has to be considered the stronger fighter. In spite of Vlasov having more knockouts, Smith has the higher KO ratio. On the other hand, Vlasov has the better footwork and knows how to properly use his reach to his advantage. As far as their resumes are concerned, each man hold wins over accomplished boxers, but the main difference is in their career’s trajectory. Smith’s best performances came last year, whereas Vlasov’s “best hits” belong in the past. It’s also worth mentioning that the Russian fighter seems to have lost some of his knockout power since moving back to Light Heavyweight, where Smith is looking stronger than ever before.
All things considered, Smith must be considered the favourite in this match, but at the same time, Vlasov has proven to be a formidable fighter and not an easy one to dispose of. If he manages to keep his distance and cuts off Smith’s barrage, we might be looking at the 4th Russian born Light Heavyweight champion of the world.
This coming Saturday in Indio, California we’ll see IBF Super Featherweight champion Joseph Diaz (31-1, 15) make his first defense as he takes on mandatory challenger Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0, 12) in what looks like a really exciting match up. This is not just a step up for the challenger, who gets a great chance to compete in front of a global audience for the first time, but also a match up that stylistically, should be something very exciting due to the mentality of the two men involved, who can both put on a show.
Diaz, the champion, is the much, much more well known fighter and was a US Olmypian in 2012, where he was beaten by Cuban star Lazaro Alvarez. After turning professional there was huge expectations on Diaz and he would begin his career with 26 straight wins before taking on WBC Featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr in 2018, in Diaz's first world title fight. Sadly against Russell Jr we saw Diaz suffer his first loss, losing a competitive but clear decision to the speedy and slick Russell Jr. Following that loss Diaz attempted to win the WBA Featherweight title, but failed to make weight leading to him moving up in weight and fighting at Super Featherweight. Since moving up in weight he has looked impressive, and scored noteworthy wins against Charles Huerta, Freddy Fonseca and, most notably, Tevin Farmer, with that win over Farmer netting him the IBF world title.
Diaz isn’t the quickest, the smoothest, the most powerful or the best fighter out there. He is however, a fighter. He comes for a fight, he likes to dictate the action, let his hands go and be responsible for the way the fight is going. He is, at heart, a pressure fighter, and a physically strong one at that. Despite moving up in weight recently he is physically imposing at 130lbs, and will bully and push people around. Against a speedy boxer, who uses their feet, he can be left chasing shadows, but against a fighter who stands and fights, or tries to slip and side in the pocket, he can end up out working and out fighting them. That’s where he’s most dangerous, and where fighters need to try and avoid him, his work rate, energy and will to win are incredible, and it showed against Farmer when he fought much of the bout with a brutal cut.
Whilst Diaz is a well known fighter in the US, and is someone who has been in and around the world level for a few years now, it’s fair to say that few, outside of those who watch Russian shows held by RCC Promotions, will have seen him. If we’re being honest that’s actually a shame as the Russian based Tajik is a very fun fighter to watch and someone who fans should be more aware of before this coming weekend.
The Tajik was a solid amateur before beginning his professional career back in 2015, fighting in low key Russian shows whilst slowly building his experience and his record. In 2016 he began to step up, and scored a number of decent wins over well known Filipino fighters. Soon afterwards he began to face progressively better opponents, beating the likes of Emanuel Lopez, Malcolm Klassen and Robinson Castellano to build his name. In 2019 he finally got a chance to move towards a world title fight as he travelled to South Africa and took on Azinge Fuzile in an IBF world title eliminator. The bout saw Rakhimov struggle with the move, speed and skills of Fuzile early in the bout, but as the bout went on, and as Fuzile began to slow down, we finally saw the power of Rakhimov, who scored a great come from behind stoppage win.
Rakhimov, much like Diaz, is an aggressive fighter who wants to come forward, he’s a bit more basic than Diaz, and doesn’t apply a busy pressure style like the American, but does have a very brutal body attack and he is a bigger puncher than the American. Sadly though he is also someone with a questionable chin, and he has been dropped several times in his career, at a much lower. At his best Rakhimov is an aggressive boxer-puncher, and if he can maintain range he is very good. Sadly for him that won’t be an easy task here, and there is a very real chance he’ll struggle to create the space he needs to work with against Diaz. If he can create that space however, he does have a real chance here.
If we’re being honest Rakhimov is a good fighter. He’s a dangerous fighter, with solid power, a nice strong base and good fundamentals. He’s genuinely heavy handed and someone who can hold their own in a genuine firefight. Sadly though his suspect chin, added to his lower work rate will be an issue here. Diaz can be out boxed, he can be out manouvered and out skilled, however if a fighter isn’t too quick and too sharp for him, he will grind a result out against them. That’s exactly what we expect to see here. We suspect that Rakhimov will have success at times, especially when he can create range and land some solid body work, however we suspect that the pressure, work rate and energy of Diaz will be too much. We’re expecting Diaz to simply out work and out land Rakhimov, to end up taking a clear, but hard fought, decision win.
Although we do favour Diaz, we are expecting this to be a fantastic fight. Diaz’s pressure and work rate will make the fight fun and exciting to watch, with Rakhimov’s power potentially adding some drama to the bout. Despite thinking Rakhimov will lose we do think he’ll connect with fans and fans will want to see him again afterwards, and he will do enough to be competitive at times. He’ll lose, but put in a very good effort.
Prediction - UD12 Diaz
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.