The WBC world title picture at Bantamweight is a series mess with the body having one of their more confusing title pictures, with a world champion, and interim champion and a silver champion. The title scene really is a mess due to issues caused in 2018 by Mexican fighter Luis Nery, who failed a drug test and subsequently failed to make weight. Despite his issues Nery is actually the #1 ranked and current Silver champion.
Rather than going into detail about Nery, and his various issues, it's worth noting that him and Takuma Inoue, the interim champion, are both vying for a future world title fight, likely later in the year. They do however have to wait, and next up for the main title will be the first defense of unbeaten French champion Nordine Oubaali (15-0, 11), who takes on Filipino challenger Arthur Villanueva (32-3-1, 18) on July 6th. The bout isn't the most interesting, given the talent in the division and the long line of WBC challengers, but it's a notable bout headlining an MTK card in Kazakhstan, and certainly deserves some real attention.
The unbeaten champion, a French fighter with Morocan heritage, was an outstanding amateur competing at 2 Olympics and 3 world amateur championships. Although his best result was "only" a bronze medal, at the 2007 World Championships in Chicago, he was clearly talented and that showed in his consistency and success in the World Series Boxing, where he fought for the Paris United Franchise. That experience in the amateurs and WSB saw Oubaali turn professional with some pretty lofty expectations 2014 and since then the southpaw has impressed picking up minor titles before claiming the WBC belt last year.
As a fighter Oubaali is a talented southpaw boxer-puncher with excellent skills and solid punching power. He turned professional in 2014 and was kept busy early on in his career against mostly limited opponents, but in 2016 he stopped both Iran Diaz, who later went the distance with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, and Julio Cesar Miranda, a former world champion from Mexico. Those wins put him on the map before he added stoppages against very tough Mexican veteran Alejandro Hernandez, skilled Filipino Mark Anthony Geraldo and tough Colombian Luis Melendez. Most recently he defeated Rau'shee Warren, over 12 rounds, for the WBC title back in January. Notably that bout in January is his only contest in the last 12 months. With a number of good wins he is really one of the top, and most under-rated, Bantamweights out there, with a resume comparable to better recognised fighters at the weight, like Zolani Tete, Emmanuel Rodriguez and Ryan Burnett, and would have been a good addition to the WBSS.
The Filipino challenger was once regarded as a bright hope, though has sadly failed to live up to the expectations on his shoulders. He began his career with 28 straight wins whilst working his way up the world rankings. In 2015 he would then face McJoe Arroyo in a bout for the IBF Super Flyweight title, losing a technical decision in what was a truly stinking bout. He was much more competitive than the score cards suggested, though in reality neither man did much of anything in a truly disappointing match up that never clicked. Since then Villanueva has gone 5-2-1 (4), and not looked particularly good, even in his wins.
At his best he was a methodical fighter, a thinking mans fighter, with good timing, patience and counter punching. He was a chess player in the ring, but unfortunately his skills haven't shown themselves at the top level, and losses to not only Arroyo but also Zolani Tete and Luis Nery, who he dropped before being stopped by, have shown he's a level beneath world class. He's a very capable fighter, but no world beater, and unfortunately fighters will need to be world beaters to beat Oubaali.
We're expecting Villanueva to put up a good effort early on, though as the fight goes on Oubaali's class, clean punching and accuracy will be the difference and by the middle rounds Villanueva will be getting broken down, before being stopped in the second half of the fight.
Prediction - Oubaali TKO9
One of the best title fights for us this month comes from the US as we get a really mouth watering IBF Super Flyweight title bout between two unbeaten men looking to claim their first world title and pick up the belt recently vacated by the talented but enigmatic Zolani Tete. For those unaware, Tete vacated the title due to a dispute over money for a scheduled with one of the two men now trying to claim his former belt.
Originally Tete was supposed to fight Puerto Rican fighter McJoe Arroyo (16-0, 8). Arroyo isn't just unbeaten but is in sensational form recently, scoring dominant wins over Hernan Marquez and Mark Anthony Geraldo. Whilst a bout between Arroyo and Tete looked brilliant Tete's refusal to take part in the bout has left an equally good looking bout with Arroyo now facing unbeaten Filipino Arthur Villanueva (27-0, 14).
Whilst both men would likely have liked to have beaten a “recognised” champion to claim a title it's fair to say that neither will complain about being matched with another unbeaten and highly regarded top contender.
Of the two men the one that we're most concerned with is the Filipino fighter, who has been in and around the rankings for several years whilst awaiting an eventual world title bout. That opportunity has seen Villanueva wait, though he has been able to pick up some invaluable experience and ring time against a variety of foes.
Villanueva first came to the attention of many Filipino fans back in 2010 when he claimed the GAB Flyweight title with a stoppage of Brix Ray. The following year Villanueva recorded his first defense of the title and also scored a notable win over the the then rising Mark Anthony Geraldo. Things went from strength to strength and by the end of 2012 Villanueva had claimed the OPBF Super Flyweight title with a win over Taiki Eto, whilst also scoring notable wins over Rey Megrino and Pramuansak Posuwan.
Despite having a break out run between 2010 and 2013 Villanueva failed to capitalise, despite scoring another excellent win in early 2013 over the then unbeaten Marco Demecillo. Sadly the failure to make good on his success saw 2014 become a very frustrating year with incredibly close wins over Fernando Aguilar and Henry Maldonado, though he did end the year with an excellent win over former world champion Julio Cesar Miranda.
As a boxer Villanueva can be very patient and smart. He can play the matador role really well. Unfortunately however he can also over-look his opponents, as he did with Aguilar and Maldonado. When he does that it really does leave us wondering just how credible he can be as a genuine title contender. If on form and up for the bout Villanueva is a handful for almost anyone else in the division, if he's over-looked an opponent however he's an accident waiting to happen.
Whilst the 26 year old Villanueva has taken his time since turning professional back in 2008 he has developed a lot with his 27 fights, and 178 rounds.
As for Arroyo the 29 year old Puerto Rican was tipped for success ever since his days as an amateur. It was in the unpaid ranks that Arroyo competed at the top level and even claimed the bronze medal, at the 2007 World Amateur Championships.
In 2010 the Puerto Rican turned to the professional ranks to little fan fare. After 10 bouts he had really failed to even register on the scene with no wins of note. In the last 3 years however he has really began to impress, with several wins of note. The first of those came in September 2012 when he stopped former world champion Jose Lopez in 4 rounds. More recently he's scored an excellent 11th round TKO victory against Hernan Marquez and a very wide decision win over Mark Anthony Geraldo.
At his best Arroyo is a very good boxer-puncher who fights from the southpaw stance. He's perhaps not the biggest hitter and fastest fighter in the division but he is very capable and knows when to be patient and when to force the issue. Among his best tools is his jab, which is sharp and heavy, and his his boxing brain which is very on point as he sees openings very quickly.
Although talented Arroyo has been dropped, and run very close, by Jairo Hernandez. That is the sole black mark against him so far, though he did gut it out and win the bout. It's also notable however that his face did appear to swell slightly against Marquez, despite Marquez really struggling to get any notable success, this may be more of an issue against an opponent who can tag him.
On paper this promises to be an intriguing contest between two talented and hungry fighters. Sadly for Villanueva he appears to have more faults that Arroyo. It's fair to say that at their best both look like future champions however, from what we've seen, Arroyo is the more complete fighter that the moment and he's less likely to fall to sleep, unlike the Filipino. With that said we don't imagine either fighter has the power to stop the other but we're expecting to see a clear win for Arroyo.
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.