Ever since Shinsuke Yamanaka lost the WBC Bantamweight title to Luis Nery in 2017 the belt has been in a weird state of flux. Originally Nery was the champion, until he lost the belt on the scales, then Takuma Inoue won the interim title, with Nordine Oubaali winning the regular title a month later. Oubaali managed 2 defenses in 2019, including 1 over Takuma Inoue. He was then supposed to defeat the title against Nonito Donaire this year.
Sadly plans for Donaire Vs Oubaali got scrapped in November, when Oubaali contracted Covid19. As a result Donaire was then scheduled to face Puerto Rican Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-1, 12) for the vacant title, before Donaire ended up contracting Covid himself. As a result Donaire was himself replaced by fellow Filipino Reymart Gaballo (23-0, 20), and it was agreed that Donaire anbd Gaballo would fight for the interim title, whilst the mess around them got sorted out.
Incidentally seeing Rodriguez getting a shot at the title now takes us weird full circle. He was supposed to face Luis Nery last year in a WBC world title eliminator, which was cancelled following Nery failed to make weight. Strangely Rodriguez wasn't then given mandatory status, with that going to Donaire, who as mentioned was supposed to fight Oubaali. As for those wondering Gaballo was himself scheduled to fight on this very same card, against Chilean foe Jose Velasquez (28-6-2, 19) for the WBA "interim" Bantamweight title.
Despite all the changes and swapping of fighters, we're expecting a great bout here between two men desperate to make a name for themselves, and make the most of a very odd situation.
Of the two fighters it's Emmanuel "Manny" Rodriguez who is the better known. He is a Puerto Rican fighter who first made his name in the amateurs winning the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics and coming second at the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships. When he turned professional in 2012 there was solid expectations on him to have success in the professional ranks though he was matched relatively softly early on. In 2014 he took a step up in class and impressed, knocking out Cartagena in the opening round. It was proof that he was a talent but sadly it took a long time to get a big bout, with his first world title contest coming in May 2018, when he easily beat an over-weight Paul Butler in the UK to claim the IBF Bantamweight title.
It seemed that Rodriguez's win over Butler would be his coming out party, and lead him to entering the WBSS. In his WBSS quarter final he narrowly out-pointed Jason Moloney, retaining his IBF title by split decision over the talented Aussie before returning to the UK and losing in 2 rounds to Naoya Inoue in May 2019 in a WBSS semi-final. Since then he hasn't fought, in part due to Luis Nery failing to make weight for a bout against him last year, as mentioned earlier.
In the ring Rodriguez is a very skilled, quick, and well schooled fighter. His amateur pedigree shows in the ring and he's very smooth and natural between the ropes, with a good crisp jab and a very sharp right hand. He likes to dictate the action from the center of the ring and did ask questions of Inoue last year in the opening round. He takes a good shot when he needs to and moves well. Sadly though there are question marks about his stamina, which showed in the second half against Moloney, and despite having a solid first round against Inoue he did several left hooks before being taken out in round 2 when Inoue began to go through the gears. As well as the issues we saw against Inoue there is also 19 months of inactivity since that bout, and he's had no confidence building bout since.
Gaballo is a somewhat unheralded Filipino, who's now just 24, has the tools to be a star, and it looked like he was on the way to becoming a major name in 2018 when he upset previously unbeaten American Stephon Young in Florida to claim the WBA Interim title. Sadly that title lead him to nothing, however a win over Rodriguez would see him make a name for himself.
Gaballo made his debut in 2014, as a 17 year old, and immediately looked like one to watch as he bowled over his first 4 opponents inside the opening rounds, in the space of 5 months. He was up against novices, but was needing around a minute per fight. His first 5 bouts ended early before he finally started to go rounds, going 4 rounds with Rodel Garde and 6 with Paulo Perono. Amazingly they, along with Stephon Young, are the only men to hear the final bell with Gaballo. After back to back decisions wins Gaballo went back on a tear stopping 11 opponents in a row, including 9 in the first 2 rounds.
Whilst many opponents during Gaballo's stoppage run were poor he did manage to pick up experience on the road, stopping veteran Ernesto Guerrero in Hawaii and Ulises Rivero in Mexico before facing Young and proving he was a real one to watch. He dropped Young in round 3 and took a 12 round decisions, proving his stamina in the process and taking the WBA interim title. Sadly however the risk/reward for facing him was ridiculous and no one came forth for his interim title, leading him to having 4 low profile bouts afterwards, all ending in the first 6 rounds.
In the ring Gaballo is a legitimate nightmare. Technically he is crude, he's open, he can leave gaps to counter and he can get over-excited when he has his man hurt. However he gets away with it for 3 reasons. He's incredibly heavy handed. What he hits he hurts, and that's with both hands. His jab is like a ramrod, his hook is like a sledgehammer and his right hand is pure dynamite when it lands. He combines that power with scary hand-speed, and he can land a punch before an opponent gets the chance to react to his openness. He's also very unpredictable, and trying to time him with counters is tricky due to how unpredictable he is and how he mixes straight shots with some very wide ones. Trying to get a read on where he's punching from, with his speed and power, makes him a very dangerous fighters. He's also, in more recent bouts, shown a willingness to take his time when he needs to, and it's clear that he can box as well as bang, and does, as mentioned, have a very good, if somewhat under-utilised, jab.
On paper Rodriguez should be the favourite. He's the better technical fighter, the more proven man and the one with gulf in experience, at least in terms of quality experience. However a lengthy break from the ring, a loss last time out to Inoue and with the comedown from facing a legend like Donaire to facing an unknown like Gaballo could well have an impact on him and his performance.
Gaballo on the other hand will be riding high. He was in training for a bout on this show, and has seen his opportunity improve. He has gone from being on a supporting bout to being in the headline bout, and being given a chance to steal the limelight. We think that get the best from him.
We expect a cautious start, from both, but ring rust and mental doubt will creep into Rodriguez as the bout goes on. By round 4 or 5 we'll start to see Gaballo settle, get comfortable, and put his foot on the gas. We don't think Gaballo will blow Rodriguez out, but we do think he has the power and speed to drop the Puerto Rican, make him gun shy and work his way to a clear decision win, and the WBC "interim" Bantamweight title.
Prediction - Gaballo UD12
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On May 18, at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, 2 World champions meet in the second round of the Bantamweight WBSS tournament, as the WBA (Regular) champion Naoya Inoue goes one on one with the IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez, with both titles on the line, as well as the vacant Ring Magazine championship.
Naoya Inoue (17-0/15 KOs) is considered to be one of the best boxers that have come out of Japan. His power, agility and precision have brought him immense success, while he is already ranked in the top 10 (P4P) list by The Ring, ESPN, the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and others.
Before becoming a pro, he had a relatively short but rather accomplished amateur career, amassing 75 victories in 81 outings, with 48 of them being stoppages. Naoya won numerous (inter) high school tournaments, earned the gold at the 2011 Indonesia Presidential Cup and became the All Japan Light Flyweight champion, the same year. He also placed high at the Asian & World championships.
In 2012, the Monster finally made his pro debut and quickly made himself a guy to look out for. After going 3-0 in less than a year, he was set to face Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4) for the Japanese Light Flyweight title. Taguchi, at 18-1, not only was he the more experienced of the two, but he was also a world ranked fighter. Inoue displayed much aggressiveness, taking control of the fight from the opening round. We saw a lot of his body work at display, which became one of his biggest weapons as his career progressed. After 10 rounds of action, the youngster took a clear unanimous decision win (one of only the two times a fight of his has gone the distance) and the belt. Taguchi eventually went on to become the WBA, IBF & The Ring Light Flyweight World champion.
Just 4 months later, he fought Jerson Mancio (18-6) for the vacant OPBF Light Flyweight title. Naoya’s offense was too fast for the Filipino. He weakened his opponent with body shots, before the referee was forced to stop the fight in the 5th as Mancio was getting repeatedly tagged.
It wasn’t long after that Inoue received his first world title shot against Adrian Hernandez (30-5) on April of 2014. The 2 time WBC Light Flyweight World champion had marked 4 successful title defenses coming into this one. Both strong body punchers, Hernandez seemed to be gaining ground in the 4th round but Naoya quickly bounced back with some heavy shots of his own. It was an even match until the 6th when the Japanese Monster dropped El Confesor with a lighting fast right hook, who despite getting up, refused to continue. As a result, Inoue was declared the World champion at 21 years of age, in only his 6th professional bout.
Inoue defended the WBC title only once against Wittawas Basapean (34-9), before moving 2 weight classes up and within the same year, he challenged Omar Andres Narvaez (48-3) for the WBO Super Flyweight World championship. Narvaez, a 1999 Pan American Games winner, enjoyed a 7 year reign with the WBO Flyweight World title (16 defenses) prior to winning the Super Flyweight strap, which he had held for 4 years at the time (11 defenses). This was meant to be the Japanese fighter’s toughest test yet. Instead, it turned out to be one of his most dominant performances, as he dropped the veteran 4 times in just 2 rounds, sealing the deal with the liver shot, to become a 2 division World champion. That was the sole KO loss in Narvaez’s career.
The Monster remained champion for 3.5 years, reaching an impressive number of 7 title defenses. Warlito Parrenas (26-9), Karoon Jarupianlerd (42-9), Ricardo Rodriguez (16-7) and Antonio Nieves (18-2) were easy work for him, as neither of them was close to his level. David Carmona (21-6) did better, simply because Naoya injured his right hand during the match. Still, he managed to outclass his opponent, even put him down in the last round, earning his second and last decision victory. Yoan Boyeaux (41-6), another promising challenger, was on a 31 fight winning streak (close to 5 years unbeaten) and with 26 KOs under his belt. This also ended up being a one sided beatdown, with Inoue scoring 4 knockdowns in less than 8 minutes.
His best challenge was against the 2 time WBA Super Flyweight World champion Kohei Kono (33-12) on December of 2016. Kono came out strong in the beginning, connecting with some good punches, surprising Inoue for a while. Before you know it, this was turned into a wild brawl with both men bringing the heat and exciting the fans. All that changed in the 6th when Naoya landed a perfect left hook that floored the former champ and proceeded to finish him off a couple of seconds later, putting an end to this thrilling encounter.
In 2018, Inoue decided to enter the Bantamweight ranks and immediately challenged the WBA (Regular) title holder Jamie McDonnell (29-3). The Yorkshire native hadn’t suffered a single loss in a decade (22 fights). A former British, Commonwealth, European & IBF Bantamweight World champion, McDonnell was his best opponent since Narvaez. The Monster, true to his nickname, overwhelmed the champ with powerful shots, dropping him in the very 1st round. McDonnell managed to stand up again, but found himself trapped against the ropes as Naoya delivered a lethal flurry to get the KO. After the fight, the Japanese superstar announced his participation at the Bantamweight WBSS and in October he was matched against the former WBA (Super) World champion Juan Carlos Payano (21-2). In what was voted as one of the best knockouts of 2018, Inoue nailed him with a straight right and put his lights out, in just 70 seconds into the fight. Both McDonnell & Payano had never been stopped in their entire career.
Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0), the reigning IBF Bantamweight World champion, unlike his Japanese foe, had quite an extensive run as an amateur. His most noteworthy accolades took place in 2010, when he won the gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games and the silver at the Youth World Championships. Amongst his 182 bouts (171 victories), he owned wins over the likes of AIBA Youth World & Central American and Caribbean Games champion Jonathan Gonzalez (22-2) as well as the current WBO Light Flyweight World titlist Angel Acosta (20-1).
As a pro, he mostly fought in his home country of Puerto Rico against local competition. In 2015, he KOed world title contender Luis Hinojosa (31-16), with a stunning right cross, in the 3rd round. He also picked up 2 decisions over former challengers such as David Quijano (16-7) and Alberto Guevara (27-4).
Rodriguez fought the former IBF Bantamweight World champion Paul Butler (28-2) for the same vacant title, on May of 2018. Butler was on a 9 fight winning streak since losing the belt. The Mexican fighter knocked him down twice in the opening round, once with the right and then with the left hook. Rodriguez continued to control the pace until the end, thus winning a wide decision and was declared the new World champion.
His 1st defense took place in October, against the WBA Oceania & Commonwealth champion Jason Moloney (18-1), as part of the WBSS. The Australian was undefeated at 17-0 when he entered the tournament. Much like Naoya Inoue, Manny utilized some excellent body work that, in the long run, won him the fight. Moloney started to put on a better offense half way through, giving the champ some trouble, especially in the closing rounds. When the final bell rang, Rodriguez was awarded a split decision to advance to the semi finals.
It’s obvious that Rodriguez has the better amateur pedigree than most of Inoue’s opponents, but he hasn’t faced the same caliber of competition as a pro. Moreover, both of his world championship fights has gone the distance and he hasn’t finished anyone since 2017. On the other hand, Naoya has been on a path of destruction, knocking out top contenders and champions alike, for 5 years straight (minus 1 match). It’s seemingly impossible to stop him at this point of his career, especially after the dominant 2018 he had. Considering that in his last 2 fights he spent a total of 3 minutes in the ring, it will be a surprise if Manny makes it past the 5th round.
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.