The lower weight classes have given us regular thrillers in recent years with so many good fighters and so many action packed contests. Given the amount of talent in the lower weight classes, and the mix of styles we do seem to get some fantastic bouts every time we throw together any of the top 15 or so fighters in any of the lower weight classes. That's likely to be the case again this coming Saturday when Filipino Milan Melindo (34-2, 12) battles Thai Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr (31-4-1, 16) for the IBF “interim” Light Flyweight title in Cebu City.
Whilst the winner won't be a world champion, instead they will have to face Akira Yaegashi in the imminent future, the bout should still be a thriller between two world class fighters who should gel stylistically.
The favourite will be local star Melindo, who not only has home advantage but is also the older fighter with an 11 year career behind him. He is regarded as a brilliantly talented technician who lacks in size and strength but is amazingly well schooled and boxes brilliantly as a pure boxer, using great ring control and movement to out score opponents. He can be bullied, as we saw against Javier Mendoza last year, and he can be out boxed, as we saw in 2013 when he fought Juan Francisco Estrada, but not many fighters will have an easy time with him.
Whilst best known for his two losses, both on the road, Melindo has scored notable wins through his career beating the likes of Muhammad Rachman, Carlos Tamara, Francisco Rosas, Jean Piero Perez, Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Martin Tecuapetla and Saul Juarez. With a resume like that Melindo may be one of the most accomplished current fighters to not have won a world title during his career.
The 23 year old Fahlan will be the under-dog but that has never worried him in the past and in fact he often seems to excel in the under-dog role. That was most notable in 2013, when he shocked the boxing world by stopping Ryo Miyazaki in 3 rounds, and was seen again last year when he was controversially defeated by Katsunari Takayama, with Takayama very lucky to avoid a TKO loss. Those bouts, both in Japan, showed that Fahlan was tough, knew when to strike and was criminally over-looked with under-rated skills, and solid power, even if he's not a KO artist. He showed himself as a smart counter puncher. Although he has shown glimpses of real talent he has also shown flaws and was easily out boxed by Takuma Inoue in 2014 and struggled to a win against Lester Abutan last year.
Despite only being 23 Fahlan is a 6 year professional with 36 bouts under his belt and almost 190 rounds. He has a lot of promise and is likely to become a world champion before his career is over, following in the footsteps of his father a former IBF Minimumweight champion. Notably he is taller and rangier than Melindo and may look to use his size advantages to keep Melindo at bay, neutralise the Filipino's jab and take away his key strengths, whilst also slowly chipping away at the Filipino.
In Thailand this bout would see Fahlan likely being the favourite, with home advantage having been a key, in the Philippines Melindo is understandably the favourite. On paper Melindo is the more talented, the more skilled and the more proven fighter and that higher level of proven ability and home advantage will likely help him to the win. However Fahlan won't travel with out hunting a win and he will give Melindo hell from the first round to the last, whether the bout is a boxing contest or a fight. With Fahlan being a tough ask for anyone he will push Melindo all the way, but we do expect to see Melindo take a clear decision win here.
Fahlan returns to Osaka and looks to become a second generation champion against the "Lightning Kid" Takayama
December 31st 2013 will be a date that will forever live on in the memory of Thailand's Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr (27-3-1, 15). It was the date he scored his career defining victory, a shock upset of the previously unbeaten Ryo Miyazaki in Osaka. It was the date that Fahlan put his name on the boxing map and become, for a few moments, a man with an exciting future ahead of him and several lucrative paydays lined up for him.
Less than 28 months later Fahlan will return to the scene of the crime and hunt a second major win at the Bodymaker Colosseum. This time around he's not just fighting to make a name for himself but also for world honours as he looks to win the IBF Minimumweight title and reach the pinnacle of the sport, like his father. In fact he looks to claim the same title his father held back in the early 1990's.
Fahlan Sakkreerin Sr won the IBF Minimumweight title back in 1990 when he stopped Eric Chavez. He would subsequently defend the belt 7 times, including a rematch with Chavez and a bout with Pretty Boy Lucas, before losing the belt in September 1992. Just 9 months after Sr lost the title Jr was born.
Fahlan Jr was an unknown when he traveled to Japan at the end of 2013. He had never faced anyone of note and had only scored wins over novices and the typical "also rans" that frequent Thailand and regular losers, such as Madit Sada, Samuel Tehuayo and Wilber Andogan. When he left Japan he was a well known fighter with some asking whether or not he could become a world champion. At the time it seemed possible, he was just 20 years old and still developing, both as a man and as a fighter. Time was on his side and the win over Miyazaki netted him world rankings with all 4 world title bodies.
Sadly since the fight with Miyazaki we've seen Fahlan has struggle to recapture any major form, having gone 4-1-1 with a loss to the then 1-0 Takuma Inoue and a disappointing draw with Tatsuya Fukuhara. In all 4 of those fights he has looked limited and lacking that something special. He has however won the IBF Asia Light Flyweight title and used his connections with Kiatkreerin to help enhance his IBF ranking.
Unfortunately for Fahlan the task ahead of him is a difficult one as he takes on the world class Katsunari Takayama (28-7-0-1, 11), a multi-time world champion who has been one of the true warriors of Japanese boxing over the last decade or so. Not only has he been in a number of brilliant fights but he has also been happy to travel for his defining fights as he's created an enviable legacy for himself.
Guided by trainer-come-mentor Hiroaki Nakada we've seen Takayama claim the WBC, IBF, WBO and WBA interim titles in a career that really has been a wonderful and often over-looked one. Sadly he has often been over-shadowed by other Osakan based fighters, such as the more popular Kazuto Ioka, though has genuinely been a credit to the sport and a man capable exciting fans with his action and perpetually aggressive style which makes him a must-watch fighter.
In the ring Takayama is a light punching machine who has shown a willingness to take one to land one, or more often than not a willingness to take 5 to land 5 in wild exchanges that have dominated fights. Sometimes it's not worked for him and he's had to rely on his toughness to see out some real worries, as seen against Roman Gonzalez and Nkosinathi Joyi other times however his toughness, work rate and aggression have been more than enough to help him earn exciting and hard fought wins, such as his 2013 victory over Mario Rodriguez, in Rodriguez's homeland of Mexico.
Takayama is one of our favourites. We've rarely tried to hide that. Though he's also a flawed fighter. Not only has he shown he's happy to take a shot but he often takes a lot of them, his defense is flawed, technically he's a relatively limited “boxer” and in terms of power he's certainly not much of a puncher, in fact he's only stopped one of his last 9 opponents. He often makes up for those flaws with his insane work-rate though he's certainly not unbeatable.
At the end of 2014 we saw Takayama scoring a relatively rare stoppage as he defeated compatriot Go Odaira in a bout for the WBO and IBF titles, which were both vacant. Since then Takayama has vacated the WBO though the big hope is that if he's successful here he'll be getting a shot at Hekkie Budler in November to crown the consensus #1 fighter in the division. That means their is a lot riding on this bout for the “Lightning Kid” though of course if Fahlan can upset him then the Thai could well get the opportunity for the divisional super fight. The stakes really couldn't be much higher.
Coming in to the bout the logical winner, and massive favourite, will be Takayama. He has the experience, he has the skill, he has the desire and the proven world class ability. Worryingly however he was being out boxed by Odaira last time out, prior to the stoppage, and he took a lot of damage in the bout before that, a 12 round FOTY contender with Francisco Rodriguez Jr. When you consider many of his 293 career rounds have been fought at a very high level it's fair to say his body is going to have signs of wear and tear. The same cannot be said of Fahlan who has just over half as many professional rounds and has, generally, fought at a much lower level. Also in Fahlan's favour is his size, given that he's a career Light Flyweight, and his youth. Both of which he'll be hoping to make the most of against Takayama.
In the ring we expect this bout to be action packed. There will be a lot of leather thrown and a lot of back and forth. If Takayama is feeling the effects of his long and hard career things could be very interesting. The general feeling is that Takayama is showing signs of being slightly on the slide. If he is he may feel the weight of Fahlan more than expected, his output might be less intense than usual and he might have a few hairy moments. We suspect the champion will come out on top though we wouldn't shocked to see him struggle at times with his much younger and fresher foe in what will be compelling from the first bell to the last.
(Image courtesy of Thairec.com)
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.