The Light Flyweight division may not have the sports biggest names but it is arguably the best division in the sport right now, not only with over-looked fighters but also a steady stream of great fights pitting world class fighters against each other. The next one of those top quality bouts is this coming Friday as WBC champion Ken Shiro (12-0, 6), from Japan, defends his title against Mexican veteran Ganigan Lopez (29-7, 18). The bout will be the second between the two men, who faced off last year in a bout that saw the Japanese fighter outpoint Lopez to become the champion.
Since their first meeting, which Ken Shiro won by majority decision, the champion has gone on to distinguish himself as a leading fighter at 108lbs thanks to wins over Pedro Guevara and Gilberto Pedroza. In those bouts he has shown clear improvements and looks to be a fighter who has grown since claiming the title. As for Lopez he has been he has been mostly inactive with his only bout between his loss to Ken shiro and this rematch being a win over unknown Mexican fighter Efren Bautista.
Aged 26 Ken Shiro is already a fighter who is showing signs of becoming a real star in Japan, that's despite the fact his first two world title fights were shown live in his homeland and the fact that fans had been following him from his debut. He was touted for big things when he turned professional following a solid amateur career, and was also given extra attention due to the fact his father Hisashi Teraji was a successful fighter claiming Japanese and OPBF honours. On his way through the ranks the youngster not only did what his father managed, winning the Japanese and OPBF Light Flyweight titles, but also claimed the WBC Youth title to become a triple crown winner after just 8 bouts.
In his 10th professional contest Ken Shiro would defeat Lopez for the WBC title in a coming of age performance. Prior to the bout he had shown the tools to be something special, showing he could adapt to his opponents, box, brawl and counter, but had never managed to put it all together as he did against Lopez. He not only showed he had the skills, but also the toughness to see out the final round when Lopez was really bringing the heat. His skills, and desire to win, were on show again when he narrowly defeat Guevara in what was another really tough bout. Against Pedroza however it seemed like Ken Shiro wanted to show the fans his boxing, which he did early on, before closing the show, which he did in impressive fashion in round 4. That win showed he could box or punch, and it's his ability to mix various styles that makes him such a fantastic young fighter. There are areas for him to build on, but with his speed, physical strength, ring IQ and under-rated power he could be a nightmare to dethrone in the coming years.
Whilst Ken Shiro is really just starting to capture the attention of the wider boxing fan base in Japan Lopez has been on the radar of fight fans for years. The 36 year old made his debut way back in 2003 and although he suffered some early career set backs, including a loss to the under-rated Juan Palacios and a loss to Adrian Hernandez, he would rebuild from a 13-4 record to become one of the key figures in the world title scene. Amazingly he wouldn't get a world title fight until 2015, when he was 33 with a record of 25-5 and despite a great effort he would lose a close but clear decision to Pedro Guevara. The following year he would get his second shot, and defeat Yu Kimura, who had beaten Guevara, for the WBC title. A title he would defend once, out pointing Jonathan Taconing, before losing the belt to Ken Shiro.
Despite his age Lopez is a fighter who hasn't shown anything in terms of ageing. He's a really smart fighter who uses his southpaw stance fantastically, moves around the ring intelligently and can box or brawl. His legs and boxing brain took him to a clear win over Kimura , despite the ridiculously poor scorecard of Juan Carlos Pelayo, and his win over Taconing showed just how good his ring craft is against a dangerous puncher. Sadly for him his work rate and out put isn't the best and he is perhaps due to lose some of his his movement. No one will doubt his boxing brain, but his reactions may well have slipped between the first bout with Ken Shiro and now.
At his best Lopez would be a real handful for any active 108lb fighter, and would give fits to many of those just below the divisional elite. At 36 however it's hard to know what he really has left and it's fair to say that Ken Shiro is just getting better and better. Although we don't see this as being an easy fight for the Japanese fighter we don't see Ken Shiro losing, instead we are expecting a clear, but tough, decision for Ken Shiro. A stoppage isn't totally out of the question for Ken Shiro, but it would be a bit of a surprise given that Lopez has only been stopped once in his 36 fight career.
Our prediction is a clear decision victory for the champion, who will put to bed any doubt between who is currently the better fighter and may also retire the Mexican, who has been a fantastic servant to boxing over the last few years. With a win we expect to see Ken Shiro begin the hunt for unification bouts, and could well find himself chasing any of the other champions.
Currently the Light Flyweight division is one of the most over-looked with a really wonderful mix of talent from around Asia and America. There is no standout #1 fighter but there is a brilliant variety of styles and fighters in the division ranging from the lighting quick Kosei Tanaka to the warrior infused Akira Yaegashi, the calculating Pedro Guevara, the monstrously heavy handed Angel Acosta and the teak tough Jonathan Taconing.
This coming Saturday fans in Tokyo will see two talented fighters in the division battle for the WBC title, in what could be a a technically brilliant and thrilling battle.
In one corner will be WBC champion Ganigan Lopez (28-6, 17), a Mexican southpaw a talented fighter with a real gritty determination that comes with being a grizzled veteran. In the opposite corner will be Japanese youngster Ken Shiro (9-0, 5), a talented boxer-mover who is looking to continue his rise through the ranks.
Of the two Lopez is the more well known, and that's understandable given he's a 35 year old professional with 34 bouts under his belt and has been a professional since 2003. During his long career he has had plenty of ups and down. The lows have included losses to the likes of Juan Palacios, Adrian Hernandez, Jose Alfredo Zuniga, Denver Cuello and Pedro Guevara whilst the highs have included his last two wins, over Yu Kimura and Jonathan Taconing to win and defend the WBC title.
At his best Lopez is a brilliant boxer. He's not the quickest, most powerful, strongest or toughest but he is a fighter with an incredibly good boxing brain, who controls the range and tempo of the bout, boxes at his pace and dictates the fight with timing and accuracy. He can be hurt, he has been stopped, but it takes a special fighter to put him in any trouble and he's learned a lot from his narrow decision losses. Despite his boxing brain he is 35 years old and at Light Flyweight that really is ancient. He's look great in his last two bouts but a fighter at his age can get old over night, especially following a 10 month break from the ring due to issues securing a bout, with talks for a rematch against Guevara faltering.
Aged just 25 Ken Shiro is still a youngster, and looks even younger with a genuine baby face. Despite being a youngster he's an accomplished boxer who first made a name for himself in the amateur ranks before making his professional debut in August 2014. On debut he made a statement by defeating veteran Heri Amol and continued to make waves, beating Katsunori Nagamine in his third bout, claiming the WBC Youth Light Flyweight title in his 5th bout, the Japanese title a fight later and the OPBF title in his 8th professional bout. Whilst winning titles quickly appears to be the done thing in Japan not many are triple crown winners that quickly.
Although Ken Shiro is a talented boxer we have seen a bit of everything from him. We have seen him box, brawl, counter punch and adapt on the fly. His chameleon like ability has been really impressive at times, but has seen him being caught between styles, and it has also seen him being dropped, with Rolly Sumalpong dropping him in the Youth title fight. If he can stick to fighting with one style at a time the youngster could be a real talent, and although it sounds silly in telling him to stick to one style it would likely help him when it comes to actually being in the ring. One game plan that's consistent, with another as a back up, can be much better than trying to be a jack of all trades.
If Ken Shiro, and his team, come up with the right game plan here they have a really good change at over-coming Lopez and claiming a world title. It is however a huge ask for for the youngster against someone with so much experience against world class fighters. Ken Shiro has the ability, but we do wonder whether he has the power, or experience, that he might need here. Ken Shiro will almost certainly have his moments, but we think that Lopez will have more of them, and take a very competitive decision to narrowly retain his title, and confirm his standing as one of the top Light Flyweights on the plant.
If Ken Shiro can pull it off the future almost certainly leads to an all-Japanese unification bout in the very near future, especially given the fact other Japanese fighters hold titles at the weight. It would however by an upset for him to win here
Over the last few years fans of the smaller weights have had numerous treats with some thrilling wars and non-stop action. This weekend we may well see some more great bouts in the lower weights with one potential war coming in Mexico as Filipino banger Jonathan Taconing (22-2-1, 18) gets a long awaited world title shot, and takes on Ganigan Lopez (27-6, 17), the current WBC Light Flyweight champion.
Taconing has been a card holding member of the “Who needs him?” club since 2012, when he got his only previous world title fight and was controversially beaten by Kompayak Porpramook in Thailand. Although an avoided fighter after that bout Taconing has subsequently gone 9-0 (8), claimed the OPBF title and scored notable wins over Vergilio Silvano, Ramon Garcia Hirales and Jomar Fajardo.
Taconing is avoided for a number of reasons. Firstly he's a huge puncher in the lower weights. Only a small number of fighters have heard the final bell against him, and only 1 of the last 9 opponents survived his power, though that one ended early with a technical decision. He's tough having proven his chin in the past and never backing up against the likes of Porpramook, Fajardo or Hirales, and he really trusts his chin. And third he has a great engine. Despite stopping many opponents early he has shown power late in fights, and actually stopped Hirales in the last 10 seconds of the 10th round. Finally, and perhaps worth of all for his opponents, and team, is that he's a southpaw making him even more tricky.
When it comes to the champion we have a talented fighter who has proven he can travel to win bouts, but has had a long and draining career. Aged 34 he's in the twilight of his career, though this is first world title defense and he did score his biggest career victory just 4 months ago, when he travelled to Japan and defeated Yu Kimura for the title. It's worth noting that a year ago he pushed the then champion Pedrio Guevara all the way in a thrilling 12 rounder, in a bout that some thought would be his last hurrah.
In the ring Guevara can both box or fight. He's not an elite boxer but he's got the basics down excellently, as he showed against Kimura, and when he needs to have a war he can. In fact not only can he have a war, but he can take punishment as well, with only one stoppage against him, that coming to the big punching Filipino Denver Cuello who was on a genuinely destructive run at the time and that came at 105lbs.
Coming in to this one we expect a war, a full on violent, and exciting war, though given Taconing's power we eventually think he'll break down the ageing Lopez in the later rounds. Before then however this one will be a lot of fun, with both men being forced to take some seriously big shots.
Japanese boxing ended 2015 on a real high with a number of notable wins by Japanese fighters in world title bouts. Sadly the momentum of 2015 hasn't really carried over into early 2016, which has been a disappointingly quiet period for Japanese boxing.
The period has been so quiet that local fans in Japan don't get to see a world title fight on Japanese soil until May 4th, when they do get two world title bouts.
The first of those will see WBC Light Flyweight champion Yu Kimura (18-2-1, 3) defending his title for the first time. The 32 year old Teiken fighter, who upset Pedro Guevara last November, will not be having the typical “easy” first defense but will instead be up against top contender Ganigan Lopez (26-6, 17).
The talented, and gutsy, Kimura was touted as a potential world champion very early in his career but it took more than 9 years for him to reach the pinnacle of the sport. On his route there the talented, speedy and under-rated, fighter claimed the Japanese title and recorded 3 defenses of the title.
Although lacking many big name wins Kimura has beaten Guevara, obviously, as well as current Japanese champion Tatsuya Fukuhara and former champion Kenichi Horikawa as well as a credible win over Yuki Chinen. When it comes to his losses they have been to current world champion Ryoichi Taguchi and former world title challenger Shin Ono.
Kimura showed his gutsiness against Guevara, rebuilding from a poor start to take a narrow win over the talented Mexican and proved a lot. We knew he was talented, gutsy and fast but in that bout he proved he really could turn fights around, he proved he could bite down on his gum shield go to war and score a world class win over 12 rounds.
When it comes to Lopez the challenger is a tested fighter who has mixed with numerous world class fighters. That has seen him suffer losses to the likes of Juan Palacios, Adrian Hernandez, Denver Cuello and Pedro Guevara whilst scoring wins over the likes of Mario Rodriguez and Luis Ceja. During his 32 fight career he has suffered just a single stoppage loss, to Cuello, and his last notable fight was a narrow loss to Guevara.
In the ring Lopez is a heavy handed southpaw with an aggressive mentality and whilst not the most skilled he is a real handful for most of the fighters at 108lbs. He comes solid, though unspectacular skills, with a genuine toughness and spiteful power. All that comes with the awkward southpaw stance and a 34 he'll know that this could well be his final chance at the top level.
In many ways this fight is being widely over-looked yet could, potentially, be a fire cracker of the fight with both possibly choosing to go to war and having a fire-fight in the centre of the ring. On paper that seems a bad idea for Kimura, but he'll know that smothering Lopez's work would be in his favour. For Lopez the idea of fighting in close quarters does give him the advantage of possibly scoring a stoppage, something he may feel he needs. This really could be a very special bout.
On paper we have to favour Kimura, who is the clear betting favourite, however Lopez is a very under-dog.
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.