This coming Saturday we'll see IBF Super Flyweight champion Fernando Daniel Martinez (14-0, 8) look make his first defense, as he faces the man he beat for the title earlier this year, Filipino "Pretty Boy" Jerwin Ancajas (33-2-2, 22). The two men, who clashed in February, are having an immediate rematch which given the nature of their first bout feels wholly unnecessary, but does give Ancajas a chance to reclaim the title that he had held from September 2016 to February 2022, and recorded 9 defenses, the most anyone has defended that title in a single reign. As for Martinez the bout serves as a chance to prove he isn't a flash in the pan, and didn't just get Ancajas on a bad night, but is instead the better fighter.
Of the two men the more well known is Ancajas. The talented Filipino, one of the nicest boxers to watch, is a 30 year old who was a top Filipino amateur before turning professional in 2009, at the age of 17. He began his career in relative obscurity and was 24-1-1 when he landed a mandatory title shot at IBF world champion McJoe Arroyo. The bout was expected to see Arroyo retain his title but instead Ancajas controlled the bout to score a notable upset, at least at the time, to dethrone the much touted Arroyo. Notably since that loss Arroyo never really re-captured any form, going 1-3 in his following 4 bouts. Following that title win Ancajas would later link up with Top Rank, who did a great job in building his following in the West, but a failure to land major fights with the top fighters at 115lbs long harmed his reign, despite racking up 9 defenses. He missed out, for one reason or another, on clashes with the likes of Roman Gonzalez, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Juan Francisco Estrada, Carlos Cuadras, Naoya Inoue and Kazuto Ioka, and the failure to defend his title against that top tier opposition will always haunt his legacy. After ending his deal with Top Rank Ancajas joined PBC, and hasn't quite looked the same, with matches on PBC coming against fighters who's style was incredibly troublesome for Anacjas.
In the ring Ancajas really is a pretty boy. He's a wonderfully smooth, polished boxer, with impressive hand speed, good movement, good boxing IQ and solid, though not concussive, power. He's big and strong at 115lbs, and there has long been talk of him moving up, but he can be bullied and he's never been a fan of fighters pressing him, pushing him on the back foot and putting him under intense pressure. That style has always troubled him, with Alexandro Santiago and Jonathan Rodriguez both running him incredible close, before Martinez used that same tactic to defeat him in February. That pressure, high intensity, fast tempo style is one he has shown he struggles with and unfortunately it's one he will be up against again here.
Martinez, despite entering as the champion, is still something of an unknown quantity in the eyes of many fans. He first made his name in the amateur ranks, as one of the best amateurs in South America, and competed in both the Olympics and the World Series of Boxing (WSB). In in 2017 he began his professional campaign, and quickly took the Argentinian Super Flyweight title, doing so just 9 months after his debut. After going 10-0, against very limited opposition at home, he was given a notable step up as he travelled to South Africa and beat Athenkosi Dumezweni for the WBC Silver Super Flyweight title, with that win coming in 2019. Like many Super Flyweights of the era he was messed about by the WBC, and rather than choose to wait for a potential shot at the WBC merry-go-round he turned his attention to the IBF title, and landed a mandatory IBF title shot, against Ancajas in early 2022. That was his big chance, and he made the most of it, pressing and out-hustling Ancajas from the early going to take a clear decision win.
In the ring Martinez is a night mare. He's not a big puncher, or heavy handed. He is however incessant, hyper aggressive and tough as hell. He presses and barely takes a backwards step, and through pure will he breaks fighters, mentally and physically. He doesn't have the most rounded or technical skill set out there, but he's something of an unstoppable monster who just keeps coming like a human terminator. Watching him he can be wide, he can be open, and he does give opponents chances to counter, but unless his opponent hits like a mule he won't be discouraged. To beat him a fighter either needs incredible power, or the ability to out work him, and we don't think many will be able to do either. Outside of Estrada, Roman Gonzalez and Bam Rodriguez we're not sure anyone in the division would be favoured over him, an that includes WBO champion Kazuto Ioka, who also struggles with the all pressure style Martinez brings to the ring.
Given the nature of the first bout, which was a comprehensive win for Martinez, it's hard to see how Ancajas will turn this around. It wasn't like he was caught with a bomb, or suffered a freak injury. Instead he was dominated, and broken down mentally and physically by a fighter who fought like a possessed monster. We imagine something of a similar bout here, with Martinez pressing the action through out, setting a tempo that Ancajas can't match, and beating the fight out of Ancajas. One difference we do expect here however, is for Ancajas not to see the final bell. Instead we expect his corner to pull him out in the later stages, call it a day at Super Flyweight and let him move up to Bantamweight for the final few years of his career. We expect this to be a very, very painful bout for the talented Filipino, who's simply up against someone with a style that he can't deal with.
Prediction - TKO10 Martinez
This coming weekend we'll likely see the end of one of the most personal rivalries in modern day boxing, as Mexican star Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (57-2-2, 39) and Kazakh icon Gennadiy Golovkin (42-1-1, 37) meet in their third, and likely final, bout. Like the previous two the bout is expected to be a thriller between two incredibly talented, well rounded fighters, with different styles, but the same hunger to prove themselves and the same desire to take home the win over their greatest nemesis.
The two men, who's careers will always be linked, first fought in September 2017, with Golovkin holding 3 of the 4 major world titles. That bout saw the men fight to a much disputed draw, with many feeling that Canelo had been protected from a loss by the judges, especially Adalaide Byrd who some how gave Golovkin just 2 rounds with an awful 118-110 card for Canelo. The two were scheduled to rematch the following May but a failed drugs test by Alvarez saw the bout being pushed back to September 2018 when Canelo controversially defeated Golovkin to claim the WBA and WBC Middleweigjt titles. Since that bout the two men went their separate ways, though it always seemed like a third was, ultimately, in their destiny.
Since losing to Canelo we've seen Golovkin go 4-0 (3), he has looked like he has lost a gear, though still had enough to beat top competition in the form of Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Ryota Murata, and not just reclaim world honours at Middleweight but also unifying the IBF and WBA "super" titles. Canelo on the other hand has gone 7-1 (5). Along the way he claimed the WBO Light Heavyweight title and unified all 4 world titles at Super Middleweight, before losing last time out, at Super Middleweight, to Dmitriy Bivol. That loss was his first since 2013, when he lost to Floyd Mayweather Jr, and much like Mayweather Jr.
For this bout, unlike the other two, the fight will take place at Super Middleweight. The move in weight could be an interesting factor. It's the weight class that has seen Canelo control in recent years, with notable wins over Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant, to secure all 4 titles, but also a weight that he will be dropping back down to, which is rarely an easy task. Likewise for Golovkin the bout will be his first at 168lbs, though he has had catch weight fights above 160lbs early in his career, and it will be very interesting to see what he looks like at the higher weight.
In the ring not a lot needs saying about either man, afterall they have both been fighting at the top level for over a decade and we suspect everyone who follows the sport will have seen a lot of both men. Canbelo is a smooth punching, intelligent pressure fighter, with a good boxing brain, solid power and decent work rate. He isn't the quickest, the most powerful, or the strongest, but he's a smart fighter who has under-rated defense, excellent offense, and lovely combination punching, especially up close. At range he can look poor, and a fighter who keeps him chasing can make him look poor, but his pressure tends to get to fighters, sooner or later. As for Golovkin he's a defensively limited fighter, but someone who has rocks for hands, a very good work rate, a stunning chin, and can land brutal shots to head or body. Sadly Golovkin has slowed down, a lot, from the fighter he once was, and looked only a shadow of himself at times against Murata.
Coming in to this we don't expect to see anything new from the men involved. Aged 40 isn't suddenly going to develop into a defensive master and at 32 Canelo, with 61 fights to his name, we don't expect to see anything new from Canelo either. Saying that we don't expect this fight to fully look like their previous two, which were instant classics. We, sadly, expect Golovkin to again look old. Especially early on, and that will work to Canelo's strength, with Alvarez being an excellent body puncher. It seemed that Murata hurt Golovkin with a body shot in their bout, and Alvarez might not have the single punch power of Murata, but places shots better, is a better combination puncher and is clearly quicker and sharper. With that in mind we expect to see Canelo going to the body early, landing there a lot in the first 3 or 4 rounds, and take gas out of Golovkin's tyres. Later on we expect to see Golovkin begin to show what he can do, but not have the intensity needed to make a major impact, before slowing down again as Canelo gets his second wind and does enough to earn a clear decision, if not a very late stoppage against a tired Golvokin.
Although we do favour Canelo here, we do expect the move up in weight will be a good one for Golovkin, and perhaps something he should have done in 2019, following his loss to Canelo. We can't help but feel his frame would have suited the division well, and bouts against the likes of Callum Smith, Caleb Plant and Billy Joe Saunders would have been interesting for him at 168lbs.
Prediction - UD12 Canelo
This coming Friday we'll see IBF Minimumweight champion Rene Mark Cuarto (20-2-2, 11) look to make his second defense, as he takes on under-rated Mexican challenger Daniel Valladares (26-3-1, 15) in a really exciting looking bout set to take place in Monterrey.
Although not well known outside of the Philippines the 25 year old Cuarto, dubbed the Mighty Mouse, has managed to carve out a pretty decent career so far. He made his professional debut in 2014 and reeled off 3 wins before slipping up against Jeralrd Paclar in 2015, in the first of 3 bouts between the two men. He bounced back from that loss with 6 wins before rematch Paclar in a bout that resulted in a technical draw between the two men. An instant rematch saw Cuarto avenging the two early career blotches and begin his move towards bigger and better bouts, winning the WBO Oriental title in 2018 before losing in an IBF eliminator against Samuel Salva. Since that loss we've seen him going 4-0-1 (2) with a win in 2021 against Pedro Taduran, for the IBF title, and a highly controversial second win against Taduran earlier this year to record his first defense.
In the ring Taduran is a technical boxer, who likes to use his legs, move around the ring and use his speed and timing to punish mistakes from opponents. Sadly his style isn't the most fan friendly and it can get sloppy at times, as we saw in the rematch with Taduran. He is certainly talented, but he lacks the physicality to be an elite level Minimumweight, and his style almost begs for pressure fighters to take the fight to him. He's tricky and quick, but in all honest there is little that makes him feel like anything other than a short term champion. Sadly for him he's not been able to "sell" a shot to the highest bigger, which is likely what he and his team would have hoped for, but instead has had to travel to Mexico for a mandatory in just his second defense.
Aged 28 Daniel Valladares has long been on the radar for fans of the lower weights. "Cejitas" also debuted in 2014, and like many on the Mexican domestic scene, he was busy, really busy, early on. He would fight 4 times in 2014, 4 times in 2015 and 4 tomes in 2016, as he developed his experience and his style against limited opponents. During that run he went 11-1, losing his final bout of 2016 to Genaro Rios in what looks to be something of an oddity. That loss was his first 8 rounders and he quickly bounced back, whilst slowly stepping up his competition and winning his first minor title soon afterwards. In 2018 he stepped up and beat Adrien Curiel Dominguez, less than a year later he beat former world champion Merlito Sabillo and then beat Christian Araneta in an IBF world title eliminator. He got his shit at the IBF Light Flyweight title just 5 months later, in a bout that ended in a draw against Pedro Taduran. Following that loss things went off the boil completely, as we suspect his motivation died as he suffered back to back upset losses, before bouncing back last year with 3 wins, including one against former world title challenger Julian Yedras.
In the ring Valladares is dangerous, at least when he's focused. He's big and tall at the weight, and although somewhat crude, he knows he can often get away with taking risks as his offense is his best defense. He his hard enough to get respect, has a decent enough chin to take a shit and a high work rate. He lacks in terms of polish, and is more of a fighter than a boxer, but his action style is a hard one to deal with. There is very much a case of machismo with him, and when he was cut by a headclash against Pedro Taduran you could tell he was angry and wanted revenge. Despite that it's clear he is a solid and well schooled boxer, who has got technical ability, but prefers a tear up.
Sadly for Cuarto travelling to Mexico for a world title fight, either as the champion or challenger, is much like travelling to the UK, Argentina or Thailand. The away fighter will not get any favours from the officials and will also be fighting in front of crazy fans cheering on their man. For a fighter like Cuarto, who is technical, wants to fight off the back foot, and rely more on counter punching and skills than fire power and work rate, a fight in Mexico is never going to go his way, especially not against a rugged, aggressive fighter like Valladares.
We suspect the pressure, work rate and sheer violence of Valladares will play a major role here in dragging Cuarto into the wrong type of fight. That, along with vociferous fans going crazy when Valldares does anything, leads to the Mexico to a clear lead on the cards, before head clashes force an early end to the bout, with a few rounds left.
Prediction - TD9 Valladares
This coming Saturday in San Antonio, we'll see unified Super Bantamweight champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev (10-0, 7) defending his WBA "super" and IBF Super Bantamweight titles, as he takes on Ronny Rios (33-3, 16). The bout will be Akhmadaliev's third defense of the title he won in 2020, when he beat Danny Roman in a sensational bout, whilst it will also serve as the second world title shot for Rios, who came up short in 2017 against Rey Vargas in a competitive contest. It will also be a bout between two legitimate top 10 fighters at 122lbs, which is one of the most interesting division's in the sport right now, and is one that has the potential to be something very special.
Aged 27 Akhamdaliev has been moved through the ranks like very few others. He turned professional after an impressive amateur and was world ranked within a year of his professional debut. By late 2019 he was knocking on the door of a world title fight, and were it not for an injury to Danny Roman there's a good chance that "MJ" would have won a world title in September 2019. Instead he had to wait for Roman to recover, with the two men clashing in January 2020, with Akhmadlaiev taking a split decision, and the the unified IBA/WBA "super" titles. That was in just his 8th professional bout. Sadly Covid has stopped his rise to stardom, and since winning the titles he has fought just twice, beating the then IBF mandatory challenger Ryosuke Iwasa and beating late replacement Jose Velasquez, who replaced Rios for a bout late last year when Rios contracted Covid19.
In the ring Akhmadaliev can pretty much do it all. At his best he's a patient, but aggressive, pressure-puncher. He's naturally heavy handed, puts his shots together well, picks his moments and applies mentally draining and consistent front foot pressure. When he needs to box he can, as we saw against Roman, he can also change the tempo of bouts, and it a very complete all rounder. At times he can fight the wrong fight, an unfortunate consequence of being such a brilliant all rounder, but he's able to adapt and take control when he needs to. For a man with just 9 bouts to his name he has already proven he has world class power, hurting Danny Roman and stopping Ryosuke Iwasa, he has great stamina, going 12 rounds and picking up the pace in some of the later rounds against Roman, and he's proven he can take a shot, as he showed against Roman. The one question mark about him, is whether he can come out on top in an intense inside war, and that's hopefully something we'll see later in the year in a potential clash with Stephon Fulton.
Rios was a solid amateur himself, not the level of Akhmadaliev who competed at the very highest level of the sport but a solid one who twice won US national championships. Aged 31 Rios is a very experienced professional who debuted as a professional back in 2008 and ran off a very impressive 23-0 (10) record before losing in an upset to the always unpredictable Robinson Castellanos. Prior to his first loss he had notched notable wins over Andrew Cancio and Rico Ramos. Rios would bounce back well from the loss to Castellano by scoring 5 wins, including a victory against Jayson Velez, before getting a shot at WBC Super Bantamweight champion Rey Vargas. Despite losing to Vargas he did give the talented Mexican a really tough bout and showed he belonged at that level, but soon afterwards suffered his third loss, a KO defeat to Azat Hovhannisyan, which seemed to spell the end of his career at the top level just as it seemed he belonged there. Amazingly however he has rebuilt and won 4 in a row, including very solid wins over Diego De La Hoya and Oscar Negrete, to earn this show at Akhmadaliev.
In the ring Rios is a fun fighter to watch. He likes to set a good tempo, let his hands go, and is a technically very good fighter, usually. He is however a fighter who has been stopped twice, and does make mistakes, as we saw repeatedly in his bout to Hovhannisyan who rocked him in round 3 and stopped him in round 6. His recovery ability is questionable, and whilst he knows how to survive, he is the type of man who can take a long time to clear his head when hurt. When facing fighters who don't have fight changing power, he is an awkward, aggressive fighter who can be a nightmare for many in the division. Sadly though with his stoppage losses, and his overall performance against Hovhannisyan, there will always be question marks about his heart, desire, and will to win. He has done a lot to answer those questions, but we will always wonder if he can turn things around when the going gets tough.
We suspect Rios will be hungry to make a statement, and will look to press the fight early, taking the fight to Akhmadaliev. Sadly for him we don't see this as a tactic that will actually work. Instead we see his aggression being used against him as he essentially walks into Akhmadaliev's range, and ends up taking big shots from the champion. He might have some moments, but Rios' success will come at a price and he will take a lot of punishment. In the middle rounds that punishment will take a toll on Rios who will come undone completely and be stopped, for the third time in his career.
Prediction - TKO7 Akhmadaliev
November 7th 2019 will long be remembered for giving us one of the best Bantamweight bouts in recent memory, as Japanese star Naoya Inoue (22-0, 19) scored a unanimous decision over Filipino legend Nonito Donaire (42-6, 38) to unify the WBA and IBF Bantamweight titles, along with the Ring Magazine title and win the Bantamweight edition of the WBSS. The bout, later dubbed the "Drama in Saitama" was an instant classic, with everything a bout could want. It has intense respect between the two fighters, it had drama as Inoue suffered the first cut of his career, and was later diagnosed with a broken orbital and a fractured nose, and controversy with Ernie Sharif helping Donaire survive the penultimate round of the bout. The bout, later named the Ring Magazine Fight of the year, was brilliant and helped to enhance the reputations of both men.
This coming Tuesday we get to do it all again, in one of the most anticipated rematches of 2022. This time the bout will not only be for the WBA, IBF and Ring Magazine titles, but also the WBC title, with only the WBO title being missed on what would have unified all the Bantamweight belts together, for the first time in the 4 belt era.
Since their first bout we've not seen as much of Inoue as we would have liked, with the Monster's career stalling in part due to the injuries he suffered against Donaire, and in part due to the Pandemic, which made it nearly impossible to stage big bouts in Japan during 2020 and 2021. As a result Inoue has fought just 3 times in that time period and none of the bouts were huge ones against the divisional elite. Instead they were his Las Vegas debut in October 2020 against the capable Jason Moloney, a mandatory against the underwhelming Michael Dasmarinas and a homecoming defense against the brave but massive over-matched Aran Dipaen. There had been plans for a bout against John Riel Casimero, but that was cancelled due to the pandemic and never re-arranged, unfortunately, before Casimero was stripped of the WBO title.
Notably however the inactivity likely served Inoue well, allowing him a lot of time to heal up from the injuries he suffered to Donaire. He wasn't forced to rush back from what is a serious injury, and was instead able to take his time, and when he returned against Jason Moloney almost a year after that clash with Donaire he looked 100% the fighter he had been previously. He seemed very much the Monster we all know and love.
As we all know Inoue, arguably the face of Japanese boxing over the last few years, is indeed the Monster. He's one of the few fighters in the sport who really can do it all. He can play the boxer, the boxer-puncher, the counter-puncher and the pressure fighter, and has the tools in his arsenal to really pick and choose what he wants to do and when he wants to do it. He has brutal power, which has carried up from Light Flyweight to Bantamweight and is likely to carry up at least another division, if not two. He has incredible handspeed, impressive footspeed and worryingly for he also has an incredibly quick boxing brain. That boxing brain sees him seeing things before they even look to be there, including counter opportunities and defensive gaps that he can exploit. He's an offensive freak but is also a defensively under-rated fighter, with only Donaire really landing much of note on him since his 2012 debut, and has an incredible jaw, that saw withstand Donaire's much patented left hook.
Aged 39 Nonito Donaire should be retired, he should have his feet up, looking back on a great in ring career and either working with the new generation of fighters or using his brain as an analyst. Or even just walking away from boxing and enjoying one of his many hobbies away from the ring. Instead he's proving that a fighter who looks after themselves can give father time a bit of a fight, and still remain one of the most dangerous fighters in the sport. And when we talk about Donaire he really is dangerous, and has a very misleading KO ratio, of just 58.33%, despite being one of the heaviest handed fighters in the sport on a pound for pound basis. His power is legitimate and as he's gotten older, and lost some speed, he's adapted. He's not the same fighter he was, as a young Donaire was sharp, quick and destructive, but he's altered his in ring style to be deliberate, and has moved from a counter-puncher of sorts, to more of a stalking monster looking to take opponents heads off when he lands.
Donaire, who has won titles from Flyweight to Featherweight, is a first ballot Hall of Famer when he retires, and his resume reads like a who's who of who, of the lower weights from the last 15 years. Wins over Vic Darchinyan, Moruti Mthalane, Hernan Marquez, Fernando Montiel, Toshiaki Nishioka, Jorge Arce, Ryan Burnett and Nordine Oubaali are just a handful of his wins. Even since the Inoue fight in 2019 he has scored notable wins stopping the then 17-0 Oubaali in 4 rounds and the then 24-0 Reymart Gaballo, further enhancing his reputation as a modern great.
Early in his career Donaire lived up to the moniker of the "Filipino Flash". He was lightning quick, with great timing, vicious power but some what poor boxing skills. His power and speed allowed him to get away with making mistakes, and bailed him out of bad situations. With his speed gone now a days, he has changed into a fighter who uses his size, and his ridiculously big frame at Bantamweight, along with his incredibly chin, to take when he needs to. He applies intense stalking pressure now a days. It's slow, it's deliberate, but it's hard to deal with given he still has excellent timing and is happy to take a shot to land a shot. The change in style is almost a reinvention of a fighter, and it's one that has seen him have success well beyond the typical age of a Bantamweight, of almost any fighter for that matter. It's a change that has allowed him to have success in the last part of his career, and whilst it won't forever, he will remain a threat to all the top fighters at 118lbs, due to his toughness, power, size and timing.
In their first bout the expectation was that Inoue was going to slay Donaire, stopping him and sending him into retirement. Had that happened it's fair to say Donaire would have been downplayed as being shot, and old. The fact he gave Inoue a tough bout saw both men enhancing their profiles and their positions. For Donaire to then bounce back and blast out Oubaali and prove he was still an elite level Bantamweight further enhanced both men, and coming into the Donaire is older than he was, but is also, arguably, standing in a better position than he was in 2019.
Sadly for Donaire however, we don't see him having the same success he had in the first bout with Inoue. Instead we expect to see Inoue being smarter, sharper and using his brain more. He knows what Donaire's left hook can do, and he also knows Donaire can be hurt to the body, with a liver shot sending Donaire down in their first bout. We suspect that will be the key for Inoue here, as he uses his speed, to target the body of Donaire, landing single shots to to slowly take the wind out of Donaire in the early part of the fight. Single shots from Inoue, who will look to get in and get out, draw Donaire into mistakes and tag the body. In the later rounds those body shots will take a toll, force Donaire to defend his body, before Inoue goes up top with a burst of head shots, forcing a stoppage in the later rounds.
After the bout, win or lose, we expect to see Donaire retire sailing off in to the sunset as a modern legend. Likewise we expect this to be either the final, or penultimate, Bantamweight bout for Inoue who will move up to Super Bantamweight and begin to hunt world titles in his 4th weight class.
Prediction - TKO10 Inoue
This coming Saturday we'll see IBF Super Featherweight champion Kenichi Ogawa (26-1-1-1, 18) seek his first defense, as he travels to Wales and takes on unbeaten Welsh challenger Joe Cordina (14-0, 8). The bout will see Ogawa making his European debut, having twice fought in the US along with 27 bouts in Japan, whilst Cordina will be getting his first world title bout. The contest will also be a really interesting one, as one of the top hopes of the UK steps up from European level to face a dangerous puncher with true world class power.
Of the two men Ogawa is, as a world champion, the more established in the professional ranks. He debuted in 2010 and slowly built himself on the Japanese scene before winning the IBF title last year. His route to the top is somewhat a traditional route in Japan, winning the Rookie of the Year, which he did in 2011, before winning a Japanese title, which he did in 2015, climbing up the world rankings, and finally winning a world when he beat Azinga Fuzile last November. Despite following something of a traditional Japanese route, he's not always followed Japanese tradition. He was once stripped of the IBF title for a failed drug test, becoming the first Japanese fighter to be stripped for such a reason, and he is also one of the few Japanese fighters to have won a world title in the US. In fact if he wins this bout he will also become the first ever Japanese fighter to successfully defend a world title in Europe*.
In the ring Ogawa doesn't do a lot amazingly well and watching him we don't see a fighter with incredible reflexes, or amazing speed. Instead however he fights to his strengths, which include a destructive right hand, patience, a good chin and great focus. We have seen him out boxed in the past, and we have seen fighters prove that he struggles with movement, as Satoru Sugita showed twice, but with his power, his determination and his controlled aggression he is a real danger man who keeps his power late in bouts. His right hand is his main weapon, especially against southpaws, but he also has solid power in his jab and hook, which he does mix into his attacks when he needs to. If anything he can be made to look lazy, but at the same time he is very much controlled in his aggress. With wins against the likes of Deivi Julio Bassa, who was unbeaten at the time, Rikki Naito, Kazuhiro Nishitani and Azinga Fuzile, he has a solid resume, but one that is very much under-rated.
Aged 30 Joe Cordina is regarded as one of the big hopes of British boxing, specifically Welsh boxing. Cordina turned professional in 2017, and did so with a lot of expectations on his shoulders following an excellent amateur career. His time as an amateur saw him winning a gold medal at the European Championships in 2015 and a Bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. He also competed at the 2016 Olympics, beating Filipino Charly Suarez before losing to Hurshid Tojibaez in the second round. When he turned professional he started fact and stopped his first 4 opponents in the first round, in less than 5 months whilst fighting at both Super Featherweight and Lightweight. Within a year of his debut he won his first title, a WBA International title, before adding the Commonwealth title a few months later and then the British title a few months after that. By the end of 2019 he seemed to have some momentum building in his career, but sadly that momentum was derailed in 2020 when the pandemic kept him out of the ring for a full year. Thankfully for him he did bounce back in 2021 with 3 wins, with the most notable of those being a razor thin majority decision over Faroukh Kourbanov, but it does feel like this is a notable step up for him, from European level to world level.
During his career Cordina has been both praised for his skills, speed and slickness. And criticised for his lack of finishing and questionable power. He's a fighter who is clearly skilled, and the Welshman is a brilliantly talented southpaw boxer-puncher, with crisp clean punches, a nice sharp jab, good feints and really nice speed, both with his hand and upper body. He can be a little flat footed and although a fighter who looks relaxed and composed we do wonder whether he can still be composed and calm when he's facing someone with genuine fight changing power. In fact if we're being honest Cordina, since turning professional, hasn't really faced someone who's a puncher. Saying that he does appear to have good defense, though few fighters he has faced have ever really had the tools to even come close to unpicking him.
Historically Japanese fighters have not had great results in Europe. There are only a handful of wins by Japanese fighters in Europe, with the most notable being a win by Naoya Inoue against Emmanuel Rodriguez in 2019 for the IBF Bantamweight title. And it's fair to say that Ogawa will be the under-dog here. Despite that Ogawa has shown his ability on the road, as seen in his win over Fuzile, and he has typically enjoyed fighting southpaws, with his "Crush Right" being a devastating weapon against lefties. If Cordina can either avoid that right hand, or neutralise it all together, he has a really good chance of out boxing and out skilling Ogawa. If he gets caught however this could be a painful night for him. We suspect, over 12 rounds, Ogawa will land, and will land something big, even against someone with the defensive skills of Cordina.
Prediction - TKO11 Ogawa
*Naoya Inoue's WBA "Regular" Bantamweight title wasn't being defended when he fought Emmanuel Rodriguez for the IBF title in 2019 as part of World Boxing Super Series.
It's rare that Japan gets to host one of the biggest and most anticipated fights of the year, but that's exactly what we get this Saturday as we finally get to see the Middleweight mega clash between Gennadiy Golovkin (41-1-1, 36) and Ryota Murata (16-2, 13). The bout will not just be a huge bout for Japan, but also the boxing world, and a huge Middleweight unification bout, as Golovkin risks his IBF title against WBA "Super" champion Murata. It is also the culmination of years of chasing by Murata and his team for a super fight, with Golovkin having been on Murata's wish list for the better part of a decade, along with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.
Whilst the bout has long been spoken about in Japan it often seemed out of reach for Murata and Teiken. That was until last year when a deal was finally agreed to have the bout in Japan, in December. Sadly though the best laid plans of Teiken were unable to go ahead when the Omicron variant of Coronavirus was discovered, leading to the Japanese government closing the borders and preventing Golovkin for travelling for the bout, and forcing it to be postponed until this coming weekend. Despite the delay the bout remains one of the most notable bouts on the schedule, and one that promises genuine fireworks. It also, could, end up being the final time we see one, if not both, of these men in the ring.
Of the two fighters the more well known, by far, is Golovkin. "GGG" has been a fixture on the global boxing scene as both and amateur and a professional. As an amateur he was a stellar fighter who won a whole host of notable honours. He was a World Championship gold medal winner, a multi-time World Cup winner, an Asian Championship gold medal winner winner and an Olympic silver medal winner. In over 350 amateur bouts he only suffered a handful of losses, and turned professional with a lot of expectation on his shoulders.
Sadly the early part of Golovkin's professional career was somewhat wasted, as he was tucked away on Universum cards in Germany. When he finally left Universum there was a delay in him really getting his career going due to contractual issues with Universum and it wasn't until 2012, aged 30, that he finally got a chance to fight in the US. By that point Golovkin was 23-0 (20) and had held the WBA "regular" title for almost 2 years. Since 2012 however he has been one of the faces of boxing, with regular bouts in the US and wins over fighters like Gabe Rosado, Daniel Geale, David Lemieux, Kell Brook, Daniel Jacobs and Sergiy Derevyanchenko, as well as two sensational battles with Saul Alvarez, which saw Golovkin going 0-1-1 against the Mexican icon.
We don't think we really need to go into Golovkin's style too much, but for those few who haven't followed him through the years, the Kazakh is a massive punching fighter, who applies intelligent, constant and intense pressure. He combines an impressive work rate, with very heavy hands, an incredibly chin, and incredibly good technical skills. Looking for flaws with Golovkin isn't as tough as it once was. In the past his defense was his major flaw, though given his chin it perhaps wasn't much of a flaw. Now a days though he has slowed significantly, his footwork isn't what it once was, although he was never quick he has seemingly slowed down with the bouts against Steve Rolls and Sergiy Derevyanchenko, in 2019, suggesting cracks were showing. Also, at the age of 40 and having been inactive since December 2020, it's hard to know what he still has in the tank, and what he can still do in the ring. He looked great against Kamil Szeremeta, but Szeremeta offered very little and was stopped again just 6 months later, by Jamie Munguia, before being held to a draw at the end of 2021 by Nizar Trimech. It could well be that that bout flattered Golovkin, rather than showed a resurgence from the Kazakh.
As for Murata, like Golovkin he was also a very good amateur, and had a style suited to the professional ranks. Among his amateur accomplishments are a world championship silver medal and an Olympic gold medal. Unlike Golovkin though he wasn't a major star on the unpaid ranks for long, and only really had a stretch of a year or two where he made a huge amount of noise, before eventually turning professional in 2013. As a professional he moved pretty quickly, beating the OPBF champion on debut, and scored a string of solid wins to begin his career. His first 10 opponents had a combined 188-39-10 record, showing the strength of his early competition, and he was fighting in 10 rounders as early as his 4th bout. Sadly though his performance were somewhat hit and miss, and there was times where he seemed to go through the motions, rather than show what he can really do. When he has put his foot on the gas, and things have clicked, he has shone, such as his stoppage wins against Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam, Rob Brant and Steven Butler.
As mentioned, when it comes to Murata's performances they have been hit and miss. At times he can look plodding, ponderous, and almost disinterested. This was seen in 2018 when he was dominated by Rob Brant. It seemed, in many ways, he had over-looked Brant, and had come in incredibly flat. When he's on form however he's a big, strong, powerful, pressure fighter, who uses a tight high guard, a stiff jab, and a huge ramrod right hand to break opponents down. His chin is solid, his work rate is decent, and physically he's a very scary fighter. He's not the busiest, or the sharpest, but he can change tempo really well, and when he lets his combinations go he can look brutal, and has dismantled very solid fighters. He is made for TV, with his offensive prowess and his defensive flaws alongside his brutal thudding power, though often looks a bit basic. Aged 36 he'll know that this is his likely his last chance to make a mark on the wider boxing world, and a win over Golovkin would certainly do that, but he has also been very inactive, having not fought since the end of 2019, something that could really hurt him here.
In their primes, there is no debating the result of this bout. Golovkin would win every time. But neither man is in their prime anymore. Golovkin is now 40, he has visible slowed in bouts, and although the much better technical boxer, his slowing feet might allow Murata to force his will on the bout more than many would expect. Likewise Murata isn't in his prime but he's a big old brute at the division, and will trudge forward looking to use his size and strength, though might not be able to pull the trigger like a 30 or 31 year old can.
One thing is for certain. Both of these guys are aggressive. Both like to let their hands go and see defense as something that really isn't their strong point. That could lead to this becoming something of a fire fight up close and personal, with both leaning into and on top of the other man, unleashing shots and mid and close range, in a battle of machismo. If that happens we, as fans, are in for a treat, and could end up with something very special, despite both men being on the older side of things.
If Golovkin's legs are still youthful and bouncy enough, he should have enough to dictate the tempo, and control Murata at mid range and more than hold his own up close. If that happens Golovkin takes either stoppage or wide decision. If Murata can however get inside, and make this a battle of wills, he has a genuine chance of an upset, in an all out war, thanks to the age of Golovkin.
Whilst we can see a potential route to victory for Murata, we would still deem that a very big upset, and a genuine surprise. With that in mind we are expecting to see Golokin win, but go through hell to take the W in a bruising, brutal, tough, bout.
Prediction - TKO10 Golovkin
On March 19th we'll see the second defense of the IBF Flyweight title by slippery unbeaten English fighter Sunny Edwards (17-0, 4) as he takes on Pakistani fighter Muhammad Waseem (12-1, 8) in Dubai, in a very interesting looking bout which could see Edwards stamp his claim as one of the best in the division, or could see Waseem put Pakistan on the boxing map and become the first world champion from the South Asian country, finally living up to the promise he showed at the start of his professional career. The bout is a must win for both men, and is one where the skills of the two men, should make for a genuinely excellent bout, though sadly it may well be coming whilst the two are at very different points of their careers.
The ?? year old Edwards is one of the most under-rated fighters in the sport today, and for much of the early portion of his career he was over-shadowed by brother Charlie Edwards, a former WBC Flyweight champion, who was regarded by many as the better fighter. Today however it appears that the more slippery Sunny is the better boxer of the two brothers. His career started slowly, tucked away on Fran Warren shows, mostly against domestic competition, but in 2021 he broke out in a huge way, as he comfortably out boxed wily old veteran Moruti Mthalane to claim the IBF title. That win was a huge one for the division, and although it was a stylitically easy one for the fleet footed Edwars, it was an impressive show case of his concentration, stamina, focus and speed, as he preverented Mthalane from closing the distance and neutralised the South African's pressure round after round. Since winning the title he has defended the belt once, beating Filipino Jayson Mama, with a wide decision back in December.
Edwards is a wonderfully skilled technical boxer, arguably one of the best in and around the lower weights. He's fleet footed, slippery as an eel and has impressive handspeed, timing, and understanding of range. Sadly for him he does lack power, stoppages are incredibly rare during his career, and whilst he lands plenty he can't regularly make opponents back away, despite consistently landing clean blow. Whilst he does land clean on a consistent basis, opponents don't. In fact opponents regularly fall short, or at best land on arms, and are often beaten mentally just as much as physically. Although he hasn't been tagged regularly through his career, there is some positives for his opponents, as we have seen him dropped before, and we've also seen him pick up injuries in fights, and in fact he struggled in one or two bouts at domestic level, something the other top Flyweights will see as a chink in his armour. Notable his lack of power will also see the other top Flyweight look to take extra risks, to drag him into a fire fight, something that the likes of Ricardo Sandoval, Seigo Yuri Akui and Julio Cesar Martinez would feel comfortable in doing.
Whilst the 26 year old champion is coming in to his prime the challenge is certainly not, in fact at 34 years old Waseem would become one of the oldest men to win a Flyweight title were he to pick up the upset win here. Sadly for him his career has been a hugely frustrating one since turning professional in 2015, in South Korea. It has been a career that has seen funds being promised but not deliver, and has seen stretches of inactivity, and really not gone the way he, and those that have worked with him, would have hoped. He began his career in a 10 round title bout, scored a very notable win just 13 months later, beating Giemel Magramo and then things really ground to a halt with 3 meaningless wins in Panama before he got a shot Moruti Mthalane for the IBF title in 2018. That bout showed what Waseem could do, as he lost a razor thin decision against the brilliant South African, but since then he has fought just 4 times, and struggled to get a major fight during that time, and has looked somewhat demotivated by the sport at times, notably against Ganigan Lopez.
At his best Waseem was a brilliant boxer-puncher, who took a wealth of amateur experience to the professional ranks, and looked like someone who was going to be a star for Pakistani boxing. His early work with Korean promoter Andy Kim seemed to have him on the fast track to the top, but a lack of financial backing slowed that rise, drastically. Now a days it does seem like some of his sharpness has faded with time and he's not as quick, explosive, or sharp as he once was. He's still very capable, but he doesn't look the same fighter that had excited us early in his career, and had come so close to stopping Mthalane in 2018. In fact he now looks some what over-patient, in recent bouts, and whilst technically excellent, there is a lack of fire in some of his performance and we're only seeing glimpses of how good he was, just a few short years ago.
We'll be honest, we would love Waseem to win, putting Pakistan on the boxing map, giving the country it's first world champion, and helping potentially ignite a love of boxing in a country that is cricket mad. A prime Waseem could well have managed that, with his pressure, physicality, and power. With a 34 year old Waseem however the difference between the two men will be foot speed, with Edwards being too light on his feet, too quick with his hands and too slippery. Waseem will commit to coming forward, applying pressure, but much like Edwards' win over Mthalane, we see father time playing a notable role in this bout, and the stylistic strength of Edwards being too much for Waseem to over-come.
Prediction - UD12 Edwards
One of the biggest disappointments of 2021 was the late cancellation of the planned Super Flyweight unification bout between IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas (33-1-2, 22) and Kazuto Ioka, which was supposed to take place on December 31st before the rise of Omicron lead to Japan closing it's borders and not allowing Ancajas into the country. As a result Ioka kept his New Year's Eve date, and scored and under-whelming win over Ryoji Fukunaga, whilst Ancajas looked for a new opponent to kick off 2022. That new opponent, for the Filipino, turned out to be the unbeaten, and unheralded, Fernando Daniel Martinez (13-0, 8), from Argentina. On paper the bout isn't the huge fight that Ancajas would have got had he faced Ioka, but it's also not a gimmie for the "Pretty Boy", and it could be a potential banana skin against someone who is very, very easy to over-look.
As we write this Ancajas is among the longest reigning current world champions in the sport. The talented Filipino won the IBF Super Flyweight title way back in 2016, when he upset McJoe Arroyo, and has defended it 9 times since then. Despite his lengthy reign he really has lacked defenses of note, and instead of mixing with the divisional elite, such as Roman Gonzalez and Sriskaet Sor Rungvisai, he has been busy dealing with the likes of Teiru Kinoshita, Jamie Conlan and Ryuichi Funai. In a division as packed as the Super Flyweight one over the last 6 years, his reign has been thoroughly under-whelming, and he has seemingly been happy to tick along amassing defenses without challenging himself against the top dogs. Worryingly for him however he has now been real tests by some of his lesser known challengers, with Alexandro Santiago fighting him to a very questionable draw and Jonathan Javier Rodriguez Valles giving him all he could handle last year. He was supposed to answer questions about his ability with the Ioka fight, but sadly, as we mentioned, that was cancelled due to the Japanese response to Omicron, costing what would have been an excellent match up. Interestingly there is also some questions as to whether or not he is simply out growing the division, and doing what he can to hold off a move up in weight, especially given the tricky task of winning a title in the current Bantamweight division.
Despite his frustrating reign as the IBF champion there is no denying that Ancajas is a talented boxer. He's a very tidy, smooth fighter, with lovely combinations, excellent speed, and light movement. He is a joy to watch in full flow and is one of the most eye pleasing fighters to watch. Sadly though he does seem to lack really concussive power, breaking fighters down rather than blasting them out, and pressure can be a major problem for him. Despite being incredibly talented, he does seem to struggle when fighters applying intelligent pressure, use their jab and come forward. Trying to out box Ancajas is not something we advise, but trying to bully him, get in his space, and prevent him from getting settled does seem to have had success, especially if a fighter can use a busy jab to apply their pressure, as Santiago did particularly well.
Aged 30 Fernando Daniel Martinez, also known as "Pumita", is relatively unknown but that's more down to a lack of fights on major shows rather than a lack of ability. He was a good amateur, competing at the 2016 Olympics among other events and also competed in the WSB, stopping Jasurbek Latipov in one of those WSB bouts and beating Vincenzo Picardi in another. Sadly as an Argentinian he hasn't had the push on major shows that he may have had had he been born in the US or the UK, and has actually had to travel for his most noteworthy professional bout, an 11th round TKO win over Athenkosi Dumezweni in South Africa for the WBC Silver Super Flyweight title. Sadly that win over Dumezweni is, by far, the most notable he's scored as a professional, and almost all of his other wins have been on the Argentinian domestic scene, something he should have been able to race through given his pedigree.
In the ring Martinez is aggressive, has solid power, and likes to make a fight. He's got pretty solid defense for an aggressive fighter, uses a lot of upper body movement, and comes forward a lot with shots that are thrown with bad intentions. He's not the quickest, or sharpest but he looks tough, doesn't mind making things messy, and looks like a really physically strong guy at the weight, who brings pressure, and comes to fight and does seem to like to finish opponents off. Although clearly aggressive and talented, he has been lucky that his opponents haven't, on the whole, been able to make him pay for his rather straight forward aggression, and although he has nice upper body movement he does appear to have a rather open guard, something that a fighter like Ancajas could punish. Dumezweni had success at mid range, and made Martinez fall short quite a bit when he established ranged and that is something that Ancajas will be looking to reproduce here. Likewise Angel Nicolas Aquino also had moments against Martinez when eh created space.
Martinez is very clearly dangerous, and his aggressive, come forward style is something that has given Ancajas trouble in the past. The pressure, the toughness and the physical strength of the Argentinian will certainly have real moments of success against Ancajas. Notably though we do feel like Martinez's slower foot work, and the he can be made to reach, will give Ancajas chances to counter. We suspect after a few rounds of good counters from the Filipino Martinez will begin to show him some respect, and when that happens we see life getting easier for the smoother, more natural boxing skills of Ancajas.
The Filipino will have to grit out some real tough moments here, but we see him doing enough to take a very, very, very hard fought decision and retain his title. This will not be easy for Ancajas, though we dare say he's facing Martinez at just the right time. Martinez probably needed and extra bout, or two, at a decent level before stepping in with someone like Ancajas. This is a huge step up for Martinez and one that we're not totally he's quite ready for.
Prediction - UD12 Ancajas
In 2021 we saw Rene Mark Cuarto (19-2-2, 11)claim the biggest win of his career, defeating Pedro Taduran (14-3-1, 11) to claim the IBF Minimumweight title, in a still rare all-Filipino world title bout. This coming Saturday, 11 months after their first bout, the men will be facing off again, with Cuarto seeking his first defense, and Taduran looking to become only the third man to reclaim the title.
In their first bout it was Taduran was seeking his second defense he had won the belt in 2019, stopping Samuel Salva in a really fun 4 rounder, with his first defense coming in 2020 when a head clash forced a technical draw against Daniel Valladares. Had it not been for the pandemic we suspect there would have been a rematch of that bout, but instead the pandemic limited travel, and Minimumweight world title bouts became few and far between. As a result Taduran took more than a year year to return following his first defense, as he took on Taduran and lost a close and competitive 12 round decision bout. For Cuarto the win was the biggest of his career, by far, and that came despite the fact he had been out of the ring for well over a year himself.
The key to the first bout was the style clash between the two men. Taduran was the aggressor, taking center ring and often chasing Cuarto around the ring. Cuarto on the other hand used a lot of movement, picked nice counter shots, and prevented Taduran from really setting his feet and letting big shots go. It was a smart game plan from Cuarto and one that, ultimately, won him the fight, though one that really didn't leave a lot of margin for error over 12 rounds, the negativity could have cost him, had the judges swung just a single round against him.
Notably we expect that first bout to be very, very similar to how the rematch will go. Cuarto will continue to use the ring, move around, use his counter punching and look to draw errors from Taduran, errors he can counter. As for Taduran we expect him to be more aggressive, more intense and hungrier than he was in the first bout. At times he was following Cuarto, rather than cutting the ring off. This time around we expect to see more him using body shots early to take Cuarto's legs away, side stepping to cut the ring down rather than following his man, and timing Cuarto better than he did in their first bout.
Of the two men it's hard to argue that Cuarto is the better boxer. He showed that in their first bout. He's a crisper puncher, a better mover, picks his shots better and holds when he needs to. However Taduran is the stronger fighter, the bigger puncher and arguably the tougher man. He needs to make those traits matter here. He needs to be aggressive, more so than last time, and he needs to bully Cuarto around up close. Especially in the early rounds. Sap his energy, and make Cuarto work harder to create space.
Interestingly we suspect this bout will see Taduran take home the victory, with him coming in much hungrier than he did in his first bout. It won't be tidy, and it won't be clean, and Cuarto will try to make the bout messier and messier it as it goes longer, but we see the judges siding with the former champion, his aggression, his work rate, and his forward march, rather than Cuarto's movement, boxing and somewhat negative tricks.
Given how tired Cuarto seemed at times in their first bout there is a chance he could be stopped, but instead we expect his survival tactics will keep him in the bout, but he will come up short on the cards.
Prediction - UD12 Taduran
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.