On October 31st we'll see Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16) return to the ring for what is likely to be his only bout of 2020. The WBA "super" and IBF Bantamweight champion will be defending his straps against Australian challenger Jason Moloney (21-1, 18) in what will be Inoue's Las Vegas debut. The bout was put on due to the less than ideal situation we've seen the world in in 2020, though is certainly not a terrible bout, even if it wasn't the bout we all wanted to see at the start of the year.
Earlier in the year we had hoped to see Inoue defending his titles against WBO champion John Riel Casimero, in what would have been a triple title unification bout. That bout was ear marked for April, though when the world was essentially frozen whilst countries tried to cope with the ongoing global situation, the bout was postponed, and postponed, and postponed, and eventually cancelled. Casimero went his own way, defending his title against Duke Micah back in September, and as a result Inoue was allowed to go his own way, and landed a fight with the highly ranked Moloney.
Amazingly the two men were actually very, very close to fight in 2019. That's when both men were part of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) and were on the same side of the draw. On October 7th 2018 Inoue blasted out Juan Carlos Payano in one of the most eye catching WBSS performances. His next round was against the winner of Jason Moloney Vs Emmanuel Rodriguez, with Rodriguez winning a split decision. We were literally one judge away from seeing these two men clash last year.
Regardless we're here now, and we're about to see them fight, so lets take a look at the men and the way we expect it to go.
The 27 year old Inoue is the jewel in the crown of Japanese boxing. Since turning professional in 2012 he has been on the fast track to the top. In just his third bout he beat the highly regarded Yuki Sano, claimed the Japanese Light Flyweight title in his 4th bout, the OPBF title in his fifth bout and his first world title in his 6th. All of that came in the space of just 18 months. From there on he has blossomed into a star of boxing, drawing the attention of fans around the globe and claiming notable scalp, after notable scalp. In just 19 bouts he has already beaten not just Taguchi but Adrian Hernandez, Omar Andres Narvaez, Kohei Kono, Jamie McDonnell, Juan Carlos Payano, Emmanuel Rodriguez and Nonito Donaire. Across those 19 fights only Donaire has really had success again Inoue, who has long been dubbed the "Monster".
In the ring Inoue is a fantastic boxer-puncher. He's naturally heavy handed, and his power has carried up from Light Flyweight to Bantamweight with no issues, he's a clean puncher, with incredible handspeed, timing, combinations and footwork. Whilst many top fighters in the sport are extremely good defensively Inoue is an offensive machine, and despite not always being the biggest man in the ring, he is usually the stronger man, and the one dictating the bout, usually from the center of the ring. Although an offensive machine Inoue is a solid defensive fighter, though he's not often had to show that side of what he can do in the ring due to his imposing offensive ability.
Despite being a fantastic fighter there are a bunch of question marks hanging over Inoue's head. Firstly whether or not he's 100% fit for this bout? After all the bout against Donaire resulted in a very nasty eye injury. Second is he going to be rusty after almost a year out? Or count he even be over-trained? After a training camp for a bout with Casimero in April as well as a training camp for this bout
It's fair to say Inoue is the very clear favourite heading in to the bout, but he's certainly not the only man who will be in the ring as Jason Moloney will be there as the hungry under-dog.
The Australian challenger is a 29 year old who debuted in 2014, after being a successful amateur, and, along with brother Andrew, was tipped for major success in the professional ranks. For many years Moloney was busy getting professional experience against regional level fighters, running up numerous wins against Filipino fighters. In 2018 he finally stepped up and easily stopped former world champion Immanuel Naidjala, before scoring a TKO win against former Inoue opponent Kohei Kono. His momentum was growing and he was 17-0 (14) when he entered the WBSS.
Sadly for Moloney his unbeaten record would go in October 2018 when he lost the aforementioned split decision to Emmanuel Rodriguez, who was the then IBF champion. This was a very competitive loss, and a great showing by Moloney, who enhanced his reputation in defeat. He had gone from being an unknown outside of the Asia Pacific scene to a man regarded as a legitimate world class Bantamweight.
Following the loss to Rodriguez we've seen Moloney pick up 4 wins, all by stoppage. They included a win this past June against Leonardo Baez in what was Moloney's Las Vegas debut, and was partly responsible for allowing this bout to take place.
In the ring Moloney is a really, really good boxer. He's got solid power, though not the destructive power of Inoue, he's a very nice mover, very fluid with his foot and hand speed, and a fantastic combination puncher. Every show he throws looks stinging and he's happy to let them go on the inside or the outside. He's also very good at getting in, letting shots go, and getting out. On a punch for punch basis he's less offensively impressive than Inoue, but is still a very good boxer, who has rebuilt brilliantly following his loss to Rodriguez.
As with Inoue there are questions over Moloney. For example what's his chin really like? This is the first time he's taken on a world class puncher, so can he handle it? Will he be able to handle such a big occasion? Has he got a plan B, C and D? As he'll need them against a man like Inoue.
We've seen some fan try to downplay this fight. We'll be honest, we would have preferred the Inoue Vs Casimero bout, of course we would. However Moloney is a world class fighter, he's a better boxer than Casimero, though a much less dangerous puncher and a less experienced fighter. Moloney has got the ability to test Inoue, push Inoue and really ask questions of the "Monster", especially if Inoue is rusty or feeling the effects of last year's war with Donaire.
We expect quite a slow start, with Inoue taking center ring and Moloney showing a lot of caution to Inoue's power. A lot of respect from both. By round 2 or 3 we would expect Inoue to be putting his foot on the gas, pressing more, and cutting the distance. When that happens his brutal body shots will kick in, and we'll see Inoue begin to grind down Moloney.
We would be surprised if that was where Moloney moved to plan B, as mentioned earlier he'll need it. It'll need to be a really good plan B however, and we're not sure it'll be good enough. He'll need to cope with Inoue's power and pressure. Sadly we see that power and pressure, eventually causing cracks, and those cracks widening, until Inoue forces a stoppage somewhere in the middle of the bout.
Prediction - TKO6 Inoue
After a few weeks low level action for Asian fighters this coming Saturday sees things step up in a big way with 3 world title bouts taking place on the same day, including a female world title fight in Japan and a Bantamweight world title fight in the US. Of those title bouts the most interesting comes from the UK as unified Light Welterweight champion Josh Taylor (16-0, 12) defends his WBA and IBF titles against little known Thai challenger Downua Ruawaiking (16-0, 13), also known as Apinunm Khongsong.
On paper this is really well matched between two men with almost identical numbers on their record. In reality however the bout is widely regarded as a mismatch with the 29 year old champion being regarded as a very clear favourite, and the Thai challenger being an almost unknown, despite entering as the IBF mandatory title challenger. Despite that this is certainly not a gimme and could be a very interesting bout, at least for a few rounds.
The talented Josh Taylor has been a rare fast-tracked British fighter, who knew he was good, believed in himself and avoided the often tedious record padding that many British fighters have. In just his 11th bout he stopped former world champion Miguel Vazquez, becoming the first man to stop the tricky Mexican. Less than a year after being Vazquez he had notched a solid win over Viktor Postol and began his campaign in the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS), stopping Ryan Martin. By the end of 2019 he had managed to win the WBSS as well as unifying the IBF and WBA titles and take the unbeaten records of Ivan Baranchyk and Regis Prograis, build his reputation massively.
In the ring Taylor can box, brawl, bring and fight on the inside, despite what Andre Ward may think. He can sometimes be too willing to engage on an inside war, when sometimes he would fair better at mid-range. He's a very talented boxer, has solid hand speed, spiteful power, great work rate, good stamina, impressive physical strength and proved his toughness in a war with Prograis last time out. The real question with Taylor is how many hard battles does he had in him, and he's already had a few, and whether out of the ring issues will become a bigger issue than they have so far. Those out of the ring issues include being arrested in December and splitting with his long term trainer in January.
At 24 years old the Thai challenger is a youngster and is very much a man who has gotten his shot due to a single big win in an eliminator, rather than a string of strong wins. After turning professional in 2016 he was matched relatively softly, with his best wins coming over Adam Diu Abdulhamid and Sonny Katiandagho. Having won 14 in a row the Thai finally stepped up in 2019 and shone as he knocked out the teak tough Akihiro Kondo in an IBF world title eliminator, to earn this shot. That was a result that saw many in Asia sit up and take note of the Thai, especially given Kondo's notorious tough chin that had seen him last 12 rounds with the heavy handed Sergey Lipinets.
Downua has not fought anything close to the level of competition that Josh Taylor has fought to, though he has passed the eye test, for the most part. He's a big, rangy guy at the weight, who's listed at 5'10" though often looks bigger. He looks very relaxed in the ring and like a man with a lot more experience than his record suggests. His hand speed is relatively solid and he does like using straight punches at range, with his jab being one of his key weapons and he does have nice foot speed and movement. Sadly he can be seen dropping his hands and backing up in straight lines at times. Offensively he looks good, both at range and up close, with his KO of Kondo coming from an uppercut, but he does make a lot of mistakes defensively. Mistakes he has been able to get away with due to the low level of competition he's been in with.
We do see Downua posing some questions of Taylor, especially given Taylor's change in trainer, and likely a change in style. For 3 or 4 rounds the length, movement and jab of Downua will make things frustrating for the Scottish star. When Taylor finds his timing however we suspect Taylor will put his foot on the gas and begin to break down the Thai and score a stoppage over the Thai in the second half of the fight.
Interestingly this is likely to be one of Taylor's last fights at 140lbs with talk being that he will seek a 4 title unification next year and then potentially move up in weight, to join the ranks at Welterweight.
Prediction - TKO8 Taylor
The Minimumweight division is in a weird place right now. The champions seem to be showing no intention of unifying their titles and instead we essentially have 4 champions each picking their way through contenders in a division that really hasn't caught fire for a few years. We've thankfully got some some interesting contenders breaking through but it could be a while before any of them taking on one of the division top dogs.
Thankfully the year does kick off with an interesting bout in the division as IBF champion Pedro Taduran (14-2, 11) travels to Mexico and defends his title in early February, taking on once beaten Mexican Daniel Valladares (22-1, 13) in a mouth watering match up.
The 23 year old Taduran won the title last September, when he upset fellow Filipino Samuel Salva in a 4 round thriller. That was Taduran's second shot at a world title after a 2018 loss in a WBC title bout to Wanhen Menayothin. Despite losing to Menayothin we were impressed by Taduran who showed great aggression and energy, and outside of the Philippines, with a better referee than Stephen Blea, things could have been different. His title win over Salva saw Taduran score a 4th stoppage in 5 bouts, having also taken out Jeffrey Galero, Jerry Tomogdan and Philip Luis Cuerdo.
Fighting out of the southpaw stance Taduran's is an awkward fighter to face. He looks easy to hit due to a relative lack of defense, and he is there to be tagged by straight right hands. Saying that however he's still a total nightmare to face due to his high work rate and nasty power. He's one of those fighters who knows that his best defense is actually his offense and it will take a very good fighter to neutralise Taduran, without nullifying their own offense. Unlike most Minimumweights he chases a stoppage from the off, making him a real danger man to face, and not someone to get involved in a war with.
Mexican fighter Daniel Valladares has mostly fought as a Flyweight or Light Flyweight, and will be fighting as a Minimumweight for the first time when he gets in the ring with Taduran. Despite the weight concern he does make for an excellent dance partner and comes into this bout with a lot of momentum thanks to an 11 fight winning run. That run includes a win an in IBF eliminator at Light Flyweight, over the previously unbeaten Chrsitian Araneta, a win over former world champion Merlito Sabillo and a win over the then unbeaten Adrian Curiel.
In the ring Valladares is a really fun fighter to watch. He's a smart, yet aggressive pressure fighter. He has sharp movement, quick hands and despite being aggressive he is a patient fighter. He will look to create mistakes from his opponent for him to capitalise on, rather than go out wildly swinging and this could cause real issue for Taduran. It's worth noting that he has shown good form against Filipino and his win against Araneta actually came against a Filipino southpaw.
Given the styles of the two men this should be a total thriller. We would expect to see Taduran forcing the pressure and the action with his output setting the tempo, and Valladares responding with smart counters. We would expect a round or two of the two men figuring each other out, the time it takes for Taduran's engine to get going, then we expect to see the two men letting shots go freely on the inside. This will give us some amazing action.
The real question going in is how well will Valladares make 105lbs and can Taduran keep up his output in Mexico? If Valladares can make the weight safely he should be favoured, in what will be a cracking fight. If he takes too much out of his body however this will end up being a bit of a beating the Mexican. We expect Valladares to make weight, he's not looked a big guy at 108lbs, and we would slightly favour him here.
One thing we will say for this bout, is do not be surprised if this ends up being a bit of a sleeper classic!
Prediction UD12 - Valladares
Back in September we had expected to turn our attention to Madison Square Garden Theater for an excellent Super Bantamweight world title bout, pitting unified champion Daniel Roman (27-2-1, 19) against mandatory challenger Murodjon Akhmadaliev (7-0, 6). Sadly in the build up the champion was injured and the bout was forced to be delayed, and rescheduled. With it being eventually pushed back to late January. Despite the delay we are now on course for the brilliant looking match up.
The 29 year old champion, who has unified the WBA "super" and IBF Super Bantamweight titles will be making his first defense of the IBF belt and his fifth defense of the WBA crown, the first as the super champion. For Akhmadaliev, who is mandatory for the WBA title, the bout will be his first at world level as he looks to join a select few to win a world title in just his 8th professional bout.
Roman has become one of the sports most interesting champions. He won the title in 2017, stopping Shun Kubo, and announcing himself on the world stage. Prior to that win he had been knocking on the door, with wins over the likes of Adam Lopez, Christopher Martin and Christian Esquivel though it's been since winning the title that he has really impressed. After winning the belt in Japan, stopping Kubo, he returned and beat Ryo Matsumoto before beating Mosies Flores and Gavin McDonnell. Those wins built momentum, and that momentum lead to a unification bout with the then IBF champion TJ Doheny this past April. That bout was something special, with Roman dropping Doheny twice, but having the Irish-Australian warrior coming back at him with real drive and vigour. Over 12 rounds Roman did enough to win the bout and unify the belts.
After 2 losses in his first 11 bouts Roman could have been written off, though he has battled back hard, winning 19 in a row, unifying titles, taking chances and becoming the star of Thompson Boxing. The way he has turned his career around has been amazing and the fact he's travelled to Japan for 2 of those wins, and has taken 5 unbeaten records in his last 7 fights shows he isn't scared of a challenge. What Roman does really well is work. His output is excellent, he's technically solid with his shots, and despite throwing a lot he doesn't waste many. They aren't always the sharpest, or the hardest, but they are solid shots, and his engine is excellent. He combines that energy with a really gritty toughness, and although he can be hurt he grits it out, recovers quickly and comes back. If a fighter hurts him it really does seem like they should go all out to take him down, rather than give him a chance to clear the cobwebs.
Although Roman was a good amateur, which is something we don't hear much about strangely, Akhmadaliev was a sensational amateur. The Uzbek was a World Amateur Champion silver medal winner, an Olympic bronze medal winner a multi-time medal winner on the Asian and Uzbek scenes and recorded around 300 amateur wins. It's that amateur foundation that has seen him being fast-tracked through the professional ranks. In just his 4th professional contest he took on the then 15-6 Ramon Contreras for the WBA Inter-Continental title, then defended it against the world ranked IsaacZarate, to earn the mandatory position towards the end of last year. By that point he had been a professional for around 8 months! To tick over earlier this year he destroyed former world title challenger Carlos Carlson in 3 rounds.
Although a stellar amateur Akhmadaliev doesn't always fight like an amateur, in fact from the off he had a more professional style, with an aggressive mentality and almost a seek and destroy gameplan. He is constantly on the front foot, looking to break opponents down and although a touch reckless he is smart with his aggression.He's a fighter who seems to truly believe he's special, and not just because his team tell him he is. For a Super Bantamweight he's a solid puncher, he's exciting, but he is stepping up massively, from the likes of Isaac Zarate to Daniel Roman.
We'd love to see Akhmadaliev win here, setting his stall out as one of the kings of the Super Bantamweight divisions this quickly after his debut, and at just 25 years old. Sadly however we do feel it's too much too soon, and his lack of experience over the longer distance will be an issue. He's certainly has a chance against Roman, and if he's as good as he believes it's a really good chance, but we suspect he comes up short here against a man who remains one of boxing's most under-rated world champions. Worst yet for the Uzbek, we see him being ground down by Roman's pressure in the later stages, suffering a late TKO loss in a painful and gruelling defeat
Prediction- TKO11 Roman
On December 23rd in Yokohama fight fans get a really interesting card with 3 world title bouts taking place. One of those world bouts could quite fairly be described as a must win bout for both men, who know a loss will likely send them into retirement, and at very least give them little option but to seriously question their future in the sport.
That bout is the IBF Flyweight title bout, which pits current champion Moruti Mthalane (38-2, 25) against 2-weight world champion Akira Yaegashi (28-6, 16). Entering the bout the 37 year old Mthalane will be looking to make his third defense, of his second reign, whilst Yaegashi will be be looking to become a 4 time champion, just a couple of months short of his 37th birthday. For Flyweights these two men are ancient and bother are grizzled veterans.
As the champion Mthalane deserves to really be credited for what is a disappointingly over-looked career. He is a 2-time IBF Flyweight champion who first won the title in 2009, when he beat Julio Cesar Miranda, and never actually lost the belt in the ring. Instead of travelling to Thailand to defend it against the then unknown Amnat Ruenroeng for pennies he vacated it. A decision that was a bad one at a time when he needed fights, but one he finally recovered from when he became a 2-time champion in 2018.
Mthalane, from South Africa, is unbeaten in over a decade, with his last loss coming to Nonito Donaire way back in 2008 and since then he has gone 15-0 (10), with notable wins over the likes of Miranda, Zolani Tete, John Riel Casimero, Ricardo Nunez, Muhammad Waseem and most recently Masayuki Kuroda.
In the ring the champion is a crafty but aggressive pressure fighter. He's not the quickest, but he is incredibly sharp, with a very high boxing IQ and unerring accuracy. His composure is excellent and he judges distance brilliantly. He knows his way around the ring, he's a natural there, and he knows how to be aggressive but safe. Notably though he is ageing, and there's always a potential question over father time, especially for a lower weight fighter in their mid 30's. Overall he's not taken much punishment but with close to 240 rounds under his belt he as certainly racked up ring miles, and miles in training.
The challenger, Yaegashi, is a fighter who will be well known to fight fans around the globe for his list of world title bouts, and other thrillers. His first world title bout came way back in 2007, hen he lost to Eagle Den Junlaphan and suffered a nasty injury in that bout. Since then however he has proven to be a warrior, and someone with desire to not only win, but to put on a show. His 2011 bout with Pornsawan Porpramook, which he won to become the WBA Minimumweight champion, was regarded by many as the Fight of the Year, whilst his 2012 clash with Kazuto Ioka was a massive all-Japanese unification bout. He lost to Ioka but would then move up in weight to claim the WBC and Lineal Flyweight title, defending it several times before running into Roman Gonzalez, at his best. A short reign as the IBF Light Flyweight champion followed, thanks to an often forgotten battle with Javier Mendoza. After being blown out by Milan Melindo in 2017 his career looked over, but 3 stoppage wins have seen his team back him for one more big fight.
For those who haven't seen Yaegashi you've missed out on one of the sports most consistently entertaining fighters of the last decade or so. He's dubbed the Fierce Warrior in Japan and not without good reason. Win or lose he's been in violent wars, fight after fight. Win or lose his face has regularly swollen up in a grotesque mess, a proud bad of war worn with honour by Yaegashi. He's a talented boxer, with light feet and great stamina, but often that boxing ability takes a backwards step as he gets involved in brawls, using his hand speed to out fight opponents. As he's gotten older he's had more and more exchanges, and his 2018 bout with Hirofumi Mukai is a great example of the type of war Yaegashi has needlessly involved himself in.
Sadly for Yaegashi this is the type of match up that doesn't look good for him. Against slower footed fighters he can shine, he can get in, he can get his shots off and he can get out. Against fighters with sharp punches and good timing however he is countered, caught coming in and has his facial swelling playing an issue. As he's aged his punch resistance has dropped and this is a major problem against a fighter like Mthalane.
We see this as being an action fight early on, with Yaegashi taking the fight to Mthalane, getting in and out for a round or two. Then we suspect he gets caught, and his warrior mentality kicks in, before Mthalane begins to break him down, and by the middle rounds a swollen, bloodied and battered Yaegashi is finally stopped by the referee, who will have seen enough.
Prediction - TKO7 Mthalane
On December 7th we'll see IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21) defending his title against Chilean challenger Miguel Gonzalez (31-2, 8), in what will be Ancajas's 8th defense of the title. The bout is another underwhelming opponent choice for Ancajas, but a defend-able one after a bout in November fell through due to visa issues for his opponent, and this was put together on relatively short notice.
The Filipino has had one of the longest active reigns in the sport, winning the title more than 3 years ago, but it has been a very mixed reign with a lot of disappointment. He has great looked at times, and really made the most of fight against Teiru Kinoshita on a Manny Pacquiao under-card, but also looked awful at times, such as hie draw a year ago against Alejandro Santiago Barrios. More disappointing than his actual performances has been his competition, and his 7 challengers have not been the best. Sure he has had 3 mandatory challengers, but the other opponents, including Gonzalez here, have been poor limited opposition in what is a legitimately tough division. We could accept 1 or 2 easy defenses, but this is now defense number 8 and patience is wearing thin.
Whilst his competition hasn't been great Ancajas himself, is legitimately a top, top fighter in the Super Flyweight division. He's up there, in the mix, with the likes of WBA champion Kal Yafai, and equally frustrating champion, former champion Donnie Nietes and WBO champion Kazuto Ioka. We see him being behind the likes of Juan Francisco Estrada and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, but he's in the chasing pack.
Blessed with one of the most naturally eye pleasing styles in the sport Ancajas is genuine exceptional. He's a clean, sharp punching boxer, with more than enough sting on his shots to get respect at world level. He's not a banger but he sets a good, high work rate, and breaks opponents down with a constant stream of solid shots. Technically he's solid, though not elite, and is not going to be an easy man to beat.
As for Gonzalez the Chilean becomes the first world challenger from his homeland in years, but sadly it would take a huge upset for him to become a champion.
Gonzalez was once tipped as a star. He won his first 17 in a row before taking a step up and being widely out boxed by Paul Butler 2013, in London, England. A second winning run saw him move his record to 29-1, before being stopped, earlier this year, by the excellent Andrew Moloney in a WBA world title eliminator. Despite a couple of win since that loss, it's hard to defend him getting a world title fight at this point in time.
Don't get us wrong, Gonzalez is a skilled boxer. Sadlty though he lacks in the areas that a world level fighter typically needs to have. Notably he lacks power. At world level fighters will simply be able to walk though his pitty-patty shots, and land the more eye catching blows. He can't get respect of his opponents, and unlike a fighter Ivan Calderon, he isn't impossible to hit clean. Instead he's skilled, but not elite level skilled, and solid fighters, like Butler, can out box him.
We see this being a painful night for Gonzalez. He'll be there to win and represent Chile, but in reality, we suspect he'll be broken down and stopped in the second half of the fight, as Ancajas' consistency overwhelms him, and simply leaves the challenger a broken man in need of saving.
Prediction - TKO9 Ancajas
December 7th is a huge day for boxing, one of the biggest and most significant days of the year so far. We have huge shows in Saudi Arabia and New York, and other shows of note in Tokyo and Quebec, in what will be a fantastic day for fight fans. One of the many bouts of note for us is an IBF "interim" Super Bantamweight world title fight which will pit two former Asian world champions against each other in a genuinely fantastic match up. In fact despite a lot of bigger bouts taking place through the day, this might be the best of the bouts taking place.
In one corner will be former WBO Bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales (33-2, 16) whilst his opponent will be former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Ryosuke Iwasa (26-3, 16). On paper this has the hall marks of something very, very special. Not only are both fighters proven at world level, but stylistically they should make for an action packed fight with styles that should gel perfect.
The 27 year old Tapales, from the Philippines, is an aggressive, come forward fighter who fights out of the southpaw stance. Despite only being 5'4" he's proven to be a strong an awkward fighter to catch clean, and he also boasts a very misleading KO record. On paper he has a sub 50% stoppage rate, but that is due to the early part of his career. At one point he was 10-1 (2) at later on he was 26-2 (9). Since then he has gone 7-0 (7) and scored his 3 biggest wins, stopping Shohei Omori, twice, and Pungluang Sor Singyu.
Although Tapales isn't a huge name in the sport he is one the true dark horses, even in a division full of dark horses like the current Super Bantamweight division. He's a fighter who applies smart pressure, counters well and whilst he doesn't set an amazing work rate, he's certainly not late. As well being an under-rated puncher he is also incredibly tough, and the we he beat Pungluang, picking him self up after 2 knockdowns to win, shows his will to win. Technically he is flawed, rough around the edges, and sometimes a bit wild, but given his power and toughness he does make the wildness work for him.
Aged 29 Iwasa has been groomed for success since turning professional back in 2008, following a solid amateur career. In his 8th fight he secured himself a Japanese Bantamweight title fight at the following year's Champion Carnival, and although he lost in that title fight he impressed with an ultra-competitive bout against Shinsuke Yamanaka. By the end of 2011 he was the Japanese national champion and would become an OPBF Bantamweight champion in December 2013. Sadly Iwasa would come up short in a 2015 world title fight, to Lee Haskins, but a move up in weight rejuvenated his career.
In 2017 Iwasa finally won a big one, stopping Yukinori Oguni to claim the IBF Super Bantamweight in what was, by far, the best performance of his career so far. Sadly following was a great win over Oguni Iwasa would disappoint, winning with a clear but disappointing performance against Ernesto Saulong. The disappointing performance with Saulong was followed by Iwasa losing the IBF title to TJ Doheny. Thankfully Iwasa managed to bounce back with a win on his US debut against Cesar Juarez, in a bout that promised a lot but was overlooked by broadcasters who failed to show the fight.
At his best, Iwasa is a hard hitting southpaw boxer-puncher. Sadly though he has never looked good against fellow southpaws, with 2 of his 3 losses coming to pure southpaws, and the other coming to a switch hitter who is predominantly a southpaw boxer. That is a huge issue here against a hard hitting southpaw like Tapales, and we think that will likely be the key here.
We've seen Tapales beat southpaws, and we've seen Iwasa lose to southpaws. We think that Iwasa's weakness to southpaws will be shown up again here, and Tapales will take out Iwasa in the second half of the fight.
Prediction - TKO11 Tapales
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
The most anticipated fight in the Japanese boxing scene takes place on November 7th at the Saitama Super Arena, as Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire finally meet in the finals of the Bantamweight WBSS Tournament, for the WBA (Super), IBF & The Ring World championships as well as the prestigious Ali Trophy.
Naoya Inoue (18-0 / 16 KOs) is considered to be one of the best boxers that have come out of the land of the rising sun. His power, agility and precision have brought him immense success, while he is already ranked in the top 5 (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 a signature strategy 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 (34-11), before moving 2 weight classes up and within the same year, he challenged Omar Andres Narvaez (49-3) 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 (26-10), Karoon Jarupianlerd (44-9), Ricardo Rodriguez (16-7) and Antonio Nieves (19-2) were easy work for him, as neither of them were 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 (30-3). 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 WBSS and in October of last year, he was matched against the former WBA (Super) World champion Juan Carlos Payano (21-3). In what was voted as one of the best knockouts of 2018 (#1 by The Ring Magazine), Inoue nailed him with a straight right and put his lights out, 70 seconds into the fight.
He proceeded to ruin Emmanuel Rodriguez’s (19-1) perfect record, by knocking him down thrice in the 2nd round, securing the IBF World championship in the process. McDonnell, Payano and Rodriguez had never been stopped before in their entire career.
Naoya is finally a step away from fulfilling his destiny and winning the Ali Trophy, but in order to accomplish that, he has to go through one of the most successful fighters that has come out of the Philippines.
Nonito Donaire (40-5 / 26 KOs) has been a boxer for over 20 years. Beginning his amateur career back in the 90s, the Filipino had won 3 U.S. national championships, as well as the 1999 International Junior Olympics gold medal. His record stood at 68 wins and only 8 losses.
As a pro, he went 17-1 before challenging Vic Darchinyan (43-9) in 2007, for the IBF Flyweight World title. The Armenian was 28-0 at the time and had been the reigning champion since 2004, boasting 6 successful title defenses. Donaire established his dominance from the opening round, with the left punch being the difference maker. He kept hitting hard, giving Darchinyan the biggest test of his career. As he was trying to close the distance, Nonito connected with a thunderous counter left, right in the jaw, ending the champ’s undefeated reign. Donaire, not only captured the World title for the 1st time, but also the “Knockout of the year” and “Upset of the year” awards from The Ring Magazine.
The Filipino Flash defended his belt 3 times, against Luis Maldonado (36-15), in what was an one sided beatdown, Moruti Mthalane (38-2), due to a cut, and the then unbeaten Raul Martinez (30-4), who he dropped thrice. In all of his matches, Donaire had showcased incredible speed and timing, especially with his left hooks & uppercuts and of course his counter shots, which all have been proven to be his favourite weapons, even to this day.
His second reign began in 2009 when he won the interim WBA Super Flyweight title, after a hard hitting battle with the former champion Rafael Concepcion (18-8) at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, in Las Vegas. Nonito then made short work of Manuel Vargas (32-11) who seemed to be out of his depth. In the 3rd round, he was almost dancing around the former interim WBO Strawweight champion, while throwing punches, before finishing him off with a left uppercut. He also defended against Hernan Marquez (43-10) where once again, the left uppercut sealed the deal.
Donaire made his Bantamweight debut against Olympic Bronze medalist and former WBA (Regular) champion Volodymyr Sydorenko (22-3) back in 2010 and looked better than ever. He scored a knockdown in the 1st, courtesy of a right cross. Another one in the 3rd with a left hook and dropped him for the final time in the 4th with a right straight. By the end, Sydorenko’s face was a bloody mess, full of bruises after the all the punishment he had to endure. That was his only stoppage loss and last fight as well.
On February 19 of 2011, Nonito challenged 3 division World champion Fernando Montiel (54-6) for the WBC & WBO Bantamweight titles. Going into this one, both men were ranked amongst the top 10 boxers in the world. The Filipino Flash threw one of the best punches of his career, as he connected with a counter left in the 2nd round, dropping Cochulito hard to the canvas. Even though he got back up, he was clearly out on his feet and after 2 more shots, the referee stopped the fight.
His inaugural defense of the belts was against the aforementioned Omar Andres Narvaez (49-3) who was coming into this match with a perfect 35-0 record. Not the most exciting performance from Donaire, but he still managed to outbox the 2 division World champion and win a wide unanimous decision.
Moving up again a weight class, and in February of 2012, he fought the former WBO Super Bantamweight World champion Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (25-7) for the same vacant title. It was a rather close contest, during which Vasquez was dropped for the very first time of his career. When the final bell rang, Donaire was crowned a 4 division king.
Riding all that momentum, his next goal was to become the undisputed champion at Super Bantamweight. He first unified with the IBF champion Jeffrey Mathebula (27-5) in July of the same year. A much more impressive showing than his last 2 outings.
Next on the list was the WBC champion Toshiaki Nishioka (39-5). The WBC Diamond, The Ring and the lineal titles were also on the line. Nishioka played a defensive game, offering no significant offense of his own. Donaire utilized his patented left uppercut to score a knockdown in the 6th, but hurt his hand in the process, forcing him to rely only on his right for the rest of the match. The Japanese fighter finally put together some good combinations in the 9th, trapping Nonito against the ropes, but still got dropped with a counter straight right and shortly after the fight was stopped.
In what was basically an exhibition of his speed and power, Donaire defended his belts against fellow 4 division World champion Jorge Arce (64-8) in December, scoring 3 knockdowns and retiring another fighter once more.
His first loss in 12 years came on April of 2013, as he failed in his final unification fight with the WBA (Super) champion & 2 time Olympic Gold medallist Guillermo Rigondeaux (19-1). He still managed though to land a left hook in the 9th round, putting the Olympian down but not out.
The Filipino Flash bounced back with another stoppage victory over now 2 division champion Vic Darchinyan, before graduating to Featherweight and facing Simpiwe Vetyeka (30-4) for the WBA (Super) title. To no one’s surprise, the left hook did the trick again in the 4th, before the fight abruptly ended a round later, due to an accidental head clash. His reign however was short lived, as he lost the championship to Nicholas Walters (26-1) only 5 months later. Despite a strong start, Walters proved to be a much tougher opponent than expected, ending Donaire’s sole Featherweight title run, giving him the 1st (and thus far only) KO loss of his illustrious career.
In 2015, Nonito decided to return to Super Bantamweight and convincingly defeated William Prado (22-5), Anthony Settoul (24-8) and Cesar Juarez (24-7) in a fight of the year candidate, becoming the WBO champion for the 2nd time. He only defended the title once, against Zsolt Bedak (25-2), before losing it to the then undefeated Jessie Magdaleno (27-1).
He tried his luck at Featherweight one last time but, besides one minor victory, he came up short against Carl Frampton (26-2) when they met for the interim WBO championship in 2018. Even though he did throw the best punches and seemingly did more damage than his opponent, Frampton played a smart game, not engaging in any big exchanges, while scoring points which in the end earned him the strap.
Most recently, Donaire moved back to Bantamweight, in order to participate in the WBSS. In the opening round of the tournament, he clashed with the then undefeated WBA (Super) World champion Ryan Burnett (20-1). That was the Filipino’s first Bantamweight match since 2011. An injury, which seemed to have been caused from one of Donaire’s left punches to the body, rendered Burnett unable to continue, thus declaring him the new champion. Then earlier this year, the scheduled double title bout, with the WBO champion Zolani Tete (28-3), was cancelled, due to Tete suffering a shoulder injury. Instead, Nonito defended against last minute replacement Stephon Young (18-2), who he knocked out with a decapitating left hook. Now Donaire has the chance to once again be recognised as one of the best boxers in the world today, by winning his final fight this coming Thursday night in Japan. But this task is easier said than done.
It’s easy to be amazed by the careers of these men. Both have been in the ring with some of the best boxers from all over the world and have gathered countless championships. However this fight might be their most significant one yet. Their paths share many similarities but at the same time are completely opposite. For Inoue, it’s a chance to become a global star. For Donaire, it could very well be his last hurrah. After 20 years into the sport, the Filipino Flash has won world titles in 5 different weight classes. The experience factor is definitely on his side. Unfortunately, that also means that he’s not a young fighter anymore. His speed and stamina are no longer what they used to.
On the other hand, Inoue is at his prime. An unstoppable force that has rained havoc in every one of his opponents, with none of them being able to even score a single knockdown against him. Power, agility, precision, timing. Four attributes that once were used to describe Donaire. As that wasn’t enough, the Monster has looked even more spectacular in this division than in any other one he has been in. His entire Bantamweight run has been a total of 7 minutes and 21 seconds. That’s how long it took him to knockout 3 world champions. Whereas Donaire’s latest Bantamweight run can be described with only one word: Luck ! Burnett’s injury and Tete having to pull out of the tournament are the key reasons why he has made it to the finals. Still, this doesn’t mean he isn’t a dangerous opponent. His power is still here. His timing is still here. Inoue has to be careful of Donaire’s left hand and counter strikes, at all times. But, in the end of the day, the Japanese Monster seems to be in a completely different level from everyone else. For all of his achievements and accomplishments, make no mistake that, Donaire is coming in as the underdog.
So the final question is this: will Inoue demolish another world champion on his way to superstardom or can Donaire’s experience and luck bring him the big win one last time ? We will find out on November 7th, when these 2 warriors clash in Saitama !
On November 2nd IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21) will make his 8th defense of the title, as he takes on Mexican challenger Jonathan Javier Rodriguez (21-1, 15). On paper this looks like an interesting bout, but given the depth and names at Super Flyweight there is certainly a feeling that this is another underwhelming challenger for the Filipino "Pretty Boy".
Just over 2 years ago Ancajas looked like he was set to be a star when he dominated Teiru Kinoshita on the Manny Pacquiao Vs Jeff Horn under-card, but has rarely shown the same qualities and excitement as he did that night, and instead of being a star his reign has been hugely frustrating and lacking in terms of quality. Whilst he has made 3 mandatory defenses, including the win over Kinoshita, he hasn't made the most of his voluntary opportunities and has lost a lot of the moment it seemed he once had.
In the ring the champion is a wonderfully smooth boxer-puncher. He has brilliant technical ability, sharp punching, great movement, and whilst he's not a puncher he hits clean accurate shots that take a toll on opponents. There's not many fighters who match up to Ancajas in terms of being a joy to watch with his speed and crispness. Sadly though his competition has been the issue and wins against the likes of Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Jamie Conlan, Israel Gonzalez and a draw against Alejandro Santiago Barrios, in voluntary defenses have done little for his reputation. Whilst mandatories against Kinoshita, Jonas Sultan and Ryuichi Funai have been very nice stylistic matches, he hasn't managed to build his standing on those wins.
On paper the 24 year old Rodriguez is a really good challenger. He is coming into his prime, has suffered just a single loss, recently beat the well regarded Felipe Orucuta and is heavy handed. Below the paper however we see a man who was beaten by a relative novice just 20 months ago, holds only a single win of note and hasn't really got a name reputation. In a division where there is a lot of contenders looking for a shot, he has done little to deserve one. He has done less to get his shot than the likes of Donnie Nietes, Andrew Moloney, Francisco Rodriguez Jr or Carlos Cuadras, or a rematch with Alejandro Santiago Barrios. It's hard to defend Rodriguez, despite his nice looking record.
Despite Rodriguez having little of what quality on his record there are things to like about how he fights. He looks strong and tough, he's aggressive and he comes forward with power in his shots. Sadly there's more to dislike about how he fights, he looks slow and clunky, a bit methodical, he drops his hands and he looks like he's there to be hit. He trudges forward, fails to really cut the ring off and although he can clearly punch he does leave himself open when he lets his shots go.
Watching Rodriguez what we appear to have is another show-case type opponent for Ancajas who should have a field day with the Mexican. From what we've seen of the challenger the interesting thing will not be the competitiveness, or rather uncompetitiveness, of the fight but more a question of just how much punishment Rodriguez is happy to take. He looks like he will be way out of his depth.
Prediction - TKO8 Ancajas
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
A major boxing clash takes place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 18th, as Artur Beterbiev and Oleksandr Gvozdyk put their respective IBF & WBC Light Heavyweight titles on the line, in what it’s guaranteed to be a fight of the year candidate.
Artur Beterbiev (14-0 / 14 KOs) began his career as an amateur, winning the World championship and World Cup once each, as well as the Europeans twice, subsequently earning the honorary title of “National Master of Sports”. During those years, he held victories over future Olympic medalists, such as Egor Mekhontsev (gold), Kenny Egan (silver), Abbos Atoev (bronze) and future pro world champions like Sergey Kovalev & Yuniel Dorticos.
He finally made his pro debut in 2013, quickly amassing 5 consecutive stoppages, before facing his first legit opponent in Tavoris Cloud (24-3). Beterbiev dropped the former IBF World champion thrice in the opening round and put him down for the final time in the 2nd after landing a short left hook to the chin, thus becoming the first man to knockout Cloud, in what turned out to be the last match of his career.
Beterbiev proceeded to defend his NABO title against Jeff Page (18-3) and also win the IBF North American championship. Despite suffering an early knockdown, he returned the favor two times, while finishing the job once again with the left hook. This was Page’s first ever loss.
Continuing his path of destruction in 2015-2016, he outboxed the former WBA World champion Gabriel Campillo (25-8) and KOed him with a powerful straight right, in only 4 rounds. After that, he added Alexander Johnson (17-4), Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna (26-6), Isidro Ranoni Prieto (27-3) to his victim’s list and the WBO International title to his collection.
His big moment came in November of 2017, when he met the 2 time WBA Intercontinental champion Enrico Koelling (26-3) for the vacant IBF title. Beterbiev was clearly the superior boxer, being way ahead in points, as Koelling barely offered any significant offense of his own. It was the one and only time a fight of his went 12 rounds, but he still didn’t need the judges, since he scored 2 knockdowns in the closing moments, causing the referee to stop the fight and crown him the new IBF Light Heavyweight champion of the world.
The Russian marked his inaugural title defense last October against the then undefeated British & Commonwealth champion Callum Johnson (18-1). These 2 bruisers engaged in an incredible brawl, trading big shots as well as knockdowns, much to the excitement of the fans in attendance. However, Callum made the mistake of closing the distance, which is where Beterbiev excels at the most, thus taking two rapid blows to the chin and to the temple, putting an end to the Englishman’s world championship aspirations.
Dispatching mandatory challenger Radivoje Kalajdzic (24-2) with relative ease, earlier this year, Beterbiev now looks to cement his legacy by fighting a fellow unstoppable fighter and become a double world champion. But the road to glory passes through a rather tough rival.
Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-0), much like Beterbiev, used to compete in the amateurs, where he won the European Cup and most importantly the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Games. His reported record was 225-30.
In his 10th match as a pro, he dropped Nadjib Mohammedi (42-8) with a lighting fast right cross during the 2nd round. The Ukrainian defeated 2 more world title challengers in Tommy Karpency (29-7) and Isaac Chilemba (25-7) on the same year.
In 2018, Gvozdyk bested former European champion Mehdi Amar (35-6) for the right to face the WBC & Lineal World champion Adonis Stevenson (29-2), who at the time, was undefeated for 7 years and with 24 KOs under his belt. Gvozdyk scored an early knockdown in the 3rd after landing a clean straight right, but the referee called it a slip for some reason. He survived Stevenson’s superman punch in the 10th and hurt the champ before the round ended. The finish came at the 11th, after a plethora of strikes, finally stopping Adonis with a right straight to the chin, ending the reign of one of the best Light Heavyweights in history.
Unfortunately, Gvozdyk’s 1st defense wasn’t as impressive, since Doudou Ngumbu (38-10) suffered a calf injury during the 5th round, which led to the referee stoppage. Up untl that point, the champion was in control from the opening bell, putting together some slick combinations and his jab to good use. Now, almost a year away from the biggest fight of his career, he gets the opportunity to make the headlines once again, by gunning for a second world title.
It’s always intriguing to see 2 undefeated champions fight each other, but at the same time, it’s tough to pick a winner, since neither man has ever tasted defeat before. Gvozdyk is a much more technical boxer, buying his time and wearing his opponents down before going in for the kill, which most times comes in the form of a straight right. Beterbiev’s style on the other hand is far more aggressive. You can understand that, by simply looking at his record. Only 3 of his fights have gone past the 4th round. What’s also impressive about him is that he can muster a lot of energy behind his short range punches, even when his foe has him clinched. However, the most important statistic about Beterbiev might be this: 100% finishing ratio ! Not a single man that has stepped into the ring with him has managed to go the distance. It won’t be a surprise if he is the one to hand Gvozdyk his 1st loss as a pro. However, if Gvozdyk can survive the early onslaught, he might have a shot at outpointing the Russian. So who walks away the unified WBC/IBF Light Heavyweight World champion??? We will find out this coming Friday in Philly!
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.