Way back in October 2019 we previewed an IBF Super Flyweight title bout between champion Jerwin Ancajas (32-1-2, 22) and mandatory challenger Jonathan Javier Rodriguez (22-1, 16), with the two men set to clash on November 2nd. That bout was then cancelled, days before taking place when Rodriguez was unable to enter the US. The bout was supposed to be on a top Rank card and instead of taking on Rodriguez we saw Ancajas defeat late replacement Miguel Gonzalez a month later.
Now, 16 months later, we are finally getting the bout on a PBC show, in Connecticut, with the bout still looming as a mandatory defense of Ancajas. Sadly the Covid19 pandemic ended up affecting both men. It kept Ancajas out of the ring for the entire of 2020, kept Rodriguez out of the ring for much of 2020 and forced this bout, which had been planned for the year, to get pushed back. Again. Despite that we are now here. We are on the verge of the fight, again, and we'll again take a look at what to expect.
More than 4 years ago we saw Jerwin Ancajas announce himself as one to watch as he dominated Teiru Kinoshita on the Manny Pacquiao Vs Jeff Horn under-card. The performance was a break out showing and was Ancajas' second defense of the IBF Super Flyweight title he had won the previous year. It was the type of performance that he needed on the biggest showcase of his career. Soon afterwards he was given more big opportunities, facing Jamie Conlan in Ireland and then making 4 defenses in the US as he quickly became one of the notable Super Flyweights of his era.
Blessed with good looks, fantastic hand speed, spiteful power and a good boxing brain Ancajas seemed to have it all. Except for competition. Sadly for him the Super Flyweight division was moving on around him, the likes of Naoyta Inoue, Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Donnie Nietes and Kazuto Ioka were all off limits to him. Rather than those divisional stars Ancajas was stuck facing the best of the rest, , like the aforementioned Kinoshita and Conlan, along with Jonas Sultan and Alejandro Santiago Barrios. The inability, or in some cases unwillingness, to face the top dogs in the division has seen his reign being a long one but one that is relatively low profile and not one that has made him into the star he should have been.
Sadly his B, and sometimes C, rate challengers haven't helped Ancajas look great. It's a shame as the 29 year old Filipino is a fantastic boxer-puncher. He's gorgeously smooth in the ring, throws wonderful combinations, has an excellent understanding of the ring, and combines skills, speed and power wonderfully. He is also a big kid at the weight and a southpaw, making him a nightmare.
Aged 25 Rodriguez is an up and comer who is looking to announce himself on to the world stage after fighting his entire career, so far, on the Mexican national scene. In fact this is only really the third time he has taken on a fighter of some note. Thankfully though his career has picked up in recent years, and his first 21 bouts were pretty much bouts where he learned on the job without making much fuss. In more recent bouts however he has beaten former world title contenders Felipe Orucuta and Julian Yedras, and established himself a lot more in 2 fights than he did in his previous 21.
Despite a couple of solid wins Rodriguez hasn't done all that much to really earn a world title fight, especially not given the talent in the Super Flyweight division, but the IBF will IBF and he is the IBF mandatory with only a couple of notable wins on his record. Which in fairness to the IBF is 2 more than some other recent mandatory challengers of theirs.
One notable thing about Rodriguez, and why he may be dangerous for Ancajas, is the relative lack of footage of him. From the footage that is available Rodriguez looks strong, tough, and aggressive. Like many Mexican fighters he comes to fight and he comes with a lot of desire and hunger. Sadly though he is rather methodical, a big slow, and a little bit clumsy. He looks like he could be hit, a lot, and may be stepping up too much from the competition he has faced so far. He's the sort of fight who should make for some fan friendly fights, but he looks like he would struggle with any of the top guys in the division. Including Ancajas.
The pressure and aggression of Rodriguez could make this fun and interesting, and if he can take sustained punishment whilst continuing to come forward he could be an absolute nightmare for Ancajas. We have seen Ancajas struggle on the inside, when fighters have got close to him, and if Rodriguez can get close and rough him up the Mexican might have a real chance. Especially give the fact Ancajas has been out of the ring since December 2019.
We suspect the speed, movement and skills for Ancajas will be the key. He'll neutralise the pressure, lure Rodriguez in, and tag him. Repeatedly. Rodriguez will not show any quit, and will be looking to make a fight of things in each of the 12 rounds, but we see Ancajas picking his spots and racking up the rounds en route to a clear decision.
Interestingly the delay for this fight may end up helping Rodriguez, but we still don't think it will be anywhere near enough to get him a victory here.
Prediction - UD12 Ancajas
April 2021 looks set to be an incredible month for fight fans, with a wonderful mix of high profile fights at the top level of the sport and bouts at the lower level, and featuring everything in between. It is a month that really should deliver great action week after week and it kicks off in great fashion this coming Saturday. That's in part due to a bout we've been looking forward to for a little over a year now. That's a match up between unified WBA "super" and IBF Super Bantamweight world champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6) and mandatory challenger Ryosuke Iwasa (23-7, 17), who also enters as the "interim" IBF champion.
The bout will see two of the best 122lb fighters clash in what is a genuine excellent match up, and it's one that should have fans from all over the globe tuning in. That's not just because of the match up it's self, which is genuinely brilliant, but because of what it means for the division in general. The winner will be in the mix for bouts against the likes of Luis Nery, Stephen Fulton, Ronnie Riose, Brandon Figueroa and Carlos Castro, among many, many others.
Of the two men the more impressive has been 26 year old Uzbek Akhmadaliev, known as "MJ". He is, after just 8 fights, a unified champion and was a former standout amateur who has set his sights high and raced away to the top, whilst becoming one of the main faces at the forefront of Uzbek boxing. He is a fighter who has looked to prove a point every step of the way during his boxing career and has already proven himself as a top level fighter. In just 8 bouts!
Before turning professional Akhmadaliev had reportedly had over 300 amateur bouts, winning the vast majority. He had won medals at the World Amateur Championships, Olympics, Asian Championships and World Youth Championships, and had been one of the standout fights on the amateur scene. He had, however, got a reputation for being the bridesmaid and not the bride, falling short in the business end of competitions. As a professional however he has used that amateur experience and the skills he learned in the unpaid ranks to challenge himself and make a name for himself.
In just 8 bouts Akhmadaliev has already beaten the likes of Isaaz Zarate, Carlos Carlson and most notably Daniel Roman, who he beat in January 2020 for the unified titles. He has proven he can box, punch, brawl, and fight at a high tempo for 12 rounds. He has proven more in just 8 bouts, adding up to a total of 40 professional rounds, than many fights do in a career. We'll admit we thought the step up to facing Roman was too soon, but he proved us wrong and it's going to be very hard to bet against him in the future given how he performed there.
Although he is hugely impressive there are still some questions to ask of Akhmadaliev. He has impressed with his ability to box or fight, and he has shown a good chin, great work rate and highly impressive stamina, though we do wonder what happens when he's forced to chase a bout, and it'll be interesting to see what happens when he's cut, or in genuine trouble. If we ever see him in real trouble. We also wonder what he's like against a big puncher, and Iwasa does have power, as well as what he's like against a dangerous south, with his previous southpaw opponents being relatively limited. So far however he has impressed fight after fight and shown the ambition and drive that has already made us huge fans of his.
Ryosuke Iwasa is a 31 year old veteran of the professional ranks, with 30 professional bouts to his name, and over 60 amateur bouts. He is already a former world champion and a man who was long tipped to be a star in Japan, though has failed to reach the heights expected of him when he turned professional. Despite not being the fighter many hoped he would be he has managed a very respectable career and is certainly not a fighter who has failed in the sport. He has, however, been inconsistent. When he's on point he looks fantastic, but there are a number of underwhelming performance during his career as well.
For Japanese fans Iwasa made his name, originally, on the amateur stage where he went 60-6 (42) and picked up the High School Triple crown. This saw him turning professional with high expectations on his shoulders. Under the guidance of former world champion Celes Kobayashi he was moved quickly and at the end of 2010 he had secured a Japanese title fight as part of the Champion Carnival, by winning the Strongest Korakuen and becoming the MVP. Sadly for him his Japanese title fight, in 2011, came against a then rising Shinsuke Yamanaka, with Iwasa losing a 10th round TKO to Yamanaka in a sensational bout. Aged 21 at the time that was a learning experience and he would reel off a string of wins, taking the Japanese and OPBF titles before getting his first world title fight, and losing in 6 rounds, in England, to Lee Haksins in 2016.
The loss to Haskins was Iwasa final bout at Bantamweight before moving up in weight, and finding his groove once again. Just over 2 years after the defeat to Haskins we saw Iwasa have his career defining win, as he battered Yukinori Oguni in 6 rounds to win the IBF Super Bantamweight title. It was a red hot performance from Iwasa who looked sensational. Sadly though he failed to build on that win, scoring an underwhelming decision to retain his title against Ernesto Saulong and failing to really get to grips with TJ Doheny, who dethroned him in 2018. Since his title loss Iwasa has looked good, beating Cesar Juarez by technical decision and then dismantling former WBO Bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales in 2019, to win the IBF "interim" title.
In the ring Iwasa really does blow hot and cold, and he always has. He looked poor in his second fight, Edgar Allende, and again later in his career against Richard Pumicpic, Ernesto Saulong and TJ Doheny. When he's looked good however, he has looked sensational, and we saw that against Oguni and Tapales. In the ring he's a southpaws who fights as a boxer-puncher. His power is genuinely spiteful at this level, and technically he's very solid. Sadly though he often fights in a one paced fashion, struggles to go through the gears, and has struggled with southpaws through his career, with all 3 losses coming to lefties.
Of the two men we would suggest that Iwasa is the biggest puncher, at least a single punch basis, he's also the taller, longer man and if he can establish his jab he does have a chance of getting on top of the bout early on. His team have stated their game plan is to stop Akhamadliev from getting into his rhythm and we suspect that is the key to beating the Uzbek.
Sadly for Iwasa however he is the less versatile of the two fighters. He's an excellent boxer-puncher, but he's not the most creative fighter, he's not a great inside fighter and he's got slow feet. They are all things that Akhmadaliev will use against him. The Uzbek is a much, much more rounded in ring competitor. That is, we suspect, going to be the difference making.
We suspect Iwasa will come out sharp, looking to land clean straight shots and getting his range, but as the rounds go on Akhmadaliev will close the distance, get inside and begin to grind away at Iwasa. The difference in speed will be key and by the end of round 12 Akhmadaliev will have done more than enough to deserve the decision.
We expect the champion to retain, but he will have to work for it, and this will not be an easy day at the office for the talented Uzbek.
Prediction - Akhmadaliev UD12
Over the last year or so the Minimumweight division has, sadly, been asleep. In 2020 we only had each world title fought for once, and three of those bouts came within weeks of each other. The pandemic pretty much shut the division down at the top level with very few fighters in action and very few bouts of note taking place in the division. In fact not only did we only have 3 world title bouts but we also only had a single OPBF title bout, a single Japanese title bout, and no WBO Asia Pacific title bouts. The division damn near stood still, other than Panya Pradabsri's upset win over Wanheng Menayothin.
With that in mind we hope 2021 is a much better year for the division, and in fairness we expect it to be, with several interesting looking bouts at 105lbs now being lined up. One of which comes on February 27th and will see IBF champion Pedro Taduran (14-2-1, 11) defending his title against fellow Filipino Rene Mark Cuarto (18-2-2, 11) in a rare All-Filipino world title bout. The bout will be Taduran's second defense of the title he won in 2019 and it will be Cuarto's first world title bout. It will also be a bout that will help shape the division for the foreseeable future, given that both fighters are only 24 years old.
Of the two men the hard hitting Taduran is the more well known. He first came the attention of the wider boxing world in 2018, when he challenged the then WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin, and gave the Thai all he could handle in a compelling and highly competitive 12 rounder. That bout proved that Taduran belong in, or around, the top 10 and just 13 months later he beat Samuel Salva in a thrilling war to claim the then vacant IBF title. That win saw Taduran sit on the verge of something big, though sadly he was unable to capitalise. His first defense saw him travel to Mexico last February and battle Daniel Valladares, with a headclash resulting in a technical draw. Had Covid19 not been an issue there is a very good chance we'd have seen Taduran return to the ring in the summer or fall to make his second defense, but sadly it wasn't to be.
In the ring Taduran is a genuine handful. He's a southpaw, he's heavy handed, he's aggressive, he throws a lot, he comes forward and he's really awkward. Technically he's a very, very flawed fighter. He's raw, crude, and often open. Something that Salva punished him for early on in their bout. He is however the type of fighter who doesn't understand what it means to quit, and won't back off. He's relentless and uses his awkwardness and energy to break fighters down. It seems clear he can be out boxed, and he can be out skilled, but very few will have the tools to out box him for 12 rounds, or the durability to survive with his whirlwind offense.
When it comes to Rene Mark Cuarto we suspect very few, outside of the Philippines at least, have seen him in action. That's despite the fact he's been a professional since 2014 and has 22 professional bouts to his name. The main reason that many won't have seen Cuarto is because, for the most part, he's not really fought anyone of note. In fact his most notable bouts are a close win in 2018, against Clyde Azarcon, and a 2019 loss to Samuel Salva. Those two bouts aside his only other bout of real was a 6 round decision with the unbeaten Jayson Vayson. Thankfully there is footage of him out there, and on tape he looks solid enough. He's got a busy jab, he's quick on his toes, he moves around the ring well, and technically looks solid.
Sadly for Cuarto there's a big gulf between looking solid and being world class. We like a lot of what we see of Cuarto, but there are issues that will be a problem here. He doesn't look powerful or particularly strong. He doesn't seem to impose himself very well, and his jab aside it's hard to really be impressed by much in is arsenal. He simply doesn't enough at times and appears to be just a tad lazy at times. In his bout against Salva, for example, he really failed to move through the gears, happy to try and win the bout with his jab, rather than letting shots fly late on when he was behind.
Technically we think that Cuarto is the better boxer. He's certainly the more polished and has the more technical approach to in ring action. Sadly however his lack of power, and lower work rate will not help him here. His jab might keep Taduran at bay for a few rounds, but as the contest goes on that jab by it's self won't be enough. Instead Taduran's pressure and work rate will be the difference maker and get to Cuarto.
We suspect Cuarto will show a lot of heart and determination, but we also expect to see Taduran's power and output get too much, and we're expecting a late TKO win for the defending champion, who may well be behind on the scorecards after the first 6 rounds.
Prediction - TKO9 Taduran
This coming Saturday in Indio, California we’ll see IBF Super Featherweight champion Joseph Diaz (31-1, 15) make his first defense as he takes on mandatory challenger Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0, 12) in what looks like a really exciting match up. This is not just a step up for the challenger, who gets a great chance to compete in front of a global audience for the first time, but also a match up that stylistically, should be something very exciting due to the mentality of the two men involved, who can both put on a show.
Diaz, the champion, is the much, much more well known fighter and was a US Olmypian in 2012, where he was beaten by Cuban star Lazaro Alvarez. After turning professional there was huge expectations on Diaz and he would begin his career with 26 straight wins before taking on WBC Featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr in 2018, in Diaz's first world title fight. Sadly against Russell Jr we saw Diaz suffer his first loss, losing a competitive but clear decision to the speedy and slick Russell Jr. Following that loss Diaz attempted to win the WBA Featherweight title, but failed to make weight leading to him moving up in weight and fighting at Super Featherweight. Since moving up in weight he has looked impressive, and scored noteworthy wins against Charles Huerta, Freddy Fonseca and, most notably, Tevin Farmer, with that win over Farmer netting him the IBF world title.
Diaz isn’t the quickest, the smoothest, the most powerful or the best fighter out there. He is however, a fighter. He comes for a fight, he likes to dictate the action, let his hands go and be responsible for the way the fight is going. He is, at heart, a pressure fighter, and a physically strong one at that. Despite moving up in weight recently he is physically imposing at 130lbs, and will bully and push people around. Against a speedy boxer, who uses their feet, he can be left chasing shadows, but against a fighter who stands and fights, or tries to slip and side in the pocket, he can end up out working and out fighting them. That’s where he’s most dangerous, and where fighters need to try and avoid him, his work rate, energy and will to win are incredible, and it showed against Farmer when he fought much of the bout with a brutal cut.
Whilst Diaz is a well known fighter in the US, and is someone who has been in and around the world level for a few years now, it’s fair to say that few, outside of those who watch Russian shows held by RCC Promotions, will have seen him. If we’re being honest that’s actually a shame as the Russian based Tajik is a very fun fighter to watch and someone who fans should be more aware of before this coming weekend.
The Tajik was a solid amateur before beginning his professional career back in 2015, fighting in low key Russian shows whilst slowly building his experience and his record. In 2016 he began to step up, and scored a number of decent wins over well known Filipino fighters. Soon afterwards he began to face progressively better opponents, beating the likes of Emanuel Lopez, Malcolm Klassen and Robinson Castellano to build his name. In 2019 he finally got a chance to move towards a world title fight as he travelled to South Africa and took on Azinge Fuzile in an IBF world title eliminator. The bout saw Rakhimov struggle with the move, speed and skills of Fuzile early in the bout, but as the bout went on, and as Fuzile began to slow down, we finally saw the power of Rakhimov, who scored a great come from behind stoppage win.
Rakhimov, much like Diaz, is an aggressive fighter who wants to come forward, he’s a bit more basic than Diaz, and doesn’t apply a busy pressure style like the American, but does have a very brutal body attack and he is a bigger puncher than the American. Sadly though he is also someone with a questionable chin, and he has been dropped several times in his career, at a much lower. At his best Rakhimov is an aggressive boxer-puncher, and if he can maintain range he is very good. Sadly for him that won’t be an easy task here, and there is a very real chance he’ll struggle to create the space he needs to work with against Diaz. If he can create that space however, he does have a real chance here.
If we’re being honest Rakhimov is a good fighter. He’s a dangerous fighter, with solid power, a nice strong base and good fundamentals. He’s genuinely heavy handed and someone who can hold their own in a genuine firefight. Sadly though his suspect chin, added to his lower work rate will be an issue here. Diaz can be out boxed, he can be out manouvered and out skilled, however if a fighter isn’t too quick and too sharp for him, he will grind a result out against them. That’s exactly what we expect to see here. We suspect that Rakhimov will have success at times, especially when he can create range and land some solid body work, however we suspect that the pressure, work rate and energy of Diaz will be too much. We’re expecting Diaz to simply out work and out land Rakhimov, to end up taking a clear, but hard fought, decision win.
Although we do favour Diaz, we are expecting this to be a fantastic fight. Diaz’s pressure and work rate will make the fight fun and exciting to watch, with Rakhimov’s power potentially adding some drama to the bout. Despite thinking Rakhimov will lose we do think he’ll connect with fans and fans will want to see him again afterwards, and he will do enough to be competitive at times. He’ll lose, but put in a very good effort.
Prediction - UD12 Diaz
On December 20th we see a really interesting match up for the IBF Flyweight title, pitting a veteran champion against a little known challenger in a major step up. On paper the bout doesn't look the most appealing, especially to those who have followed the two men, however we suspect the reality is that this will be a lot more compelling that it looks. In fact we're genuinely expecting a very, very interesting match as the champion faces the double teaming of his opponent and father time.
The champion in question is 38 year old IBF Flyweight king Moruti Mthalane (39-2, 26), the ageless wonder of South Africa. Mthalane, enjoying his second reign as the champion, will be seeking his 4th successive defense since winning the title back in July 2018, when he narrowly escaped with a win over Muhammad Waseem. In the opposite corner to the veteran champion will be little known Filipino Jayson Mama (15-0, 8), a 23 year old who has quietly been building a reputation for himself at home, with out too much fuss and attention. Although relatively unknown Mama youth on his side as well as hunger, an unbeaten record and he's still very much a fighter who is improving with every bout.
Before we go into detail about the bout it's self it is worth noting that this will be the first time in 43 bouts that Mthalane will be fighting in his home of KwaZulu-Natal. Something that may well add something extra to the bout. It could be that the emotion of being at home will help Mthalane or could, potentially, be a hindrance with the added pressure of needing to perform at home after several years of fighting on the road.
The 38 year old South African is often a forgotten man in the sport, which is a real shame as he's had an excellent 20 year career in the sport. He made his debut in December 2000, aged 18, and won his first 14 bouts before losing in 10 rounds to Nkqubela Gwazela in a South African Flyweight title. He would would bounce back from that loss with 9 straight wins, including a notable one against Hussein Hussein, in an IBF world title eliminator. That win lead to a 2008 bout with Nonito Donaire that saw Mthlane give Donaire fits before being stopped in round 6 due to a cut. In the 12 years since that loss however Mthalane has gone unbeaten, winning 16 fights, and becoming a 2-time IBF Flyweight champion.
During his 16 fight winning run Mthalane has scored really impressive and notable wins. He stopped Julio Cesar Miranda for the IBF title around a year after his bout with Donaire then went on to record 4 defenses, stopping Zolani Tete, John Riel Casimero, Andrea Sarritzu and Ricardo Nunez before vacating the title. He vacated due to a paltry purse bid offer for a fight in Thailand with Amnat Ruenroeng, and then, sadly, sat out of the ring for the entire year. On his return to the ring he won the IBO title, and picked up a few low key wins before re-claiming the IBF title in 2018, with a win in Malaysia over Muhammad Waseem. Since reclaiming the title Mthalane has built a reputation as a Japan-killer, beating Masahiro Sakamoto at the end of 2018, Masayuki Kuroda in May 2019 and Akira Yaegashi in December 2019.
Notably Mthalane's not fought since December 2019, and we do wonder if ring rust will be an issue here along with his age, but it's hard to deny that his record is an impressive one and is getting better with time.
In the ring the South African is a brilliant technician. He can box, he can fight, he can apply intelligent pressure. The only thing lacking is true 1-punch KO power, but he's got solid pop in his hands, excellent speed, brilliant accuracy, fantastic stamina, brilliant experience, an unerring calmness, true self belief and a brilliant ability to take a shot when he needs to. At his best he's a boxer, though when he needs to become a fighter he can, as we saw last time out against Akira Yaegashi. There are areas to pick on, and we do wonder if he can keep high work rate for 12 rounds against an aggressive fighter, but he's shown a lot to like during his long, successful, and often over-looked career.
Aged 23 Jayson Mama is very much a fighter who is slowly making a name for himself with out too much fuss, and without too much attention. He's been a professional since 2016, when he was just 18, and had created a buzz for himself following a very strong 2015 in the amateurs, picking up a number gold medals in Filipino Youth tournaments including the Philippines National Games, the Manny Pacquiao Sports Challenger and the Palaron Pambansa.
Despite having a solid 2015 in the amateurs Mama's team were cautious early on and matched him to be busy, rather than tested in 2016, when he picked up 5 wins, including one over Roland Jay Biendima which has aged excellently. In 2017 he was less active, picking up 3 wins, though did face more notable domestic names, such as Bimbo Nacionales and Rodel Tejares. He was just as busy in 2018, though managed to again move forward and achieve more, winning the WBO Oriental Youth Flyweight title, making his international debut in Macao and going 10 rounds for the first time.
Mama really moved his career forward in 2019 winning the IBF Silk Road Flyweight tournament, beating Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr in the final, before stopping former world champion Kwanthai Sithmorseng and then beating Dexter Alimento. Sadly he has only fought once this year, and that was very much a tick over fight in February against domestic foe Reymark Taday,
In the ring Mama looks razor sharp with his jab, he looks calm and relaxed, judges distance well and likes to work with some space. On the inside he looks less effective, and looks like he can be bullied and out muscled up close, but at range he looks very solid and well schooled with a lot of ring craft. Despite being well schooled the feeling with watching Mama is that he really lacks power and physicality. His shots don't have much sting on them and he will struggle to get the respect of opponents, something we've seen him failed to do against his best opponents so far. He's a very good boxer, but we're not sure if he has toughness, the power or the strength to make a mark at the top.
For Mama this bout is a big step up and if it was just purely boxing skills he would have a decent chance against Mthalane. Both are very talented boxers, and Mama would certainly be able to hold his own. Sadly however it's the things missing with Mama that give us concern here. His lack of fight changing power, his weak inside game, and inability to back up opponents will be a massive issue for him against Mthalane. Of course Mthalane is old, and has had a hard career, but we suspect he still has enough to deal with the Filipino challenger here.
We're expecting to see Mama have a good start, using his speed and jab well, taking the early initiative before being ground down by the consistent, clean work of Mthalane, who we suspect will force a late stoppage of the Filipino challenger.
This is probably too much too soon for Mama, though we fully understand his team taking their opportunity here and rolling the dice with their young hopeful.
Prediction - Mthalane TKO11
On December 18th, just a week before Christmas, we'll see the next big show from DAZN. The most notable bout on that card, by some margin, is the ring return of IBF Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (40-1-1, 35), who looks to make his first defense since recapturing the title last year. In the opposite corner to the Kazakh great is unbeaten Polish challenger Kamil Szeremeta (21-0, 5), who will be getting the biggest fight of his career, by some margin.
The bout has been one of the many long running saga's of 2020. The bout had been spoken about as taking place in the spring, before Golovkin required surgery. It was then delayed several times due to the on going global situation and now it's been 14 months since Golovkin beat Sergiy Derevyanchenko for the title in their 2019 barn burner.
At his best Golovkin was, legitimately, one of the best fighters in the sport. He was a very well schooled fighter who had been developed fantastically in the amateurs. He had then turned professional and had risen through the ranks quietly until making his American debut in 2012, at the age of 30. By that point he was 23-0 (20). Despite being a well schooled fighter Golovkin really made his name as an aggressive boxer-puncher, showcasing brutal power, an iron chin, and a decent boxing brain with a charming personality. He was helped by HBO pushing him as a legitimate star and he went on a good run though solid B tier contenders, whilst failing to secure a massive mega fight until 2017. It was then he fought Daniel Jacobs, taking a win over Jacobs, but by then Golovkin was already 34, and it seemed like that was the start of his slowdown.
Since beating Jacobs, in a very close fight, Golovkin has gone 3-1-1, with his loss and draw both coming in close fights to Mexican star Saul Alvarez. In our eyes he had done enough to deserve a win in the first bout but had, fairly, lost the second.
In his pomp Golovkin really looked like a terminator in the ring. He wasn't the most defensively aware but that hardly mattered. His chin was rock solid, he walked through fire when he had to, and had bricks for hands. He could also maintain a wolid work rate, and was great up top and to the body. Often making opponents mentally crumble just as much as physically fall apart. Now at the age of 38 and with injuries piling up we do wonder what he has left, and he really was pushed hard by Derevyanchenko last time out, adding 12 tough miles on to the clock. In fact since that Jacobs fight Golovkin had taken a lot of punishment with 24 rounds against Canelo and the 12 against Derevyanchenko and we do wonder just how many more tough bouts he has left in him.
At 31 years old Szeremeta is pretty much at the "now or never" stage of his career. Sadly for him he's not really had the fights to prepare for this level of fight, though he has had good success in the European ranks, beating the likes of Rafal Jackiewicz, Patrick Mendy, Alessandro Goddi, Ruben Diaz and Andrew Francillette, as well as the shell of Kassim Ouma. Sadly though his competition is really, at best, European level and worryingly he's struggled to make an impact even at that level, in terms of power. In fact with only 5 stoppages in 21 bouts he is among the most feather fisted fighters to challenger for a title, at any weight, this year.
Despite his competition being poor Szeremeta himself isn't actually an awful fighter. He's got nice hand, lovely upperbody movement and picks a shot well, with a very nice crisp, sharp jab. He looks at his best when he's stood in the center of the ring, applying pressure, using his jab to tattoo an opponents face and countering well. Technically he does look a talented fighter who knows his way around the ring and how to box. He's fairly basic, and super feather fisted, but he can box.
Whilst we certainly think that Golovkin is on the slide, and has been for a few years, it's hard to see what Szeremeta can really do to ask questions of him. Yes Szeremeta is skills, but like many of Golovkin's former opponents there is nothing there too make you give him a chance against the Kazakh. In fact if anything the fact Szeremeta likes to hold his ground is going to be a major issue and leave him open to Golovkin's heavy shots, especially to the body.
We suspect that Szeremeta will have success early on, and might even manage to win a few rounds from Golovkin early on. But then we see Golovkin catching up with the Pole, hammering him with solid, single shots, having no fear of what's coming back, and breaking down Szeremeta in the middle rounds.
Prediction - Golovkin TKO 7
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
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.