This coming Friday we'll see IBF Minimumweight champion Rene Mark Cuarto (20-2-2, 11) look to make his second defense, as he takes on under-rated Mexican challenger Daniel Valladares (26-3-1, 15) in a really exciting looking bout set to take place in Monterrey.
Although not well known outside of the Philippines the 25 year old Cuarto, dubbed the Mighty Mouse, has managed to carve out a pretty decent career so far. He made his professional debut in 2014 and reeled off 3 wins before slipping up against Jeralrd Paclar in 2015, in the first of 3 bouts between the two men. He bounced back from that loss with 6 wins before rematch Paclar in a bout that resulted in a technical draw between the two men. An instant rematch saw Cuarto avenging the two early career blotches and begin his move towards bigger and better bouts, winning the WBO Oriental title in 2018 before losing in an IBF eliminator against Samuel Salva. Since that loss we've seen him going 4-0-1 (2) with a win in 2021 against Pedro Taduran, for the IBF title, and a highly controversial second win against Taduran earlier this year to record his first defense.
In the ring Taduran is a technical boxer, who likes to use his legs, move around the ring and use his speed and timing to punish mistakes from opponents. Sadly his style isn't the most fan friendly and it can get sloppy at times, as we saw in the rematch with Taduran. He is certainly talented, but he lacks the physicality to be an elite level Minimumweight, and his style almost begs for pressure fighters to take the fight to him. He's tricky and quick, but in all honest there is little that makes him feel like anything other than a short term champion. Sadly for him he's not been able to "sell" a shot to the highest bigger, which is likely what he and his team would have hoped for, but instead has had to travel to Mexico for a mandatory in just his second defense.
Aged 28 Daniel Valladares has long been on the radar for fans of the lower weights. "Cejitas" also debuted in 2014, and like many on the Mexican domestic scene, he was busy, really busy, early on. He would fight 4 times in 2014, 4 times in 2015 and 4 tomes in 2016, as he developed his experience and his style against limited opponents. During that run he went 11-1, losing his final bout of 2016 to Genaro Rios in what looks to be something of an oddity. That loss was his first 8 rounders and he quickly bounced back, whilst slowly stepping up his competition and winning his first minor title soon afterwards. In 2018 he stepped up and beat Adrien Curiel Dominguez, less than a year later he beat former world champion Merlito Sabillo and then beat Christian Araneta in an IBF world title eliminator. He got his shit at the IBF Light Flyweight title just 5 months later, in a bout that ended in a draw against Pedro Taduran. Following that loss things went off the boil completely, as we suspect his motivation died as he suffered back to back upset losses, before bouncing back last year with 3 wins, including one against former world title challenger Julian Yedras.
In the ring Valladares is dangerous, at least when he's focused. He's big and tall at the weight, and although somewhat crude, he knows he can often get away with taking risks as his offense is his best defense. He his hard enough to get respect, has a decent enough chin to take a shit and a high work rate. He lacks in terms of polish, and is more of a fighter than a boxer, but his action style is a hard one to deal with. There is very much a case of machismo with him, and when he was cut by a headclash against Pedro Taduran you could tell he was angry and wanted revenge. Despite that it's clear he is a solid and well schooled boxer, who has got technical ability, but prefers a tear up.
Sadly for Cuarto travelling to Mexico for a world title fight, either as the champion or challenger, is much like travelling to the UK, Argentina or Thailand. The away fighter will not get any favours from the officials and will also be fighting in front of crazy fans cheering on their man. For a fighter like Cuarto, who is technical, wants to fight off the back foot, and rely more on counter punching and skills than fire power and work rate, a fight in Mexico is never going to go his way, especially not against a rugged, aggressive fighter like Valladares.
We suspect the pressure, work rate and sheer violence of Valladares will play a major role here in dragging Cuarto into the wrong type of fight. That, along with vociferous fans going crazy when Valldares does anything, leads to the Mexico to a clear lead on the cards, before head clashes force an early end to the bout, with a few rounds left.
Prediction - TD9 Valladares
In 2021 we saw Rene Mark Cuarto (19-2-2, 11)claim the biggest win of his career, defeating Pedro Taduran (14-3-1, 11) to claim the IBF Minimumweight title, in a still rare all-Filipino world title bout. This coming Saturday, 11 months after their first bout, the men will be facing off again, with Cuarto seeking his first defense, and Taduran looking to become only the third man to reclaim the title.
In their first bout it was Taduran was seeking his second defense he had won the belt in 2019, stopping Samuel Salva in a really fun 4 rounder, with his first defense coming in 2020 when a head clash forced a technical draw against Daniel Valladares. Had it not been for the pandemic we suspect there would have been a rematch of that bout, but instead the pandemic limited travel, and Minimumweight world title bouts became few and far between. As a result Taduran took more than a year year to return following his first defense, as he took on Taduran and lost a close and competitive 12 round decision bout. For Cuarto the win was the biggest of his career, by far, and that came despite the fact he had been out of the ring for well over a year himself.
The key to the first bout was the style clash between the two men. Taduran was the aggressor, taking center ring and often chasing Cuarto around the ring. Cuarto on the other hand used a lot of movement, picked nice counter shots, and prevented Taduran from really setting his feet and letting big shots go. It was a smart game plan from Cuarto and one that, ultimately, won him the fight, though one that really didn't leave a lot of margin for error over 12 rounds, the negativity could have cost him, had the judges swung just a single round against him.
Notably we expect that first bout to be very, very similar to how the rematch will go. Cuarto will continue to use the ring, move around, use his counter punching and look to draw errors from Taduran, errors he can counter. As for Taduran we expect him to be more aggressive, more intense and hungrier than he was in the first bout. At times he was following Cuarto, rather than cutting the ring off. This time around we expect to see more him using body shots early to take Cuarto's legs away, side stepping to cut the ring down rather than following his man, and timing Cuarto better than he did in their first bout.
Of the two men it's hard to argue that Cuarto is the better boxer. He showed that in their first bout. He's a crisper puncher, a better mover, picks his shots better and holds when he needs to. However Taduran is the stronger fighter, the bigger puncher and arguably the tougher man. He needs to make those traits matter here. He needs to be aggressive, more so than last time, and he needs to bully Cuarto around up close. Especially in the early rounds. Sap his energy, and make Cuarto work harder to create space.
Interestingly we suspect this bout will see Taduran take home the victory, with him coming in much hungrier than he did in his first bout. It won't be tidy, and it won't be clean, and Cuarto will try to make the bout messier and messier it as it goes longer, but we see the judges siding with the former champion, his aggression, his work rate, and his forward march, rather than Cuarto's movement, boxing and somewhat negative tricks.
Given how tired Cuarto seemed at times in their first bout there is a chance he could be stopped, but instead we expect his survival tactics will keep him in the bout, but he will come up short on the cards.
Prediction - UD12 Taduran
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
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
The Minimumweight division may not get much respect in the English speaking world but the division has, over the years, given us some special fights, such as Katsunari Takayama's war with Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Akira Yaegashi's historic clash with Kazuto Ioka and Yaegashi's incredible bout with Pornsawan Porpramook. Not every fight in the division is great, but more often than not the division over delivers.
The next fight in the division that we're expecting to be something special is an upcoming bout for the vacant IBF title, as the unbeaten Samuel Salva (17-0, 10) takes on former world title challenger Pedro Taduran (13-2, 10), in a rare all-Filipino world title bout. It's the third all-Filipino world title bout in the space of 18 months, and whilst it's the lowest profile it is likely to be the most entertaining.
The unbeaten Salva was originally pencilled in to face Deejay Kriel, though Kriel would vacate the title rather than travel to the Philippines for his mandatory against the unheralded Salva. That has lead to this bout, and given Salva, dubbed the "Silent Assassin" a chance to face his countryman for the belt.
Aged 22 Salva has been quietly making a name for himself at home running up his unbeaten streak without too much fuss. His record isn't stacked with notable names but during his 17 fight career he has scored victories over Donny Mabao, Marco John Rementizo and Rene Mark Cuarto. These are all domestic fighters, but are the sort of fighters that we Filipino's beating before getting a big shot. Aged 22 we wouldn't typically expect a big win on Salva's record, but it is concerning that he is getting a world title yet lacks a win over an international foe.
To date Salva's best win is likely his decision victory over Rene Mark Cuarto from earlier this year. In that bout Salva did enough to earn a close but clear decision over his compatriot. His key to victory there was being a little busier, coming forward more often and a slight edge in power, though it was a close fight. Salva really didn't show anything exceptional through the bout, but looked calm, steady and worked hard through 10 rounds, boxing behind his jab and using his footwork to pressure Cuarto and countering well when Cuarto came forward. He looked solid, but not spectacular.
Taduran on the other hand has fought at a much higher level than Salva. The "Rattle Snake", who like Salva is also 22, has scored wins against the likes of Robert Onggocan, Philip Luis Cuerdo, Jerry Tomogdan and Jeffrey Galero, whilst his losses have been to Joel Lino, early in his career, and WBC world champion Wanheng Menayothin, just over a year ago. Like Salva his wins have been against domestic competition, though a higher level of domestic foe to the unbeaten man, and he certainly didn't embarrass himself in a very competitive bout with Wanheng in Thailand. That bout with Wanheng left many, including ourselves, feeling like Taduran had world championship potential, and just needed to build a little bit more, with the experience of fighting Wanheng certainly helping him improve.
Watching Taduran fight we see a fighter who isn't intimidated by a hostile atmosphere or an opponents reputation, a man with boundless energy, an awkward busy southpaw who can fight on the front foot. He's technically not the sharpest, not does he look like a fighter with much power, but he's in there to have a fight, will barge forward and let his hands fly. His defensive flaws do leave him open to be tagged, but on the other hand he appears capable taking a good, solid shot. He's less technical than Salva, but seems happier to make things a fight.
On paper we suspect that Salva will start as the slight favourite, but we actually favour Taduran. We feel his experience at a higher level, his energy, aggression and work rate will be the difference. Salva is the better boxer, from what we've managed to see of the two, but sometimes it's the better fighter who picks up the win, and Taduran is certainly the man who looks to be the better fighter.
We're expecting to see Taduran pressure Salva, maybe lose a few early rounds to Salva's boxing as a result, but eventually begin to grind down the unbeaten man, taking a close but clear decision victory to claim the IBF title.
Prediction - UD12 Taduran
The Minimumweight division has been an interesting one recently, which has been given more attention than usual due to Thailand's Wanheng Menayothin reaching 51-0 and breaking the 50-0 record of Floyd Mayweather Jr. Despite the increase in attention it's had, that attention really hasn't been spread across the whole division, and that's a shame given that the division is actually really interesting at the moment. Not only do you have Wanheng with a world title but also the incredibly exciting Vic Saludar and, at the time of writing, the brilliantly named Knockout CP Freshmart. The division also has rising contenders and Tsubasa Koura and Masataka Taniguchi who are both exciting, heavy handed and talented fighters who will find themselves in the mix for years to come.
Another fighter who is expected to be in mix for the coming years is Filipino maestro Mark Anthony Barriga (9-0, 1), who looks to become the IBF champion this coming Saturday, as he takes on fellow unbeaten and Carlos Licona (13-0, 2) for the vacant title.
The title was vacated earlier this year by Hiroto Kyoguchi, who decided to move up in weight. Prior to vacating Barriga had earned the mandatory position for a title shot, with Licona being ordered by the IBF to be the co-challenger for the vacant title. After several weeks of talks it ended up on this weekend's big card from the US, giving both fighters the chance to capitalise on a big show.
For those that haven't seen Barriga he has regularly been compared to Floyd Mayweather Jr. He is one of the most naturally skilled fighters in the sport, with amazing movement, timing and ring craft. He understands distance like very few fighters in the sport and can make good fighters look like rank novices just from his understanding of the ring. His one flaw is that he lacks power, he really is one of the lightest punchers in the sport, but he's a very crisp puncher, who's accurate, sharp and clean with his work.
The Filipino has only been a professional since July 2016 but has already impressed, with particularly notable wins against former world title challengers Samartlek Kokietgym and Gabriel Mendoza, barely losing a round in those bouts combined.
The 23 Mexican born American Licona made his debut in December 2014 and has fought in Mexico, the US and Puerto Rico. Though his career his most notable opponent has been former world title challenger Janiel Rivera, and that's really his only win against an opponent of any name value.
Sadly there is very little footage of Licona, so it's hard to know much about his style, though given his record, and his lack of stoppages, we can assume he's not a puncher. His only stoppages so far both came in his first 4 bouts and since then he's not found anything closing in a stoppage. That's not to say not hitting hard will be an issue here, but it's one thing would help when fighting Barriga. What we expect to see is Licona to be another talented, slick boxer.
We could rave about how good we thing Barriga is, but the reality that we don't think we'll need to. Instead we think Barriga will shine here and will turn heads with a mature, skilled and excellent performance of boxing. We suspect it'll be a performance that will please the purists, rather than the fans looking for excitement, but we're pretty confident that Barriga will put on an exhibition against Licona and come out on top.
We know that's a risky prediction, given how little we've managed to see of Licona, but we're confident that Barriga really is that good, and is the most technically skilled fighter at 105lbs, by quite some margin.
The Minimumweight division is currently on that has a lot of potentially great match ups, and although much avoided by Western fans there is so much talented at 105lbs that the only people missing out are those who turn away from the lower weights. Among the most exciting fighters in the division is Japan's Hiroto Kyoguchi (9-0, 7), who is the current IBF champion having won the title in just his 8th bout after just 15 months as a professional fighter. This coming weekend Kyoguchi will return to the ring in his second defense, as he battles against fellow unbeaten puncher Vince Paras (13-0, 11), of the Philippines.
Kyoguchi's rise from debut to champion is the quickest in Japanese history, and one of the quickest of all time. He made his debut back in April 2016 and needed just 10 rounds to defeat his first 5 opponents, all before the end of 2016. In 2017 he stepped up, quickly winning the OPBF Minimumweight title, which he would defend once, before defeating the tough Jose Argumedo in July 2017 for the IBF title, which he defended in impressive fashion at the end of 2017, stopping Carlos Buitrago in 8 rounds.
In the ring Kyoguchi is an ultra-aggressive, hard hitting, pressure fight who is devastating with his body shots and combinations. He has got some defensively flaws, and has failed to make the most of his jab at times, but the reality is that his aggression is simply too unrelenting for most. Even those who have gone the distance with the Japanese terror, Jonathan Refugio and Jose Argumedo, have tried to avoid a tear up with Kyoguchi and gotten on their bike. Kyoguchi's flaws are visible, but are very hard to punish him for due to his freakish power, physical strength and brutal body shots.
Aged 19 Paras is looking to become one of the youngest Filipino world champions ever. He made his debut in July 2017, as a 16 year old and like Kyoguchi his power was obvious from his debut, which saw him stop Romeo Garde in 91 seconds. That power would help Paras to stop 9 of his first 10 opponents with only the tough Jimboy Haya managing to last more than 7 complete rounds with Paras. Despite his power Paras has shown some flaws, and has got a lot of questions to answer, given that he has been dropped and has yet to fight outside of the Philippines.
Footage of Paras isn't easy too easy to come by, but what is available shows a hard hitting but quite basic fighter. He is certainly dangerous but his footwork doesn't look the most natural, his movement isn't the quickest and despite being a pressure fighter he does look like he isn't the most aggressive or the quickest to close opponents down. In saying that however he does appear to have a tight guard and is certainly very dangerous early on, with 8 stoppages in the first 3 rounds.
Whilst we do see Paras as being a bit basic his power will keep Kyoguchi on his game defensively. Sadly for the challenger however this bout looks like it will have come too soon for him and he will find himself up against a similar, but more mature and more rounded, version of himself and Paras will be broken down in the middle rounds. Kyoguchi can't get reckless, but this is a massive step up in class for the challenger and one he is making before he is really ready. If we're being honest we're have preferred to have seen Paras in an OPBF title level fight before getting a world title fight, but can't blame the fighter or his team for taking the opportunity, even if he does come up short.
The first of three world title bouts on New Year's Eve this year will see IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (8-0, 6) [京口 紘人] defending his title against talented Nicaraguan Carlos Buitrago (30-2-1-1, 17). For Kyoguchi the bout will be his first defense whilst Buitrago will be looking to claim a world title fight, following a trio of previous set backs in Asia. The bout could, potentially, set the stage for a very interesting 2018 at Light Flyweight, with 3 titles being fought for on this show, and will certainly help move the division forward whilst also giving fans a very exciting stylistic match up.
The talented Kyoguchi was a former amateur stand out before making his debut in April 2016. By the end of the year he had raced out to 5-0 (5) and looked like a force to be reckoned with, thanks to his ultra aggressive pressure style, his heavy hands and his bob and weave style. That style took him to OPBF glory in February this year, when he stopped veteran Armando de la Cruz, and later helped him record his first defense, with a 12 round decision over Jonathan Refugio, who spent much of the bout in survival mode.
The win over Refugio did, to some extent, expose Kyoguchi as not being as destructive as he originally looked, but left no one questioning his stamina, aggression or ability to come on strong. Early on Refugio had had success, but had taken a lot during those early stages to stay away in the middle rounds and essentially do little more than survive late on, whilst Kyoguchi pressed forward. That defense was followed by another 12 round victory for Kyoguchi, who out pointed the teak tough Jose Argumedo in a relatively frustrating and sloppy affair, that saw neither man shine despite Kyoguchi claiming the IBF title with the win.
With a pair of 12 now under his belt the exciting man from the Watanabe gym now looks to get back to his destructive best and get his first defense as he takes on the talented visitor. To win he will need to show a much more disciplined performance than he did last time. He will need to be fully aware of the Nicaraguan's slippery skills, smart movement and ability to box at range. Kyoguchi will have to use the intelligent pressure that worked so well early in his career and unleash the devastating combinations and body shots that convinced his team to push him to a world title fight after just 15 months as a professional.
Aged 26 Buitrago has long been tipped as the the successor to Roman Gonzalez as the face of Nicaraguan boxing. He debuted aged 16, way back in 2008 and went 27-0-0-1 (16) before getting is first world title fight, in November 2013. During that run Buitrago had beaten the likes of Yader Escobar and Julian Yedras and had scored wins in Mexico and the US whilst developing a reputation as a special fighter in the gym. He was a fluid, gorgeous to watch boxer, with under rated power, smart movement and lovely hand speed with an excellent sharp jab and nice variety to his shots.
It was in November 2013 that Buitrago would get his first world title fight, and would fight to a draw in the Philippines against the then WBO champion Merlito Sabillo, with many feeling the Nicaraguan had been robbed of the win and the title. Despite the set back Buitrago remained a leading contender and just a fight later he took on Knockout CP Freshmart in a bout for the interim WBA Minimumweight title, losing a controversial decision to the Thai. A third shot would come just a couple of fights later, when he got a rematch with Knockout, and fought to a wide decision loss in a very lacklustre performance.
Since his second loss to Knockout we've not really seen anything from Buitrago to suggest he's a top fight any more. He scored a quick blow out over Roger Collado in May 2016 and an 8 round decision over Noe Medina back in October 2016, meaning he's been out of the ring for 14 months coming into this bout! It's also worth noting that his last recorded weight was 111¾lbs, well above the Minimumweight limit, and he has been rumoured to be struggling to get down to 105lbs for this bout.
At his best, if Buitrago can be at his best, he could be a real nightmare for Kyoguchi with his jab, movement, toughness and boxing brain. Sadly though all signs are that Buitrago isn't going to be at his best. He has been inactive, he's said to be struggling with weight and given his performance in the second bout with Knockout you have to wonder whether he has either outgrown the division or just isn't going to become the fighter we had all hoped. If Buitrago is anything short of his best Kyoguchi will likely steam roll him with pressure, combinations and body breaking shots to the midsection. If Buitrago is at his best then there is a chance he'll take the title back home with him, with a decision, but we're expecting to see an off Buitrago getting dragged into a war, and being broken down in the middle rounds by the vicious Kyoguchi.
It's fair to say that 2016 was a nightmare year for the Watanabe gym, with high profile losses for Kohei Kono and Takashi Uchiyama who both lost their world titles, however as a gym they have bounced back well in 2017. This coming Sunday they could see that bounce continue as they look to create their next world champion, and see their man set a new Japanese domestic record.
The man in question is ultra-destructive Miniumweight youngster Hiroto Kyoguchi (7-0, 6), who challenges IBF Minimumweight champion Jose Argumedo (20-3-1, 12). The bout comes just over 15 months since Kyoguchi made his debut, swatting away Nayoklek Sithsaithong in 2 rounds on April 17th 2016 and will also be Argumedo's 4th defense of his title.
Of the two men the more proven is the champion, a tough and trough 28 year old Mexican who has been a professional for almost 7 years and has fought a who's who. He's scored wins over Oswaldo Novoa, Saul Juarez, Jose Martin Tecuapetla, Javier Martinez Resendiz and, most notably of all, Katsunari Takayama. It was the win over Takayama that really brought him to people's attention, taking a 9th round technical over Takayama to claim the IBF title in a really rough fight that saw Argumedo's strength's, and weaknesses, being shown.
In the ring Argumedo is slow, he's clumsy, and a bit flat footed. He is however tough as old boots, physically imposing, strong and experienced. With 24 bouts under his belt, including a 4-0 (2) record in world title bouts he has shown his quality at world level and he's gone beyond 8 rounds in 12 bouts so far, racking up 147 career rounds.
It should be noted that the win over Takayama came in Japan and whilst we personally thought he was fortunate to get the decision, it was clear that he wasn't scared about fighting on foreign soil and instead he came to fight. It looked like he was out worked and out manoeuvred by Takayama, but the “Lightning Kid” could never dent the Mexican who looked like he could have taken shots for weeks without going down.
Whilst Argumedo is a proven quantity the same cannot be said of Kyoguchi, but in regards to the eye test he looks like a potential Japanese star of the future and the next Japanese standout at 105lbs, and we mean that with no disrespect to WBO champion Tatsuya Fukuhara.
Blessed with really spiteful power, an aggressive mentality and the ability to assess his own performances and take positives, and negatives from them, Kyoguchi seems like fighter who is naturally talented and blessed with real maturity. Style wise he looks similar to both Roman Gonalez and Daigo Higa, two of the most exciting fighters in the sport today. He applies intelligent pressure, looking to break the body and spirit of his opponents. At the moment he hasn't made the most of his jab, but has never really needed to, dominated many of his fights from early on.
Whilst KO artists always have questions over their heads Kyoguchi has already answered some of those. For example he has has proven he can go 12 rounds, and actually looked the fresher man when he went 12 against Jonathan Refugio back in April and shown that he's not worried when a fighter can take his power. Those two questions being answered already tell us a lot about Kyoguchi, and why he is so highly regarded. He's a puncher, but he can do 12, at a good pace and can revert to plan B if he needs to. Not only are we aware from what we've seen that he's a talent, but Watanabe gym have had him training with top tier talent for this fight, and have got experience of bringing fighters to the top, and won't have thrown him in here unless they were confident of him being ready.
This could be a case of throwing Kyoguchi in with a champion too early. We don't think Watanabe would have done that, but they might. What we're expecting instead is to see Kyoguchi really shine against a tough fighter that he will have a field day with, pressing the action and going to town on a champion who is essentially made to order for his speed, aggression and style. Kyoguchi can't get over-confident, and he can't rush his work, but he should be able to look a sensation here against a slow and clumsy fighter that he can pressure, and rip combinations on, at will.
We don't see Kyoguchi blowing away Argumedo early on, the Mexican is far too tough for that, but we do see him taking stoppage in the middle rounds as the body pile up and the Mexican unravels under the pressure.
With 5 world title fights on New Year's Eve we can understand why Japanese fight fans could be excited about the end of year shows. Sadly however a lot of those world title bouts are less than great. One such example is the IBF Minimumweight title bout between always exciting champion Katsunari Takayama (30-7-0-1, 12) and very limited Mexican challenger Jose Argumedo (15-3-1, 9).
The bout is a mismatch due to the limitations, and recent activity, of the challenger. Argumedo hasn't fought in over a year, and he's actually just 1-1 in the last 24 months with the win coming against the very poor Irving Requena. His most notable bouts have all been defeats, with 2 decision losses to Oswaldo Novoa and a loss last year to Carlos Velarde, and although he was very competitive in those defeats there is little to suggest he should be in a world title bout.
Whilst Argumedo does lack a world level win he does interesting hold some victories over gatekeepers. In 2013 he beat both Martin Tecuapetla and Javier Martinez Resendiz, though of course those wins were more than 2 years ago and neither Tecuapetla or Resendiz have shown themselves to be world class themselves.
Despite the issues with Argumedo getting this fight we do suspect that he will give his all, he will come to fight and he will be happy to go to war with Takayama. He may not be world class be he will almost certainly give us action, especially given his toughness.
Whilst Argumedo has yet to impress it's hard not to be impressed by the champion who is one of the most exciting fighters on the planet. Takayama is a true warrior, his bouts have been among the most exciting in recent years and his brawl with Francisco Rodriguez Jr was, rightfully, regarded as one of the best fights of 2014. Technically he is flawed but those flaws are somewhat compensated for with his insane work rate, incredible toughness and his amazing will to win.
The 32 year old champion can, at times, be accused of being inconsistent and has been through a very hard career. Bouts against the likes of Rodriguez, Roman Gonzalez, Yutaka Niida and Nkosinathi Joyi have all taken their toll on his body. Despite the inconsistencies and damaging wars Takayama is still a fighter who knows how to pull wins out of the of the bag, as shown last year against Shin Ono and he knows how to turn it on when needed with huge assaults that over-whelm lesser opponents.
For us this bout has just one winner, Takayama. Almost certainly by decision with the aggressive Japanese fighter simply out working and out fighting the Mexican visitor.
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.