This coming Saturday in San Antonio, we'll see unified Super Bantamweight champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev (10-0, 7) defending his WBA "super" and IBF Super Bantamweight titles, as he takes on Ronny Rios (33-3, 16). The bout will be Akhmadaliev's third defense of the title he won in 2020, when he beat Danny Roman in a sensational bout, whilst it will also serve as the second world title shot for Rios, who came up short in 2017 against Rey Vargas in a competitive contest. It will also be a bout between two legitimate top 10 fighters at 122lbs, which is one of the most interesting division's in the sport right now, and is one that has the potential to be something very special.
Aged 27 Akhamdaliev has been moved through the ranks like very few others. He turned professional after an impressive amateur and was world ranked within a year of his professional debut. By late 2019 he was knocking on the door of a world title fight, and were it not for an injury to Danny Roman there's a good chance that "MJ" would have won a world title in September 2019. Instead he had to wait for Roman to recover, with the two men clashing in January 2020, with Akhmadlaiev taking a split decision, and the the unified IBA/WBA "super" titles. That was in just his 8th professional bout. Sadly Covid has stopped his rise to stardom, and since winning the titles he has fought just twice, beating the then IBF mandatory challenger Ryosuke Iwasa and beating late replacement Jose Velasquez, who replaced Rios for a bout late last year when Rios contracted Covid19.
In the ring Akhmadaliev can pretty much do it all. At his best he's a patient, but aggressive, pressure-puncher. He's naturally heavy handed, puts his shots together well, picks his moments and applies mentally draining and consistent front foot pressure. When he needs to box he can, as we saw against Roman, he can also change the tempo of bouts, and it a very complete all rounder. At times he can fight the wrong fight, an unfortunate consequence of being such a brilliant all rounder, but he's able to adapt and take control when he needs to. For a man with just 9 bouts to his name he has already proven he has world class power, hurting Danny Roman and stopping Ryosuke Iwasa, he has great stamina, going 12 rounds and picking up the pace in some of the later rounds against Roman, and he's proven he can take a shot, as he showed against Roman. The one question mark about him, is whether he can come out on top in an intense inside war, and that's hopefully something we'll see later in the year in a potential clash with Stephon Fulton.
Rios was a solid amateur himself, not the level of Akhmadaliev who competed at the very highest level of the sport but a solid one who twice won US national championships. Aged 31 Rios is a very experienced professional who debuted as a professional back in 2008 and ran off a very impressive 23-0 (10) record before losing in an upset to the always unpredictable Robinson Castellanos. Prior to his first loss he had notched notable wins over Andrew Cancio and Rico Ramos. Rios would bounce back well from the loss to Castellano by scoring 5 wins, including a victory against Jayson Velez, before getting a shot at WBC Super Bantamweight champion Rey Vargas. Despite losing to Vargas he did give the talented Mexican a really tough bout and showed he belonged at that level, but soon afterwards suffered his third loss, a KO defeat to Azat Hovhannisyan, which seemed to spell the end of his career at the top level just as it seemed he belonged there. Amazingly however he has rebuilt and won 4 in a row, including very solid wins over Diego De La Hoya and Oscar Negrete, to earn this show at Akhmadaliev.
In the ring Rios is a fun fighter to watch. He likes to set a good tempo, let his hands go, and is a technically very good fighter, usually. He is however a fighter who has been stopped twice, and does make mistakes, as we saw repeatedly in his bout to Hovhannisyan who rocked him in round 3 and stopped him in round 6. His recovery ability is questionable, and whilst he knows how to survive, he is the type of man who can take a long time to clear his head when hurt. When facing fighters who don't have fight changing power, he is an awkward, aggressive fighter who can be a nightmare for many in the division. Sadly though with his stoppage losses, and his overall performance against Hovhannisyan, there will always be question marks about his heart, desire, and will to win. He has done a lot to answer those questions, but we will always wonder if he can turn things around when the going gets tough.
We suspect Rios will be hungry to make a statement, and will look to press the fight early, taking the fight to Akhmadaliev. Sadly for him we don't see this as a tactic that will actually work. Instead we see his aggression being used against him as he essentially walks into Akhmadaliev's range, and ends up taking big shots from the champion. He might have some moments, but Rios' success will come at a price and he will take a lot of punishment. In the middle rounds that punishment will take a toll on Rios who will come undone completely and be stopped, for the third time in his career.
Prediction - TKO7 Akhmadaliev
This coming Friday in Manchester, New Hampshire, we'll see unified Super Bantamweight champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev (9-0, 7) defending his WBA "super" and IBF Super Bantamweight titles, as he takes on late replacement Jose Velasquez (29-6-2, 19), who has gotten the bout after Ronny Rios (33-3, 16) contracted Covid19 around a week before the bout.
The bout will be Akhmadaliev's second defense of the title he won in 2020, when he beat Danny Roman in a sensational bout, and will serve as a break for Velasquez, who was supposed to fight Reymart Gaballo for the WBA interim Bantamweight title in 2020 before Nonito Donaire was pulled out of a different fight and he was lost in the shuffle.
Aged 27 Akhamdaliev has been moved through the ranks like very few others. He turned professional after an impressive amateur and was world ranked within a year of his professional debut. By late 2019 he was knocking on the door of a world title fight, and were it not for an injury to Danny Roman there's a good chance that "MJ" would have won a world title in September 2019. Instead he had to wait for Roman to recover, with the two men clashing in January 2020, with Akhmadlaiev taking a split decision, and the the unified IBA/WBA "super" titles. That was in just his 8th professional bout. Sadly Covid has stopped his rise to stardom, and since winning the titles he has fought just once, beating the then IBF mandatory challenger Ryosuke Iwasa.
In the ring Akhmadaliev can pretty much do it all. At his best he's a patient, but aggressive, pressure-puncher. He's naturally heavy handed, puts his shots together well, picks his moments and applies mentally draining and consistent front foot pressure. When he needs to box he can, as we saw against Roman, he can also change the tempo of bouts, and it a very complete all rounder. At times he can fight the wrong fight, an unfortunate consequence of being such a brilliant all rounder, but he's able to adapt and take control when he needs to. For a man with just 9 bouts to his name he has already proven he has world class power, hurting Danny Roman and stopping Ryosuke Iwasa, he has great stamina, going 12 rounds and picking up the pace in some of the later rounds against Roman, and he's proven he can take a shot, as he showed against Roman. The one question mark about him, is whether he can come out on top in an intense inside war, and that's hopefully something we'll see next year in a potential clash with Stephon Fulton or Brandon Figueroa.
The relatively unknown Velasquez is a 32 year old from Chile who really well known at all, despite having had a couple of bouts in the US. He began his career in 2013, and struggled to get going early in his career, going 4-5-2 (1) in his first 11 bouts. Since then however he has really turned things around going 21-1 in his last 22 bouts, with 14 straight wins dating back more than 5 years. Whilst that run looks good on paper his winning run does lack noteworthy wins, with his best victories coming against the likes of Melvin Lopez and Ariel Lopez, who were both unbeaten prior to facing Velasquez.
From the footage of Velasquez he looks like a strong, physical fighter, who could be a handful against some top 20 guys at Bantamweight. He's got solid stopping power, he's physical, but he's not particularly skilled, quick or sharp and instead has relied on his physical traits, rather than his technical ones. He's proven his toughness in recent bouts and his tenacity. He has never been stopped and has taken solid blows. Sadly for him however this is a major step up in class, a move up in weight from Bantamweight to Super Bantamweight and it's a bout he has taken at very short notice.
With a good notice period Velasquez has the ability to be a test for a decent fighter. This however is him against an excellent fighter, up a weight and on a weeks notice. This is not going to go well for him, and he will be beaten, broken down and stopped. The only thing prolonging his beating will be his own toughness, but that won't last forever and when "MJ" feels like ending this he will.
Prediction TKO4 Akhmadaliev
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
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
It's taken less than 3 weeks for boxing to throw us the first curve ball of the year, with the announcement of an IBF Super Bantamweight title bout pitting unbeaten champion TJ Doheny (20-0, 14) against little known Japanese challenger Ryohei Takahashi (15-3-1, 6) [高橋竜平] on January 18th. The bout was put together on short notice, with Takahashi's team struggling to get him a visa on short notice for a bout he simply couldn't turn down. As we write this, it's still unclear if a visa has been granted, things are being cut that fine!
So, let's just accept a visa has been given and that the bout is on, lets now look into the bout, and what we're going to be seeing for Doheny's DAZN debut, and his first bout under Eddie Hearn.
The unbeaten 32 year old champion won the title last year, travelling to Tokyo and dethroning Ryosuke Iwasa. That bout, shown in Japan and the US, was supposed to set the winner up for a bout with the then WBO champion Isaac Dogboe. Instead of facing Dogboe in a unification bout the Australian based Irish man saw had to recover from serious facial injuries and in December Dogboe was himself dethroned. That seemed to leave Doheny with plenty of options on the table, including potential Japanese returns for some of their big names like Shingo Wake. Instead, however, he signed with Eddie Hearn, and that deal was announced on January 8th with his first bout under Hearn announced for just 10 days later.
Dubbed "The Power" Doheny is actually not an out and out puncher. He can bang, and he certainly does have power, but as he showed against Iwasa he's a talented mover, a sharp puncher, an intelligent fighter and not someone who look to just bang with a banger. He made Iwasa look slow and clumsy by stopping "Eagle Eye" from setting his feet, and for the most part out worked and out manoeuvered the Japanese fighter. Other than the win over Iwasa Doheny's record is a bit thin, with his best wins coming against the likes of Mike Oliver, Denkaosan Kaovichit, Marco Demecillo and Mike Tawatchai. That however isn't a sign that he's a bad fighter, just one who hasn't been able to really prove what he can do, often enough.
As mentioned Takahashi is a little known fighter, and if you don't follow the Asian or Oceanic scene you almost certainly won't have seen him at all. Almost all of his bouts have been in his native Japan, and most haven't been televised. His early career wasn't great, losing his debut in 96 seconds to Shogo Sumitomo in December 2012, before fighting to a draw with Matcha Nakagawa in his second bout. It wasn't until January 2014 that he scored his first win, but he really came of age during that year and went on to win the All Japan Bantamweight Rookie of the Year whilst advancing his record to 5-1-1. In 2015 he notched 3 more wins before leaving Japan for the first time and losing a wide decision to a then 5-0 Andrew Moloney, then a prospect but now a leading Super Flyweight contender. Since that loss Takahashi has gone 8-1 with notable domestic wins over Matcha Nakagawa, Kazuki Tanaka and Shingo Kusano as well as a big win over Thailand's Mike Tawatchai in Thailand.
Takahashi is an aggressive fighter, he looks to set a high work rate and fights like someone who is confident in himself. That confidence has grown in the last few years, really booming since he stopped the then touted Kazuki Tanaka back in May 2017, with what was sheer determination and pressure. That was a tactic he used well against Mike Tawatchai as well, to take a clear decision in Thailand. Sadly however Takahashi is defensively open, and in his bout against Shingo Kusano he was being caught bu southpaw left hands time and time again, looking like he really wasn't sure how to fight a southpaw, though had the energy and desire to take the narrow decision. That is the bout that should worry those picking the upset. Even against orthodox fighter Takahashi's defense doesn't look the best, but against southpaws he really is open.
Although we would suggest Doheny would win anyway Takahashi also to issues with his visa, the late notice and the time zone change. Any one of those issues would be a problem, but all 2 really do show the card is stacked against him, we don't blame Doheny for that but do wonder if Eddie Hearn has had problems putting together an attractive card due to over stretching his resources and time. He's got a lot on his plate right now and giving fighters like Takahashi the opportunity of a life time on short notice might work, but it's a reputation he won't want to build.
As a prediction we suspect Doheny's speed, power and southpaw stance will pick apart a game challenger and Takahashi, whilst brave, will be stopped in the middle rounds by the champion, who is looking to unify with WBA champion Daniel Roman later in the year.
(Image courtesy of Yokohama Hikari)
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On August 16, at the legendary Korakuen Hall, Ryosuke Iwasa will defend the IBF Super Bantamweight World Championship against Irish-Australian contender TJ Doheny.
Ryosuke Iwasa (25-2 / 16 KOs) had a successful amateur career, amassing a record of 60 wins and 16 losses, while winning various national titles. He made his pro debut on August of 2008, at the age of 18, going undefeated for 2 years, 8-0, beating much more experienced foes like Marvin Tampus (21-10*) and Kinshiro Usui (19-2*).
Iwasa’s first big test came on March 5th, 2011 when he challenged Shinsuke Yamanaka (13-0*) for the Japanese Bantamweight title. Yamanaka was another accomplished amateur boxer (34-13), holding many notable victories, including one over future world champion Takahiro Ao. Neither of the 2 had lost a single fight since turning pro, nor were they ready to spoil their perfect record. In what it was undoubtedly one of the best Japanese title fights of all time, Iwasa and Yamanaka went to war that night, fighting for gold as well as to prove who was the best Bantamweight fighter in Japan. Iwasa dominated early, stunning the champion on numerous occasions, while Yamanaka started making a comeback in the later rounds. Both men were rocking each other hard, going back and forth, bringing the Japanese fans to their feet. Chants for Iwasa and Yamanaka were heard all over the arena as neither was planning on giving up. At the very last round, Yamanaka went on a rampage, almost knocking Iwasa out while still standing, forcing the referee to step in and put an end to this amazing bout. That fight put Yamanaka in world title contention and 8 months later, he became the WBC world champion. Iwasa, even in defeat, he displayed his Bushido spirit, making him a fan favorite amongst the Japanese faithful.
Only a couple of months later, he came back stronger and more determined than ever before, winning 11 fights in a row, against Kentaro Masuda (14-5*), 2 time world title contender David De La Mora (24-2*), Mark John Yap (18-8*), former WBC International champion Hiroki Shino (10-2*) and more, as well as earning both the Japanese and OPBF titles in the process.
In 2015, after a failed attempt at the interim IBF Bantamweight belt, Iwasa decided to move up a weight class and switch his focus at the Super Bantamweights. It didn’t take long for the Japanese star to reach the top of the division and challenge Yukinori Oguni (19-1*) for the IBF World Championship on September of 2017, at the EDION Arena in Osaka. Iwasa came out like a house on fire, knocking the champion down in the opening round once and twice in the next one. It was a very one-sided match, up until the forth round when Oguni began firing back at the challenger, finally turning this into a big world title bout. After 3 more action packed rounds, the fight was stopped, as Oguni was bleeding profusely, thus marking the beginning of Iwasa’s first ever world title reign.
Already with one title defense under his belt, over Philippino standout Ernesto Saulong (21-2*), Iwasa will look for V2 this August, against TJ Doheny (19-0 / 14 KOs).
Doheny has already made quite an impression in the division, winning the PABA Super Bantamweight title, just 15 months after his debut. A certified knock out artist, with the majority of his finishes coming within the first five rounds. His most impressive performance must be against former interim WBA Super Flyweight World Champion Sutep Wangmuk (63-5*) in 2015, which ended via 5th round KO.
This fight will mark Iwasa’s 10th Anniversary as a pro boxer and what better way to celebrate it but with another huge win over a hungry contender.
*Denotes record going in to the fight.
This coming Thursday we'll get the chance to see Ryosuke Iwasa (24-2, 16) make his first defense of the IBF Super Bantamweight title, which he won in impressive fashion last September. The hard hitting Japanese world champion will be defending the belt against the little known Filipino challenger Ernesto Saulong (21-2-1, 8).
Iwasa was a former amateur stand out before turning professional in 2008, with many in Japan expecting big things of the Southpaw from Chiba. The talent, and power, of Iwasa was clear from very early on, and in a little over 25 months he had raced out to an impressive 8-0 (6) record, and a shot at the Japanese Bantamweight title. Whilst he would go on to lose in his first title fight, coming up short to Shinsuke Yamanaka, he did show a lot of potential, and would subsequently go on to win both the Japanese and OPBF Bantamweight titles whilst climbing up the world rankings. Sadly Iwasa would suffer his second stoppage loss in his first world title bout, losing to Lee Haskins, but would then move up in weight, and he has since looked a much better fighter whilst going 5-0 (4).
Last time out we saw Iwasa really put everything together as he scored a career defining win and stopped Yukimori Oguni in 6 rounds to claim the IBF Super Bantamweight title. He dropped Iwasa numerous times before forcing Wayne Hedgpeth to take a bloodied Oguni to the ringside doctor, and eventually stop the bout.
Early in his career Iwasa looked like a relatively predictable, 1-paced slugger. He had some technical nous, but there was a real feeling that he was a bit too basic to test the best, though had the brutal power that would always make him dangerous, if he could land. Since moving up win weight however he has looked a bit smoother, a bit more relaxed, and just as dangerous when he lands. There is a still a feeling he could be out boxed by a smart mover, but he is very dangerous and if he lands clean he will do damage.
Whilst Iwasa has had his career followed closely by those who follow the Japanese domestic scene there wasn't ever the same following for Saulong in his homeland. Instead the 28 year old has had to develop with out much fan fare or expectation since his 2010 debut. Despite the lack of expectation Saulong has managed to prove himself as a solid competitor on the domestic scene, and has scored notable wins over the likes of Alie Laurel, twice, and Jestoni Austida. Sadly those wins aside there is little of real value on his record, other than losses to Rey Megrino and Lwandile Sityatha.
In the ring Saulong isn't a particularly big puncher, and he has scored only an single stoppage win in his last 5 bouts, with that coming against Arnel Baconaje, He is a solid fighter technically with a nice pressure style using a lot of head movement to slip shots. He's nice to watch but has an unfortunate knack of throwing shots that are quite wide and not having anything razor sharp in his arsenal. Defensively he makes for a very tough target, but offensively he doesn't appear too troublesome with his output.
Given the footage available of the the challenger it's possible he could give Iwasa some problems with his head movement. However it's hard to imagine Saulong avoiding everything Iwasa has to offer, especially the body shots. With that in mind we are expecting the champion to hurt, and later stop the Filipino. Saulong has the potential to be a stubborn opponent, but we really don't think he has the toughness to withstand Iwasa's power, or enough power of his own to hurt the champion, who we suspect will close the show in the middle rounds.
The Super Bantamweight division is a bit of a strange one globally, with the division lacking big money super fights and being a very fragmented division, with a lot of talent but no out-and-out stand out star and even the biggest name in the division looks set to abandon it in pursuit of big money bouts. Despite the lack of big names Japan is stacked with fantastic fighters in the division, and this coming Wednesday we see two of those clash, as IBF champion Yukinori Oguni (19-1-1, 7) [小國 以載] make his first defense of the belt and takes on mandatory challenger Ryosuke Iwasa (23-2, 15) [岩佐 亮佑].
For those who can't remember Oguni actually won the title in a major upset last December when he shocked big punching Dominican Johnthan Guzman, and actually dropped Guzman en route to his upset win. That victory showed how well Oguni can box to a game plan, how resilient he is and how smart he is in the ring, avoiding fighting Guzman's fight and instead controlling the contest with his movement and jab.
Prior to beating Guzman we had seen Oguni claim both the OPBF and Japanese titles and score a number of notable wins. They had included victories over the likes of Roli Gasca, Masaaki Serie, Yasutaka Ishimoto and Mike Tawatchai with his only loss coming way back in 2013 to Shingo Wake. Since the loss to Wake it's obvious that Oguni has developed and is now a much stronger, more powerful and confident fighter than he'd been previously.
In the ring Oguni is a light punching fighter, but his much harder than his record suggests, he's skilled, he's an intelligent mover and he's quick. Technically there are flaws with Oguni, but fight after fight he is tidying them up, developing his physical power and building on his ring IQ. He's no longer the fighter who lost to Wake, instead he's the guy who beat Guzman, he's the champion of the world and he's the man looking to make his first of the title.
Oguni's challenger will be the once highly touted, former amateur standout Iwasa, a hard hitting southpaw who will be getting his second world title fight, and his first at his more natural Super Bantamweight division. Iwasa debuted as a teenager following a 60-6 (42) amateur career that saw him becoming a triple crown High School winner and rose quickly through the ranks, becoming the Strongest Korakuen in 2010 thanks to a stoppage win over Kinshiro Usui. A loss in a Japanese title fight to Shinsuke Yamanaka was a set back, but one that saw Iwasa get a lot of credit from as he rocked Yamanaka and was pushing him all the way.
Less than a year after the loss to Yamanaka fans saw Iwasa claim the Japanese Bantamweight title and in 2013 claim the OPBF title. That run helped him climb up the IBF world rankings and getting a fight for the interim IBF Bantamweight title against Lee Haskins. Sadly for Iwasa the movement and trickery of Haskins was too much for him, and a slightly drained Iwasa was stopped in 6 by the Englishman. That was then followed by a move up to Super Bantamweight, where he has now gone 4-0 (3) and shown a more fluid style than he had had down at Bantamweight.
Blessed with heavy hands and an explosive style Iwasa is a nightmare if connects clean. Sadly though he likes to set his feet before throwing, it a bit predictable and even a little on the slow side. His limited movement could well play into the hands of any top mover-boxer and that maybe a huge problem here against Oguni.
Oguni sees himself as the under-dog coming into this bout, but we really think he has the style to beat Iwasa, much like Haskins did. If Oguni can box and move, avoid the heavy power of Iwasa, and strike whilst moving he could make life very easy for himself. He just needs to do all he can to stop Iwasa from setting his feet an unloading. If he can he should take a clear decision in his first defense of the title.
With 5 word title bouts taking place on December 31st in Japan we could have expected they would all be mismatches in favour of the local fighters. There is however one clear exception to that rule, in fact the bout in question is seen as a massive mismatch in favour of the visitor who is viewed by many as having the bout in the bag before the fighters have even stepped in the ring. That bout is the IBF Super Bantamweight title bout between explosive champion Jonathan Guzman (22-0-0-1, 22) and Japanese challenger Yukinori Oguni (18-1-1, 7), a former Japanese and OPBF champion.
Of the two men it's Guzman who is more well known. He's the champion and he's proven his ability against a series of notable fighters. That's included stoppage wins over the likes of Christian Esquivel, Danny Aquino, Daniel Rosas and most notable Shingo Wake, who he beat in July to win the title in Japan. The only blotch on his other wise perfect record is a no contenst from 2013, in a fight with Luis Hinojosa and since then he has stopped 11 foes in 48 rounds.
Although not the smoothest boxer, or the most rounded of fighters Guzman is a a monster and every shot he lands is damaging. His shots all look concussive and his belief in his power is incredible. Not only does he appear to be a big puncher but, worryingly for opponents, he appears to take a good shot too and has solid stamina allowing him to work at a high rate through out the bout, a surprise for such a banger. Whilst he did dominate Wake there were times he looked like he was flagging, before coming back a round later looking rejuvenated and it's clear that he's going to be a nightmare to fight for anyone in the sport.
Whilst Guzman is a monstrous Super Bantamweight with frightening power and physical strength the same cannot be said of Oguni, who is more of a pure boxer with skills and counter punching, along with speed to burn. Early in his career Oguni looked like a world champion in the making, and one on the fast track to the top. In just his 11th bout he claimed the OPBF Super Bantamweight title, defeating Roli Gasca, and defended it 3 times. Sadly though his rise was ended in 2013 by Wake, who totally dominated him before scoring a 10th round retirement win against Oguni, who looked under-powered. Since that loss Oguni has won the Japanese title and scored notable wins over Yasutaka Ishimoto, Taiki Minamoto and Mike Tawatchai, stopping Tawatchai in 5 rounds earlier this year.
Although Oguni is a pure boxer he has shown an improvement in power recently stopping his last 3 foes, including Tawatchai, and appears to be a fighter who is maturing into a more rounded fighter. He is still a speed based fighter but one who appears to be growing more confident. That confidence could cost him here if he decides to stand his ground and instead he will have to stay on the move, keep Guzman of balance and try to frustrate and tire out the champion.
Although Oguni is a genuinely credible top 10 top of Super Bantamweight this is an incredible tough bout for the challenger and one that we don't see him coming out on top of. We think Oguni has the potential to reach the top, but this bout is one that his lack of fire power will cost him and Guzman will likely stop him in the middle rounds, if not earlier. Oguni has the ability to move for a few rounds but once he feels Guzman's power we suspect he'll look to survive before being broken down.
Right now boxing has a number of genuinely intriguing divisions. The Heavyweight division has started to once again create some positives headlines, the Cruiserweight division is brilliantly matches, the Light Welterweight division has some compelling match ups coming up, the Super Featherweight division keeps delivering brilliant fights, the Light Flyweight division is mouth watering and Flyweight has the potential for so many fantastic bouts. Possibly the most over looked division however is the Super Bantamweight division.
The 122lb weight class has been a frustrating one at times. The way the boxing world has treat Guillermo Rigondeaux has been a big blotch on the division, and the “super fight” between Scott Quigg and Carl Frampton failed to live up to the expectation. The division has also acted as a stop gap for many, with fighters like Leo Santa Cruz, quickly moving up to the more financially rewarding Featherweight division.
Despite the frustration it has delivering some thrilling match ups in recent times and looks like a division bristling with talent, all looking to prove it's self. This coming Wednesday we thankfully get to see some of the more talented fighters facing off, with both men looking to prove a point. One of those is Japan's tricky southpaw sharp shooter Shingo Wake (20-4-2, 12) while the other is big punching Dominican Jonathan Guzman (21-0-0-1, 21). Despite their difference they share the same desires, to be a world champion and to be recognised as a major player on the world scene.
On paper the more impressive of the two men is the big punching visitor. His near perfect record, only marred by a no contest from back 2013 due to a headclash, is imposing to say the least and shows that the “Salomon King” is a genuine destroyer in the ring. That was shown recently when he stopped Daniel Rosas on US, and has been shown through his career with his string of stoppage wins.
Of his 21 wins Guzman has scored 15 in his homeland. Those 15 all came against questionable opposition, as did his win over Emerson Santos Carvalho in Argentina back in late 2012. In recent years however Guzman has been making a name for himself in the US,where he has had his last 5 bouts. Those bouts have seen him beating some familiar fighters, namely Christian Esquivel and Daniel Rosas, though it's fair to say that none of them have been world class, or fringe world class, Super Bantamweights.
In the ring Guzman isn't the quickest of fighters and can actually be walked back, but he's a big Super Bantamweight with genuine power in his right hand. His jab can, at times, be pushed and when he comes forward he does sometimes look a bit clumsy, but when a fighter has the power he has those technical flaws can be over-come by sheer force. One major question that hasn't really been answered is what happens a fighter moves around him, and makes him pay for being crude. Likewise he hasn't really been chin checked by a decent Super Bantamweight with his most notable opponents all being naturally smaller men.
With 4 losses and 2 draws against his name Wake doesn't have an impressive record, however like many Japanese fighters he has over-come a troublesome start to his career to become a genuine contender in the Super Bantamweight division. After 6 fights he was 3-2-1 (2) and after 6 fights he was 10-4-2 (5). Since then however he has gone 10-0 (7) scoring wins over the likes of Jonathan Baat, Yukinori Oguni, Jaesung Lee and Mike Tawatchai. That winning run also saw Wake claim the OPBF title and record 5 defenses of the title, all by stoppage.
Although not a big name in the west Wake has been building a growing fans base since his win over Oguni. That has been helped with having bouts shown on Fuji TV and later TBS who have bother helped to raise Wake's profile. His profile has also been helped by his personality which has helped win over Japanese fans.
In the ring the Japanese fighter is a nightmare to fight. At his best he's a sharp shooter, with intelligent foot work, impressive hand speed, great movement and under-rated power. He may not be the most slippery, or the biggest puncher, but he's certainly a nightmare to tag clean and landing successive shots against him is incredibly difficult. Against a crude fighter Wake has the ability to make them look very silly and is a very rangy fighter which means fighting on the move is made easier by him.
Coming in to this one we have a puncher against a boxer. If the bout is won on skills alone then Wake walks this, however Guzman has that nasty power and that incredible self belief that makes him incredibly dangerous, despite his flaws. If Guzman can make his power count then there is a good chance he can hurt or even stop Wake, however Wake's plan is to take away that strenth by being hit as little as possible, using his speed to land and get out of range before Guzman fires back. If Wake's plan works he wins with ease, getting a wide decision, if not then Guzman will likely break him down with heavy leather.
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.