The lower weights have been among the best in recent years with possibly the most exciting being Light Flyweight. The division has given us everything, despite the fighters being so small. We've had controversy, we've had riots, we've had FOTY contenders and we've had everything that fight fans claim they love about our great sport.
On December 29th we're expecting another war as IBF champion Javier Mendoza (24-2-1, 19) travels to Tokyo to battle the always fun to watch Akira Yaegashi (22-5, 12) in what looks like a potential FOTY candidate, albeit a very late contender.
Mendoza is the sort of fighter that fight fans tend to enjoy watching. His first thought always seems to be aggression, and his style is based on aggressive pressure. He can look predictable, and defensively awkward, but he is certainly a handful on the front foot where he likes to enforce his fight. It was that aggression that saw Mendoza claim the title last year, when he defeat Ramon Garcia Hirales in a brilliant 12 round war.
Since claiming the title Mendoza has defended his title once, claiming a technical decision Milan Melindo. That defense was somewhat controversial, with the referee seemingly bowing to the local fighter and calling a premature halt to proceedings, but it did get the mandatory out of the way for Mendoza who now looks to add another notable win to his record.
The Mexican has had an interesting career. Early on he was really just a brawler and that did get him some early success, however he was 13-2-1 (10) before going on his current 11 fight winning run. Notably the second of those losses, against the unknown Jorge Guerrero, saw him being stopped in 2 rounds in what is perhaps the most alarming result on his record. He has however improved significantly since those early losses and wins over Garcia Hirales and Melindo really do show how much he has improved and matured as a fighter, and at 24 he;s he's young, hungry and still developing.
Whilst Mendoza is just starting to make a name for himself it's fair to say that Yaegashi is one of the more popular names among the lower weight classes. He's become a hardcore fan favourite due to his heart, ability and willingness to go to war. In fact for many his 2011 war with Ponrsawan Porpramook was the FOTY and his 2012 bout with Kazuto Ioka was another thriller. Whilst he is known for wars he has also scored notable wins, including the victory over Pornsawan to claim the WBA Minimumweight title, a victory over Toshiyuki Igarashi, to claim the WBC Flyweight title, and a win over Edgar Sosa.
Sadly for Yaegashi his career has been a tough one and last year he suffered back to back stoppages against Roman Gonzalez and Pedro Guevara. Whilst there is not shame in losing to those two it did seem like he took a lot of punishment. It's also worth noting that he dropped to 108lbs for the Guevara bout, where's going to be again for this one. Dropping down a weight can often be much more difficult than climbing a weight and that may well be an issue for Yaegashi again here.
At his best Yaegashiu is speedy fighter who is light on his feet, has lovely hand speed and throws some brilliant combinations. He may lack power but he's rarely in a poor fight and has pulled out some brilliant KO's in recent years. Whilst he is a fast fighter he's not a defensively responsible one and seems much happier to engage in a brawl than to use his defense. Saying that however he did show very intelligent defensive moves against Sosa, where he moved and stopped Sosa from ever getting off.
Whilst Yaegashi was brilliant at his best he's not longer near his best. As mentioned he's going down in weight, often an issue, he's edging towards 33 and with 198 rounds under his belt he is an old fighter with a lot of hard rounds. Unfortunately we suspect those rounds will have taken their toll on him.
We'd love to see Yaegashi win here, but unfortunately we suspect he comes up short late in a thrilling bout. Mendoza will simply be too strong and too youthful in the second half for the ageing Japanese warrior.
The Light Flyweight division has often been on of boxing's most over-looked weight classes. It's been unfortunate in many ways, especially recently as it's been used as a stop gap for fighters on their way through the weights and very, very few fighters in recent years have really made their name there. Gone are the days of Yoko Gushiken, Myung Woo Yuh and Jung Koo Chang, who all made their legacy in the 108lb weight class. Now it's a division which acts as a stop off for fighters looking to become multi-weight world champions.
Despite the fact very few fighters seem to settle there it does still manage to give us some brilliant fights. One of came last year when Mexico's Javier Mendoza (23-2-1, 19) out pointed compatriot Ramon Garcia Hirale to claim the IBF title. Mendoza makes the first defense of that belt on May 30th when he takes on talented Filipino boxer Milan Melindo (32-1, 12). On paper this is a brilliant match up and in the ring it's likely to be a compelling contest between a slugger and a boxer.
Melindo, 27, is one of the ALA fighters that has been on the radar of boxing fans for several years. He debuted way back in 2005 after having had a successful amateur career and in 2007 he claimed his first title, the WBO Asian Pacific Minimumweight belt. Since then he has scored notable wins over Muhammad Rachman, Carlos Tamara and Jean Piero Perez, three genuinely good wins.
Sadly for the Filipino he has lost his most notable bout to day, a decision defeat to unified Flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada in 2013. In that bout Estrada gave a very good account of himself, despite what the scorecards suggest, and really pushed the talented Estrada. Whilst the performance was a good one from Melindo it did show one of his problems, a lack of power. No matter what Melindo landed he could never make Estrada respect him and instead the Mexico was able to take the shots and fire back in a very technical bout.
Technically Melindo is a very good boxer. He's not a huge puncher, nor is he the type of fighter who looks like he can unleash a warrior from inside. He's the sort of fighter who is happy to use technique to win bouts but doesn't seem to have the fighters mentality and if the going gets tough we're not sure he'll know how to throw caution to the wind and turn things around .
As for Mendoza he's the polar opposite of the challenger. Technically the 24 year old Mexican is flawed, he's open defensively and wide with his shots. He is however tough, aggressive, heavy handed and really hurtful. He's been a professional since 2007 and scored noteworthy wins over Felipe Salguero, when both were novice, Armando Vazquez and Ramon Garcia Hirales. On paper his record is weak but watching him in action tells us what we need to know, he's fun and dangerous.
Whilst his Mendoza's competition has been weak he has been dealing with it in the way you'd hope a good fight would. He has stopped 9 of his last 10 with 8 of those stoppages coming in the first 4 rounds of bouts. He's been disposing of opponents and quickly. Notably however all 3 of his career set backs have come against poor opposition with his last loss, a 2011 loss to Jorge Guerrero in just 2 rounds, being one that does leave lingering doubts though it's fair to say he has improved since that loss.
Fighting from a southpaw stance and having vicious power on both hands Mendoza is a night mare to fight in many ways though from a fans point of view it's almost certainly going to be fun to watch him in action. Prospective fights against the likes of Ryo Miyazaki, Jonathan Taconing. Rey Loreto and Felix Alvarado are all mouth watering match ups. Against Melindo we're not expecting a FOTY contender but we are expecting a thoroughly intriguing contest between Mendoza's aggression and Melindo's technical ability.
Coming in to this bout it's fair to say the challenger has the stronger resume however he's also the travelling fighter and will almost certainly find himself in a small ring with everyone working against him. In a big ring Melindo may have stood a chance but in a small we really can't see anything but a Mendoza win. The small the ring the less chasing Mendoza will need to do and the more he can just let his hands go. The champion will eat counters but given Melindo's lack of pop he will walk through them in the hope of finding a stoppage.
To Melindo's credit he is a gutsy fighter and we don't see him being stopped, but we do see him being well down on the cards come the final bell. He won't disgrace himself but it will be clear just how far behind some of his compatriots he is at the weight, including Taconing, Randy Petalcorin and, of course, Donnie Nietes who are all among the very best at 108lbs.
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.