On January 19th our attention, at least later in the day, will be in Nevada, as PBC put on a stacked card in association with numerous promoters. One of the many notable bouts on that card will see unbeaten Filipino Jhack Tepora (22-0, 17) make his first defense of the WBA "interim" Featherweight title, as he takes on Mexican veteran Hugo Ruiz (38-4, 33). On paper this should be a very explosive and exciting match up between two heavy-handed fighters, who are both flawed, but exciting.
Tepora had long been seen as a rising prospect on the Filipino scene, and put his name on the international stage in 2017 when he scored a KO of the year contender against Lusanda Komanisi in South Africa. That was Tepora's 16th stoppage win in 21 bouts and his first outside of the Philippines. He built on that win last July in Malaysia by stopping Edivaldo Ortega in 9 rounds, to claim the WBA interim title. In both of those bouts Tepora looked a bit slow, and technically flawed, but was aggressive, heavy-handed and showed that even his jab could put opponents on the back foot.
Fighting from the southpaw stance, with a lot of power, Tepora is a real danger man and the 25 year old will be looking to have a lengthy reign with that title. Sadly however he's not fought since his title winning effort and has failed to really build on that win, something he'll be looking to do when he faces Ruiz. It should be noted that Tepora, at 5'6" is a bit on the short side for a top Featherweight, though has grown into the division, having debuted in 2012 as a Flyweight. He's powerful and a fully mature fighter even if he lacks a bit in terms of experience at the top-level.
The 30 year old Ruiz has had a long career, and a pretty interesting one at that. he would lose an early career bout to Enrique Quevedo before rebuilding to become the WBA "interim" Bantamweight champion in 2011. He held the interim title at 118lbs until challenging "regular" champion Koki Kameda in 2012, losing a close decision to Kameda in Osaka. He would later move up in weight and go 1-1 with Julio Ceja, winning the second bout with Ceja to claim the WBC Super Bantamweight title. That title reign didn't last long, with Ceja losing the title in Japan to Hozumi Hasegawa, in what would be Hasegawa's final bout. Since then he has returned to the ring, winning a couple of low key bouts in Mexico, and decided to move up in weight.
In the ring Ruiz is a powerful boxer-puncher, who is huge for the lower weight classes at almost 5'10". We wonder how much he has taken out of himself by boiling down in the past, and how much better he might end up being at 126lbs. By that same token we have seen him hurt by smaller men and we have to wonder how he copes if he's caught by a bomb by a true Featherweight. We also wonder how his nose, which was injured against Hasegawa, will hold up if he gets tagged on it.
Technically Ruiz is the taller, rangier fighter and also the more technically skilled of the two men. He is however a man who has shown some frailties in the past and against Tepora that is a major issue. Tepora is not the type of guy you want to fight if there's any question marks about your durability.
We expect to see Ruiz give Tepora issues, especially early on, but Tepora will, sooner or later, cut the distance and break his man down, somewhere in the middle rounds, to stop Ruiz and record his first defense of the title. Hopefully that will then lead to a busy and exciting 2019 for Tepora, who should be kept busy and allowed to really build his name over the coming years.
This coming Sunday we'll see Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao in what could be his final bout. On the same card we'll get the chance to see a rising Filipino Phenom take on his biggest challenge as he battles for the interim WBA Featherweight title.
The Filipino in question is the unbeaten Jhack Tepora (21-0, 16) who steps up in class to face Edivaldo Ortega (26-1-1, 12) in what could genuinely turn out to be the fight of the weekend, despite the fact it's only for an interim title. Both fighters have styles that should gel, a lot to prove, and both will know this is a massive opportunity to make a name for themselves, fighting on a massive card in front of a global audience.
The 25 year old Tepora turned professional in early 2012 with fight fans in the Philippines predicting big things to come from him. He had been a notable amateur on the Filipino scene and was fighting in 8 rounders just 15 months after his professional debut. Despite being hotly tipped it wasn't until 2016 that Tepora fougth for his first title, claiming the PBF Super Bantamweight title in January of the year. He would however quickly add to his collection, winning the WBO Asia Pacific Yoth Super Bantamweight title and the WBO Oriental Super Bantamweight title by the end of the year. He would then add the World Boxing Organisation Inter-Continental featherweight title the following year with a sensational KO in South Africa against Lusanda Komanisi.
As with a lot of Filipino fighters Tepora has matured and moved up in weight notably. He made his debut as a 19 year old at Flyweight but looked a fully fleshed out Featherweight when he stopped Komanisi. He has certainly developed from a teenager into an adult and stood at 5'6” with a 67” reach he's a decent sized Featherweight. Also notably is the fact he's a heavy handed southpaw. He's not the most technically able, or the quickest or the smoothest in the ring. In fact he looks like he can be out boxed by a patient and smart fighter, but his power is brutal and not many will be able to handle his flush shots. Whilst not a technical genius Tepora is technically solid, and even without his power he's be a solid fighter, with that power however he's a real dangerman and someone who few will be in a rush to face.
Ortega is a 28 year old Mexican fighter who has been a professional since 2007 and, like Tepora, is a southpaw. Stylistically however he's not much of a puncher, having stopped only 1 of his last 7 opponents. Despite that he does hold notable inside the distance wins over the likes of Tomas Rojas and Christian Esquivel, whilst scoring solid decision wins over the likes of Drian Francisco and Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. Stylistically his lack of power isn't really an issue as he's a technically capable swarmer, who throws a lot of leather, puts opponents on the back foot and keeps up a high pressure based tempo. His styles is genuinely a fun one to watch, and although it's unlikely to give him sustained success at the top level, it will make him a very TV friendly fighter for the next few years.
On paper Ortega holds more wins of note than Tepora, with victories over former world champions like Sanchez Jr and Rojas as well as world level contenders like Francisco and Esquivel. It should be noted however that those names are typically associated with lower weights, and in fairness all 4 were well beyond their best. That's not to say Ortega isn't a fantastic fighter, but his biggest wins can certainly be questioned, and this is the first time he'll be taking on a real, genuine, puncher.
We expect to see see Ortega apply the pressure from the early stages, putting Tepora on the back foot. That gives Tepora a great chance to land his dynamite shots, and if he does we'll see just how good Ortega's chin is. If Ortega can take Tepora's power we suspect the Mexican comes out on top, of what would be an amazing fight. If he can't then then Tepora could well score a highlight reel KO of the Mexican here to claim the interim world title.
This is a really good match up and one we are so excited to see.
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.