The Flyweight division in recent times has been one of the best, with great bouts and amazing depth at the top. Sadly last year we saw the division being left in a mess with Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada and Johnriel Casimero all abandoning the division and leaving most of the titles vacant the division a disappointing mess. Thankfully the titles have slowly found new owners, with Zou Shiming claiming the WBO title, Donnie Nietes recently winning the IBF belt and Juan Hernandez Navarrete (34-2, 25) claiming the WBC title.
This coming Saturday we see Hernandez making his first defense of the title as he takes on Japanese sensation Daigo Higa (12-0, 12), a wrecking on the Japanese and Oriental scene. For champion it's a tough mandatory against one of the rising stars of Japanese boxing, whilst Higa gets a chance to prove himself on the world in what is a huge step up. For us, the fans, the bout is nothing short of a mouth watering clash between exciting world class boxer-puncher and one of the most exciting pressure fighters in the sport today.
Two men Hernandez is the more well known, by far, when it comes to international fans. The Mexican first began to make a mark years ago, and really became a contender in 2010, when he scored wins over Armando Vazquez, Danver Cuello and Moises Fuentes. That strong of wins lead to Hernandez getting a show at the then WBC Minimumweight champion Kazuto Ioka, with Ioka taking a well earned decision over Mexican.
Since losing to Ioka back in March 2012 we've seen Hernandez go on a brilliant 16-0 (12) run. Whilst the numbers look impressive by them selves it's the competition that has really made that run. He has scored wins over the likes of Saul Juarez, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Jesus Silvestre, Omar Nino Romero and Nawaphon Por Chokchai during that run, with the win over Nawaphon netting the Mexican the WBC title. That run has seen Hernandez stop his last 6 foes in a combined 16 rounds and really look like a truly world class Flyweight.
Last time out, against Nawaphon, we saw Hernandez look sensational. He looked smooth boxing early on then turned up the heat in round 3 and hurt Nawaphon before hinting a finish which came following a real barrage of shots. He showed a bit of everything during the bout, speed, skills, power and killer instinct in what was a really good showing and one that came on enemy soil.
For those who haven't seen Higa, and his rise through the ranks, you've been missing out on one of the sports most exciting talents. He's an out and out pressure fighter with a style reminiscent of Roman Gonzalez, with the similarities resulting in Higa being dubbed the “Romagon of Okinawa”. He's doesn't go into the ring to win, but instead he goes there to beat people up, and do it in a fun, exciting manner, like his mentor Yoko Gushiken. Despite being such a destructive fighter he's only 21 and is a boxing baby with just 42 professional rounds.
Higa's early career went pretty under the radar though in 2015 he did get some notable attention as he travelled to Thailand and battered Kongfah CP Freshmart in 7 rounds for the WBC Youth Flyweight title. It was a thrilling bout and one that really did capture the attention of fans who hadn't previously seen Higa. The Japanese warrior defended the WBC Youth title twice, including a 10th round TKO win over gutsy Filipino Renren Tesorio, before claiming the OPBF title last year with a 4th round KO against Ardin Diale, in a brilliant showing.
Higa has steam rolled through his foes so far. He's put them all under pressure and they have all broken due to his combinations, power and physical strength. It's been great fun watching his rise an it's been one that has seen him improve, and improve, both as a fighter and as a young man. In fact watching him transition from a boy to a man has been brilliant to see. This is however a massive leap up in class and the first time he's taken on a true world class all rounder, and one who has developed into one of the leading Flyweights on the planet.
We'd love for Higa to win, we've cheer lead him since his 4th bout, against Samruai Mungwong in January 2015,but we think might be too much too soon. We certainly believe he has the power to hurt Hernandez, and probably also has the speed and combinations to break down anyone in the division, but we think that Hernandez will have too much know how too much movement and too much skill, at the moment, for Higa. It could end up looking like a man against a boy, sadly for Higa, though we suspect the youngster will learn so much from having time in the ring with Hernandez.
Whilst we really do want to see Higa win, and break out on the world stage, we think Hernandez will just be too good at the moment for the Japanese youngster.
It's fair to say that the Flyweight division went from being one of the hottest divisions in the sport to one of the weakest, lacking in both star power and in talent. It's not totally devoid of both, but it did lose a lot of it's allure in 2017 as Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada and Johnriel Casimero all abandoned the division. With 3 title holders moving up from Flyweight it left the title scene in a real mess, with the WBO, IBF and WBC titles all becoming vacant.
Since those titles were scattered only one vacancy has been filled, that's the WBO title vacancy that has been claimed by Chinese star Zou Shiming, who claimed the title in November when he beat Kwanpichit OnesongchaiGym. On March we see the WBC title vacancy being filled as unbeaten Thai Nawaphon Por Chokchai (36-0, 28) takes on talented Mexican Juan Hernandez Navarrete (33-2, 24) in a bout for the vacant title. For Nawaphon it'll be his first world title fight and a chance to announce himself on the world stage whilst Hernandez will be looking to claim a world title at the time of asking.
Of the two men it's the Mexican who is the more proven, and proven he is. Although best known in some circles for coming up short against Kazuto Ioka in a WBC Minimumweight title fight in 2011 it's fair to say that Hernandez has one of the most impressive resumes of any lower weight fighter right now. He holds wins over the likes of Denver Cuello, Saul Juarez, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Jesus Silvestre and Omar Nino Romero. Although the one over Cuello was controversial the others have mostly been clear cut wins and in fact since the loss to Ioka he has won 15 in a row, including wins over Juarez, Garcia Hirales, Silvestrea and Romero.
Although not a elite level talent Hernandez is a genuine world class fighter who has scored notable wins from Minimumweight to Bantamweight. He is highly skilled, very tough and experienced fighter. He's not the quickest, or the biggest punching but he isn't slow by any means and his power is solid, with his last 5 wins being by stoppage in a combined 13 rounds! He's a man in hot form and full of confidence.
Unbeaten in 36 fights and aged 25 Nawaphon is one of the rising hopefuls of the Thai scene and is looking to become the third active member of the Nakornluang stable to become a world champion following in the footsteps of older brother Suriyan Sor Rungvisai and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai who both held the WBC Super Flyweight title. Nawaphon has been a professional for a little over 6 years but has been incredibly active racking up his record. Whilst it seems impressive to have had 36 fights in around 75 months he has been in there with some dire competition, with the best wins on his record being the likes of Donny Mabao, Mateo Handig and Heri Amol. He is, in fact, a man who has one of the sports most padded records.
Although his record is padded Nawaphon can fight. He's an aggressive pressure fighter who has been slicing through the lower tired competition like he's suppose to. He's stopped 12 of his last 13 and looked to make a statement in those bouts by not going beyond 6 rounds in any of them. He's not a man who has been messing around and much like Srisaket he gets in the ring to beat opponents up and move on to the next fight. He's also huge at the weight and could be a nightmare in terms of his size alone.
Although the level of competition may flatter Nawaphon, and may have given him a false sense of security, his team dug deep into their pockets to secure home advantage here. That is a key with the Thai in having a better read on the conditions in Thailand, there is however a slightly edge on that with Hernandez's team forcing the bout to be held in an inside venue where their man will be protected from the Thai elements. With that indoor venue taking away a lot of the home advantages a Thai has this could be a double tough contest for Nawaphon and we can't but think his competition has left him ill prepared for a fighter like Hernandez. With all that in mind we're predicting a stoppage win for Hernandez in the mid-to later rounds, of what will be an entertaining scrap, but one where the experience at a higher level of Hernandez will be the difference.
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.