The past few years have been incredibly interesting in the Light Flyweight division, without the division managing to get the attention it's deserved. One of the most notable results of recent years was the 2021 upset win scored by Jonathan Gonzalez (25-3-1-1, 14), over Elwin Soto to claim the WBO title. This coming Friday we'll see Gonzalez return to the ring for the first time since that win, as he defends his title against talented Filipino challenger Mark Anthony Barriga (11-1, 2), who gets his second shot at a world title, in Florida.
The 31 year old champion was long seen as a special fighter. He had been a stellar amateur with "Bomba" winning gold at the 2008 Youth World Championships, as well winning the Central American & Caribbean Games Gold, in 2010, and winning the Puerto Rican National championships 3 years in a row, 08, 09 and 10. When he debuted, in 2011 against namesake Jonathan Gonzalez, he was a fresh faced 19 year old and was expected to be groomed to stardom. That certainly seemed to be the case through his first 14 bouts, in which he went 13-0-0-1 (11). Sadly though aged 22 he was pushed to far too fast and came up short against the heavy handed Giovani Segura in 2013 losing in 4 rounds. Sadly it then took him time to rebuild and his next bout of real note saw him come undone, in a notable shock, to Filipino Jobert Alvarez in 2016. That loss could have been the end of him, but instead he seemed to really knuckle down and scored notable wins over Ricardo Rodriguez, Julian Yedras and Juan Alejo Zuniga to get his first world title fight. That bout saw him give Kosei Tanaka absolute hell in a really hotly contested bout, but one that ended when Tanaka stopped him in the 7th round to retain the WBO belt. Since that loss he has gone on to biggest success, beating Saul Juarez, Armando Torres and Soto, to finally live up to the expectation of him one day becoming a world champion.
Early in his career "Bomba" lived up to nickname. He was a destructive fighter, stopping 9 of his first 10 foes, often in the first 2 rounds. He was quick, slippery, heavy handed and that scary explosive quality to him, which combined well with his high level boxing brain and amateur fundamentals. Sadly though as he stepped up it was his chain, not his skills that were letting him down. Since the loss to Alvarez however he has become a smart fighter, taking fewer risks, using his speed and skills more and being less "Bomba" and more "brainy". That change has fared well and earned him the big upset over Soto last year, but it is worth noting that he does have those explosive and heavy hands in his arsenal.
Like Gonzalez big things were long expected of Barriga, who competed at the very highest level in the amateurs, including the Olympics in 2012 and the World Amatuer Championships twice, beating Irish great Paddy Barnes in the 2011 World Championships. He also competed in the WSB, further showing his ability with wins over the likes of Bin Lu, and he got "semi-pro" experience under the AIBA Pro Boxing banner. He finally made his professional debut in 2016 and showed incredibly ability as a pure boxer whilst rising through the ranks, with a notable win in 2017 against Samartlek Kokietgym and one against Gabriel Mendoza in 2018. Sadly however Barriga would come up short in his first world title fight, losing a split decision in LA against Carlos Licona for the IBF Minimumweight title. After that loss he took 2 years out away from the ring, though one of those, 2020, was a year that saw boxing disrupted due to Covid. Since returning he has gone 2-0 (1).
In the ring Barriga is very much a sensational technical boxer. He lacks power and he can't really get opponents respect, but he is slippery as an eel, with fantastic counter punching, a great ring brain, a good work rate and great ability to control range and tempo with his feet and movement. He really is just lacking power, though if he had that he would be very much a nightmare for anyone in and around the lower weights. Technically he might be among the very best pure boxers in the sport today, but that lack of power and the lack of B+/A tier wins doesn't do him any favours and against most of the top fighters in the talent heavy Light Flyweight division he will likely need to do more than just be a sensational boxer.
Going in to this bout we're expecting an all out chess match early on, fought at hyper speed, with the two men boxing using their boxing brains. They will be out thinking each other and both will be looking to set traps, and counter traps. They will both need to get a read on the other, with both being southpaws, and it could be very much be one fo the pursist early on. For Barriga it is vital he marks a mark by the mid-way point, because unfortunately for him he has the fewer tools to turn things around .We suspect Barriga will have the early success, and he needs to. In the second half however Gonzalez will begin to mix things up more, he will begin to be more aggressive, and his power will prove to be a key factor. He might not be the "Bomba" he was touted as, but he's still got plenty of power and we expect to see that power catch the eye of the judges, and be pivotal in the second half of the bout.
After being behind by the mid-way point we expect Gonzalez to take a narrow, potentially split, decision thanks to a gritty and determined charge in the second half of a bout that starts technical but becomes a real fight in the final rounds.
Prediction - SD12 Gonzalez
This coming Friday we'll see the long awaited ring return of WBA Light Flyweight "Super" champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (15-0, 10), who takes on "regular" champion Esteban Bermudez (14-3-2, 10), in what's expected to be a potential FOTY contender between two aggressive, hard hitting and exciting fighters looking to put down a marker to say they are the #1 fighter at 108lbs.
Of the two men the 28 year old Kyoguchi is the more well known and the more successful fighter. He had been a notable Japanese amateur before turning professional and debuting in 2016, with a low key win in Osaka. In just over 10 months he had gone from debutant to OPBF champion, stopping Armando de la Cruz for the OPBF Minimumweight title in February 2017. Just 5 months later he claimed the IBF Minimumweight title, the first world title of his career, which he defended twice before moving up in weight. At 108lbs he quickly established himself as one of the top divisional fighters, stopping Hekkie Budler at the end of 2018 for the WBA "super" title. Sadly since winning the Light Flyweight title he has lost a lot of momentum with just 3 defenses in 3 and a half years, as injuries and covid have really thwarted his career. He managed to record two defenses in 2019, but saw two planned defenses in 2020, against Andika D'Golden Boy in May and Thanongsak Simsri in November, fall through due to issues relating to covid. He managed to make his most recent appearance in March 2021, when he beat Axel Aragon Vega in 4 rounds. The plan was to get him back out in the ring later that same year but injuries saw his return being delayed, and delayed, to the point where he had now been out of the ring for well over a year.
In the ring Kyoguchi is a strong, powerful, aggressive fighter who combines the traits of a boxer-puncher with those of an intelligent pressure fighter. He comes forward, he applies pressure behind a stiff jab, and although he's not the quickest with his feet his pressure is smart and effective. He cuts the ring off well and forces his fight on opponents. Notably he is not the sort of fighter who needs to take control early on, instead building his success as fights go on, as we saw notably against Budler who started really well before being broken down in the second half of the fight. As well as his pressure style he's also a heavy handed boxer, with a great variety of shots and solid stamina, having been 12 rounds 5 times. He uses a lot of his amateur pedigree when he needs to but also has the explosive combinations and power on the inside that appear to be inspired by Roman Gonzalez, who he has stated is one of his favourite fighters.
Whilst Kyoguchi has been a fixture at world level for several years the same can't be said of Bermudez. The Mexican 26 year old debuted back in 2013, aged 17, and won his first 6 bouts before having a technical draw to end his winning run. Following that draw he tested the water at difference weights, and in 2015 suffered his first loss, when he was stopped inside a round by Francisco Perez Cardenas. That loss was quickly followed by his second loss, a decision loss at the hands of Gilberto Parra. He then began a small bounce back, scoring a notable win over former WBC world champion Oswaldo Novoa in 2019 before the pandemic slowed his rise, keeping him out of the ring for a year. Unfortunately on his return he was beaten again, losing a decision to Rosendo Hugo Guarneros. With a 13-3-2 (9) he was given a shot at WBA "regular" champion Carlos Canizales in May 2021 and was expected to be the next victim of Canizales' power however Bermudez shocked the boxing world and stopped Canizales to claim the title. He has, however, been out of the ring since that bout, giving him a lay off of over a year, and has had a bit of a stop start year, with planned bouts being cancelled which could have affected his hunger, desire and training for this bout.
In the ring Bermudez looks like a big guy at 108lbs. He has long levers, and looks a bit of a physical freak making weight. He's very rough around the edges, his shots often look like he's pushing them and he falls short. He's not crisp, or clean, or accurate and he's defensively not the smarted. He is however a powerful guy and even his cuffing slow shots appear to have real venom in them. His power is the scary type of power that makes his opponents scared of him, overly respectful, and wary. He does a lot of things wrong, but with his power, his reach and his willingness to commit to big shots he is a nightmare to fight. We saw those tools force Canizales on to the backfoot, where he is less effective, and we expect him trying to do the same to Kyoguchi here.
Although a big favourite Kyoguchi will need to be really, really cautious here. Especially given his inactivity in recent years. He has the skills and the tools to deal with Bermudez, especially with his body shots and combinations in the pocket, but at mid-range and longer distance Bermudez will have consistent success and will get Kyoguchi's respect. For Kyoguchi to win he needs to get inside, he needs to stop Bermudez getting full leverage on his shots and he needs to grind down the challenger. It's not going to be an easy task, but it's one he has the skills to do.
We expect to see Bermudez have real success early on, maybe even wobbling Kyoguchi in the first few rounds. As the bout goes on however Kyoguchi will begin to shake his ring rust, settling into the task at hand and begin to break down Bermudez in a scintillating bout.
Prediction - TKO10 Kyoguchi
On September 22nd 2021 the Japanese boxing world had a notable upset as the long and impressive WBC Light Flyweight reign of Kenshiro Teraji (18-1, 10) came to an end in his 9th defense, as he was stopped by the unheralded Masamichi Yabuki (13-3, 12), who dethroned the champion in round 10. The result was a huge one for those who follow the lower weight classes, and also a bout that essentially derailed a dream title unification between Kenshiro and WBA "super" champion Hiroto Kyoguchi, who had began to make a name in the US thanks to linking up with Eddie Hearn, Matchroom Boxing and DAZN.
Following that bout there was a complaint put forward by Kenshiro's team, including his father, that the bout had been marred by head clashes, notable caused by Yabuki, with one late in the bout negatively affecting Kenshiro, who didn't look the same after one particular clash. This issue was raised with the JBC, who did their best impression of the British Boxing Board of Control and pretended it had no bearing on the result of the bout, and the WBC, who took steps to order a rematch, recognising the head clash, along with Kenshiro's reign as reasons for the men to go again in an immediate rematch. Around the time of the WBC order the terms for the rematch were agreed relatively quickly between the 4 sides involved, Green Gym - who promote Yabuki, BMB and Misako Gym - who represent Kenshiro, and Shinsei, who promoted the first bout and will also promote this one.
Coming in to this bout there is a lot of small stories that feel somewhat unresolved from their first bout. Their first fight had been marred with issues before and during the contest. The most notable of those wasn't, however, the head clash. Instead it was Kenshiro contracting covid in the weeks before the bout. He had been said to only have had mild symptoms, but the bout had been re-arranged due to his positive test, and it was suggested that issue getting back into fighting shape only weeks after contracting the virus had taken it's toll on him, leaving him less than 100% come fight night. Notable we have seen numerous fighters being affected by the virus, and many of them haven't looked themselves in their first bout following the illness. It's maybe didn't change the outcome of the bout, but it's fair to say that Kenshiro's preparation for that first bout was certainly not great. Given that covid affects the repository system, and Kenshiro had looked tired in the middle of the bout, there is a good chance the issues of the virus were still affecting him in the ring. As for the bout there was the well reported issue with head clashes, which went unpunished by the referee. Coming in to this rematch we're expecting to see Kenshiro at 100%, and determined to avenge his loss, reclaim his title and do more than just win, we expect him to look to make a statement. As for Yabuki he'll be wanting to put to bed any idea that he needed to be facing a somewhat sub-optimal Kenshiro to win, and that he relied on some generous work from the referee to win. In fact he's also like to feel fired up by the suggestions that he was fighting dirty and couldn't have taken home the win without now well noted issues with his head. With those things in mind we're expect to see both men fighting with more hunger, more desire and more stubbornness than in their first bout. Those traits alone could actually affect this bout, quite considerably.
For those who haven't followed the two men, and their careers so far, it's worth learning something about the two fighters.
Prior to last year's huge win Masamichi Yabuki wasn't known at all outside of Asia. In fact he'd only fought once outside of Japan, scoring a win in South Korea. In Japan he was probably best known for 3 things. The first of those was losing to Junto Nakatani in the 2016 All Japan Rookie of the Year final at Flyweight, the second was his 2018 loss to Seigo Yuri Akui, and his third was winning the Japanese Light Flyweight title in 2020, when he stopped Tsuyoshi Sato inside a round. Even in Japan he wasn't a big name, fighting mostly in Kariya and only having had 3 fights at Korakuen Hall, the holy land of Japanese boxing. Despite his set backs he had scored notable wins, stopping Gilberto Pedroza in 2 rounds, Ryuto Oho in 6, Rikito Shiba in 4, Sato in 1 and had defended defend the Japanese title with a wide win over Toshimasa Ouchi. He was however very much regarded as something of a local star in Central Japan, and someone who had been showcased a fair bit on Boxing Raise, thanks to their relationship with Yabuki's promoter.
In the ring Yabuki is a really good boxer-puncher, or more of a puncher-boxer if we're being honest. He's one of the hardest punchers at 108lbs, and like many punchers wants to create space to have full extension on his shots. He does that through a combination of solid footwork, and being something of a physical freak at the weight with long arms and a lean body. Unlike most puncher's he's not really an out and out aggressive fighter, though he certainly has that in his locker, and instead looks to create openings before landing his power shots, and either hurting them and going for a finish, or breaking them down as the bout goes on. As we saw in the first match with Kenshiro, when he has has his man hurt he can really put his shots together, and he is a natural finisher. He's not the quickest, or the sharpest, but he's hard hitting, well schooled, understands his advantages, and with such a big win against Kenshiro last time out, he'll be full of confidence, self belief and determination to keep a hold of the WBC title.
Although Yabuki is something of an unknown outside of Japan it's fair to say that Kenshiro had something of an international following prior to his loss to Yabuki. He had gotten attention early in his career due to his name and impressive performance, and within just a few years of his debut he had quickly raced through the rankings, winning the WBC title with a close decision win over Ganigan Lopez. After struggling in his first defense, a narrow in over Pedro Guevara, Kenshiro began to impressive, and defended the title against Gilberto Pedroza, Gangigan Lopez, Milan Melindo, Saul Juarez, Jonathan Taconing, Randy Petalcorin and Tetsuya Hisada. He had a solid claim as the best fighter in the division, in terms of resume and in terms of ability. Sadly though Kenshiro's career has had issues the last few years, including a drunk incident that forced his bout with Hisada to be delayed and contracting Covid 19 just weeks before the originally scheduled date for his bout with Yabuki. He also appeared to be quietly dropped by Fuji TV, who had carried most of his world title bouts before the Hisada bout, and didn't fight at all in 2020.
In the ring Kenshiro, at his best, is a brilliant boxer. He's light on his feet, intelligent, creates space for his sharp punches, mixes his shots up well, and has one of the best jabs in the sport. In fact he pretty much shut down Melindo with his jab in 2018. He also has under-rated power, wonderful placing of his body shots, and the ability to take opponents apart with his accuracy, timing and variety. Notanly Kenshiro really can do it all, and is just as comfortable taking the fight to an opponent as he is boxing and moving, picking his spots and punishing mistakes, which he does draw a lot of for counter opportuntiies. Looking at flaws he does have a knack of dropping his defense on his way out, and backing up in straight lines. There are also question marks to be had about his confidence and mental state coming into this bout, and whether or not Covid has had a lasting effect on him. If it does he may well be in trouble here. It's also worth asking just how committed he is to sport, and what hunger he still has following his title loss last year.
Going in to the first bout we expected Kenshiro to have a fair straight forward task with Ybuki, though we did suggest that Yabuki had a chance late on if Kenshiro slowed down. We feel that Covid, and the issues Kenshiro had getting back into shape following the illness had a major impact on that first fight. With that in mind we'll against be backing Kenshiro to win here, and avenge his loss. However we do wonder if we'll get the same Kenshiro that managed 8 world title defenses, and if not he could be in trouble again here, against a man we don't think will want to easily hand back the title.
We expect Kenshiro to start well, and to then conserve energy in the middle rounds, expecting a big Yabuki finish and keeping something in reserve for those late rounds. In rounds 9, 10, 11 and 12 we expect to see Kenshiro then putting the jets back on, and out working Yabuki to take a competitive decision win.
Predcition - UD12 Kenshrio
The Light Flyweigth division has long been slept on by fans of the sport, yet it has been consistently a great division giving us some amazingly legends since the division was created, such as Jung Koo Chang, Myung Woo Yuh and Yoko Gushiken to name just 3. In recent years, thankfully, the division has started to get more and more attention on the global stare and fighters like Hiroto Kyoguchi, Elwin Soto and Felix Alvarado have had world title defenses aired on DAZN as the division has started to get the international respect that it's long deserved.
Sadly whilst 3 current world champions at the weight have been aired on DAZN one hasn't, and that is WBC champion Kenshiro Teraji (18-0, 10). Arguably the best of the fighters at the weight. This coming Wednesday he looks to make his 9th defense of the title as he takes on fellow Japanese fighter Masamichi Yabuki (12-3, 11) and continue his reign, which has already seen him over-come the likes of Pedro Guevara, Ganigan Lopez, Saul Juarez, Milan Melindo, Randy Petalcorin and Tatsuya Hisada. As for Yabuki this will be his chance to join the mix of the divisional elite, claim his first world title and prove that his power carries up beyond domestic level, where it has been a legitimate force of destruction.
Of the two fighters it's Kenshiro who is the more well and the clear, clear, favourite coming into the bout. The unbeaten champion, a second generation fighter following in the footsteps of his father Hisashi Teraji, turned professional with a little bit of fanfare and rapidly rose through the ranks, winning WBC Youth, OPBF and Japanese titles in his first 8 bouts. He then moved onto to the world stage, narrowly beating Ganigan Lopez for the title, and he struggled past Pedro Guevara in his first defense. Since then however he has looked near untouchable, out boxing very good fighters and creating a style based around his excellent jab, brilliant control of distance and under-rated body punching.
Although not the biggest puncher, or the the fighter with the highest work rate, Kenshiro does everything really well, except for the things he does brilliantly. There is no clear weakness with him. He's a solid puncher, who gets respect, he controls distance excellently, has fantastic ring IQ, uses angles, has solid footwork, and has a finishers mentality. He can be hit, but it's rare for a fighter to ever land more than one or two on him before he gets out of range, and he's someone who will take a lot of beating. Notable he has been down in his career, though those knockdowns were early on and he's shown a good chin since then. The one area where we do worry about him is when he's under intense pressure from a fighter with power and quick feet, though we're not sure how many fighters at 108lbs actually have the traits needed to put Kenshiro under that type of pressure.
Yabuki turned professional in 2016, and blasted out his first 3 opponents before facing Junto Nakatani in the 2016 All Japan Rookie of the Year final, at Flyweight, where Nakatani took the power of Yabuki, and give him his first loss. Following that defeat Yabuki got back to blowing out opponents, 3 fighters before being stopped himself by Seigo Yuri Akui in 2018, and then losing against 5 months later to Cuban fighter Daniel Matellon. Since the loss to Matellon we've seen Yabuki going 5-0 (4), winning the Japanese national title in 2020, and defending it once. Whilst his competition hasn't been amazing, it has seen him beat the likes of Rikito Shiba, Tsuyoshi Sato and Toshimasa Ouchi.
Unlike many big punchers Yabuki isn't an out and out aggressive fighter. Instead he's a heavy handed boxer-puncher, who has under-rated boxing skills and incredibly heavy hands. He likes to use the ring, and let opponents come to him, using their aggression against them. If opponents make mistakes he likes to counter them, and using his straight punches from range to hurt them. When he has a fighter hurt however he does go for the kill, and doesn't like letting fighters off the hook. Whilst he is a solid boxer, it should be noted that Yabuki can be out boxed, and he can be lulled into inaction, as we saw at times when he faced Matellon, who landed when he wanted, and slowed the pace down when he wanted. It's really the way Matellon conducted himself in that fight that worries us for Yabuki backers, as Kenshiro also has the ability to back off and slow the tempo of the bout down.
Before we take a brief look at how we see this one going down there are some important things to note. Firstly, Kenshiro was diagnosed with Covid in August, and had a very swift recovery. That illness certainly won't have done him favours here, and it is a legitimate question mark hanging over his head. How well as has he recovered? What did that take out of him? What's his stamina like? Likewise this is a huge step up for Yabuki, and we do need to wonder whether or not he'll freeze on the big occasion.
If Kenshiro is 100% we really can't see him losing. Yabuki has the power to shake him, but we're not convinced he has the work rate, or footwork to follow up and take Kenshiro out, if he lands. If Kenshiro is damaged by his illness however, there is a chance that he might slow down late on, giving Yabuki a chance to land something and follow up.
Sadly for Yabuki we think the style of Kenshiro is really something he will struggle with. Yabuki simply doesn't have the speed or the tenacity to force his fight against someone with the IQ of Kenshiro. Yabuki will have moments, and will connect when Kenshiro makes mistakes and stays close for too long, but but those moments will be fleeting as he loses a wide, and clear decision.
Prediction - UD12 Kenshiro Teraji
The growth of the DAZN service as a distribution network for boxing is still something of a work in progress, and there are still a lot of areas where the service needs to improve, with the commentary being one of the most notable. Despite that the service has been fantastic for a number of reasons, and one of those is the fact the service seems to have taken a very clear interest in picking up fighters from the lower weight classes. In the last 12 months alone we have seen 3 of the 4 Light Flyweight world champions compete on the service and that is something that we didn't expect to see, but something we're really happy about. Finally a major outlet is shining a light on one of the most over-looked divisions in the sport.
DAZN's foray into the Light Flyweight division saw IBF champion Felix Alvarado beat the fight out of Deejay Kriel in January and saw WBA "Super" champion Hiroto Kyoguchi defeat Axel Aragon Vega in a brilliant tear up in March. On May 8th we get the chance to see another champion, this time WBO champion Elwin Soto (18-1, 12) in action as he takes on Japanese veteran Katsunari Takayama (32-8-0-1, 12). Like the two other two recent bouts in the division this could end up being a really brutal and thrilling bout between two men at very different stages of their careers.
Of the two men American audiences will likely be more familiar with Soto, especially newer fans to the sport. Soto won his WBO title on American soil when he stopped Angel Acosta, in his US debut, and has since defended the title twice, both in the US, with decision wins over Edward Heno and Carlos Buitrago. In his title win he looked talented, but flawed, and was struggling with stamina late in the bout, until hurting Acosta, who had been dropped in round 3, and forcing a controversial 12th round finish. Since then he has again looked more like a youngster who is growing into being a champion, rather than someone close to being the complete product, with both of his defenses leaving plenty to be desired. And whilst that sounds negative, the reality is that Soto seems like the sort of fighter who maybe won a world title before he was really ready for it, and needs to take another year or two to mature into the fighter he will become.
Although not the complete article yet Soto is still a monster. He's got huge power, an impressive chin, an an economical style. He presses forward, he's strong and tough and is still really rounding off his boxing skillset fight by fight. Although still improving Soto is slow of foot, sometimes a bit too methodical, and happy to come forward behind a tight guard rather than letting shots fly. A very stark comparison to the likes of Kyoguchi and Alvarado. He looks easier to outbox than the other two, due to not working as much, but is just as dangerous and strong as the other two, and arguably has the biggest upside given his young age.
Although we have been impressed by Soto at times, it is worth noting that faltering Carlos Buitrago ran him a lot closer than the scores cards suggest, and Edward Heno also gave him a very tough bout. He's the type of fighter who, against someone with a lot of quick movement will struggle to shine.
If you're a long term fan of the lower weights Katsunari Takayama needs no introduction at all. However it's fair to say that most fight fans aren't long term watches of the lowest weights and have sadly missed out on the career of the "Lighting Kid" who is now edging towards his 38th birthday and is not the fighter he used to be. At his best he was a whirring dervish of activity, willing to skip around the ring, let shots go in bunches, and use a lot of in and out movement, without too much worry of what was coming his way. He had a brilliant chin and could rely on it when he needed to, and was able to stand and trade when he wanted. His style made for some brilliant bouts against the likes of Yutaka Niida, Francisco Rodrgiuez Jr, Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr and Jose Argumedo among others. He was also a serial belt collector winning the WBC, the WBA interim title and the WBO and IBF titles, twice. All at Minimumweight. Sadly it's hard to know just how good he is going to be at Light Flyweight.
The bigger issue for Takayama isn't so much the move up in weight, he did fight at Light Flyweight early in his career, but instead his skin. During his career the accumulated punishment has left his skin very paper like, and he has been cut numerous times during the later part of his career. In fact 3 of his last 5 bouts have ended via technical decision, dating back more than 5 years. Aged 37, moving up in weight, with paper skin, taking on a big puncher, things don't look good for Takayama.
Saying all that however Takayama hasn't taken much punishment recently. In 2016 he retired before chasing a place at the Olympics. He failed in his pursuit for a Tokyo 2020 place and returned to professional boxing last year, putting on a brilliant performance against former 2-time world challenger, at Light Flyweight, Reiya Konishi. That bout showed that Takayama still has his legs and output to go, at least for 6 rounds, though of course it's a very different proposition over 12 rounds against a big puncher like Soto.
At his best Takayama would have been a stylistic nightmare for Soto. His non stop movement, ability to take a shot and high output would have been a very tough assignment for a man like Soto, who is powerful but low activity and slow of foot. This current version of Takayama however is a very different kettle of fish, and we're really not sure if Takayama's face can hold hold up or whether his legs can go 12 rounds.
We would genuine love to see Takayama win. It would be one final chapter in a career that has been amazing to follow and really seen him tread a track rarely seen by a Japanese fighter, as he actively pursued IBF and WBO titles. The reality however is that father time and a long career has probably left Takayama with only a slim chance here.
Our expectation is that Takayama starts well, uses his feet, and stops Soto from getting set, and getting his shots off. Using a tactic similar to what Carlos Buitrago did, but busier. As the fight goes on however the power and physical strength of Soto will take over and Mexican will leave Takayama busted open and force the doctor to wave off the bout.
The real question, for us, is what will cause those cuts, and when will the bout be stopped? Takayama has been involved in head clashes and if one of those occurs it would be a surprise, at all, to see a technical decision here. On the other hand Soto is a big puncher and there's a real chance that his punches will bust up Takayama and force a stoppage.
Prior to the end we expect Takayama to set a high pace, at least early on, and force Soto to fight at a much higher tempo than usual. We expect a lot of leather to be thrown here and for the bout to be, yet another, fantastic Light Flyweight action bout. Expect regular exchanges, with Soto landing the heavier blows and Takayama landing at a high volume. Sadly though it's hard to see the bout ending in any other way, other than Takayama wearing a crimson mask.
For gamblers out there, Takayama by technical decision might be worth a shot, but a slim one. For everyone else, the obvious outcome is Soto by TKO, and that's the one we'll be picking.
Prediction - TKO9 Soto (cuts)
In 2020 we expect to see a lot of long running saga's come to an end, such as the recent over-due IBF Super Flyweight mandatory title fight between Jerwin Ancajas v Jonathan Javier Rodriguez and the on going WBC Bantamweight title situation between Nordine Oubaali and Nonito Donaire, which was ordered in 2019. Perhaps now saga, however, is quite like the one between Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10) and Tetsuya Hisada (34-10-2, 20), which is now set to take place around 4 years after it was first scheduled! And for honours much, much higher than it would have been for the first time around!
For those who haven't followed the Japanese scene until very recently this bout was originally pencilled when Kenshiro was the Japanese and OPBF Light Flyweight champion, and was supposed to be a mandatory of the Japanese title, as part of the Champion Carnival in 2017. The bout was cancelled at short notice when Kenshiro was able to secure a WBC world title fight with Ganigan Lopez, which he went on to win via majority decision. Whilst Kenshiro became a world champion things didn't stand still for Hisada who ended up beating Kenichi Horikawa in a bloody battle, marred by repeated headclashes, to win the Japanese title and worked his way into a WBA world title fight in 2019 with Hiroto Kyoguchi, losing a competitive decision to Kyoguchi.
If that was chapter 1 in the "Kenshiro Vs Hisada rivalry", and if that ended well for both parties, chapter 2 was a little bit different. The men were to fight late last year, with the bout essentially the worst kept secret in Japanese boxing. It however fell apart weeks before it supposed to take place after news revealed Kenshiro has been involved in a drunken incident that resulted in him being suspended by the JBC. That left a sour taste in the mouth of Hisada and saw some fans question the behaviour of Kenshiro, who in had committed his drunk acts in the summer, well before the bout was supposed to take place but the act hadn't come to light until much later.
Now, with more than 4 years history between the two men, but no bouts, we are now, finally, set to see the two men face off.
Of the two fighters it's Kenshiro, the current and long reigning WBC Light Flyweight champion, who is the much more well known fighter. The baby faced 29 year old is one of the longest reigning active world champions in the sport, having held his title since 2017 and running up 7 defenses. He is from a boxing family, with his father Hisashi being a former Japanese and OPBF champion, and he looks a natural in the ring. Though that should be little surprise for a fighter who was a good amateur and seemed for success when he turned professional in 2014. In the professional ranks he has been moved aggressively but smartly, and won WBC Youth, Japanese and OPBF titles before taking the WBC title in 2017. Since winning his world title he has moved from strength to strength and has visibly grown as a fighter since winning the belt in his 10th professional bout.
Kenshiro is, unlike many active Light Flyweights, a boxer first and foremost, with a style that is based around his speed, movement, and jab, rather than his power and physicality, like many of the top guys in the division. He looks to set the tone with his foot work and jab, picking holes in opponents defenses, making them make errors to counter. He has one of the most under-rated jabs in the sport, with it being quick, sharp and accurate, and also some of the over-looked punch picking of any active fighter. He picks his shots well, whether he's on the front foot or back foot. Given his record, and style, it would be fair to assume he lacked power, but that isn't true and he has stopped 5 of his last 6, Ganigan Lopez, Milan Melindo, Jonathan Taconing and Randy Petalcorin. He can punch, but he doesn't base his style around that power, rather allowing that power to aid his boxing.
Aged 36 Tetsuya Hisada is a true veteran of the sport. With 46 professional bouts to his name is among the most experienced active Japanese fighters and his career dates all the way back to 2003, when he was still a teenager. His record, on paper, isn't all that impressive, but like a fine wine Hisada bloomed late into his career, as he finally found the weight that was suitable for him, a style that worked for him, and gained the experienced he needed to become a success. Proof of that can be seen by looking at Hisada's career after 32 professional bouts. At that point he was aged 30 at the time and was sporting a record of 21-9-2 (11). Since then he has gone 13-1, with his only loss coming in a hotly contest bout with Hiroto Kyoguchi. It's also not like he was padding his record either, instead he beat the likes of Shun Kosaka, who came runner up in the 2014 All Japan Rookie of the Year, Hayato Yamaguchi, who was was a former Japanese title challenger, Atsushi Kakutani, a former world title challenger, and Kenichi Horikawa, who is currently the OPBF Light Flyweight champion.
Many of Hisada's early losses came due to him fighting above his natural weight. He picked a number of losses at Super Flyweight and Flyweight. And a lot of those were close, with 4 split decision losses.
In recent years Hisada has settled at Light Flyweight and become of of the more over-looked fighters in the sport. Hisada defies logic. Despite being the wrong side of 30 he appears to have fantastic stamina, fights at a high work rate, throws a lot of leather, but does so in an educated manner. It's clear he uses his experience well, knowing when to go forward and when to back off. Unlike so many fighters who like to come forward he actually uses his jab as a key weapon, and even doubles it up nicely, whilst looking to line up his straight right hand. Despite fighting at a solid tempo Hisada also does some little things very well. He moves his head a lot, applies pressure behind good footwork and has under-rated power, something his record doesn't reflect due to his numerous bouts above his best fighting weight. Sadly though he is ancient for a Light Flyweight, and having been out of the ring since late 2019 we do wonder what ring rust and father time will have done to him. It's also a massive shame Hisada didn't get the big fights until late in his career, something that is understandable given his losses but still a shame given his ability.
In this bout we're expecting to see some of the history between the two men come out, and we expect to see a frustrated Hisada looking to start fast, with emotion, anger and a sense of resentment coming out. He's usually a calm, collected character, but he was clearly disappointed last year, and we think some of that will come out here. Sadly for himself that would be a mistake, as Kenshiro will pick him away at any error he makes.
Even without the errors this is not a good stylistic match up for Hisada. His pressure works brilliantly against fighters who stay still, or back on to the ropes and don't have the educated feet and counter punching of Kenshiro. Here however he's up against a brilliant counter puncher, a smart mover, and someone who will soak up the pressure, target the counters and look to break him down. Kenshiro will look to use Hisada's strengths against him.
For Hisada to win he needs to not only pressure, but also physically bully Kenshiro. His activity is good, but he needs to get the bout on the inside, completely cut the distance, and don't let Kenshiro establish his rhythm. As soon as Kenshiro finds his groove it will be very, very hard for Hisada to work his way into the bout. If Hisada doesn't make a big impact early, in an educated fashion, he will fall a long way behind.
Given Kyoguchi wasn't able to stop Hisada the popular view will be that Kenshiro won't be able to. We however feel that Kenshiro will be able to, late on, as he looks to make a statement, and lay down the gauntlet to the other champions. He is talking about wanting to unify and we suspect he'll want to make a big statement here, to do that, he needs to stop Hisada.
We are expecting Hisada to come forward early, have mixed success as Kenshiro finds his range, and through the middle rounds Kenshiro will begin to dominate with his counters, before forcing a late stoppage in a complete performance against an excellent, and over-looked, challenger.
Prediction - TKO10 Kenshiro
(Image credit - Boxingnews.jp - from the announcement of the 2017 Champion Carnival bouts, Kenshiro and Hisada are both in the front line)
Over the last few years we have seen more and more Japanese fighters making their mark on the international scene. This has been, in part, due to the ease with which we can now watch Japanese fighters in action. Gone are the days of Key Hole TV and in are days of HD streaming and VOD services like Boxing Raise, which have allowed us to follow Japanese fighters from their early bouts right through to the point where they are world champions.
One such fighter has been Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9), who had much of his early career shown on Boxing Raise before becoming a staple on TV broadcasts, thanks to Watanabe's relationship with TBS. He is now set to take the next step in his professional career, following the likes of Naoya Inoue and Kazuto Ioka, and make his US debut. He does that this coming weekend when he defends his WBA "super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight titles against Mexican youngster Axel Aragon Vega (14-3-1, 8), in what should be a break out bout for the exciting Japanese fighter in front of a new audience on DAZN.
For those who have followed Kyoguchi over the year they'll know what to expect from the cheeky looking Japanese fighter. The 27 year old turned professional in 2016, following his brother Ryuto Kyoguchi to the professional ranks, and he raced through the rankings. Within a year of his debut Hiroto had already won the OPBF Minimumweight, the Asian equivalent to the European (EBU) title, and had looked like a mini-Mike Tyson with an aggressive, pressure fighter style that was based around his pressure and combinations. Just 5 months later he claimed his first world title, beating Jose Argumedo for the IBF Minimumweight belt. His reign was a short one, with only two defense, though they did include a notable TKO win over Carlos Buitrago who is still a relevant contender and recently gave Elwin Soto a competitive bout in 2020.
In 2018 Kyoguchi became a 2-weight champion, stopping Hekkie Budler in Macau for the WBA Light Flyweight "super" title, which he has defended twice, beating both Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart and Tetsuya Hisada by clear, though hard fought, unanimous decision. The latets of those defenses came in October 2019 and he has been out of the ring ever since. He was supposed to defend his title last year, though had two bouts fall through. The first of those was in May, which was cancelled due to Covid19 putting a freeze on boxing, and the other was in November, when Kyoguchi himself tested positive for Covid19 cancelling the bout at the 11th hour.
Early in his career Kyoguchi did look a really destructive force. He was a pressure fighter with a hyper aggressive style, a focus on pressure, combination punching and getting close, unleashing his power shots and breaking people down in eye catching, fan friendly fashion. The move to Light Flyweight has seen him face tougher, bigger, stronger men who haven't wilted under his pressure like his early opponents, but he is still a pressure fighter at heart. We have seen him show some development and patience, and develop his boxing skills, but at his best he is still a front foot pressure fighter, who cuts the ring off well, and loves to get to work up close. It's his work in the pocket that is his best and his body shots are brutal. Unlike some pressure fighters out there he set them up properly, coming forward behind a tight guard, good footwork and a stiff, hurtful, jab. He also starts fast with his pressure, rather than build it through the fight, draining opponents mentally from the first bell.
In the opposite corner to Kyoguchi will be 20 year old challenger Axel Aragon Vega, a Mexican fighter who debuted in 2016 and has built himself a solid looking record, but on which lacks in substance. His first 10 wins all came against fighters with little experience, or losing records, and his first bout of any note was actually a loss, in 2017 to Juan Toscano. He did bounce back from that, with 8 straight wins, but suffered back to back set backs, with a draw to Edvin Ramirez Contreras and loss to Wilfredo Mendez. He bounced back again, with 3 low key wins, before a rematch with Mendez, for the WBO Minimumweight title, saw Vega suffer his third loss, this time by split technical decision. Since that loss he has fought once, beating veteran Saul Juarez in August 2020.
In the ring Vega is a tiny fighter, standing at around 5', but he's also a quick, skilled and tough one. Against Saul Juarez he looked sharp with his punches, he looked light on his feet and drew mistakes from Juarez which he countered. Sadly however that botu really doesn't tell us too much given how past his best Juarez looked, and whilst it's easy to be impressed by Vega it does need to be noted that Juarez looked beyond shot with his movement. To credit to Vega he did look smooth, he knew his way around the ring and has got nice hand speed. Sadly other footage of Vega isn't of the best quality, though it is clear he's a talented fighter and really does have plenty of skills.
Whilst we think Vega is a very talented fighter he is also a very small fighter, he's a light puncher and he looks to be a natural Minimumweight who will be taking on a strong Light Flyweight here. It seems unlikely he will have the physicality to get Kyoguchi's respect and will need to burn a lot of energy to stay at a safe distance against the champion. A champion who is known as a strong, pressure fighter with good footwork and solid body shots.
If we were in charge of Kyoguchi, Vega is the type of fighter we would have loved to have matched him with on his US debut. He looks made to order. We suspect Vega will have some success in the early rounds, he'll use his speed well, box well, but come under intense and incessant pressure and by round 4 or 5 the pressure and body shots of Kyoguchi will be taking their toll. A stoppage will then come, eventually, from Vega just simply being ground down and broken up.
Prediction - Kyoguchi TKO8
On November 3rd we'll see unbeaten men clash at the INTEX in Osaka, as WBA Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) takes on Thai challenger Thanongsak Simsri (14-0, 12). For Kyoguchi this will be his second defense of the title, whilst the unsung Thai challenger will be getting his first shot at world honours in a massive step up. The bout will be the first male world title fight held in Japan since boxing restarted in the country back in the summer and is a genuinely huge bout for Asia during this current time.
Whilst it's a huge fight the real question is whether it will be a good one, and who will win. With that in mind lets have a look at what to expect when the "Dynamite Boy" takes on "Srisaket II".
Aged 26, and with his 27th birthday just a few weeks away, Hiroto Kyoguchi is one of the leading faces in Japanese boxing. The youngster turned professional in 2016, following a solid amateur career, and was raced through the professional ranks at an alarming pace. Just 10 months after his debut he took the OPBF Minimumweight title and just 5 months later he added the IBF world title to his collection, setting a Japanese record for the shortest time take from debut to win a world title. After a string of defenses of that IBF title he moved up in weight and quickly won the WBA "super" and Ring Magazine title at 108lbs.
In his early bouts Kyoguchi looked like a mini-Mike Tyson, he was all about pressure, free flowing combinations and ripping opponents apart in brutal fashion. As he's stepped up his level of competition we have seen that Tyson-Esque style adapt, and what we now see with Kyoguchi is a hard hitting boxer-puncher, with an aggressive mentality. The extreme, intense pressure is seen in glimpses, but it's a lot less than it used to be, with opponents standing up to his power and forcing him to rely more on boxing than his power. Having that pressure style in his locker is, however, a valuable asset and can turn the tide, or finish off an opponent, and he really is at his best working in the pocket.
With 6 world title bouts, across 2 divisions, it's fair to describe Kyoguchi as a seasoned campaigner, despite only having 14 career bouts. Amazinly Thanongsak Simsri has also just had 14 bouts as a professional, but his career is very, very different to that of Kyoguchi.
Simsri debuted in 2018, in obscurity buried deep on a card in Samut Prakan, at the age of 18. He would score 6 quick wins to begin his career, all against Thai novices, before getting the chance to feature on a card in Osaka, in April 2019. It was on that card that he really made fans sit up and take note, stopping Ricardo Sueno in 66 seconds. That was the point where Japanese promoter Green Tsuda seemed to get on board with Simsri's rise, and since then they have helped guide his career, using their resources and connections to help develop the Thai youngster. A couple of wins in Thailand followed before he was back in Japan to have his second bout on Japanese soil.
The development was fast and intense with Simsri some how fitting in a total of 8 bouts in 2019, including a very notable one in December against Filipino Christian Bacolod. At the time Bacolod was world ranked, and unbeaten and Simsri managed to do enough to out point the talented Pinoy.
Dubbed "Srisaket II" by the Thai press it should be little surprise to learn that Simsri is a heavy handed fighter, with an aggressive mentality, and impressive physical strength. He is however more of a boxer-puncher than a pressure fighter, like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. When fighting on the inside he is a very nasty body puncher, nd is very comfortable there, but he does look to set things up at mid range, before working up close. Rather than Srisaket, who is very much of an intense stalker. Sadly for Simsri he lacks the truly brutal power of Srisaket, but every shot of his is heavy, thudding, hurtful and spiteful. He's a legitimate danger man, but appears to be someone who still has a lot of work to do on his defense, timing and understanding of distance.
Before we make a prediction on the outcome we need to state the obvious. Stylistically this should be a truly amazing bout. Both guys can box or fight, and both do their best work in the pocket. We expect to see both men looking to fight off their jabs early on, getting a feel for each other in the first few rounds, before taking this up close and turning on the gas to give us something truly sensation.
Sadly for Simsri we do feel this bout might be coming a bit too early for him. We see him as a 20 year old prospect, who has gotten a world title fight due to circumstances, rather than merit. We expect him to be full of gusto, confidence and no fear, but his lack of higher level experience, and immaturity will be a problem and he will be made to look like a boy against a man.
We are expecting a brilliant fight for 4 or 5 rounds, but then we expect the stiff shots from Kyoguchi, and the work on the inside, to grind down the Thai. We suspect in round 7 or 8 his corner will throw in the towel and save the tired youngster for another day.
Prediction - TKO8 Kyoguchi.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On December 23rd, at the Yokohama Arena in Japan, the unstoppable Kenshiro Teraji clashes with Randy Petalcorin for the WBC World championship, as part of Fuji Boxing’s huge triple header show.
Kenshiro Teraji (16-0 / 9 KOs) was introduced to the sport, at a very young age, by his father Hisashi, a former OPBF Light Heavyweight champion. Kenshiro’s amateur career lasted 7 years, from 2007 to 2014, accumulating a record of 58-16. His most significant accomplishments were winning the 68th National Sports Festival as well as placing second at the All Japan Championships.
Turned pro in 2014, he displayed his fighting spirit early on by taking on boxers, way more experienced than him, such as Heri Amol (37-30), Katsunori Nagamine (15-2), Takashi Omae (13-6) and Rolly Sumalpong (11-3). On December of 2015, Shiro was involved in a thriller with Kenichi Horikawa (40-16) for the Japanese Light Flyweight title. Despite having only 5 pro fights under his belt, Shiro went toe to toe with the veteran for 10 rounds, which kept the fans at Korakuen on their feet, applauding the efforts of both men. When the fight was over, the young lion left the victor and the new champion.
Moving on from that breakout performance, Teraji made his inaugural defense over one time world title challenger Atsushi Kakutani (19-7). The “Smiling Assassin” was absolutely dominant, knocking Atsushi down thrice, in just the opening round, for the TKO win. He also acquired the vacant OPBF crown when he defeated Toshimasa Ouchi (22-9) and defended it against Lester Abutan (13-10), whom he crushed with a lethal flurry of punches.
The unstoppable Japanese superstar eventually earned his big opportunity, in May of 2017, as he challenged Ganigan Lopez (36-11) for the WBC Light Flyweight World Championship, at the Ariake Colosseum. Both challenger and champion fought valiantly, in a very close encounter, which undoubtedly was the biggest test of Kenshiro’s career at the time. “El Maravilla” had won the belt the previous year from Yu Kimura, and was determined to leave Japan once again with the gold. Kenshiro on the other hand, wasn’t going to let his moment go to waste. It was a hard hitting contest that saw the Japanese fighter taking on a heavy beating but kept on coming back with strong offense of his own. During the last round, Lopez and Kenshiro left it all in the ring, as they engaged in a wild brawl, which was the perfect conclusion to this bout. In the end, the judges scored the match in favor of the local hero, thus declaring him the new world champion, at the age of 25.
Teraji proceeded to defend his title, the same year, twice. His first challenger was former World champion Pedro Guevara (36-3). It was a slow and methodical contest which turned into a slugfest during the last 4 rounds, where he showcased his incredible hand speed and body work, which led him getting the majority decision. His second was Gilberto Pedroza (18-6). It was a one-sided affair that ended violently in the 4th, when the champ stormed Pedroza with a plethora of body shots.
As it was expected, the rematch between Teraji and Lopez was finally set to take place last year at Ota-City’s General Gymnasium. Many fans and critics alike believed that the Mexican was robbed in their previous encounter and expected him to regain his championship. In a stunning turn of events, Kenshiro stopped Lopez in just the second round after he landed a perfectly timed liver shot, leaving the former champion unable to answer the referee’s 10 count, plus putting any doubts of his legitimacy to rest.
A few months later, he squared off with the former IBF World champion Milan Melindo (37-5). Undoubtedly one of his best performances today, Teraji dominated in every round, almost leaving no room for offense to the Filipino, punishing Melindo with fast combinations through out the match, until the end came in the 7th round, via referee stoppage.
After a voluntary defense against Saul Juarez (25-10), Kenshiro put his title on the line against Jonathan Taconing (28-4) this past July. The longtime WBC International champion was riding a 6 fight winning streak and had the highest finishing ratio of any of the Japanese star’s previous foes, with 78.5% of his wins coming via knockout (22 KOs in total). Teraji managed to weather the early storm and counter attack every time Taconing tried to close the distance. Eventually he caught him with a shift right straight to mark his 6th defense. The Smiling Assassin will step into the ring, once more, before the year is over, taking on another opponent from the Philippines.
A 10 year veteran of the sport, Randy Petalcorin (31-3 / 23 KOs) began building his career back in his home country, pilling up wins before taking his first international trip. Up until that point, he had amassed 19 victories, 1 draw and only 1 loss to future World champion Marlon Tapales.
He travelled to Australia in 2013, where he met Ophat Niamprem (35-24). Not the most impressive record, but with 27 KOs under his belt, Ophat wasn’t someone to look past. Petalcorin came in hot and dropped him early on, courtesy of his favorite weapon, the left straight. He stunned him again in the 3rd round with the same move, before going in for the kill, showcasing his uncanny hand speed. They fought each other for a second time, with the exact same result, scoring a knockdown and then overwhelming the Thai fighter with a plethora of punches.
The “Razor” would go on to face Walter Tello (21-11) for the interim WBA Light Flyweight World title, on August of 2014. It was an exciting affair. 7 rounds of nonstop action. Finally the end came when Randy put the man from Panama down with a left uppercut/right hook combo and sealed the deal with another uppercut seconds later, capturing the crown.
His one an only defense was against WBO Asia Pacific champion Yiming Ma (13-7), whom he kept punishing with the left straight, scoring 3 back to back knockdowns in less than two minutes, stopping him in the opening round. Petalcorin would go 8-2 in his next fights, losing a controversial decision to Omari Kimweri (17-5) and to reigning IBF champion Felix Alvarado (35-2).
Petalcorin is obviously not on the same level as Teraji and has struggled against world class opponents. However, he still poses a threat to anyone that goes up against him. He’s quite aggressive, mostly relying on the power of his left hand to do the damage and then swarm in to finish the job. Not the best defensive guy, but because of that, his style makes him an exciting fighter to watch, as he doesn’t mind taking a punch, just so he can dish one back. It’s also worth mentioning that the majority of his knockouts have come within the first 3 rounds (17 KOs).
What people should expect here is a fan friendly contest between 2 men that know how to put on a show. This isn’t going to be a boxing clinic, not by a longshot. Petalcorin will try to end this one quickly, throwing bombs, as he knows that he doesn’t stand a chance against Kenshiro, if this goes to the deep waters. The exchanges should be a thing of beauty to behold as both possess crazy hand speed. Eventually the champ will start taking over and go for the knockout probably before the 6th round. All in all, this is a match you do not want to miss…..or blink.
Over the last few years the Light Flyweight division has been one of the few divisions which has given us thriller, after thriller, after thriller. The division has so much talent, and has had for years, that the world title bouts we're seeing there have been, for the most part, well matched, exciting and thoroughly entertaining.
This coming Thursday we're expecting another interesting bout in the division as WBO champion Elwin Soto (15-1, 11) defends his belt against unbeaten Filipino challenger Edward Heno (14-0-5, 5). On paper this looks like a delicious match up between hard hitting champion and skilled unbeaten challenger, but how do we expect it to go? And who are Elwin Soto and Edward Heno?
The champion is a 22 year old who really was an unknown until earlier this year, when he upset Angel Acosta for the title. The win over Acosta was a genuine upset, and was also a rather controversial one with the referee jumping in very quickly when Acosta was hurt. The stoppage was one of the worst of the year, and Acosta was furious about it, though the referee's decision can't be held against Soto. Sadly that is one of only 2 notable wins for Soto, who also beaten former IBF Minimumweight champion Mario Rodriguez in 2018. Whilst his competition hasn't been great Soto has shown enough to be very excited about. He's a very hard hitting fighter, who appears to take a shot very well himself, having never been down as a professional. His body punching is excellent and he has power late in the bout with some lovely combinations.
Dubbed "La Pulga" Soto is one of the hidden gems of the Light Flyweight division, and although he has a lot of question still to answer, such as questions over his stamina and his defense, he looks like a brilliant young fighter with a bright future ahead. The one thing that did show up against Acosta was that Soto slowed down a lot in the later rounds, and he got caught a lot but never looked hurt and showed great composure throughout.
Whilst Soto seemingly came out of nowhere to become a world champion Heno has been on the fringes for a couple of years now. He made his debut in 2011, and drew his first 3 bouts, but has really come into his own since 2017. He took the unbeaten record of countryman Cris Ganoza in March 2017, went over to Japan and was robbed of a win over Seita Ogido, before stopping to become the OPBF champion. Since winning the OPBF title Ogido has made 3 defenses, beating former world champion Melito Sabillo, the once touted Jesse Espinas and Japanese veteran Koji Itagaki. Sadly footage of Heno is scarce, despite having a number of bouts streamed at the time, however he is a talented, and smart fighter with a good jab and a intelligent defense. Sadly his lack of power is an issue, especially at world level, however he has the skills to be a nightmare.
Heno is a real natural boxing talent however his lack of power against a bully like Soto could be an issue. Soto won't respect him early on, and could put the Filipino under a lot of early pressure. We suspect Heno will see out the early storm against Soto, but the middle rounds will be incredibly tough for the challenger. If he can survive that then he has the experience over 12 rounds to fight strong down the stretch. It is however, a big ask for Heno to survive those middle rounds.
We'd love to see Heno win, but in reality we think he's up against one of the sports true hidden gems here and this is a huge ask for him. He'll give it a go, but the pressure and power of Soto will be too much.
Prediction TKO8 Soto
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.