This coming Sunday we will be able to see WBC Light Flyweight champion Ken Shiro (10-0, 5) make his first defense of the title as he takes on former champion Pedro Guevara (30-2-1, 17) in a really intriguing mandatory title fight. On one hand there is a chance to see just what Ken Shiro is like as a champion, having risen through the ranks incredibly quickly, whilst on the other hand we'll be able to see however goes about reclaiming the title, which he actually lost in Japan almost 2 years ago.
The linage of the WBC Light Flyweight title in recent years has been really interesting, and dominated by a Japan Vs Mexico rivalry. That rivalry saw Guevara beat Akira Yaegashi for title in 2014, lost it to Yu Kimura in 2015 who in turn lost it to Ganigan Lopez in 2016 and it was Lopez who was beaten by Ken Shiro for the belt, this past May. That rivalry has been an over-looked one, but has certainly been a competitive and entertaining one.
Guevara really shined in his title winning effort against Yaegashi. He looked like a fighter who perfectly combined skills, boxing IQ and power to over-come one of the top modern day warriors. Since then however Guevara has faltered some what. He was unlucky to lose to Kimura, in what was his third defense, but he had been rather lucky to get the win in his previous defense against the aforementioned Lopez. He has also failed to really shine against either Ruben Montoya and Oswaldo Novoa, in bouts since the loss to Kimura.
Although not shining since losing the title it's fair to say that we know how good Guevara is. He holds wins over the likes of Mario Rodriguez, Raul Garcia, Yaegashi, Lopez and Novoa. At one point he was likely regarded as the best fighter in the division and really does combine intelligence with boxing, in a way that very few do. Out of the ring he's an incredible smart man, and in the ring he continues to show that intelligence in his boxing style. At times it's a flaw, with Guevara perhaps lacking a little in activity, but technically he's very good.
On thing worth noting about Guevara coming into this bout is the fact he has only fought 8 rounds in the last 52 weeks, and that type of activity doesn't help a fighter fighting for a world title.
Japanese fighter Ken Shiro was earmarked as a fighter on the fast track from the moment he made his debut, against Heri Amol. In just his 5th bout he claimed the WBC Youth title before assing the Japanese and OPBF titles in his next 3 fights as he began to beat better competition, such as Kenichi Horikawa and Atsushi Kakutani. During his rise he showed he could brawl, box and pretty much slip between the two. He could be hurt, and was dropped early in his career, but showed the know-how to fight to his strengths when he needed to, and he could take a decent shot, as he showed against Lopez earlier this year.
Although a relative novice with just 10 professional bouts under his belt Ken Shiro is actually an experienced fighter, having been a notable amateur before turning professional and he's also from a fighting family with his father having been a former Japanese and OPBF champion himself. Despite the experience he's not the high IQ fighter that Guevara is, but he is well schooled and does show good composure in the ring.
In a neutral venue we suspect that Guevara's higher level of skill and experience would help him to a victory and to reclaiming the title. He is however on the road here, and with crowd being behind Ken Shiro, we suspect he'll be pushed over the line, and narrowly retain the title, in a decision which will be disputed, but not a robbery. Guevara will certainly have really good moments, but those moment will be forgotten as the crowd cheer everything the local star does, and just do enough to help him claim the win.
We often hear how low the talent pool is in a number of the lower weight classes. That tends to actually be wrong and a number of lower divisions are very deep, though sadly the best fighters aren't matched against each other nearly enough. That is clearly seen at 108lbs where fighters like Paipharob Kokietgym, Randy Petalcorin, Rey Loreto and Ryo Miyazaki have essentially been frozen out of big fights for a year whilst lesser fighters, like Richard Claveras and Luis De la Rosa are getting shots instead.
Thankfully however we do sit on the verge of a genuinely intriguing bout in the division as WBC champion Pedro Guevara (26-1-1, 17) takes on former Japanese champion Yu Kimura (17-2-1, 3) in a genuinely intriguing bout that sees Guevara return to Japan for the first time since he won the title, stopping Akira Yaegashi last December.
For many lower weight fight fans Guevara is one of the best in the division. His resume includes wins over Karluis Diaz, Jorle Estrada, Raul Garcia, Mario Rodriguez and Ganigan Lopez, though it's the win over Yaegashi that really broke him through into being a divisional star. He's also only lost to a genuinely world class fighter, a split decision to Filipino fighter Johnriel Casimero, more than 3 years ago.
In the ring the champion can box or fight. His power is under-rated though really it's his boxing skills that set him apart from many of the others in the division and it was those skills that lead to his win again Yaegashi. It does however need to be said that he didn't look his best last time out, against Lopez, in a bout that saw Lopez make life very difficult for the champion.
Going forward we suspect Guevara will move up in weight, the 26 year old is a big lump for a Light Flyweight and at some point he'll likely look to establish himself in the more prestigious Flyweight division. For now however he's a handful for anyone at 108lbs and there is no doubting that he is one of the division's key players.
As for Kimura he's a man who has often remained under-the radar for non-Japanese fans, many of whom would likely regard him as a non-puncher with little real potential to change that or to ever make a name for himself. What generally isn't too well known is that he was a solid amateur himself running up a 65-15 (8) record in the unpaid ranks before turning professional back in 2006. As a professional he has done things the hard way on the Japanese scene and suffered a couple of losses as a result, though both losses have come to “names” in Shin Ono and current WBA champion Ryoichi Taguchi.
As a fighter Kimura is a very talented boxer-mover with good accuracy, an intelligent boxing brain and good movement. He does, as his record suggest, lack power though much of that is down to his style which compromises on power due to the movement. His ability has seen him notch up a number of notable victories, including his 2014 Japanese title winning victory, a decision over Kenichi Horikawa, and a notable defense over Yuki Chinen. It's really since winning the Japanese title that Kimura has come into his own and started to believe he could, one day, become a world champion.
Although Kimura has improved massively from the fighter he once was it's still hard to see what he really has to trouble Guevara, who looks to be the worst of the champions for Kimura to be facing. Kimura will struggle to out box the champion and certainly won't be able to hold his own when it comes to power and physical strength. To us this looks like a worth while challenge but one that likely is being used as Kimura's final bout, and a chance to say he fought at the top level. At 32 he's unlikely to get another opportunity as this level and he'll put everything he has into the bout but we really can't see how he beats the very talented Mexican.
In late March we saw Filipino fighter Rommel Asenjo come up very short when he took on Juan Francisco Estrada. Just 2 weeks later we see another Filipino travelling to Mexico in hope of shocking the boxing world. This time it's the unbeaten Richard Claveras (12-0-2, 12) who will be looking to score a huge upset win and claim the WBC Light Flyweight title when he battles against Pedro Guevara (24-1-1, 16).
Coming into the bout Claveras is a real unknown. He may be the future of Filipino boxing, or he may be a fighter who bitten off much more than he can chew.
Aged 25 Claveras is dubbed “Explosive” due to his power, power that has seen him stopping his last 10 opponents, and 12 of his last 13. On one hand he has been wiping out opponents at double quick speed, in fact his 14 career bouts have lasted just 34 rounds, less than 2.5 rounds a fight. That has been because he's scored 8 opening round stoppages and 10 stoppages in the first 2 rounds. On the other hand he hasn't been fighting particularly stiff competition with his most experienced foe being Rodel Tejares and his most notable win being an 8th round TKO against JC Francisco.
Whilst it's almost impossible to judge Claveras from his competition he's been dealing with it the way he should. He's been completely destroying them following a 2-0-2 (2) start to his career.
What we do know about Claveras is that his body shots are spiteful, his head shots are vicious, his size, for a Light Flyweight, is incredibly imposing and from the little bit of footage we've seen he's patient, surprisingly for someone with a record like he has. We also know that at 25 years old he's coming into his physical prime, even if he is technically inexperienced as a fighter.
Whilst little is real known about the Filipino challenger we do know plenty about the defending champion, who claimed the title late last year when he stopped Akira Yaegashi in Japan. That was Guevara's second world title fight after having previously come up short against the then IBF champion Johnriel Casimero.
As a fighter Guevara really can do it. He's a brilliant boxer-puncher who shows traits of Ricardo Lopez in the way he fights. He's capable of fighting at range behind his excellent jab, he's able to box on the back foot his counters and, when push comes to shove, he can fight on the inside. He combines his excellent all round ability with solid toughness and real patience, which make him very tough to beat. In fact his record essentially proves that as he already holds notable wins over the likes of Yaegashi, Mario Rodriguez and Raul Garcia, an excellent trio of fighters.
Whilst what have seen of Claveras is impressive it's impossible for us to favour him against the fantastic Guevara who is more proven and more known. That's not to say Claveras stand no chance, but he really is going from the paddling pool to the middle of the ocean and being told to swim for the first time. Not only is he being told to swim, but he's being told to swim with sharks.
For Claveras his best chance, if not his only chance, is to start fast and hope his power is simply too much for Guevara. Unfortunately for the challenger it does seem like Guevara is a tough and gritty fighter and we suspect the champion will see out any early assault before turning the tables, using his experience and skills to eventually break down the challenger, who simply isn't ready for a fight at this level.
There are a lot of fights left this year but possibly the most exciting of those is at Light Flyweight as the always fun to watch Akira Yaegashi (20-4, 10) attempts to become a 3-weight world champion and over-come Mexico's Pedro Guevara (23-1-1, 15) in a bout for the vacant WBC Light Flyweight title. A title which was last held by Yaegashi's stablemate Naoya Inoue, who vacated the belt to campaign at Super Flyweight.
Last time out we saw Yaegashi suffer the first stoppage loss of his career as he was beaten into submission by the exceptional Roman Gonzalez. That bout saw the best from both men though unfortunately for Yaegashi it always seemed that Gonzalez was too strong, too powerful, too sharp and too good. Yaegashi tried his best against though was left a broken fighter who seemed to realise that he was too small and light punching to really compete against the best men at 112lbs.
For those who haven't seen much of Yaegashi he is the sort of fighter that fans should really appreciate. He's speedy and talented though unlike many other speedy fighters he seems to enjoy a fight just as much as the fans. His propensity for a tear up has seen him in thrilling contests with his 2011 bout against Thailand's Pornsawan Porpramook being a FOTY contender just like his 2012 ruckus with compatriot Kazuto Ioka. Both of those bouts showed not only Yaegashi's willingness to fight a war but also the way he seems to force a war, whether it's in his best interest or not.
At Flyweight Yaegashi's main problem was that he lacked genuine fire power. In his 5 title bouts at the weight he scored just a single stoppage, albeit a really good one against Odilon Zaleta. Sadly we suspect that if Yaegashi had power to match his and toughness he would be fighter celebrated worldwide rather than a man only truly appreciated by Japanese fans and the hardcore boxing fans.
Of course it's not just the style and wars that fans enjoy but also Yaegashi's willingness to test himself against the best. It's that willingness to fight all comers that has seen him battle with the likes of Gonzalazs, Ioka, Porpramook, Edgar Sosa, Eagle Den Junlaphan and Toshiyuki Igarashi. That's being seen again here where he's gone from being beaten up by Gonzalez to taking on the dangerous Guevara rather than fight a confidence rebuilding bout against a weaker foe.
So on to the Mexican who at 25 years old is coming into his prime and will be hoping to become a world champion at the second time of asking, having previously fallen short in an IBF title fight with Filipino Johnriel Casimero. In that fight Guevara was stepping up notably in class and it showed early on when he was dropped in the opening round though he did warm to the task and managed to give Casimero a close fight, though not as close as the scorecards indicated.
The bout with Casimero is easily the biggest bout that Guevara has been involved in. He has however been up against several other notable names including Mario Rodriguez, Raul Garcia, Karlius Diaz and Jorle Estrada and beaten all of them. Notably he has faced Rodriguez twice, drawing in their first meeting before dominating in the rematch with a very clear decision. The improvement between those two Rodriguez bouts was clear and on the whole Guevara has been a fighter improving regularly.
Stylistically Guevara shows traits of the great Ricardo Lopez. He boxes, moves, throws sharp and correct shots and looks comfortable on the back foot, something we rarely see in a Mexican fighter. Unlike most Mexican fighters he looks happier at range and boxing rather than up close and brawling. That doesn't he can't stand there and fight but it's not his style or his strength. At a distance he has a nice variety of shots with his left hook to the body, jab and straight right being the key shots in his arsenal.
From what we've seen of both guys we suspect this bout will be won by the man who can control the distance and pacing of the bout. A slow bout fought at range favours Guevara without a doubt. If the Mexican can use his reach and straight shots to stop Yaegashi in his tracks then the title will be going back to Mexico. For Yaegashi to win he has to turn this into a fight, slip the jab and unload his trademark fast flurries on the inside. The Japanese fighter has to make life uncomfortable for the Mexican visitor and if he can do that we suspect we will see Yaegashi becoming just the second Japanese fighter in history to win world titles in 3 weights. If Yaegashi can't get inside then he'll follow in the footsteps of Kazuto Ioka and Hozumi Hasegawa who both failed in their attempts to become 3 weight world champions this year.
(Image courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
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.