This coming Friday we'll see IBF Minimumweight champion Rene Mark Cuarto (20-2-2, 11) look to make his second defense, as he takes on under-rated Mexican challenger Daniel Valladares (26-3-1, 15) in a really exciting looking bout set to take place in Monterrey.
Although not well known outside of the Philippines the 25 year old Cuarto, dubbed the Mighty Mouse, has managed to carve out a pretty decent career so far. He made his professional debut in 2014 and reeled off 3 wins before slipping up against Jeralrd Paclar in 2015, in the first of 3 bouts between the two men. He bounced back from that loss with 6 wins before rematch Paclar in a bout that resulted in a technical draw between the two men. An instant rematch saw Cuarto avenging the two early career blotches and begin his move towards bigger and better bouts, winning the WBO Oriental title in 2018 before losing in an IBF eliminator against Samuel Salva. Since that loss we've seen him going 4-0-1 (2) with a win in 2021 against Pedro Taduran, for the IBF title, and a highly controversial second win against Taduran earlier this year to record his first defense.
In the ring Taduran is a technical boxer, who likes to use his legs, move around the ring and use his speed and timing to punish mistakes from opponents. Sadly his style isn't the most fan friendly and it can get sloppy at times, as we saw in the rematch with Taduran. He is certainly talented, but he lacks the physicality to be an elite level Minimumweight, and his style almost begs for pressure fighters to take the fight to him. He's tricky and quick, but in all honest there is little that makes him feel like anything other than a short term champion. Sadly for him he's not been able to "sell" a shot to the highest bigger, which is likely what he and his team would have hoped for, but instead has had to travel to Mexico for a mandatory in just his second defense.
Aged 28 Daniel Valladares has long been on the radar for fans of the lower weights. "Cejitas" also debuted in 2014, and like many on the Mexican domestic scene, he was busy, really busy, early on. He would fight 4 times in 2014, 4 times in 2015 and 4 tomes in 2016, as he developed his experience and his style against limited opponents. During that run he went 11-1, losing his final bout of 2016 to Genaro Rios in what looks to be something of an oddity. That loss was his first 8 rounders and he quickly bounced back, whilst slowly stepping up his competition and winning his first minor title soon afterwards. In 2018 he stepped up and beat Adrien Curiel Dominguez, less than a year later he beat former world champion Merlito Sabillo and then beat Christian Araneta in an IBF world title eliminator. He got his shit at the IBF Light Flyweight title just 5 months later, in a bout that ended in a draw against Pedro Taduran. Following that loss things went off the boil completely, as we suspect his motivation died as he suffered back to back upset losses, before bouncing back last year with 3 wins, including one against former world title challenger Julian Yedras.
In the ring Valladares is dangerous, at least when he's focused. He's big and tall at the weight, and although somewhat crude, he knows he can often get away with taking risks as his offense is his best defense. He his hard enough to get respect, has a decent enough chin to take a shit and a high work rate. He lacks in terms of polish, and is more of a fighter than a boxer, but his action style is a hard one to deal with. There is very much a case of machismo with him, and when he was cut by a headclash against Pedro Taduran you could tell he was angry and wanted revenge. Despite that it's clear he is a solid and well schooled boxer, who has got technical ability, but prefers a tear up.
Sadly for Cuarto travelling to Mexico for a world title fight, either as the champion or challenger, is much like travelling to the UK, Argentina or Thailand. The away fighter will not get any favours from the officials and will also be fighting in front of crazy fans cheering on their man. For a fighter like Cuarto, who is technical, wants to fight off the back foot, and rely more on counter punching and skills than fire power and work rate, a fight in Mexico is never going to go his way, especially not against a rugged, aggressive fighter like Valladares.
We suspect the pressure, work rate and sheer violence of Valladares will play a major role here in dragging Cuarto into the wrong type of fight. That, along with vociferous fans going crazy when Valldares does anything, leads to the Mexico to a clear lead on the cards, before head clashes force an early end to the bout, with a few rounds left.
Prediction - TD9 Valladares
In 2021 we saw Rene Mark Cuarto (19-2-2, 11)claim the biggest win of his career, defeating Pedro Taduran (14-3-1, 11) to claim the IBF Minimumweight title, in a still rare all-Filipino world title bout. This coming Saturday, 11 months after their first bout, the men will be facing off again, with Cuarto seeking his first defense, and Taduran looking to become only the third man to reclaim the title.
In their first bout it was Taduran was seeking his second defense he had won the belt in 2019, stopping Samuel Salva in a really fun 4 rounder, with his first defense coming in 2020 when a head clash forced a technical draw against Daniel Valladares. Had it not been for the pandemic we suspect there would have been a rematch of that bout, but instead the pandemic limited travel, and Minimumweight world title bouts became few and far between. As a result Taduran took more than a year year to return following his first defense, as he took on Taduran and lost a close and competitive 12 round decision bout. For Cuarto the win was the biggest of his career, by far, and that came despite the fact he had been out of the ring for well over a year himself.
The key to the first bout was the style clash between the two men. Taduran was the aggressor, taking center ring and often chasing Cuarto around the ring. Cuarto on the other hand used a lot of movement, picked nice counter shots, and prevented Taduran from really setting his feet and letting big shots go. It was a smart game plan from Cuarto and one that, ultimately, won him the fight, though one that really didn't leave a lot of margin for error over 12 rounds, the negativity could have cost him, had the judges swung just a single round against him.
Notably we expect that first bout to be very, very similar to how the rematch will go. Cuarto will continue to use the ring, move around, use his counter punching and look to draw errors from Taduran, errors he can counter. As for Taduran we expect him to be more aggressive, more intense and hungrier than he was in the first bout. At times he was following Cuarto, rather than cutting the ring off. This time around we expect to see more him using body shots early to take Cuarto's legs away, side stepping to cut the ring down rather than following his man, and timing Cuarto better than he did in their first bout.
Of the two men it's hard to argue that Cuarto is the better boxer. He showed that in their first bout. He's a crisper puncher, a better mover, picks his shots better and holds when he needs to. However Taduran is the stronger fighter, the bigger puncher and arguably the tougher man. He needs to make those traits matter here. He needs to be aggressive, more so than last time, and he needs to bully Cuarto around up close. Especially in the early rounds. Sap his energy, and make Cuarto work harder to create space.
Interestingly we suspect this bout will see Taduran take home the victory, with him coming in much hungrier than he did in his first bout. It won't be tidy, and it won't be clean, and Cuarto will try to make the bout messier and messier it as it goes longer, but we see the judges siding with the former champion, his aggression, his work rate, and his forward march, rather than Cuarto's movement, boxing and somewhat negative tricks.
Given how tired Cuarto seemed at times in their first bout there is a chance he could be stopped, but instead we expect his survival tactics will keep him in the bout, but he will come up short on the cards.
Prediction - UD12 Taduran
Over the last year or so the Minimumweight division has, sadly, been asleep. In 2020 we only had each world title fought for once, and three of those bouts came within weeks of each other. The pandemic pretty much shut the division down at the top level with very few fighters in action and very few bouts of note taking place in the division. In fact not only did we only have 3 world title bouts but we also only had a single OPBF title bout, a single Japanese title bout, and no WBO Asia Pacific title bouts. The division damn near stood still, other than Panya Pradabsri's upset win over Wanheng Menayothin.
With that in mind we hope 2021 is a much better year for the division, and in fairness we expect it to be, with several interesting looking bouts at 105lbs now being lined up. One of which comes on February 27th and will see IBF champion Pedro Taduran (14-2-1, 11) defending his title against fellow Filipino Rene Mark Cuarto (18-2-2, 11) in a rare All-Filipino world title bout. The bout will be Taduran's second defense of the title he won in 2019 and it will be Cuarto's first world title bout. It will also be a bout that will help shape the division for the foreseeable future, given that both fighters are only 24 years old.
Of the two men the hard hitting Taduran is the more well known. He first came the attention of the wider boxing world in 2018, when he challenged the then WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin, and gave the Thai all he could handle in a compelling and highly competitive 12 rounder. That bout proved that Taduran belong in, or around, the top 10 and just 13 months later he beat Samuel Salva in a thrilling war to claim the then vacant IBF title. That win saw Taduran sit on the verge of something big, though sadly he was unable to capitalise. His first defense saw him travel to Mexico last February and battle Daniel Valladares, with a headclash resulting in a technical draw. Had Covid19 not been an issue there is a very good chance we'd have seen Taduran return to the ring in the summer or fall to make his second defense, but sadly it wasn't to be.
In the ring Taduran is a genuine handful. He's a southpaw, he's heavy handed, he's aggressive, he throws a lot, he comes forward and he's really awkward. Technically he's a very, very flawed fighter. He's raw, crude, and often open. Something that Salva punished him for early on in their bout. He is however the type of fighter who doesn't understand what it means to quit, and won't back off. He's relentless and uses his awkwardness and energy to break fighters down. It seems clear he can be out boxed, and he can be out skilled, but very few will have the tools to out box him for 12 rounds, or the durability to survive with his whirlwind offense.
When it comes to Rene Mark Cuarto we suspect very few, outside of the Philippines at least, have seen him in action. That's despite the fact he's been a professional since 2014 and has 22 professional bouts to his name. The main reason that many won't have seen Cuarto is because, for the most part, he's not really fought anyone of note. In fact his most notable bouts are a close win in 2018, against Clyde Azarcon, and a 2019 loss to Samuel Salva. Those two bouts aside his only other bout of real was a 6 round decision with the unbeaten Jayson Vayson. Thankfully there is footage of him out there, and on tape he looks solid enough. He's got a busy jab, he's quick on his toes, he moves around the ring well, and technically looks solid.
Sadly for Cuarto there's a big gulf between looking solid and being world class. We like a lot of what we see of Cuarto, but there are issues that will be a problem here. He doesn't look powerful or particularly strong. He doesn't seem to impose himself very well, and his jab aside it's hard to really be impressed by much in is arsenal. He simply doesn't enough at times and appears to be just a tad lazy at times. In his bout against Salva, for example, he really failed to move through the gears, happy to try and win the bout with his jab, rather than letting shots fly late on when he was behind.
Technically we think that Cuarto is the better boxer. He's certainly the more polished and has the more technical approach to in ring action. Sadly however his lack of power, and lower work rate will not help him here. His jab might keep Taduran at bay for a few rounds, but as the contest goes on that jab by it's self won't be enough. Instead Taduran's pressure and work rate will be the difference maker and get to Cuarto.
We suspect Cuarto will show a lot of heart and determination, but we also expect to see Taduran's power and output get too much, and we're expecting a late TKO win for the defending champion, who may well be behind on the scorecards after the first 6 rounds.
Prediction - TKO9 Taduran
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