This coming Saturday in Indio, California we’ll see IBF Super Featherweight champion Joseph Diaz (31-1, 15) make his first defense as he takes on mandatory challenger Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0, 12) in what looks like a really exciting match up. This is not just a step up for the challenger, who gets a great chance to compete in front of a global audience for the first time, but also a match up that stylistically, should be something very exciting due to the mentality of the two men involved, who can both put on a show.
Diaz, the champion, is the much, much more well known fighter and was a US Olmypian in 2012, where he was beaten by Cuban star Lazaro Alvarez. After turning professional there was huge expectations on Diaz and he would begin his career with 26 straight wins before taking on WBC Featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr in 2018, in Diaz's first world title fight. Sadly against Russell Jr we saw Diaz suffer his first loss, losing a competitive but clear decision to the speedy and slick Russell Jr. Following that loss Diaz attempted to win the WBA Featherweight title, but failed to make weight leading to him moving up in weight and fighting at Super Featherweight. Since moving up in weight he has looked impressive, and scored noteworthy wins against Charles Huerta, Freddy Fonseca and, most notably, Tevin Farmer, with that win over Farmer netting him the IBF world title.
Diaz isn’t the quickest, the smoothest, the most powerful or the best fighter out there. He is however, a fighter. He comes for a fight, he likes to dictate the action, let his hands go and be responsible for the way the fight is going. He is, at heart, a pressure fighter, and a physically strong one at that. Despite moving up in weight recently he is physically imposing at 130lbs, and will bully and push people around. Against a speedy boxer, who uses their feet, he can be left chasing shadows, but against a fighter who stands and fights, or tries to slip and side in the pocket, he can end up out working and out fighting them. That’s where he’s most dangerous, and where fighters need to try and avoid him, his work rate, energy and will to win are incredible, and it showed against Farmer when he fought much of the bout with a brutal cut.
Whilst Diaz is a well known fighter in the US, and is someone who has been in and around the world level for a few years now, it’s fair to say that few, outside of those who watch Russian shows held by RCC Promotions, will have seen him. If we’re being honest that’s actually a shame as the Russian based Tajik is a very fun fighter to watch and someone who fans should be more aware of before this coming weekend.
The Tajik was a solid amateur before beginning his professional career back in 2015, fighting in low key Russian shows whilst slowly building his experience and his record. In 2016 he began to step up, and scored a number of decent wins over well known Filipino fighters. Soon afterwards he began to face progressively better opponents, beating the likes of Emanuel Lopez, Malcolm Klassen and Robinson Castellano to build his name. In 2019 he finally got a chance to move towards a world title fight as he travelled to South Africa and took on Azinge Fuzile in an IBF world title eliminator. The bout saw Rakhimov struggle with the move, speed and skills of Fuzile early in the bout, but as the bout went on, and as Fuzile began to slow down, we finally saw the power of Rakhimov, who scored a great come from behind stoppage win.
Rakhimov, much like Diaz, is an aggressive fighter who wants to come forward, he’s a bit more basic than Diaz, and doesn’t apply a busy pressure style like the American, but does have a very brutal body attack and he is a bigger puncher than the American. Sadly though he is also someone with a questionable chin, and he has been dropped several times in his career, at a much lower. At his best Rakhimov is an aggressive boxer-puncher, and if he can maintain range he is very good. Sadly for him that won’t be an easy task here, and there is a very real chance he’ll struggle to create the space he needs to work with against Diaz. If he can create that space however, he does have a real chance here.
If we’re being honest Rakhimov is a good fighter. He’s a dangerous fighter, with solid power, a nice strong base and good fundamentals. He’s genuinely heavy handed and someone who can hold their own in a genuine firefight. Sadly though his suspect chin, added to his lower work rate will be an issue here. Diaz can be out boxed, he can be out manouvered and out skilled, however if a fighter isn’t too quick and too sharp for him, he will grind a result out against them. That’s exactly what we expect to see here. We suspect that Rakhimov will have success at times, especially when he can create range and land some solid body work, however we suspect that the pressure, work rate and energy of Diaz will be too much. We’re expecting Diaz to simply out work and out land Rakhimov, to end up taking a clear, but hard fought, decision win.
Although we do favour Diaz, we are expecting this to be a fantastic fight. Diaz’s pressure and work rate will make the fight fun and exciting to watch, with Rakhimov’s power potentially adding some drama to the bout. Despite thinking Rakhimov will lose we do think he’ll connect with fans and fans will want to see him again afterwards, and he will do enough to be competitive at times. He’ll lose, but put in a very good effort.
Prediction - UD12 Diaz
The Super Featherweight division is a division that promises a lot, but has yet to really deliver with 4 champions all seemingly fighting in their own bubbles and not working their way towards unification bouts. This is seeing fighters like Gervonta Davis and Tevin Farmer having more interesting battles over Twitter than in the actual ring, which is a real shame. Despite the champions all being in their own bubbles they are really good fighters, including WBO champion Masayuki Ito (25-1-1, 13), who returns to the ring this coming Saturday to defend his title against American challenger Jamel Herring (19-2, 10).
Ito is one of those fighters who came through the hard way, and progressed from novice to champion learning his trade in the professional ranks. He debuted in 2009, without any kind of amateur pedigree, and in 2012 won the Japanese Rookie of the Year. He was unfortunate to lose almost a year of his early career due to an injury suffered in an automobile accident, that kept him out of the ring after his debut, but recovered brilliantly to win the Rookie the of the Year only a few years later. In 2013 he would claim his first professional belt, the WBC Youth Lightweight title, before losing in a national title fight in 2015. Since that loss he has gone 9-0 (6), claiming regional titles and, of course, the WBO title last year.
If you don't follow the Asian scene Ito kind of came out of nowhere last year when he beat Christopher Diaz for the WBO world title. In reality however those who followed the Asian scene had followed Ito for a while, and seen him score wins over the likes of Masaru Sueyoshi, Kosuke Saka, Taiki Minamoto, Masao Nakamura, Takuya Watanabe and Lorenzo Villanueva. He had shown a fantastic boxing brain, sharp punching, an intelligent defensive ability and had began to develop an exciting offensive style, a style that was polished following his loss to Rikki Naito.
Although not as explosive as Miguel Berchelt, or as crafty as Tevin Farmer, or as hard hitting as Gervonta Davis, Ito is arguably the most rounded champion at 130lbs. He's defensively smart, sharp punching and uses the ring well. He's certainly not a big puncher, but he's a clean puncher, and his straight right hand has more sting on it than his record suggests. His movement allows him to set the right hand up well, and his judgement of distance is one of his big strengths, as is the variation of his right hand, which is effective both as a straight punch as a looping shot. His ring IQ really does show with his shot selection and he is going to be a hard man to dethrone.
Unlike the Japanese fighter Herring was actually a really good amateur. The American was a former standout who won numerous national titles and participated in the 2012 Olympics, losing to Kazakh fighter Daniyar Yeleussinov. Following the Olympics he would turn professional and string together 15 wins whilst fighting at Lightweight. Sadly for him however he suffered 2 losses in quick success, falling to 16-2, and being stopped by Denis Shafikov and losing a decision to Ladarius Miller. Since the loss to Miller in 2017 Herring has dropped to Super Featherweight and picked up 3 straight wins.
In the ring Herring, like Ito, is a smart fighter. He's very much a deliberate fighter, who fighters at a relatively steady pace. He has good speed, a solid jab and awkward physical dimensions. Sadly Herring doesn't make the most of his size or speed. He's typically been happy to fight within himself, and even when he's had the chance to up the tempo and try to impress he's not done it. He's typically done enough to win, but not enough to wow an audience. This was seen really clearly a year ago, when he shut out John Vincent Moralde, but showed no intention of seeking a finish, which was rather disappointing given the huge gulf in levels between the two men. Strangely his lack of killer instinct could well be related to one of Herring's most interesting characteristics, the fact he's actually a really nice guy, maybe a touch too nice to be a boxing star. He needs to shake that niceness in the ring if he's to make the most of his ability.
Physically Herring can be a nightmare for anyone at 130lbs. He's a freakish fighter, even if he does seem a little gun shy. Although a nightmare to fight we don't see him really testing Ito, who we're expecting to be too busy, too accurate and too sharp for the challenger. Herring will be there to win, but after a few rounds he'll be finding himself in a hole, a hole he won't be able to climb out of as Ito goes on to a comfortable and wide decision win.
Prediction UD12 Ito
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On December 30, as part of the big triple header on Fuji TV, Masayuki Ito will defend his newly won WBO Super Featherweight World Championship, against top ranked Russian fighter Evgeny Chuprakov, in Ota City, Japan.
Masayuki Ito (24-1-1/12 KOs) is one of Japan’s brightest new stars. Much like Satoshi Shimizu, Takeshi Inoue, Masayoshi Nakatani & Tsubasa Koura, he is looking to leave his mark on the world stage. Made his pro debut in 2009, at only 18 years of age, Ito remained undefeated for 5 years while winning 16 fights in a row (plus a WBC Youth belt) against the likes of Masao Nakamura (former OPBF & reigning WBO Asia Pacific champion), Ryan Sermona (former WBC International champion) as well as Masaru Sueyoshi (current Japanese & OPBF champion/WBO #6). His one and only loss was a majority decision to Rikki Naito.
Ito quickly bounced back as he stopped Dai Iwai on August of 2015, to win the vacant OPBF Super Featherweight crown. He then squared off with the IBF Asia champion Shingo Eto, for 12 exciting rounds, to mark his inaguaral title defense. One of his biggest fights at the time came at New Year‘s Eve of 2016, when he faced the WBO Asia Pacific champion Takuya Watanabe, in a double title bout. Ito slowly and methodically picked the veteran apart (Watanabe’s record was 30-6), showcasing tremendous hand speed and footwork. By the time it was over, Watanabe seemed exhausted, while Ito looked as fresh as in the opening round. In the end, Ito left with the unanimous decision and the unified OPBF & WBO Asia Pacific belts.
After knocking out the much more experienced Lorenzo Villanueva (33-2) in a WBO Asia Pacific defense, Ito’s focus was finally shifted to the world championship hunt. The Japanese superstar added 2 more stoppages to his already impressive record before going toe to toe with undefeated Puerto Rican boxer Christopher Diaz (23-0), this past July, for the vacant WBO Super Featherweight World Title. In a thrilling encounter between two hungry young lions, Ito and Diaz had one of the best world title fights of 2018, with both men going back and forth, swinging for the fences, for 36 unforgettable minutes. Ito’s game was much more precise and well calculated, which became even more evident during the fourth round, as he dropped Diaz with an incredibly fast right-right-left-right combination. After the dust had settled, Masayuki Ito left Florida as the new WBO World Champion.
However, Ito’s journey will only get tougher and tougher at this point, as the best in the division will attempt to claim his crown for their own. Before we even get to the next year, he is tasked to defend his belt against another fighter with a flawless record, coming all the way from Russia.
Evgeny Chuprakov (20-10/10 KOs) is the Number 1 ranked Super Featherweight by the WBO. A cracking fighter, who made his debut in 2011, has dominated the Russian scene from early on, winning their National championship in just his seventh match.
On September of 2015, his skills were tested against a former IBF World Champion, Dmitry Kirillov (31-6). Despite being a relative young fighter to the game still, Chuprakov looked like the real pro, out-boxing Kirillov and shockingly stopping him in the eight round, after landing a devastating liver shot, rendering the veteran unable to continue. Evgeny left Yekaterinburg with the biggest win of his career, plus the WBO European title.
Chuprakov went on to defend his belt twice, against Timur Akhundov and German champion Sebastian Tlatlik. Tlatlik, who was undefeated at the time, was dropped by an overhand right in the second round and continued to endure a plethora of strikes, until the fifth, which left the referee with no choice but to stop the fight. The Russian prodigy also captured the vacant WBO Intercontinental strap the following year, after a hard fought battle with another undefeated fighter, Jeremiah Nakathila. His first title defense was against Eden Sonsona, a former WBC International Silver champion who hadn’t lost a fight since 2010. Evgeny knocked him down twice (in the 3rd & 4th round), much to the joy of the Russian fans. The fight ended in the fifth again, since Sonsona couldn’t withstand the beating that he was receiving. With 2 more wins under his belt, Chuprakov was finally named the mandatory challenger for the WBO World Championship.
This is a significant fight for both the challenger as well as the champion. Chuprakov’s entire career has been leading up to this point, realizing his dream of winning the big one, a task which won’t be easily accomplished, especially since he’s taking the champion on his home turf. At the same time, Ito is still eager to prove himself, to the fans and to the critics alike, as he never got the opportunity to fight Lomachenko, thus never got to defeat the former champion for the belt he currently holds. This will be a clash of 2 strong, intelligent and fast boxers, whose styles are very similar to each other. So it all comes down to this: Who wants it more? Who is ready to make history? Who can go that extra mile? Only a few days left until we find out.By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
By - George Delis (@Delisketo )
On July 28, another world title could come to the land of the Rising Sun, as Masayuki Ito faces Christopher Diaz for the vacant WBO Super Featherweight World title.
Masayuki Ito (23-1-1 / 12 KOs) belongs among the next generation of up-and-coming Japanese stars like Hiroki Okada, Satoshi Shimizu, Hiroaki Teshigawara, that look to leave their mark on the world scene. After Vasyl Lomachenko vacated the title to focus on the Lightweight division, this opened the door for a new champion to step up and take the spotlight. This may be Ito’s first crack at a world championship, but that’s certainly not his first time fighting for gold. In 2013 he won the WBC Youth Lightweight title after 12 consecutive career wins. He unsuccessfully challenged Rikki Naito (11-0*) for the Japanese Super Featherweight title on February of 2015, in a very even fight, but a couple of months later he knocked out Dai Iwai (17-3*) to become the OPBF Super Featherweight champion. On December of 2016 he fought his biggest match at the time, as he took on one of the top ranked boxers in Japan, Takuya Watanabe (30-6*) at Ota-City. After 12 action-packed rounds, Ito got the unanimous decision and more importantly the WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight belt. His winning ways continued, as he earned 3 impressive KO wins in 2017/2018, over Lorenzo Villanueva (32-2*), Glenn Enterina (11-2*) and Vergil Puton (17-9*). Now Ito sits at the #2 spot of the WBO rankings and getting ready for his big opportunity.
Christopher Diaz (23-0 / 15 KOs) one of the brightest prospects of the Super Featherweight division, has run roughshod over every opponent that he has come across the ring with. Named Prospect Of The Year by ESPN Deportes in 2016, Diaz blasted through Bryant Cruz (18-2*) to be crowned WBO NABO Super Featherweight champion on December of 2017 at the Madison Square Garden Theater. On March of 2018 he stopped Braulio Rodriguez (19-2*) in the 4th round, thus earning the chance to box for the WBO world title.
This is, without a doubt, the most significant fight in the careers of both these 2 young fighters. Ito’s 9 year journey has culminated in this very moment, finally competing for the world championship, at US soil, for the first time. Diaz on the other hand, has been on the fast track, as he has managed to climb to the top of the Super Featherweights in only 5 years’ time and could become the 60th male Puerto Rican boxing world champion. The stakes couldn’t be higher for these men.
Prediction: This one hard to call. Diaz has never lost a fight in his life, he is younger and has the higher KO ratio. However, the experience is definitely on Ito’s side, as he has been boxing for almost a decade and has bested more top level guys than Diaz. In my opinion, Ito’s skills and cunningness will be sufficient enough for him to leave Florida with the strap.
*The boxer’s record before the fight.
One of the best things about boxing is the variety of styles that fighters have, from the ultra-aggressive swarmers, to the intelligent counter punchers, the fighters who can bang and those who are more feather fisted. This coming Saturday we'll see an IBF Super Featherweight title fight between two men with remarkably different styles, matching a boxer-puncher with a slick defensive master, and it's going to be really interesting to see who will win the title, and be crowned the new champion.
The bout in question will see former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kenichi Ogawa (22-1, 17) take on elusive American Southpaw Tevin Farmer (25-4-1, 5). It will be offense against defense, power against movement.
Of the two the one we have followed more is Ogawa and he's a man who's had an interesting career. Despite only losing once he has had some ups and downs and at times has failed to shine, whilst at others he has looked like a potential star for the Teiken gym. Aged 29 he's a fighter who is in his physical prime and has gotten to this level without any notable amateur background. Instead he's worked hard in the gym, worked with his natural talent and made the most of his physical attributes, including heavy hands.
Ogawa debuted back in 2010 and would go on to claim the All Japan Rookie of the Year title the following year, whilst running his record to 7-0 (5). His sole loss came the following year, when Yuki Miyoshi stopped him in 5 rounds due to an injury to the jaw of Ogawa. Since that loss the Teiken man has gone 14-0 (11), avenged the loss to Miyoshi and claimed the Japanese title, courtesy of a technical decision over Rikki Naito.
As the national champion Ogawa defended the title 5 times, going 5-0 (3) during his reign, but had question marks asked in two wins over Satoru Sugita, as well as defenses against Kento Matsushita and Rikki Naito. In some ways the performances as champion seemed to suggest that Ogawa had maybe plateaued as a fighter and had holes in his game, especially defensively, that weren't being fixed. Against Sugita and Matsushita it seemed like Ogawa struggled with movement, a busy jab and fighters who weren't trying to exchange with him. Those who exchanged with him felt his power, and tended to be stopped, with Ogawa having a vicious left hook and a spiteful straight right hand, but those who moved gave him fits.
Whilst Ogawa is a big puncher with some defensively and technical flaws it's fair to saw that Farmer is the total opposite. He's a very light puncher, but he's razor sharp, with incredible defensive instincts and some of the best upper body movement in boxing today. Not only that but he also has one of the sports more misleading records, with 4 defeats to his name and a draw. Those setbacks all came in his first 12 bouts, when he was 7-4-1 (1), and included losses to very good fighters like Kamil Laszczyk and Jose Pedraza.
Since suffering his last loss Ogawa has gone 18-0 (4), stringing together wins over notable opponents like Daulis Prescott, Gamaliel Diaz and Ivan Redkach, and proving his ability as a very intelligent defensive fighter, who uses reflexes and movement very well. Although not a big puncher he hits harder than his record suggests, and his clean, as he showed against Prescott and Diaz, who were both down a number of times against him. In the ring he looks a natural, his understanding of range is brilliant and he uses some very unorthodox skills to catch his opponents in unusual ways.
Whilst we could rave about Farmer's skills all day he does look under-sized at 130lbs, and although very elusive in terms of his defense it does seem like a fighter could physically rough him up, bully him around and generally hold and wrestle him. He'll be giving away several inches to Ogawa and when hydrated Ogawa will likely have a significant weight advantage as well.
We'd love to see Ogawa win, and become the new Japanese face at 130lbs, but the reality is his last few performances have shown a lot of flaws, and those flaws will be exploited massively but Farmer. There is a chance Ogawa catches the American with something big, or has a game plan based bullying Farmer, but we suspect the American will frustrate, out box, out move and out point Ogawa to a 12 round decision.
Every so often we, boxing fans, get a fight that we're incredibly excited about, even if the non-boxing-fan is unlikely to care about the contest. We get one such fight this coming weekend as heavy handed Japanese southpaw Takashi Miura (31-3-2, 24) [三浦 隆司] challenges WBC Super Featherweight champion Miguel Berchelt (31-1, 28) in a mandatory world title fight. The two men aren't cross over-stars by any stretch of the imagination, but they are fighters who deliver bang for their buck and are both must watch fighters with dynamite in their hands.
Berchelt is making his first defense of the title, a title he won last time out when he stopped Francisco Vargas in a real break out performance. It's worth noting that Vargas had himself taken the title from Miura in 2015, in a FOTY contender, but it did look like Vargas was a shell of his usual self against Berchelt. Now it may have been a case that Berchelt made Vargas look that bad, or it may well have been a case that Vargas had simply been broken down by wars with the likes of Miura and Orlando Salido.
If that win by Berchelt over Vargas was a sign of how good Berchelt was, as opposed to how shop worn Vargas was, then it's a sign that Berchelt is a real threat to anyone at 130lbs, including Vasyl Lomachenko. He looked like a fantastic boxer-puncher, moving brilliantly and delivering heavy shots on the move. Prior to the bout he had been known as a slightly crude boxer, more focusing on his power than his boxing, but against Vargas he showed everything that a fighter can show.
Blessed with natural power Berchelt has the ability to box, bang or brawl. He may not be quite as natural as Lomachenko in terms of his boxing, or as heavy handed as Gervonta Davis, but he combines the traits really well and looks more rounded than Davis already. It's also worth noting that he's only 25, so coming in to his prime, and despite having a loss on his record it does look like a blip, as opposed to a sign of issues. The loss was an opening round defeat to the unknown Luis Eduardo Florez more than 3 years ago, but since then he has gone 10-0 (10) with wins over Rene Gonzalez, Sergio Puente, Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo and Vargas. That sort of run seems to suggest that the loss was one that really helped Berchelt, rather than hindered his career.
For Miura this will be a chance to become a 2-time champion, rebuild his reputation as a Mexi-killer, have another thriller on international soil, potentially kick off a summer of Japanese success in the US and a summer to remember for the Teiken gym.
At his core Miura is a left hand happy southpaw brawler. He's rough around the edges, incredibly crude and a bit slow. But his left hand is pure dynamite and when he lands it any fighter can be in trouble. That should make him seem predictable but like most brawlers his shots aren't the most orthodox and due to his pressure and work rate his shots can come from real varied angles. His left hand is well known about, but almost no one has ever truly avoided it, and even those he hasn't stopped, such as Takashi Uchiyama, Sergio Thompson and Jorge Perez, have been dropped by his power. He really does have dynamite in his left hand, and his 67% KO rate really doesn't do his power justice.
Whilst offensive Miura is a nightmare his biggest issue is his defense. He's a fighter who has often gone with the idea “attack is the best form of defense”, and that has worked well over-all but hasn't been perfect. As a result he's suffered stoppages to Uchiyama, when he face was badly swollen, and Vargas, when he was knocked loopy by the Mexican. Even in bouts he's won, such as his wins over Thompson, Miguel Roman, Seiichi Okada and RJ Anoos he was tagged a fair bit and had his defensive flaws picked at. In fact in some ways the Anoos fight may well be the key bout to look at coming into this one. That may be a strange statement but Anoos made great use of his speed and jab, keeping Miura at range and flicking quick shots into his face, something that Berchelt will likely do.
On paper this could really go one of three ways. It could be a blow out as soon as either guy lands, if they catch their man clean early on it could be an early finish, both are huge punchers and both have the potential to take the other out early. That's shown in the stats, as Miura has 12 wins in the first 2 rounds and Berchelt has 14. We could also see the two men showing the toughness to weather the early storm and engage in a real fire fight, which will see both take a lot of punishment and will give the fans their money's worth in an all out brawl, the fight we all want to see. The third option is that Berchelt's speed and movement will simply be too much for the hunger and desire of Miura and he will put shot from range, using his lighter feet and take control of the bout, before running away with a victory, either by decision or late stoppage.
We all really, perhaps even expect, a brawl. If we get that then the fight is a real 50-50, either man could take the other out. If Berchelt can avoid a brawl, box at range, as he did against Vargas, and use his movement, then he should be able to win. He will however have to try his best to avoid holding his feet and having a fight. The more they stand out trade, the better chance Miura has of taking the win.
We would love to see Miura become a 2-time champion, score his 7th win over a Mexican opponent and his third win on international soil. But we can't help feeling that Berchelt has the advantages needed to retain his title.
One of the biggest boxing shocks this year saw Panama's Jezreel Corrales (20-1-0-1, 8) travel to Tokyo and blitz long reigning WBA Super Featherweight “super” champion Takashi Uchiyama (24-1-1, 20) in just 2 rounds. The result put a genuine shockwave through Japanese boxing and, amazingly, saw fans are call those in the venue liars as the bout wasn't broadcast live on TV and though people at the venue were originally on the wind up. It seems to think, but there were people suggesting that those in attendance were trying to make people tune in to the delayed broadcast.
In their first fight Corrales seemed to shock Uchiyama from the opening round. He was too quick, too sharp, and unexpectedly heavy handed. Although Uchiyama saw out the opening round it was clear he was uncomfortable and in round 2 he stopped following 3 knockdowns in the round. It was a genuine jaw dropped, and even those people who tipped Corrales hasn't expected such a result, especially given that Corrales was pegged as a defensive genius and not a power puncher.
On December 31st the two men face off again with Corrales looking to prove the first fight wasn't a fluke, and that he really does have Uchiyama's number whilst Uchiyama is looking to roll back the clock and put on a performance to remember, despite being 37 years old and a 11 year veteran of professional boxing.
When Uchiyama was at his best he was a vicious fighter with a thunderous right hand, a rigth hand that earned him the nickname “KO Dynamite”, he was accurate, defensively sound and a brilliant reader of range and tempo, knowing when to let his hands go and when to step back from his foe. As he's gotten older however he has slowed significantly, and he wasn't never lightning quick to begin with. As he's slowed he has become more defensively liable and can be caught by quick fighters.
During his 6 year run as champion Uchiyama recorded 11 defenses and beat the likes of Takashi Miura, Jorge Solis, Bryan Vasquez, Daiki Kaneko and Jomthong Chuwatana. At times he looked less than great, such as again Kaneko, other times however he looked incredible and combined his boxing ability and thunderous power with a real mean streak that saw him looking like he was out to hurt opponents. Sadly as he's gotten older some of that meanness has worn off and niggling injuries have taken a toll on his body and effectiveness in the ring. That was certainly seen against Corrales in their first bout, when a slow looking Uchiyama looked unsure of himself from part way through the opening round until the end.
Known as “El Invisible” Corrales has a reputation as being a defensively clever boxer who was hard to tag and was never in the same place for long. Offensively he wasn't seen as anything exception and in all honesty very little on his record stood out prior to him facing Uchiyama. In many wins his only real wins of note had come against Rene Alvarado, Walter Estrada and Juan Antonio Rodriguez. Interestingly however he had stopped his 5 opponents previous to facing Uchiyama and seemingly had changed styles into one that was sitting on his punches more than he had early in his career. Those KO's have seen him turn his record from 13-1 (2) to 20-1-0-1 (8), with 5 stoppages in his last 7 wins.
Against Uchiyama we saw Corrales not only look destructive but also intelligently wild. His shots came from unusual angles, he switched a bit, squared up a bit too much but knew that he had his man hurt and that the shots thrown from all over the place were landing and hurting a man who looked lost. The accuracy might not have been great but the speed and power were impressive and prevented Uchiyama from ever recovering or resettling to the task at hand.
It's easy to think that Corrales' first win was a fluke. It's easy to say that Uchiyama had an off night, wasn't his usual self and wasn't expecting what he got from Corrales. The truth however is that Uchiyama is no longer a man in his prime, he's a long way removed from his best and age defeats all men, as we saw recently with Bernard Hopkins. That's likely to be the case again here, and we suspect that great Uchiyama will retire following the bout. He may still have a surprise “last” performance in the tank, as we recently saw from Hozumi Hasegawa against Hugo Ruiz, but we would be genuinely surprised to see that happen here against Corrales, who simply looks like a man who is a stylistic nightmare for the popular Japanese puncher.
Over the past 12 months we have seen a massive shake up of the Super Featherweight division. Just 10 months ago the divisional champions were Takashi Uchiyama, the then WBA “super” champion, Takashi Miura, the then WBC champion, Roman Martinez, the WBO champion, and Jose Pedraza, the IBF champion. Now, a year on, the champions are very different with the sudden emergence of Jezreel Corrales, who now holds the WBA “super” title, Franisco Vargas, the WBC title hold, Vasyl Lomachenko, the current WBO champion, and the only champion from a year ago is Pedraza, who was lucky not to lose his title in his first defense.
Whilst the title picture has had a shake up we have also seen “secondary” titles change hands or pop up with the WBA having the newly crowned Jason Sosa as their “regular” champion and the WBO having a rare “interim” champion in the form of Miguel Berchelt (29-1, 26), a genuinely exciting Mexican.
Berchelt makes the first defense of his title this coming weekend when he takes on hugely experienced Thai Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo (61-2, 41), who is getting his third shot at a “world” title, having lost to Lomachenko and Chris John in title bouts at Featherweight.
Whilst we're not usually a fan of “interim” titles, we will admit we do like it when they throw up bouts like this, one that look good on paper and should be fun when the fighters get in the ring.
For those who haven't seen the champion Berchelt is genuinely fun to watch. He's a little bit crude, a little bit defensively awkward but he's got the gift of power, in both hands. When he turned professional, aged 19, he reeled off stoppages for fun and swiftly moved to 21-0 (18). Those KO's left him feeling like superman and looking like he felt he could just walk through anything. That cost him in 2014, when he was stopped in 99 seconds by fellow puncher Luis Eduardo Florez.
The loss to Florez would have totally derailed lesser fighters but Berchelt has quickly rebuilt his momentum and reeled off 8 straight stoppage wins, including victories over Antonio Escalante, Rene Gonzalez and Sergio Puente, all fringe contenders, as well as George Jupp, who he beat for the interim title earlier this year.
Amazingly he's only 24, he's improving and with his power he's going to be a nightmare for anyone outside of the divisional elite, though he could make for some potential thrillers with the second tier guys in the division.
When it comes to Chonlatarn the first thing that strikes many fans is his impressive record which features more than 60 wins. Like many Thai's however those wins have regularly been over weak opponents and the number of decent names on his record is disappointing. On paper his best wins are two victories over fellow Thai Yoddamrong Sithyodthong, though Yoddamrong was well past his prime by then, a win over Vinvin Rufino and a victory over the under-rated Adones Aguelo. Not exactly outstanding for a man with more than 60 wins.
Whilst his best wins are lacking quality it is fair to say he has fought two tremendous fights in Chris John, who took a clear decision over him on 2012, and Vasyl Lomachneko, who totally schooled him in 2014. Notably those bouts were both at 126lbs, though it seems he feels he has filled out and is now competing at 130lbs, where he has been focusing all year.
Stylistically Chonlatarn is a bit of a one paced, pressure fighter who comes forward slowly and looks to work up close. Against John and Lomachenko that tactic was never going to work due to the huge difference in speed and skill, but against lesser fighters it has worked with Chonlatarn using his weight and strength to great advantage over lesser foes.
Sadly for Chonlatarn we don't think his style or ability bodes well here against a thunderously hard hitting Berchelt, who we suspect will hit him hard and hit him often, eventually forcing a stoppage of the limited but game Thai, likely in the middle rounds of the fight
The Super Featherweight division is one of the most entertaining, despite the fact that it's been a criminally over-looked and often ignored one in the west. Of course the division has had some highlight fight in the west recently, such as the brilliant Takashi Miura Vs Francisco Vargas fight and the two Roman Martinez Vs Orlando Salido bouts. Sadly those great wars haven't seen fight fans really get behind the division despite the depth currently competing at 130lbs.
This coming Wednesday we see the top fight in the division in action, WBA “super” champion Takashi Uchiyama's (24-0-1, 20) [内山 高志] defending his title against the WBA's “interim” champion Jezreel Corrales (19-1-0-1, 7). For Uchiyama it's his 12th defense of the title, and sees him take a huge step towards the Japanese title defense record, of 13 defenses by Yoko Gushiken, and setting a Super Featherweight world record, whilst giving Corrales a chance to make a big statement about himself on the world stage.
Of the two fighters it's Corrales who is the less known and the clear under-dog, however the Panamanian is a confident fighter who will feel he is ready for this opportunity having managed to pick up number of solid victories at home. Those solid victories have included decision wins against Rene Alvarado and Irving Berry as well as stoppages over Walter Estrada and Juan Antonio Rodriguez. They might not be top tier wins, but they do suggest that Corrales is a capable fighter who can hold his own on the fringes of world class, at the very least.
In the ring Corrales looks not only a confident fighter, but also a very good one with a lot of technical ability, sharp offensive and very impressive defense. That defense is based on a shoulder roll with his speed and reactions helping him turn offense into defense and from the footage available he does, sort of, look like a young Floyd Mayweather Jr. Their is a very educated boxing brain in his head and whilst he's certainly no banger it's become clear that he can hurt fighters with his accurate and quick shots. Notably he has also been seen to be a switch hitter and appears to be a fighter who is extremely comfortable in the ring.
When it comes to Uchiyama the 36 year old champion has been one of the shining stars of Japanese boxing and one of the few constants in the Super Featherweight division over the last 6 years. He was a former top Japanese amateur who turned professional and raced through the ranks, winning an OPBF title in his 8th bout and the WBA title in his 14th. Whilst he was fast tracked he has also scored notable wins stopping the likes of Nedal Hussein, Juan Carlos Salgado, Takashi Miura, Jorge Solis, Bryan Vasquez and Jomthong Chuwatana, essentially ending Chuwatana's prime as a fighter.
In the ring Uchiyama can look a little bit basic, he's not flashy or anything like that. What he is however is excellently well school, technically he's fantastic and uses a brilliant jab to set off almost all of his attacks. He's gifted with some of the heaviest handed, pound for pound, in the sport and every shot he lands takes a toll on an opponent, with many being beaten down as fights go on. When he feels like he's in with a good opponent we see the best from Uchiyama, who has amazingly fought much of his career with serious injuries which have reportedly been sorted in recent years, suggesting that at 36 we're only just starting to see Uchiyama at his best physically.
Coming in to this one we're expecting to see Uchiyama given a genuine stylistic test. Corrales has the style to really frustrate the champion with his brilliant defense and speed. Despite being a frustrating opponent we do suspect that Uchiyama will mark out his territory with the jab, and eventually grind down Corrales, for a late stoppage. However we do imagine that Corrales will come again in the future and could turn out to be a very good win on reflection for Uchiyama.
If Uchiyama is, as we suspect, successful then he'll be looking to make a US debut later in the year whilst also tying Gushiken's record. Hopefully that would see him finally receiving the international plaudits that he has, so far, lacked.
December 31st features a 5 world title fights in Japan, spread across 3 different cities. The bouts all see Japanese champions defending their titles against foreign fighters and all are being televised across various platforms.
The most distinguished of those champions is the unbeaten Takashi Uchiyama (23-0-1, 19) who looks to record his 11th defense of the WBA Super Featherweight title, or more exactly the second defense of the “Super” version of the title. In the opposite corner to the heavy handed “KO Dynamite” will be a man looking to make a mark on the world scene, the little known Oliver Flores (27-1-2, 17).
The 36 year old champion is one of the longest reigning champions in the sport. He won his title in way back in January 2010, when he stopped Juan Carlos Salgado, and has since defended it against both top contenders and relative nobodies. Whilst wins over Roy Mukhlis and Angel Granados will be easily forgotten wins over the likes of Takashi Miura, Jorge Solis, Bryan Vasquez and Jomthong Chuwatana are likely to stand the test of time.
In the ring Uchiyama is a very special fighter and despite his age still looks like a youthful fighter who does have time on his side. He's a monstrous puncher, with real venom in both hands, he's technically very solid with a smart boxing mind and works off a heavy jab with ease. Not only is he talented and heavy handed but he's also tough, defensively sound and and has an excellent understanding of pacing, which has seen him speed up and slow down bouts almost at will. If he does have flaws in his boxing it's really his speed, which is unexceptional, though that is less of an issue given his timing and control.
Whilst Uchiyama has already sealed his place among the modern Japanese greats he does still have some targets. One of those is to set the Japanese record for most defenses, a record that currently stands at 13 successful defenses. For him a win over Flores is just he next step towards that record. He also hopes to score a big win in the US and make a name for himself internationally. It's thought that if he sees off Flores a deal is in place for him to face Nicholas Walters next year, however could that deal see him taking his eyes off the task at hand?
Whilst Uchiyama is well known, especially by knowledgeable fans who have followed his championship reign, it's fair to say that Flores is a bit of an unknown quantity. The 24 year old is a southpaw from Leon, Nicaragua. Despite being Nicaraguan he actually began making a name for himself in Costa Rica, where he debuted at a prodigious 15 years old and has fought 20 of his career bouts.
As well Costa Rica fans have been able to see Flores fight in Mexico, Nicaragua and, most recently Panama. Sadly however the amount of notable opponents that he's faced are limited with the only real stand out name being Miguel Berchelt, who stopped Flores in 2 rounds back in November 2012. Since that loss, more than 3 years ago, Flores has fought just 4 times, all in Nicaraguan, beating very poor opposition.
On paper there is little for Uchiyama to worry about, however Flores has perhaps one or two things of note to think about. Firstly he's experienced, obviously, secondly he's a southpaw and thirdly he's got experience at a higher weight than Uchiyama, in fact his last 3 bouts have come at Lightweight or above. From footage he has a lot of upper body movement and a relatively sharp jab, but there is little weight behind his shots and he does make a bunch of mistakes, often leaning in too much and leaning over his front foot which will be punished by a fighter like Uchiyama.
From what we've seen of Flores he looks likely to pose absolutely no threat to Uchiyama and despite being a southpaw he's not a fighter who is likely to even pose a question in terms of his stance. His defensive is wide open and given Uchiyama's thunderous power this could be very short. In fact we suspect we ends when Uchiyama chooses to end it, which may well be very early given that he'll want to make a statement ahead of a US bout in 2016.
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.