This coming Friday in Manchester, New Hampshire, we'll see unified Super Bantamweight champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev (9-0, 7) defending his WBA "super" and IBF Super Bantamweight titles, as he takes on late replacement Jose Velasquez (29-6-2, 19), who has gotten the bout after Ronny Rios (33-3, 16) contracted Covid19 around a week before the bout.
The bout will be Akhmadaliev's second defense of the title he won in 2020, when he beat Danny Roman in a sensational bout, and will serve as a break for Velasquez, who was supposed to fight Reymart Gaballo for the WBA interim Bantamweight title in 2020 before Nonito Donaire was pulled out of a different fight and he was lost in the shuffle.
Aged 27 Akhamdaliev has been moved through the ranks like very few others. He turned professional after an impressive amateur and was world ranked within a year of his professional debut. By late 2019 he was knocking on the door of a world title fight, and were it not for an injury to Danny Roman there's a good chance that "MJ" would have won a world title in September 2019. Instead he had to wait for Roman to recover, with the two men clashing in January 2020, with Akhmadlaiev taking a split decision, and the the unified IBA/WBA "super" titles. That was in just his 8th professional bout. Sadly Covid has stopped his rise to stardom, and since winning the titles he has fought just once, beating the then IBF mandatory challenger Ryosuke Iwasa.
In the ring Akhmadaliev can pretty much do it all. At his best he's a patient, but aggressive, pressure-puncher. He's naturally heavy handed, puts his shots together well, picks his moments and applies mentally draining and consistent front foot pressure. When he needs to box he can, as we saw against Roman, he can also change the tempo of bouts, and it a very complete all rounder. At times he can fight the wrong fight, an unfortunate consequence of being such a brilliant all rounder, but he's able to adapt and take control when he needs to. For a man with just 9 bouts to his name he has already proven he has world class power, hurting Danny Roman and stopping Ryosuke Iwasa, he has great stamina, going 12 rounds and picking up the pace in some of the later rounds against Roman, and he's proven he can take a shot, as he showed against Roman. The one question mark about him, is whether he can come out on top in an intense inside war, and that's hopefully something we'll see next year in a potential clash with Stephon Fulton or Brandon Figueroa.
The relatively unknown Velasquez is a 32 year old from Chile who really well known at all, despite having had a couple of bouts in the US. He began his career in 2013, and struggled to get going early in his career, going 4-5-2 (1) in his first 11 bouts. Since then however he has really turned things around going 21-1 in his last 22 bouts, with 14 straight wins dating back more than 5 years. Whilst that run looks good on paper his winning run does lack noteworthy wins, with his best victories coming against the likes of Melvin Lopez and Ariel Lopez, who were both unbeaten prior to facing Velasquez.
From the footage of Velasquez he looks like a strong, physical fighter, who could be a handful against some top 20 guys at Bantamweight. He's got solid stopping power, he's physical, but he's not particularly skilled, quick or sharp and instead has relied on his physical traits, rather than his technical ones. He's proven his toughness in recent bouts and his tenacity. He has never been stopped and has taken solid blows. Sadly for him however this is a major step up in class, a move up in weight from Bantamweight to Super Bantamweight and it's a bout he has taken at very short notice.
With a good notice period Velasquez has the ability to be a test for a decent fighter. This however is him against an excellent fighter, up a weight and on a weeks notice. This is not going to go well for him, and he will be beaten, broken down and stopped. The only thing prolonging his beating will be his own toughness, but that won't last forever and when "MJ" feels like ending this he will.
Prediction TKO4 Akhmadaliev
April 2021 looks set to be an incredible month for fight fans, with a wonderful mix of high profile fights at the top level of the sport and bouts at the lower level, and featuring everything in between. It is a month that really should deliver great action week after week and it kicks off in great fashion this coming Saturday. That's in part due to a bout we've been looking forward to for a little over a year now. That's a match up between unified WBA "super" and IBF Super Bantamweight world champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6) and mandatory challenger Ryosuke Iwasa (23-7, 17), who also enters as the "interim" IBF champion.
The bout will see two of the best 122lb fighters clash in what is a genuine excellent match up, and it's one that should have fans from all over the globe tuning in. That's not just because of the match up it's self, which is genuinely brilliant, but because of what it means for the division in general. The winner will be in the mix for bouts against the likes of Luis Nery, Stephen Fulton, Ronnie Riose, Brandon Figueroa and Carlos Castro, among many, many others.
Of the two men the more impressive has been 26 year old Uzbek Akhmadaliev, known as "MJ". He is, after just 8 fights, a unified champion and was a former standout amateur who has set his sights high and raced away to the top, whilst becoming one of the main faces at the forefront of Uzbek boxing. He is a fighter who has looked to prove a point every step of the way during his boxing career and has already proven himself as a top level fighter. In just 8 bouts!
Before turning professional Akhmadaliev had reportedly had over 300 amateur bouts, winning the vast majority. He had won medals at the World Amateur Championships, Olympics, Asian Championships and World Youth Championships, and had been one of the standout fights on the amateur scene. He had, however, got a reputation for being the bridesmaid and not the bride, falling short in the business end of competitions. As a professional however he has used that amateur experience and the skills he learned in the unpaid ranks to challenge himself and make a name for himself.
In just 8 bouts Akhmadaliev has already beaten the likes of Isaaz Zarate, Carlos Carlson and most notably Daniel Roman, who he beat in January 2020 for the unified titles. He has proven he can box, punch, brawl, and fight at a high tempo for 12 rounds. He has proven more in just 8 bouts, adding up to a total of 40 professional rounds, than many fights do in a career. We'll admit we thought the step up to facing Roman was too soon, but he proved us wrong and it's going to be very hard to bet against him in the future given how he performed there.
Although he is hugely impressive there are still some questions to ask of Akhmadaliev. He has impressed with his ability to box or fight, and he has shown a good chin, great work rate and highly impressive stamina, though we do wonder what happens when he's forced to chase a bout, and it'll be interesting to see what happens when he's cut, or in genuine trouble. If we ever see him in real trouble. We also wonder what he's like against a big puncher, and Iwasa does have power, as well as what he's like against a dangerous south, with his previous southpaw opponents being relatively limited. So far however he has impressed fight after fight and shown the ambition and drive that has already made us huge fans of his.
Ryosuke Iwasa is a 31 year old veteran of the professional ranks, with 30 professional bouts to his name, and over 60 amateur bouts. He is already a former world champion and a man who was long tipped to be a star in Japan, though has failed to reach the heights expected of him when he turned professional. Despite not being the fighter many hoped he would be he has managed a very respectable career and is certainly not a fighter who has failed in the sport. He has, however, been inconsistent. When he's on point he looks fantastic, but there are a number of underwhelming performance during his career as well.
For Japanese fans Iwasa made his name, originally, on the amateur stage where he went 60-6 (42) and picked up the High School Triple crown. This saw him turning professional with high expectations on his shoulders. Under the guidance of former world champion Celes Kobayashi he was moved quickly and at the end of 2010 he had secured a Japanese title fight as part of the Champion Carnival, by winning the Strongest Korakuen and becoming the MVP. Sadly for him his Japanese title fight, in 2011, came against a then rising Shinsuke Yamanaka, with Iwasa losing a 10th round TKO to Yamanaka in a sensational bout. Aged 21 at the time that was a learning experience and he would reel off a string of wins, taking the Japanese and OPBF titles before getting his first world title fight, and losing in 6 rounds, in England, to Lee Haksins in 2016.
The loss to Haskins was Iwasa final bout at Bantamweight before moving up in weight, and finding his groove once again. Just over 2 years after the defeat to Haskins we saw Iwasa have his career defining win, as he battered Yukinori Oguni in 6 rounds to win the IBF Super Bantamweight title. It was a red hot performance from Iwasa who looked sensational. Sadly though he failed to build on that win, scoring an underwhelming decision to retain his title against Ernesto Saulong and failing to really get to grips with TJ Doheny, who dethroned him in 2018. Since his title loss Iwasa has looked good, beating Cesar Juarez by technical decision and then dismantling former WBO Bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales in 2019, to win the IBF "interim" title.
In the ring Iwasa really does blow hot and cold, and he always has. He looked poor in his second fight, Edgar Allende, and again later in his career against Richard Pumicpic, Ernesto Saulong and TJ Doheny. When he's looked good however, he has looked sensational, and we saw that against Oguni and Tapales. In the ring he's a southpaws who fights as a boxer-puncher. His power is genuinely spiteful at this level, and technically he's very solid. Sadly though he often fights in a one paced fashion, struggles to go through the gears, and has struggled with southpaws through his career, with all 3 losses coming to lefties.
Of the two men we would suggest that Iwasa is the biggest puncher, at least a single punch basis, he's also the taller, longer man and if he can establish his jab he does have a chance of getting on top of the bout early on. His team have stated their game plan is to stop Akhamadliev from getting into his rhythm and we suspect that is the key to beating the Uzbek.
Sadly for Iwasa however he is the less versatile of the two fighters. He's an excellent boxer-puncher, but he's not the most creative fighter, he's not a great inside fighter and he's got slow feet. They are all things that Akhmadaliev will use against him. The Uzbek is a much, much more rounded in ring competitor. That is, we suspect, going to be the difference making.
We suspect Iwasa will come out sharp, looking to land clean straight shots and getting his range, but as the rounds go on Akhmadaliev will close the distance, get inside and begin to grind away at Iwasa. The difference in speed will be key and by the end of round 12 Akhmadaliev will have done more than enough to deserve the decision.
We expect the champion to retain, but he will have to work for it, and this will not be an easy day at the office for the talented Uzbek.
Prediction - Akhmadaliev UD12
Back in September we had expected to turn our attention to Madison Square Garden Theater for an excellent Super Bantamweight world title bout, pitting unified champion Daniel Roman (27-2-1, 19) against mandatory challenger Murodjon Akhmadaliev (7-0, 6). Sadly in the build up the champion was injured and the bout was forced to be delayed, and rescheduled. With it being eventually pushed back to late January. Despite the delay we are now on course for the brilliant looking match up.
The 29 year old champion, who has unified the WBA "super" and IBF Super Bantamweight titles will be making his first defense of the IBF belt and his fifth defense of the WBA crown, the first as the super champion. For Akhmadaliev, who is mandatory for the WBA title, the bout will be his first at world level as he looks to join a select few to win a world title in just his 8th professional bout.
Roman has become one of the sports most interesting champions. He won the title in 2017, stopping Shun Kubo, and announcing himself on the world stage. Prior to that win he had been knocking on the door, with wins over the likes of Adam Lopez, Christopher Martin and Christian Esquivel though it's been since winning the title that he has really impressed. After winning the belt in Japan, stopping Kubo, he returned and beat Ryo Matsumoto before beating Mosies Flores and Gavin McDonnell. Those wins built momentum, and that momentum lead to a unification bout with the then IBF champion TJ Doheny this past April. That bout was something special, with Roman dropping Doheny twice, but having the Irish-Australian warrior coming back at him with real drive and vigour. Over 12 rounds Roman did enough to win the bout and unify the belts.
After 2 losses in his first 11 bouts Roman could have been written off, though he has battled back hard, winning 19 in a row, unifying titles, taking chances and becoming the star of Thompson Boxing. The way he has turned his career around has been amazing and the fact he's travelled to Japan for 2 of those wins, and has taken 5 unbeaten records in his last 7 fights shows he isn't scared of a challenge. What Roman does really well is work. His output is excellent, he's technically solid with his shots, and despite throwing a lot he doesn't waste many. They aren't always the sharpest, or the hardest, but they are solid shots, and his engine is excellent. He combines that energy with a really gritty toughness, and although he can be hurt he grits it out, recovers quickly and comes back. If a fighter hurts him it really does seem like they should go all out to take him down, rather than give him a chance to clear the cobwebs.
Although Roman was a good amateur, which is something we don't hear much about strangely, Akhmadaliev was a sensational amateur. The Uzbek was a World Amateur Champion silver medal winner, an Olympic bronze medal winner a multi-time medal winner on the Asian and Uzbek scenes and recorded around 300 amateur wins. It's that amateur foundation that has seen him being fast-tracked through the professional ranks. In just his 4th professional contest he took on the then 15-6 Ramon Contreras for the WBA Inter-Continental title, then defended it against the world ranked IsaacZarate, to earn the mandatory position towards the end of last year. By that point he had been a professional for around 8 months! To tick over earlier this year he destroyed former world title challenger Carlos Carlson in 3 rounds.
Although a stellar amateur Akhmadaliev doesn't always fight like an amateur, in fact from the off he had a more professional style, with an aggressive mentality and almost a seek and destroy gameplan. He is constantly on the front foot, looking to break opponents down and although a touch reckless he is smart with his aggression.He's a fighter who seems to truly believe he's special, and not just because his team tell him he is. For a Super Bantamweight he's a solid puncher, he's exciting, but he is stepping up massively, from the likes of Isaac Zarate to Daniel Roman.
We'd love to see Akhmadaliev win here, setting his stall out as one of the kings of the Super Bantamweight divisions this quickly after his debut, and at just 25 years old. Sadly however we do feel it's too much too soon, and his lack of experience over the longer distance will be an issue. He's certainly has a chance against Roman, and if he's as good as he believes it's a really good chance, but we suspect he comes up short here against a man who remains one of boxing's most under-rated world champions. Worst yet for the Uzbek, we see him being ground down by Roman's pressure in the later stages, suffering a late TKO loss in a painful and gruelling defeat
Prediction- TKO11 Roman
December 7th is a huge day for boxing, one of the biggest and most significant days of the year so far. We have huge shows in Saudi Arabia and New York, and other shows of note in Tokyo and Quebec, in what will be a fantastic day for fight fans. One of the many bouts of note for us is an IBF "interim" Super Bantamweight world title fight which will pit two former Asian world champions against each other in a genuinely fantastic match up. In fact despite a lot of bigger bouts taking place through the day, this might be the best of the bouts taking place.
In one corner will be former WBO Bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales (33-2, 16) whilst his opponent will be former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Ryosuke Iwasa (26-3, 16). On paper this has the hall marks of something very, very special. Not only are both fighters proven at world level, but stylistically they should make for an action packed fight with styles that should gel perfect.
The 27 year old Tapales, from the Philippines, is an aggressive, come forward fighter who fights out of the southpaw stance. Despite only being 5'4" he's proven to be a strong an awkward fighter to catch clean, and he also boasts a very misleading KO record. On paper he has a sub 50% stoppage rate, but that is due to the early part of his career. At one point he was 10-1 (2) at later on he was 26-2 (9). Since then he has gone 7-0 (7) and scored his 3 biggest wins, stopping Shohei Omori, twice, and Pungluang Sor Singyu.
Although Tapales isn't a huge name in the sport he is one the true dark horses, even in a division full of dark horses like the current Super Bantamweight division. He's a fighter who applies smart pressure, counters well and whilst he doesn't set an amazing work rate, he's certainly not late. As well being an under-rated puncher he is also incredibly tough, and the we he beat Pungluang, picking him self up after 2 knockdowns to win, shows his will to win. Technically he is flawed, rough around the edges, and sometimes a bit wild, but given his power and toughness he does make the wildness work for him.
Aged 29 Iwasa has been groomed for success since turning professional back in 2008, following a solid amateur career. In his 8th fight he secured himself a Japanese Bantamweight title fight at the following year's Champion Carnival, and although he lost in that title fight he impressed with an ultra-competitive bout against Shinsuke Yamanaka. By the end of 2011 he was the Japanese national champion and would become an OPBF Bantamweight champion in December 2013. Sadly Iwasa would come up short in a 2015 world title fight, to Lee Haskins, but a move up in weight rejuvenated his career.
In 2017 Iwasa finally won a big one, stopping Yukinori Oguni to claim the IBF Super Bantamweight in what was, by far, the best performance of his career so far. Sadly following was a great win over Oguni Iwasa would disappoint, winning with a clear but disappointing performance against Ernesto Saulong. The disappointing performance with Saulong was followed by Iwasa losing the IBF title to TJ Doheny. Thankfully Iwasa managed to bounce back with a win on his US debut against Cesar Juarez, in a bout that promised a lot but was overlooked by broadcasters who failed to show the fight.
At his best, Iwasa is a hard hitting southpaw boxer-puncher. Sadly though he has never looked good against fellow southpaws, with 2 of his 3 losses coming to pure southpaws, and the other coming to a switch hitter who is predominantly a southpaw boxer. That is a huge issue here against a hard hitting southpaw like Tapales, and we think that will likely be the key here.
We've seen Tapales beat southpaws, and we've seen Iwasa lose to southpaws. We think that Iwasa's weakness to southpaws will be shown up again here, and Tapales will take out Iwasa in the second half of the fight.
Prediction - TKO11 Tapales
This coming Saturday fight fans in Las Vegas will see a legendary Filipino name return to world title action, albeit not the man who made the name famous but instead his grandson.
The legendary name in question is Elorde, best known for the great Gabriel "Flash" Elorde who's grand son Juan Miguel Elorde (28-1, 15) challenges WBO Super Bantamweight champion Emanuel Navarrete (28-1, 24) on Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. For the champion this will be his third defense, since winning the title last December, whilst Elorde will be getting his first bout at this level, and will be entering as a huge under-dog.
The Mexican champion had been on the verge of a break out for a while, with those who follow the Latin American scene tipping him as a hugely talented, exciting, and destructive prospect. Last year he got a chance, taking on Isaac Dogboe, and impressed as he out pointed the popular Dogboe over 12 rounds to claim the WBO title. Since then he has really been on a roll, seeing his standing in the sport increase with a stoppage win over Dogboe in a rematch and a quick blow out over Francisco Da Vaca in August.
In the ring Navarrete is a legitimate monster. He's a strong, powerful, hard hitting and rugged Mexican who, at 5'7" is huge for the weight. Although he's an aggressive fighting machine he's actually quite a smart fighter, and not as reckless as he sometimes appears. He gets inside well, with quick footwork and unloads hooks, uppercuts and straights up close. He combines his excellent offensive output with a real rugged toughness and it looks like it's going to take a very, very special fighter to beat him....unless making weight beats him first. In many ways he's a little bit similar to former Welterweight champion Antonio Margarito, and like Margarito he rarely takes a step backwards, so one thing we would like to see, one day, is a fighter really put him on the back foot. Sadly we don't expect to see that here.
At 32 years old Elorde will be getting his first world title fight, and likely his last. Despite the Super Bantamweight division being a low key solid one he is some how ranked #1 by the WBO, who genuinely have awful rankings in the division. To date his best win was his most recent, a very competitive decision over Japan's Shohei Kawashima, a decision that many felt Elorde was fortunate to get. That was his 18th straight win, but one of very few against fighters of any note, with perhaps the next most notable being a 2018 decision win over Lucky Tor Buamas. That's not to say he's a bad fighter, but one who's going from fringe regional level to world class, having only really touched regional title level a couple of times.
Given that the Philippines, alone, has fighters in the division like Albert Pagara, Marlon Tapales, Jeo Santisima and Mark Anthony Geraldo, an argument could be made that Elorde is only the 5th best in his homeland. And he may actually be outside the top 10 best actually competing in Asia, behind the likes of Ryosuke Iwasa, Yusaku Kuga, Shingo Wake, Tomoki Kameda, Hiroaki Teshigawa and Yukinori Oguni.
Although Elorde's #1WBO ranking is a joke he's technically a decent fighter, with a nice jab, nice footwork, nice speed and good understanding of the ring. He's also one of the very few fighters in the division who is a similar height to Navarette. Sadly however "nice" doesn't cut it at world class and even ignoring his flaws, which include a relatively low work rate, poor punch power, he simply doesn't have any world class traits.
Elorde could have made a very solid career fighting at regional level the last few years. Instead he has been moved safely to this shot. A shot that he doesn't deserve, is ill prepared for but will given his all for. Sadly giving his all won't be anywhere near enough against Navarrete. The Mexican might take a round or two to get his engine going but when that happens we expect him to mow through the Filipino challenger.
Prediction - TKO4 Navarette
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On July 13, Tomoki Kameda returns to the US, after 4 years, to clash with Rey Vargas for the WBC Super Bantamweight World Championship.
The younger brother of Koki and Daiki Kameda, Tomoki belongs in one of the most successful families in the history of boxing, with all 3 siblings eventually winning the big one. Unlike most Japanese fighters who stay and train in Japan, Tomoki moved to Mexico when he was just 15 years old, in order to learn more about the sport and to hone his craft. He managed to reach the finals of the Guantes de Oro Tournament (Mexican for Golden Gloves) but lost, ironically enough, to Rey Vargas. Because of his young age, he wasn’t allowed to compete in the 2008 Olympic Games, so instead of waiting, Tomoki decided to turn pro.
Tomoki (36-2 / 20 KOs) became quite popular in Mexico, since he spent the vast majority of his career there, earning the nickname El Mexicanito. His style of fighting used to be quite aggressive, which was evident by his KO ratio. Prior to winning the world title, he finished 18 of his 27 pro bouts. Some of his early career big victories included numerous world title contenders like Eduardo Garcia, Marlon Marquez and Noldi Manakane, plus securing the WBC Silver Bantamweight title.
On August 1st 2013, Tomoki made history on multiple fronts when he defeated Paulus Ambunda, who was 20-0 at the time, for the WBO Bantamweight World championship, in the Philippines. Not only did he become the first ever Japanese boxer to hold a WBO World title, but also after Daiki’s world title victory in September of the same year, the Kamedas earned a place at the Guinness World Records for “most siblings to win boxing world titles”.
As World champion, he adapted a more technical style, a “safer” style, in comparison to his former much wilder approach. El Mexicanito marked 3 successful title defenses, against Immanuel Naidjala, interim champion Alejandro Hernandez as well as former World champion Panya Uthok. Out of all 3, his bout with Uthok was the toughest. With 46 wins on his record and only 2 decision losses, the Thai boxer kept rocking Tomoki in every round, stunning him on multiple occasions throughout the match. The tide turned during the 7th round, when Kameda started nailing Uthok with a couple of uppercuts, thus creating an opening to throw a devastating liver shot that dropped the former champ down for the count. That was the first time Uthok has been stopped in his career. Tomoki was declared “fighter of the month” (July 2014) by the WBO, after that performance.
In May of 2015, Tomoki was scheduled to face the WBA (Regular) Bantamweight Champion Jamie McDonnell, in a unification bout. However, since the WBO wouldn’t sanction the fight, he relinquished his belt so he could compete for the WBA championship. Despite dropping McDonnell in the 3rd, the Japanese challenger didn’t do much in the rest of the fight, thus failing to capture the gold. Their rematch in September saw both men in a very close encounter, going back and forth, in an exciting affair. Tomoki could have been crowned the new champion but McDonnell made sure he was leaving Texas with his belt when he scored a knockdown in the last round, swaying the judges in his favor.
When Tomoki returned to action, after a 13 month hiatus, he decided to move up to Super Bantamweight. In his match with Daniel Noriega (May 2018) we saw glimpses of the old Mexicanito, fighting in a much more aggressive pace, even dropping Noriega in the 5th round. After going 4-0 at this new weight class, he was involved in an interim WBC title fight, this past November, with the EBU European champion Abigail Medina. Kameda controlled the pace from the get go, punishing his rival with fasts jabs, strong hooks and some perfectly placed body shots. In the end, Tomoki earned himself a unanimous decision victory and the interim WBC strap. Now he will finally have the opportunity to meet Vargas in the ring again, for a shot at the gold.
Rey Vargas (33-0 / 22 KOs) has spent the majority of his life boxing. During his amateur days, he accumulated 7 national titles as well as the 2009 Pan-American championship. A year later, he made his pro debut. He was still 19 at the time.
Much like Tomoki, he used to be much more tenacious in the ring. Up until 2016, he had finished 22 out of his 28 fights, including stoppages over former world title challengers like Silvester Lopez, Christian Esquivel, Cecilio Santos and Juanito Rubillar. His speed and reach advantage were enough to give him the edge over most of his opponents.
Vargas’ 1st major win was against former 2 time WBA Super Flyweight World champion Alexander Munoz, in September of 2016. The young Mexican star dropped the veteran four times within five rounds, twice with the right hook, once with an uppercut and finished the job in the 5th with a straight right to secure the WBC International Silver title and the #1 contendership.
In 2017, he fought Gavin McDonnell for the vacant WBC Super Bantamweight crown. Despite taking a lot of damage in the later rounds, he managed to survive that and come out with the World championship. Since then, Vargas has defended his title 4 times against Ronny Rios, Oscar Negrete, Azat Hovhannisyan and Franklin Manzanilla. Even though his speed and head movement were still there, his aggressiveness wasn’t. In all of these last 5 bouts, he was content to keep his competition at bay and to just win on the judges scorecards. No doubt this will be the strategy for his upcoming fight too.
All in all, it’s safe to assume that Tomoki vs. Vargas will not be a crowd pleaser. Yes, we are talking about 2 really skilled boxers, with a lot of finesse and technique, but both lack the explosiveness that once made them popular. Vargas is most likely to walk out of California the victor as he’s going to use his reach and prohibit Tomoki from coming near him but if somehow El Mexicanito manages to close the distance, he might have a chance at officially becoming a 2 division world champion. We will find out for sure this Saturday night.
It's taken less than 3 weeks for boxing to throw us the first curve ball of the year, with the announcement of an IBF Super Bantamweight title bout pitting unbeaten champion TJ Doheny (20-0, 14) against little known Japanese challenger Ryohei Takahashi (15-3-1, 6) [高橋竜平] on January 18th. The bout was put together on short notice, with Takahashi's team struggling to get him a visa on short notice for a bout he simply couldn't turn down. As we write this, it's still unclear if a visa has been granted, things are being cut that fine!
So, let's just accept a visa has been given and that the bout is on, lets now look into the bout, and what we're going to be seeing for Doheny's DAZN debut, and his first bout under Eddie Hearn.
The unbeaten 32 year old champion won the title last year, travelling to Tokyo and dethroning Ryosuke Iwasa. That bout, shown in Japan and the US, was supposed to set the winner up for a bout with the then WBO champion Isaac Dogboe. Instead of facing Dogboe in a unification bout the Australian based Irish man saw had to recover from serious facial injuries and in December Dogboe was himself dethroned. That seemed to leave Doheny with plenty of options on the table, including potential Japanese returns for some of their big names like Shingo Wake. Instead, however, he signed with Eddie Hearn, and that deal was announced on January 8th with his first bout under Hearn announced for just 10 days later.
Dubbed "The Power" Doheny is actually not an out and out puncher. He can bang, and he certainly does have power, but as he showed against Iwasa he's a talented mover, a sharp puncher, an intelligent fighter and not someone who look to just bang with a banger. He made Iwasa look slow and clumsy by stopping "Eagle Eye" from setting his feet, and for the most part out worked and out manoeuvered the Japanese fighter. Other than the win over Iwasa Doheny's record is a bit thin, with his best wins coming against the likes of Mike Oliver, Denkaosan Kaovichit, Marco Demecillo and Mike Tawatchai. That however isn't a sign that he's a bad fighter, just one who hasn't been able to really prove what he can do, often enough.
As mentioned Takahashi is a little known fighter, and if you don't follow the Asian or Oceanic scene you almost certainly won't have seen him at all. Almost all of his bouts have been in his native Japan, and most haven't been televised. His early career wasn't great, losing his debut in 96 seconds to Shogo Sumitomo in December 2012, before fighting to a draw with Matcha Nakagawa in his second bout. It wasn't until January 2014 that he scored his first win, but he really came of age during that year and went on to win the All Japan Bantamweight Rookie of the Year whilst advancing his record to 5-1-1. In 2015 he notched 3 more wins before leaving Japan for the first time and losing a wide decision to a then 5-0 Andrew Moloney, then a prospect but now a leading Super Flyweight contender. Since that loss Takahashi has gone 8-1 with notable domestic wins over Matcha Nakagawa, Kazuki Tanaka and Shingo Kusano as well as a big win over Thailand's Mike Tawatchai in Thailand.
Takahashi is an aggressive fighter, he looks to set a high work rate and fights like someone who is confident in himself. That confidence has grown in the last few years, really booming since he stopped the then touted Kazuki Tanaka back in May 2017, with what was sheer determination and pressure. That was a tactic he used well against Mike Tawatchai as well, to take a clear decision in Thailand. Sadly however Takahashi is defensively open, and in his bout against Shingo Kusano he was being caught bu southpaw left hands time and time again, looking like he really wasn't sure how to fight a southpaw, though had the energy and desire to take the narrow decision. That is the bout that should worry those picking the upset. Even against orthodox fighter Takahashi's defense doesn't look the best, but against southpaws he really is open.
Although we would suggest Doheny would win anyway Takahashi also to issues with his visa, the late notice and the time zone change. Any one of those issues would be a problem, but all 2 really do show the card is stacked against him, we don't blame Doheny for that but do wonder if Eddie Hearn has had problems putting together an attractive card due to over stretching his resources and time. He's got a lot on his plate right now and giving fighters like Takahashi the opportunity of a life time on short notice might work, but it's a reputation he won't want to build.
As a prediction we suspect Doheny's speed, power and southpaw stance will pick apart a game challenger and Takahashi, whilst brave, will be stopped in the middle rounds by the champion, who is looking to unify with WBA champion Daniel Roman later in the year.
(Image courtesy of Yokohama Hikari)
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On November 12, in the legendary Korakuen Hall, Tomoki Kameda will try to become a 2 division world champion as he takes on Abigail Medina for the interim WBC Super Bantamweight World Championship.
The younger brother of Koki and Daiki Kameda, Tomoki belongs in one of the most successful families in the history of boxing, will all 3 siblings eventually winning the big one. Unlike most Japanese fighters who stay and train in Japan, he moved to Mexico when he was just 15 years old, in order to learn more about the sport and to hone his craft. Tomoki managed to reach the finals of the Guantes de Oro Tournament (Mexican for Golden Gloves) and only lost to the current WBC Super Bantamweight World Champion, Rey Vargas. Because of his young age, he wasn’t allowed to compete in the 2008 Olympic Games, so instead of waiting, Tomoki decided to turn pro.
Tomoki (35-2 / 20 KOs) became quite popular in Mexico, since he spent the vast majority of his career in that country, earning the nickname El Mexicanito. His style of fighting used to be very aggressive, which was evident by his KO ratio. Prior to winning the world title, he finished 18 of his 27 pro bouts. Some of his early career big victories included numerous world title contenders like Eduardo Garcia, Marlon Marquez and Noldi Manakane, plus securing the WBC Silver Bantamweight championship.
On August 1st 2013, Tomoki made history on multiple fronts when he defeated Paulus Ambunda, who was 20-0 at the time, for the WBO Bantamweight World Championship, in the Philippines. Not only did he become the first ever Japanese boxer to hold a WBO World title, but also after Daiki’s world title victory in September of the same year, the Kamedas earned a place at the Guinness World Records for “most siblings to win boxing world titles”.
As World champion, he adapted a more technical style, a “safer” style, in comparison to his former much wilder approach. El Mexicanito marked 3 successful title defenses, against Immanuel Naidjala, interim champion Alejandro Hernandez as well as former World champion Panya Uthok. Out of all 3, his bout with Uthok was the toughest. With 46 wins on his record and only 2 decision loses, the Thai boxer kept rocking Tomoki in every round, stunning him on multiple occasions throughout the match. The tide turned during the 7th round, when Kameda started nailing Uthok with a couple of uppercuts, thus creating an opening to throw a devastating liver shot that dropped the former champ down for the count. That was the first time Uthok has been stopped in his career. Tomoki was declared “fighter of the month” (July 2014) by the WBO, after that performance.
In May of 2015, Tomoki was scheduled to face the WBA Bantamweight World Champion Jamie McDonnell, in a unification bout. However, the WBO wouldn’t sanction the fight so Tomoki relinquished his belt so he could compete for the WBA championship. Despite dropping McDonnell in the 3rd round, the Japanese challenger didn’t do much in the rest of the fight, thus failing to capture the gold. Their rematch in September saw both men in a very close encounter, going back and forth, in an exciting affair. Tomoki could have been crowned the new champion but McDonnell made sure he was leaving Texas with his belt when he scored a knockdown in the last round, swaying the judges in his favour.
When Tomoki returned to the ring after a 13 month hiatus, he moved up a weight class and has been undefeated in his last 4 matches. In his most recent bout against Daniel Noriega, this past May, we saw glimpses of the old Mexicanito, fighting in a much more aggressive pace, even dropping Noriega in the 5th round. Now three years removed from his previous world title contest, Tomoki will try and capture another division’s grand prize, but in order to do so, he must go through first the EBU European champion Abigail Medina (19-3 / 10 KOs).
Medina has also been a pro for 10 years, but unlike Tomoki, he doesn’t have the same level of experience or success. His biggest victories are against fellow European champions Jeremy Parodi (42-4), Anthony Settoul (23-7) and one time world title contender Martin Ward (26-4). Specifically, he stopped Settoul in the first round with body punches, a weapon that Tomoki also uses frequently in his matches, while he stopped Ward, in just 2 rounds, after repeatedly kept knocking him down with a vicious right punch to the head. His style of fighting actually resembles Kameda’s old “Mexican style” a lot.
Comparing these 2 boxers, Tomoki certainly has the advantage here. He’s the younger, much more experienced competitor and with a better record. Medina however is way more hungry at this stage of his career. He knows this will probably be his one and only shot at the World Championship. Moreover, Medina’s been undefeated since 2014, with 10 wins and 5 stoppages, proving he’s an aggressive striker. On the other hand, if we see the Tomoki of old, on November 12, we are almost guaranteed that Japan will have another World champion, before the year is over. For Mexicanito, winning the interim WBC title, it will be the perfect opportunity to set a future collision with the man that defeated him 10 plus years ago, Rey Vargas, avenging his only amateur loss. So who will it be? We will find out in a week’s time, in Tokyo, Japan!
This coming Saturday in Glendale, Arizona, we get the chance to see one of boxing best young champions take on one of the toughest old fighters in the sport as WBO Super Bantamweight champion Isaac Dogboe (19-0, 13) faces off with Japanese challenger Hidenori Otake (31-2-3, 14). The bout will be the first defense by the 23 year old from Ghana whilst the 37 year old Otake will be getting his second world title fight. Not only is there a 14 year age gap between the two men but there is also significant differences in natural size, experience and amateur pedigree, which helps to make this match up as interesting as it is.
Dogboe, known as “Brave Son”, competed at the 2012 Olympics in London, where he was living at the time, and was one of the youngest fighters at the tournament. Interestingly he would lose in his only fight at the games to Japanese foe Satoshi Shimizu, the current OPBF Featherweight champion. He made his professional debut the following year, in Switzerland of all places, before picking up early career wins in the Northern Ireland and then the USA before beginning to make a name in Ghana from September 2015.
Although fighting in what was relative boxing obscurity Dogboe was getting some quality opponents, such was Neil John Tabanao and Javier Nicholas Chacon, as he continued his development leading into 2018. To begin this year Dogboe took a huge step up in class, and rose to the occasion, stopping Mexican tough guy Cesar Juarez to claim the WBO “interim” Super Bantamweight title. Less than 4 months later he travelled to the US and scored an excellent 11th round KO of the then unbeaten Jessie Magdaleno to claim the full WBO title. Despite being dropped in the opening round Dogboe was in the lead on all 3 cards at the time of the stoppage and, despite some flaws, he had looked very impressive.
Stood at just over 5'2” Dogboe is a diminutive fighter, even at Super Bantamweight. He is however an unpredictable, explosive, fast and powerful fighter. There are a number of flaws with his boxing, which wouldn't be expected of someone with his amateur background, but he manages to use them to his advantage rather than them really costing him. It could be a case that a big, strong, accurate fighter could make him pay for his wilder style, but there is also a good chance he'll be able to use his lack of size and explosiveness to get in and work away on opponents, drag them into a war and use his supposed disadvantages to his advantage.
Otake is the next in a long line of insanely tough Japanese fighters, who can walk through shots that would leave others on the floor in agony. Saying that however he is more technically skilled than the likes of Nihito Arakawa, Yoshihiro Kamegai and Akihiro Kondo and has got solid, yet basic, boxing skills. He comes forward behind a busy long jab, he uses the ring well and looks to back up opponents behind his boxing, and not behind his physicality. Despite being 37 he has an incredible engine, with his work ethic being one of the best in Japan. All that was shown when he had his first world title fight, back in 2014 losing to Scott Quigg in a WBA title fight.
Since losing to Quigg we've seen Otake go on an excellent run of 9 straight wins, including wins over Jelbirt Gomera, Kinshiro Usui, Hinata Maruta and the hard hitting Brian Lobetania. Those wins have seen him win the OPBF title and make 3 successful defenses of the title. He has shown power late, stopping two of his last 4 opponents in the 10th round, but has also shown an ability to go 12 rounds with no real issue. He has however shown some struggles in his 9 fight winning run, notably struggling past the hard hitting Alexander Espinoza in November 2016.
At the age of 37 Otake is looking to set the Japanese record for the oldest man to win a world title, a record currently held by Hozumi Hasegawa when he claimed the WBC Super Bantamweight title. Despite being 37 he's a young 37, an amazing thing to say about someone who debuted back in December 2005 and has had more than 240 professional rounds. His toughness and physical strength however do explain, perhaps, why he has had such longevity. Notably he will have around 5” of height advantage over Dogboe, as well ad the huge gulf in experience.
Dogboe is, rightfully, the betting favourite. He's the young upstart who has been stopping world class fighters like Juarez and Dogboe and is the defending champion. This is, however a very different test for Dogboe than anything he's faced so far. He's going to be punching upwards against an insanely tough fighter, he's going to be in with a technically solid, though slow, fighter and going to have an opponent who won't back off. Otake has the ability to give Dogboe real problems, especially if Dogboe looks to take him out early and finds the Japanese fighter to be a bit of an immoveable object.
Otake has got a chance, he's the under-dog for a reason, but has the ability to keep Dogboe on the back foot and at range, frustrate him with his long right hand and look to “old man” Dogboe out of rounds. We don't know if he'll be able to do that for 12 rounds against someone as unpredictable as Dogboe, but we certainly see him having some real moments here. Sadly though we think those moments for Otake will be too few and far between, with Dogboe taking a wide decision, but one he will really have to earn.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On August 16, at the legendary Korakuen Hall, Ryosuke Iwasa will defend the IBF Super Bantamweight World Championship against Irish-Australian contender TJ Doheny.
Ryosuke Iwasa (25-2 / 16 KOs) had a successful amateur career, amassing a record of 60 wins and 16 losses, while winning various national titles. He made his pro debut on August of 2008, at the age of 18, going undefeated for 2 years, 8-0, beating much more experienced foes like Marvin Tampus (21-10*) and Kinshiro Usui (19-2*).
Iwasa’s first big test came on March 5th, 2011 when he challenged Shinsuke Yamanaka (13-0*) for the Japanese Bantamweight title. Yamanaka was another accomplished amateur boxer (34-13), holding many notable victories, including one over future world champion Takahiro Ao. Neither of the 2 had lost a single fight since turning pro, nor were they ready to spoil their perfect record. In what it was undoubtedly one of the best Japanese title fights of all time, Iwasa and Yamanaka went to war that night, fighting for gold as well as to prove who was the best Bantamweight fighter in Japan. Iwasa dominated early, stunning the champion on numerous occasions, while Yamanaka started making a comeback in the later rounds. Both men were rocking each other hard, going back and forth, bringing the Japanese fans to their feet. Chants for Iwasa and Yamanaka were heard all over the arena as neither was planning on giving up. At the very last round, Yamanaka went on a rampage, almost knocking Iwasa out while still standing, forcing the referee to step in and put an end to this amazing bout. That fight put Yamanaka in world title contention and 8 months later, he became the WBC world champion. Iwasa, even in defeat, he displayed his Bushido spirit, making him a fan favorite amongst the Japanese faithful.
Only a couple of months later, he came back stronger and more determined than ever before, winning 11 fights in a row, against Kentaro Masuda (14-5*), 2 time world title contender David De La Mora (24-2*), Mark John Yap (18-8*), former WBC International champion Hiroki Shino (10-2*) and more, as well as earning both the Japanese and OPBF titles in the process.
In 2015, after a failed attempt at the interim IBF Bantamweight belt, Iwasa decided to move up a weight class and switch his focus at the Super Bantamweights. It didn’t take long for the Japanese star to reach the top of the division and challenge Yukinori Oguni (19-1*) for the IBF World Championship on September of 2017, at the EDION Arena in Osaka. Iwasa came out like a house on fire, knocking the champion down in the opening round once and twice in the next one. It was a very one-sided match, up until the forth round when Oguni began firing back at the challenger, finally turning this into a big world title bout. After 3 more action packed rounds, the fight was stopped, as Oguni was bleeding profusely, thus marking the beginning of Iwasa’s first ever world title reign.
Already with one title defense under his belt, over Philippino standout Ernesto Saulong (21-2*), Iwasa will look for V2 this August, against TJ Doheny (19-0 / 14 KOs).
Doheny has already made quite an impression in the division, winning the PABA Super Bantamweight title, just 15 months after his debut. A certified knock out artist, with the majority of his finishes coming within the first five rounds. His most impressive performance must be against former interim WBA Super Flyweight World Champion Sutep Wangmuk (63-5*) in 2015, which ended via 5th round KO.
This fight will mark Iwasa’s 10th Anniversary as a pro boxer and what better way to celebrate it but with another huge win over a hungry contender.
*Denotes record going in to the fight.
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.