On November 3rd we'll see unbeaten men clash at the INTEX in Osaka, as WBA Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) takes on Thai challenger Thanongsak Simsri (14-0, 12). For Kyoguchi this will be his second defense of the title, whilst the unsung Thai challenger will be getting his first shot at world honours in a massive step up. The bout will be the first male world title fight held in Japan since boxing restarted in the country back in the summer and is a genuinely huge bout for Asia during this current time.
Whilst it's a huge fight the real question is whether it will be a good one, and who will win. With that in mind lets have a look at what to expect when the "Dynamite Boy" takes on "Srisaket II".
Aged 26, and with his 27th birthday just a few weeks away, Hiroto Kyoguchi is one of the leading faces in Japanese boxing. The youngster turned professional in 2016, following a solid amateur career, and was raced through the professional ranks at an alarming pace. Just 10 months after his debut he took the OPBF Minimumweight title and just 5 months later he added the IBF world title to his collection, setting a Japanese record for the shortest time take from debut to win a world title. After a string of defenses of that IBF title he moved up in weight and quickly won the WBA "super" and Ring Magazine title at 108lbs.
In his early bouts Kyoguchi looked like a mini-Mike Tyson, he was all about pressure, free flowing combinations and ripping opponents apart in brutal fashion. As he's stepped up his level of competition we have seen that Tyson-Esque style adapt, and what we now see with Kyoguchi is a hard hitting boxer-puncher, with an aggressive mentality. The extreme, intense pressure is seen in glimpses, but it's a lot less than it used to be, with opponents standing up to his power and forcing him to rely more on boxing than his power. Having that pressure style in his locker is, however, a valuable asset and can turn the tide, or finish off an opponent, and he really is at his best working in the pocket.
With 6 world title bouts, across 2 divisions, it's fair to describe Kyoguchi as a seasoned campaigner, despite only having 14 career bouts. Amazinly Thanongsak Simsri has also just had 14 bouts as a professional, but his career is very, very different to that of Kyoguchi.
Simsri debuted in 2018, in obscurity buried deep on a card in Samut Prakan, at the age of 18. He would score 6 quick wins to begin his career, all against Thai novices, before getting the chance to feature on a card in Osaka, in April 2019. It was on that card that he really made fans sit up and take note, stopping Ricardo Sueno in 66 seconds. That was the point where Japanese promoter Green Tsuda seemed to get on board with Simsri's rise, and since then they have helped guide his career, using their resources and connections to help develop the Thai youngster. A couple of wins in Thailand followed before he was back in Japan to have his second bout on Japanese soil.
The development was fast and intense with Simsri some how fitting in a total of 8 bouts in 2019, including a very notable one in December against Filipino Christian Bacolod. At the time Bacolod was world ranked, and unbeaten and Simsri managed to do enough to out point the talented Pinoy.
Dubbed "Srisaket II" by the Thai press it should be little surprise to learn that Simsri is a heavy handed fighter, with an aggressive mentality, and impressive physical strength. He is however more of a boxer-puncher than a pressure fighter, like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. When fighting on the inside he is a very nasty body puncher, nd is very comfortable there, but he does look to set things up at mid range, before working up close. Rather than Srisaket, who is very much of an intense stalker. Sadly for Simsri he lacks the truly brutal power of Srisaket, but every shot of his is heavy, thudding, hurtful and spiteful. He's a legitimate danger man, but appears to be someone who still has a lot of work to do on his defense, timing and understanding of distance.
Before we make a prediction on the outcome we need to state the obvious. Stylistically this should be a truly amazing bout. Both guys can box or fight, and both do their best work in the pocket. We expect to see both men looking to fight off their jabs early on, getting a feel for each other in the first few rounds, before taking this up close and turning on the gas to give us something truly sensation.
Sadly for Simsri we do feel this bout might be coming a bit too early for him. We see him as a 20 year old prospect, who has gotten a world title fight due to circumstances, rather than merit. We expect him to be full of gusto, confidence and no fear, but his lack of higher level experience, and immaturity will be a problem and he will be made to look like a boy against a man.
We are expecting a brilliant fight for 4 or 5 rounds, but then we expect the stiff shots from Kyoguchi, and the work on the inside, to grind down the Thai. We suspect in round 7 or 8 his corner will throw in the towel and save the tired youngster for another day.
Prediction - TKO8 Kyoguchi.
On October 31st we'll see Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16) return to the ring for what is likely to be his only bout of 2020. The WBA "super" and IBF Bantamweight champion will be defending his straps against Australian challenger Jason Moloney (21-1, 18) in what will be Inoue's Las Vegas debut. The bout was put on due to the less than ideal situation we've seen the world in in 2020, though is certainly not a terrible bout, even if it wasn't the bout we all wanted to see at the start of the year.
Earlier in the year we had hoped to see Inoue defending his titles against WBO champion John Riel Casimero, in what would have been a triple title unification bout. That bout was ear marked for April, though when the world was essentially frozen whilst countries tried to cope with the ongoing global situation, the bout was postponed, and postponed, and postponed, and eventually cancelled. Casimero went his own way, defending his title against Duke Micah back in September, and as a result Inoue was allowed to go his own way, and landed a fight with the highly ranked Moloney.
Amazingly the two men were actually very, very close to fight in 2019. That's when both men were part of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) and were on the same side of the draw. On October 7th 2018 Inoue blasted out Juan Carlos Payano in one of the most eye catching WBSS performances. His next round was against the winner of Jason Moloney Vs Emmanuel Rodriguez, with Rodriguez winning a split decision. We were literally one judge away from seeing these two men clash last year.
Regardless we're here now, and we're about to see them fight, so lets take a look at the men and the way we expect it to go.
The 27 year old Inoue is the jewel in the crown of Japanese boxing. Since turning professional in 2012 he has been on the fast track to the top. In just his third bout he beat the highly regarded Yuki Sano, claimed the Japanese Light Flyweight title in his 4th bout, the OPBF title in his fifth bout and his first world title in his 6th. All of that came in the space of just 18 months. From there on he has blossomed into a star of boxing, drawing the attention of fans around the globe and claiming notable scalp, after notable scalp. In just 19 bouts he has already beaten not just Taguchi but Adrian Hernandez, Omar Andres Narvaez, Kohei Kono, Jamie McDonnell, Juan Carlos Payano, Emmanuel Rodriguez and Nonito Donaire. Across those 19 fights only Donaire has really had success again Inoue, who has long been dubbed the "Monster".
In the ring Inoue is a fantastic boxer-puncher. He's naturally heavy handed, and his power has carried up from Light Flyweight to Bantamweight with no issues, he's a clean puncher, with incredible handspeed, timing, combinations and footwork. Whilst many top fighters in the sport are extremely good defensively Inoue is an offensive machine, and despite not always being the biggest man in the ring, he is usually the stronger man, and the one dictating the bout, usually from the center of the ring. Although an offensive machine Inoue is a solid defensive fighter, though he's not often had to show that side of what he can do in the ring due to his imposing offensive ability.
Despite being a fantastic fighter there are a bunch of question marks hanging over Inoue's head. Firstly whether or not he's 100% fit for this bout? After all the bout against Donaire resulted in a very nasty eye injury. Second is he going to be rusty after almost a year out? Or count he even be over-trained? After a training camp for a bout with Casimero in April as well as a training camp for this bout
It's fair to say Inoue is the very clear favourite heading in to the bout, but he's certainly not the only man who will be in the ring as Jason Moloney will be there as the hungry under-dog.
The Australian challenger is a 29 year old who debuted in 2014, after being a successful amateur, and, along with brother Andrew, was tipped for major success in the professional ranks. For many years Moloney was busy getting professional experience against regional level fighters, running up numerous wins against Filipino fighters. In 2018 he finally stepped up and easily stopped former world champion Immanuel Naidjala, before scoring a TKO win against former Inoue opponent Kohei Kono. His momentum was growing and he was 17-0 (14) when he entered the WBSS.
Sadly for Moloney his unbeaten record would go in October 2018 when he lost the aforementioned split decision to Emmanuel Rodriguez, who was the then IBF champion. This was a very competitive loss, and a great showing by Moloney, who enhanced his reputation in defeat. He had gone from being an unknown outside of the Asia Pacific scene to a man regarded as a legitimate world class Bantamweight.
Following the loss to Rodriguez we've seen Moloney pick up 4 wins, all by stoppage. They included a win this past June against Leonardo Baez in what was Moloney's Las Vegas debut, and was partly responsible for allowing this bout to take place.
In the ring Moloney is a really, really good boxer. He's got solid power, though not the destructive power of Inoue, he's a very nice mover, very fluid with his foot and hand speed, and a fantastic combination puncher. Every show he throws looks stinging and he's happy to let them go on the inside or the outside. He's also very good at getting in, letting shots go, and getting out. On a punch for punch basis he's less offensively impressive than Inoue, but is still a very good boxer, who has rebuilt brilliantly following his loss to Rodriguez.
As with Inoue there are questions over Moloney. For example what's his chin really like? This is the first time he's taken on a world class puncher, so can he handle it? Will he be able to handle such a big occasion? Has he got a plan B, C and D? As he'll need them against a man like Inoue.
We've seen some fan try to downplay this fight. We'll be honest, we would have preferred the Inoue Vs Casimero bout, of course we would. However Moloney is a world class fighter, he's a better boxer than Casimero, though a much less dangerous puncher and a less experienced fighter. Moloney has got the ability to test Inoue, push Inoue and really ask questions of the "Monster", especially if Inoue is rusty or feeling the effects of last year's war with Donaire.
We expect quite a slow start, with Inoue taking center ring and Moloney showing a lot of caution to Inoue's power. A lot of respect from both. By round 2 or 3 we would expect Inoue to be putting his foot on the gas, pressing more, and cutting the distance. When that happens his brutal body shots will kick in, and we'll see Inoue begin to grind down Moloney.
We would be surprised if that was where Moloney moved to plan B, as mentioned earlier he'll need it. It'll need to be a really good plan B however, and we're not sure it'll be good enough. He'll need to cope with Inoue's power and pressure. Sadly we see that power and pressure, eventually causing cracks, and those cracks widening, until Inoue forces a stoppage somewhere in the middle of the bout.
Prediction - TKO6 Inoue
After a few weeks low level action for Asian fighters this coming Saturday sees things step up in a big way with 3 world title bouts taking place on the same day, including a female world title fight in Japan and a Bantamweight world title fight in the US. Of those title bouts the most interesting comes from the UK as unified Light Welterweight champion Josh Taylor (16-0, 12) defends his WBA and IBF titles against little known Thai challenger Downua Ruawaiking (16-0, 13), also known as Apinunm Khongsong.
On paper this is really well matched between two men with almost identical numbers on their record. In reality however the bout is widely regarded as a mismatch with the 29 year old champion being regarded as a very clear favourite, and the Thai challenger being an almost unknown, despite entering as the IBF mandatory title challenger. Despite that this is certainly not a gimme and could be a very interesting bout, at least for a few rounds.
The talented Josh Taylor has been a rare fast-tracked British fighter, who knew he was good, believed in himself and avoided the often tedious record padding that many British fighters have. In just his 11th bout he stopped former world champion Miguel Vazquez, becoming the first man to stop the tricky Mexican. Less than a year after being Vazquez he had notched a solid win over Viktor Postol and began his campaign in the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS), stopping Ryan Martin. By the end of 2019 he had managed to win the WBSS as well as unifying the IBF and WBA titles and take the unbeaten records of Ivan Baranchyk and Regis Prograis, build his reputation massively.
In the ring Taylor can box, brawl, bring and fight on the inside, despite what Andre Ward may think. He can sometimes be too willing to engage on an inside war, when sometimes he would fair better at mid-range. He's a very talented boxer, has solid hand speed, spiteful power, great work rate, good stamina, impressive physical strength and proved his toughness in a war with Prograis last time out. The real question with Taylor is how many hard battles does he had in him, and he's already had a few, and whether out of the ring issues will become a bigger issue than they have so far. Those out of the ring issues include being arrested in December and splitting with his long term trainer in January.
At 24 years old the Thai challenger is a youngster and is very much a man who has gotten his shot due to a single big win in an eliminator, rather than a string of strong wins. After turning professional in 2016 he was matched relatively softly, with his best wins coming over Adam Diu Abdulhamid and Sonny Katiandagho. Having won 14 in a row the Thai finally stepped up in 2019 and shone as he knocked out the teak tough Akihiro Kondo in an IBF world title eliminator, to earn this shot. That was a result that saw many in Asia sit up and take note of the Thai, especially given Kondo's notorious tough chin that had seen him last 12 rounds with the heavy handed Sergey Lipinets.
Downua has not fought anything close to the level of competition that Josh Taylor has fought to, though he has passed the eye test, for the most part. He's a big, rangy guy at the weight, who's listed at 5'10" though often looks bigger. He looks very relaxed in the ring and like a man with a lot more experience than his record suggests. His hand speed is relatively solid and he does like using straight punches at range, with his jab being one of his key weapons and he does have nice foot speed and movement. Sadly he can be seen dropping his hands and backing up in straight lines at times. Offensively he looks good, both at range and up close, with his KO of Kondo coming from an uppercut, but he does make a lot of mistakes defensively. Mistakes he has been able to get away with due to the low level of competition he's been in with.
We do see Downua posing some questions of Taylor, especially given Taylor's change in trainer, and likely a change in style. For 3 or 4 rounds the length, movement and jab of Downua will make things frustrating for the Scottish star. When Taylor finds his timing however we suspect Taylor will put his foot on the gas and begin to break down the Thai and score a stoppage over the Thai in the second half of the fight.
Interestingly this is likely to be one of Taylor's last fights at 140lbs with talk being that he will seek a 4 title unification next year and then potentially move up in weight, to join the ranks at Welterweight.
Prediction - TKO8 Taylor
On March 3rd we'll see unbeaten WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart (20-0, 7) make his next defense, as he takes on former Japanese national champion Norihito Tanaka (19-7, 10) in Nakhon Sawan. For Tanaka this will be his first world title bout, whilst the local star looks to make his 8th defense of the WBA title, which he won in 2016 when he beat Byron Rojas, in their first bout.
Of the two men it's obvious that Knockout CP Freshmart with the more recognisable name. The Thai has one of the most memorable names in the sport, and has also had a long, if not particularly impressive, reign as the WBA champion. Prior to becoming a boxer he was a successful Muay Thai fighter, who turned to boxing in 2012. He quickly rose through the ranks an claimed the WBA "interim" title in 2014 before taking the full version of the title 20 months later. Sadly since winning the WBA belt his competition has, on the whole, been unspectacular with wins over faded veterans, like Shin Ono, Go Odaira and Xiong Zhao Zhong, and pre-prime Filipino fighters like Toto Landero and ArAr Andales.
Although named "Knockout" CP Freshmart the Thai hasn't really shown any power since moving to world class. He has gone 12-0 (2) in since fighting in his first "interim" world title fighter, and could mockingly now be called "Unanimous Decision" CP Freshmart. Not only has Knockout shown a lack of power but also a really boring style. He seems capable of setting a good pace, for a few rounds early on, but as the bouts progress he becomes more and more dull to watch, with hugging, wrestling and messy action becoming the norm for his bouts. Although highly skilled there is a view that he has lost interest in the sport, and that really feels like the case in recent bouts, in what have been some awful bouts. The one thing that Knockout does have going in his favour is is that he appears to have a good relationship with judges, who have often given him rounds that he may not have deserved, especially when he fights in Thailand.
The 35 year old Tanaka is someone who is coming to the end of his career, though has been riding a small wave of success in recent years.
Tanaka debuted in 2005 and won his first 9 bouts, before losing 3 of his next 4. That sounds bad but included losses to Ryoichi Taguchi, Kenichi Horikawa and Masatate Tsuji. Another loss not too much later, to Akira Yaegashi in a Japanese title fight was followed by yet another loss, this time to Takashi Kunishige. After those losses he was 13-5 (7) and only fought once more before walking away from the sport in late 2011. It would be more than 5 years before he returned and since then he has rebuilt going 5-2 (3) with notable domestic wins over Yuto Takahashi, Takumi Sakae and Shin Ono, as well as avenging one of his 2 losses, a controversial one to Naoya Haruguchi.
In the ring Tanaka is a sneaky good fighter, a veteran who uses smart movement to draw mistakes, drawing opponents in and countering. He's really small for a Minimumweight, but really crafty, and very much a smart fighter who punishes opponents for their slip ups. Although not a puncher he does have enough sting on his shots to do damage, as he did against Shin Ono, and given he often catches opponents coming in those shots have the opponent's weight on them as well.
One thing we need to mention before we talk about how we expect the fight to go is the history of Japanese challengers in Thailand. In more than 20 world title bouts in Thailand, no Japanese fighter has ever won. History is dead set against Tanaka, as is his age, and the questionable officiating of bouts featuring Knockout.
We expect to see this start quite well, Knockout fights tend to, but after 3 or 4 rounds this will have descended into a mauling affair. We wouldn't be surprised if Tanaka has the skills and movement to take a couple of the early rounds, but as the bout progresses into a gruelling mess we expect to see Knockout convince the judges to give him rounds.
We do not expect this to be pretty, we do not expect this to be exciting and sadly, given Knockout's last few bouts, we do not expect to see the title change hands.
Prediction - UD12 Knockout
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
On December 23rd Japan's Ryota Murata (15-2, 12) will look to make his first defense of the WBA Middleweight title, as he takes on hard hitting Canadian foe Steven Butler (28-1-1, 24). The bout will be the main event of a triple header in Yokohama and is expected to draw in an immense TV audience in Japan, as well as a solid audience from external markets, with the bout being shown around the world. For Murata the bout is a chance to claim a notable win and move towards some huge bouts in 2020, with talk of potential bouts against the likes of Saul Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin and Terence Crawford in the near future. As for Butler the bout is a huge opportunity to become a star, and go from contender to champion.
Of the two men it's Murata who is the star. What many don't realise is just how much of a star he is in Japan. He is probably the only man with a bigger fan base in the country than Naoya Inoue. We all know Inoue is a star, and the fact Murata matches him shows what a draw he is. He's a former amateur standout, who famously won a gold medal at the London Olympics in 2012 and also won a silver medal at the World Amateur Championships in 2011. He is the first Japanese fighter to go from winning Olimpic gold to winning a world title as a professional, and he is also only the second ever Japanese fighter to win a world title at Middleweight, following Shinji Takehara.
For those who haven't haven't seen much of Murata, he is technically quite basic. He's a a come forward pressure fighter who marches forward behind a tight guard, with a very powerful jab and works well on the inside. At times however he is inconsistent. His 2018 loss to Rob Brant saw him slowly following Brant around the ring, never getting out of second gear, never letting his hands go with any consistency and never fully committing to his strengths. He tried to box the boxer, and he made to look foolish. In their rematch however he used his jab, his strength and his power and battered Brant to the point the referee needed to step in. It was only a glimpse of what Murata can do, but it did show that Murata can look good when he's aggressive. He takes a shot well, he's strong, he's powerful and when he fights to his potential he's really tough to beat. It's just a shame we rarely see him fighting at his best. At 33 years old he now needs to fight to his potential, as any slip is probably going to kill any hope of getting a super fight.
At 24 years old Butler is a rising youngster, with a power punching style and strong promotional backing. Butler likes to fight on the outside, using his freakishly long arms and reach to keep the bout at range. Although he's not actually a big Middleweight he does look like a rangy Middleweight, though that may be exaggerated by the fact some of his opponents have been small, making him look bigger than he is. One thing that is really obvious from watching him, no matter who he was fighting, was the fact that whilst he is heavy handed his shots don't look particularly crisp. His power is more thudding, dead heavy hands, rather than explosive or elastic power. He often looks pushing his shots a touch. More worrying than his punching technique is the fact he really is open when he fires off shots. A top class fighter will counter him and time him, as Vitalii Kopylenko did earlier this year. As well as his openness he has also been hurt to the body, and Kopylenko actually dropped him with a body shot.
Despite the flaws with Butler he and his team are confident. They travelled to Japan more than 2 weeks before the fight, and Butler has certainly had time to acclimatise to the Japanese conditions, the change in time zone, and the weather. What that won't help with is the atmosphere, and here he is very much going into the dragons den. Whilst Japanese fans are typically respectful to visitors, they are still very behind their local hero's and they will be there cheering on Murata. For Butler to not have the crowd support could be an issue. Especially when he's having to fight off the pressure of Murata, who will be looking to get to his body and take away his legs.
Butler's power might look impressive on paper, but the reality is that this is a huge step up in class for him, and it's hard to imagine that power having the same effect on Murata that it's had on Butler's previous foes. Instead we see Butler starting with a lot of self belief, but having that self belief chipped away at. By the middle rounds Murata's body shots, stiff jab up top, and his pressure, will have destroyed the belief of Butler and will then destroy his dreams.
Prediction - TKO8 Murata
One of the big break outs from Asia in the last 12 months or so is Chinese fighter Can Xu (17-2, 3) who hadn't made his US debut until September 2018 but has since become a fighter with a genuine feel good story, an exciting style and a a charming personality. It's those traits that saw him win over fight fans in December, when he claimed the WBA "regular" Featherweight title with an upset win over Jesus M Rojas in Houston.
On November 23rd Xu returns to the US to make his second defense of the title, as he takes on the unbeaten Manny Robles III (18-0, 8) in what looks set to be a very fun fight between two men who aren't known for their power, but should be capable of putting on a real action fight.
In January the then 24 year old Xu, who is now 25, became the first Chinese man to win a world title by dethroning someone. Whilst the belt was only the "regular" title it was still an historical first for Chinese boxing. The fact he did it against a feared puncher like Rojas, and seemed to beat Rojas at his own game, of making fights a war, just just even more impressive. He pushed Rojas and down the stretch he out worked Rojas in one of the many forgotten thrillers of 2019. He would return to the ring 4 months later and stop former WBA Super Bantamweight champion Shun Kubo in China.
Although not a big puncher Xu is a real danger man. He's physically very strong, has an incredible work rate and toughness, and overwhelms opponents. His power isn't as much of an issue as some would suspect, though it is worth noting he has stopped 3 of his last 5 after failing to score a single stoppage in his first 14 bouts. Given his style we do expect him to grind people down in the later stages of 10 and 12 rounds, where he simply grinds the fight out of them.
Robles, like Xu, is 25 years old and isn't known for his power though that's not to say he can't punch, just that his power really isn't his strength. He's technically a cute boxer, with a nice jab, nice work on the inside and good pressure. His work rate is a lot less than that of Xu but it's also a lot more clearly defined. At his heart he looks to be a fighter who sometimes gets lost between two styles though, not sure if he should be a warrior on the inside or a boxer on the outside and this is certainly going to be an issue as he takes on fighters who know their own identity and fight their own styles.
Whilst the fighting identity of Robles is an issue he also doesn't appear to have the greatest of engines. Both of his completed 10 rounds have seen him only just manage to get over the line with split decisions. If you can't punch and your engine isn't great you're going to be in real trouble against Xu. Notably Robles has also only had 10 rounds of in ring action over the last year, with ring rust being another potential issue for the American challenger.
Although Robles is a talented fighter we see Xu just being too big, too strong and too hungry. Xu will drag Robles into his fight, and we have seen Robles dragged into a war before, and out work him. The bout will test Robles' toughness though we wouldn't be surprised at all if that toughness wasn't enough to see him survive the 12 rounds with the Chinese "Monster".
The pressure, work rate and strength of Xu will be too much, especially down the stretch.
Prediction- TKO11 Xu
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
The most anticipated fight in the Japanese boxing scene takes place on November 7th at the Saitama Super Arena, as Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire finally meet in the finals of the Bantamweight WBSS Tournament, for the WBA (Super), IBF & The Ring World championships as well as the prestigious Ali Trophy.
Naoya Inoue (18-0 / 16 KOs) is considered to be one of the best boxers that have come out of the land of the rising sun. His power, agility and precision have brought him immense success, while he is already ranked in the top 5 (P4P) list by The Ring, ESPN, the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and others.
Before becoming a pro, he had a relatively short but rather accomplished amateur career, amassing 75 victories in 81 outings, with 48 of them being stoppages. Naoya won numerous (inter) high school tournaments, earned the gold at the 2011 Indonesia Presidential Cup and became the All Japan Light Flyweight champion, the same year. He also placed high at the Asian & World championships.
In 2012, the Monster finally made his pro debut and quickly made himself a guy to look out for. After going 3-0, in less than a year, he was set to face Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4) for the Japanese Light Flyweight title. Taguchi, at 18-1, not only was he the more experienced of the two, but he was also a world ranked fighter. Inoue displayed much aggressiveness, taking control of the fight from the opening round. We saw a lot of his body work at display, which became a signature strategy as his career progressed. After 10 rounds of action, the youngster took a clear unanimous decision win (one of only the two times a fight of his has gone the distance) and the belt. Taguchi eventually went on to become the WBA, IBF & The Ring Light Flyweight World champion.
Just 4 months later, he fought Jerson Mancio (18-6) for the vacant OPBF Light Flyweight title. Naoya’s offense was too fast for the Filipino. He weakened his opponent with body shots, before the referee was forced to stop the fight in the 5th as Mancio was getting repeatedly tagged.
It wasn’t long after that Inoue received his first world title shot against Adrian Hernandez (30-5) on April of 2014. The 2 time WBC Light Flyweight World champion had marked 4 successful title defenses coming into this one. Both strong body punchers, Hernandez seemed to be gaining ground in the 4th round but Naoya quickly bounced back with some heavy shots of his own. It was an even match until the 6th when the Japanese Monster dropped El Confesor with a lighting fast right hook, who despite getting up, refused to continue. As a result, Inoue was declared the World champion at 21 years of age, in only his 6th professional bout.
Inoue defended the WBC title only once against Wittawas Basapean (34-11), before moving 2 weight classes up and within the same year, he challenged Omar Andres Narvaez (49-3) for the WBO Super Flyweight World championship. Narvaez, a 1999 Pan American Games winner, enjoyed a 7 year reign with the WBO Flyweight World title (16 defenses) prior to winning the Super Flyweight strap, which he had held for 4 years at the time (11 defenses). This was meant to be the Japanese fighter’s toughest test yet. Instead, it turned out to be one of his most dominant performances, as he dropped the veteran 4 times in just 2 rounds, sealing the deal with the liver shot, to become a 2 division World champion. That was the sole KO loss in Narvaez’s career.
The Monster remained champion for 3.5 years, reaching an impressive number of 7 title defenses. Warlito Parrenas (26-10), Karoon Jarupianlerd (44-9), Ricardo Rodriguez (16-7) and Antonio Nieves (19-2) were easy work for him, as neither of them were close to his level. David Carmona (21-6) did better, simply because Naoya injured his right hand during the match. Still, he managed to outclass his opponent, even put him down in the last round, earning his second and last decision victory. Yoan Boyeaux (41-6), another promising challenger, was on a 31 fight winning streak (close to 5 years unbeaten) and with 26 KOs under his belt. This also ended up being a one sided beatdown, with Inoue scoring 4 knockdowns in less than 8 minutes.
His best challenge was against the 2 time WBA Super Flyweight World champion Kohei Kono (33-12) on December of 2016. Kono came out strong in the beginning, connecting with some good punches, surprising Inoue for a while. Before you know it, this was turned into a wild brawl with both men bringing the heat and exciting the fans. All that changed in the 6th when Naoya landed a perfect left hook that floored the former champ and proceeded to finish him off a couple of seconds later, putting an end to this thrilling encounter.
In 2018, Inoue decided to enter the Bantamweight ranks and immediately challenged the WBA (Regular) title holder Jamie McDonnell (30-3). The Yorkshire native hadn’t suffered a single loss in a decade (22 fights). A former British, Commonwealth, European & IBF Bantamweight World champion, McDonnell was his best opponent since Narvaez. The Monster, true to his nickname, overwhelmed the champ with powerful shots, dropping him in the very 1st round. McDonnell managed to stand up again, but found himself trapped against the ropes as Naoya delivered a lethal flurry to get the KO.
After the fight, the Japanese superstar announced his participation at the WBSS and in October of last year, he was matched against the former WBA (Super) World champion Juan Carlos Payano (21-3). In what was voted as one of the best knockouts of 2018 (#1 by The Ring Magazine), Inoue nailed him with a straight right and put his lights out, 70 seconds into the fight.
He proceeded to ruin Emmanuel Rodriguez’s (19-1) perfect record, by knocking him down thrice in the 2nd round, securing the IBF World championship in the process. McDonnell, Payano and Rodriguez had never been stopped before in their entire career.
Naoya is finally a step away from fulfilling his destiny and winning the Ali Trophy, but in order to accomplish that, he has to go through one of the most successful fighters that has come out of the Philippines.
Nonito Donaire (40-5 / 26 KOs) has been a boxer for over 20 years. Beginning his amateur career back in the 90s, the Filipino had won 3 U.S. national championships, as well as the 1999 International Junior Olympics gold medal. His record stood at 68 wins and only 8 losses.
As a pro, he went 17-1 before challenging Vic Darchinyan (43-9) in 2007, for the IBF Flyweight World title. The Armenian was 28-0 at the time and had been the reigning champion since 2004, boasting 6 successful title defenses. Donaire established his dominance from the opening round, with the left punch being the difference maker. He kept hitting hard, giving Darchinyan the biggest test of his career. As he was trying to close the distance, Nonito connected with a thunderous counter left, right in the jaw, ending the champ’s undefeated reign. Donaire, not only captured the World title for the 1st time, but also the “Knockout of the year” and “Upset of the year” awards from The Ring Magazine.
The Filipino Flash defended his belt 3 times, against Luis Maldonado (36-15), in what was an one sided beatdown, Moruti Mthalane (38-2), due to a cut, and the then unbeaten Raul Martinez (30-4), who he dropped thrice. In all of his matches, Donaire had showcased incredible speed and timing, especially with his left hooks & uppercuts and of course his counter shots, which all have been proven to be his favourite weapons, even to this day.
His second reign began in 2009 when he won the interim WBA Super Flyweight title, after a hard hitting battle with the former champion Rafael Concepcion (18-8) at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, in Las Vegas. Nonito then made short work of Manuel Vargas (32-11) who seemed to be out of his depth. In the 3rd round, he was almost dancing around the former interim WBO Strawweight champion, while throwing punches, before finishing him off with a left uppercut. He also defended against Hernan Marquez (43-10) where once again, the left uppercut sealed the deal.
Donaire made his Bantamweight debut against Olympic Bronze medalist and former WBA (Regular) champion Volodymyr Sydorenko (22-3) back in 2010 and looked better than ever. He scored a knockdown in the 1st, courtesy of a right cross. Another one in the 3rd with a left hook and dropped him for the final time in the 4th with a right straight. By the end, Sydorenko’s face was a bloody mess, full of bruises after the all the punishment he had to endure. That was his only stoppage loss and last fight as well.
On February 19 of 2011, Nonito challenged 3 division World champion Fernando Montiel (54-6) for the WBC & WBO Bantamweight titles. Going into this one, both men were ranked amongst the top 10 boxers in the world. The Filipino Flash threw one of the best punches of his career, as he connected with a counter left in the 2nd round, dropping Cochulito hard to the canvas. Even though he got back up, he was clearly out on his feet and after 2 more shots, the referee stopped the fight.
His inaugural defense of the belts was against the aforementioned Omar Andres Narvaez (49-3) who was coming into this match with a perfect 35-0 record. Not the most exciting performance from Donaire, but he still managed to outbox the 2 division World champion and win a wide unanimous decision.
Moving up again a weight class, and in February of 2012, he fought the former WBO Super Bantamweight World champion Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (25-7) for the same vacant title. It was a rather close contest, during which Vasquez was dropped for the very first time of his career. When the final bell rang, Donaire was crowned a 4 division king.
Riding all that momentum, his next goal was to become the undisputed champion at Super Bantamweight. He first unified with the IBF champion Jeffrey Mathebula (27-5) in July of the same year. A much more impressive showing than his last 2 outings.
Next on the list was the WBC champion Toshiaki Nishioka (39-5). The WBC Diamond, The Ring and the lineal titles were also on the line. Nishioka played a defensive game, offering no significant offense of his own. Donaire utilized his patented left uppercut to score a knockdown in the 6th, but hurt his hand in the process, forcing him to rely only on his right for the rest of the match. The Japanese fighter finally put together some good combinations in the 9th, trapping Nonito against the ropes, but still got dropped with a counter straight right and shortly after the fight was stopped.
In what was basically an exhibition of his speed and power, Donaire defended his belts against fellow 4 division World champion Jorge Arce (64-8) in December, scoring 3 knockdowns and retiring another fighter once more.
His first loss in 12 years came on April of 2013, as he failed in his final unification fight with the WBA (Super) champion & 2 time Olympic Gold medallist Guillermo Rigondeaux (19-1). He still managed though to land a left hook in the 9th round, putting the Olympian down but not out.
The Filipino Flash bounced back with another stoppage victory over now 2 division champion Vic Darchinyan, before graduating to Featherweight and facing Simpiwe Vetyeka (30-4) for the WBA (Super) title. To no one’s surprise, the left hook did the trick again in the 4th, before the fight abruptly ended a round later, due to an accidental head clash. His reign however was short lived, as he lost the championship to Nicholas Walters (26-1) only 5 months later. Despite a strong start, Walters proved to be a much tougher opponent than expected, ending Donaire’s sole Featherweight title run, giving him the 1st (and thus far only) KO loss of his illustrious career.
In 2015, Nonito decided to return to Super Bantamweight and convincingly defeated William Prado (22-5), Anthony Settoul (24-8) and Cesar Juarez (24-7) in a fight of the year candidate, becoming the WBO champion for the 2nd time. He only defended the title once, against Zsolt Bedak (25-2), before losing it to the then undefeated Jessie Magdaleno (27-1).
He tried his luck at Featherweight one last time but, besides one minor victory, he came up short against Carl Frampton (26-2) when they met for the interim WBO championship in 2018. Even though he did throw the best punches and seemingly did more damage than his opponent, Frampton played a smart game, not engaging in any big exchanges, while scoring points which in the end earned him the strap.
Most recently, Donaire moved back to Bantamweight, in order to participate in the WBSS. In the opening round of the tournament, he clashed with the then undefeated WBA (Super) World champion Ryan Burnett (20-1). That was the Filipino’s first Bantamweight match since 2011. An injury, which seemed to have been caused from one of Donaire’s left punches to the body, rendered Burnett unable to continue, thus declaring him the new champion. Then earlier this year, the scheduled double title bout, with the WBO champion Zolani Tete (28-3), was cancelled, due to Tete suffering a shoulder injury. Instead, Nonito defended against last minute replacement Stephon Young (18-2), who he knocked out with a decapitating left hook. Now Donaire has the chance to once again be recognised as one of the best boxers in the world today, by winning his final fight this coming Thursday night in Japan. But this task is easier said than done.
It’s easy to be amazed by the careers of these men. Both have been in the ring with some of the best boxers from all over the world and have gathered countless championships. However this fight might be their most significant one yet. Their paths share many similarities but at the same time are completely opposite. For Inoue, it’s a chance to become a global star. For Donaire, it could very well be his last hurrah. After 20 years into the sport, the Filipino Flash has won world titles in 5 different weight classes. The experience factor is definitely on his side. Unfortunately, that also means that he’s not a young fighter anymore. His speed and stamina are no longer what they used to.
On the other hand, Inoue is at his prime. An unstoppable force that has rained havoc in every one of his opponents, with none of them being able to even score a single knockdown against him. Power, agility, precision, timing. Four attributes that once were used to describe Donaire. As that wasn’t enough, the Monster has looked even more spectacular in this division than in any other one he has been in. His entire Bantamweight run has been a total of 7 minutes and 21 seconds. That’s how long it took him to knockout 3 world champions. Whereas Donaire’s latest Bantamweight run can be described with only one word: Luck ! Burnett’s injury and Tete having to pull out of the tournament are the key reasons why he has made it to the finals. Still, this doesn’t mean he isn’t a dangerous opponent. His power is still here. His timing is still here. Inoue has to be careful of Donaire’s left hand and counter strikes, at all times. But, in the end of the day, the Japanese Monster seems to be in a completely different level from everyone else. For all of his achievements and accomplishments, make no mistake that, Donaire is coming in as the underdog.
So the final question is this: will Inoue demolish another world champion on his way to superstardom or can Donaire’s experience and luck bring him the big win one last time ? We will find out on November 7th, when these 2 warriors clash in Saitama !
The Light Heavyweight division is one with a lot of interesting match ups that could be made, and a very interesting title picture. Sadly though we do, even with the talent in the division, get the occasional bout that doesn't really appeal. On October 12th we get one such bout as WBA champion Dmitry Bivol (16-0, 11) takes on the unheralded Lenin Castillo (20-2-1, 15) from the Dominican Republic.
On paper this doesn't look awful, though in reality it is a step backwards for Bivol, and is a long way from the type of bouts fans had been hoping for from him. After a run of wins over top 15 type guys likes Sullivan Barrera, Isaac Chilemba, Jean Pascal and Joe Smith Jr the hope was for Bivol to face one of the division's top, top fighters. Bouts against the likes of Sergey Kovalek, Artur Beterbiev, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Gilberto Ramirez, Jesse Hard or Marcus Browne. As for Castillo it's a huge opportunity for him, and ever a good performance in a loss could enhance his profile going forward.
The 28 year old Bivol, who was born in Kyrgyzstan, has been on the radar of fans for a few years and he was aggressively matched early on in his career. Unlike many fighters he didn't need easy fights, and instead every one of his pro bouts has come against an opponent with a winning record. When he claimed the WBA "interim" title in May 2016, in just his 7th bout, it was little surprise and since then he has continued to pile up the wins. Sadly though as his competition has stepped up his entertainment level has dropped off.
Early in his career Bivol was an technically excellent, aggressive fighter who hunted the stoppage. He through a lot and although it seemed like he was one paced it looked like he wanted to entertain and he wanted to go for stoppages. That was incredibly obvious against Felipe Romero where he turned the screw in the final round despite being in a very clear lead. Sadly since then Bivol has shown more of a focus on winning rather than wowing, taking decision wins, instead of impressing. The focus towards taking the win has made his fights rather samey and dull, and the early excitement of his career has began to fade. Rapidly. He's still incredibly talented, with lovely technical ability, and a solid work rate, but his performances just look uninspired and boring.
To many Castillo will be a bit of an unknown, but the 31 year old has actually been around the pro since 2009 and is well travelled, with his international debut coming in 2011. Since his debut he has fought almost half of his career outside of the Dominican republic, with the vast majority of his non-domestic bouts taking place in the US. The most notable of those bouts was his 2018 bout with Marcus Browne, when he lost a clear decision to Browne but showed enough to prove himself as a very capable fighter. In the Browne fight Castillo looked like a very big and strong fighter, with solid power, dropping Browne in round 5, and nice hand speed. The one thing he seemed to lack was real ambition and work rate. When he let his shots fly he looked dangerous, but was far too lazy.
Given that this is a huge chance for Castillo we'd hope to see him have more ambition than he did against Browne. If he does than he has the size, power and physical strength to give Bivol real issues. Bivol has the edge in work rate, technique and speed, and we suspect that will be the key, but this is unlikely to be a walk in the park for the champion.
We expect to see Bivol using good in and out movement whilst landing with his quicker shots, but we really wouldn't be surprised at all if Castillo has moments against him, and takes more than just a round or two. Bivol's consistency should take him to a clear decision, but this is a legitimate test against a man who will have reach and height advantages and will ask questions of Bivol.
Prediction - UD12 Bivol
The Light Flyweight division has been one of the most interesting in recent years thanks to the great match ups we've been getting, and the consistency of those match ups. Unlike many other division's we've seen very few "stay" busy fights from the top guys in the division, and instead we've seen champions defending against top-10 challengers on a regular basis. Adding to that is the fact the top 10 Light Flyweights are all consistently good fighters and aren't there to make up the numbers.
This coming Tuesday we see another notable world title bout at 108lbs, as WBA "super" and Ring magazine champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (13-0, 9) defends his title against mandatory challenger Tetsuya Hisada (34-9-2, 20). The bout is not only an all-Japanese world title bout but more specifically a bout between two men from Osaka, despite the fact Kyoguchi is currently fighting out of Tokyo.
Coming in to the bout the clear favourite will be the champion. The unbeaten Kyoguchi, who fights out of the Watanabe gym, has been a professional since April 2016, and is already a 2-weight world champion, having won the IBF Minimumweight title before moving up to the Light Flyweight division. Early in his career he looked like an aggressive monster, applying intense pressure on his opponents and breaking them down with hard, accurate, shots on the inside. Since then he has developed a more rounded boxer-puncher style, though still has the ability to pressure on the inside. His power and body shots have proven to be his key tools, and were invaluable in his title win back in December over Hekkie Budler. Since winning the title he has defended it once, beating Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart this past June, whilst angling for unification bouts later in the year.
At just 25 years old Kyoguchi is seen as one of the true faces of the future for Japanese boxing, along with the likes of the more well known Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka and fellow Light Flyweight Kenshiro. He's proven to be fun to watch, but hasn't quite caught the imagination of the Japanese fans in the same was as Inoue, or shown the willingness to move through the weights the way Tanaka has. Also Kyoguchi's power, whilst still solid, hasn't really career up to world class. He was once 6-0 (6), but in world title bout he's 5-0 (2) and is 7-0 (3) since his destructive start to the professional ranks.
Whilst Kyoguchi is a rising star the same can't be said if Hisada, however the challenger has been on a rise of sorts the last few years. The 34 year old was once 8-4 in the pro ranks, and just 5 years ago he was 21-9-2 (11). Back then it seemed the best he would ever do would be to compete on the regional title scene. He has however turned his entire career around was a 13 fight winning run, claiming and defending the Japanese national title and scoring a number of solid wins. He avenged previous losses to Kenichi Horikawa, stopped former title challenger Atsushi Kakutani, and scored solid domestic wins over the likes of Shun Kosaka, Hayato Yamaguchi and Koki Ono. Of course those wins are well below world level, but they are still strong victories and evidence that Hisada has developed with age and is in great form.
In the ring Hisada is less of a destructive force than Kyoguchi, though has stopped 9 of his last 13, but is a fighter who hits solidly, knows his way around the ring and is a smart, crafty veteran. He's an aggressive fighter, who likes to apply pressure behind his footwork, has under-rated speed and movement, but is rather conservative in terms of output, realising it was more important to know when to punch rather than just punching.
When these two get in the ring we're expecting a great crowd reaction, sadly for Hisada that reaction won't help him cope with the pressure, power and physicality of Kyoguchi. Instead we suspect that Kyoguchi will get inside, will work the body of Hisada and will, eventually, wear down the challenger. Hisada can fight, and is very solid on the front foot, but if he gets pushed back, as we expect to see here, he tends to struggle. With Kyoguchi being a fantastic body puncher we think that it'll be the body work of the champion that does the damage and, eventually, leads to him stopping Hisada.
Prediction - TKO8 Kyoguchi
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.