Over the last few years we have seen more and more Japanese fighters making their mark on the international scene. This has been, in part, due to the ease with which we can now watch Japanese fighters in action. Gone are the days of Key Hole TV and in are days of HD streaming and VOD services like Boxing Raise, which have allowed us to follow Japanese fighters from their early bouts right through to the point where they are world champions.
One such fighter has been Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9), who had much of his early career shown on Boxing Raise before becoming a staple on TV broadcasts, thanks to Watanabe's relationship with TBS. He is now set to take the next step in his professional career, following the likes of Naoya Inoue and Kazuto Ioka, and make his US debut. He does that this coming weekend when he defends his WBA "super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight titles against Mexican youngster Axel Aragon Vega (14-3-1, 8), in what should be a break out bout for the exciting Japanese fighter in front of a new audience on DAZN.
For those who have followed Kyoguchi over the year they'll know what to expect from the cheeky looking Japanese fighter. The 27 year old turned professional in 2016, following his brother Ryuto Kyoguchi to the professional ranks, and he raced through the rankings. Within a year of his debut Hiroto had already won the OPBF Minimumweight, the Asian equivalent to the European (EBU) title, and had looked like a mini-Mike Tyson with an aggressive, pressure fighter style that was based around his pressure and combinations. Just 5 months later he claimed his first world title, beating Jose Argumedo for the IBF Minimumweight belt. His reign was a short one, with only two defense, though they did include a notable TKO win over Carlos Buitrago who is still a relevant contender and recently gave Elwin Soto a competitive bout in 2020.
In 2018 Kyoguchi became a 2-weight champion, stopping Hekkie Budler in Macau for the WBA Light Flyweight "super" title, which he has defended twice, beating both Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart and Tetsuya Hisada by clear, though hard fought, unanimous decision. The latets of those defenses came in October 2019 and he has been out of the ring ever since. He was supposed to defend his title last year, though had two bouts fall through. The first of those was in May, which was cancelled due to Covid19 putting a freeze on boxing, and the other was in November, when Kyoguchi himself tested positive for Covid19 cancelling the bout at the 11th hour.
Early in his career Kyoguchi did look a really destructive force. He was a pressure fighter with a hyper aggressive style, a focus on pressure, combination punching and getting close, unleashing his power shots and breaking people down in eye catching, fan friendly fashion. The move to Light Flyweight has seen him face tougher, bigger, stronger men who haven't wilted under his pressure like his early opponents, but he is still a pressure fighter at heart. We have seen him show some development and patience, and develop his boxing skills, but at his best he is still a front foot pressure fighter, who cuts the ring off well, and loves to get to work up close. It's his work in the pocket that is his best and his body shots are brutal. Unlike some pressure fighters out there he set them up properly, coming forward behind a tight guard, good footwork and a stiff, hurtful, jab. He also starts fast with his pressure, rather than build it through the fight, draining opponents mentally from the first bell.
In the opposite corner to Kyoguchi will be 20 year old challenger Axel Aragon Vega, a Mexican fighter who debuted in 2016 and has built himself a solid looking record, but on which lacks in substance. His first 10 wins all came against fighters with little experience, or losing records, and his first bout of any note was actually a loss, in 2017 to Juan Toscano. He did bounce back from that, with 8 straight wins, but suffered back to back set backs, with a draw to Edvin Ramirez Contreras and loss to Wilfredo Mendez. He bounced back again, with 3 low key wins, before a rematch with Mendez, for the WBO Minimumweight title, saw Vega suffer his third loss, this time by split technical decision. Since that loss he has fought once, beating veteran Saul Juarez in August 2020.
In the ring Vega is a tiny fighter, standing at around 5', but he's also a quick, skilled and tough one. Against Saul Juarez he looked sharp with his punches, he looked light on his feet and drew mistakes from Juarez which he countered. Sadly however that botu really doesn't tell us too much given how past his best Juarez looked, and whilst it's easy to be impressed by Vega it does need to be noted that Juarez looked beyond shot with his movement. To credit to Vega he did look smooth, he knew his way around the ring and has got nice hand speed. Sadly other footage of Vega isn't of the best quality, though it is clear he's a talented fighter and really does have plenty of skills.
Whilst we think Vega is a very talented fighter he is also a very small fighter, he's a light puncher and he looks to be a natural Minimumweight who will be taking on a strong Light Flyweight here. It seems unlikely he will have the physicality to get Kyoguchi's respect and will need to burn a lot of energy to stay at a safe distance against the champion. A champion who is known as a strong, pressure fighter with good footwork and solid body shots.
If we were in charge of Kyoguchi, Vega is the type of fighter we would have loved to have matched him with on his US debut. He looks made to order. We suspect Vega will have some success in the early rounds, he'll use his speed well, box well, but come under intense and incessant pressure and by round 4 or 5 the pressure and body shots of Kyoguchi will be taking their toll. A stoppage will then come, eventually, from Vega just simply being ground down and broken up.
Prediction - Kyoguchi TKO8
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.
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
One of the biggest rivalries in world boxing is the under-rated Japan Vs Thailand rivalry. It's not as widely reported at the Puerto Rico Vs Mexico rivalry but it's as good as we get to Asia's answer, and has given us some historic battles over the years including the likes of Joichiro Tatsuyoshi Vs Sirimongkol Singwancha.
On June 19th we see the next chapter in that rivalry as WBA "Super" and Ring magazine Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (12-0, 9) defends his titles against Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-0, 5), aka Tanawat Nakooon. For Kyoguchi this will be his first defense of the two titles he won in December, when he stopped Hekkie Budler, whilst Satanmuanglek will be taking a huge step up for his first world title fight.
The Japanese fighter was a notable amateur before he turned professional just over 3 years ago with the Watanabe Gym in Tokyo. He was raced to his first title, the OPBF Minimumweight title,after less than 11 months, and would take the IBF Minimumweight title just 15 months after his debut. It was the quickest rise of any Japanese fighter to their first world title. He would add to his title collection last December, when he became a 2-weight champion, in just his 12th professional bout, and became the first man to stop South African Hekkie Budler. Whilst that's not quite as a impressive as Kosei Tanaka or Naoya Inoue its still an incredibly impressive feat from the baby faced 25 year old.
Despite having been a profession for just over 3 years Kyoguchi has a strong resume, with wins over Jose Argumedo, Carlos Buitrago and Hekkie Budler being the best of them. Through his career he has shown an exciting pressure style, backed with good boxing skills, decent defense and aggressive footwork. His uses a fantastic heavy jab to close the distance and when up close he goes to town with spiteful uppercuts and ripping body shots. The combinations, pressure and power will be far too much for many opponents, and it's clear that it will take a very special fighter to dethrone the rising Japanese star.
Satanmuanglek, unlike Kyoguchi, wasn't an amateur standout. Instead he was a Muay Thai star, fighting as Satanmuanglek Numpornthep, and really shone in the art of 8 limbs. It was due to his Muay Thai experience that there was real excitement when he turned his hand to professional boxing 2017. Sadly his early career as a boxer was uninspired with wins against the usual array of over-mathced Indonesian and Filipino journeyman, such as Silem Serang, Maktison Marganti and Geboi Mansalayao. He did step up his level of competition last year, scoring a career best win over Marco John Rementizo, though he was pushed all the way in that bout showing that he still had a lot of work to do before being ready for a world title fight.
In the ring Satanmuanglek is a physically strong southpaw who has a nice jab, and decent speed. On the front foot he's solid, with a nice variety of shots and he does apply consistent, smart pressure whilst breaking opponents down with accurate heavy shots. Sadly for him things are very different on the back foot and when forced backwards, as he was against Rementizo, he looks like a very different fighter, with defensive flaws showing through regularly. Also when forced on to the back foot his work rate drops and his punches look like he is reaching to land, rather than punching through the target.
Given how vicious and intelligent and incessant Kyoguchi's pressure is, and the real issues Satanmuanglek had with Rementizo it's hard to see anything but a successful defense for the Japanese fighter. Satanmuanglek is tough, he proved that in his Muay Thai career, but we really struggle to see him putting up with the body shots of Kyoguchi. We think they will be the cause of his pain, and will cause the bout to be concluded before the championship rounds.
Prediction - Kyoguchi TKO7
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On May 26, Sho Kimura aims to become a 2 division king as he faces the undefeated Carlos Canizales for the WBA (Regular) Light Flyweight World championship, in Fuzhou, China.
Sho Kimura (18-2 / 11 KOs) despite suffering a KO loss on his pro debut, he quickly bounced back, amassing 12 wins within 3 years, as well as the WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title after a heated battle with Masahiro Sakamoto (13-2).
In 2017, Kimura’s biggest test took place in China when he challenged the WBO Flyweight World champion Shiming Zou (9-2). A 2 time Olympic champion & 3 times AIBA World champion, the Chinese fighter held victories over fellow accomplished amateur boxers and future World title holders like Nordine Oubaali, Amnat Ruenroeng and Rau'shee Warren. Kimura, who was coming in as the underdog and was even fighting the champion in his own country, weakened his opponent with body shots throughout the match and eventually delivered a lethal combination during the 11th round, connecting almost a dozen times with Zou’s head, to put a stop to their encounter and to win the big one.
Kimura made his triumphant return to Japan, on December of the same year, defending against the former WBC, The Ring and Lineal Flyweight World champion Toshiyuki Igarashi (23-3). Unbeaten close to 5 years, Igarashi was overwhelmed early on in the fight by Sho’s aggressive style, suffering a lot of damage, while offering almost no offense of his own. The action picked up in the later rounds, as both men started swinging for the fences, bringing the fans to their feet. Finally the end came in the 9th after he landed a straight right hand, stunning the challenger, sending him back to a corner and finishing him off with a flurry of punches. It’s worth mentioning that neither Zou nor Igarashi had ever been stopped before in their careers.
After dispatching Froilan Saludar (30-3) for an easy second title defense, Kimura lost a majority decision to now 3 division World champion Kosei Tanaka (13-0) in what was considered the best Japanese fight of 2018. 6 months later, he came back against Wicha Phulaikhao (60-11), showing no signs of ring rust, completely dominating the Thai veteran and even dropping him thrice with uppercuts in the 3rd round, earning his 11th stoppage victory and setting his sights on a second World title reign.
Carlos Canizales (21-0 / 17 KOs) made his debut in 2014, winning 19 fights in a row, all transpiring in his home country of Venezuela. After a close encounter with the WBA (Super) Light Flyweight World champion Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4), which ended in a draw, he received another shot, this time at the vacant Regular title, against Reiya Konishi (17-1) in March of last year. The Japanese champion was also undefeated at the time with 15 victories under his belt. Canizales once again found himself in a tough contest, going back and forth, but was more in control than in his previous bout, scoring also a knockdown in the 3rd round and eventually earning a unanimous decision and of course the strap.
“Triple C” met accomplished amateur star & AIBA Youth World champion Lu Bin for his inaugural WBA title defense. This was the Chinese fighter’s second only match as a pro. Canizales outclassed Bin, throwing and landing way more punches, sealing the deal in the last round after he floored him with a right straight.
Both Kimura and Canizales are action fighters. They like to throw more and hard, than less but accurate. Stylistically it’s a dream match. Even though this might go to deep waters, it wouldn’t be a surprise if we don’t need the judges in the end. Comparing the caliber of opponents they’ve faced, it’s clear that Kimura has gone up against better competition (for example: Shiming Zou – Olympic champion, Lu Bin – AIBA Youth champion) plus he knows how to work the body more efficiently than the Venezuelan. To conclude with, Kimura is most likely to leave China once again with the gold, but at the same time, there’s a reason Canizales is 21-0-1 in his professional career. Either way, their fight will certainly be a blast !
One of the things we're big on is fighters trying to create history, push themselves and trying to do something a bit special. This coming Sunday we see a fighter try to do exactly that, as Lu Bin (1-0, 1) looks to claim a world title in just his second professional bout. He isn't attempting to do it by fighting for a vacant title, but instead by taking one one of the most feared Light Flyweights on the planet, WBA champion Carlos Canizales (20-0-1, 16). For Lu this is a chance to become the first male fighter to win a world title in fewer than 3 fights, which is the record set by Saensak Muangsurin and tied by Vasyl Lomachenko. As for Canizales this bout will be his first defense, defending the title he on in March when he over-came Reiya Konishi in a hotly contested bout in Kobe. That win came in Canizales' second world title bout, following a 2-16 split decision draw with Ryoichi Taguchi.
The 23 year old Bin was a former amateur star, following in the footsteps of Chinese compatriot Zou Shiming. He had been a break out star in the APB, the AIBA Professional Boxing league, and shone in a special 1-off exhibition against former world champion Xiong Zhao Zhong. Last September he made his professional debut, under normal professional rules, and stopped Wanchai Nianghansa, aka Chatchai Or Benjamas, in 3 rounds to claim the WBC Asian Boxing Council Silver Light Flyweight title. In that bout Bin looked like a star in the making, with tight defenses, smooth boxing, and a lovely variety of shots. Despite looking like a star in the making it's hard to ignore that Bin has fought just 3 rounds as a “proper” professional. It's also hard to ignore the fact they came against a Thai journeyman, it's not like when Muangsurin beat the in-form and world ranked Rudy Barro and Lion Furyama or when Lomachenko defeated the experienced Jose Ramirez, it was essentially a win over a very weak opponent by Bin.
Watching Lu's debut we saw a special fighter. He looked like he knew more about professional boxing than someone like Shiming was ever going to understand. Even as a little fighter he looked like his shots had spite, especially his body shots, and he was able to find holes where novices rarely find them. He had a real smoothness to his work and it was a joy to watch. There was however still the feeling that he was just a very good prospect beginning his career, not someone who was going to be challenging for a world title so early in his career, especially in one of the toughest divisions in the sport.
Venezuelan fighter Canizales was a relative unknown before his 2016 bout with Taguchi in Japan, a bout that he could well have gotten the decision for, rather than being held to a draw. After 3 straight forward wins back in Venezuela Canizales travelled back to Japan and defeated Konishi in what was a brilliant bout that saw him come close to stopping Konishi, before being forced on to the back foot. In those bouts Canizales shower that he was aggressive, hard hitting, but could box, could move and had under-rated footwork. He possibly has some question marks about his stamina, dropping his output during both those fights, but is clearly a very dangerous and talented boxer-puncher. It's notable that both his best performances have come in Asia, and this bout with Bin will take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Canziales has been a professional since July 2014 and his rise has been quick. Despite being quick he has still managed to to fit in 21 bouts so far, and fought 92 rounds. Those 92 rounds have included a couple of bouts that have gone 12 rounds and one that has gone 11. He has experience in the later stages of bouts, has proven his toughness, his power and his skills. This proven quality certainly gives him the edge over Bin. Had Bin been more experienced, more proven as a professional, this could have been viewed as a real 50-50. Instead however it seems like too much too soon for Bin, who is a real talent, but perhaps could have waited just a touch longer and fit in a few more fights before agreeing to step in the ring with Canizales.
We suspect that Bin will have his moments early on, but unfortunately we expect him to come up short later in the bout, with Canizales' experience and proven ability to do 12 rounds being the difference between the two men here. Saying that however, we would love to see Bin win here, and lay down a marker to the world of boxing, that top amateurs don't need to be held back and can be fast tracked insanely quick.
The Light Flyweight division is, arguably, the strongest ion the sport right now and also the most varied. It has boxers, like Ken Shiro and Pedro Guevara, it has action swarmers like Ryoichi Taguchi and Tetsuya Hisada, it has big punchers like Angel Acosta, Felix Alvarado and Jonathan Taconing and it has insane depth with about 15 world class fighters, many of whom are facing each other. It really is an incredible division mixing talent, depth and styles in a way that no other division is really doing.
This coming Sunday we again see the division look to deliver something special as two talented and unbeaten fighters, with different styles, face off for a world title.
The bout in question sees Japanese swarmer Reiya Konish (15-0, 5) risking his unbeaten record against Venezuelan puncher Carlos Canizales (19-0-1, 16), with both men looking to become the WBA “regular” Light Flyweight champion, and earn a shot at getting a fight with the aforementioned Taguchi.
Fighting at home Konishi will be the fan favourite for the bout, but in the eyes of many internationally he is the unknown having never fought above Japanese domestic level. The 24 year old from Kobe is however someone who is pretty proven having won the 2014 Rookie of the Year and the Japanese Minimumweight title, which he defended twice during a 9 month reign. He won the domestic title last April, defeating the talented Masataka Taniguchi, before defending hit against multi-time world title challenger Shin Ono and mandatory challenger Kenta Matsui. After the win over Matsui we saw Konishi vacate and turn his attention on to the Light Flyweight division, as if to admit his body was struggling to continue to boil down to 105lbs.
In the ring Konishi is an incredibly busy fighter with a style that involves boring forward with his hands flowing freely and a lot of leather being thrown. It's not the prettiest of styles, but it is an exciting one to watch, and he seems to be able to combine his high level of activity with accuracy and toughness. Technically he's not the most talented, or fluid of fighters, but he's someone who looks very tricky to beat, and almost impossible to out work. A big question is whether or not his style will be effective at 108lb or at world level.
Hardcore fans might remember Canizales for his draw, which happened at the end of 2016 when he challenged Ryoichi Taguchi. The bout saw some suggest that Canizales was hard done to, others suggest Taguchi had been the clear winner, but the judges were all over the place with one judge scoring the bout 116-112 to Canizales, another giving the same score to Taguchi and the third giving it a 114-114 draw. The reality, in some ways, is that Taguchi under-performed in that bout, however Canizales is a very solid fighter. The Venezuelan is a naturally heavy handed fighter, with a solid jab, a good rate and a dangerous mixture of aggression, combinations and power.
Whilst Canizales certainly looks incredibly dangerous, and has a record which backs that up, there is huge question marks about his competition. His biggest bout is the Taguchi bout, obviously, and then a win over Robert Barrera comes a somewhat distant second. Other than that, there is almost nothing of note on his record. If anything his record suggests he's merely cleaned out the local scene in Venezuela, taking on limited foe after limited foe. His record might look impressive but it's paper thin and a win over Konishi would be a career best.
Given that both men are aggressive, action fighters who throw a lot of leather we're expecting something very special. Both men like to come forward, and we're expecting to see that happen here in a FOTY contender. On paper Canizales has the edge in power whilst Konishi has the home advantage. On paper Canizales is the fighter more proven at 108lbs, but Konishi the fighter with more experience against good competition. It's a hard one to call, but we're leaning toward Konishi taking the decision in a truly action packed war, which will see a lot of punches thrown and a lot of fantastic, jaw dropping exchanges.
This will be close, great fun and something for the fans at the Portopia Hotel to really savour, and we think those fans will help Konishi take the win and the title.
It's fair to say that 2017 has been an amazing year for boxing fans, who have had so many great fights that year has over-delivered in many ways. There has been dodgy decisions, farcical contests and all the negatives we associate with the sport, but also a lot of amazing fights. We get some more of those on December 31st with the pick of the bunch being a Light Flyweight unification bout between WBA champion Ryoichi Taguchi (26-2-2, 12) and IBF champion Milan Melindo (37-2, 13). The bout could well shake up Fighter of the Year category and will almost certainly see us with a unified champion at 108lbs, a division which many have been sleeping on in recent years.
Of the two men it's Taguchi who is the more distinguished champion. The 31 year old from the Watanabe gym has held the WBA title since the end of 2014, beating Alberto Rossel for the belt on December 31st. Since then he has racked up 6 defenses, though shown real inconsistencies during his reign. He has dominated the likes of Kwanthai Sithmorseng, Juan Jose Landaeta and Ryo Miyazaki, struggled past Luis De La Rose and Carlos Canizales and looked beatable in both of those fights, whilst impressing earlier this year when he stopped Robert Barrera.
Although a bit of an enigma no one can argue with Taguchi's ability. When he's got his head on and is in the right mood he's an absolute night mare to fight with a very high output, freakish physical stature for a Light Flyweight, standing at over 5'5”, a solid toughness and a real air of confidence. He's not the most skilled but with his long reach, durability and work rate he's going to be a handful for anyone, and even gave Naoya Inoue his toughest bout to date, taking several rounds from the “Monster” back in 2013.
Filipino fighter Melindo only won his title this past May, in his third world title fight, but is arguably one of the top contenders for Fighter of the Year in 2017, with a win over Taguchi possibly earning him the award. He won the title in Japan, when he stopped Akira Yaegashi in 165 seconds, a divisional record, and made his first defense in September when he defeated top South African Hekkie Budler in a 2017 Fight of the Year candidate. Prior to those two wins Melindo was a bit of a nearly man, having put up good efforts in losses to Juan Francisco Estrada and Javier Mendoza and having scored notable wins over Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, Saul Juarez, Martin Tecuapetla, Carlos Tamara and Muammad Rachman. His resume was on par that of a world champion, but without a win in a big one.
Having gotten his “big win” and a world title the question now is whether Melindo can continue to build on his success. From a technical stand point Melindo is arguably the best fighter at 108lbs. He's got a very, very high ring IQ, is a brilliant counter puncher and understands the ring fantastically. He gauges distances really well, has great timing and knows how to control the distance. From a fight fan perspective he's a real thinking man's fighter, but sadly that comes at a cost and he can be out worked, he can seem lazy and can be swarmed, though he does hit harder than his record suggests and one of his counters can turn the bout on it's head.
This bout really does look like it will be an intriguing clash of styles. It has Taguchi's high work rate, and relative defensive openness against Melindo's low work rate but accurate and smooth counter punching. It will pit two world class fighters against each other and will, potentially, see one walk out as a unified WBA/IBF champion, and the man to beat in the division.
With home advantage we do favour Taguchi, who with a win would spoil Melindo's year, but a win for Melindo is certainly not out of the question. Either man can win, and it is a true 50-50 bout, with a feeling of being something very, very special to close out the year.
The Light Flyweight division has been a frustrating one in recent times. It's not been bad, by any stretch of the imagination, just frustrating with the politics of the sport seemingly stepping in the way of some great potential match ups and other match ups just not come to fruition. It's also been frustrating to see the reign of WBA champion Ryoichi Taguchi (25-2-2, 11) which has faltered and sputtered along whilst he's racked up 5 defenses. His next comes this coming Sunday and looks like a tough one as he takes on mandatory challenger Robert Barrera (18-1, 12), from Colombia.
When Taguchi won the title back at the end of 2014, he looked like a man who was going to kick on and have a great reign as a champion, becoming the new face of the Watanabe gym and the fighter to lead them after Takashi Uchiyama. The looked even more the caseafter his first defense, less than 5 months later, when he battered Thai challenger Kwanthai Sithmorseng en route to an 8th round TKO. Then came a sputter, as he was out boxed by Luis de la Rosa, until Rosa suffered and injury, essentially bailing out Taguchi. Rather than take ona live challenger after that he battled shop worn veteran Juan Jose Landaeta and dominated his challenger en route to an 11th round TKO.
Against Ryo Miyazaki we saw the best of Taguchi, as he dominated the former WBA Minimumweight champion but that was followed by a controversial draw against Carlos Canizales, who just so happens to be the only man with a win against Barrera.
At his best Taguchi is a handful. He's a huge, rangy guy at Light Flyweight, who will have size advantages over most opponents, and knows how to use his reach on the outside. On the inside he can hold his own, and has a lovely uppercut to the body up close. At his worst though he's lazy, sloppy, messy and a horror to watch. He can over-look opponents, he can be hurt and he can make life much harder for himself than he needs to.
Coming in to this bout Taguchi knows there is potential unification bouts at the end of 2017, but he needs to win, and do it in style, or else the likes of Kosei Tanaka, the WBO champion, will look else where for suitable competition. He can't afford a draw defense,or a flukey injury defense here, but needs something that will impress fans instead.
The once beaten Barrera is a 24 year old Colombian, who's only loss came to Carlos Canizales as mentioned earlier. It should be noted hat that loss was a split decision in Canizales' in Venezuela, in one of just two bouts on foreign soil for the Colombian, who has never fought outside of Latin American. In regards to his wins they have included victories over Luis de la Rosa, Ronald Ramos, twice, and recent world title challenger Julio Mendoza. At times he has struggled against lesser opponents, but is in good form having stopped his last 5 opponents whilst fighting well above the Light Flyweight limit.
From the footage available Barrera can fight out of either stance and has got nice movement, but he can be put under pressure and can often leave himself defensively open when letting his own shots go. His footwork isn't the smoothest and he just has an over-all clumsy look to his work. However he certainly looks like a strong and tough kid with a good engine and the ability to improve, a lot, given that he's young, hungry and never really been forced to step up his training as he will have done here.
With Colombian fighters we often see them go into a bout with a puncher's reputation. For Bareera that's not the case. He's on a stoppage run, but he's certainly more of a rounded fighter, who can box or brawl, than a pure power puncher. The overall skills do give him a chance to force Taguchi into a brawl here, and we suspect that will be his aim.
Although Barrera is certainly no push over there are enough holes in his game for Taguchi to have a field day with him, boxing from range and using his size to keep Barrera on the end of his stinging right hands. Barrera will press the fight, but we can't help thinking that Taguchi will get the win, and the chance to shine, which he really needs to make the most of here.
To end 2016 we'll see WBA Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi (25-2-1, 11) return to the ring as he looks for his 6th title defense, and takes on the unbeaten Venezuelan puncher Carlos Canizales (16-0, 13). On paper it looks like a great match up and a fantastic test for the champion but the reality is that we know next to nothing about Canizales, and really can't explain his top #3 ranking with the WBA.
On paper Canizales does look good. Unbeaten in 16, with an 83% stoppage rate, a catchy nickname “CCC”, similar to Golovkin in both respects, and at 23 presumably has a lot of potential and the belief of his team. Sadly though that potential and belief hasn't been backed up by his match making so far, in fact he has only faced 2 opponents with “winning records”, according to boxrec.com, and the most proven of those is Robert Barrera who was 12-0 (7) as the time and has since reeled off 4 more wins to sit at 16-1 (10).
There isn't a lot of great footage of Canizales but what is available makes him look to be an aggressive fighter who likes to throw powerful shots, including a wild roundhouse right hand. He's not the most accurate, or the quickest but he has serious belief in his power and is a fighter who looks like he could become a decent fighter one day. Sadly his open offense is partnered with an open defense and again a world class fighter his wild shots will be countered and his power probably won't have the effect at world level as it's had at Venezuelan national level.
Whilst is little known it's fair to say that Taguchi is becoming more and more known, in fact he's the longest active reigning world at 108lbs. His reign began at the end of 2014, when he beat Alberto Rossel, and has since distinguished himself with wins over Kwanthai Sithmorseng, Luis De la Rosa, Juan Jose Landaeta and Ryo Miyazaki. Those wins haven't set the world on fire by any means but have helped Taguchi move on from merely being “the man to take Naoya Inoue the distance”, which he did in a Japanese title fight back in 2013.
Taguchi a huge fighter at 108lbs, he's gangly, rangy, tough, tricky and talented. He's certainly not a big puncher, despite stopping 3 of his last 4, but he's a solid puncher who can hurt fighters and grind them down with his surprisingly good body shots. Technically Taguchi is very solid, but can be inconsistent as we've seen in bouts against De La Rosa, Ryan Bito and Florante Condes. When he's at his best however he is a handful for anyone in, or around, the Light Flyweight division, and given his size he can certainly move up in weight.
If Taguchi is at, or close to, his best he defeats Canizales with ease using his reach and skills. If however he's off his game he could be pushed hard here. Saying that however even at his worst we can't see Canizales beating him here, in fact we suspect this will be either a wide decision for Taguchi, if he''s off song and has to work hard for every round, or a mid round stoppage if he's close to his best.
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.