April 2021 looks set to be an incredible month for fight fans, with a wonderful mix of high profile fights at the top level of the sport and bouts at the lower level, and featuring everything in between. It is a month that really should deliver great action week after week and it kicks off in great fashion this coming Saturday. That's in part due to a bout we've been looking forward to for a little over a year now. That's a match up between unified WBA "super" and IBF Super Bantamweight world champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6) and mandatory challenger Ryosuke Iwasa (23-7, 17), who also enters as the "interim" IBF champion.
The bout will see two of the best 122lb fighters clash in what is a genuine excellent match up, and it's one that should have fans from all over the globe tuning in. That's not just because of the match up it's self, which is genuinely brilliant, but because of what it means for the division in general. The winner will be in the mix for bouts against the likes of Luis Nery, Stephen Fulton, Ronnie Riose, Brandon Figueroa and Carlos Castro, among many, many others.
Of the two men the more impressive has been 26 year old Uzbek Akhmadaliev, known as "MJ". He is, after just 8 fights, a unified champion and was a former standout amateur who has set his sights high and raced away to the top, whilst becoming one of the main faces at the forefront of Uzbek boxing. He is a fighter who has looked to prove a point every step of the way during his boxing career and has already proven himself as a top level fighter. In just 8 bouts!
Before turning professional Akhmadaliev had reportedly had over 300 amateur bouts, winning the vast majority. He had won medals at the World Amateur Championships, Olympics, Asian Championships and World Youth Championships, and had been one of the standout fights on the amateur scene. He had, however, got a reputation for being the bridesmaid and not the bride, falling short in the business end of competitions. As a professional however he has used that amateur experience and the skills he learned in the unpaid ranks to challenge himself and make a name for himself.
In just 8 bouts Akhmadaliev has already beaten the likes of Isaaz Zarate, Carlos Carlson and most notably Daniel Roman, who he beat in January 2020 for the unified titles. He has proven he can box, punch, brawl, and fight at a high tempo for 12 rounds. He has proven more in just 8 bouts, adding up to a total of 40 professional rounds, than many fights do in a career. We'll admit we thought the step up to facing Roman was too soon, but he proved us wrong and it's going to be very hard to bet against him in the future given how he performed there.
Although he is hugely impressive there are still some questions to ask of Akhmadaliev. He has impressed with his ability to box or fight, and he has shown a good chin, great work rate and highly impressive stamina, though we do wonder what happens when he's forced to chase a bout, and it'll be interesting to see what happens when he's cut, or in genuine trouble. If we ever see him in real trouble. We also wonder what he's like against a big puncher, and Iwasa does have power, as well as what he's like against a dangerous south, with his previous southpaw opponents being relatively limited. So far however he has impressed fight after fight and shown the ambition and drive that has already made us huge fans of his.
Ryosuke Iwasa is a 31 year old veteran of the professional ranks, with 30 professional bouts to his name, and over 60 amateur bouts. He is already a former world champion and a man who was long tipped to be a star in Japan, though has failed to reach the heights expected of him when he turned professional. Despite not being the fighter many hoped he would be he has managed a very respectable career and is certainly not a fighter who has failed in the sport. He has, however, been inconsistent. When he's on point he looks fantastic, but there are a number of underwhelming performance during his career as well.
For Japanese fans Iwasa made his name, originally, on the amateur stage where he went 60-6 (42) and picked up the High School Triple crown. This saw him turning professional with high expectations on his shoulders. Under the guidance of former world champion Celes Kobayashi he was moved quickly and at the end of 2010 he had secured a Japanese title fight as part of the Champion Carnival, by winning the Strongest Korakuen and becoming the MVP. Sadly for him his Japanese title fight, in 2011, came against a then rising Shinsuke Yamanaka, with Iwasa losing a 10th round TKO to Yamanaka in a sensational bout. Aged 21 at the time that was a learning experience and he would reel off a string of wins, taking the Japanese and OPBF titles before getting his first world title fight, and losing in 6 rounds, in England, to Lee Haksins in 2016.
The loss to Haskins was Iwasa final bout at Bantamweight before moving up in weight, and finding his groove once again. Just over 2 years after the defeat to Haskins we saw Iwasa have his career defining win, as he battered Yukinori Oguni in 6 rounds to win the IBF Super Bantamweight title. It was a red hot performance from Iwasa who looked sensational. Sadly though he failed to build on that win, scoring an underwhelming decision to retain his title against Ernesto Saulong and failing to really get to grips with TJ Doheny, who dethroned him in 2018. Since his title loss Iwasa has looked good, beating Cesar Juarez by technical decision and then dismantling former WBO Bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales in 2019, to win the IBF "interim" title.
In the ring Iwasa really does blow hot and cold, and he always has. He looked poor in his second fight, Edgar Allende, and again later in his career against Richard Pumicpic, Ernesto Saulong and TJ Doheny. When he's looked good however, he has looked sensational, and we saw that against Oguni and Tapales. In the ring he's a southpaws who fights as a boxer-puncher. His power is genuinely spiteful at this level, and technically he's very solid. Sadly though he often fights in a one paced fashion, struggles to go through the gears, and has struggled with southpaws through his career, with all 3 losses coming to lefties.
Of the two men we would suggest that Iwasa is the biggest puncher, at least a single punch basis, he's also the taller, longer man and if he can establish his jab he does have a chance of getting on top of the bout early on. His team have stated their game plan is to stop Akhamadliev from getting into his rhythm and we suspect that is the key to beating the Uzbek.
Sadly for Iwasa however he is the less versatile of the two fighters. He's an excellent boxer-puncher, but he's not the most creative fighter, he's not a great inside fighter and he's got slow feet. They are all things that Akhmadaliev will use against him. The Uzbek is a much, much more rounded in ring competitor. That is, we suspect, going to be the difference making.
We suspect Iwasa will come out sharp, looking to land clean straight shots and getting his range, but as the rounds go on Akhmadaliev will close the distance, get inside and begin to grind away at Iwasa. The difference in speed will be key and by the end of round 12 Akhmadaliev will have done more than enough to deserve the decision.
We expect the champion to retain, but he will have to work for it, and this will not be an easy day at the office for the talented Uzbek.
Prediction - Akhmadaliev UD12
Back in September we had expected to turn our attention to Madison Square Garden Theater for an excellent Super Bantamweight world title bout, pitting unified champion Daniel Roman (27-2-1, 19) against mandatory challenger Murodjon Akhmadaliev (7-0, 6). Sadly in the build up the champion was injured and the bout was forced to be delayed, and rescheduled. With it being eventually pushed back to late January. Despite the delay we are now on course for the brilliant looking match up.
The 29 year old champion, who has unified the WBA "super" and IBF Super Bantamweight titles will be making his first defense of the IBF belt and his fifth defense of the WBA crown, the first as the super champion. For Akhmadaliev, who is mandatory for the WBA title, the bout will be his first at world level as he looks to join a select few to win a world title in just his 8th professional bout.
Roman has become one of the sports most interesting champions. He won the title in 2017, stopping Shun Kubo, and announcing himself on the world stage. Prior to that win he had been knocking on the door, with wins over the likes of Adam Lopez, Christopher Martin and Christian Esquivel though it's been since winning the title that he has really impressed. After winning the belt in Japan, stopping Kubo, he returned and beat Ryo Matsumoto before beating Mosies Flores and Gavin McDonnell. Those wins built momentum, and that momentum lead to a unification bout with the then IBF champion TJ Doheny this past April. That bout was something special, with Roman dropping Doheny twice, but having the Irish-Australian warrior coming back at him with real drive and vigour. Over 12 rounds Roman did enough to win the bout and unify the belts.
After 2 losses in his first 11 bouts Roman could have been written off, though he has battled back hard, winning 19 in a row, unifying titles, taking chances and becoming the star of Thompson Boxing. The way he has turned his career around has been amazing and the fact he's travelled to Japan for 2 of those wins, and has taken 5 unbeaten records in his last 7 fights shows he isn't scared of a challenge. What Roman does really well is work. His output is excellent, he's technically solid with his shots, and despite throwing a lot he doesn't waste many. They aren't always the sharpest, or the hardest, but they are solid shots, and his engine is excellent. He combines that energy with a really gritty toughness, and although he can be hurt he grits it out, recovers quickly and comes back. If a fighter hurts him it really does seem like they should go all out to take him down, rather than give him a chance to clear the cobwebs.
Although Roman was a good amateur, which is something we don't hear much about strangely, Akhmadaliev was a sensational amateur. The Uzbek was a World Amateur Champion silver medal winner, an Olympic bronze medal winner a multi-time medal winner on the Asian and Uzbek scenes and recorded around 300 amateur wins. It's that amateur foundation that has seen him being fast-tracked through the professional ranks. In just his 4th professional contest he took on the then 15-6 Ramon Contreras for the WBA Inter-Continental title, then defended it against the world ranked IsaacZarate, to earn the mandatory position towards the end of last year. By that point he had been a professional for around 8 months! To tick over earlier this year he destroyed former world title challenger Carlos Carlson in 3 rounds.
Although a stellar amateur Akhmadaliev doesn't always fight like an amateur, in fact from the off he had a more professional style, with an aggressive mentality and almost a seek and destroy gameplan. He is constantly on the front foot, looking to break opponents down and although a touch reckless he is smart with his aggression.He's a fighter who seems to truly believe he's special, and not just because his team tell him he is. For a Super Bantamweight he's a solid puncher, he's exciting, but he is stepping up massively, from the likes of Isaac Zarate to Daniel Roman.
We'd love to see Akhmadaliev win here, setting his stall out as one of the kings of the Super Bantamweight divisions this quickly after his debut, and at just 25 years old. Sadly however we do feel it's too much too soon, and his lack of experience over the longer distance will be an issue. He's certainly has a chance against Roman, and if he's as good as he believes it's a really good chance, but we suspect he comes up short here against a man who remains one of boxing's most under-rated world champions. Worst yet for the Uzbek, we see him being ground down by Roman's pressure in the later stages, suffering a late TKO loss in a painful and gruelling defeat
Prediction- TKO11 Roman
Last September American Daniel Roman (23-2-1, 9) announced himself on the world stage with a stoppage win over Shun Kubo to claim the WBA Super Bantamweight title in Kyoto. The win saw Roman score his 15th straight win and step up massively from victories over the likes of Christopher Martin, Christian Esquivel and Adam Lopez. This coming Wednesday he'll return to a Japanese ring, this time as a champion as he faces off with touted Ohashi gym fighter Ryo Matsumoto (21-1, 19).
The American had been a solid amateur amateur before turning professional at the age of 20. As a professional he struggled early on, with a draw and a defeat in his first 4 bouts. After 11 bouts he was 8-2-1 but since then he has matured into a real handful. He's a skilled fighter, with a high activity rate, good body punching and a smart pressure style. It's not the intense pressure we see from the like of Gennady Golovkin or Srisaket Sor Rungvisai but more of a constant and intelligent pressure that takes a mental toll and comes from his jab and timing. There's nothing “blunt force” about Roman, and he's not going to KO people with with one shot, but he's going to mentally break them and wear them down.
Although not a power puncher, and with just 9 stoppages in 26 fights no one would argue other wise, Roman is a solid puncher and has stopped 4 of his last 6. Notably he has stopped his last 2 foes both in round 9 and seems to be showing more self belief in his power, with his work rate being a huge asset in those stoppages. It's unclear how good his chin is, and he's not the quickest, but he knows what works for him and is using his tools to get outcomes.
At 27 years old Roman is reaching his physical peak and as he continues to mature he will almost certainly add to his physical strength and power. He will never become a KO guy but with his pressure style the physical development he makes will make him tougher to defeat and even harder to try and force backwards. It's also worth noting that despite looking like a solid Super Bantamweight it does seem like he does make the weight quite easily, and could beef up just a touch to really push the divisional limit and fill out his frame a tiny bit more.
Aged 24 Matsumoto is a young gun, but appears to have been around for a very long time. That's because he actually debuted at the very end of 2011, aged 17, and has slowly been developed into a world class fighter. And by slowly we really do mean slowly. He looked ready to be let off the leash in 2015, following wins over Hiroyuki Kudaka, Denkaosan Kaovichit and Rusalee Samor the previous year, but was held back. Sadly for Matsumoto his rise hit the wall in 2016 when he suffered a shock loss to Victor Uriel Lopez. That loss was a major hit to Matsumoto's rise, but was a blessing in disguise with the youngster later receiving treatment for a medical issue that affected him in the contest. Since then he has looked better than even, avenging his loss, and noticing a significant growth spurt.
In the ring Matsumoto is a joy to watch. He combines silky smooth skills with brilliant speed, brutal power, and lovely shot selection. He's not a brawler but when he has an opponent hurt he lets his hands go very freely whilst at range he boxes well behind a razor sharp jab,with some blazing straight right hands. There is defensive flaws with Matsumoto but offensively he is a machine and his blow out against Hideo Sakamoto last year was truly impressive. Not only has he got the skills but he also has the team, with the Ohashi team being one of the best in Japan, if not the world, and will have seen him training with Naoya Inoue and Takuma Inoue as well as Akira Yaegashi and Satoshi Shimizu, all of whom are excellent fighters. Like so many young Japanese fighters he looks natural in the ring and has an incredible amount of composure and understanding in the ring.
Stylistically the Japanese fighter is a boxer-puncher. Despite being 24 he looks like a fighter who is still filling out his frame and maturing. When he completely develops into his body he'll likely be fighting at Featherweight, but for now he's just got the look of a boy, still, and not a man. That hasn't been an issue yet, but could be in the future.
Sadly for Matsumoto this is looking like a really test for the once beaten Japanese fighter. His style is somewhat made to order for Roman, with the American likely to apply his pressure and look to break down the Japanese fighter. What Matsumoto does have, that Kubo didn't, is the heavy hands that could stop Roman in his tracks, and the body punching to go with it. We're expecting to see Roman start slowly, box behind his jab and the speed of Matsumoto will give him a lot to think about. Eventually though Roman will drag Matsumoto into a war, and we suspect Roman will come out on top, but will be given a much, much harder bout than he was against Kubo. Matsumoto has long deserved a shot against a world class fighter, but this feels like a stylistically bad fight for him. He has the chance to shine, but we think Roman will have the tools to deal with him.
Currently the Super Bantamweight division is one of the most fractured in the sport, and as a result it's a bit of a frustrating mess to follow. Guillermo Rigondeaux, the WBA “super” champion looks set to jump to Super Featherweight for his next bout, WBO champion Jessie Magdaleno has yet to make his first defense, IBF champion Yukinori Oguni makes his first defense later this month, WBC champion Rey Vargas recently made his first defense and this weekend we see WBA “regular” champion Shun Kubo (12-0, 9) make his first defense.
Whilst the division is a mess, it's one which is thoroughly brilliant at the moment, with a nice mixture of veterans, Nonito Donaire and Rigondeaux, as well as fresh blood, like Kubo and Oguni, and almost every style. We have pure boxers, sluggers, bangers and hybrids making up the stacked top 20 in what, potentially, is the most interesting,yet frustrating, division in the sport right now.
Kubo's first defense, this coming Sunday, will see the Hyogo man defending his belt against mandatory challenger Daniel Roman (22-2-1, 8) in what is a really interesting looking match up, that pits two fighters with a lot of questions to answer, against each other on.
Aged 27 Kubo is one of a number of Japanese fighters who has moved through the ranks swiftly. As an amateur he was less than spectacular, running up a 30-18 record, but beat veteran Monico Laurente in his third bout and the world ranked Luis May in his 6th bout to announce himself as one to watch. An OPBF title win in 2015 opened doors for Kubo to progress his career and after just two defenses his team paid to bring tricky veteran Nehomar Cermeno over to Japan to defend the WBA crown. The bout with Cermeno was a real gut test for Kubo, but one that saw him out lasting the veteran, who retired citing injury at the start of round 10.
Against Cermeno we saw Kubo show off some world class skills, but almost come undone following a knockdown, go through a torrid spell and show some self doubt as Cermeno used his experience to come on strong. Now the question to answer for Kubo is how much did he learn and develop from that tough win? Is he going to come undone under pressure again or will the win have boosted his confidence?
Also aged 27 Roman is a fighter looking to make his mark on the sport and continue a 14 fight winning streak that began back in March 2014. During his current run has has scored a number of notable wins, including victories over Christopher Martin, Christian Esquivel and the unbeaten pairing of Marlon Olea and Adam Lopez. Whilst it's a nice record, and one that proves Roman is top contender, it lacks a major A class win and it's hard to know exactly how good he is, and we could see that being answered here.
From watching footage of Roman he's a technically well schooled fighter who has nice textbook boxing ability, and solid, but unspectacular speed. Where he lacks are power and he has been out boxed before by lesser fighters. It's also worth noting that whilst he's not “short” for the weight he is going to be giving away some significant size, with Kubo being a freakish Super Bantamweight, who will look to use his height and reach to neutralise the jab of Roman.
Roman is a very solid boxer, but the reality here is that he is stepping up massively here to face someone who has the home advantage and all the physical advantages. Roman is more experienced, and was a more accomplished amateur fighter, but it's hard to see what he has to beat Kubo. Unless he can land a bomb on Kubo we suspect the champion will record his first defense, and could well find himself becoming the target of domestic rivals like Yusaku Kuga and Hinata Maruta.
April 9th is set to be a big day in Japanese boxing with a number of shows being held in Osaka. The most notable of those is a title triple header at the EDION Arena Osaka. The headline bout from that triple header is a WBA Super Bantamweight title fight pitting defending champion Nehomar Cermeno (26-5-1-1, 15) against unbeaten Japanese challenger Shun Kubo (11-0, 8). For Cermeno the bout is his third defense whilst Kubo will be fighting for the first time at world level.
Aged 37 Cermeno is a genuine veteran. He was a noted amateur before turning professional back in 2004 and it didn't take long for him to impress, claiming various regional titles before scoring two huge wins in 2009 against Cristian Mijares, to claim and defend the WBA “interim” Bantamweight title. He would suffer his first two defeats back-to-back in 2010 against Anselmo Moreno, but both were ultra close split decisions to Moreno.
The losses to Moreno weren't shameful but they began a major slump for Cermeno who went from 19-0 (11) before facing Moreno to 20-5-1 (12) in just 25 months. Inactivity then cost Cermeno a chance to have big fights when the division was stacked with talent, but he has bounced back well, and went 4-0 (2) last year with notable wins over Qiu Xiao Jun and Nop Kratingdaengym to claim and defense the WBA title.
Although he is past the age one expects a fighter to be during their prime Cermeno is a talent fighter who doesn't rely on speed and reflexes. Instead he relies on his skills, his ring craft and his experience. He cleverly dictates the pace of a fight and the distance it's fought at. He's offensively crafty and defensively intelligent, knowing how to counter, and control an opponent, whilst also having under-rated power. Whilst not a KO artist, by any means, he does hit hard enough to punish fighters who give him openings, as Nop found out last year.
At 37 it's obvious that Cermeno can't fight at a great pace, but with his skills he has found ways to neutralise younger, fresher, foes and break them down with his accurate and sharp punches.
With just 11 bouts, and 56 rounds, under his belt Kubo will enter as the boy looking to become a man. He will also enter as the fighter that Shinsei Gym view as their heir apparent to Hozumi Hasegawa, who retired at the end of last year having become a 3-weight world champion. Kubo is viewed as the next star from the Shinsei gym, but this is a huge gamble and a massive step up in class.
In his mid 20's Kubo is a fighter coming into his physical prime and although he's only been a professional for about 4 years he has racked up countless rounds sparring with top fighters and has fought in 3 title bouts, winning the OPBF title and defending it twice. His competition hasn't been the best so far, but he does hold notable wins over Monico Laurente and Luis May, both decent fighters. Sadly he's jumping from OPBF level to world level with out fighting a real gate keeper type opponent, a real worry here.
In the ring Kubo is typically a counter puncher, looking to draw leads and fire back. If forced to lead Kubo is happy for a slow pace and to use his height and reach to keep the bout at range and pick his opponent off. Whilst that has typically worked well there are worries in regards to his stamina, and he has only been the distance once, against Benjie Suganob. He has got good natural skills, and size, but there is a question mark as to how tough he is, and how well he takes a shot.
Although there is a lot of questions about Kubo we suspect he and his team are pretty confident that he's a special fighter. He might not have shown that in the ring yet, but there is enough belief that he is something a lot better than we've seen so far. He will certainly need to prove that if he's to over-come Cermeno, but in fairness he is up against the weakest champion in the division.
Coming in to the bout we're not expecting a classic. We're expecting a slow and tactical battle fought at range, with only a few moments of real action. The rounds will be close, with Kubo's size and youth going up against Cermeno's experience and boxing brain. We think that Kubo may have gotten this bout at the right time, and that his team have done a blinder in getting him a shot at Cermeno. However with Cermeno's late career results there is a real chance that he will upset the rising Japanese youngster, just as he did with Jun and Nop last year.
Earlier this year we saw Panamanian based Venezuelan Nehomar Cermeno (25-5-1-1, 15) revive his career out of nowhere as he scored a dominant stoppage win against Qiu Xiao Jun (21-3, 10) to claim the WBA Super Bantamweight title. At the time the win was seen as an upset with Cermeno being a 36 year old who had essentially fought just 23 rounds in the previous 3 years, and the fact he was fighting in front of a very pro-Jun audience in Beijing. In the ring however the bout was a battle of skills and sadly for Jun he lacked them in comparison to Cermeno who gave him a boxing lesson.
Since reviving his career with the 12th round TKO win over Jun we've seen Cermeno shake off some more ring rust as he recorded his first defense of the title, scoring a brutal 3rd round KO against Nop Kratingdaenggym. He again showed his skills, timing and under-rated speed, and it looked like the veteran still had a lot left in the tank and to offer the sport.
At his very best Cermeno was a real handful. He twice defeated the brilliant Cristian Mijares, and twice lost in razor thin bouts to Anselmo Moreno, as well as a very debatable defeat to Victor Terrazas. Sadly for Cermeno the loss to Terrazas saw his career take a slide with a stoppage loss against Fernando Montiel, a draw with Yoandris Salinas and a loss to Alexander Bahktin. Those set backs, which came one after the other, saw Cermeno's record fall from 18-0 (10) to 20-5-1 (12) and saw many suggest his career was over. He would take a while out of the ring but has since gone 5-0-0-1 (3) taking the unbeaten record of Oscar Escandon and Nop, as well as his first win over Jun.
Although Cermeno as once one of the most under-rated talents in the sport he is now 37 and questions have to be asked about how long he can continue to put his body through the rigours of training.
As for Jun the first loss to Cermeno has been put down to an injury, something that was recently revealed in the Chinese press, though there will obviously be doubts about the legitimacy or significance of the injury. Since that defeat however the Dragon has bounced back, dominating Filipino Robert Udtohan en route to a 3rd round stoppage win, with that win coming on the same show as Cermeno's win over Nop. That bout saw an improved looking Jun fighting with more conviction than he had against Cermeno. Whether that was due to the injury from the Cermeno bout having healed or just being more comfortable against the Filipino is however debatable.
At his best Jun is a pretty basic fighter. Like many Chinese fighter's he's a bit crude, a bit physical and a bit rough around the edges, though has a much more traditional style than the wild Ik Yang. The rough edges disguise a genuinely promising fighter who is hard working, determined and showing regular signs of improvement. He is still a bit right hand happy, and it's clear he's not a natural boxer, but his team have worked hard to smooth off his flaws and have developed a solid but basic fighter. Sadly whilst Jun at his best is decent, Jun at his worst is slow, lumbering, open and wild, the type of fighter who is made to order for a skilled boxer like Cermeno.
Although Jun may have been carrying an injury into his first bout with Cermeno it wasn't the injury that decided the result. Instead it was the gulf in skills. That is likely to be the issue again here with Cermeno almost certainly set to retain his title. A fully fit Jun might be able to see out the final bell, but the reality is that Cermeno isn't coming in with a load of ring rust this time around, he's had 15 rounds this year alone, more than he had in 2014 and 2015 combined, and isn't likely to need as much time to get his timing and distance here as he did in the first bout. We wouldn't be shocked to see Jun being stopped again here.
The final day of September gives us one more Asian world title fight as unbeaten Thai Nop Kratingdaenggym (17-0, 5) faces off against WBA Super Bantamweight champion Nehomar Cermeno (24-5-1-1, 14) in China. The bout isn't a high profile one but could alter the scope of the 122lbs division in some really notable ways and continues to develop the Chinese fight scene.
For the champion the bout will be his first of the title he won back in June. Cermeno's title win came against China's very Qiu Xiao Jun, who he stopped in 12 rounds. That was Cermeno's second bout this year, but just his 5th in 4 years, with some questioning why he had gotten a shot after such a low level of activity. Whatever the merits of his title shot he took the opportunity and easy out skilled the crude Chinese fighter.
Whilst Cermeno will be returning to China for his second bout there this year, Nop will be making his international debut, in what will be his first bout outside of Thailand. In fact it will only be the third time he has fought outside of Bangkok. Not only is it his first bout away from home but it's also a huge step up in class following bouts against a variety of limited domestic fighters and poor imported foes.
Aged 36 Cermeno is a true veteran and has been a professional for close to 12 years. Prior to turning professional he was a solid amateur, fighting at the 2000 Olympics. As a professional he first came to the attention of many fans in 2009 when he twice beat Cristian Mijares. The first of the victories over Mijares saw Cermeno claim the WBA “interim” Bantamweight title, which he would defend twice before losing to Anselmo Moreno, in a bout for the full WBA Bantamweight title.
Following his first loss Cermeno struggled to get going again, losing in a rematch to Moreno before sliding from 19-0 (11), his pre-Moreno record, to 20-5-1 (12). Bouts with inactivity followed but he has since gone 4-0-0-1, winning against Oscar Escandon and Jun.
In the ring Cermeno is a tricky and smart fighter. He's not a big puncher or incredibly quick but he is crafty, smart and experienced. At his best he uses angles brilliantly, judges distances excellently and controls both the tempo and range of a bout with his movement and punch selection.
Whilst Cermeno is a wily old veteran the same cannot be said of Nop, who is 25 and very much an untested prospect coming in to this one. He has 17 fights, 129 rounds and amazingly 12 title bouts so far. However, all those title bouts thus far have been at PABA level, and some have been against very poor opponents. His most notable win, thus far at least, came last year over former world title challenger Nouldy Manakane, though Manakane was never much of a threat to the top guys at his best.
Although Nop's opposition so far has been dire, to say the least, there has been a lot of chances to see him with pretty much every one of his bouts having been aired in his homeland. Unlike a lot of Thai's he's not a an aggression first fighter, but instead he's more of a boxer, who has started to show power. He'll walk down some opponents, using head movement, intelligent footwork and his jab whilst in other fights he has fought on the back foot and used an opponents aggression against them.
Young, big at the weight and with a lot of promise Nop has the ability to win a world title, on day. Here however we suspect his relative inexperience against decent opponents, and inexperience on the road, will be his downfall with Cermeno being too good and too smart for the Thai youngster.
(Image courtesy of Thailand The Champion)
Over the last few years things have been hard on Chinese boxing. We have seen high profile losses for the likes of Xiong Xhao Zhong, Zou Shiming and Ik Yang and it seems like every time a Chinese fighter seems to be on the verge of something notable they suffer a setback or fail to shine in the way they are supposed to.
Thankfully however, given the size of China, there is always going to be someone else coming through the ranks and the next man is Super Bantamweight contender Qiu Xiao Jun (20-2, 9) who finally gets his shot at a world title on June 24th. The under-rated Chinese fighter will be battling for the vacant WBA crown and will be facing Venezuelan born veteran Nehomar Cermeno (23-5-1-1, 13), a 36 year old who debuted back in 2004.
Of the two men it's Cermeno who is the better known. He's a tricky fighter who has really made his name fighting away from home, basing himself in Panama for much of his career though also scoring wins in Argentina, Germany, Mexico, El Salvador and his native Venezuela, whilst also fighting a losing effort in Russia. As well as being a well travelled veteran Cermeno was, once, a very good fighter, beginning his career with 19 straight wins, including two victories over Cristian Mijares and twice pushing Anelmo Moreno all the way.
Since those losses to Moreno we've seen Cermeno struggle, and in fact he has since gone 4-3-1-1, with only a single win in the last 2 years, and even that came against a limited fighter in the form of Lester Medrano.
When we talk about Jun we're talking about one of China's hidden gems. He's not had the amateur background of Shiming, or the Western attention of Ik Yang, but he has had a genuinely interesting career and shown the type of improvement that can turn a fighter into a champion. He has also had sizeable investment put into him in China.
Aged 25 Jun is a youngster though debuted close to 6 years ago and has developed well, despite suffering two early career career set backs to Jonathan Baat in Japan. Since being 8-2 (3) we've seen Jun develop his skills, strength and natural fighting mentality and racked up notable wins. Those wins have seen him avenge his losses to Baat, defeat Jason Cooper, Silvester Lopez, Amor Belahdj Ali and Raymond Commey.
In the ring Jun still has a lot of smoothing off to do, however he is a rough and tumble fighter with heavy hands, much heavier than his record suggests, a decent work rate and a growing Chinese following. He's also a man who has been hungry for a title opportunity and will feel that this bout will be his chance to prove himself.
In his prime we suspect Cermeno would have clowned with Jun, who is still very crude. Today's Cermeno however is a shadow of that fighter and we really can't see him over-coming the younger, hungrier and naturally bigger Jun in this match up.
If Jun does win this one, as we suspect, he will become just the second man in Chinese boxing history to become a world champion, following in the footsteps of Zhong.
Some fighters are regarded as being a class above everyone in their division. Fighters like Wladimir Klitschko, Gennady Golovkin and Roman Gonzalez. Another of those it Cuban Super Bantamweight Guillermo Rigondeaux (14-0, 9) who is viewed as so good that others in the division do what they can to ignore him, pretending he doesn't exist and that he'll hopefully retire sooner rather than later. Rigondeaux's seen opponents avoid him like the plague and sadly he has seen promoters and TV cast him as the black sheep of boxing. He is, unfortunately, too good for his own good.
With almost all the fighters in the west now avoiding Rigondeaux it was inevitable he would have to fight in the east, at least for now. There were several possibilities for the Cuban though eventually a bout between himself and OPBF Featherweight champion Hisashi Amagasa (28-4-2, 19) was agreed. The story was one of those “wow” stories for boxing fans, similar to Nobuhiro Ishida becoming a heavyweight, and seems to have genuinely gotten Japanese fans talking.
There is a combination of excitement and apprehension regarding Rigondeaux's venture into Japan though what can't be denied is that this big news and a very, very tough fight for Amagasa, who will be hoping to score a huge upset and claim the WBO and WBA "super" Super Bantamweight titles.
For those who have seen Rigondeaux in action they will know what to expect. He is incredibly skilled, in fact his skills are probably the best of any fighter on the planet. Sadly those skills are combined with a very negative attitude to the combat aspect of boxing and instead of showing off his skills in offensive showcases, as we see with Gonzalez and Golovkin, Rigondeaux would rather box completely off the back foot, neutralising foes with footwork and attempting to take opponents out with single laser like straight left hands. It's pure boxing at it's finest but it can be dull and highly frustrating, especially given Rigondeaux's ability.
As frustrating as he is Rigondeaux really seems to have all the skills a fighter would wish for. He is an explosive puncher, has cat like reflexes, perfect balance, amazing timing and unbelievable speed. Sadly he has flaws that regard his mentality, which is certainly against putting on a show, and perceived issues regarding durability, having been dropped several times in his career. When he's feeling offensive Rigondeaux is a joy to watch and every bit as enjoyable as Roman Gonzalez, but sadly those moments are few and far between leaving many wishing to see more offense from the Cuban.
Rigondeaux is well known, even if he isn't well liked. The same cannot be said of Amagasa who is the OPBF Featherweight champion though is hardly known outside of his native Japan.
For those who don't know about about him Amagasa is a lanky fighter, stood at around 5'10” he was a taller Featherweight and, as he's dropping down to Super Bantamweight for this bout, will look stupidly tall for this bout against a much shorter foe. Sadly the Japanese fighter rarely makes the best use of his height and often comes in swinging wide shots rather than pumping out a sharp jab. If Amagasa had had a reliable and sharp jab he would be a real force on the world scene with his looping shots he often makes himself look beatable with recent foe Ryo Takenaka almost over-coming in his most recent bout.
Although technically limited Amagasa is an aggressive type of fighter with nasty power and he has scored some wonderful looking knockouts, most notable of which came against Koji Nagata back in 2009, courtesy of a brutal uppercut. Of course with his wing span and wide shots he has the ability to land from unusual angles, something that makes his power even more potent. As well as his power he has great work rate, seems to be tough and has real desire to reach the top.
We suspect, like everyone else, that Rigondeaux will be too good, too smart, too sharp and too quick for Amagasa. In fact even the Japanese fighter himself has suggested he only has 1% chance of upsetting that talented Cuban. Despite all the advantages there is a chance, albeit a very small one, that Amagasa may be able to connect with one of his wild swings. It's unlikely but possible that he could connect and send Rigondeaux down and out.
We're expecting an easy looking Rigondeaux win, either by wide decision or by a late stoppage, probably from a body shot. If Amagasa wins however he may well have notched up the upset of the year in one of the final bouts of the year.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
It's fair to say this weekend is a monster weekend for boxing fans all around the world with major fights taking place with fighters from Thailand, China, the Philippines, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, Ukraine, UK, Colombia and the USA. It's a day that really brings the global idea of boxing all into one giant melting.
One of the more over-looked bouts will see former Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Hidenori Otake (22-1-3, 9) attempt to become a world champion as he travels to the UK to take on the unbeaten Scott Quigg (29-0-2, 22), the current WBA Super Bantamweight champion. The bout was a controversial one when it was announced, given that Otake wasn't in the WBA top 15 ranked fighters, but it is nice to see Otake given his shot at the top. We'll admit that we're not fans of the bout in many ways but we do suspect it will entertaining for as long as it lasts.
Quigg, for those who haven't seen him, is one of the most naturally strong Super Bantamweights on the planet. He's not the smoothest of movers, though he can move relatively lightly on his toes, but he is an aggressive fighter who applies a lot of pressure in an attempt to break opponents down with heavy shots that are sharp and accurate. Sadly however he come under a lot of criticism for avoiding other top Super Bantamweights and instead facing a string of smaller men such as Diego Oscar Silva, Tshifhiwa Munyai amd Stephane Jamoye, all natural Bantamweights. Whilst it's true to say that Quigg has had to face some men on short notice following injuries to opponents it does still seem frustrating to follow his career and not see him in the ring with fighters like Carl Frampton, Leo Santa Cruz, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Kiko Martinez and domestic rival Kid Galahad.
Questions regarding Quigg are how he handles a real boxer-mover, how he handles a true Super Bantamweight and he he handles a proven world class opponent. Sadly we've yet to see him do any of that which is a shame as it seems he wants to prove himself but isn't being matched in a way that sees him fighting some of the best in the division. What we see with his match making is the British fighter being matches with men who make him look good and make him look stronger and better than he is. We suspect that may be the case again here.
Otake is, in many ways, similar to Quigg. He's an offensive fighter first and foremost. Sadly where Quigg is strong, powerful and hurtful with his shorts Otake is more of a grinder who lands a lot of shots in the hope of every shot taking some effect. It's the fact Otake has great stamina that saw him winning the Japanese title and subsequently notching up 4 defenses before vacating the belt a few months ago to focus on world title bouts. All 5 of his Japanese title bouts were won on points with several of them being amazingly close, including his technical decision over Nobuhisa Coronita Doi his title winning effort against Takafumi Nakajima and his first defense, against Mikihito Seto.
Watching Otake in action is fun. He comes forward behind a tight guard and tried to cut the distance before letting his hands go. Unfortunately for those wanting to see him in action footage of his bouts are scarce with his bout against Yuji Maruyama being the only full fight we could track down. In that fight he looked "made to order" for Quigg who would love to fight that style of fight against Otake and sadly for the Japanese fighter that's what we're suspect will happen here.
We think Otake will fight with his hands up and walk forward attempting to apply constant pressure and this will lead to Quigg standing in front of him and giving us a phone booth, toe-to-toe battle. Sadly for Otake his lack of power will be the difference with Quigg's shots being more telling, more damaging and eventually too much for Otake who will be ground down at some point in the middle of the fight.
(Image, of Otake, courtesy of http://www.kaneko-boxing.com)
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.