The current era of Japanese youngsters is brilliant, and there is no doubting that we are witnessing a golden age of Japanese boxing with so much young talent in the country. Among the most impressive of those fighters is WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (15-0, 15), who has a perfect KO record and is quickly proving himself as one of the most destructive fighters in the sport. This coming Sunday Higa will be returning to the ring as he hunts his third defense of the title, and takes on Nicaraguan challenger Cristofer Rosales (26-3, 17) in Kanagawa. Not only will it be Higa's 3rd defense, but another stoppage win will see him take the #1 spot on the Japanese all time record for most consecutive KO's. For Rosales it will be a chance to become a world champion, and follow in the footsteps of other great Nicaraguan's like Roman Gonzalez and Alexis Arguello.
Higa's rise has been one of the best in Japan. Unlike Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka, who were both amazing amateur's, Higa's rise has been somewhat unexpected but truly fantastic. Having made his debut in the summer of 2014 Higa was a bit an unknown until his 2015 win over Kongfah CP Freshmart in Thailand. Since then he has made statement, after statement, stopping Ardin Diale in 4 rounds for the OPBF Flyweight title, blasting out Juan Hernandez in 6 rounds for the WBC title and recently stopping Moises Fuentes inside a round.
In the ring Higa is a little monster. He's a busy, accurate, hard hitting pressure fighter who brings the pressure from the off, has an under-rated jab and throws beautifully vicious combinations and body shots. Offensively the champion is a machine, and looks similar in style to a prime Roman Gonzalez, with his pressure, footwork and destructive combinations. Defensively however he's a bit flawed. He can be caught, he be out manoeuvred and he has been caught once or twice early in a fight. He's not shown any issues with his chin, and does take few shots clean, but there is holes there that could encourage future opponents.
Aged 23 Rosales is already a young veteran, with this bout set to be his 30th in less than 5 years! That sounds impressive but only tells half of the story about the man from Managua. His first loss, in just his 3rd bout, came to Keyvin Lara, who challenged Kazuto Ioka in 2016 and put up a really good effort, his second loss was in a somewhat competitive contest to current WBA Super Flyweight champion Kal Yafai whilst his most recent loss was to Andrew Selby, in a much more competitive bout than the score cards suggest. As well as those losses Rosales has shown his ability with wins against the likes of Eliecer Quezada, Martin Tecuapetla and Mohammad Obbadi.
Rosales is an aggressive fighter, but not in the same out and out pressure style as Higa. Instead he's a bit more of a boxer-puncher, with very solid power, good boxing skills and the ability to fight at range of up close. He's a very tough and dangerous fighter, and the scare he gave Andrew Selby showed how good he really is. He may not have his name in the mix a top tier fighter, but that's more because of how over-looked he is rather than how good he is.
Rosales is a really dangerous and tough opponent. He's not going to b there to lose, to look for a way out or to come out second best. Instead he's travelling to win, and make the most of this voluntary title fight. It's a very risky move from Higa's team to face someone as dangerous as Rosales but it's clear that the champion wants tough opponents and wants to increase his profile by beating top fighters. Despite how good Rosales is, we thing Higa is something very special. Rosales won't travel to Japan to lose, but Higa will take the decision out of his hands, and will break him down with body shots to break through the resolve of Rosales, in similar fashion to Hiroto Kyoguchi's win against Carlos Buitrago late last year.
One of the big Japanese success stories of 2017 was Flyweight sensation Daigo Higa (14-0, 14), ho claimed the WBC Flyweight title in May and recorded his first defense in October. Not only did he win and defend the title, but he did so in impressive fashion, stopping both Juan Hernande Navarrete and Thomas Masson in a combined 13 rounds, to continue his perfect KO run. This coming Sunday Higa will be looking to extend his perfect run as he takes on former WBO Minimumweight champion Moises Fuentes (25-4-1, 14) in what will be his second world title defense.
If you've missed Higa's rise over the last few years there really is no excuse to continue turning a blind eye to one of the sports most exciting and destructive fighters. The 22 year old Okinawan debuted in June 2014 and blew out his first 5 opponents in the first 2 rounds. He took his first step up in June 2015 and stopped Cris Alfante in 4 rounds before travelling to Thailand and stopping Kongfah CP Freshmart in 7 rounds to claim the WBC Youth Flyweight title. He would defend that title twice before moving up in class to claim the OPBF title in 2016 and then move up again to claim the WBC title last year.
Stood at just over 5'3” Higa is a little ball of destruction similar to a prime Roman Gonzalez. For those who were fans of Gonzalez it'd be hard to not be excited by Higa who has a very similar style based on intense pressure, vicious combinations and an under-rated defensive skills. Not only does he have an aggressive style but he has the devastating power to go with it, and his shots all look like they have incredible power on them, despite the fact he never looks like he's forcing things. Instead everything just naturally flows, including some brilliant triple hook combinations.
Not only has Higa shown his destructive style, his toughness, and desire but he's never looked hurt during his career, despite having a tooth damaged in his title win, and has shown impressive stamina, going 10 rounds against Renren Tesorio in 2015. Although he was widely in charge against Tesorio he refused to risk his perfect KO record and continued hunting the stoppage until the referee was forced to save the Filipino.
Mexican fighter Fuentes is 30 years old but is an old professional having made his debut in May 2007. He started his career with a 12 fight winning run before losing a split decision to Juan Hernandez Navarette in 2011. Despite the set back against Hernandez it didn't take long for Fuentes to get back to winning ways and just 6 months later he would beat Raul Garcia by split decision for the WBO Minimumweight title. As the world champion he would defend the belt twice, stopping both Julio Cesar Felix and Ivan Calderon before moving up in weight. At 108lbs Fuentes' natural size stopped being a huge advantage and he would go 0-1-1 against Donnie Nietes in bouts for the WBO title. He did manage to score some good wins following those losses, including wins against Oswaldo Novoa and Francisco Rodriguez Jr, but looked totally shot when he faced Kosei Tanaka at the end of 2016.
Sadly since the Tanaka bout it's been hard to really know what Fuentes has left, as he's gone 1-1 with Ulises Solis. Going on the Tanaka bout, there was nearly nothing left. It seemed the same when he was stopped by Nietes in their second bout as well. It could well be that he's shot, or it could have been that he was taking too much out of himself to make 108lbs. Whatever the reason it does seem like he's not the fighter he once was.
Although Fuentes at his best was a nightmare, a big strong, aggressive tank, who came forward and let his hands go, we don't believe he's even close to being that fighter. Instead we see him as a shot fighter, and the next victim of the Higa express. Fuentes might be able to pose some problems early on, but we can't see him lasting too long with against Higa's aggression and power.
This coming Sunday fans will get a triple world title show at the Kokugikan in Japan. One of those bouts will see Flyweight destroyer Daigo Higa (13-0, 13) attempt to continue his perfect stoppage run, and make his first defense of the WBC Flyweight title, as he takes on former 2-time European champion Thomas Masson (17-3-1, 5). The bout will be Higa's first against a European opponent, with rumours an Andrew Selby fight expected next year, and would be Masson's second fight outside of France.
For those who haven't yet seen Higa you've been missing out on one of the most exciting pressure fighters of the current era. Higa combines under-rated footwork, with truly vicious power, and smart defense, which allowed him to get inside and work away at the head or body of his foes. Although only a Flyweight he is a man who is mowing opponents down with his heavy hands, and stopped all 13 previous opponents in a combined 48 rounds.
With an average fight length of less than 4 rounds there are some who would question Higa's stamina, especially if he's going to be forced to chase an opponent for 12 rounds. We have however seen Higa go into the second half of fights, and look just as energetic as he did in the earlier stages. This was notable in his 7th round win over Kongfah CP Freshmart and his 10th round over Renren Tesorio. It was also notable that last time out, against Juan Hernandez, that Higa seemed to be getting more and more effective whilst Hernandez was being worn down by the pressure and power of the Japanese youngster.
Higa's style is a nice blend of his mentor's, Yoko Gushiken, and Nicaraguan great Roman Gonzalez, with Higa once being described as the “Romagon of Okinawa”. Like those two fighters he is ultra aggressive, but like those two fighters there is more than just aggression to what he does and and it's those subtle defensive moves, his ability to switch between head and body, and his frightening power than makes him so effective.
As for Masson things are very different, and he's much more of a boxer-mover. He's got nice movement and likes to keep things fought at his tempo, whilst establishing his jab and straight right hand. Defensively he's quite open but does have a really sharp jab and nice footwork. Unfortunately for Masson he's very upright and has a low left hand, which is likely to be an invitation to Higa. Whilst he's very upright he's also very tall, listed at 5'7” and whilst he can use that heigh well he is lacking in terms of his inside game and does often look pretty 1-paced behind his jab.
During his career so far Masson has been beaten by two men. Domestic rival Badis Ouari holds two decisions over him and Ashley Sexton, who took a clear win over the Frenchman in his only outing outside of France. Since his last loss the Frenchman has reeled off 9 straight wins, whilst claiming the French Flyweight title and twice becoming the European champion. During his career he has gone 12 rounds twice, and scored notable wins over the likes of Silvio Olteanu and Oleksandr Hryshchuk, which are both good wins, but a long way from world class.
Whilst we can certainly see Masson having his moments, especially early in the bout, we think the pressure and power of Higa will be too much and the body shots will take their toll on the long frame of the challenger. We certainly believe Masson will ask some new questions of Higa, before being broken down and stopped in the middle rounds.
The Flyweight division in recent times has been one of the best, with great bouts and amazing depth at the top. Sadly last year we saw the division being left in a mess with Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada and Johnriel Casimero all abandoning the division and leaving most of the titles vacant the division a disappointing mess. Thankfully the titles have slowly found new owners, with Zou Shiming claiming the WBO title, Donnie Nietes recently winning the IBF belt and Juan Hernandez Navarrete (34-2, 25) claiming the WBC title.
This coming Saturday we see Hernandez making his first defense of the title as he takes on Japanese sensation Daigo Higa (12-0, 12), a wrecking on the Japanese and Oriental scene. For champion it's a tough mandatory against one of the rising stars of Japanese boxing, whilst Higa gets a chance to prove himself on the world in what is a huge step up. For us, the fans, the bout is nothing short of a mouth watering clash between exciting world class boxer-puncher and one of the most exciting pressure fighters in the sport today.
Two men Hernandez is the more well known, by far, when it comes to international fans. The Mexican first began to make a mark years ago, and really became a contender in 2010, when he scored wins over Armando Vazquez, Danver Cuello and Moises Fuentes. That strong of wins lead to Hernandez getting a show at the then WBC Minimumweight champion Kazuto Ioka, with Ioka taking a well earned decision over Mexican.
Since losing to Ioka back in March 2012 we've seen Hernandez go on a brilliant 16-0 (12) run. Whilst the numbers look impressive by them selves it's the competition that has really made that run. He has scored wins over the likes of Saul Juarez, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Jesus Silvestre, Omar Nino Romero and Nawaphon Por Chokchai during that run, with the win over Nawaphon netting the Mexican the WBC title. That run has seen Hernandez stop his last 6 foes in a combined 16 rounds and really look like a truly world class Flyweight.
Last time out, against Nawaphon, we saw Hernandez look sensational. He looked smooth boxing early on then turned up the heat in round 3 and hurt Nawaphon before hinting a finish which came following a real barrage of shots. He showed a bit of everything during the bout, speed, skills, power and killer instinct in what was a really good showing and one that came on enemy soil.
For those who haven't seen Higa, and his rise through the ranks, you've been missing out on one of the sports most exciting talents. He's an out and out pressure fighter with a style reminiscent of Roman Gonzalez, with the similarities resulting in Higa being dubbed the “Romagon of Okinawa”. He's doesn't go into the ring to win, but instead he goes there to beat people up, and do it in a fun, exciting manner, like his mentor Yoko Gushiken. Despite being such a destructive fighter he's only 21 and is a boxing baby with just 42 professional rounds.
Higa's early career went pretty under the radar though in 2015 he did get some notable attention as he travelled to Thailand and battered Kongfah CP Freshmart in 7 rounds for the WBC Youth Flyweight title. It was a thrilling bout and one that really did capture the attention of fans who hadn't previously seen Higa. The Japanese warrior defended the WBC Youth title twice, including a 10th round TKO win over gutsy Filipino Renren Tesorio, before claiming the OPBF title last year with a 4th round KO against Ardin Diale, in a brilliant showing.
Higa has steam rolled through his foes so far. He's put them all under pressure and they have all broken due to his combinations, power and physical strength. It's been great fun watching his rise an it's been one that has seen him improve, and improve, both as a fighter and as a young man. In fact watching him transition from a boy to a man has been brilliant to see. This is however a massive leap up in class and the first time he's taken on a true world class all rounder, and one who has developed into one of the leading Flyweights on the planet.
We'd love for Higa to win, we've cheer lead him since his 4th bout, against Samruai Mungwong in January 2015,but we think might be too much too soon. We certainly believe he has the power to hurt Hernandez, and probably also has the speed and combinations to break down anyone in the division, but we think that Hernandez will have too much know how too much movement and too much skill, at the moment, for Higa. It could end up looking like a man against a boy, sadly for Higa, though we suspect the youngster will learn so much from having time in the ring with Hernandez.
Whilst we really do want to see Higa win, and break out on the world stage, we think Hernandez will just be too good at the moment for the Japanese youngster.
It's fair to say that the Flyweight division went from being one of the hottest divisions in the sport to one of the weakest, lacking in both star power and in talent. It's not totally devoid of both, but it did lose a lot of it's allure in 2017 as Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada and Johnriel Casimero all abandoned the division. With 3 title holders moving up from Flyweight it left the title scene in a real mess, with the WBO, IBF and WBC titles all becoming vacant.
Since those titles were scattered only one vacancy has been filled, that's the WBO title vacancy that has been claimed by Chinese star Zou Shiming, who claimed the title in November when he beat Kwanpichit OnesongchaiGym. On March we see the WBC title vacancy being filled as unbeaten Thai Nawaphon Por Chokchai (36-0, 28) takes on talented Mexican Juan Hernandez Navarrete (33-2, 24) in a bout for the vacant title. For Nawaphon it'll be his first world title fight and a chance to announce himself on the world stage whilst Hernandez will be looking to claim a world title at the time of asking.
Of the two men it's the Mexican who is the more proven, and proven he is. Although best known in some circles for coming up short against Kazuto Ioka in a WBC Minimumweight title fight in 2011 it's fair to say that Hernandez has one of the most impressive resumes of any lower weight fighter right now. He holds wins over the likes of Denver Cuello, Saul Juarez, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Jesus Silvestre and Omar Nino Romero. Although the one over Cuello was controversial the others have mostly been clear cut wins and in fact since the loss to Ioka he has won 15 in a row, including wins over Juarez, Garcia Hirales, Silvestrea and Romero.
Although not a elite level talent Hernandez is a genuine world class fighter who has scored notable wins from Minimumweight to Bantamweight. He is highly skilled, very tough and experienced fighter. He's not the quickest, or the biggest punching but he isn't slow by any means and his power is solid, with his last 5 wins being by stoppage in a combined 13 rounds! He's a man in hot form and full of confidence.
Unbeaten in 36 fights and aged 25 Nawaphon is one of the rising hopefuls of the Thai scene and is looking to become the third active member of the Nakornluang stable to become a world champion following in the footsteps of older brother Suriyan Sor Rungvisai and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai who both held the WBC Super Flyweight title. Nawaphon has been a professional for a little over 6 years but has been incredibly active racking up his record. Whilst it seems impressive to have had 36 fights in around 75 months he has been in there with some dire competition, with the best wins on his record being the likes of Donny Mabao, Mateo Handig and Heri Amol. He is, in fact, a man who has one of the sports most padded records.
Although his record is padded Nawaphon can fight. He's an aggressive pressure fighter who has been slicing through the lower tired competition like he's suppose to. He's stopped 12 of his last 13 and looked to make a statement in those bouts by not going beyond 6 rounds in any of them. He's not a man who has been messing around and much like Srisaket he gets in the ring to beat opponents up and move on to the next fight. He's also huge at the weight and could be a nightmare in terms of his size alone.
Although the level of competition may flatter Nawaphon, and may have given him a false sense of security, his team dug deep into their pockets to secure home advantage here. That is a key with the Thai in having a better read on the conditions in Thailand, there is however a slightly edge on that with Hernandez's team forcing the bout to be held in an inside venue where their man will be protected from the Thai elements. With that indoor venue taking away a lot of the home advantages a Thai has this could be a double tough contest for Nawaphon and we can't but think his competition has left him ill prepared for a fighter like Hernandez. With all that in mind we're predicting a stoppage win for Hernandez in the mid-to later rounds, of what will be an entertaining scrap, but one where the experience at a higher level of Hernandez will be the difference.
Since the retirement of Floyd Mayweather Jr we have seen the world of boxing crown a new pound-for-pound #1 fighter, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (43-0, 37). The little Nicaraguan sensation has finally received the recognition that hardcore fans, lower weight fans and Japanese fans have been giving him for years. On October 16th we see Gonzalez attempt to move to 44-0 and make the next defense of his WBC Flyweight title as he takes on Filipino-American Brian Viloria (36-4-0-2, 22) in what looks to be a mouth watering test for for the new pound-for-pound king.
Gonzalez's rise from obscurity to 3-weight world champion and pound-for-pound status has been a relatively slow climb though that many fans expected of him from relatively early in his career. In fact you need to go back to 2008 for his first “break out” performance, a 4th round TKO win over the then WBA Minimumweight champion Yutaka Niida. It was in that bout that Gonzalez showed impressive power, skills maturity for a 21 year old fighting away from home. The following year he would return to Japan and take a clear win over Katsunari Takayama, in what was a clear decision with Takayama doing all he could to see out the final few rounds.
Since announcing himself in Japan Gonzalez has managed to make a name for himself in Mexico, with wins over the likes of Manuel Vargas, Omar Salado and Juan Francisco Estrada, all whom were beat whilst Gonzalez was the WBA Light Flyweight champion. For many fans in the west it was the Estrada bout, aired in the US, that brought Gonzalez some new fans, it was a 2012 FOTY contender and one of the best bouts in recent years between two men who essentially beat each other up for 12 highly entertaining rounds. An impressive win over Akira Yaegashi last year saw Gonzalez become the WBC Flyweight champion and further strengthen his claim of being one of the world truly elite level fighters.
This year we've seen Gonzalez finally break through to the mainstream with his HBO debut, a very impressive and destructive win over Edgar Sosa. That win saw HBO and American fight fans make it clear that they wanted more of him and just 5 months after his HBO debut he's back again in what looks to be a genuinely tough match up against Viloria.
Before we get on to Viloria we'll just talk about Gonzalez's style. He is able to box and move but at his best he's a marauding pressure fighter, he cuts off the ring, brings the fight to you and beats you with vicious and sharp combinations. If Floyd Mayweather was a defense genius then Gonzalez was his offensive contemporary with the best offensives footwork and combinations in the sport. He's fast, strong, powerful and staggeringly destructive. If has a flaw it's possibly his defense which can slip at times, though usually he's on point with that as well using a tight guard and good head movement.
Now Viloria, the American Olympian has long been a favourite of the hardcore fans and Filipino fans and for much of the last decade or so has been the one Flyweight who looked like he could become a US TV staple. Unfortunately he has often found himself have momentum stopping set backs just as he's looked ready to kick on with his career.
Saying that however Viloria is a 2-weight world champion himself and holds a really respectable number of world level wins. They include wins over the likes of Gilberto Keb Baas, Eric Ortiz, who be heat for the WBC Light Flyweight title, Jose Antonio Aguirre, Ulises Solis, Julio Cesar Mirando, Giovani Segura, Omaro Nino Romero and Hernan Marquez. Sadly losses to Romero, Edgar Sosa, Carlos Tamara and most recently Juan Francisco Estrada have stopped him from becoming the star that many hoped he would become.
At 34 years old Viloria is old for a Flyweight and has been through the hard, career draining, battles yet he is still a more than capable boxer-puncher who can really, genuinely, do every thing in the ring. He's been blessed with spiteful power, as seen in his win over Ortiz, and has developed fantastic boxing ability. The problem sometimes however is that he's not sure on whether he's a boxer or a puncher and can get stuck between the two, he's also shown questionable stamina, notable in his bouts with Tamada and Estrada. At 34 that stamina is unlikely to have improved.
Although a very good boxer Viloria is likely to be needing to rely on his power here as Gonzalez will almost certainly bring the intense pressure that has became a staple of his recent bouts. If Viloria can hurt Gonzalez then things could be interesting however we suspect Viloria will struggle to land clean and instead he will be forced to eat the combinations of Gonzalez until the challenger is eventually worn down.
Hopefully the winner of this will move towards another divisional super fight, with perhaps Amnat Ruenroeng, Juan Francisco Estrada or Kazuto Ioka. If that happens then it's going to be very hard for American boxing media and the casual fight fans to continue to ignore the Flyweight division, arguable the most exciting division in the sport today.
Fuentes gets his second world title shot of the year, unfortunately for him it comes against Chocolatito
Boxing has always had unfortunate fighters who, in a different era, could have been a champion. The fighters that always seem to be frozen out or only get a chance on foreign soil or against a completely sensational talent. It appears that popular Filipino Rocky Fuentes (35-7-2, 20) maybe one such fighter. In a different era or with a big promoter behind him we have no doubts that Fuentes would have held a world title. Sadly however he is fighting now and the Flyweight division is the toughest division in the sport right today with his upcoming opponent, WBC Flyweight champion Roman Gonzalez (40-0, 34) being possibly the best fighter on the planet today.
The 28 year old Fuentes began his career aged just 16 and in just his 4th bout he had a man's life on his hands after the death of John Eman Juarez. For many young fighters that would have been it and lesser fighters would have walked away from the sport, for Fuentes however it was one of many disappointments as he began one of the sports true hard luck careers.
Fuentes would begin his career 8-0 before quickly dropping to 9-3-2 as he had to travel for fighters losing 3 of 4 bouts on the road. Sadly for Fuentes it was on the road that he had to spend much of his career with bouts taking place in Thailand, Indonesia and Japan. The travels saw him gain the well earned moniker of the "Road Warrior" though he began fighting better on the road than at home and scored notable wins over Yuki Nasu, Masafumi Okubo, Shigetaka Ikehara, Yasuto Aritomi and Hirofumi Mukai as he won and defended the OPBF Flyweight title. In total Fuentes would make 6 OPBF title defences in less than 3 years whilst also fighting other non-title bouts. It was a case of fighting and waiting, waiting for his well earned world title fight. Unfortunately the wait was a frustrating one as he scored 15 straight wins and 22 wins from 23 contests and saw a man he beat, Mukai, get a WBC title fight just 4 months after Fuentes had beaten him.
Fuentes got his first world title bout earlier this year in his 44th professional bout and unsurprisingly he had to go on the road again. Sadly that took him to Thailand, a country renowned for being difficult to win in, and unfortunately he came up short against unbeaten Thai Amnat Ruenroeng in a very competitive bout. The loss wasn't a bad one for Fuentes but it was certainly a hard one to swallow considering what he had done to earn a shot in comparison to Ruenroeng who was fighting for just the 12th time as a professional.
For those who haven't seen Fuentes in action you've been missing out. At his best he's an intelligent pressure fighter with heavy hands and an exciting in the ring. He's not the most polished fighter out there but he is a fighter who always seems to be be in entertaining scraps, such as his contest with Juan Kantun that saw 4 knockdowns and when he needs to box he can though we get the feeling he prefers to force the action in an attempt to make a point and keep the judges from trying to take the fight away from him. Sadly for a fighter with his style he perhaps lacks a tiny bit in terms of power, though he is certainly not feather fisted by any stretch of the imagination.
As mentioned above Fuentes will be up against Roman Gonzalez, a man who needs no introduction at all and a man every fight fan should be full aware of. The Nicaraguan fighter a born fighter with a mentality that has shown he wants to prove he's the best no matter where that sees him fighting. As a result he has fought many of his most significant bouts in Japan where where he claimed his first world title, with a 4th round TKO against Yutaka Niida in 2008, made the second defense of his WBA Minimumweight title against Katsunari Takayama in 2009, claimed the WBA interim Light Flyweight title with a 2nd round KO against Francisco Rosas, and most recently claimed the WBC Flyweight title with a victory over Akira Yaegashi. Despite beating many of Japan's finest he hasn't become public enemy #1 but instead has been accepted by the Japanese fight fans who have warmed quickly to the Nicaraguan terror.
For those who haven't seen Gonzalez they've been missing out on the sports best offensive fighter, most frightening pressure fighter and possibly the best combination puncher in the sport. Built like a mini-tank Gonzalez employs exceptional footwork, insane strength, frightening speed, spiteful power and a mind blowing array of punches thrown in crisp and sharp combinations. There has been no proven way to make him look bad and only a handful of fighters have even made it to the final bell against him with the most recent of these being Juan Francisco Estrada back in November 2012, Estrada has since gone on to become the other leading fighters at Flyweight. Amazingly Estrada is the only man in the last 12 fights to see out the distance with Gonzalez who has been on a real tear through the lower weights in recent years.
Watching Gonzalez is a genuine pleasure as he stalks his pray with intense pressure, breaking them mentally by never backing up and breaking them physically with his arsenal of heavy shots. In some ways he's the antithesis of Guillermo Rigondeaux and whilst he has a similarly high skill level to Rigondeaux and Floyd Mayweather Jr he has the mentality of fighting offensively and given fans a show that ends with a knockout. Sometimes it sees him leaving himself a little bit open to counters but by then an opponent is usually to beat up to take advantage as Gonzalez goes for the finish.
With both fighters enjoying a fight, both sharing a mentality of fighting on the front foot and both wanting to impress we suspect we could be in for a high octane affair here with both likely to end up trading on the inside in some highlight reel exchanges. Unfortunately for Fuentes that could be the worst idea with Gonzalez being defensively tighter and offensively more explosive, faster, more effective and all-round better. For fans however we suspect this could be a short lived but thrilling war before Fuentes is ground down, like in the middle rounds of a very memorable contest.
It's a real shame that Fuentes gets his second world title fight against a monster like Gonzalez though at the moment the Flyweight division is genuinely the toughest in the sport and a loss to Gonzalez is nothing but expected for everyone currently competing in the division.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
It's not every week that we get a genuine super fight but on September 5th we get one of the best match ups that the sport could possibly throw us. A bout that it genuinely amazing and a bout that not only looks good as a match up but is also significant in terms of both the Flyweight division and the legacy of both men.
The fight, a WBC Flyweight title fight, will see Japanese champion Akira Yaegashi attempt to record his 4th defence of the title whilst his opponent, Roman Gonzalez, will be attempting to become the second ever 3-weight world champion from Nicaragua and further enhance his reputation as one of the most truly elite fighters on the planet.
The defending champion Yaegashi (20-3, 10) is one of Japanese boxing's best kept secrets though like many of the lower weight fights, such as Katsunari Takayama. He possesses a number of the stereo typical Japanese qualities, the most notable of those qualities is his extreme toughness which has seen him through a number of tough battles, notably his contest with Eagle Den Junlaphan and his bout with Kazuto Ioka. Sadly for Yaegashi he has had to rely on that toughness numerous times over the course of his career due to his defensive limitation and, again like Takayama, he has had to eat more than his share of shots in a tough career.
Aged 31 Yaegashi is getting on for a lower weight fighter and despite having only fought in 23 bouts he has fought in a lot of hard bouts. Those bouts with Junlaphan and Ioka as well as his bouts with Pornsawan Porpramook and Toshiyuki Igarashi would all have “added years” to Yaegashi the boxer and that is a problem, especially considering that the damage he has received has seen his eyes and face swell in numerous bouts, sometimes to the extent that a fight could have been stopped.
As well as the wear and tear Yaegashi has found that his power really isn't effective at the world level. He may have 10 stoppages form his 23 career fights but that includes just 5 from his last 18 bouts and he has actually only scored 2 stoppages in his 7 world title bouts and just 3 in his last 11 bouts!
When we talk about Gonzalez (39-0, 33) we again find ourselves talking about a fighter who is incredibly over-looked by many in the boxing world. Out side of the ring Gonzalez is a charming young man though in between the ropes he is a pure pressure fighter who stalks behind a tight guard, unloads with vicious and quick combinations and is extremely smart in the way he applies pressure, it's constant but intelligent. Worryingly for opponents Gonzalez combines sensational speed, frightening power, smart movement, sturdy defence and a very tough chin, even when tagged cleanly he shows no sign of discomfort.
If he was fighting above 130lbs Gonzalez would be widely regarded as one of the best fighters on the planet. Instead the diminutive Nicaraguan is a man known only to those hardcore fans who make the effort to follow the lower weights. As is often the case those fans are rewarded and in this case they get the to see a destructive, vicious and spiteful fighter who goes to the ring with the intention of beating up foes and not just getting the win.
For a 27 year old Gonzalez seems to have been around for what feels like a lifetime. That's probably because he made his debut all the way back in 2005 as a very baby faced 18 year old and also because he was just 21 when he won his first world title, the WBA Minimumweight title, with a classy performance against Yutaka Niida. He is possibly “older” in terms of boxing age than a 27 year old but it's fair to suggest that he's not yet peaked and is in fact just getting better and better, still.
Although Gonzalez is similar, in a lot of ways, to Yaegashi's stablemate Naoya Inoue there are a lot of differences. Sparring with Inoue will have helped Yaegashi cope with the pressure though Gonzalez is naturally bigger than Inoue and more experienced, two things that will help neutralise the effectiveness of the sparring sessions between Yaegashi and “Monster” Inoue. At the end of the day however that sparring can't prevent Yaegashi from swelling when he takes numerous head shots and sadly we feel that will be his issue here.
Going into the fight we have a boxer with a warriors mentality and a pressure fighter who always brings the action. Unfortunately for Yaegashi the odds don't favour him, especially when we look at the way Gonzalez defeated Katsunari Takayama with intense pressure and heavy artillery that really took it's toll on “The Lightning Kid”. Yaegashi has never shown serious stamina issues but he's never been in the ring with someone as heavy handed or as capable as Gonzalez who always finds a way to cut the ring down and get to work with his thunderous shots on the inside.
Whilst we do favour Gonzalez to get the win here we do need to make fans aware of several things. Firstly Yaegashi has been talking to several former Gonzalez opponents. Amongst them are Takayama and Niida, who have both offered advice to Yaegashi on how Gonzalez goes about his work in the ring. It's obvious that advice will obviously be taken on board by Yaegashi it's hard to know just how much that advice will help him deal with the the man known as "El Chocolatito".
(Image courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
When we talk about exciting little fighters who can brawl or box few really rival Akira Yaegashi (19-3, 9). The WBC Flyweight champion won his first world title, the WBC Minimumweight title, by going to war with Pornsawan Porpramook, he lost that title in a thrilling war with Kazuto Ioka before moving to Flyweight to beat Toshiyuki Igarashi in a bloody battle.
Since winning the Flyweight title however Yaegashi has used his speed rather than his toughness to defend his title twice, including a notable victory over Edgar Sosa that saw Sosa often chasing shadows.
On April 6th Yaegashi will be hunting the third defense of his title has faces a third successive Mexican. After defending against Oscar Blanquet and Sosa, as mentioned above, he will now be facing Odilon Zaleta (15-3, 8).
Unfortunately after beating Sosa we'd hoped Yaegashi would be facing a top challenger, in Zaleta we are a bit disappointed, especially considering Zaleta's recent form which has consisted of 2 losses in his last 3 bouts.
Those losses of Zaleta have come to well known names in the form of Luis Concepcion, who stopped Zaleta in 2 rounds, and Mario Rodriguez, who took a split decision over Zaleta last time out. Unfortunately when we consider that Katsunari Takayama made Rodriguez look foolish and Rodriguez then beat Zaleta it's fair to say that Zaleta probably shouldn't be fighting for a world, at least not at the moment.
From footage of Zaleta he appears to be relatively slow, not all that aggressive, not the toughest but when he connects clean, as he did on Armando Torres last time out, he can clean an opponents clock. Although the power perhaps isn't reflected on his record he does seem to have a genuine thud on his shots. Unfortunately however that thud perhaps isn't applied properly a lot of the time with his actual punching form often looking poor, wide, wild and not particularly correct.
Against Yaegashi you need to either be able to completely out box him, something that hasn't been done since Eagle Den Junlaphan did it almost 7 years ago, or hit so hard and so fast that you refuse to let him get into any sort of a rhythm and swell up his eyes which often appear to be his key weakness.
When you consider that Eagle Den's victory over Yaegashi, back in 2007, is the only "clean" loss in 22 fights you do appreciate how difficult it is to beat him and both of his other losses have been razor thin.
If we're critical Yaegashi has two weaknesses. Firstly his eyes, as mentioned before, swell up really badly this could lead him to one day suffering a TKO defeat due to the swelling. The second is his lack of power. Whilst he can brawl and hold his own in a fight he's not going to take fighters out with a single shot, especially not at Flyweight. Back when he was an amateur he was a light puncher with just 15 stoppages in 70 fights and as a professional he's stopped just 2 of his last 10 opponents with both of those stoppages coming late in the bouts.
Against Zaleta we can't really see either of Yaegashi's "weaknesses" coming to the fore. Instead we expect the Japanese fighter to fight as a the boxer, get on the move and counter Zaleta's often clumsy looking shots. We might see a war break out late on if Yaegashi wants to make a statement, though it's more likely that the victory is the key here as opposed to putting on a show.
The reason why we think Yaegashi will be happy with a boring safety first win is that he knows a very tough assignment is just around the corner with Roman "El Chocolatito" Gonzalez. The idea is that if Yaegashi wins and Gonzalez wins on the undercard the two men will fight later this year in what would have to be described as a Flyweight super fight. It may not be a unification contest or anything like that but it's about as good a fight as you can make at any weight and a bout we hope comes off as expected in the fall.
(Image courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
Whilst great fights happen around the world we do think that more big fights in Asia turn out to be great. Not a year seems to go by with out 3 or 4 FOTY contenders coming out of Japan or Thailand, and lets be honest we've already had more than 3 or 4 this year.
Amazingly it looks like we're about to get yet another FOTY style contest as WBC Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi (18-3, 9) takes on Mexican great Edgar Sosa (49-7, 29). Both are out and out warriors though both are also highly skilled, world level competitors with reputations for action fights against top tier opposition.
Sosa, the WBC mandatory challenger, first made his name in the Light Flyweight division where he was a very impressive WBC champion. Surprisingly however he started his career 12-5 suffering losses to Ulises Solis-twice, Manuel Vargas, Omar Nino Romero and Isaac Bustos. All of whom were, at one time, world title holders.
It was in 2007 that Sosa scored his first big win, defeating Brian Viloria for the WBC Light Flyweight title. As the WBC champion at 108lbs Sosa would defend his belt regularly and in just over 2 and a half years he had amassed 10 defenses. These saw him beating, amongst others, Takashi Kunishige, Sonny Boy Jaro, Juanito Rubillar and Pornsawan Porpramook.
Since losing his title, controversially to Rodel Mayol in 2009, Sosa has mainly been campaigning in the Flyweight division. As a Flyweight Sosa has lost just once, dropping a decision in Thailand to Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in what was Wonjongkam's last notable victory. Since then Sosa has been rebuilding his career and attempting to get another world title fight.
Following the loss to Wonjongkam Sosa has gone on a 6 fight winning streak as he's beaten Rolio Golez, Wilbert Uicab, Shigetaka Ikehara, Myung Ho Lee, Ulises Solis and Giovani Segura. More impressively is the fact that the victories over Solis and Segura have come this year as Sosa has had one of the most outstanding years in global boxing. Arguably the only manstanding between Sosa and "Fighter of the Year" is Yaegashi.
Of course Yaegashi himself made his name originally at a lower weight. In fact Yaegashi first made himself known for his exploits at Minimumweight. Despite losing in his first world title fight, dropping a decision to Eagle Den Junlaphan, Yaegashi fought on hard and claimed the WBA Minimumweight title in a barn burner in 2011 with Pornsawan Porpramook.
Unfortunately Yaegashi's reign came to a very short end, losing in a unification bout with Kazuto Ioka. Instead of wallowing however Yaegashi allowed his body to fill out and settled in to the Flyweight division where he claimed the WBC and "lineal" title by defeating Toshiyuki Igarashi earlier this year. Since then he has defended the title once, winning a messy encounter with Oscar Blanquet.
Aged 30 Yaegashi is 4 years younger than his challenger in terms of years. In terms of fights Yaegashi is much, much less worn despite the tough contests with Pornsawan, Ioka and Igarashi. In fact Yaegashi with just 21 bouts and 156 rounds is a mere boxing baby compared to the 56 fights and 415 professional rounds.
It's this difference, not in experience but in wear and tear, that we think will help see Yaegashi to a victory. He has been in hard fights, of course he has, but so too has Sosa.
In terms of this fight, as a fight, we expect to see a lot of toe-to-toe trading as each man tries to have the last in exchanges. Sure we will have our moments where the action laxes a little bit but on the most part this will be nothing short of breath taking. We don't think either guy has the power to stop the other but then again neither will be wanting to take a shot with out returning fire instantly.
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.