On September 10th we'll see WBO Flyweight champion Junto Nakatani (21-0, 16) return to the ring for his first defense, as he takes on Puerto Rican puncher Angel Acosta (22-2, 21) in Tucson, Arizona. The bout will not just serve as Nakatani's first world title defense but will also be his international debut, coming on the same show as Oscar Valdez's bout with Robson Conceicao, and a huge chance for him to show the world exactly what he can do. The bout is a really interesting one, and one that could help Nakatani make a major statement in the sport, or could see Acosta become a 2-weight world champion, with Acosta having previously held the WBO Light Flyweight title.
For those who haven't seen these two men before, or maybe have little interest in watching the little guys unless they are on a card like this, it's worth taking a look at who the two men are, how they fight, and what sort of fighters they are.
Stood at 5'7", and aged just 23, Nakatani is a long, rangy, tall Flyweight. In fact he's among the tallest and longest fighters in the division right now and he certainly has the frame to allow him to move up through the weights. In fact it wouldn't be a surprise to see him fighting as a Featherweight when he matures. He's a youngster who has come through the tough Japanese domestic scene, winning Rookie of the Year in 2016, beating the now world ranked Masamichi Yabuki in the final, before going on to beat the likes of Seigo Yuri Akui, Dexter Alimento and Shun Kosaka before winning the Japanese national title in 2019. Following his title win he has gone on to some solid fighters, including Milan Melindo and Giemel Magramo, who he stopped for the title last November.
Given his physical dimensions it should be no surprise to learn that Nakatani has an excellent jab, and his ability to box and move is fantastic. He mas managed to use his jab as a dominant tool in the past and he really took Milan Melindo apart with it. It's a table setter for him, along with a razor guided straight right hand, and with his good footwork it's a punch that can really control the range and tempo of a bout. Unlike many tall fighters however Nakatani isn't afraid of fighting on the inside when he needs to and has proven to be a fantastic up close, with his body shots in particular being deadly. We suspect he'll have to show that side of his boxing here, but will bee putting himself in harms way to do so. Defensively there is work to be done for Nakatani, but he's certainly not the easiest of guys to hit clean, especially not at range and when he has been tagged he's not looked particularly phased or troubled by anything. And that included going to war with Akui, a huge puncher.
Aged 30 Acosta is a veteran of the sport, and was a notable amateur before turning professional in 2012. Due to his amateur pedigree he was moved into 6 rounders early on, though he rarely needed rounds and stopped his first 16 opponents, including notable fighters like Luis Ceja, Victor Ruiz and Japhet Uutoni, who he beat in a world title eliminator. His winning run came to an end in 2017 when he clashed with Kosei Tanaka, who took a well earned decision over Acosta in a very good fight for the WBO Light Flyweight title. Despite losing to Tanaka we saw Acosta get a second shot at the title when Tanaka moved up to Flyweight and he took that chance, stopping Juan Alejo on the under-card of Miguel Cotto Vs Sadam Ali, and he went on to defend it 3 times, including bouts on DAZN, before losing in controversial fashion to Elwin Soto in 2019. There had been talks of a rematch but Acosta decided to move up in weight and quickly became the mandatory for the WBO Flyweight title, though sadly due to the Covid situation he was forced to wait for his shot, which comes here against Nakatani.
In the ring Acosta is is a heavy handed and aggressive fighter who's busy in the ring, throws plenty of leather but does so with intelligence. He's not a wild, reckless fighter but an intelligent and smart puncher. He mixes his shots up well, he throws solid combinations and is light on his feet. Although his record suggests he's a brutal puncher he isn't. He is however a very solid puncher, who lands a lot and breaks opponents down, and has fantastic finishing instincts. In recent bouts he has started to get more rounds than he did earlier in his career, and can certainly go rounds without any issues, which is always something that's important for a puncher. Notably he's not the hardest man to hit, and he does get sloppy when letting combinations go, but he has the power to make opponents think twice and not take too many risks against him.
We expect this to be a tense bout early on. Nakatani will want to feel out Acosta, see how hard he really hits, and whether Acosta's power really carries up to Flyweight. He'll also want to get the feel for fighting in front of an American crowd. For the first few rounds we expect to see Nakatani playing very safe, using his reach and heigh, and letting Acosta chase him, and do the heavy lifting. As the bout goes on and as Nakatani begins to feel more comfortable we expect this to grow into an inside battle, with the two men taking turns to let shots go up close. When that happens the natural size and youthfulness of Nakatani will begin to dominate and he will begin to grind down the challenger.
We suspect Acosta will give a great account, but will end up being stopped in the later rounds as the pressure and work rate of Nakatani gets too much, and he beats the fight out of the Puerto Rican.
Prediction - TKO10 Nakatani
To kick off the month of September we'll see WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (26-2, 15) make a third successive mandatory defense of his title, as he takes on Mexican warrior Francisco Rodriguez Jr (34-4-1, 24), in a mouth watering bout that is sadly going under-the-radar. And will sadly be held in front of an empty arena as the affects of Covid19 on Japanese sport continues to take it's toll. On paper the bout is a genuinely excellent one between one of the sports most talented boxers and a thrilling all action warrior, and the styles of the two fighters should gel to provide us with a sensational bout.
For those who have lived under a rock for the last 10 years we do perhaps need to talk about just how good Kazuto Ioka is, and also what's been going on in his life in the last few months.
The highly skilled man from Osaka had boxing in his blood, with his uncle being a multi-time world champion and his father also being a professional fighter. When he made his professional debut, aged 20, he was put on the fast tracked and groomed for success, something that came incredibly quickly. Within 18 months of his debut he beat Masayoshi Segawa to claim the Japanese title at 108lbs. Just a few months later he went on to stop Thailand Oleydong Sithsamerchai, who was then 35-0-1, to claim the WBC Minimumweight title. Soon afterwards Ioka unified the WBC and WBA titles, beating Akira Yaegashi, before moving up the weights and winning titles at Light Flyweight, Flyweight and most recently Super Flyweight. Along the way he has beaten a real who's who of the lower weights, Juan Hernandez Navarrete, Felix Alvarado, Juan Carlos Reveco, McWilliams Arroyo and mostly recently Kosei Tanaka. Were it not for Naoya Inoue, and his incredible career, Ioka would be regarded as the king of Japanese right now. Instead he's playing the role of backing singer to The Monster, but wants to change that with bouts against some of the top guys in the sport.
Sadly since beating Kosei Tanaka at the end of 2020 Ioka has been embroiled in a feud with the JBC, who leaked details of a failed drug test. A drug test that suggest Ioka had taken multiple banned substances including marijuana, an illegal drug in Japan. Ioka was later cleared, complete, with revelations that the testing had not followed normal protocol, and was likely tainted and damaged by the fact his sample wasn't frozen and hadn't been kept properly. Later leading the JBC to clear him, and take responsibility. That however will be a very notable sub-story coming into this bout, and there will be a lot of questions about how that may effect Ioka ahead of this bout, his first since that saga.
In the ring Ioka is one of the best fighters on the planet, and deserves a high pound for pound ranking, though maybe just misses out on a top 10 slot. The talented Japanese boxer is a fantastic body puncher, a very intelligent fighter, with good ring craft, and a very versatile tool set. We've seen him box, we've seen him play counter puncher, we've seen him pressure and we've even seen him play the role of a puncher over the years. Again Tanaka he played the role very good counter puncher, neutralising the speed of Tanaka well with his timing and just a fight earlier he pressured Jeyvier Cintron, and used his body shots to neutralise a much bigger, faster man. There are holes in Ioka's game, but they are few and far between, and with Ismael Salas acting as his trainer, a lot of the focus is on understanding his opponent, and building a game plan to beat them. That really is Ioka's biggest strength, his adaptability, and the fact he can be an enigma when he needs to be.
Whilst Ioka is a major player in the sport the same can't be said of Rodriguez, though it did once seem like he was well on his way to being a true star of the lower weights. Like many Mexican fighters he started young, debuting in 2010 at the age if 18, and he reeled off 8 straight wins, 7 by stoppage, to begin his career. In 2012 he suffered his first loss but bounced back quickly and was 14-1 (12) when he got his first real bout of note, against a then 35-0 Roman Gonzalez. Rodriguez put up a fine effort, but was stopped in 7 rounds by Gonzalez. For a young fighter to have given his all against Gonzalez, in Nicaragua no less, this was a loss that showed what Rodriguez had to offer the sport and just 6 months later he went on to stopped WBO Minimumweight champion Merlito Sabillo to claim his first world title. Just 5 months later he went on to defeat Katsunari Takayama in arguably the best fight of 2014, to unify the WBO and IBF titles. At that point in time he looked like one of the hottest young things in world boxing but sadly a move up in weight saw his career hit a snag, suffering an unexpected draw to Jomar Fajardo, and losses to Donnie Nietes and Moises Fuentes. That left him desperately needing to rebuild. And rebuild he has! In fact he's won his last 15 bouts, with 11 stoppages, beating the likes of Ramon Garcia Hirales, Yohei Tobe, Hernan Marquez, Oswaldo Novoa and Martin Tecuapetla during that run.
In the ring Rodriguez isn't a smart fighter. He's not an intelligent boxer, or a crafty counter puncher. Instead he's a pretty intense, in your face, aggressive warrior, coming to have a fight. Although not a huge puncher in terms of 1-shot power, Rodriguez is a brute, his pressure, work rate and tenacity often being too much for opponents Watching him we see a fighter who isn't technical, he isn't accurate, and he's not the most natural of boxers. But he is a fighter, who lets combinations go, uses head movement and does a very under-rated jab, which he uses well to dictate moments. At his best however he's a warrior on the inside, through uppercuts, hooks and switching his attack between head and body. He's developed more as a boxer, rather than a bully, over the years, but is still at his best as a bully with grinding pressure.
Whilst Rodriguez has tried boxing more in recent years we don't see him applying that approach here. He would come off second best for almost every second of every round. Boxing a master boxer like Ioka is not a good idea, unless you are also a master technician. Instead we expect to see Rodriguez trying to apply pressure, and make this a tear up on the inside. Although it's not in Ioka's best interest to fight that type of fight, we do expect the Japanese star to hold his feet a lot and make this into a tear up for the TV viewers.
Sadly with no fans in attendance we don't expect this to feel like a world title fight, but we do imagine a lot of excitement, and it'll be a fight we wish had fans in the venue.
After 12 rounds we're expecting a wide and clear win for Ioka, though we do expect him to have a lot of questions asked of him, and for Rodriguez to show no quit at all. The Mexican will be there from the opening bell to the final seconds, and he'll be putting in an honest shift, but coming up short.
Prediction - UD12 Ioka
This coming Saturday we'll see the next step towards total unification in the Bantamweight division as WBO champion John Riel Casimero (30-4, 21) takes on WBA "regular" champion Guillermo Rigondeaux (20-1-0-1, 13), essentially ridding us of the pointless and meaningless WBA "regular" title in a division with a busy and active "super" champion. Not only is this a major bout for the division, pitting two of the top 10 against each other, but it's also a brilliant match up from a styles perspective and a match up that really could see any number of outcomes. It could see either man being stopped, it could see one many looking his age or it could see the other having his technical flaws picked away at in embarrassing fashion.
For those who follow the lower weights the career of John Riel Casimero is an interesting one. He was from unknown Filipino hopeful, to journeyman, to being in the middle of riot in Argentina, to being back under the radar despite scoring decent wins, then becoming a 2-weight champion. It really wasn't until he stopped Charlie Edwards that European fans became aware of him, and it wasn't until he knocked out Zolani Tete that he broke through to becoming a notable name. That was despite the fact he had already been a 2-weight champion and had beaten the likes of Cesar Canchila Luis Alberto Lazarte, Pedro Guevara, Mauricio Fuentes and Amnat Ruenroeng. Thankfully since beating Tete he has become one of the most interesting fighters in the lower weights, showing off a flamboyant in ring style, a loud and obnoxious attitude, an incredible amount of trolling towards Naoya Inoue, and a personality that really is hard to ignore. He knows he's got some attention, and he seems desperate to keep a hold of it.
Through out his career Casimero has never been a technical fighter. He's always relied on being quick, powerful and heavy handed. He is, essentially, and explosive puncher, and has the flaws of an explosive crude puncher. Despite those flaws he's also a fighter no one can overlook, and it only takes a single shot from him to turn a fight around, as we saw against Zolani Tete in 2019. He is dangerous, he's experienced, and like a viper he strikes when opponents least expect it. Despite being experienced however he can be rash, he can be open to counters, he can take risks he doesn't need to and he can also sleep walk through bouts, as we saw against Jonas Sultan. He's unpredictable, inconsistent, and whilst he is a brilliant fighter, he can also be very frustrating at times.
Whilst Casimero spent years flying under the radar that was never really the case with Guillermo Rigondeaux. The Cuban turned professional after winning 2 Olympics gold medals and had long been regarded as one of the best amateurs on the planet. He was then moved ultra-aggressively when he began his career, and it was clear that his handlers knew he could be a star he made his professional debut in May 2009 and just 18 months later he beat the very good Ricardo Cordoba for the WBA "interim" Super Bantamweight title. He would win the full version of the title in 2012, and seemed set to become a star. In 2013 he was given a huge bout, facing Nonito Donaire in a WBA/WBO unification bout. It was the door to superstardom, put open for Rigondeaux. The Cuban won, but he didn't put on a show. He instead frustrated fans and the media. His negativity turned fans off, and a follow up defense against Joseph Agbeko saw fans leave the venue, during his main event bout. Since that bout with Agbeko his career has never really recovered. He's been inactive at times, had a career filled with poor decision making, including taking a bout with Vasyl Lomachenko in 2017.
Rigondeaux was groomed to be a star, but poor decisions, horrific management, self sabotage and a frustrating style, saw him fall out with almost every power player in the sport. He went from a fighter who should have been a star, to someone fans didn't want to watch, and opponents didn't want to fight. He was high risk, low reward and provided almost nothing to entice opponents into the ring. Even two world titles wasn't enough to help make fights with him in what was a hot, exciting era at Super Bantamweight.
In recent fights Rigondeaux has taken more risks, he has been caught more and at 40 he is losing a something. He is however a very intelligent fighter, with a counter punchers mentality. His left hand is vicious, and quick, sharp, and powerful. He has one of the best brains in the sport, some of the best counters in the sport and event at 40 he's lighting lighting sharp.
At his best Rigondeaux would have a field day with Casimero. The Cuban would draw leads and avoid them, he'd frustrate Casimero, he's make the Filipino look stupid, rash and like an idiot, before lowering the boom and landing a brutal straight left hand. Casimero would do enough to make the fight watchable, but would be on the wrong end of a beating.
Now a days however it's hard to know what Rigondeaux really has has left. We suspect it's no longer enough to beat a genuine world class fighter. In fact we expect one of Casimero's wild, looping shots will catch the Cuban and lead to him falling apart. And we expect that to happen early in the bout. The longer it goes the more and more comfortable Rigondeaux will get, and we expect Casimero and his team will know that they need to jump on the Cuban quickly and not let him off the hook. If this goes past 5 rounds however Casimero will bee getting timed, and potentially being stopped himself.
Prediction - Casimero TKO3
The growth of the DAZN service as a distribution network for boxing is still something of a work in progress, and there are still a lot of areas where the service needs to improve, with the commentary being one of the most notable. Despite that the service has been fantastic for a number of reasons, and one of those is the fact the service seems to have taken a very clear interest in picking up fighters from the lower weight classes. In the last 12 months alone we have seen 3 of the 4 Light Flyweight world champions compete on the service and that is something that we didn't expect to see, but something we're really happy about. Finally a major outlet is shining a light on one of the most over-looked divisions in the sport.
DAZN's foray into the Light Flyweight division saw IBF champion Felix Alvarado beat the fight out of Deejay Kriel in January and saw WBA "Super" champion Hiroto Kyoguchi defeat Axel Aragon Vega in a brilliant tear up in March. On May 8th we get the chance to see another champion, this time WBO champion Elwin Soto (18-1, 12) in action as he takes on Japanese veteran Katsunari Takayama (32-8-0-1, 12). Like the two other two recent bouts in the division this could end up being a really brutal and thrilling bout between two men at very different stages of their careers.
Of the two men American audiences will likely be more familiar with Soto, especially newer fans to the sport. Soto won his WBO title on American soil when he stopped Angel Acosta, in his US debut, and has since defended the title twice, both in the US, with decision wins over Edward Heno and Carlos Buitrago. In his title win he looked talented, but flawed, and was struggling with stamina late in the bout, until hurting Acosta, who had been dropped in round 3, and forcing a controversial 12th round finish. Since then he has again looked more like a youngster who is growing into being a champion, rather than someone close to being the complete product, with both of his defenses leaving plenty to be desired. And whilst that sounds negative, the reality is that Soto seems like the sort of fighter who maybe won a world title before he was really ready for it, and needs to take another year or two to mature into the fighter he will become.
Although not the complete article yet Soto is still a monster. He's got huge power, an impressive chin, an an economical style. He presses forward, he's strong and tough and is still really rounding off his boxing skillset fight by fight. Although still improving Soto is slow of foot, sometimes a bit too methodical, and happy to come forward behind a tight guard rather than letting shots fly. A very stark comparison to the likes of Kyoguchi and Alvarado. He looks easier to outbox than the other two, due to not working as much, but is just as dangerous and strong as the other two, and arguably has the biggest upside given his young age.
Although we have been impressed by Soto at times, it is worth noting that faltering Carlos Buitrago ran him a lot closer than the scores cards suggest, and Edward Heno also gave him a very tough bout. He's the type of fighter who, against someone with a lot of quick movement will struggle to shine.
If you're a long term fan of the lower weights Katsunari Takayama needs no introduction at all. However it's fair to say that most fight fans aren't long term watches of the lowest weights and have sadly missed out on the career of the "Lighting Kid" who is now edging towards his 38th birthday and is not the fighter he used to be. At his best he was a whirring dervish of activity, willing to skip around the ring, let shots go in bunches, and use a lot of in and out movement, without too much worry of what was coming his way. He had a brilliant chin and could rely on it when he needed to, and was able to stand and trade when he wanted. His style made for some brilliant bouts against the likes of Yutaka Niida, Francisco Rodrgiuez Jr, Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr and Jose Argumedo among others. He was also a serial belt collector winning the WBC, the WBA interim title and the WBO and IBF titles, twice. All at Minimumweight. Sadly it's hard to know just how good he is going to be at Light Flyweight.
The bigger issue for Takayama isn't so much the move up in weight, he did fight at Light Flyweight early in his career, but instead his skin. During his career the accumulated punishment has left his skin very paper like, and he has been cut numerous times during the later part of his career. In fact 3 of his last 5 bouts have ended via technical decision, dating back more than 5 years. Aged 37, moving up in weight, with paper skin, taking on a big puncher, things don't look good for Takayama.
Saying all that however Takayama hasn't taken much punishment recently. In 2016 he retired before chasing a place at the Olympics. He failed in his pursuit for a Tokyo 2020 place and returned to professional boxing last year, putting on a brilliant performance against former 2-time world challenger, at Light Flyweight, Reiya Konishi. That bout showed that Takayama still has his legs and output to go, at least for 6 rounds, though of course it's a very different proposition over 12 rounds against a big puncher like Soto.
At his best Takayama would have been a stylistic nightmare for Soto. His non stop movement, ability to take a shot and high output would have been a very tough assignment for a man like Soto, who is powerful but low activity and slow of foot. This current version of Takayama however is a very different kettle of fish, and we're really not sure if Takayama's face can hold hold up or whether his legs can go 12 rounds.
We would genuine love to see Takayama win. It would be one final chapter in a career that has been amazing to follow and really seen him tread a track rarely seen by a Japanese fighter, as he actively pursued IBF and WBO titles. The reality however is that father time and a long career has probably left Takayama with only a slim chance here.
Our expectation is that Takayama starts well, uses his feet, and stops Soto from getting set, and getting his shots off. Using a tactic similar to what Carlos Buitrago did, but busier. As the fight goes on however the power and physical strength of Soto will take over and Mexican will leave Takayama busted open and force the doctor to wave off the bout.
The real question, for us, is what will cause those cuts, and when will the bout be stopped? Takayama has been involved in head clashes and if one of those occurs it would be a surprise, at all, to see a technical decision here. On the other hand Soto is a big puncher and there's a real chance that his punches will bust up Takayama and force a stoppage.
Prior to the end we expect Takayama to set a high pace, at least early on, and force Soto to fight at a much higher tempo than usual. We expect a lot of leather to be thrown here and for the bout to be, yet another, fantastic Light Flyweight action bout. Expect regular exchanges, with Soto landing the heavier blows and Takayama landing at a high volume. Sadly though it's hard to see the bout ending in any other way, other than Takayama wearing a crimson mask.
For gamblers out there, Takayama by technical decision might be worth a shot, but a slim one. For everyone else, the obvious outcome is Soto by TKO, and that's the one we'll be picking.
Prediction - TKO9 Soto (cuts)
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
A massacre will take place one day before Valentine’s Day, as Maksim Vlasov & Joe Smith Jr are set to go to war for the vacant WBO Light Heavyweight championship.
The 16 year veteran Maksim Vlasov (46-3/25 KOs) will soon be entering his 50th professional fight, with the chance to cement his legacy and finally call himself a world champion. The road to that dream however has been quite long and not without its hiccups.
Vlasov began his career back in 2005 at Super Middleweight, where he ended up being undefeated. His most significant win in the division was against former European champion & 4x world title challenger Khoren Gevor (34-10).
As a Light Heavyweight, Vlasov suffered only 2 losses, a controversial one to Isaac Chilemba (26-7), which was avenged in 2019 and a close match with the unbeaten Gilbert Ramirez (41-0). In that bout, Vlasov had problems with his endurance, due to the weight cutting, which is why he then moved up to Cruiserweight.
It was there, where the Russian had his big moment, when he came face to face with 2008 Olympic champion Rakhim Chakhkiev (26-3) for the vacant WBA International title. Vlasov shined that night. He scored a fast knockdown in the 2nd with a short right hook and rocked Chakhkiev hard at the end of the round. The fight could have possibly ended there, had it not been for the timekeeper mistakenly ringing the bell 15 seconds earlier than he should have. Vlasov nailed him again with a straight right hand in the 5th, scoring a second knockdown. The action picked up in the next round, as Chakhkiev dropped him with a liver shot of his own. The two men continued to trade bombs until Vlasov returned the favour, flooring the Olympian for the third time. At the 7th round, Vlasov put Chakhkiev down for good this time, after connecting with a plethora of punches and another straight right to the jaw. It undoubtedly was the most spectacular battle of an already great night of boxing. (Gassiev vs. Lebedev was the co-main event, while names like Kudryashov and Troyanovsky were also competing)
Vlasov qualified for the 2018 Cruiserweight WBSS tournament, after dominating former WBC Silver champion Olanrewaju Durodola (34-8), only to be eliminated by Krzysztof Glowacki (31-2) at the quarter finals. After that defeat, he switched back to Light Heavyweight and quickly captured the WBO Global title, winning 4 fights in a row over Omar Garcia (16-4), Isaac Chilemba (26-7) as aforementioned, Emmanuel Martey (15-1) and Sergei Ekimov (18-2), earning himself another crack at the gold. In order to fulfil his longtime goal though, he will have to go thrown a very rugged opponent.
A bona fide KO artist that possesses massive power in both hands, Joe Smith Jr (26-3/21 KOs) has ended most of his fights within 6 rounds.
His first major victory came in 2016, when he took on former IBO champion Andrzej Fonfara (30-5) for the WBC International title. In a surprising turn of events, Smith put the Polish fighter down midway of the opening round with a thunderous right hook, before finishing him off just a few seconds later.
Smith would then go on to knock an aged Bernard Hopkins (55-8) out of the ring, successfully defending his belt and moving up in the rankings. However his momentum was momentarily cut short after losing to Sullivan Barrera (22-3) in a world title eliminator. Despite dropping him in the 1st, Smith didn’t do enough as the fight progressed to get the decision. He returned to action almost a year later (Smith’s jaw was broken in the Barrera match) and quickly earned himself an opportunity at the WBA champion Dmitry Bivol (17-0), but was completely outclassed during their encounter, giving the undefeated Russian some trouble only in the 10th round.
In 2020, he made another strong comeback, this time against 2x world title challenger Jesse Hart (26-3). A relentless Smith kept the pressure on, continuously moving forward and throwing way more punches than his opponent. After 10 punishing rounds and 1 knockdown, Smith was once again back on track.
He solidified his place at the top of the Light Heavyweight rankings last August, with an impressive performance over Eleider Alvarez (25-2). Smith overwhelmed the former WBO champion, virtually leaving him no room for an offense of his own. By the 5th round, Alvarez had already a bruised face and was bleeding profusely from the nose. Smith finally connected with a sharp straight right in the mush, following it up with a left, to drop Eleider and become the #1 contender for the vacant WBO crown. The “working” Joe is now only a step away from realizing his full potential and claim his first world title.
When you take a closer look at these 2 guys, you can find similarities in their careers as well as their styles. Both are pressure fighters and even though they have a strong right hand, usually it’s not a one hit punch that does the job. They tend to beat down their opponents before finishing them off with it. Moreover, both men have a good chin. Vlasov has never been stopped in his entire career, while Smith has only been once, but that was a decade ago. Power wise, Joe has to be considered the stronger fighter. In spite of Vlasov having more knockouts, Smith has the higher KO ratio. On the other hand, Vlasov has the better footwork and knows how to properly use his reach to his advantage. As far as their resumes are concerned, each man hold wins over accomplished boxers, but the main difference is in their career’s trajectory. Smith’s best performances came last year, whereas Vlasov’s “best hits” belong in the past. It’s also worth mentioning that the Russian fighter seems to have lost some of his knockout power since moving back to Light Heavyweight, where Smith is looking stronger than ever before.
All things considered, Smith must be considered the favourite in this match, but at the same time, Vlasov has proven to be a formidable fighter and not an easy one to dispose of. If he manages to keep his distance and cuts off Smith’s barrage, we might be looking at the 4th Russian born Light Heavyweight champion of the world.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On New Year’s Eve, we close 2020 with a bang, as Kazuto Ioka puts the WBO Super Flyweight crown on the line against the man who aims to steal his thunder and become the 2nd ever Japanese 4 weight world champion, Kosei Tanaka.
Kazuto Ioka (25-2/14 KOs) is without a doubt one of the most decorated boxers that has come out of the land of the rising sun. A 10 year veteran, Ioka has had his fair share of wars.
His first major test arrived in 2011 when he challenged the unbeaten Kittipong Jaigrajang (35-0 at the time) for the WBC Strawweight title. Jaigrajang was champion for 4 years and had 6 title defenses under his belt. The Japanese hopeful went toe to toe with the Thai fighter, even knocking him down as early as in the second round and then once more in the fifth, with a lethal body blow, sealing the deal and becoming a world champion at only 21 years of age. Ioka defended his championship twice the same year, against Juan Hernandez Navarrete and Veerawut Yuthimitr.
6 months later, he was involved in a unification bout with the WBA champion and fellow rising star, Akira Yaegashi. Their careers shared many similarities. Yaegashi was also an accomplished amateur, with a record of 56-14, and had also won the National Sports Festival back in 2002. Both men brought their A game that night, knowing what was at stake. An epic back and forth affair, that brought the fans to their feet, ended with Ioka earning the unanimous decision and leaving Osaka with 2 belts.
Having conquered the Strawweight division, Ioka decided to move up a weight class and faced Jose Alfredo Rodriguez for the vacant WBA (Regular) Light Flyweight title. Rodriguez was the former interim champ, with 28 wins and only 1 decision loss. The Japanese prodigy systematically picked him apart with body shots and hooks, dropping him thrice for the win as well as for his second divisional title reign, where he enjoyed another long run, marking 3 successful defenses over Phissanu Chimsunthom, former world champion Ekkawit Songnui and Felix Alvarado (current IBF Light Flyweight champion).
After securing the WBA Flyweight title in a close encounter with Juan Carlos Reveco, they rematched on NYE of 2015 and as usual, Ioka’s body work was the key factor, stopping Reveco in the 11th round, in what was once again a very even fight. As Flyweight champ, he made five successful title defenses, over the likes of Roberto Domingo Sosa, Juan Carlos Reveco (as mentioned above), Keyvin Lara, Yutthana Kaensa and Nare Yianleang. His toughest one had to be against Kaensa. The interim WBA champion, with a perfect record of 16-0, shocked everyone when he knocked Ioka down, with a fast counter hook, in the second round. Ioka had never been dropped before in his career. Kaensa kept the pressure on for the majority of the fight, giving the local favorite a bigger challenge than expected. The tables turned however as Ioka put the Thai boxer down with a liver shot in the seventh round and proceeded to finish him off by keep punishing his body even more.
Ioka would go on to make history in 2019, when he fought Aston Palicte for the vacant WBO Super Flyweight title. The veteran dragged him into deep waters, wearing his opponent down, until he finally hurt the Filipino with 2 massive straight rights, followed by a plethora of punches, forcing the stoppage and becoming the 1st (male) Japanese boxer in history to win world championships in 4 different weight classes. Now, Ioka’s unique accomplishment is being threatened by a young and cocky fighter, who looks to create a legend of his own.
A bright star on the rise, Kosei Tanaka (15-0/9 KOs) has been on the fast track since the beginning of his career, winning the Oriental title in just his 4th professional bout, after defeating the then top ranked Ryuji Hara.
5 months removed from that breakout performance, Tanaka became the WBO Strawweight champion, with his sole defense being against Vic Saludar. Tanaka’s aggressive nature almost proved to be his downfall as he was repeatedly getting tagged by the Filipino challenger, losing the fight on the scorecards and even suffering his first knockdown, before stopping Saludar with a liver shot to retain his belt. (Saludar eventually won the title in 2018)
Tanaka would then move up to Light Flyweight and once again captured gold, putting on a boxing clinic against 2 weight champion Moises Fuentes. He comfortably defended the WBO championship over knockout artist Angel Acosta, but had a rough time against Rangsan Chayanram. Much like the Saludar fight, his fighting style got him in serious trouble. Not only he got dropped in the opening round, but even when Tanaka returned fire and finished Chayanram in the later rounds, he had sustained serious injuries during the battle, which led him pulling out of the much anticipated unification title bout with Ryoichi Taguchi.
Upon his return to the ring, this time at Flyweight, he outclassed the then unbeaten Ronnie Baldonado, earning a shot at Sho Kimura. In what was a fight of the year candidate, both men went to war for 12 rounds, throwing fists repeatedly, with Tanaka getting the better of these exchanges. In the end, the unstoppable prodigy received the majority decision and was crowned a 3 division champion, at only 23 years of age.
As fate would have it, his initial defense would be against the man he was meant to meet back in 2017, Ryoichi Taguchi. The former WBA & IBF champion looked like an old fighter here, unable to match Tanaka’s speed and power, getting peppered with hooks and jabs on numerous occasions, losing his second world title fight in a row and retiring shortly after. Tanaka proceeded to dispatch mandatory challengers Jonathan Gonzalez, dropping him 4 times with body shots and then Wulan Tuolehazi, whom he knocked out with a beautiful double uppercut combo. One year later to the day, Tanaka will make his Super Flyweight debut against a battle tested champion, in what could very well be the most important fight of his entire career.
Overall speaking, Ioka is the better boxer. He has a good defense, likes to keep his distance and throws sharp jabs and left hooks. He also puts together excellent combinations, attacking the head and the body seamlessly, leaving almost no space for his opponents to work on an effective offense of their own. On the other hand, Tanaka is definitely the faster and stronger of the two. Moreover, it seems like he’s gaining more KO power as he moves up each weight class. His only weakness has to be his reckless abandon style. In his latest fights though, Tanaka has showed a more composed side of his, but you never know when he’s going to throw caution to the wind again. If he does, Ioka will be there to punish the youngster for his impudent behavior.
At the end of the day, no matter what happens, this is promised to be an exciting clash between 2 of the best boxers in Japan today. Will this be a passing of the torch? Or will the “old king” manage to hold on to his throne a little longer? We will find out on New Year’s Eve!
A rarity here at Asian boxing as we have a guest writer previewing a bout, and for that we want to say thanks to our good friend Troy for penning this brilliant preview of the up coming Junto Nakatani Vs Giemel Magramo bout, which will take place on November 6th at Korakuen Hall and be shown live on BS NTV and G+.
By Troy Parslow
Old fashioned fine tuning and the quick study:
Redefining the cult, the boxing fan knows plenty of opinion, incredulity, hubris and that loyal grip we close around those trusted fighters. An illusion of discovery tends to feed our particular vices, so perhaps that’s where I find myself when I tell you, in this year of on-again, off-again uncertainty, there isn't a fight I've been anticipating more than Giemel Magramo versus Junto Nakatani.
If the conversation on flyweights due more attention starts with South Africa's Moruti Mthalane, it's with 26 year old Giemel Magramo I might try to end it.
Magramo (24-1, 20) of Paranaque City, Philippines, has the ‘Skull and Bones Family’ heritage of his father, and Manny Pacquiao rival of ten rounds, Melvin, and a host of uncles (Alvin, Ronnie, Ric and Ric Jr) with storied careers. He has the notable form of a sole loss--separated only from a majority draw by a point deducted for an accidental butt--travelling to South Korea to fight their then adopted Muhammad Waseem and a ten round stoppage win, travelling this time to China for their own Wenfeng Ge. But beyond an inherent, steely resolve--the Magramo legacy--or his resume's story, this Magramo is a talent above the rest. This birthright of insatiable aggression can be to the detriment of his performance, still he bears this inconsistency well; with the temperament to reset and refocus, he joins sporadic reckless abandon with an application of genuine pressure fighting skills in a can't-miss combination. By virtue of a father's guidance and slow burn matchmaking, they've nuanced their pressure fighting essence--upper body deception, and technique to manipulate the in-fight into the bargain.
For all he's inherited, 'Pistolero' seeks a family first major championship belt when he fights Japan's 5”7½ southpaw Junto Nakatani (20-0, 15), November 6th, at Tokyo's Korakuen Hall, to fill Kosei Tanaka's WBO flyweight void.
Short of a lower-weight personage—a rare few—himself, recognition is still easier come by for one of boxing’s disciples of a Monster. And it's nothing Nakatani, Kanagawa, hasn't earned. Between his bridging of bulldog to versatile blue-chipper, and frequent US sparring excursions, a readiness to expedite the learning process and realize ambitions unfolding come off him in waves. For my money, among the most rapidly maturing fighters in the sport, it comes as no surprise he’s jumping at a first title opportunity. After all, what’s a championship fight at 22 and 20 fights to the man, then boy, who risked his unblemished rise in harum-scarum shoot-outs with punchers Masamichi Yabuki and Seigo Yuri Akui? He’s since come of age, harnessing leviathan wingspan and spit-shining a tenacity to fight inside that gift of length. Ready as ever, he forged ahead, turning away Mario Andrade, Naoki Mochizuki and Milan Melindo, amongst others.
Is this a fight, then, for old fashioned fine tuning or a quick study?
To understand a Magramo is to expect aggression, and Giemel is good for it. But his ability to weaponise said aggression, and pressure, effectively will come under more scrutiny than ever. At his best, he's moving forward with a proactive upper body movement: shifting his weight over his front foot, rolling his shoulders from side-to-side, drawing leads and making himself difficult to read and counter when he's throwing from different positions. Slipping and countering, he establishes a threat for his level changes and feints at the shoulder. Against China's Ge, Magramo applied this upper body movement busily in the opening rounds, punching at different angles and exploring his timing to help determine the distance and Ge's responses. A probing, sometimes pawing, lead hand often supplements the upper body in gauging distance and triggering a lead he intends to pick off. You'll see Magramo throwing his jab from any shape, and if he's not baiting, he'll use it to disrupt rhythm or break his own: doubling and tripling up (stutter stepping as he goes) and feinting in combination with the right hand or leading with a reverse 1-2. When he has momentum, he'll pick his opponents head up with it and push them back off-balance. Maintaining his own base and shape, of course, is also important for someone looking to push forward consistently and as a rule he is well-balanced, allowing him to slip and counter as he moves in inside or bounces back out.
By no means perfect in his pressure, Magramo isn't the best at cutting off the ring, with opponents often escaping and circling out to their right as he squares up on rear hands or in anticipation of an exchange at short range. This is only compounded when he's already leaning forward (weight over his front foot) and falls in, short of the target and available to be countered out of shape. In this position Magramo will often attempt to restore his balance with a jab, get low and initiate a clinch, or just embrace an exchange. By keeping his front foot in step with his opponent, however, and on-balance to counter off the upper body movement and feints, he closes distance well and can stay in front of his opponent with enough regularity to drive the action and push a pace. It's worth mentioning here how efficiently Magramo passed Michael Bravo's southpaw lead, changing his rhythm, leading with delayed right hands, pawing with his jab and slipping inside at every opportunity.
Taking away Michael Bravo's jab early enough to finish him inside eight rounds is encouraging, but eluding Junto Nakatani's is a different challenge altogether and similarities between the two opponents end not long after acknowledging they share a long southpaw stance. As busy as it is versatile, Nakatani establishes his jab early and sets about conditioning his opponent with his lead hand, adding layers as he goes. Probing and feinting from the get go, he doesn't waste time before he's stepping in, working his man up and down and occupying the opposite guard or lead hand (in a southpaw-orthodox clash, such as we have here)as he lines up a back hand. Taller than all of his opponents at flyweight, he has certain advantages gaining dominant lead hand position and jabbing over orthodox opponents, but in altering the path of his jab over and under an opponent's lead hand, as well as jabbing from different looks and adding foot feints, the timing and positioning of his jab is seldom predictable. Magramo can't, and generally wouldn't, wait for Nakatani to get lazy or fall into a predictable rhythm with his lead hand, so it's on him to draw on the success Naoki Mochizuki had provoking Nakatani's jab with upper body movement and level changes, as a means of slipping and countering his way inside.
True to 'Skull and Bones' form, Magramo is most at home harrying in the pocket. If he can manage the distance, it's inside the jab he's best equipped to take the fight to Nakatani. Here 'Pistolero' looks to instinct, and he counters readily with an innate punch anticipation and reflexes. Catching, parrying, rolling and then countering, he's unforgiving and stylish. On the inside, he typically likes to get low and work up from shovels hooks to the body. For the Nakatani fight, Magramo will likely try to use this low starting position to work under the larger frame, pushing his head into Nakatani's shoulder, comprimising his balance and forcing him upright—something Mochizuki was also able to achieve. Magramo doesn't hesitate in using a shoulder or forearm to set up his offense, or lean on an opponent's shoulder, arching his back, to make room to work the body, and he can exploit the taller man throwing in combination off of his weaving transitions more if he works him into an upright position.
Of course, if you're familiar with Nakatani, you'll know it's not as simple as slipping his jab and dominating the fight. Nakatani, too, is very capable an inside fighter, exceptional for his height and length and he works that large frame underneath shorter opponents with ease. He can't boast some of the acute reflexes of Magramo, but he can control the space, he's strong and he works his arms inside his opponents more regularly, which he'll use to walk them back to the ropes or turn them. Positioning his own head onto a shoulder, and shifting it each side in anticipation or reaction to opposition success, he creates space similarly moving his man around with a shoulder or forearm. More importantly for this fight, though, can be Nakatani's ability to counter off of step backs and punching on the break. A combination of Magramo leaning heavily onto an opponents shoulder, and his neglecting the use of his arms to control them, can leave him unbalanced and available to be countered if an opponent slides on their back foot and simply creates separation stepping back.
Nakatani will be forced to hold his own on the inside routinely, but stepping to Magramo and applying his own pressure might not be to his benefit here. If we learned anything from the rout of Melindo, it'd be that despite his willingness to drive the exchanges, a probing lead hand constant and every physical advantage, controlling range on the front foot doesn't always look like one of his stronger impulses, and his balance suffered for it. Attempting to mirroring his opponents footwork in the early going and losing his shape, he was forced to reset on a few occasions as Melindo escaped relatively unpunished from positions you might expect the opposite. Melindo himself, perhaps, should have penalised these missteps more readily and pulled the trigger upon pivoting into space and finding new angles--you should know Magramo will.
It's at range Nakatani has shown some of his keener footwork: stepping out and to his left against Mochizuki, he was able to creep out of range, manipulate the distance and cause him to reach for counters and fall in. Similar can be said when he's stepping back to counter, and he finds some of his most dominant angles at the end of a jab. I thought he was more effective, or at least consistent, setting traps for Melindo, timing him and scoring off half-steps and step backs as Melindo tried breach the distance. Not only central to disrupting the Magramo rhythm and pressure though, with more space Nakatani's lead can get to work setting up long combinations, where he finishes with wide, arching hooks and uppercuts around and under a guard the jab (and sequent left hands) will narrow.
A great example of the utility of Nakatani's lead hand, and a useful approach to exploiting length in a Magramo fight can be seen in the first 20 second of his fifth round against Mochizuki: circling to his left and jabbing twice at the guard he conditions Mochizuki to expect a third but instantly breaks his rhythm, stepping back around to his right and hooking off the jab; his next jab is feinted, Mochizuki dips to move in underneath but Nakatani anticipates, pushes a couple more jabs at his guard and forces him to reset; stepping back once this time, Nakatani then shifts his weight onto his front foot as if to step in with a jab, Mochizuki bites again and shoots his own over the top, only to be met with a lead hand uppercut as Nakatani slides on his back foot; tying the sequence up, Nakatani bends at the waist, initiates a clinch (securing a right underhook), turns Mochizuki and switches into an orthodox stance as he steps out of the clinch to land an unexpected rear uppercut.
Conclusions and Pick
If picking a winner wasn't hard enough following almost half as many cancelled dates as there now (finally) scheduled rounds, and the spectre of modern overtraining, these two talented, learned first-time challengers don't make it any easier.
One inevitably we can trust is their meeting 'inside' throughout the fight. The fight will go there, but, for me, it's on Nakatani to keep these meetings to a minimum. He won't shut him out on the outside, or by boxing in circles, but in combination with his willingness to call the upper body bluffing, that brilliant lead hand and his ability to anticipate the target and slide into space before Magramo can negotiate his length, I think Nakatani will prove more successful pulling him out of shape and stealing his rhythm off the back foot, circling to his right (avoiding Magramo's sweeping right hand), working check hooks around the guard and moving him onto uppercuts as and when he leans over the front foot. It tends to be when Magramo picks up his feet and chases a fight that we see most of his bad habits, in particular his back foot swinging forward, moving of the wrong foot first and jumping in with both feet off the ground. And besides, any Magramo opponent would surely appreciate the ability to create this separation and score in response to the abrasive pocket fighting. Because as competent as Nakatani is inside, when you have his relative versitility, stepping to the man who can only win the fight at one range might not prove as profitable when that man is good there as Magramo. As the fight goes longer, Nakatani's best bet as the stronger clinch fighter is to limit his in-fighting, almost exclusively, to working his arms into underhooks when Magramo secures an angle inside his jab, pushing him back to break up his offence and then stepping back out to punish him leaning forward or falling asleep in the clinch.
Whilst I consider Nakatani's broad skill set and acknowledge a path to victory, Magramo might have come yet a fight too soon. Having not even experienced a tenth round, perhaps the biggest test of his durability to date will come to the body. Weaker than he is now and less equipped to defend himself, he survived and outlasted Yabuki and Akui chin checks—that's tough. Here, however, he faces an opponent that knows the application of investing in the body and, crucially, if Magramo is to offset length and reach, he won't be passing up any opportunity to isolate a torso so long upon closing the distance. It's hard to imagine the Magramo slip and counter game, established so reliably on that rhythmic upper body, won't afford him enough opportunities to target the Nakatani body and dull him. But whether it's the body attack that slows any movement or Nakatani choosing the hold his feet and contest the pocket, when it heads inside I make Magramo the favourite to win those exchanges if he's not quickly tied up. Sound defensive and spatial instincts make him a dangerous counter (combination) puncher and he can better build on his combinations at short range, where he shifts his weight well and works his opponent up and down. It's crucial Magramo keeps his discipline moving the upper body; that's how he provokes the jab, picks it off and how he stays elusive and dangerous as he moves inside. Nakatani has previously struggled for timing punching down at shorter fighters in the opening spells, which would suggest there's a window for Magramo to get his foot in the door, slipping to the body early. From there, it's just as important he uses technique to control Nakatani on the inside, whether that's disrupting his stance with his head or just positioning him with a forearm or shoulder, creating the space to consistently target the body and outwork him in these areas.
Anxious to make up for lost time, I expect they'll make good on expectations. Tactically fascinating, with both wrestling for control and showing off talented offence in high-level exchanges, a lot of the rounds will be traded at a high pace. Ultimately though, I see Magramo provoking leads, slipping inside and targeting Nakatani's long torso with enough consistency to push the pace, keep the fight in the areas he's more equipped to win the exchanges and subdue the bigger man. Whilst I'm not sure Nakatani is forced into the losing column with a stoppage, I think Magramo does enough to build momentum and consolidate a lead in the second half of a fight that inspires cult followings on both sides.
On September 26th we get treat to a lot of action, coming from all over the globe. The day is one of the most packed of the year for fight fans, with a brilliant card in the US as well as smaller shows in Japan and the UK. One of the many notable bouts during the day will see WBO Bantamweight champion John Riel Casimero (29-4, 20) make his first defense, as he takes on unbeaten challenger Duke Micah (24-0, 19).
As we all know the original plan for 2020 was for Casimero to take on Japanese star Naoya Inoue in a bout to unify the WBO, IBF and WBA "super" titles, moving us to within touching distance of an undisputed champion. Sadly the world hasn't been one for letting plans go ahead in 2020 and after months of trying to get the bout re-arranged the two Asian world champions have gone in different directions.
Casimero will be taking on Micah this coming weekend whilst Inoue will take on Jason Moloney around 5 weeks later.
The 31 year old Casimero is a fighter who has quietly carved out an excellent career, but struggled for recognition. He has done everything a fight fan could ask for, but due to his lack of size has failed to make a mark on the wider boxing world. That's despite claiming world titles at 3 weights, scoring some sensational knockouts, being a road warrior and even surviving a riot in Argentina. He's a man who, on paper, does everything we want from a fighter, and unlike many Asian fighters he does show some cocky arrogance, as we saw with his "Monster Hunter" gimmick earlier in the year.
At his best Casimero is a total nightmare to fight. He's quick, he's sharp, skilled, unorthodox, and hits like a mule. When he's on form he's a beast and his wins over the likes of Cesar Canchila, Luis Alberto Lazarte, Pedro Guevara, Amnat Ruenroeng, Charlie Edwards, Ricardo Espinoza Franco and Zolani Tete have seen him put together a very impressive resume. Not only has he been scoring big wins, usually on the road, but his heavy hands have carried up from Light Flyweight to Bantamweight.
Last time out we saw Casimero defeat Zolani Tete in the UK to claim the WBO Bantamweight title, stopping Tete in the 3rd round to dethrone the tricky South African. This will be his first defense of the title and will see him going up another fighter from the African continent as he takes on Micah, from Ghana.
Unlike Casimero it's fair to say that Micah is very much an unknown quantity at world level. The 28 year old has been a professional since 2012 and hasn't really made many in roads in the professional ranks, especially not for a man with 24 bouts to his name.
Prior to turning professional Micah was a solid amateur, competing in the 2012 Olympics. Following those Olympic games he turned professional in Ghana and slowly racked up wins at home, going 15-0 (14) before making his international debut in 2016. For a few years he spent time back and forth between the UK and Ghana before heading off to the US in 2017, where he has fought his last 4 bouts.
Sadly for a fighter with 24 bouts to his name there is a lack of quality on Micah's record. The most notable win on his record are an 8 round decision win over Janiel Rivera, who we recently saw getting taken out in a round by Jesse Rodriguez. That is a big worry here, especially given that Rivera actually dropped Micah.
Sadly there is something of a lack of footage of Micah online, despite the number of fights he's head. From what is out there he looks a powerful fighter, but a rather basic one. A nice long jab, but defensive flaws when he throws it and he can be slow to get his hands back in place after throwing shots. He also appears, in the footage that we've found, to leave his chin in the air when he throws power shots, likely how the much smaller Rivera dropped him.
The one big question when it comes to Casimero is "how motivated is he?" We've seen Casimero stink up the place at times, notably his bout with Jonas Sultan, and if that Casimero comes into the ring here he could have issues with Micah. That however is the only way we see him losing to Micah. In reality Micah's defensively flaws should be a major worry for him, and the speed and power of Casimero will be incredibly punishing.
We see Micah maybe having a round or two of success whilst Casimero gets a read on his man. As soon as Casimero opens up the bout will take on a sense of inevitability and the Filipino will take his man out in the middle rounds, potentially in spectacular form, before calling out some of the top names in the division.
Prediction - KO5 Casimero
On February 22nd we'll see WBO Super Bantamweight champion Emanuel Navarrete (30-1, 26) hunt his 5th defense, as he takes on the little known Filipino challenger Jeo Santisima (19-2, 16). On paper, and in the eyes of many fans, this is a total mismatch and Santisima is being thrown to the wolves, much like countryman Juan Miguel Elorde was last September when he was matched with the Mexican champion. The big question here then, is whether or not Santisima stands a chance, or is he another push over for the Mexican champion?
The 26 year old champion really announced himself on the world stage in impressive fashion in December 2018, when he defeated the previously unbeaten Isaac Dogboe for the WBO world title. Since winning the belt from Dogboe we've seen Navarrete defeat Dogboe in a rematch, along with the unbeaten but untested Francisco Da Vaca, the limited Juan Miguel Elorde and the poor Francisco Horta, stopping all 4 men. On paper stopping 4 world title challengers in just 7 months, the time between his first and fourth defenses, is impressive, but the level of competition, Dogboe aside, is poor. To say the least.
Although his competition hasn't been great few can argue with how god Navarrete has looked. The Mexican is an aggressive, powerful monster in the ring who looks huge at the weight, throws a lot of leather and is very heavy handed. He can box and move, but at his best he's an aggressive fighter who brings pressure and grinds opponents down with a combination of volume and physicality. He's the type of fighter who looks to be getting better with every fight, but sadly his competition is offer so little recently that it's hard to know how good he really is. That's a huge shame given the depth of the division, which has fighters like Hiroaki Teshigawara, TJ Doheny, Albert Pagara, Angelo Leo, Thomas Patrick Ward, Ronnie Rios, Tramaine Williams and Stephen Fulton.
Aged 23 the challenger is stepping up massively, though does enter the bout as a confident fighter on the back of a 17 fight winning streak. Sadly there are a lot of worries about Santisima, who isn't a bad fighter, but isn't someone who is ready for a world title fight. The heavy handed Santisima lost on debut, and was 2-2 after 4 bouts but has improved since then, and scored notable wins, on the Filipino domestic scene. These have included victories over the likes of Jerry Nardo, Marco Demecillo, Rex Wao and Rene Dacquel. Despite the win over his domestic fighters his most notable win to date is actually over Mexico veteran Uriel Lopez. That win over Lopez was the only time we've seen the Filipino extended 12 rounds. He dominated that bout but did have flaws exposed.
In the ring Santisima is a fun fighter to watch, but he's very flawed. He's heavy handed, which is his biggest strength, and likes to go to the body, applying pressure and working on the inside. Sadly though he doesn't really seem to apply pressure with any thought process behind things. Instead of boxing his way inside, behind his jab, his just marches in, lets a flurry go, and then backs off, before repeating. With some serious training and development he has got the tools to become a very good fighter. Sadly his current style leaves him open on his way in, and when he backs off he often drops his hands when he feels safe.
Sadly for Santisima, whilst he is a decent fighter, there are simply too many flaws and too many holes. Those holes will be picked apart by Navarette, who we suspect will break Santisima down rather quickly. Santisima is, for us, better than Juan Miguel Elorde, who Navarette beat in 4 rounds, and a lot more dangerous. However, we actually think Santisima is going to be stopped quicker than his countryman due to the fact he's more aggressive and takes more risks, likely walking on to something big in the first 3 rounds. Until the stoppage this will be very exciting, but also rather one-sided.
Prediction TKO3 - Navarette
On December 31st we'll see the decade come to an end, ending what has been an amazing decade of boxing. The final world title bout of the decade comes from Japan, because who else puts on New Year's Eve boxing? And will see WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14) defending his title against mandatory challenger Jeyvier Cintron (11-0-0-1, 5). For Ioka this will be his 18th world title bout, in a career that will likely always be over-looked by many, whilst Cintron will be getting his first world title bout.
To close out a decade this isn't a huge world title fight, but given how much of a star Ioka is in Japan this is still a huge deal and it looks likely to be a great chance for Japanese fans to begin their new year celebrations just a few hours early.
Ioka has been one of the most notable Japanese fighters of the decade, in fact if we're being honest he has been one of the most notable fighter of the decade end of. He has fought at world level since 2011, and even with a retirement part way through the decade he has continued to be a very relevant figure in boxing, making a successful comeback. As many are aware boxing flows through Ioka's veins, his father was a fighter and his uncle was famously a 2-weight world champion. That family linage has help make Ioka a star, and Japan's first male 4-weight world champion and only the 4th man in history win titles at 105, 108, 112 and 115.
Ioka is one of the sports most over-looked fighters. He's an excellent boxer-puncher, a brilliant body puncher and despite only having 26 fights to his name he is someone who has fought almost his entire career at world level. Going through his record reads like a who's who of the lower weights with wins over Oleydeong Sithsamerchai, Akira Yaegashi, Juan Hernandez, Felix Alvarado, Juan Carlos Reveco, McWilliams Arroyo and Aston Palicte. He's adaptable and a genuinely fantastic all-round talent, though will sadly always be Japan's #2, at best, behind Naoya Inoue.
Cintron was a top amateur, a 2-time Olympian, and had won his first 10 bouts before having a No Contest with Koki Eto in a world title eliminator. That No Contest was a weird one, with Cintron being stopped following a brutal headclash, though Cintron would go on to win a rematch against Eto with ease, near enough shutting out the Japanese fighter over 10 rounds. That win was his best to date and comes after other decent wins against the likes of Alonso Melendez and Marvin Solano. Decent but not world class.
Given he was a top amateur it's not going to be a surprise to say that Cintron is a talented boxer. He's light on his feet, knows how to use the ring, and fires off technically correct shots. He is however a man moving up in class, significantly, and this will be the first time he's been in the ring with a genuine world class fighter. It will also be the first time he's fought in the East and the first time he's gone into the bout as an under-dog. He's a genuine talent, and at 24 is still improving, but there is a feeling that maybe this fight is coming to soon for him. Sure Ioka was 21 years old and 6-0 (4) when he won his first world title, but he was fighting at home and was up against someone less good than he is now.
We see Cintron a a future world champion. He's an excellent young fighter with so much potential. We don't see him beating Ioka however. We expect Cintron to have early success behind his speed and movement, but Ioka's powerful body attack will take his legs away, and when that happens Ioka will begin to take over, eventually taking a clear decision over Cintron, who will grit it out and survive though some tough moments late on.
With this being the last world title fight of the decade it does see attention turn back to Ioka, who in 2010 was still a rising prospect, and for him to now close out the decade in the same way he has finished so many years recently does feel kind of right, and this will be the 8th time he had fought on the final day of the year.
Prediction UD12 Ioka
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.