Ever since Shinsuke Yamanaka lost the WBC Bantamweight title to Luis Nery in 2017 the belt has been in a weird state of flux. Originally Nery was the champion, until he lost the belt on the scales, then Takuma Inoue won the interim title, with Nordine Oubaali winning the regular title a month later. Oubaali managed 2 defenses in 2019, including 1 over Takuma Inoue. He was then supposed to defeat the title against Nonito Donaire this year.
Sadly plans for Donaire Vs Oubaali got scrapped in November, when Oubaali contracted Covid19. As a result Donaire was then scheduled to face Puerto Rican Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-1, 12) for the vacant title, before Donaire ended up contracting Covid himself. As a result Donaire was himself replaced by fellow Filipino Reymart Gaballo (23-0, 20), and it was agreed that Donaire anbd Gaballo would fight for the interim title, whilst the mess around them got sorted out.
Incidentally seeing Rodriguez getting a shot at the title now takes us weird full circle. He was supposed to face Luis Nery last year in a WBC world title eliminator, which was cancelled following Nery failed to make weight. Strangely Rodriguez wasn't then given mandatory status, with that going to Donaire, who as mentioned was supposed to fight Oubaali. As for those wondering Gaballo was himself scheduled to fight on this very same card, against Chilean foe Jose Velasquez (28-6-2, 19) for the WBA "interim" Bantamweight title.
Despite all the changes and swapping of fighters, we're expecting a great bout here between two men desperate to make a name for themselves, and make the most of a very odd situation.
Of the two fighters it's Emmanuel "Manny" Rodriguez who is the better known. He is a Puerto Rican fighter who first made his name in the amateurs winning the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics and coming second at the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships. When he turned professional in 2012 there was solid expectations on him to have success in the professional ranks though he was matched relatively softly early on. In 2014 he took a step up in class and impressed, knocking out Cartagena in the opening round. It was proof that he was a talent but sadly it took a long time to get a big bout, with his first world title contest coming in May 2018, when he easily beat an over-weight Paul Butler in the UK to claim the IBF Bantamweight title.
It seemed that Rodriguez's win over Butler would be his coming out party, and lead him to entering the WBSS. In his WBSS quarter final he narrowly out-pointed Jason Moloney, retaining his IBF title by split decision over the talented Aussie before returning to the UK and losing in 2 rounds to Naoya Inoue in May 2019 in a WBSS semi-final. Since then he hasn't fought, in part due to Luis Nery failing to make weight for a bout against him last year, as mentioned earlier.
In the ring Rodriguez is a very skilled, quick, and well schooled fighter. His amateur pedigree shows in the ring and he's very smooth and natural between the ropes, with a good crisp jab and a very sharp right hand. He likes to dictate the action from the center of the ring and did ask questions of Inoue last year in the opening round. He takes a good shot when he needs to and moves well. Sadly though there are question marks about his stamina, which showed in the second half against Moloney, and despite having a solid first round against Inoue he did several left hooks before being taken out in round 2 when Inoue began to go through the gears. As well as the issues we saw against Inoue there is also 19 months of inactivity since that bout, and he's had no confidence building bout since.
Gaballo is a somewhat unheralded Filipino, who's now just 24, has the tools to be a star, and it looked like he was on the way to becoming a major name in 2018 when he upset previously unbeaten American Stephon Young in Florida to claim the WBA Interim title. Sadly that title lead him to nothing, however a win over Rodriguez would see him make a name for himself.
Gaballo made his debut in 2014, as a 17 year old, and immediately looked like one to watch as he bowled over his first 4 opponents inside the opening rounds, in the space of 5 months. He was up against novices, but was needing around a minute per fight. His first 5 bouts ended early before he finally started to go rounds, going 4 rounds with Rodel Garde and 6 with Paulo Perono. Amazingly they, along with Stephon Young, are the only men to hear the final bell with Gaballo. After back to back decisions wins Gaballo went back on a tear stopping 11 opponents in a row, including 9 in the first 2 rounds.
Whilst many opponents during Gaballo's stoppage run were poor he did manage to pick up experience on the road, stopping veteran Ernesto Guerrero in Hawaii and Ulises Rivero in Mexico before facing Young and proving he was a real one to watch. He dropped Young in round 3 and took a 12 round decisions, proving his stamina in the process and taking the WBA interim title. Sadly however the risk/reward for facing him was ridiculous and no one came forth for his interim title, leading him to having 4 low profile bouts afterwards, all ending in the first 6 rounds.
In the ring Gaballo is a legitimate nightmare. Technically he is crude, he's open, he can leave gaps to counter and he can get over-excited when he has his man hurt. However he gets away with it for 3 reasons. He's incredibly heavy handed. What he hits he hurts, and that's with both hands. His jab is like a ramrod, his hook is like a sledgehammer and his right hand is pure dynamite when it lands. He combines that power with scary hand-speed, and he can land a punch before an opponent gets the chance to react to his openness. He's also very unpredictable, and trying to time him with counters is tricky due to how unpredictable he is and how he mixes straight shots with some very wide ones. Trying to get a read on where he's punching from, with his speed and power, makes him a very dangerous fighters. He's also, in more recent bouts, shown a willingness to take his time when he needs to, and it's clear that he can box as well as bang, and does, as mentioned, have a very good, if somewhat under-utilised, jab.
On paper Rodriguez should be the favourite. He's the better technical fighter, the more proven man and the one with gulf in experience, at least in terms of quality experience. However a lengthy break from the ring, a loss last time out to Inoue and with the comedown from facing a legend like Donaire to facing an unknown like Gaballo could well have an impact on him and his performance.
Gaballo on the other hand will be riding high. He was in training for a bout on this show, and has seen his opportunity improve. He has gone from being on a supporting bout to being in the headline bout, and being given a chance to steal the limelight. We think that get the best from him.
We expect a cautious start, from both, but ring rust and mental doubt will creep into Rodriguez as the bout goes on. By round 4 or 5 we'll start to see Gaballo settle, get comfortable, and put his foot on the gas. We don't think Gaballo will blow Rodriguez out, but we do think he has the power and speed to drop the Puerto Rican, make him gun shy and work his way to a clear decision win, and the WBC "interim" Bantamweight title.
Prediction - Gaballo UD12
On December 18th, just a week before Christmas, we'll see the next big show from DAZN. The most notable bout on that card, by some margin, is the ring return of IBF Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (40-1-1, 35), who looks to make his first defense since recapturing the title last year. In the opposite corner to the Kazakh great is unbeaten Polish challenger Kamil Szeremeta (21-0, 5), who will be getting the biggest fight of his career, by some margin.
The bout has been one of the many long running saga's of 2020. The bout had been spoken about as taking place in the spring, before Golovkin required surgery. It was then delayed several times due to the on going global situation and now it's been 14 months since Golovkin beat Sergiy Derevyanchenko for the title in their 2019 barn burner.
At his best Golovkin was, legitimately, one of the best fighters in the sport. He was a very well schooled fighter who had been developed fantastically in the amateurs. He had then turned professional and had risen through the ranks quietly until making his American debut in 2012, at the age of 30. By that point he was 23-0 (20). Despite being a well schooled fighter Golovkin really made his name as an aggressive boxer-puncher, showcasing brutal power, an iron chin, and a decent boxing brain with a charming personality. He was helped by HBO pushing him as a legitimate star and he went on a good run though solid B tier contenders, whilst failing to secure a massive mega fight until 2017. It was then he fought Daniel Jacobs, taking a win over Jacobs, but by then Golovkin was already 34, and it seemed like that was the start of his slowdown.
Since beating Jacobs, in a very close fight, Golovkin has gone 3-1-1, with his loss and draw both coming in close fights to Mexican star Saul Alvarez. In our eyes he had done enough to deserve a win in the first bout but had, fairly, lost the second.
In his pomp Golovkin really looked like a terminator in the ring. He wasn't the most defensively aware but that hardly mattered. His chin was rock solid, he walked through fire when he had to, and had bricks for hands. He could also maintain a wolid work rate, and was great up top and to the body. Often making opponents mentally crumble just as much as physically fall apart. Now at the age of 38 and with injuries piling up we do wonder what he has left, and he really was pushed hard by Derevyanchenko last time out, adding 12 tough miles on to the clock. In fact since that Jacobs fight Golovkin had taken a lot of punishment with 24 rounds against Canelo and the 12 against Derevyanchenko and we do wonder just how many more tough bouts he has left in him.
At 31 years old Szeremeta is pretty much at the "now or never" stage of his career. Sadly for him he's not really had the fights to prepare for this level of fight, though he has had good success in the European ranks, beating the likes of Rafal Jackiewicz, Patrick Mendy, Alessandro Goddi, Ruben Diaz and Andrew Francillette, as well as the shell of Kassim Ouma. Sadly though his competition is really, at best, European level and worryingly he's struggled to make an impact even at that level, in terms of power. In fact with only 5 stoppages in 21 bouts he is among the most feather fisted fighters to challenger for a title, at any weight, this year.
Despite his competition being poor Szeremeta himself isn't actually an awful fighter. He's got nice hand, lovely upperbody movement and picks a shot well, with a very nice crisp, sharp jab. He looks at his best when he's stood in the center of the ring, applying pressure, using his jab to tattoo an opponents face and countering well. Technically he does look a talented fighter who knows his way around the ring and how to box. He's fairly basic, and super feather fisted, but he can box.
Whilst we certainly think that Golovkin is on the slide, and has been for a few years, it's hard to see what Szeremeta can really do to ask questions of him. Yes Szeremeta is skills, but like many of Golovkin's former opponents there is nothing there too make you give him a chance against the Kazakh. In fact if anything the fact Szeremeta likes to hold his ground is going to be a major issue and leave him open to Golovkin's heavy shots, especially to the body.
We suspect that Szeremeta will have success early on, and might even manage to win a few rounds from Golovkin early on. But then we see Golovkin catching up with the Pole, hammering him with solid, single shots, having no fear of what's coming back, and breaking down Szeremeta in the middle rounds.
Prediction - Golovkin TKO 7
All-Thai world title bouts are incredibly rare, despite the prolonged success of the country in world boxing. In total there has been only 12, in history, and have been dubbed "Bloodline Battles" in Thailand. On November 27th however we get another, in fact we get the first in over a decade. Not only that but was also get one that has gotten some international attention due to the defending champion, who despite being a Minimumweight has gotten international attention in recent years for his lengthy unbeaten record and reign. The bout isn't just interesting due to the champion however, but also the challenger, who is looking to grab the torch and rip it from one of the current flag bearers of the Thai boxing scene.
The champion in question is the WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (54-0, 18), who's winning run is the longest active run in boxing, exceeds that of former pound for pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr and would, if he retires without a loss, set the new record for the longest 100% winning record of any boxing world champion. Not only is Wanheng boasting an excellent record, on paper at least, but also the longest active world title reign of any man in the sport. At the age of 35 he's ancient for a Minimumweight, and did retire during the summer, before changing his mind and having time to rest and recover from niggling injuries.
In the opposite corner to Wanheng is Panya Pradabsri (34-1, 22), also known as Petchmanee Kokietgym among other names. He's a 29 year old who has been knocking on the door of a big fight for years, but failed to land one. That's despite showing a willingness to fight at Minimumweight, Light Flyweight and Flyweight, even going as far as to call out Kenshiro Teraji a few fights back. Sadly he's been pretty much avoided by the top guys, and his most notable bout was a very controversial loss in China to Xiong Zhao Zhong in 2017. Had he won that bout he'd have been in line to face another Thai, Knockout CP Freshmart. Although much less well known than the champion he's someone that has long been viewed as a future champion by those in Thailand, who have seemingly accepted that, with Covid19, his options are limited and battling his countryman is the only option, unless he wants to wait even longer.
It's fair to say that Wanheng is very much a fighter who has had a lot of people looking at him in recent years, even since he had more wins than Mayweather. That has seen some trolling Mayweather and pointing out the raw numbers, something Mayweather himself did when he beat Rocky Marciano's long standing 49-0 record. It has also seen "Money" responding to the haters, further building Wanheng's profile among the wider boxing fan base.
An often mentioned complaint of the Thai is that his competition has been limited, and that does hold some weight, with his competition paling compared to the likes of Mayweather. It isn't however as bad as some suggest and he has scored wins over a number of notable fighters. They include former world champions Florante Condes, Oswaldo Novoa, Tatsuya Fukuhara and current world champion Pedro Taduran. As well as contenders like Melvin Jerusalem, Simpiwe Konkco, Saul Juarez and Ardin Diale.
Leaving his record, and competition behind, Wanheng is a fighter who is very much under-rated by those who don't follow the lower weights. He's a talented, educated, fighter who comes forward behind a tight guard, pressures and forces mistakes from opponents, which he counters. Unlike most counter punches he doesn't create space to open up counter opportunities, but instead gets in an opponents face, and capitalises on mistakes that he forces, often with eye catching combinations and bursts of shots. As he's aged he's slowed slightly, but still looks like a very tough man to beat and someone who has surprising power on his shots. Although his stoppage might suggest he's feather fisted it is worth noting that he is very consistent and every shot has a good bit of sting on it, chipping away at fighters, mentally and physically. When he has a point to prove, as he did in 2018 against Leroy Estrada, he also seems to find an extra gear to really dominate opponents.
Although very talented Wanheng isn't without faults. His style can see him being out worked, and is very much a slow methodical style, that can leave him being handcuffed. He's patient and accurate, but not able to set, or maintain, a high work rate. This has seen him have very close bouts with hungry fighters who set a pace, like his first bout with Tatsuya Fukuhara as well as his bouts with Pedro Taduran and Melvin Jerusalem. The key of setting a high work rate and pinning him behind his guard is a key gameplan, and something we almost saw actually work against Mayweather, with Marcos Maidana having success against the talented American with a similar tactic.
In Panya Pradabsri we have a very different type of fighter. The challenger is a big, tall, powerful boxer-fighter, who can boxer well behind his jab but has better success as a fighter, with a seek and destroy mentality. His body shots are brutal and wicked, and he has belief in his toughess and power. He's proven to be willing to take a show clean when he needs to, walking forward to get to his man. Technically he's a lot less polished than the champion but he's aggressive, younger, hungrier and the much heavier handed. Defensively he does look naive, and is caught a fair big coming in, but looks like he's always confident of landing the bigger single shot, and having the last word in any argument with his big, solid right hands. They might not be crisp and clean, but they look heavy, every time.
The challenger is a man who has waited patiently for his shot, and his chance to shine, and he'll know that a loss here will likely see him needing to wait a real long time for a second shot. With that in mind we suspect he'll not be wanting to leave anything to chance. This isn't just a world title bout, it's potentially his only world title bout and it's also a chance to grab the torch from Wanheng and run with it. With that in mind we're expecting to see Panya fight like a man possessed.
We know many see this, like many Wanheng bouts, as a foregone conclusion. We have feel that it's not. We will happily state that Wanheng is more talented boxer, the crisper puncher and the man with the better defense. That however isn't all it takes to win a fight, and it completely ignores a lot of intangibles. If a fight was purely based on skills, this would almost certainly be the 13th successful defense for Wanheng. At 35 years old, and with talk of retirement, lingering injuries and talk about a loss of desire we wonder whether Wanheng will be the fighter we've seen in the past. He may well see a loss as his chance to escape the sport, retire and move on with life. For the challenger this really is a huge chance to put himself on the boxing map, something he's wanted to do for years, and become one of the new faces of Thai boxing.
With that in mind we're picking Panya Pradabsri to pick up the win here, and do so with a close, competitive, but very fair decision. We see him having that toughness and hunger needed to over-come the 35 year old Wanheng. He'll have to work for it, and we've seen a lot of Thai veteran's in recent years make youngsters work for wins against them, but we see Panya having the tools needed to cope with Wanheng.
Prediction - UD12 Panya Pradabsri
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 November 3rd we'll see unbeaten men clash at the INTEX in Osaka, as WBA Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) takes on Thai challenger Thanongsak Simsri (14-0, 12). For Kyoguchi this will be his second defense of the title, whilst the unsung Thai challenger will be getting his first shot at world honours in a massive step up. The bout will be the first male world title fight held in Japan since boxing restarted in the country back in the summer and is a genuinely huge bout for Asia during this current time.
Whilst it's a huge fight the real question is whether it will be a good one, and who will win. With that in mind lets have a look at what to expect when the "Dynamite Boy" takes on "Srisaket II".
Aged 26, and with his 27th birthday just a few weeks away, Hiroto Kyoguchi is one of the leading faces in Japanese boxing. The youngster turned professional in 2016, following a solid amateur career, and was raced through the professional ranks at an alarming pace. Just 10 months after his debut he took the OPBF Minimumweight title and just 5 months later he added the IBF world title to his collection, setting a Japanese record for the shortest time take from debut to win a world title. After a string of defenses of that IBF title he moved up in weight and quickly won the WBA "super" and Ring Magazine title at 108lbs.
In his early bouts Kyoguchi looked like a mini-Mike Tyson, he was all about pressure, free flowing combinations and ripping opponents apart in brutal fashion. As he's stepped up his level of competition we have seen that Tyson-Esque style adapt, and what we now see with Kyoguchi is a hard hitting boxer-puncher, with an aggressive mentality. The extreme, intense pressure is seen in glimpses, but it's a lot less than it used to be, with opponents standing up to his power and forcing him to rely more on boxing than his power. Having that pressure style in his locker is, however, a valuable asset and can turn the tide, or finish off an opponent, and he really is at his best working in the pocket.
With 6 world title bouts, across 2 divisions, it's fair to describe Kyoguchi as a seasoned campaigner, despite only having 14 career bouts. Amazinly Thanongsak Simsri has also just had 14 bouts as a professional, but his career is very, very different to that of Kyoguchi.
Simsri debuted in 2018, in obscurity buried deep on a card in Samut Prakan, at the age of 18. He would score 6 quick wins to begin his career, all against Thai novices, before getting the chance to feature on a card in Osaka, in April 2019. It was on that card that he really made fans sit up and take note, stopping Ricardo Sueno in 66 seconds. That was the point where Japanese promoter Green Tsuda seemed to get on board with Simsri's rise, and since then they have helped guide his career, using their resources and connections to help develop the Thai youngster. A couple of wins in Thailand followed before he was back in Japan to have his second bout on Japanese soil.
The development was fast and intense with Simsri some how fitting in a total of 8 bouts in 2019, including a very notable one in December against Filipino Christian Bacolod. At the time Bacolod was world ranked, and unbeaten and Simsri managed to do enough to out point the talented Pinoy.
Dubbed "Srisaket II" by the Thai press it should be little surprise to learn that Simsri is a heavy handed fighter, with an aggressive mentality, and impressive physical strength. He is however more of a boxer-puncher than a pressure fighter, like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. When fighting on the inside he is a very nasty body puncher, nd is very comfortable there, but he does look to set things up at mid range, before working up close. Rather than Srisaket, who is very much of an intense stalker. Sadly for Simsri he lacks the truly brutal power of Srisaket, but every shot of his is heavy, thudding, hurtful and spiteful. He's a legitimate danger man, but appears to be someone who still has a lot of work to do on his defense, timing and understanding of distance.
Before we make a prediction on the outcome we need to state the obvious. Stylistically this should be a truly amazing bout. Both guys can box or fight, and both do their best work in the pocket. We expect to see both men looking to fight off their jabs early on, getting a feel for each other in the first few rounds, before taking this up close and turning on the gas to give us something truly sensation.
Sadly for Simsri we do feel this bout might be coming a bit too early for him. We see him as a 20 year old prospect, who has gotten a world title fight due to circumstances, rather than merit. We expect him to be full of gusto, confidence and no fear, but his lack of higher level experience, and immaturity will be a problem and he will be made to look like a boy against a man.
We are expecting a brilliant fight for 4 or 5 rounds, but then we expect the stiff shots from Kyoguchi, and the work on the inside, to grind down the Thai. We suspect in round 7 or 8 his corner will throw in the towel and save the tired youngster for another day.
Prediction - TKO8 Kyoguchi.
On October 31st we'll see Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16) return to the ring for what is likely to be his only bout of 2020. The WBA "super" and IBF Bantamweight champion will be defending his straps against Australian challenger Jason Moloney (21-1, 18) in what will be Inoue's Las Vegas debut. The bout was put on due to the less than ideal situation we've seen the world in in 2020, though is certainly not a terrible bout, even if it wasn't the bout we all wanted to see at the start of the year.
Earlier in the year we had hoped to see Inoue defending his titles against WBO champion John Riel Casimero, in what would have been a triple title unification bout. That bout was ear marked for April, though when the world was essentially frozen whilst countries tried to cope with the ongoing global situation, the bout was postponed, and postponed, and postponed, and eventually cancelled. Casimero went his own way, defending his title against Duke Micah back in September, and as a result Inoue was allowed to go his own way, and landed a fight with the highly ranked Moloney.
Amazingly the two men were actually very, very close to fight in 2019. That's when both men were part of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) and were on the same side of the draw. On October 7th 2018 Inoue blasted out Juan Carlos Payano in one of the most eye catching WBSS performances. His next round was against the winner of Jason Moloney Vs Emmanuel Rodriguez, with Rodriguez winning a split decision. We were literally one judge away from seeing these two men clash last year.
Regardless we're here now, and we're about to see them fight, so lets take a look at the men and the way we expect it to go.
The 27 year old Inoue is the jewel in the crown of Japanese boxing. Since turning professional in 2012 he has been on the fast track to the top. In just his third bout he beat the highly regarded Yuki Sano, claimed the Japanese Light Flyweight title in his 4th bout, the OPBF title in his fifth bout and his first world title in his 6th. All of that came in the space of just 18 months. From there on he has blossomed into a star of boxing, drawing the attention of fans around the globe and claiming notable scalp, after notable scalp. In just 19 bouts he has already beaten not just Taguchi but Adrian Hernandez, Omar Andres Narvaez, Kohei Kono, Jamie McDonnell, Juan Carlos Payano, Emmanuel Rodriguez and Nonito Donaire. Across those 19 fights only Donaire has really had success again Inoue, who has long been dubbed the "Monster".
In the ring Inoue is a fantastic boxer-puncher. He's naturally heavy handed, and his power has carried up from Light Flyweight to Bantamweight with no issues, he's a clean puncher, with incredible handspeed, timing, combinations and footwork. Whilst many top fighters in the sport are extremely good defensively Inoue is an offensive machine, and despite not always being the biggest man in the ring, he is usually the stronger man, and the one dictating the bout, usually from the center of the ring. Although an offensive machine Inoue is a solid defensive fighter, though he's not often had to show that side of what he can do in the ring due to his imposing offensive ability.
Despite being a fantastic fighter there are a bunch of question marks hanging over Inoue's head. Firstly whether or not he's 100% fit for this bout? After all the bout against Donaire resulted in a very nasty eye injury. Second is he going to be rusty after almost a year out? Or count he even be over-trained? After a training camp for a bout with Casimero in April as well as a training camp for this bout
It's fair to say Inoue is the very clear favourite heading in to the bout, but he's certainly not the only man who will be in the ring as Jason Moloney will be there as the hungry under-dog.
The Australian challenger is a 29 year old who debuted in 2014, after being a successful amateur, and, along with brother Andrew, was tipped for major success in the professional ranks. For many years Moloney was busy getting professional experience against regional level fighters, running up numerous wins against Filipino fighters. In 2018 he finally stepped up and easily stopped former world champion Immanuel Naidjala, before scoring a TKO win against former Inoue opponent Kohei Kono. His momentum was growing and he was 17-0 (14) when he entered the WBSS.
Sadly for Moloney his unbeaten record would go in October 2018 when he lost the aforementioned split decision to Emmanuel Rodriguez, who was the then IBF champion. This was a very competitive loss, and a great showing by Moloney, who enhanced his reputation in defeat. He had gone from being an unknown outside of the Asia Pacific scene to a man regarded as a legitimate world class Bantamweight.
Following the loss to Rodriguez we've seen Moloney pick up 4 wins, all by stoppage. They included a win this past June against Leonardo Baez in what was Moloney's Las Vegas debut, and was partly responsible for allowing this bout to take place.
In the ring Moloney is a really, really good boxer. He's got solid power, though not the destructive power of Inoue, he's a very nice mover, very fluid with his foot and hand speed, and a fantastic combination puncher. Every show he throws looks stinging and he's happy to let them go on the inside or the outside. He's also very good at getting in, letting shots go, and getting out. On a punch for punch basis he's less offensively impressive than Inoue, but is still a very good boxer, who has rebuilt brilliantly following his loss to Rodriguez.
As with Inoue there are questions over Moloney. For example what's his chin really like? This is the first time he's taken on a world class puncher, so can he handle it? Will he be able to handle such a big occasion? Has he got a plan B, C and D? As he'll need them against a man like Inoue.
We've seen some fan try to downplay this fight. We'll be honest, we would have preferred the Inoue Vs Casimero bout, of course we would. However Moloney is a world class fighter, he's a better boxer than Casimero, though a much less dangerous puncher and a less experienced fighter. Moloney has got the ability to test Inoue, push Inoue and really ask questions of the "Monster", especially if Inoue is rusty or feeling the effects of last year's war with Donaire.
We expect quite a slow start, with Inoue taking center ring and Moloney showing a lot of caution to Inoue's power. A lot of respect from both. By round 2 or 3 we would expect Inoue to be putting his foot on the gas, pressing more, and cutting the distance. When that happens his brutal body shots will kick in, and we'll see Inoue begin to grind down Moloney.
We would be surprised if that was where Moloney moved to plan B, as mentioned earlier he'll need it. It'll need to be a really good plan B however, and we're not sure it'll be good enough. He'll need to cope with Inoue's power and pressure. Sadly we see that power and pressure, eventually causing cracks, and those cracks widening, until Inoue forces a stoppage somewhere in the middle of the bout.
Prediction - TKO6 Inoue
After a few weeks low level action for Asian fighters this coming Saturday sees things step up in a big way with 3 world title bouts taking place on the same day, including a female world title fight in Japan and a Bantamweight world title fight in the US. Of those title bouts the most interesting comes from the UK as unified Light Welterweight champion Josh Taylor (16-0, 12) defends his WBA and IBF titles against little known Thai challenger Downua Ruawaiking (16-0, 13), also known as Apinunm Khongsong.
On paper this is really well matched between two men with almost identical numbers on their record. In reality however the bout is widely regarded as a mismatch with the 29 year old champion being regarded as a very clear favourite, and the Thai challenger being an almost unknown, despite entering as the IBF mandatory title challenger. Despite that this is certainly not a gimme and could be a very interesting bout, at least for a few rounds.
The talented Josh Taylor has been a rare fast-tracked British fighter, who knew he was good, believed in himself and avoided the often tedious record padding that many British fighters have. In just his 11th bout he stopped former world champion Miguel Vazquez, becoming the first man to stop the tricky Mexican. Less than a year after being Vazquez he had notched a solid win over Viktor Postol and began his campaign in the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS), stopping Ryan Martin. By the end of 2019 he had managed to win the WBSS as well as unifying the IBF and WBA titles and take the unbeaten records of Ivan Baranchyk and Regis Prograis, build his reputation massively.
In the ring Taylor can box, brawl, bring and fight on the inside, despite what Andre Ward may think. He can sometimes be too willing to engage on an inside war, when sometimes he would fair better at mid-range. He's a very talented boxer, has solid hand speed, spiteful power, great work rate, good stamina, impressive physical strength and proved his toughness in a war with Prograis last time out. The real question with Taylor is how many hard battles does he had in him, and he's already had a few, and whether out of the ring issues will become a bigger issue than they have so far. Those out of the ring issues include being arrested in December and splitting with his long term trainer in January.
At 24 years old the Thai challenger is a youngster and is very much a man who has gotten his shot due to a single big win in an eliminator, rather than a string of strong wins. After turning professional in 2016 he was matched relatively softly, with his best wins coming over Adam Diu Abdulhamid and Sonny Katiandagho. Having won 14 in a row the Thai finally stepped up in 2019 and shone as he knocked out the teak tough Akihiro Kondo in an IBF world title eliminator, to earn this shot. That was a result that saw many in Asia sit up and take note of the Thai, especially given Kondo's notorious tough chin that had seen him last 12 rounds with the heavy handed Sergey Lipinets.
Downua has not fought anything close to the level of competition that Josh Taylor has fought to, though he has passed the eye test, for the most part. He's a big, rangy guy at the weight, who's listed at 5'10" though often looks bigger. He looks very relaxed in the ring and like a man with a lot more experience than his record suggests. His hand speed is relatively solid and he does like using straight punches at range, with his jab being one of his key weapons and he does have nice foot speed and movement. Sadly he can be seen dropping his hands and backing up in straight lines at times. Offensively he looks good, both at range and up close, with his KO of Kondo coming from an uppercut, but he does make a lot of mistakes defensively. Mistakes he has been able to get away with due to the low level of competition he's been in with.
We do see Downua posing some questions of Taylor, especially given Taylor's change in trainer, and likely a change in style. For 3 or 4 rounds the length, movement and jab of Downua will make things frustrating for the Scottish star. When Taylor finds his timing however we suspect Taylor will put his foot on the gas and begin to break down the Thai and score a stoppage over the Thai in the second half of the fight.
Interestingly this is likely to be one of Taylor's last fights at 140lbs with talk being that he will seek a 4 title unification next year and then potentially move up in weight, to join the ranks at Welterweight.
Prediction - TKO8 Taylor
On 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 March 3rd we'll see unbeaten WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart (20-0, 7) make his next defense, as he takes on former Japanese national champion Norihito Tanaka (19-7, 10) in Nakhon Sawan. For Tanaka this will be his first world title bout, whilst the local star looks to make his 8th defense of the WBA title, which he won in 2016 when he beat Byron Rojas, in their first bout.
Of the two men it's obvious that Knockout CP Freshmart with the more recognisable name. The Thai has one of the most memorable names in the sport, and has also had a long, if not particularly impressive, reign as the WBA champion. Prior to becoming a boxer he was a successful Muay Thai fighter, who turned to boxing in 2012. He quickly rose through the ranks an claimed the WBA "interim" title in 2014 before taking the full version of the title 20 months later. Sadly since winning the WBA belt his competition has, on the whole, been unspectacular with wins over faded veterans, like Shin Ono, Go Odaira and Xiong Zhao Zhong, and pre-prime Filipino fighters like Toto Landero and ArAr Andales.
Although named "Knockout" CP Freshmart the Thai hasn't really shown any power since moving to world class. He has gone 12-0 (2) in since fighting in his first "interim" world title fighter, and could mockingly now be called "Unanimous Decision" CP Freshmart. Not only has Knockout shown a lack of power but also a really boring style. He seems capable of setting a good pace, for a few rounds early on, but as the bouts progress he becomes more and more dull to watch, with hugging, wrestling and messy action becoming the norm for his bouts. Although highly skilled there is a view that he has lost interest in the sport, and that really feels like the case in recent bouts, in what have been some awful bouts. The one thing that Knockout does have going in his favour is is that he appears to have a good relationship with judges, who have often given him rounds that he may not have deserved, especially when he fights in Thailand.
The 35 year old Tanaka is someone who is coming to the end of his career, though has been riding a small wave of success in recent years.
Tanaka debuted in 2005 and won his first 9 bouts, before losing 3 of his next 4. That sounds bad but included losses to Ryoichi Taguchi, Kenichi Horikawa and Masatate Tsuji. Another loss not too much later, to Akira Yaegashi in a Japanese title fight was followed by yet another loss, this time to Takashi Kunishige. After those losses he was 13-5 (7) and only fought once more before walking away from the sport in late 2011. It would be more than 5 years before he returned and since then he has rebuilt going 5-2 (3) with notable domestic wins over Yuto Takahashi, Takumi Sakae and Shin Ono, as well as avenging one of his 2 losses, a controversial one to Naoya Haruguchi.
In the ring Tanaka is a sneaky good fighter, a veteran who uses smart movement to draw mistakes, drawing opponents in and countering. He's really small for a Minimumweight, but really crafty, and very much a smart fighter who punishes opponents for their slip ups. Although not a puncher he does have enough sting on his shots to do damage, as he did against Shin Ono, and given he often catches opponents coming in those shots have the opponent's weight on them as well.
One thing we need to mention before we talk about how we expect the fight to go is the history of Japanese challengers in Thailand. In more than 20 world title bouts in Thailand, no Japanese fighter has ever won. History is dead set against Tanaka, as is his age, and the questionable officiating of bouts featuring Knockout.
We expect to see this start quite well, Knockout fights tend to, but after 3 or 4 rounds this will have descended into a mauling affair. We wouldn't be surprised if Tanaka has the skills and movement to take a couple of the early rounds, but as the bout progresses into a gruelling mess we expect to see Knockout convince the judges to give him rounds.
We do not expect this to be pretty, we do not expect this to be exciting and sadly, given Knockout's last few bouts, we do not expect to see the title change hands.
Prediction - UD12 Knockout
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
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.