On Friday night in Oakland we saw IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-2, 20) escape with his 6th defense thanks to a fortunate draw against little known Mexican Alejandro Santiago Barrios (16-2-5, 7).
On paper the bout was a mismatch. The champion had won his last 17, he was in the form of his life, and looked like one of the top fighters at 115lbs whilst Santiago was a relative unknown who had never fought at this level and was taking a notable step up. In reality however it was the challenger who looked the rounded and accomplished fighter.
In the opening round Santiago proved he was not the patsy many had anticipated. Instead he was a smart fighter. Despite the smaller man it was his jab that was landing, and it was he who was controlling the range, totally neutralising the southpaw jab of Ancajas whilst using smart footwork to get in and out. That footwork of Santiago not only worked for him when he was neutralising Ancajas but also when he was letting his own hands go, and after a few rounds he had found the range for his right hand and his left hook. Ancajas on the other hand was often limited to his straight left, which he landed to the body and head.
Many of the rounds were competitive but it always seemed like Santiago was doing enough to take the rounds. He was however leaving the judges an opportunity to give rounds to the slightly busier Ancajas, who's shots were less effective but but seemed to be more consistent. Sadly for Ancajas whilst he was doing more, he was very predictable and looked like a fighter who lacked real fire or a plan B. There no real change in intensity from Ancajas, no change in tactics and at no point did he ever really cut off the ring. Instead he continued the same thing over and over, whilst getting timed by Santiago.
What Santiago really did well was pick up the pace late in rounds, and there was a number of close rounds in which he upped the ante late on and left the lasting impression. It was something that Ancajas could never do, and when he tried to respond he was made to look messy and looked like he was either hurt or flailing at the air.
When we reached the final bell it looked like Santiago had won a clear but competitive bout. He seemed to feel that he'd clearly won as well, celebrating on the corner posts whilst Ancajas looked like a man who knew he hadn't deserved to retain his title. Boxing however does give us some whilst cards, and the first had Ancajas winning 116-112, a bizarre score. The second card had Santiago winning 118-111, another bizarre score but one that seemed to go to the right guy. The deciding had it 114-114 resulting in the draw.
The result really was as good as Ancajas could have got. He kept his title, but got a real scare, and seemingly got very fortunate. His stock has dropped as a result of the draw, despite remaining a champion, and it's clear that he should be guided away from certain fighters in the division. As for Santiago this was a performance that would have put him on the map. It could cause him problems, as he looks a nightmare to fight, but it's the performance that shows he belongs at world level, something few actually expected. The Mexican is unlucky not to be the new champion but will almost certainly get another in the future.
Having spent the last 2 weeks in none stop talks with a CBC representative to get a legal feed to the WBO Flyweight title bout between Sho Kimura and Kosei Tanaka we went into Monday with real fear. What if the bout we had done so much to hype failed to deliver, what if the stream failed, what if it ended inside a round or two, or ended because of a technical decision.
Thankfully our fears were averted and instead we got a genuine contender for fight of the year, and a fight that reminds us how special all-Japanese world title fights are. In fact it reminds us that sometimes the bouts we are most looking forward to really can deliver and that fighters don't always “just want to win”, sometimes they want to win in a fashion that lasts long in the memory.
Coming in to the bout we had Sho Kimura (17-2-2, 10) [木村翔] as the defending WBO Flyweight champion faced off with mandatory challenger Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7) [田中恒成]. The champion was seeking his third defense, following a title win last year against Zou Shiming and succesful defenses against Toshiyuki Igarashi and Zou Shiming. Tanaka on the other hand was looking for his place in history, as only the second man to claim world titles in 3 weight classes in just 12 fights, following Vasyl Lomachenko.
As we've become accustomed to with Japanese fights there was no feeling out round. There was no gradual build up to a crescendo. Instead the two men started fast, with the opening round playing out as the first of 12 action packed rounds of brutality. The naturally stronger Kimura applied the pressure straight away and forced Tanaka to box and move, through Tanaka regularly stood his ground anded traded blows, relying on his speed and reactions to out land Kimura. The champion was hurt in round 2 from a huge counter left hook from Tanaka, which lead to Tanaka going for the finish, though Kimura was no where hurt enough and he began to fire back as Tanaka realised it was too soon. Kimura was hurt again in round 3 from a right hand, but held his own for much of the round.
Kimura began to build some momentum of his own in round 4 and in round 5 he began to grind down Tanaka, who was taking a lot of hard shots, despite having moments of his own. Kimura, who is typically a fighter who gets stronger the longer bouts go, seemed to be dragging Tanaka into his fight with body shots and his pressure taking a toll.
That sustained success from Kimura didn't last too long with Tanaka turning it back on it round 6, as he began to try and turn the fight back in his direction. That was partly because Tanaka changed his game plan and started to use more movement. Whilst Kimura was strong and aggressive he was being made to chase shadows at times and at one point Tanaka looked Lomachenko-esque switching from side to side on Kimura who was unable to respond.
Kimura's pressure began to amp up again in round 8, especially late in the round as he tried to put the pain on Tanaka, but again Tanaka's movement saved him from too much harm, despite a real desire being shown from the champion. In round 9 it seemed Tanaka again took control as he began walking down Kimura, a tactic that was unexpected but seemed to work as Kimura's right eye began to close rapidly. The champion was soon fighting one eyes, and on the back foot. Despite being defensively tight Kimura was eating shots on a regular basis with Tanaka pushing him backwards.
Tanaka looked like he was in the lead, but was wanting to leave an impression in the final rounds as he hunted a stoppage. It wasn't a smart move and instead it left the door open to Kimura who gritted his teeth and had real success late on, leaving Tanaka's face swollen and bruised. The tactics of Tanaka late were impressive, backing up Kimura, but were unnecessary and Tanaka kept getting caught by the heavier shots of Kimura.
At the end the bout seemed to be very competitive at times, with both men having a few clear rounds. Both men had been to hell and back, both were swollen messes, both had taken serious punishment. To us it seemed like Tanaka had won a clear, but competitive fight, but the judges seemed to have it very close with scores of 114-114, 115-113 and 116-112, giving Tanaka the majority decision.
With the win Tanaka joins the growing list of Japanese 3 weight champions, having achieved that feat quicker than any other Japanese fighter in history. Also we believe he's become the youngest 2 weight champion in history. For Kimura the loss ends his Cinderella man run of results, though given this performance and his growing popularity in China and Japan we suspect we'll see him return to title level in the not so distant future.
We'd like to send a massive thank you to the people at CBC for helping us get an official feed and thanks to the two men in the ring for a FOTY contender. It's just a shame it wasn't shown live across Japan, and won't be aired in much of Japan until the middle of the week.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
On Saturday night we we had a PPV that featured 4 bouts. The first 3 of those lasted a combined 9 rounds, but thankfully the main event gave us not only 12 rounds of action, but 12 of the very best rounds of 2018. Those rounds provided us with a highly technical high tempo war to decide the premier Middleweight on the planet. For once a highly hyped and massively anticipated bout lived up to the expectations and more.
The match up in question saw long term Middleweight kingpin Gennady Golovkin (38-1-1, 24) take on the hugely popular Saul Alvarez (50-1-2, 34) with the 36 year old Golovkin looking to defend the WBA Super and WBC Middleweight titles against a man he controversially fought to a draw against a year ago.
Sadly for the Kazakh it wasn't to be his day, as Canelo narrowly took home the decision in what was one of the most hotly contested, and exciting, bouts of 2018.
Canelo stamped his authority on the bout early on. He started better, applying the pressure and and landing the cleaner in the first few rounds. Building moment that he could carry forward. The pressure of Canelo saw him not only force Golovkin to move more, but also saw the Mexican landing the eye catching counter shots.
Golovkin managed to stage a fight back in the middle rounds, cutting Canelo's left eye as he began to out work the Mexican fighter. Canelo continued to land the better single blows, but was being out-worked on the whole, in rounds that were very well balanced and featured some fantastic back and forth action. It was a war, yet it was technical. Neither man got reckless, neither man was wild, both were sharp though it seemed like Canelo's shots were that little bit more eye catching, even if he was a bit more conservative.
After the very competitive middle section the bout turned heavily in favour of Golovkin who began to have a second wind in round 9 as he picked up his work rate. Golovkin's success would grow more in round 10, a round that saw him clearly hurt Canelo, and round 11. They were as clear rounds to Golovkin as the first 2 or 3 were for Alvarez and it was clear that the decision was going to go down to how the judges had scored the middle rounds.
The final round, like many of the middle rounds, was close. It ended with Golovkin cut around the right eye, but there had been almost nothing to pick between the two men. It was a round that could have gone either way, like many from the contest.
When we reached the score cards the reality was that the bout could have gone either way. It seemed a lot more competitive and compelling than their first bout. Canelo had changed his style more, going from a back foot boxer to a pressure fighter, and forced Golovkin to show something new to his boxing. Both men were banged up, both had been cut, and both had looked like they were going to need some serious recovery time.
Despite the swelling and cuts it was Canelo who managed to get the win, with a majority decision. The judges returning cards of 114-114, and 115-113, twice, in his favour. Unlike the first bout between the two men there was no outlying score-cards, instead all 3 judges score the bout in a way that seemed right. There was no clear winner, and that showed.
Whilst Golovkin will clearly be disappointed in the result, there can be no major complaint. It really was a bout that was so close that it showed how even the men were. He may want a rematch, but at the age of 36 we wonder if there is another 12 hard rounds left in him. For Canelo the bout is his crowning as the Middleweight's king, and he will now be the man the others will be chasing. His status as a unified champion, and this huge win, will help him put a frustrating 2018 behind him.
A rematch would make sense, and is perhaps the most logical choice for both men, but with fighters like Ryota Murata and Billy Joe Saunders out there it may make more sense for the two to go their own way, rather than take the punishment that another 12 rounds against each other will give them.
Earlier this year we saw the first All-Filipino world title fight in over 90 years, as Jerwin Ancajas defended the IBF Super Flyweight title against Jonas Sultan. On paper that looked a good bout, but ended up never catching a light and being pretty forgettable. Today we had the second all-Filipino world title fight of the year, as Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23) and Aston Palicte (24-2-1, 20) traded blows for the WBO Super Flyweight title.
For Nietes the bout saw him looking to become the third 4 weight world champion from the Philippines, following Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire, and the third man to win world titles in the sport's 4 lowest weight classes. For Palicte it was a chance to emerge from the shadows of Filipino boxing to become a world champion.
The bout was competitive through out. It matched the incredible skills and boxing IQ of Nietes against the imposing physical size of Palicte. From the off both men had moments, and it was a hard one to score either way with Nietes landing the more consistently offensive, but taking the heavier leather, and being pushed on to the back foot through out the fight. It was also the combinations from Palicte, which rarely landed cleanly, that really caught the eye with numerous shots being thrown with so much power that Nietes found his own gloves smashing into his face.
Nietes' ring craft was amazing. At the age of 36 he he was able to set traps on a regular basis, often luring Palicte into clean right hands, and countering brilliantly. He was however unable to get Palicte's respect and the younger man, a natural Super Flyweight, took shots cleanly and seemed to smile, whilst taking them. It was possibly the regular smirk of Palicte that made Nietes' clean shorts seem unthreatening compared to the glancing blows of his own.
There was very few clean cut bouts through the entire fight. It was often a case of picking a winner of a very close round. One of the few clear cut rounds was round 4, a round that Nietes seemed to take off. On the other hand he clearly won round 5, as he picked up the pace and found a home for his right hand, which landed frequently through a brilliant stanza for the veteran. Another clear round was the final one, which saw Nietes landing several of his most eye catching shots. For the most part however there was very, very, little to pick between the two fighters, and a strong case could be made either way.
The close nature of the rounds seemed to give the feeling that no score was really going to be wrong. Despite the commentary playing a strong pro-Nietes narrative through out, cheer leading the skills of Nietes and giving very little credit to Palicte and his work. That close nature of each round showed on the scorecards which were 116-112, in favour of Palicte, 118-110, for Nietes, and 114-114, giving us a split draw.
The HBO team try to play off that the bout was a robbery, quote the always questionable Compubox as part of their narrative. The reality however is that there was very, very little to split them overall. On a round by round basis, neither man did enough to really assert their self. 118-110 and 116-112, either way, were wide, but a strong case could be argued for either of those cards. In the end however the draw seemed the fairest result and the most accurate.
As a result of the draw he WBO title does remain vacant. A rematch between the two is a real possibility, as would be a bout between either man and the returning Kazuto Ioka, who won on the same card against McWilliams Arroyo who had been the WBO #3 ranked fighter behind Nietes ans Palicte.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.