It just keeps happening! The Super Flyweight division just keeps delivering FOTY contenders and instant classics, and we saw that again tonight with a brilliant bout for the IBF Super Flyweight title.
Going into the bout Filipino fighter Jerwin Ancajas (33-1-2, 22) was expected to make an easy defense as he took on mandatory challenger Jonathan Javier Rodriguez (22-2, 16), an unheralded Mexican who really wasn't well known by fight fans. On paper this looked like an interesting match up but, given recent IBF mandatory title fights, it was also expected to be very easy for Ancajas, who had already run up a title record 8 defenses of the belt.
Whilst fans and the media may have been expecting an easy one for Ancajas, Rodriguez had different plans in mind and from the off he was pressing and coming forward. Unfortunately for Rodriguez he was too slow early on to get close and dictate the pace, but he was having success and he wasn't looking outclassed, just too slow. In round 2 Rodriguez again had success, but was out boxed for much of the round.
In round 3 things really went up a gear as the Mexican closed the distance more and Ancajas looked to try and prove his metal as the two ended up engaging for much of the round, in what was a fantastic 3 minutes of action. The action really was eye catching when they fought up close, with Ancajas landing some fantastic body shots and Rodriguez finding regular success with his uppercuts. This was a sign of what we were to see later on, but was, for now, a bit of an abiration.
Rounds 4 and 5 saw Ancajas begin to use his brain more, dictating the tempo, using his feet and jab and making full advantage of the fact he had the quicker feet and quicker hands. He was letting Rodriguez follow him around the ring, and tagging the Mexican regularly. In all honesty Ancajas was making it look easy in those two rounds. That however, did no last long.
In round 6 we again saw the tempo going through the roof as both men traded from the off, Rodriguez came out like he had a point to prove and he really upped his pace, forcing Ancajas to go with him. The entire 3 minutes was spent with the two men in a phone booth, unloading huge shots back and forth in what was a thrilling, pulsating round of action. It was really none stop as the two men took it in turns to unload on each other. Through the round Ancajas' looked the busier man, landing the higher volume, but Rodriguez seemed to be landing the heavier, more meaningful blows.
After a really good sixth round the pace slowed down a bit through round 7. It was a round that started well for Rodriguez, but as it went on Ancajas got back to his boxing, and he took control of the action again.
Round 8 was, by far and away, the most significant of the bout. It started with Ancajas controlling the action whilst boxing and moving. By the middle portion of the round however Rodriguez was closing the distance and dragging Ancajas into his fight. When that happened the pace increased massively, as the two traded blows. Rodriguez, for the first time, seemed hurt and backed up, and Ancajas went all out, unloading shots with both hands whilst Rodriguez was in the corner. The flurry from Ancajas saw him hurt Rodriguez to the body, then follow up up top, finally sending Rodriguez down. The Mexican took his time to respond, but beat the count and survived the final few seconds of the round
It seemed almost certain that the Mexican would be stopped as we went into round 9. Amazingly however he seemed to recuperate between rounds and came out hungry for the 9th. It was another brilliant round, with Rodriguez pressing and pressuring with pure determination. He was fighting on incredible will power and he showed no quit at all. That was despite being visibly hurt numerous times from body shots. Every time he was hurt he stiffened up, before gritting his teeth and pursuing Ancajas, again and again. It was a gritty, determined and brilliant effort from a man who seemed inhuman. It would have been easy for Rodriguez to have accepted a loss, gone down again from one of the body shots, or even fought to survive. Instead however he came to win and continued to press through the pain.
Despite a brilliant effort through 9 rounds the challenger would have known he was behind going into round 10. He would have known he needed to finish strong. Really strong. And that's exactly what he did. The final 3 rounds saw Rodriguez fighting through exhaustion and pain with amazing hunger, cutting the distance and out working a tired looking Ancajas. The Filipino had moments in all 3 of the final rounds, but was out worked as the will of Rodriguez over-came the skill of Ancajas. Those final 3 rounds saw Rodriguez were incredible. But they weren't enough to grind down the Filipino champion, who survived to the final bell.
After 12 brilliant rounds we went to the judges scorecards, which were read out as 115-112, 116-111 and 117-110, all in favour of Ancajas.
It's hard to argue with the result, though 117-112 felt too wide given the determined effort of Rodriguez, who made this into such a thriller. Ancajas got the decision, and he deserved it. But boy did he have to work for this one, and it was, much, much tougher than anyone would have expected. It was also a surprisingly entertaining fight, something that Ancajas hasn't typically had. He seemingly could have made it easier for himself. He probably should have made easier for himself, but Rodriguez's determination cannot be questioned. He was great.
For Ancajas this was a 9th defense but in reality it was a chance for him to win over fans who have been disappointed by him in the past. It was the fan friendly bout he needed, and hopefully bigger and better things will come shortly for him. He spoke about a unification bout following the win, potentially a showdown with WBO champion Kazuto Ioka, and that would be a huge step up for him, and a great chance for him to prove he is world class.
As for Rodriguez, he made a lot of a new fans here. He lost but his performance was brilliant. He proved he tough, talented, brave and a hugely fan friendly fighter. Fingers crossed he gets more chances to show what he can do on a big platform like Showtime after this. He got a chance on a big stage, after a very long wait, and he made it count. He might not have got the win on the night, but he should be given chances again, and in the long term this loss could prove to be a massive victory for his career.
In the final meaningful bout of the year we got something spectacular as WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (26-2, 15) successfully defended his title, for the second time, and stopped 3-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9) in a late contender for Fight of the Year.
The bout, which had been hugely anticipated by boxing fans world wide, was the first ever time two multi-weight Japanese world champions had ever faced off, and after the 2020 we'd had it was a bout that had, genuinely excitement going in to it.
In one corner we had the experienced champion, the man who had repeatedly told us "this wasn't a special bout" and that this wasn't going to be a problem to him. In the other corner we had a young challenger who had repeatedly told us this was going to be a generational shift, and that he was ready to lead the new generation. Not only that, but Tanaka was looking to secure a place in history, by taking a 4th division world title in just his 16th professional bout.
There was so many substories going into this. Ranging from the worlds of the two men, and the fact both were looking to secure their place in history.
From the opening bell this started quickly, with Ioka firing in a right hand almost immediately. His hand speed, as it always has been, was wickedly impressive, and he boxed well with his his speed offense. Ioka on the other hand looked slower, but smart, picking his shots a lot more intelligently, and landed some solid body shots through the opening round. It was hotly contested through out, and very much a round that set the tone for this to be something thrilling.
The excitement continued in rounds 2 and 3. Tanaka seemed to buzz Ioka at one point, before Ioka fired back with some amazing counter shots. It still seemed like the handspeed difference could prove to be the vital difference in favour of Tanaka, but Ioka, to his credit, was riding shots well, countering smartly, and not taking too many clean, showing his fantastic technical ability to limit the punishment he was taking whilst also getting a read on Tanaka.
By the end of round 3 it seemed like Tanaka was starting to get to Ioka, who was starting to swell around the eyes, and seemed to be on the worse end of things. Ioka however saw out the storm and roared back in round 4, one of his best rounds he began to make the most of what he had learned from the first 3 rounds. He was now making Tanaka miss, countering brilliantly, and getting the last word in the exchanges.
At the end of round 4 both men's faces were looking like they were getting beaten up, yet both were still landing their share making for a truly compelling contest.
In round 5 we saw the fight further swing to Ioka. Tanaka had started well, but body from Ioka continued to land clean, slowing the challenger who looked to land big rights. Mid way through the round we had some real tit for tat stuff, with Tanaka outlanding Ioka, but taking the much heavier blows. The final blow of the round was the heaviest, and was a perfect counter left hook from Ioka that dropped Tanaka hard and left his nose a bloodied mess. Had the shot come 20 seconds earlier we could have seen the end of the bout, but Tanaka rose and the bell saved him, giving him the chance to recover before round 6.
Heading into round 6 we had questions about how Tanaka would look after the knockdown, and he looked surprisingly good, taking the fight to Ioka early in the round. He seemed to catch with a really good right hand at one point, but a flurried response form Ioka hurt him and a counter left hook a few moments later dropped Tanaka for the second time in as many rounds. Amazingly Tanaka not only got back to his feet but took the fight to Ioka immediately afterwards, rocking the champion in the final seconds of the round.
In round 7 Tanaka looked to try and turn things around, know, after being dropped twice, he needed to do something big. Sadly though by the end of the round he began to look desperate, firing his right hand and getting frustrated as it missed time after time, whilst Ioka was regularly landing jabs. Ioka wasn't just countering Tanaka, but was essentially making Tanaka's best weapon look useless at times. Mentally crippling the youngster, who was realising that the hole he was in, was just getting deeper.
The depth of the hole became too much in round 8 as Ioka landed a short left hook-come and a clean right hand, leading to the referee immediately jumping in. It was an excellent stoppage as Tanaka's legs buckled beneath and the referee essentially held him up, letting him steady himself, before letting him congratulate Ioka on the win.
Following the bout Ioka took the microphone and spoke about the fight and, finally, gave a bit of respect to Tanaka. He stated "It wasn't a surprise match for me, but I've been saying that I'll show the difference, so I couldn't just say it as a man. I'm glad I could prove it as a champion. I don't know how long I can continue boxing, but he's the player who will carry the boxing world in the future. It was a good experience with him."
Ioka also revealed that he had been seeing double from his left eye from round 2, and was now hoping to fight against one of the other champions in the division, such as WBA "Super" champion Roman Gonzalez or WBC champion Juan Francisco Estrada.
At the time of the stoppage the scores were all heavily in favour of Ioka, with scores of 69-62 and 68-63, twice.
For Ioka this win was a career defining one, and it will sit up there along with his wins against Oleydong Sithsamerchai, Akira Yaegashi and Juan Carlos Reveco. It is one of those wins that showed how good of a ring technician he was, how smart he was and how he manages to solve problems in the ring, something we saw him do a year ago against Jeyvier Cintron. Ioka is among the most adaptable fighters out there, and with Ismael Salas behind him, it seems like they are coming up with excellent game plans fight after fight.
As for Tanaka the 25 year old will be disappointed here. It wasn't how he wanted to end 2020. At 25 years old however, this isn't the end for him. In fact the stoppage by the referee, the excellent Michiaki Someya, may well have helped prolong his career. This was a less for Tanaka in the end, but it was a less he learned at the age of 25. It is one he come rebuild from. He can come again. It's back to the drawing board for him, and likely time to change how he boxes. He has the tools to be an exceptional boxer, he has incredible speed but mentally he gets too excited. If he can tone down the excitement factor following this loss, he can easily go on to to claim a Super Flyweight title in a year or two.
The one big question mark here, is why did DAZN or ESPN pick this up for the US and use it to advertise a future opponent for Gonzalez, Estrada or Jerwin Ancajas. This should have been shown in the US, and it's a massive shame it wasn't! A real shame American fans had to look online streams for this one.
The final world title bout of the 2010's saw Japan's Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) [井岡一翔] close things out for the year as he has done numerous times during the decade. Taking home a win, and successfully defending his WBO Super Flyweight champion against mandatory challenger Jeyvier Cintron (11-1-0-1, 5) from Puerto Rico.
The bout started well for Cintron, who seemed to use his natural attributes well, making the most of his reach and his speed. He was however consistently under pressure from Ioka, who struggled to get close early on, but began to find his range in round 3. When that happened the bout began to turn from "interesting" to exciting".
With Ioka cutting the distance better from round 3 he forces Cintron to fight his fight, whilst landing some brutal body shots. The game plan from Ioka was simple. Take away the legs of the Cintron, make him hold his ground and go to work. It was a good gameplan, but one that only partially worked. To his credit Cintron's legs never really stopped moving, despite being fed a fairly consistent stream of vicious, hard body shots, especially in the middle rounds.
Cintron's heart and unwillingness to wilt helped him have moments, but his early lead had been destroyed by the body blows and his head shots seemed to do little more than annoy Ioka who continued to walk forward, pressing, looking to sneak more rib buster on to the challenger.
By round 8 it seemed that Cintron would eventually capitulate. He seemed out of energy, out of ideas and out of hope, but instead hit bit down, getting through a some torrid moments in rounds 9 and 10 before actually having some of his best success in the final few rounds. He seemed to refind his ambition, and let his hands go more, doing what had worked for him early on. He was getting his shots off and getting out of dodge, creating space, boxing and moving. It may have been that Ioka felt he had the bout in the bag, or it may have been that Ioka was tired, but Cintron finished the bout well. By then though it really was too little too late.
After 12 rounds the decision seemed an easy one, with only the specific scored in doubt. It seemed impossible to do the mental arithmetic to get to a Cintron win, despite his gutsy and brave performance, and the judges agreed scoring it 116-112, twice, to Ioka and 115-113 to Ioka.
(Photo Credit - A. McGovern)
Some bouts are fantastic match ups, worthy of getting excited about. Other however are mismatches from the moment they are signed, and every one knows it. They are bouts that do not need to exist in this sport, especially not at world level featuring a long term world champion who is still looking to secure a career defining fight, more than 3 years after winning his title.
Yesterday in Mexico IBF Super Bantamweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (32-1-2, 22) recorded his 8th defense as he made very, very, light work of the over-matched and under-whelming Miguel Gonzalez (31-3, 8).
On paper this might have looked a fine bout, both guys having over 30 wins, only a few losses combined. In reality however Ancajas had long proven he was world class. He had shown his ability against solid world level opponents, had should be in the ring with fellow world class fighters. Gonzalez on the other hand had been soundly beaten by his 2 best opponents, the excellent Andrew Moloney and a pre-prime Paul Butler. Not only had Gonzalez lost his two bouts of note, but he had nothing to offer Ancajas as a test. He wasn't a dangerous puncher, he did have elite level boxing skills, he was little more than a regional level fighter with a padded record.
He was, essentially, a South American answer to those Thai's we see with fancy looking records that have no depth or quality to them. Just the numbers.
To his credit Gonzalez made a go of things. He was thrown in with a shark and tried to battle it. Sadly though Gonzalez's battle with Ancajas was only ever going to end one way, and despite his toughness keeping him in the bout the pressure, the body and the excellent boxing skills of Ancajas were far too much.
In round 6 Gonzalez was finally saved by the referee. He was still on his feet, but was a beaten, battered man and it was clear things were only going to get worse.
Whilst some of Ancajas' reign can be defended due to mandatory obligations, with bouts against the likes of Teiru Kinoshita, Jonas Sultan and Ryuichi Funai being mandatories, it's now time he chases one of the division's other world class fighters. Although some are tied up with Eddie Hearn and DAZN others, such as Kazuto Ioka, Francisco Rodriguez Jr or Froilan Saludar, aren't, and we also have the shadow of Kosei Tanaka approaching the division in 2020. Ancajas needs to put his foot down and demand real tests now.
Earlier today we saw a new WBO Super Flyweight world champion champion being crowned, as Japanese star Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14) [井岡一翔] put together one of his best performances to date, and stopped Filipino foe Aston Palicte (25-3-1, 21) in 10 rounds. The win saw Ioka becoming the first Japanese man to become a 4-weight champion, and only the second Japanese fighter to win world titles over 4 weights following Naoko Fujioka.
The two men had both looked great during their walk ins. Palicte looked calm but confident whilst Ioka, flanked by Japanese hip-hop artist AK69, looked determined and as if he was arriving for his destiny.
From the opening moments there was two things that were clear. One was a purely physical thing, Palicte dwarfed Ioka. They looked a division, if not two, apart. The other was that Ioka was much quicker, sharper and had the speed edge in terms of hand speed, footspeed and overall movement. It seemed like the bout could come down to who could make the most of their advantages.
It quickly became apart that it was Ioka's speed advantage that was the big difference, with Ioka often avoiding the big, booming power shots of Palicte, whilst managing to find a home for his own shots, especially his straight right hand up top and his body shots.
As the rounds went on it seemed more and more like Ioka's speed was the telling factor, with Palicte often being countered, regularly with lovely left hooks that Ioka was finding from round 3 on wards. Palicte's issues were worsened by the effective body work from Ioka, who has quickly become a forgotten man in the conversation of best body puncher in the sport, and in round 4 Ioka really showed off what he could do with shots to head and body.
Other than in round 4 Palicte generally looked like he was in the rounds, but losing them, and falling behind on the score cards but doing enough to be in them with an odd combination and some solid jabs. It seemed like something he and his team knew was happening when they sent him out for round 7, a round that really was something special.
Palicte came out for the seventh with bad intentions, pressing Ioka in a way he hadn't done in the first 6 rounds. He was there looking to take Ioka out, and unlike the earlier rounds where he was typically trying to land the odd combinations, he went full throttle. The increase in output from the Filipino seemed to shock Ioka, who seemed to wobble at one point, but Ioka would later turn the round on it's head and hurt Palicte, with body shots being a key late in the round. In many ways the round was Palicte's last hoorah, and form then on he never really seemed to have any more sustained success with Ioka's technical ability and combinations becoming a clearer focal point.
Going into round 10 it looked like Palicte's toughness, durability and chin might see him to the distance but Ioka had other idea's after he hurt the Filipino with a big right hand. Ioka waded in, looking to close the show, eventually forcing the referee to step in. Palicte, and his team, weren't happy at the stoppage, and you could argue it was a slightly early stoppage, but the Filipino did take 6 or 7 clean head shots and left the referee in the position where he could step in, especially given the damage Palicte had taken in the earlier rounds.
The question as to what is next for Ioka will be an interesting one, though there are big potential bouts with fellow Japanese fighters Akira Yaegashi and Kosei Tanaka, both of whom have mentioned becoming 4 weight champions themselves. Of those two bouts a showdown with Tanaka would appear more likely, given that both are TBS affiliated fighters.
After a disappointing performance last time out IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21) knew he had to shine earlier today when he faced mandatory challenger Ryuichi Funai (31-8, 22) [船井 龍一] from Japan.
Although it was a mandatory it did seem like Ancajas had the perfect foil to look good against, with Funai being a slow and basic come forward fighter with a very straight up style. Whilst Funai does have a potent right hand, that was pretty much the only threat Ancajas had to think about entering the bout.
Ancajas looked sharp from the off, much sharper than he had Alejandro Santiago Barrios last September, and quickly found a home for his straight left hand. He looked relaxed, quick and at ease. Funai on the other hand looked slow, tense and although he had a high guard it was being split time and time again by Ancajas. Funai's lack of speed was apparently early on though his style of slowly trudging forward made life incredibly easy for Ancajas.
In round 2 Ancajas began to move up a gear and he began to stand his ground more, lending cleanly and even allowing Funai to trade with him at times, especially at the end of round 3. He was so calm and in control that he was making Funai miss and counter up close. It was really clear that the two guys didn't belong in the ring together.
Having controlled the first 3 rounds without getting beyond second gear Ancajas began to put on a show in round 4, really moving through the gears and battering Funai. The round was as one sided as you could get, with Funai's only success being the fact that he remained on his feet, though he did that was a mystery. Ancajas was landing clean straight left hands, combinations, right hooks, uppercuts and just battering the challenger. It wouldn't have been a surprise to see the referee wave off the contest, and some referees would have done just that, but some how Funai managed to make it to the end of the round.
The damage that Ancajas gave Funai in round 4 forced the referee to have the doctor inspect Funai at the start of round 5. That round was a more cautious one from Funai, who backed off, tried to recover and didn't really do much other than clear his head. That was easier said than done though, with Ancajas continuing to beat him through the round. Although Funai was less willing to walk into the punches of Ancajas he was still on the receiving end of a lot of clean shots.
Round 6, much like round 4, was a one sided one where Ancajas increased his output and went to town on Funai, especially in the last minute. Funai's toughness was again his most impressive trait, but he was giving very little challenge to Ancajas.
At the end of round 6 the referee seemed to request Funai's pull their man from the bout. They didn't so the doctor did, stopping the bout at the very start of round 7.
For Funai this is a huge disappointment and it will almost certainly be his only shot at a world title. As for Ancajas this was perfect. This was the performance he needed, this was what he and his team would have been praying for. It was a sensational outing, beating Funai in an eye catching, fan friendly manner. It was similar in some ways to his first mandatory, against Teiru Kinoshita, where he again showcased what he could do.
Where Ancajas goes next is unclear, but if he can't secure a really big bout it would make sense to get in with another slower come forward fighter, where he can again shine by simply using his speed and skills. If he can't land a big bout for his next defense it would make sense to have him again in with an opponent that makes him look a million dollars. He's in an awkward position, as the only top Super Flyweight signed with ESPN, but there are fan friendly options out there for him.
In 2017 we saw Thailand's Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-5-1, 41) [ศรีสะเกษ นครหลวงโปรโมชั่น] announce himself to an international audience as he beat Roman Gonzalez in a close decision to reclaim the WBC Super Flyweight title that he had a lost a few years earlier to Carlos Cuadras. A second win over Gonzalez followed for the Thai who was proving he was no one hit wonder. Last year we saw him again shine on US soil, winning a FOTY contender against excellent Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada (39-3, 26). Just moments ago we saw the rematch between Srisaket and Estrada, and we ended up with one of the most disappointing and odd fights of 2019.
Srisaket, known for being a huge punching Thai southpaw, came out in the orthodox stance, and wasn't fighting to his strengths. Instead of pressing the action he was boxing with the master boxer, and being made to look silly by a sharp, accurate and quick Estrada. Srisaket was being picked off, made to look clumsy and silly and really being schooled in the first half of the fight. Even when Srisaket did turn southpaw there was no concentrated effort to fight in the stance, turning righty against after just a few moments.
Whilst Srisaket did have moments, landing some solid right hands and some notable body shots, he was being out landed, out boxed, out moved and out thought. It seemed as if his entire gameplan was wrong, and yet he was sticking to it, not reverting to what had got him so much success through his career.
By round 7 Estrada was starting to bully Srisaket, and it looked like he could end up forcing a stoppage if he wished. Thankfully for Srisaket he began to wake up, began to realise he had to show more intensity and had to try and keep his title.
Sadly it wasn't until round 10 that Srisaket actually made an effort to fight southpaw. When he elected to to do that he began to have success, landing his power shots and making life very uncomfortable for the Mexican. A low blow in round 11 left Estrada in agony and Srisaket kept the pressure on from there, drawing out the machishmo from Estrada who stood and fought rather than boxed smartly. It made the final couple of rounds exciting, but by then it was clear Srisaket needed a knockout, and he hadn't looked like getting one in over 20 rounds of being in the ring with Estrada.
The final couple of rounds helped Srisaket close the gap on the scorecards, but he was clearly second best, and Estrada took the decision with scores of 116-112, and 115-113 twice. We struggle to see how any judge could have it 115-113, in fact even 116-112 feels closer than it should have been.
The big question after the fight has to be "Why did Srisaket fight orthodox?" He has had success through his career as a southpaw, had success today when he fought lefty and clearly should have fought as a southpaw again. There may be a chance, down the line, for a third meeting, but on this stupid performance it's hard to see many pushing for it to be made immediately given the depth of the division. There are more attractive options out there for Estrada than a third meeting with Srisaket, especially a Srisaket set on proving a point.
Strangely, given how sharp Estrada looked, it may not have actually mattered had Srisaket fought southpaw through the fight or not.
The final world title bout of 2018 saw a new WBO Super Flyweight world champion being crowned as Filipino Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23) shocked the gamblers and took a split decision win over Kazuto Ioka (23-2, 13) [井岡一翔] in a brilliant technical match up between two fantastic fighters who fought evenly through out a captivating contest. Not only was it a captivating contest, but it was one fought at such a high skill level that both men showed off technical mastery like so few bouts we've seen this year.
Nietes took the early lead. He was countering well and making the most of the opportunities Ioka was giving him by fighting on the inside. It was brilliant work from Nietes to land the sharper, cleaner, more accurate shots. The early success of Nietes forced Ioka on to the outside.
Boxing at range Ioka had a lot of success in the middle rounds, with Nietes slowing down, showing his age and struggling to catch up with Ioka, who seemed to run through the middle rounds with some ease to take the lead.
Ioka's success saw the bout tighten up, a lot, and going into the final rounds it seemed there was everything to play for. The success wasn't dominant, but was clear and it was obvious that fighting at range Ioka could control things, and if he was able to keep up the out put and the movement he should have been able to win.
In the final rounds however Nietes seemed to dig deep, find that extra bit of energy and close the distance. Ioka on the other hand slowed, began to stand his ground more and slow his movement. That allowed Nietes back into the fight, a fight that had seemed to be Ioka's after his strong middle portion of the fight.
With the final 2 rounds being ultra close, pick em rounds if left possibles score of the bout all over the place, potentially from 116-112 either way.
With the bout going the 12 rounds we went to the score cards and unsurprisingly they were split. Each man taking a 116-112 score card in their favour, though the bout was decided by a bizarre 118-110 card for Nietes, a score that would assume the judge had given Nietes every benefit imaginable.
With the 2 judges having Nietes as the winner he now becomes the third Filipino to become a 4 weight champion, the 3rd man to win world titles in each of the 4 lowest weight classes and a sure fire hall of famer. For Ioka there is strong argument to have a rematch, of if Nietes retires a chance at the title when it becomes vacant again.
For us fans this was the technical back and forth we had all anticipated. It wasn't a dramatic FOTY candidate but was a sensational bout, and the perfect way to close out the new year, even if one of the judges was watching something the rest of us wasn't.
In 2017 Thailand's Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) [ศรีสะเกษ นครหลวงโปรโมชั่น], aka Wisaksil Wangek, put himself on the boxing man as he became a 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion and ended the long unbeaten run of Nicaraguan great Roman Gonzalez. Since then he has further strengthened his resume with a stoppage win over Gonzalez and a decision win over Juan Francisco Estrada.
Today Srisaket made history by becoming the first man to defend a major world title on a major MMA promotion as he headlined ONE Champion's "Kingdom of Heroes" show in Bangkok. In the opposite corner to the Thai was unheralded Mexican challenger Iran Diaz (14-3-3, 6), a man who proved his toughness and determination despite being the clear loser.
The first round saw Srisaket put the pressure on the Mexican straight away and land a huge number of body shots. The predictions of many was that this bout wouldn't go long and the way the Thai started the bout he seemed intent of living up to the predictions of the fans and media. To his credit however Diaz saw off the storm and made it into round 2. He then slowly began to create a bit of momentum for himself, building round by round and neutralising some of Srisaket's offense. The Mexican wasn't really winning rounds as such, but was giving a much better effort than many expected as he created distance and found a home for counter right hands.
After 4 rounds Diaz had not only lasted longer than expected but had taken a round on one of the judges scorecards, with the open scores being 40-36, twice, and 39-37. It was amazing that Diaz's body was still upright given the punishment he had taken, but he was doing more than just surviving.
Having made things a little bit competitive in rounds 4 and 5 it seemed like Diaz was finding a groove. That was totally destroyed however when Srisaket upped the tempo, particularly in rounds 7 and 8, as the Thai looked to rip Diaz apart with head shots and body shots. Diaz managed to see off the storm, and potentially should have had a knockdown scored in his favour in round, following a flush uppercut that was ruled a slip by referee Jay Nady.
The open scoring after 8 rounds saw scores of 80-72, 79-73 and 79-74 all in favour if Srisaket who had the bout in the back but still wanted the knockout. He hunted it again in round 9 but was again on the canvas, again ruled a slip though again it seemed like there was a punch involved, with Srisaket being caught by a counter right. The Thai repeatedly caught Diaz up top with some vicious head shots from round 9 to round 11 as he seemed intent on closing the show for the local fans, wobbling Diaz badly at one point he couldn't send the Mexican down.
Having been taken into round 12 Srisaket suddenly changed his mentality and rather than being the aggressor, he turned into a slippery counter puncher and had some fun and sliding the shots of Diaz, with the Mexican picking up the tempo and swinging for the fences. It seemed like Srisaket had landed everything in his arsenal and had decided not to fire off any more bombs in the final round, with the bout well and truly in the bag.
At the scorecards both men looked happy with themselves. Srisaket was the clear winner, with the judges scoring the bout 119-109, twice, and 120-108. On the other hand Diaz was likely happy to have seen the final bell and put himself in the mix for good fights, maybe not world title fights but other good fights in a stacked division.
Srisaket's future looks likely to be in big divisional fights, including a potential rematch with Estrada or a unification bout with IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas.
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.
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.