Just moments ago we saw WBO Super Bantamweight champion Emanuel Navarrete (31-1, 27) record his 5th defense, as he stopped little known Filipino challenger Jeo Santisima (19-3, 16) in what turned out to be a hugely disappointing bout. Not just for the Filipino and his fans, but in general.
The bout was expected to be a fire fight, Navarrete had built himself a reputation for exciting performances and although Santisima had shown little to get too excited about back in the Philippines, he had shown a willingness to have a fight when he needed to. Sadly instead of a war, we got a rather pedestrian fight that only really had a few rounds of note. Instead of a short action bout, we ended up with something that often resembled a public sparring session, which lacked intensity.
The first round really had very little to talk about. Whilst that's not too unusual for an opening round it was followed by another round in the same vein. It wasn't until round 3 that we saw Navarrete put his foot on the gas, and when he did the fight finally came alive, with Navarrete's free flowing offense, and Santisima landing some eye catching counters. It seemed that Santisima's entire gameplan revolved around Navarrete opening himself up, and the Mexican quickly figured out the Filipino. Santisima had no answer to the jab of the Mexican and only really had moments when the Mexican let his shots go.
In round 4 we saw Santisima land his best shot of the fight, rocking back Navarrete, who came roaring back. The Mexican was made to miss a lot, but wasn't made to pay too much, as his offense handcuffed Santisima. The offensive work from the champion continued in round 5, and once again he was made to miss a lot, though easily out worked Santisima, who landed only a small number of counter shots as he was too busy trying to slip, slide and ride shots to come back with anything of his own. Santisima was frustrating the champion, but not making him pay for his reckless and wild shots.
Round 6 through to round 9 saw the pace dropping again. It seemed like the weight cut from Navarrete, and his increased output in rounds 4 and 5, came at a price. This was a chance for Santisima to strike, but he failed. He was either too tired himself, too set on being the counter puncher or too worried about what was going to come back to risk it. That, unfortunately, allowed Navarrete to recover, get his second win and get back to what he does at his best.
In round 10 the Mexican made his first big effort, since round 5, to take out the Filipino, letting his hands go with free flowing aggression. It was the first time we really saw Santisima hurt, and he was unable to counter, or avoid the shots. By the end of the round he looked done, with his only hope being that Navarrete had punched himself out. The minutes rest seemed to let Santisima recover a bit, but Navarrete wasn't going to let his pray off the hook, and finally forced the stoppage at 2:20 of round 11 as he continued to put it on the brave, but ultimately out matched Santisima.
For the Filipino he showed some good touches, at least early on but the pressure and body shots of Navarrete took the fight out of him. By the later rounds he seemed to be running on fumes, and even before the bout it was known he didn't have the greatest of work rates or stamina. As for Navarrete however the performance, despite being a win, left more questions than answers about him. He looked open, wasteful, and lacked his usual energy at times.
It may have been a 5th defense for Navarrete, but it certainly wasn't the type of performance which would have done much to silence the doubters, who have criticised the level of competition he has been facing. Fingers crossed a bet challenger will be next for the talented, and fun to watch, champion. As for Santisima we'd love to see him mixing at OPBF title level, and a bout between himself and someone like Hiroaki Teshigawara would be a lot of fun.
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)
In the first of two male world title fights on New Year's Eve fight fans had the chance to see WBO Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9) [田中恒成] put on one of the best performances of his career, despatching Chinese challenger Wulan Tuolehazi (13-4-1, 6) [乌兰] with ease.
Whilst the bout was never seen as hugely competitive on paper Tanaka had a knack of making easy bouts hard for himself, and this was, on paper, one of the bouts where he was possibly going to end up getting himself into un-necessary trouble. Thankfully however the "KO Dream Boy" did what was he was he supposed to do, from the opening bell.
Straight from the off Tanaka looked razor sharp, and started banging the challenger with his jab. Wulan's response was a wild and crazy looking left hook. It was a shot of desperation, very early on, from Wulan.
It wasn't long until Tanaka was backing up the challenger, and finding a home for his body shots, which were a major part of round 2. He kept banging the drum with hard single shots through the second round, and was clearly taking the legs out of Wulan.
Wulan was staying up right through the first 2 rounds but had no answer at all for anything Tanaka did. Tanaka began beating him around the ring in round 3 a double uppercut, through the guard, from the champion finally dropped Wulan. The Chinese fighter lay on the matt, looking up, as the referee began the count, and made little effort to beat it.
Given how Tanaka looked last time, against Jonathan Gonzalez, this was the type of performance he needed. He looked excellent, sharp, defensively aware, and the finish was clinical. It was his most accomplished performance and his defensively intelligent performance in a long time.
As for Wulan, he looked like a lamb to the slaughter from very early on. He never got into this and it really showed that he wasn't world class. He was totally out of his depth.
(Photo Credit - A. McGovern)
The UK might be one of the hotbeds for boxing right now but it's not often we'll see a Filipino take on a South African in the country. Today however we saw one such bout, as the WBO Bantamweight got a new champion!
The match up in question saw South African fighter Zolani Tete (28-4, 21) return to the ring after more than a year our to take on "interim" champion John Riel Casimero (29-4, 20) from the Philippines.
On paper this looked like a fantastic match up between two world class fighters. Two multi-weight world champions, in fact. It looked not only like it was going to be competitive, but also a very interesting clash of styles with Tete being a freakish physical specimen and Casimero being a wild, but heavy handed slugger.
Sadly the interest in the bout going in didn't deliver. The first 2 rounds saw almost nothing happen. The size difference and skills of both men saw almost nothing land, as both men showed a lot of respect to the other. The only meaningful thing that happened was a clash of heads in round 2. That was essentially the only meaningful connect either man made with the other in the first 6 minutes.
In round 3 things changed as Casimero seemingly grew in confidence and landed a brutal right hand up top on Tete. The shot was something else and not only did it drop Tete, but it left him scrambled. Tete beat the count but didn't look like he knew where he was. He looked like his legs were gone and his head was gone. Knowing it was his chance to strike Casimero kept up the intensity and essentially bundled the wobbly Tete down again. The South African's heart got him to his feet again, but a follow left the referee with no decision other than to stop the bout.
With Casimero celebrating another huge win on the road to become a 3 weight world champion attention turned to Tete who took quite a few minutes to recover, though thankfully did look fine in the end.
Following the win Casimero called for a fight with Naoya Inoue, in a bout that would unify the WBA, IBF and WBO titles, and it's clear that that is a bout that makes a lot of sense to see getting made in 2020.
Late last night in the US we saw a WBO Light Flyweight title fight, as Mexican champion Elwin Soto (16-1, 11) made his first defense, narrowly defeating Filipino challenger Edward Heno (14-1-5, 5) in a genuine nail biting.
Soto seemed to take the first round, in what was a pretty even back and forth. The Mexican champion seemed to land the better punches and make the most of his defenses, neutralising the challenger's attacks. The champion also had success in the second round, as his power and speed let him take control.
The bout shifted in round 3, when Heno began to build on the bits of success he had had earlier in the bout. Heno was also helped by a slightly lucky call that saw the referee score a knockdown in his favour, even though it seemed like a less than legitimate punch and more like a push. That knockdown, whilst perhaps not the most legal of shots, did secure Heno a 10 round and began a real surge from the Filipino, who began to find the range and timing for his uppercuts. Heno seemed to take the 4th, closely, before building right through the middle of the fight and getting ahead of steam.
By the start of round 8 it seemed the Filipino was in control, though that began the next momentum shift, with Soto having a good round 8 and a big round 9. The champion was turning the bout around with big body shots, that were sapping the movement and energy from Heno. The Filipino gritted his teeth and fought back, going through some hell in round 10 as Soto's pressure began to tell, and took him through the championship rounds. The Mexican's work rate in the final round was incredible, as he seemed to know he had to put on a big finish.
In the end it felt incredibly finely balanced, and had been compelling through out. Despite being competitive, and another Light Flyweight thriller, it seemed Soto had just edged it, and that proved to be the case on the scorecards with the judges scoring it 114-113 and 115-112, twice, all in favour of the Mexican.
What we saw really was a bout that swung one way, than another. It was Soto early, Heno through the middle and Soto late. The bout showed up what makes each fighter great, with the power and will to win of Soto going up against the more refined skills of Heno, but Heno's stamina played a major part in his loss and showed something he needs to work on going forward.
A rematch, down the line, would be great and both of these men are legitimate world class talents in a division full of world class fighters.
A great bout and both fighters had the chance, and took that chance, to increase their standing and profile in the sport. Fans should be more than happy to see both men and follow both going forward. This was great and another show case of how good the little men can be.
The great Gabriel "Flash" Elorde was one of the all time great Filipino fighters. Today we saw his grandson, Juan Miguel Elorde (28-2, 15) attempt to make the most of an unexpected world title opportunity as he took on WBO Super Bantamweight champion Emanuel Navarrete (29-1, 24). Unfortunately however this wasn't a night to remember for the Elorde family, with "Mig" being dominated by the Navarrete.
From the opening round Navarrete looked a danger, but it was actually Eldorde who seemed to land the best shot of the round, and did much better than expected. It was however, a case of Navarrete looking to see what Elorde had in his arsenal before going through the gears.
Sadly for the Filipino we began to see what Navarete had in the locked when he began to turn up the heat and seemed to wobble Elorde for a second. Elorde was showing his heart and determination, and had decent moments in round 3, though was left bloodied by Navarete's power. That power also earned the Mexican a knockdown in the dying seconds of the round, when the ropes kept the challenger up right.
In all honest as soon as Elorde was wobbled at the end of round 3, it felt like the start of the end, and it would take less than 30 seconds of round 4 for the referee to see enough and stop the Filipino.
For Navarete this was his second win in around a month, a busy schedule to say the least, and there's a chance he could fight again this year. As for Elorde it's really hard to know what his future holds. The Filipino is no youngster and this could be the end for him, in what would appear like a cash out, though he could easily return to Asia and compete on the regional title scene, something he really should have done more before getting this shot.
On Saturday night Vic Saludar (19-4, 10) saw his reign as the WBO Minimumweight champion come to an end, as he was widely out pointed by mandatory challenger Wilfredo Mendez (14-1, 5) in Puerto Rico.
The talented Saludar, who had won and defended the title in Japan, found himself in with a stylistic nightmare as Mendez, a talented though sometimes negative, fighter neutralised him with movement, skills and intelligence.
It was rare for Saludar to have any sustained success, though he did in round 5 when he dropped the Puerto Rican in what was his best round. Sadly though that was never going to be enough and after 12 rounds it was clear he hadn't done enough to retain his title, at least not on foreign soil. Instead the decision went to Mendez, with scores of 117-110, 116-111 and 115-112.
For Mendez this was a huge step up in class, and sees Puerto Rico taking another world title, in fact he becomes the third Puerto Rican to hold the WBO Minimumweight title. Sadly for Saludar the bout ends his reign and also ends talk of a prospective unification bout with WBA champion Knockout CP Freshmart, which had been mooted in the Thai press in July.
Mendez may have taken the win though we do suspect he now has a target on his back, due to his style and lack of power. We wouldn't be at all surprised to see some notable prospects from the Asia region begin to target Mendez, who is a talented fighter, but a much less dangerous champion than Saludar.
The second major show today saw us turn our attention to the Philippines, where we got a really entertaining main event. The card's headline bout was for the WBO "interim" Bantamweight title, as John Riel Casimero (28-4, 19) and Mexican foe Cesar Ramirez (18-4, 11) traded blows in an action packed bout.
Casimero was the big favourite entering the bout. He was always expected to win, though he should a real hunger to win in style. He didn't just want the victory but wanted an eye catching win.
The fight started with a feeling out round but as early as round 3 Casimero was beginning to get significantly more aggressive. It was in round 3 the had scored his first knockdown, which really seemed more of a slip than a legitimate knockdown, and that he first showed that he wanted to take out Ramirez.
Ramirez bounced back excellently in the following round, as he upped his work rate, but had another 10-8 scored against him in round 5. This was another another case of a push being scored a knockdown, though it was clear that Ramirez was taking some punishment, despite giving all he had, and making it clear he wasn't going to just fold.
Ramirez's fire and desire showed again in round 6, as he forced a war and Casimero, for one of the few times, looked like he might be in some trouble. Whatever problems Casimero had were short lived however and he would score a very legitimate knockdown in round 7, nearly sending him out of the ring to secure a third 10-8 round. By now it was clear that Casimero was hunting a KO win, not just a win.
By now almost everything Casimero threw was a bomb, with either the left or right. It was a very energy sapping tactic for Casimero who appeared to get out worked in round 9 and even showed some signs of tiring. It was however a tactic Casimero felt comfortable with and was one he was trying to make a statement with. In round 10 that statement was made with a huge barrage from Casimero who hurt Ramirez with a body shot, the landed a right hand up top sending the Mexican to the canvas again. This time Ramirez was out, and the referee quickly waved off the action.
For Casimero this is his first defense of the WBO interim title, and should set up a shot with WBO regular champion Zolani Tete, in what should be an excellent match up. For Ramirez this was a painful loss. He gave everything and everything wasn't even close to enough, and it's really hard to see him competing at the fringes of world level any time soon. He's a gutsy and brave fighter, but technical limitations will always hold him back.
Japanese youngster Kosei Tanaka (14-0, 8) got one of his toughest tests today as successfully retained the WBO Flyweight title, making his second defense, and over-came Puerto Rican challenger Jonathan Gonzalez (22-3-1, 13).
Prior to the bout Tanaka really struggle to make weight and showing signs of dehydration at his medical. He has looked unhappy through fight week and rumours had grown that he had really taken a lot out of himself to make Flyweight.
That looked to be the case early on, as the Japanese fighter didn't look his usual sharp, aggressive self. Instead he looked clumsy, almost plodding, as he struggled to keep up with Gonzalez. The Puerto however looked sharp, crisp and like a man who was confident of picking up the upset. Gonzalez fought off the back foot excellently, moving and landing his straight left hand with alarming regularity.
Tanaka managed to have a huge break through in round 3, when he dropped Gonzalez with a huge body shot. To his credit Gonzalez got back to his feet and continued the round, though was perhaps fortunate there was only seconds of the round left. He looked badly hurt and had the shot come 30 seconds earlier the bout could have looked very different.
Tanaka looked to try and build on his knock down in the following round but was dropped himself in round 4, from a Gonzalez left hand behind the ear. It was a balance issue, rather than Tanaka being hurt or buzzed but it essentially wiped out his success from round 3.
Gonzalez would manage to build on his knockdown, using his speed and ring craft to out landing, out move, out speed and out box this lethargic looking Tanaka. Tanaka was being caught regularly by Gonzalez's flurry's and looked incredibly conservative with his output. Not the Tanaka we'd seen recently. Whilst a lot of that could be put down to Gonzalez's skills, and movement there was a lack of crispness to Tanaka's work as he followed Gonzalez around the ring, looking to land single big shots, and was being out worked as a result.
Thankfully in round 7 Tanaka finally moved through the gears, chose to let his hands go. The flurry's we all loved from Tanaka were finally on show, and they were having success, especially the body shots. One thrown early in the round hurt Gonzalez and a follow up dropped him. From then on Tanaka could smell blood, dropping Gonzalez twice more in the round. Every time Gonzalez got up ready to continue, but he had done little to show there was anything left in the tank and the referee wisely chose to stop the fight, rather than let it continue on.
For Gonzalez this was a great chance to show how good he was, and he looked excellent at times, though it also showed his flaws. His lack of power and lack of durability, two issues that have been brought up in the past, were again apparent here. He can come again, but those issues will always be issues, and won't be things he can easily change. We do however wonder whether or not he could make 108lbs.
As for Tanaka the bout, or rather the performance, surely spells the end of his time at Flyweight. A move to the talent laden Super Flyweight division would have him in with more recognisable names, and an all Japanese super fight with Kazuto Ioka is one he has mentioned in the past.
Sadly Tanaka has had these hot and cold performances in the past, and this was similar, in some ways, to his performances against Vic Saludar and Palangpol CP Freshmart. Like both of those bouts he was dropped and pushed hard. Notably after both of those bouts he also moved up in weight, citing issues making the Minimumweight and Light Flyweight limits respectively.
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.
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.