On Friday night Florida played host to a world title fight, as WBO Light Flyweight champion Jonathan "Bomba" Gonzalez (26-3-1-1, 14) successfully defended his title for the first time, as he over-came the talented, but under-sized, Filipino challenger Mark Anthony Barriga (11-2, 2).
Early on the boxing skills of Barriga were on show, as he rocked Gonzalez in the opening round, and seemed to have the skills to out box the champion who looked surprisingly apprehensive at times, despite the fact that Barriga isn't a noted puncher. It was high level, high speed chess early on, with Barriga getting the better of it.
Sadly for the Filipino however as the bout went on his boxing skills proved not to be enough, and although he regularly backed Gonzalez up he couldn't ever pin him down, as the footwork and movement of Gonzalez kept him safe and allowed him to pot shot Barriga, who followed Gonzalez rather than cutting Gonzalez off.
Sadly for Barriga the later rounds did not go his way at all, as Gonzalez began to turn the screw in round 9. He became more aggressive, he was more willing to use his weight, size and try to bully Barriga around. That had success in tiring Barriga out, and left the Filipino more and more open to being caught by the heavier shots of Gonzalez, who could never land clean enough to Barriga, but was being outlanded by the champion who seemed to do enough to eek out a very close but fair victory.
After 12 rounds the judges turned in the scorecards. The first of those was 115-113 with the other two being 117-111. We thought the 117-111 scores were harsh, but it was clear that Gonzalez was the rightful winner, and he showed some nice touches here, but we do worry about him against the best at 108lbs, especially given how Barriga managed to hurt him early on and how he had to rely on his size to over-come Barriga, rather than his boxing. That will be a major issue against fighters like Hiroto Kyoguchi and Kenshiro Teraji, who are both strong and powerful Light Flyweights.
As for Barriga we'd love to see him return to his natural Minimumweight division, where he really can make a mark on the world level. Sadly at 108lbs he lacks the physicality and the power needed against the top fighters in the division, and it's a deep division as well meaning there isn't going to be an easy title for him to grab.
If there is one thing we need to thank DAZN for it's shining a light on the Light Flyweight division, which continues to deliver some of the best action we're getting. That was shown again this evening when Japanese legend Katsunari Takayama (32-9-0-1, 12) [高山 勝成] made his US debut and challenged WBO Light Flyweight champion Elwin Soto (19-1, 13) in a thrilling bout that saw Takayama get a chance to shine in the bright lights of the US.
It was a chance that was sadly ended in disappointment, not just with a loss, but also on the back of one of the worst stoppages we've seen in years, thanks to the often controversial Laurence Cole.
In the opening Takayama looked out of his depth. He was rocked repeatedly when Soto landed, anything clean, and it seemed as if the 37 year old legend was showing his age and the fact he wasn't a natural Light Flyweight. Soto seemed nailed on for an early stoppage win and Takayama really looked like his long career had taken it's toll on him. The challenger barely made it through the round. He was hurt again in round 2 and it seemed like Soto really was too big, too strong, too powerful and too young for Takayama.
What few were aware of however was just how fucking tough Takayama is. He refused to go down. He refused to give in and instead he fought his fight. He took it to Soto, he set a high tempo and challenged Soto to go with him. Soto failed to do that, as Takayama out worked him, out landed him and out boxed him at times. Sadly nothing Takayama landed seemed to do anything to Soto, who landed significantly less but landed much heavier shots, which caught the eye more than Takayama's lighter, quicker shots.
In round 4 Takayama started to really claw his way into the contest. Soto was doing much less than he had earlier in the bout, and Takayama was starting to grind away at Soto's body with some sustained body attacks. It seemed like, after a nighmare start, the momentum was shifting. That continued to shift in round 5 as Soto began to look tired, and was backing up. Soto on the back foot looked much less effective than he had earlier in the bout, and it seemed clearthat he was starting to feel the tempo.
Having seen Takayama build his way back into the bout Soto knew he had to take some of the wind out of Takayama's sailsand he did just that at the end of round 6 as he again rocked Takayama, as he landed huge right hands and a brutal uppercut. Takayama, foolishly, held his feet and tried to trade with the much bigger Soto, and it didn't work. He was just lucky the bell came when it did, as he looked about read to go.
After looking a beaten man at the end of round 6 Takayama came out for round 7 some how looking revitalised, and again out worked Soto, unleashing quick sharp combinations and really grinding Soto's body. It was an astonishing bounce back round from Takayama after the way he had ended the previous round.
The pace for the first 7 rounds had been high, frantic almost at times. In round 8 things chnaged, and the tempo dropped off, massively. This saw Soto doing very little, and Takayama picking his moments better. It was a breather for both the fans and the fighters before we moved into round 9.
The 9th round saw Takayama looking to up the pace, setting his tempo early on, and backing Soto up. Soto looked genuinely tired. That was until he managed to dig deep and land a rare combination on Takayama who walked through some huge shots trying to land his own blows. Soto continued to land in an exchange before the referee, stepped in and waved off the bout, stopping Takayama in a baffling decision that made little sense. Takayama had been significantly more hurt earlier on, he had been landing, and hadn't gone down or had his legs shaken like he had earlier on. It was a terrible stoppage that really looked like the referee had no idea of what he was doing.
Following the stoppage, which saw Sean Gibbons give an expletive to the crowd regarding the decision, Takayama took his moment to play to the crowd, basking in the moment and the opportunity to embrace himself to fans who had been won over by his heart and determination.
This is probably Takayama's last bout and the reality is that he had his opportunity taken from him by a terrible decision from the referee. Regardless he got a chance to shine on the big stage and prove to a wider audience what he can do, and why he's been one of the true favourites of hardcore fans during his great career. If this is, as expected, his last bout we want to say thank "Lightning Kid" for giving us so many fantastic fights through the years.
As for Soto this was probably the nightmare situation for him. The result, a TKO9, does little to cover up a performance that will leave the other champion licking their lips. Soto looked predictable, very low in terms of output, and like he could be out worked, out boxed and even out fought by some of the others. The likely plan is for him to face WBA "super" champion Hiroto Kyoguchi next but on this performance Kyoguchi would have a field day with him, Likewise Kenshiro Teraji would also be jumping at the chance to face Soto. That's not to say Soto's a bad fighter, but his flaws are evident and he's not yet the fighter he will become. In two or three years Soto will be a better fighter, but for now he's a champion with a lot to prove, and this performance will leave many with more questions than answers.
As for Cole the sooner he's out of boxing the better.
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.
Earlier today in Japan fight fans saw talented youngster Kosei Tanaka (10-0, 6) [田中恒成] score his toughest win to date as he stopped heavy handed Thai challenger Palangpol CP Freshmart (14-2, 8) [คู่เอก พลังพล ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท] to defend his WBO Light Flyweight title, in a bout which saw Tanaka dropped, cut, and looking the more beaten up man by the end.
The bout started very slowly, in fact for the two minutes there was almost no action to be excited by. It showed Tanaka was quicker but that was it. Close to the end of the round however Palangpol's power told as he dropped Tanaka with a single right hand that really turned the round on it's head, and secured a 10-8 round for the Thai.
Tanaka never seemed hurt by the knockdown and over the following few rounds found his groove, taking rounds 2-5 with no issues, as he used his speed, skills, movement and variety to look several levels above the Thai. Palangpol however knew his advantage was in his power and strength and every shot he seemed to land seemed to take a more telling toll on Tanaka who's left eye was looking bruised from early in the bout.
After a huge 5th round for Tanaka, which saw him hurting the Thai with body shots several times, it seemed like the end was nigh. Instead however Palangpol gritted his teeth and took the fight to Tanaka, cutting the champion on his right eye, leaving both of Tanaka's eyes a mess. The Japanese fighter suddenly looked worried, and as if his entire self belief had vanished. All the confidence and fire had been taken out of his sails and Palangpol looked like a fighter who was starting to take over.
Bizarrely Palangpol didn't push his advantages in rounds 7 or 8, in fact he seemed too relaxed to press the fight and was perhaps just too tired to take the fight to Tanaka. Had he take it to Tanaka there is a chance we'd have seen a new champion being crowned with Tanaka looking like a man who felt sorry for himself. By the end of round 8 however the chance for Palangpol had gone. Tanaka had started to rebuild his confidence and that showed to begin round 9, as he took the fight to the Thai.
A headshot from Tanaka dropped Palangpol, who seemed to bounce up in a matter of seconds. Tanaka then jumped on him, and they threw shots at each other with reckless abandon. Sadly for the Thai he seemed to still have his head full of cobwebs and he struggled to connect whilst Tanaka landed some huge bombs, eventually forcing the referee to step in after the Thai had stumbled twice.
For Tanaka the win was obvious vital, but given the facial damage he suffered he may well find his proposed December showdown with WBA champion Ryoichi Taguchi being delayed until 2018. That damage is going to take a long time to heal. For Palangpol he really put himself on the map. He lost, but he showed everything needed to be given another shot at a champion down the line, even if he was a real unknown to those outside of Thailand before today. Like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai we saw Palangpol get a chance and shine, despite failing to score the win, and he will be seen as a notable player at Light Flyweight following this contest.
A bumper weekend of Japanese fights kicked off earlier today with WBO Light Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka (9-0, 5) [田中恒成] making his first defense of the title as he over-came Puerto Rican challenger Angel Acosta (16-1, 16), in a genuinely exciting mandatory title bout.
The challenger started really well, using his aggression early and putting a slow starting Tanaka on the back foot frequently with his combinations. It seemed as if Acosta's reputation as a huge puncher had worried Tanaka, who tried to fight off his jab but was often swarmed by the Puerto Rican. It wasn't until round 3 that Tanaka began to find his feet in the bout and he certainly warmed to the task, specifically in the second half of the contest as he began to back up Acosta and land some nasty body blows.
Tanaka's improvement in round 3 continued through much of the bout, as he used his speed, strength and more accurate punching to pick away at the challenger and land some solid shots to head and body, including an uppercut in round 5 that helped drop the challenger, in what was the bouts only knockdown.
Acosta recovered really well from the knockdown, and reapplied his pressure as he began a valiant fight back, but was again damaged to the body by Tanaka, despite some solid flurries from the Puerto Rican. It was back and forth action, but it always seemed like Tanaka's shots were having more of an effect than Acosta's, which were wide and looping and seemed unable to hurt the champion. What also didn't help the challenger was that he began to look incredibly tired, and in rounds 8 and 9 he looked like a man who was seriously wilting.
Despite being clearly tired Acosta refused to back down from the fight, and ended strongly, arguable doing enough to deserve either of the final rounds, both of which were close with Acosta doing everything he could to try and change the bout around. Sadly for his effort he was unable to ever hurt Tanaka, never mind secure the stoppage that he was needing.
At the end of the bout there was no questions over who had won, with Tanaka winning clearly on the scorecards, with scores of 117-110, twice, and 116-111.
Following the bout Tanaka was joined in the ring by WBA champion Ryoichi Taguchi, and it seems clear that a unification bout between the two is something that the camps will begin working on in the near future.
When we talk about young Japanese stars the first name is Naoya Inoue, the WBO Super Flyweight champion who become a 2-weight champion in just 8 professional bouts. Today we saw another Japanese youngster match that achievement as 21 year old prodigy Kosei Tanaka (8-0, 5) [田中恒成] dismantled Mexican veteran Moises Fuentes (24-3-1, 13) to claim the WBO Light Flyweight title.
Tanaka, who had previously held the WBO Minimumweight title, set the tone from the opening round as he used his speed to befuddle Fuentes and land hard right hands up top as well as piercing jabs to the body. Fuentes had no real answer other than to stay there and take them whilst offering an occasional wild swing in return. The second round was marginally better for the Mexican as he had a few moments of his own, but it was another round where Tanaka's speed and accuracy was the key with the Mexican's successes, all early in the round, being over-shadowed by Tanaka's more consistent showing.
Sadly for Fuentes round 3 was a horror round as Tanaka began to not just out box and out speed him but also out fight him, forcing him on to the ropes and landing some massive shots to head and body. Although not quite a 10-8 round it was one where some judges might have leaned that way due to just how one sided things were becoming. It was the same again in round 4, when Fuentes looked totally out of his depth and seemed to be needing a miracle. That miracle was never to come and in round 5 Tanaka let his shots go, hurting Fuentes who backed up to the ropes and took a huge right before being taken down by a flurry of lightening quick shots. With Fuentes down,and having been beaten up, the referee quickly waved off the bout.
With the win Tanaka further cements his place as one of the hottest emerging talents in boxing. A 2-weight champion in just 8 fights and at the age of 21 his career has so much potential and he seems to be improving with every contest. As for Fuentes it's hard to see him bouncing back from a beat down like this.
This past Saturday Filipino fight fans saw national boxing hero Donnie Nietes (38-1-4, 22) continue his lengthy, and excellent, reign as the WBO Light flyweight.
The often over-looked Filipino was in the ring against former world champion Raul Garcia (38-4-1, 23) but made it look like he was in against a real novice.
From the opening stages Garcia was out boxed, out fought and out moved. The domination from Nietes was making Garcia look clueless, well before the Mexican was dropped, twice, in round 3. From then on it seemed less a case of "who would win" and more a case of "how long, would Garcia last?"
As it turned out the Mexican would only last until the end of round 5 when he corner finally pulled him out of the bout, giving him his first stoppage loss in 43 bouts, and giving Nietes his second win over a member of the Garcia-Hirales family, having previously beaten Raul's twin brother Ramon.
(Image courtesy of boxingscene.com)
This past Saturday was an historic night for Filipino boxing as the sensational Donnie Nietes (37-1-4, 21) finally made his US debut and did so with a win as he over-came the very limited but very tough Juan Alejo (21-4, 13) and retained his WBO Light Flyweight title.
From the open bell to the final round Nietes looked world class, out boxing, out fighting and controlling hi Mexican foe who was cut early in the bout yet never once looked like caving in. Despite the desire from Alejo he was, at times, little more than a heavy bag for Nietes who had the chance to try what he wanted in a session that resembled target practice for the talented, though smaller Nietes.
Come the final bell there was no doubting the winner with the Filipino posting a near shut out. losing just a single round on two of the cards.
Sadly whilst Nietes was thoroughly impressive in terms of his performance he did lack the stoppage that he would likely have wanted, saying that though it would have taken something very special to stop Alejo who came out looking like a great test for fighters coming through the ranks, though is far from a world class fighter and probably shouldn't be given another shot at a world title. Saying that however we all know how boxing works and it'd be no shock to see him get another shot in the next few years, at least if he can string together a few wins of note.
Over the last few years the lower weight classes have given us some of the best fights. We got another of those earlier today as WBO Light Flyweight champion Donnie Nietes (36-1-4, 21) successfully defended his title in a 12 round war with tough Mexican Francisco Rodriguez Jr (17-3-1, 11).
The first minute of the fight was slow, really slow. From then on however the action picked up and by the end of the opening stanza it seemed we may have been heading towards a FOTY contender. The action was forced by Rodriguez, who kept coming forward, and Neites responded by holding his feet and going toe-to-toe with the Mexican, landing some very sharp and accurate shots.
In the second round we saw real drama as Nietes, who had looked great for the first 2 minutes, was tagged by a right hand. The shot seemed to stun him for a second or two as he was forced to hold on and see out the round that could easily have been stolen from him. The effects of the shots at the end of round 2 seemed to still be taking their toll early in round 3 as Nietes began to fight on the back foot and no get dragged into a relentless brawl with the Mexican. The round was one of the bouts closest and could have gone either way.
Nietes's stemmed the tide slightly in round 4 as he began finding his range and timing Rodriguez with counters. The Mexican kept bringing the pressure though he seemed to struggle to actually land much in turned of punches whilst Nietes managed to get to the body of the challenger. It was a tough round for Nietes but one that he seemed to just win.
Through 4 rounds the fight was close though in the 5th round it seemed that the Filipino changed his tactics, began to move more and draw Rodriguez on to his shots. It was an excellent change from the experienced champion who quickly found a home for his uppercut which landed almost at will through out the round. It was a shot that made the most of Rodriguez's flaws and seemed to take some of the fight out of the challenger who was again second best in the 6th round.
Going into the second half of the fight it seemed like Nietes was going to run away with it though the Mexican managed to fight back well in round 7 and again in round 8 as the Mexican found a second wind and kept the rounds ultra-competitive. It was hard work for both and it was being fought at a gruelling pace with Rodriguez refusing to take a backwards step and Neites being forced to fight fire with fire.
The pace of the fight began to take it's toll on both men in round 9 with both visibly slowing and tiring. Despite the place slowing the level of skill on offer was still high and both had their moments with combinations and eye catching shots. Unfortunately for the Mexican however it seemed he was in a hole and was going to need to do a lot to turn things around. The challenger tried in round 10 though Neites managed to find the space to get his jab going, the energy to get on his toes and do enough to just nick a close round, though one that could easily have swung the other way.
Nietes began round 11 boxing on the back foot and having real success with his counters whilst Rodriguez's face began to look more and more swollen. The Mexican proved his toughness by continuing to come forward but for 2 minutes of the round he was second best. The final minute however saw the round swing with Nietes getting hurt with a body shot and going on the retreat whilst holding and spoiling. It was a round that could have gone either way though seemed to suggest that Nietes could be in trouble in the final round.
Going into the final round it was clear that Rodriguez would need a KO to win, he had made a lot of rounds close but as the visitor, and challenger, it was unlikely that he was going to get those rounds in his favour. Unfortunately for him he seemed to have the fight take out of him as Neites caught him early in the round and appeared to leave him with a broken nose. From then on the two did little other than move around each other until Rodriguez came forward very late in the round, by then however it was too little too late.
Given the fact there had been numerous close rounds we were expecting a series of “close but competitive” looking cards in favour of the Filipino. Sadly however only one card showed the competitive nature of the bout as the judges cards read 115-113, 119-109 and 118-110. They had all got the right guy winning, but at least two of those cards failed to show any real fairness of the bout we had witnessed.
The win for Nietes cements his position as one of the top Light Flyweights on the planet, the question however is where does he go next? There is talk of a move to Flyweight for a potential clash with Roman Gonzalez however unification bouts with Pedro Guevara, Ryoichi Taguchi and Javier Mendoza would also being attractive match ups, as would an all-Filipino contest with the hard hitting Jonathan Taconing.
As for Rodriguez we hope to see him back in the ring as soon as his nose recovers, though maybe at a lower level as he's had a lot of gruelling fights in recent times and his body needs an easy fight or two before another fight at the championship level. We also expect to see him move up to Flyweight sooner rather than later.
The main event of Pinoy Pride XXX saw WBO Light Flyweight champion Donnie Nietes (35-1-4, 21) successfully retain his crown with a stoppage win over the tough but outclassed Mexican challenger Gilberto Parra (19-3, 17)
The fight started fast with Nietes taking the action to the Mexican challenger in the opening round. Parra tried his best to fight back but was looking out classed with Nietes fighting in a “seek and destroy” mode. It wasn't the usual start to a Nietes fight but it was fun and exciting with the champion out to make a statement.
The aggressiveness of Nietes continued in the second round when he seemed to hurt Parra who did well to see out the storm but offered little in return, despite Nietes giving him more openings than we'd typically see Nietes give an opponent. It was as if Nietes had no respect of the much vaunted power of Parra and then Mexican was doing little to make Nietes respect him.
In round 3 we saw Nietes come close again to dropping Parra who narrowly avoided a monster right hand from the champion who was intent on giving the fans a show, though they were quieter than we were expecting considering the domination of their man.
To his credit however Parra was taking the blows, for the most part, well and although he ate a big combination in round 4 he did begin to fight back a bit more and then a bit more in round 5. It was if Parra was slowly waking up to the fact he was in a world title fight.
Parra had his best round in the 6th when he landed some solid body shots on the Filipino and then a huge left hook upstairs. For his success Parra was punished and had to take a left to the mid-section that seemed to discomfort him for a second. It was the first truly competitive round of the fight.
Nietes responded well in round 7 and started to use his experience and skills to make Parra look second rate. This ended the mini-fight back of the challenger who was unable to get around the jab of the champion and was on the retreat for the most part.
In the 8 Parra started to show ambition again, at least early in the round. Nietes however seemed to sense the end was nigh and landed a monster right hand that dropped Nietes hard. The Mexican recovered to his feet but then preceded to run away, avoiding all danger until the bell saved him, and earned him a minutes respite. Prior to the knockdown it had been a good round for Parra but not good enough to avoid the 10-8 following the knockdown.
The knockdown appeared to destroy the confidence of the challenger who was on his toes early in round 9. Even being negative didn't help Parra who took another solid right that left him with a nasty cut on the left eye. The cut was a bad one but Parra saw out the round, doing as best he could to avoid a fight with the champion.
Parra got his wish between rounds 9 and 10 as he was stopped on his tool. A merciful decision but the right one for a man who had tried in the middle rounds but been thoroughly beaten, maybe managing to claim just a round from the 9 that had been completed.
We're now hoping to see Nietes move onto a fight with former unified Minimumweight champion Francisco Rodriguez Jr in the summer. That's going to be a much better fight than this one if it gets made. Sadly this always seemed like a mismatch and although Parra had his moments they were few and far between.
(Image courtesy of abs-cbn.com)
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.