January 25, 2013

Bantamweights & Below - Boxing's Other Five Weight Divisions - Vol. 1

Yota Sato uppercuts Ryo Akaho
By Derek "DBO" Bonnett ~ Upon the arrival of a new boxing year, there is one consistency I look forward to in the first few weeks. Perpetually, the month of January is dominated by lighter weight fighters predominantly from Asia and certainly those outside of the USA. Many titles were on the line and boxing gurus were able to see the Full Monty as various title reigns were extended, ended, and begun.

Still jonesing for a fix of elite action in 2013?

Set your sights on KO Digest's Bantamweights & Below monthly wrap-up and you'll get exactly what you need. This month's volume pays close attention to the many match-ups involving fighters from Japan and the world's best at super flyweight.

Bantamweights & Below: World Class Boxing Monthly Wrap-Up

On December 31st 2012, just as the new year was about to turn over, Yota Sato, 28, won a unanimous decision over Ryo Akaho in a twelve round WBC super flyweight title bout. The action was typical Sato, which featured high volume punching and a lot of in-fighting. The bout was competitive, but decisive in favor of Sato. The three cards favored the champion 118-110, 117-111, and 117-112. Sato made the second defense of his belt and lifted his resume to 26-2-1 (12). Akaho fell to 19-1-2 (12).

With wins over Vic Darchinyan and Tomas Rojas, Sato kept busy and figures to have a strong showing in 2013. Sato claimed the number one spot among my top 115-pounders. You'll find out just why in a second.

Kohei Kono stuns Tepparith Singwancha
On the same card, Tepparith Singwancha, my previously number one ranked 115-pounder, suffered a surprise fourth round KO loss to Japan's Kohei Kono in a WBA super flyweight title bout. Kono, 32, dropped Singwancha three times in the fourth round. The end came at the 2:08 mark. Kono captured his first world title in his third crack at a super flyweight title. His dossier now stands at 28-7 (11). Singwancha fell to 21-3 (13).

Kono crashed my super flyweight rankings by debuting at the fourth spot. Just three wins removed from a three fight losing streak, Kono has upset the balance of the division. Singwancha, whom I would have favored over anyone in the division prior to this fight, fell from first to sixth due to the rough nature of the loss and the competitive standings of the division's elite. Kono's win also upped Yota Sato's stock in the division, since Sato posted a clear-cut unanimous decision over Kono back in 2011. The win backed enough residual impact to justify Sato taking over the top ranking in the division. However, Omar Narvaez and Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. also reside in the same weight class and there is plenty of room for debate over who exactly is the top dog at super flyweight.

Ioka drops Rodriguez in six
Also on this date (12/31/12) in Osaka, Japan, Kazuto Ioka stopped Jose Alfredo Rodriguez in six rounds for the vacant WBA junior flyweight title. Ioka made his debut in the division after vacating his WBA and WBC strawweight titles in 2012. Rodriguez hit the canvas in the first round and twice more in the sixth before the bout was halted at the 2:50 mark. Ioka claimed his third world title belt in his second division. His record improved to 11-0 (7). Rodriguez dipped to 28-2 (17).

Ioka, the nephew of strawweight/junior flyweight great Hiroki Ioka, is one of those special fighters like a Jeff Fenech, who captured a world title early and has faced world class opposition since his fourth professional outing. His win here was an excellent follow-up to his 2012 Fight of the Year (FOTY) candidate against Akira Yaegashi and might just put him at the head of the line to face Roman Gonzalez in 2013.

Ioka, 23, entered my junior flyweight rankings at five after giving up number one status at strawweight.As good as Ioka may be, he will find the opposition at 108 to be an even greater challenge with Gonzalez, Adrian Hernandez, Kompayak Porpramook, and Ulises Solis ahead of him in my rankings.

On January 5th 2013, at Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan, Ioka's nemesis, Akira Yaegashi stopped Saenmuangloei Kokietgym in the ninth round of a flyweight bout. The end came at 2:52. Yaegashi won for the first time since losing a narrow decision to Kazuto Ioka in that 2012 FOTY contender. His resume advanced to 16-3 (9). Kokietgym fell to 15-5-3 (3). The impact of the win is minimal, but Yaegashi is a major player at strawweight even though he fought above that weight limit. Yaegashi remained my ranked fourth at strawweight for now, but it is uncertain whether he will return to that weight anytime soon when you see what is On the Horizon.

Adrian Hernandez
On January 12th 2013, in Toluca, Mexico, Mexico, the previously mentioned Adrian Hernandez defeated Dircu Carbaca in a twelve round WBC light flyweight title bout. All three judges favored the champion by scores of 119-112, 118-108, and 117-110. Hernandez notched the first defense of his second reign as WBC champion and raised his ledger to 26-2-1 (16). Carbaca fell to 13-7 (5) as an unheralded challenger.

Hernandez held his number two ranking among my top 108-pounders, but, like super flyweight, it just might prove to be a slippery slope. Hernandez is 1-1 with Kompayak Porpramook since 2011. A third installment is highly warranted as Kompayak rallied to take the title in the first encounter and Hernandez may have benefitted from a hasty stoppage in the return bout. Settling that rivalry should be top priority for both men as I have them ranked back to back in the division beneath Roman Gonzalez.

Also on January 12th, at Foro Polanco, Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico, Juan Jose Montes was defeated by Martin Casillas in a twelve round bantamweight bout. Casillas won the split decision by scores of 97-93 twice along with a dissenting 95-96. Casillas raised his record to 12-2 (8). Montes dipped to 23-3-1 (14). After the loss, Montes was removed from my super flyweight rankings due to the loss and his not making 115 pounds in over a year. Ryo Akaho, who lost to Yota Sato, filled the void at number ten. The fight was significant because Montes was to be named the fighter most deserving of a title shot in his division had he won! Casillas ended a nice run here, but, as bantamweights, both men have more work to do before they can enter my top ten divisional rankings.

Bantamweights & Below Featured Rankings: Super Flyweight (115 lbs.)

1. Yota Sato ~ Japan ~ 26-2-1 (12) ~ WBC
2. Omar Narvaez ~ Argentina  ~ 38-1-2 (20) ~ WBO
3. Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. ~  Mexico ~ 15-1-1 (8) ~ IBF
4. Kohei Kono ~ Japan ~ 28-7-0 (11) ~ WBA
5. Tepparith Singwancha ~ Thailand ~ 21-3-0 (13)   
6. Oleydong Sithsamerchai ~ Thailand ~ 45-1-1 (16)   
7. Rodrigo Guerrero ~ Mexico ~ 18-4-1 (12)   
8. Carlos Cuadras ~ Mexico ~ 27-0-0 (22)   
9. Victor Zaleta ~ Mexico ~ 20-3-1 (10)   
10. Ryo Akaho ~ Japan ~ 19-1-2 (12)   

Bantamweights & Below: Give That Man a Title Shot!

Oleydong Sithsamerchai
Had Juan Jose Montes won that split decision over Martin Casillas, his name would be featured here this month, but, as fate would have it, Thailand's Oleydong Sithsamerchai gets my vote for most deserving of a title shot in the super flyweight division.

Since losing his strawweight title to Kazuto Ioka by fifth round stoppage in February 2011, the Thai boxer has put together a run of ten straight victories in a relatively short span of time. In passing over 108 and 112 pounds, Sithsamerchai has truly found a home at super flyweight by posting credible wins over Mark Geraldo, Hayato Kimura, and Hiroyuki Hisataka. Having won four WBC international title bouts, this regional title should position him for a crack at this organization's world variety in 2013.

Bantamweights & Below: On the Horizon

Right around the corner on January 26, Hugo Fidel Cazares, 37-7-2 (26), will meet Rey Perez at Gimnasio Manuel Bernardo Aguirre in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico. Perez, 17-2 (3), will meet Cazares at the bantamweight limit.

Possibly for March 2, Donnie Nietes, 31-1-3 (17), will defend his WBO light flyweight title against reigning WBO strawweight champion Moises Fuentes. Fuentes, 16-1 (8), is coming off a career best win over the recently retired Ivan Calderon.

Shinsuke Yamanaka
Just announced this week, an April 8 world title tripleheader is planned in Kokugikan, Tokyo, Japan with two bouts coming up strongly on the Bantamweights & Below radar. First, Shinsuke Yamanaka, 17-0-2 (12), will defend his WBC bantamweight title for the third time against number one ranked Malcolm Tunacao. Tunacao's record reads 32-2-3 (20) after winning a title eliminator in December.

In addition, WBC flyweight champion, Toshiyuki Igarashi, 17-1-1 (10), will defend his title for the second time against former strawweight titlist Akira Yaegashi, 16-3 (9), who will be moving up two weight classes. Igarashi won his title and defended it for the first time with split and majority wins, so the Akira defense should prove to be another close affair.

Written by Derek "DBO" Bonnett exclusively for KO Digest