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21 SEPTEMBER 2014

 

Five Champions Who Will Remain and Five Who Will Go in 2012


Kazuto Ioka
Kazuto Ioka


By Derek Bonnett: As we encounter another new year, the landscape of the boxing scene continues to evolve. With old champions acting out the final stages of their careers and new ones emerging to fill the void, boxing maintains a state of homeostasis and keeps fight fans intrigued even amid the dubious officiating and cries of scandal. Boxing, as always, will endure; however, not every participant with an alphabet title will be so lucky. Inevitably, the mighty will eventually fall and sometimes the unlikely will thrive.

I finished 8-2 at SecondsOut in regard to my ten 2011 picks. Marco Huck, Beibut Shumenov, Sergio Martinez, and Nkosinathi Joyi all remained champions. Only Juan Manuel Lopez failed to keep his title this year. Carl Froch, Devon Alexander, Fernando Montiel, and Hugo Fidel Cazares are all former champions as I predicted. Only Wladimir Klitschko, who did not face the man I originally expected him too in Tomasz Adamek, kept his title. Regardless, it now seems as though Wlad would have beaten Adamek as handily as his brother did.

With boxing it can be increasingly difficult to determine which champions will do what, but fight aficionados can determine those results for themselves. If not, here’s my take on 2012 and which champions will remain and those who will go.

Those Who Will Remain:

Kazuto Ioka: As one of boxing’s youngest reigning champions, Kazuto Ioka has proven a lot in just nine professional bouts. The WBC minimumweight champion, 9-0 (6), has already defeated well-regarded former world champion Oleydong Sithsamerchai by fifth round TKO and high rated Juan Hernandez by comprehensive unanimous decision. Yet, his road to title retention throughout 2012 will be a difficult trek if he opts to stay at 105.
In order, Ioka’s top-ranked challengers are Ganigan Lopez, Cuello D. Singwancha, and Wanheng Menayothin. All three of these men are capable of putting Ioka to a stern test. In Lopez, he will see a durable Mexican challenger with a decent punch. Lopez has already gone the distance with Adrian Hernandez and Juan Palacios in competitive contests. Singwancha carries the most pop of the three and his wild nature could turn this one into a slugfest. To date, he is the only man to stop Muhammad Rachman. Singwancha-Ioka is arguably the most entertaining fight in the minimumweight division. Menayothin is a feather-fist by comparison, but the most technically sound fighter of the trio. His victory over Florante Condes stands out boldly on his resume. Another option -- one that is more high-profile and less risk -- is if Ioka met number five contender Ivan Calderon, who appears to be faded enough for a quick title defense without much danger. Regardless of the route Ioka takes, he will remain WBC 105-pound champion throughout 2012.

Hernan Marquez: Since losing to Nonito Donaire in 2010, Marquez has quickly positioned himself among the 112 pound elites. In 2011, Marquez twice stopped highly rated former world champion Luis Concepcion and highly ranked Edren Dapudong. He put Concepcion to the canvas six times in two bouts and is quickly establishing himself as an exciting WBA world champion with a record of 32-2 (25). The road ahead in 2012 is not an impossible one, but his current crop of contenders are solid.
The most dangerous of the immediate lot are Toshiyuki Igarashi (3), Giovanni Segura (5), and Rocky Fuentes (7). Igarashi recently defeated Wilbert Uicab to win a WBC title eliminator, so this will likely remove him from the mix. Segura recently lost a war with Brian Viloria and sustained a nasty eye injury, which could impede his progress back in the ring. Fuentes is solid and lost narrowly to one of Marquez’ conquerors, Richie Mepranum, before mounting a twelve bout win-streak. The second-ranked Ricardo Nunez poses less of a threat, but is a more likely candidate given his lofty status in the eyes of the WBA. Marquez has proven himself to be world class and if all four of these ranked challengers fell into his 2012 schedule, he should be favored to remain a titlist.

Billy Dib: A lot of boxing fans have not been able to forgive Dib for a series of spotty performances against Zolani Marali, Steve Luevano, and Kenichi Yamaguchi. Yet, Dib remains 33-1 (20) and has captured the IBF featherweight title. Although the least established champion in the division, Dib came on strong to defeat Jorge Lacierva for the title. His current lot of contenders are formidable, but there has been some talk of a unification bout with WBA champion Chris John in 2012. That makes for a very risky path.

High atop the WBA 126 pound rankings are Eduardo Escobedo (3), Luis Franco (4), and Rey Bautista (5). All three have enough mettle to make Dib struggle. Escobedo has won eleven straight bouts against steady opposition since his last loss to Daniel Ponce De Leon. Franco, a Cuban defector based in Miami, Florida, although short in professional experience, has already defeated a trio of solid opponents in Yogli Herrera, Wilton Hilario, and Leonila Miranda. Bautista is riding a six bout win-streak including a win over Heriberto Ruiz to avenge a previous defeat. The tallest task of course would be the undefeated John. However, John is among the sport’s most protected fighters and arguably has not faced a primed world class fighter since 2006. As long as they don’t fight in Indonesia, Dib, six years younger and much fresher, stands a pretty good chance at an upset given the fact that John has shown some stamina issues and diminishing reflexes. Dib will be hard-pressed to remain champion throughout 2012, but he looks to be coming into his own. It’s a risky pick, but Dib keeps his belts until the new year.



Miguel Vazquez: Vazquez just might be the number one lightweight in the division before too long. It is highly doubtful Juan Manuel Marquez will return after his close loss to Manny Pacquiao at welterweight. Humberto Soto already left the division for 140 pound waters. Brandon Rios has trouble making the 135 limit and lost his title to the scales last time out. Robert Guerrero has flirted with a full-time move up in weight the last couple of years. That leaves Vazquez, 29-3 (3), behind with a pretty ordinary lot of lightweights.

With two title defenses already under his belt, Vazquez goes in his next defense on January 21 against Ameth Diaz, a journeyman turned contender after a stoppage of Leonard Zappavigna. It would be a huge upset if Diaz were to win. With Diaz ranked number one and the number two spot vacant, the greatest immediate danger to his reign is John Molina (3). Molina is a big puncher, but is one dimensional and lumbering in nature. Vazquez should be able to box circles around him all night long. At fourth is the little known and lightly tested Al Saubapan, whom appears in over his head against the champion at this point. Vazquez may be the safest bet among all world champions to be still standing after 2012.

Andre Berto: Andre Berto lost to Victor Ortiz in SecondsOut’s fight of the year in 2011, but rebounded to retire Jan Zaveck in five rounds five months later. It was the same old Berto we saw dethrone Zaveck and it is unlikely we will see him change his style drastically before his rematch with Ortiz on February 11. However, Berto, 28-1 (22), may not need to be all that much better since he gave as good as he got to lose a close decision to Ortiz.
Many observers from ringside felt Berto hurt Ortiz worse when comparing the knockdowns each man suffered. It’s possible that Ortiz may not be the same man he was going into the first fight. Can he duplicate that same hunger as a former world champion with a huge paycheck in his pocket after the Floyd Mayweather bout? I question this greatly. After Ortiz, Berto will be waiting on a shot at either Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr. He loses both of those fights, but I am not so sure they happen in 2012. Instead, I would look for Berto to keep his title safer by fighting the capable Mike Jones, Randall Bailey, Carson Jones, or Devon Alexander. None of them would be a walk in the park, but Berto’s handlers will probably seek the safest possible challenger until having to fulfill the mandatory defense against Jones. Berto has the toughest route to remain champion, but I am going to go out on a limb for him.



Those Who Will Go:
Tomonobu Shimizu: Shimizu, 19-3-1 (9), scored one of the bigger upsets in 2011 by defeating Hugo Cazares for the WBA 115 pound title. On his home turf, he managed to win one of the narrowest split decisions of the year. Shimizu’s championship status was altered to Champion in Recess following an injury although he has allegedly resumed training already. In the meantime, the WBA sanctioned a bout with Tepparith Singwancha and Daike Kameda for the WBA title.

Singwancha defeated Kameda by decision and is arguably the greatest challenger in his immediate future. A showdown between the two WBA 115 pound titlists is imminent. Singwancha has surprised Drian Francisco and Kameda in back to back fights and can no longer be underrated. Kameda shouldn’t fall too far in the rankings and is still dangerous. Perhaps even more so is Denkaosan Kaovichit who is ranked third. Kaovichit, a former champion at 112, won four times in 2011 and possesses excellent world class experience. As an upstart himself, there’s no telling who else might raise their game to steal his world title from Shimizu. Shimizu has been stopped in all three of his defeats and while that is no certain indicator, my hunch is that he loses his belt before the close of 2012. Shimizu hooked me up in 2011, but I think his reign ends soon.

Orlando Salido: Salido deserved major props after rebounding from a loss to Yuriorkis Gamboa in 2010 to stop Juan Manuel Lopez in 2011. He burst my buddle on that one, but he has a chance to make it up to me in 2012. Salido, 37-11-2 (25), is a solid veteran, but he has shown ample signs of vulnerability since winning the title. He’s also been inconsistent as a pro. He twice got off the floor to defeat unheralded challenger Weng Haya last time out. With a March rematch with Lopez set, it is likely that his run ends there.
Lopez took Salido lightly and paid for it. He was not the only fighter to do so, so shame on him for being so foolish. However, given Lopez’ power and willingness to trade, we might see another foolish mistake. Yet, I think Lopez prevails this time. He has the room for improvement in regard to stamina, movement, and punch technique. Salido, the old pro that he is, is set in his ways. Salido could avoid another serious challenge if he wanted to, but my guess is that a repeat win over Lopez would push him into a high profile bout with rising star Miguel Angel Garcia, who should be too youthful and talented for him. Besides, Salido almost lost the belt already against a safe opponent.
Antonio Demarco: Anyone who viewed Demarco’s title winning effort against Jorge Linares knows why his name appears here. Since getting decimated by Edwin Valero in 2010, Demarco has struggled badly. He turned an easy night against Reyes Sanchez into a drawn out affair by allowing his opponent back into the fight. Then, he lost nearly every round to Linares before be worked a miracle to claim the vacant WBC lightweight title. Against Valero, Demarco showed an absence of heart and balls. Against Linares, that is precisely what saved him. Which is the real Demarco?

Right now, Yuriorkis Gamboa is ranked number one at lightweight in spite of having never defeated a world class 135 or 130 pounder. The featherweight will make his move up in March against Rocky Juarez. Even still, Gamboa’s speed and power make him a daunting task for anyone. His shaky chin might make it interesting though. Linares still lingers around at number two and has already shown he can box circles around Demarco. He might fail to hold up against the late storm in a rematch, but one can just as easily imagine him fighting more cautiously to a decision. On the outset is fourth ranked Henry Lundy, who is far from great, but could frustrate Demarco just the same with some tight boxing and movement. I would love to see Demarco survive all of these challenges in dramatic fashion, but blood and guts, life and death fighters rarely last long at the top. Demarco will be beltless by the end of the year.

Felix Sturm: Sturm is the only world champion to lose twice in 2011 and still hang on to his belt. Okay, officially, Sturm held onto his title with a split decision over Matthew Macklin and a draw with Martin Murray. The win over Macklin was among the worst decisions of 2011. Murray appeared the victor in a much closer fight. So, 2012 should be the year Sturm surrenders his title. With Sebastian Zbik, Andy Lee, Murray, and Macklin comprising the top four contenders in order, Sturm will have his work cut out for him.
Truth be told, Sturm has looked ready to fall for years and had he not the protection of German officials, he would have more losses on his 36-2-2 (15) record. Zbik lost narrowly to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., but showed a boatload of talent and precision punching. Hailing from Germany like Sturm sure doesn’t hurt his chances either. Lee is very popular and possesses the same dogged determination as Macklin. He also carries a pretty fine punch. He might be able to draw Sturm away from his home court advantage to the United States given his popularity with HBO. Murray and Macklin have already unofficially gotten the job done and could do so again. Without further monkey business on the scorecards, Sturm is a solid bet to end up title-less in 2012. That’s without even considering his number five contender Grzegorz Proska, who looked like an absolute beast in destroying Sebastian Sylvester last time out.

Yoan Pablo Hernandez: Hernandez looks the part of a world champion. He tall and full of lean muscle. He can box, but also has enough power to end any evening early. He almost closed the show on Steve "USS" Cunningham in the opening round of their October 11 contest. However, almost still doesn’t count.

Even though Hernandez walked away with the title by sixth round technical decision after he suffered a head butt induced cut, it was clear the momentum had shifted greatly to favor Cunningham. It was Cunningham hurting Hernandez before the untimely and somewhat controversial decision. Cunningham has shown a decline in recent years and he was dropped hard by Hernandez, but he survived. Going into the February 4 rematch, USS could possess a psychological advantage knowing he was taking over. The inactive Troy Ross is ranked third ahead of Cunningham. His strength and ability would likely cause great trouble for Hernandez, has already been stopped once in his career. Once the two vacant top spots are filled, a dangerous contender like Pawel Kolodziej or Ola Afolabi could step into Hernandez’ 2012 flight plan as well. It’s a tough road ahead, but one that will likely end with the Cunningham rematch. Hernandez goes down in the rematch to surrender his title.

For further boxing discussion contact Derek DBO Bonnett on Facebook or at mabfan@comcast.net.


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