At the end of the year it can be hard to think back to the start of the year for the Fight of the Year. Amazingly in the space of just nine days the super flyweight division has given us three sensational contenders, and proven over and over why it’s one of the best divisions in the sport today. Not only have we had three great FOTY contenders in the division, but amazingly they have taken place on three different continents with fighters from five different countries!
The first of those took place in Belfast, Northern Ireland on March 10th and saw Northern Irish warrior Jamie Conlan (19-0, 11 KO’s) take a razor thin split decision over Nicaraguan fighter Yader Cardoza (22-11-1, 6 KO’s). On paper the bout was a total mismatch, after all Conlan is supposedly on the verge of a world title fight whilst Cardoza is a relative gate keeper. But the contest turned out to be one of the best bouts in Europe this year. Conlan took control early but the gutsy Cardoza battled back in the middle rounds, dropping Conlan in round 8 and cutting him in round 10. By the final bell both men had the right to feel they had done enough and both had been part of a war.
Sadly for Cardoza he came up short, losing by scores of 114-113 and 115-113, whilst the third judge had him winning 115-112, but he certainly put on a show which will have endeared him to fans. For Conlan it was “another day at the office” and follows other FOTY contenders against the likes of Junior Granados and Anthony Nelson.
Just a day later attention turned to Asia, or more specifically Hong Kong, as Rex Tso (21-0, 13 KO’s) extended his unbeaten record with an action packed win over former world title challenger Hirofumi Mukai (13-5-3, 3 KO’s). Tso went balls to the wall from the opening seconds and seemed to start in 5th gear, dropping Mukai numerous times. Although Mukai was often man handled he regularly showed his skills and landed some eye popping combinations between Tso’s wilder flurries and showed not only heart and toughness but also real skills in bringing the best from Tso.
The action would end early in round 8, with Mukai being left devastated from a sick body shot, but he had played his part in an exciting contest. As with Conlan this wasn’t the first all out war for Tso, who has a reputation following all action bouts against the likes of Mako Matsuyama, Espinos Sabu, Michael Enriquez and Ryuto Maekawa.
By the end of the weekend it was clear that a hardcore lower weight fight fan’s wet dream was a bout between Conlan and Tso, and with the men ranked #1 and #2 by the WBO it seems almost certain that that will be a bout we get in the near future.
This past Saturday we saw another super flyweight war as Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (42-4-1, 38 KO’s) upset Nicaraguan icon Roman Gonzalez (46-1, 38 KO’s) in an hellacious war of attrition. It was a massive upset. Srisaket set the tempo early, dropping Gonzalez in the opening round and bullying him around the ring early on. Gonzalez showed his metal to fire back and badly hurt the Thai in round 6 before being hurt himself in round 7. The action was back and forth with each man having stand out moments, and both fighting through some vicious combinations. In the end it was Srisaket who took the win, with a majority decision, but the reality is that the real winners were the fans who were given another action packed bout from the division.
The fall out from Srisaket’s upset is that we get a rematch between the Thai and Carlos Cuadras (more about him in a few moments), and the loss for Gonzalez will potentially see Naoya Inoue abandon the division to purse bouts at Bantamweight. If, or rather when, Inoue does that, the door will be left open for Tso and Conlan to battle for the WBO belt.
Having mentioned Carlos Cuadras (36-1-1, 27 KO’s) it’s only fair to say that his bout on Saturday against David Carmona (20-4-5, 8 KO’s) was another really good bout. It was far from a Fight of the Year contender but it was another solid bout, well contested and between two men who are world class fighters. The win for Cuadras nets him a shot at Srisaket, and secures a rematch that the Thai will be happy to have after suffering a technical decision loss to Cuadras a few years ago, and losing the title he regained when he beat Gonzalez.
Although international action at super flyweight is going to be quiet over the coming weeks, it’s worth noting that this coming Wednesday sees a Japanese title fight at the weight, as Kenta Nakagawa (13-2-1, 9 KO’s) defends his title against school friend Ryuichi Funai (26-7, 18 KO’s) in a potentially thrilling encounter.
The division really does keep giving us excitement, great bouts and non-stop action–the sort of things all fight fans should enjoy!
(Scott Graveson covers the Asian boxing scene for www.asianboxing.info)