Welcome to Today’s Knockout’s “Ranks in Review”, a feature where we examine one boxing division, starting with the heavyweights and ending with the 105-pound minimumweights. Our champions will be the men who have earned it the ring, not been handed a belt by a combination of letters, and our rankings come from the computers of boxing’s most valuable website, BoxRec.
This week, we are looking at a title that gets very little attention in the United States – the light flyweights. Hawaiian Brian Viloria is the only American who has been a star at 108 pounds in recent years, and the division is generally dominated by Mexican, Japanese, Thai and Filipino fighters.
CHAMPION: Pedro Guevara (26-1-1, Mexico)
Guevara probably got his first big fight a little too soon, fighting for a title in his 20th fight, before he had taken on any serious opposition. That resulted in a split-decision loss to talented John Riel Casimero, but it proved a valuable learning opportunity.
Guevara won his next five fights, putting him in position to take on former 112-pound linear champ Akira Yaegashi in Japan for the vacant linear title at 108. Guevara knocked him out in the seventh round, and will make the third defense of his title this weekend in Japan against No. 5 contender Yu Kimura.
No. 1 Contender: Donnie Nietes (37-1-4, Philippines)
Nietes has built up a gaudy record and won belts at 105 and 108 pounds without taking many huge chances in the ring. In 2012, while already holding an alphabet title at 108, he fought Danai Meendaeng, who was 0-1 in his career. Unsurprisingly, Nietes knocked him out in the fifth round.
In his next fight, he was held to a draw by Moises Fuentes, but came back to knock him out in May 2014. This July, he faced one of his biggest tests, winning a unanimous decision over former 105-pound linear champ and current No. 4 contender Francisco Rodriguez Jr. He’s talking about moving up to 112 to challenge linear champ Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, a fight where he would be a major underdog.
No. 2 Contender: Rey Loreto (20-13, Philippines)
You don’t see a lot of top-5 fighters who have had stretches where they lose six out of eight fights, including four in a row, but that’s what Loreto did in 2010-11. He bounced back with an upset of Filipino champ Wisanu Kokietgym, then kept himself busy for a year with six straight wins over fighters with losing records.
He lost the next two times he fought fighters with winning records, meaning that his knockout win over Kokietgym was his only one over a fighter with a winning record in three years. In early 2014, though, he stunned former 105-pound lineal champ Nkosianthi Joyi with a third-round knockout, then knocked him out in the first round of their rematch in March of this year. Suddenly, a career journeyman is a hot commodity.
No. 3 Contender: Ryoichi Taguchi (22-2-1, Japan)
After an early career loss, Taguchi turned some heads with a 2011 win over fellow prospect (and current No. 5 contender) Yu Kimura. He fought a draw for the Japanese title in 2012, and then won the belt the next year.
He lost that title in first defense, losing to one of boxing’s newest stars, current junior-bantamweight champ Naoya Inoue. Since then, he’s 5-0 and has picked up an alphabet belt that he will defend on New Year’s Eve against undeserving Luis De La Rosa.
No. 4 Contender: Francisco Rodriguez Jr. (17-3-1, Mexico)
KO-Rod lost a fight early in his career, and then, with a 13-1 round, somehow found himself in the ring with Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. That didn’t go well; he was knocked out in seven rounds. But after that fight, he dropped from flyweight to strawweight, with much better results.
In August 2014, he took the linear 105-pound title away from Katsunari Takayama with a one-sided unanimous decision, but never defended the belt. He immediately moved up to 108, probably by eating a sandwich, but lost a lopsided decision in July to Nietes.
No. 5 Contender: Yu Kimura (17-2-1, Japan)
Since his 2011 loss to Taguchi, which took place in his 12th career fight, he’s gone 8-0, which has been enough to earn him the shot at Guevara’s title. He hasn’t beaten much tough opposition, but he’ll have his chance this weekend.
If you’ve missed out on any of our previous rankings, be sure to check them out below:
- Light Heavyweights
- Super Middleweights
- Junior Middleweights
- Junior Welterweights
- Junior Lightweights
- Junior Featherweights
- Junior Bantamweights