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Kyoguchi Breaks Down Budler and Nietes Edges Ioka in Macau

Matt McGrain



Kyoguchi Budler Nientes Ioka

In Macau, China today, two excellent generational clashes unwound while most of America slept; in the UK the fights represented an early-morning treat for the fight fan.

If it seems as though Hekkie Budler, 32-3, out of Johannesburg, South Africa, has been around forever it’s with good reason. Budler is a veteran in the truest sense having boxed professionally for more than ten years and for most of this decade at championship level. He has wielded one belt or another for much of that time, holding straps in two different divisions.

Only thirty years old, his wealth of experience gave his match with Hiroto Kyoguchi, 11-0, out of Tokyo, Japan, a “passing of the torch” feel. Kyoguchi, who is twenty-five, broke through last year in taking a title at 105lbs in just his eighth fight. Powerful without being truly destructive, quick without being lightning, Kyoguchi is a fighter who boxes with a wisdom that belies his meager experience.

Indeed, he sought to impose his strength on the older man from the very first, handling him in the infrequent clinches and bringing steady pressure behind a direct, quick jab. But Kyoguchi comes across his front foot a little too heavily and Budler was taking advantage. Veteran, as we know, is a double-edged sword, and there is very little the South African hasn’t seen. He found his own jab, looked for a right hand to the body and an excellent short right to the head which impressed.

Kyoguchi, however, looked a clear weight class bigger than Budler, huge across the back and shoulders, and he had no problem shaking off most of this and continuing to apply pressure, to force Budler to move, to claim the center of the ring.

And as early as the second he was targeting Budler’s body. These punches, accompanied by a sick, wet sound, often sent Budler scurrying, or adjusting his guard. Kyoguchi was alert to this and he began head-hunting, especially behind a sickening left hook to the body. It was a cohesive, impressive performance from the Japanese and given his limitations, exactly the sort of mixture of generalship and physicality necessary to make the best of what he has.

Budler was wilting. He was fearful of the burgeoning body-attack wielded by the Japanese by the sixth and was trying very hard to stay on the move, boxing and picking his spots. Kyoguchi had the patience and metronomic pressure to cope with such strategy however, and Budler, I think, isn’t as capable of taking to his toes as he was in his twenties. The fight simmered down to hard exchanges, an arrangement that could only favor Kyoguchi.

Budler, however, ranked the #2 light-flyweight in the world at opening bell, is a fighter true. Clearly on the wane he continued to battle hard in the seventh, eighth and ninth, adjusting his waistband in a fruitless effort to limit the discomfort those body shots were causing, dropping his elbows, slipping and sliding and always punching back. But he did not win a round after the fourth on my card.

Kyoguchi is one-paced, yes, but he has been rolling over good competition, and Budler, the best he has faced, could do nothing to stop him. In the tenth, Budler was cut, worn, and every body shot inflicted a new misery. A booming left hook to the gut actually caused him momentarily to turn away, sickened.  His corner pulled him before the eleventh; it was the right call. Obsessed with protecting his body, Budler had begun to ship to the head.

Kyoguchi, then, is the future. Now 12-0 he must now rank among the best at 108lbs just as he ranked one of the best at 105lbs. In a division stacked with excellent fighters out of Japan, there is an opportunity here for one man to emerge the best of them and that man would breach the pound-for-pound rankings. Whether or not Kyoguchi has the dimensions to emerge victorious from a series of such monumental confrontations with the likes of Ken Shiro, Ryoichi Taguchi and Tetsuya Hisada remains to be seen but it is a mouth-watering prospect.

Also mouth-watering was the co-main event in Macau, another meeting staged across generations, between Donnie Nietes and Kazuto Ioka.

Nietes, now 36, is the grandfather of Filipino boxing and he has the 42-1-5 record to prove it. That sole loss came against an opponent that busted the agreed weight limit by two weight-classes and even then, barely squeaked past the then inexperienced Nietes; that was thirteen years ago.

Nietes makes Budler look wet behind the ears.

His opponent was the Japanese, Kazuto Ioka.  Ioka, 23-1 going in, lost a narrow and disputed decision to Amnat Ruenroeng back in 2014, but like Nietes, and despite having far less time in which to achieve such a feat, he has held belts at three separate weights.

These two were meeting, then, for the right to call themselves “four weight world champions” and even allowing for the pitiful watering down of the meaning of that phrase by the belts-for-hire attitude of the sanctioning organizations, that is impressive.

Nietes, also known as “Snake”, remained coiled for much of the first round, perhaps measuring the guns of his younger, larger opponent. These were in the main a stiff jab, sometime right hand to the body behind that shot, and a very nice cuffing left hook off a feinted jab. In the final seconds he added a left hook to the body that Nietes didn’t care for; clearly the older man had his work cut out.

In the second, he unveiled his grand strategy. Nietes was going to try to out-squabble Ioka. Distinct from out-fighting him, this involved letting the younger man set the pace then just, barely, out-hitting him in distinct exchanges where he would try to counter and snipe his way to superiority enough times to bag individual rounds and hence the fight.

It was a bold approach and one that involved ceding aspects of the fight to his opponent, but Nietes had fought for straps almost as often as Ioka had donned the gloves. He backed himself and it made for a fascinating contest.

After six absorbing and intensely contested rounds, none of them absolutely clear, I saw it all-square; after ten, I still couldn’t separate them and it seemed the fight might be settled in the eleventh and twelfth rounds.

Here Nietes fight-plan revealed its limitations. He might have been expected to try to control Ioka with virtual threats to keep his workrate down to a pace he was more comfortable with. Instead, he tried to match and eclipse that workrate with punches of his own. Now, his thirty-six year old tank was emptying. Still his precise punching and smarts made the round close, Ioka looking for the breather by the ten second marker. Nietes was lunging though and suddenly available for counters himself.

The two exchanged curt nods at the opening of the twelfth but watching live I thought Ioka missed a chance here. Had he barreled into Nietes I think the Filipino would have given way. As it was he felt his way into a round that seemed a crucial one, for all that we now know Ioka couldn’t win on the cards and needed a knockout. Although he held and was clearly very tired, I think this round belonged to the Snake. This is a nickname Nietes has earned.

A special word for the scorecard of Levi Martinez, who was either drunk, corrupt or does not have a proper understanding of the rules of boxing; his score of 118-110 for Nietes is impossible.

The other two judges scored it 116-112 with a card for each fighter, making this a split-decision victory for Donnie Nietes. He climbs to 42-1-5 while Ioka drops to 23-2.

A rematch would be very welcome and would likely make sense for both men. But the evergreen Nietes is nearing the end now for all that he manages to continue to postpone it. He may chase the money.

Sandwiched between these two excellent fights was the inexplicably hyped contest between Moruti Mthalane and Masahiro Sakamoto.  Mthalane, among the best ten in his division if only barely, stopped the unranked Sakamoto in ten rounds.

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Jim Gray, To His Discredit, is Too Often ‘The Story’

Ted Sares



Showtime’s widely-connected Jim Gray is the ultimate networker, insider, and friend to the stars (from Jack Nicholson to Kobe Bryant to LeBron James to Tom Brady and everyone in between—or almost everyone). He has won more awards than Carter has pills, a list that includes 12 National Emmy Awards, and he even has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was named as one of the 50 Greatest Sports Broadcasters of All-Time by David Halberstam and last year he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

For an interesting read about Jim and his complex but important interconnections, see “The Zelig of Sports,” by Bryan Curtiss, dated June 24, 2016.

However, as noted by “Sports Media Watch” writer and editor Paulsen (no first name) and others, Gray has become The Story on too many occasions and that’s a no-no in his line of work.

In boxing, Gray’s condescending and confrontational style was on display as far back as 2001 when he interviewed Kostya Tszyu in the ring following Tszyu’s defeat of Oktay Urkal at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. As Gray was beginning his routine, the “Thunder From Down Under” grabbed the mic and quickly told Gray “Do not be rude to me.”

Many years later, after Juan Manuel Lopez had just been knocked silly by Orlando “Siri” Salido, a bizarre post-fight interview ensued during which Lopez accused referee Roberto Ramirez and his son Roberto Ramirez Jr (who was the third man for the first Salido-Lopez fight) of having gambling problems.

Lopez was arguably still on Queer Street, but that didn’t stop Gray. Eager to catch someone off guard, as is his wont, Gray managed to get “Juanma” to say more than enough to get himself suspended while Gray went on to induction into the IBHOF

There have been many other incidents including James Toney dominating Gray in an interview after the Holyfield-Toney fight. Jim never had a chance. “Don’t come up here and try to give me no badass questions,” James warned Gray.before knocking the mic out of Gray’s hands..

The fact is Gray had built up a litany of edgy if not downright embarrassing moments. His most infamous came in 1999 during game two of the World Series.

During the game, Pete Rose, barred from baseball but still a fan favorite, was introduced as a member of the Major League All-Century Team as the crowd went wild. Then the ever-opportunistic Gray launched a series of questions regarding allegations that Rose’s had gambled on major league baseball games.

Gray was unrelenting. Finally, Pete cut it off, saying, “This is a prosecutor’s brief, not an interview, and I’m very surprised at you. I am, really.” Later on, New York Yankee outfielder Chad Curtis, who won Game 3 with a walk off homer, refused Gray’s request for an interview as a show of unity with Rose. (Jim Gray’s complete interview with Pete Rose can be found in Gray’s Wikipedia entry. Gray was somewhat vindicated in 2004 when Rose came clean and admitted that he had bet on baseball.)

Fast Forward

After the scintillating Wilder-Breazeale fight this past week in Brooklyn’s Barclay Center, Luis Ortiz bounded into the ring during the post-fight interviews and Gray shoved the mic in his face without so much as a hello and shouted “when do you want to fight Wilder?” Ortiz wanted to focus on what had just occurred in the ring, but he never had a chance. Gary continued to badger him about future fights and thus the fans did not get to hear what Ortiz had to say about the fight.

But what was far worse was when Dominic Breazeale waved Gray away as the commentator walked towards the badly beaten fighter. Gray was stopped by a member of Breazeale’s camp and he quickly got the message that he was persona non grata in the Breazeale corner. Previously, and within Dominic’s earshot, Gray had said to Wilder “the public does not want to see you fight people like Breazeale, the public does not want to see Joshua fight Ruiz, the public does not want to see whoever this guy is fighting Tyson Fury.”

There may be truth in what Jim said, but there was a better way to say it and a better place to say it. The man just got knocked senseless in front of his family and friends, Jim, show him some respect!

Photo credit: Tom Casino / SHOWTIME

Ted Sares is a member of Ring 8, a lifetime member of Ring 10, and a member of Ring 4 and its Boxing Hall of Fame. He also is an Auxiliary Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). He is an active power lifter and Strongman competitor in the Grand Master class and is competing in 2019.

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More Heavyweight Boxing On Tap This Weekend (Odds Review)

Miguel Iturrate




The heavyweights are out there bucking for position as the weight class has more possibilities than we have seen in years. Three heavyweight fights have gotten attention at the sports books for this coming Saturday, May 26.

Manchester hosts the return of Tyson Fury’s cousin Hughie Fury (21-2). Fury (shown displaying his Lonsdale belt) is smaller, less technical and less interesting than his bombastic cousin, but at 24 years old there is still plenty of time for him to become a player.

September of 2017 saw Hughie Fury lure WBO world champion Joseph Parker to Manchester. Fury was coming off a 17 month layoff and lost a majority decision where one judge called the fight a draw. Fury went 1-1 in 2018, losing an October outing to Bulgarian contender Kubrat Pulev in Sofia. Having gone 1-2 in his last three outings puts Fury in the “dire need of a win” category and from the look of the odds for this fight, the matchmakers have not made a mistake in choosing an opponent.

Providing the opposition is Canada’s Chris Norrad who is 17-0 but is stepping up onto a much bigger stage than he is used to. Norrad has never fought outside of regional shows in central Canada, and with just 8 KO’s, he doesn’t seem to pose much of a threat. There are levels to this game and Fury and his training level and partners are enough reason to count Norrad out. The odds are below.

Victoria Warehouse – Manchester, England – Saturday, May 25, 2019

Heavyweight 12 rounds –
Chris Norrad  +2000
Hughie Fury  -5000

DAZN is at the MGM in Oxon Hill, Maryland and two heavyweight 10-rounders on that card are also worth keeping an eye on despite the odds indicating complete crush matches.

Former cruiserweight contender Michael Hunter (16-1) gets his fifth bout in as a heavyweight when he faces 26-2 Brazilian Fabio Maldonado.

Hunter’s name emerged as one of the front runners to replace Jarrell Miller against Anthony Joshua on June 1st, but Joshua and company opted to face Andy Ruiz Jr instead.

Maldonado built his record up to 26-0 before dropping his last two. The Brazilian workhorse also has a 26-13 record in MMA and UFC fans may remember the gritty Maldonado as a guy who always gave his all and wound up bloody. He last fought MMA in December of 2018, so he still qualifies as a two sport athlete, but as he approaches 40 with a lot of wear and tear on his body, he appears to just be grabbing paydays at this point in both sports.

MGM National Harbor – Oxon Hill, Maryland – Saturday, May 25, 2019

Heavyweight 10 rounds –
Fabio Maldonado  +1600
Michael Hunter  -4000

Also scheduled for a 10-round bout is Croatia’s 26-year-old prospect Filip Hrgovic (7-0), who faces 15-1 Gregory Corbin of the USA. Hrgovic won an Olympic Bronze Medal at the 2016 games in Rio and he boasts an amateur background of nearly 100 fights. A good sign that he is trying to fast track his career is the fact that he has never faced a fighter with a losing record as his opponents are a combined 147-34-3.

Corbin’s lone loss came this past March when he was DQ’d for hitting Charles Martin with too many low blows. Prior to that, the Texan had faced largely regional competition and the books have made him a huge underdog against Hrgovic.

Heavyweight 10 rounds. –
Gregory Corbin  +2000
Filip Hrgovic  -5000

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Looking at the Heavyweight Calendar (Odds Review)

Miguel Iturrate



Joshua vs Ruiz

This past Saturday night saw Deontay Wilder’s WBC world heavyweight title defense against Dominic Breazeale go down on Showtime. The fight lasted just 137 seconds as Wilder floored Breazeale with a cannonball of a right hand to end the night early.

With Wilder out of the way, Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz Jr is up next. They meet June 1st at Madison Square Garden. Two weeks later, on the 15th of June, ESPN+ will deliver Tyson Fury vs Tom Schwarz, so fight fans will get a look at all three members of the “Big Three” all in a month’s time.

Wilder’s erasure of Breazeale this past weekend sent a message to the rest of the division as well as giving him a highlight reel to show during upcoming negotiations. Wilder entered a strong -1000 favorite at the sportsbooks for this fight.

Check out our pre-fight review of the Wilder vs Breazeale odds right here at TSS –

Looking forward, the odds posted for Joshua and Fury’s upcoming tussles are even less competitive. Let’s take a look at what the books are giving us as we await the two big Brits fighting in the USA.

Madison Square Garden – New York City – Saturday, June 1, 2019

Heavyweight 12 rounds –

Andy Ruiz Jr +1500 Over 6½ +100

Anthony Joshua -3000 Under 6½ -130

Ruiz Jr is 32-1 overall with his lone loss coming at the hands of Joseph Parker in a failed WBO world title bid. That same WBO belt is now in the hands of Joshua as are the WBA and IBF belts.

Joshua was a big favorite over Jarrell Miller, his original opponent, who was denied a license in New York after testing positive for a buffet of steroids. Ruiz Jr took the fight with less than a full training camp, but you have to believe that he is going to come in highly motivated. Ruiz Jr has been caught at a different type of buffet, the all-you-can-eat kind, but even when in the best of shape his body type isn’t “poster boy material.” Miller was big and bulky as well, but he was a near 300 pounder whereas Ruiz Jr will come in between 250 and 260 pounds, which is right around Joshua’s size. Rather than slaying a 300-pound giant, he is facing a guy who is shorter and fatter than him, making it very hard for Joshua to look great on paper.

At +1500 will people bite on Ruiz Jr? He is more experienced than Miller and he is probably a better fighter overall and though he is facing a formidable champion, Joshua is not a finished product. Perhaps Joshua will be chasing an early finish, feeling the pressure of Wilder’s performance, and if so will he make a mistake that Ruiz can exploit? We are roughly 10 days from finding out.

MGM Grand Garden – Las Vegas, Nevada – Saturday, June 15, 2019

Heavyweight 12 rounds –

Tom Schwarz +1800 Over 9½ -105

Tyson Fury -3600 Under 9½ -125

Tyson Fury closes out the run of top heavyweights with a very deliberately chosen showcase fight against Tom Schwarz. Schwarz is 24 years old and 24-0 but he is a fighter who has come up on the regional German scene and as the old boxing cliche goes, there are levels to this game.

Former contender David Haye mounted a 2016 comeback, booking fights against Mark De Mori (30-1-2) and Arnold Gjergjaj (29-0). It took Haye precisely 6:42 to dispose of both of them, and though Fury is a completely different beast than Haye, the level difference between he and Schwarz may be even as striking.

Wilder has gotten through his “challenge” and if Fury and Joshua also emerge as winners as expected, it will leave several open questions –

– Will Fury vs Wilder 2 happen first, or will Wilder vs Joshua go down first? Could Joshua and Fury meet and freeze Wilder out?


– Will we see any of these fights take place in 2019?

If Joshua or Fury stumble, it will only add to the chaos in the heavyweight division. But if the professional oddsmakers know anything, it isn’t likely to happen.

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