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Looking for the Fight of the Decade? Start Your Search at 105 Pounds

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Looking for the Fight of the Decade? Start Your Search at 105 Pounds

Boxing is like any other product in that you must follow the money to understand how it works – but there is no unified theory, and for good reason. The rules that govern the money at heavyweight are not the same as the rules that govern the money at 105lbs, strawweight, minimumweight, once even “gnatweight”, the much maligned often-named smallest of all the divisions. It is no coincidence that the failure of Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua to meet during their dual “reigns” over their division holds the temporal record. Such profligacy in the lower divisions would be unthinkable. As a general rule (for all that it’s currently being flouted by divisional number one, Wanheng Menayothin), the top men at 105lbs can’t afford to duck each other. Economics dictates that they must meet. As we shall see, even this does not guarantee riches.

As the 2010s run out and the fight of year argument is subsumed in the fight of the decade argument, most of the best contests at 105lbs will be ignored. That’s unfair because 2010-2019 has seen some wars, two of which are stuck on contenders for the decade’s number one spot. Here then, we take a look at three of the most splendid matches made at the 105lb limit in the past decade. Footage from each is linked in the clickable sub-heading for each of the three entries.

Pornsawan Porpramook  Vs Akira Yaegashi, October 2011

Akira Yaegashi, out of Kanagawa, Japan, would have a serious part to play in the machinations of the lower weight division and its most famous denizens throughout the decade, but back in 2011 he was just another Japanese boxer carrying a mediocre 14-2 record.

Against Pornsawan Porpramook, a Thai, he would be given the opportunity to prove he was something else. Porpramook (aka Somporn Seeta) had been a hot ticket in the 2000s but had come to a juddering halt when he reached title level, then surprised in overturning beltholder Muhammad Rachman in what seemed his last chance. Yaegashi would be his first defense and their combat would be one of the most extraordinary fights of this or any other decade.

The two were careful early, Yaegashi especially, circling while ruling with the most gorgeous and varied series of two-piece left hands; uppercut body/head; uppercut/left hook; double jab; hook down/up, up/down. Porpramook was set adrift by those punches.

Adrift, but making determinedly for shore. He couldn’t quite cut the ring off on Yaegashi but he was able to catch him for fleeting moments and make him pay. He out-roughed and out-manned his challenger in those moments and Yaegashi, as would be demonstrated often in his late career, suffered from the dangerous and wonderful disease of machismo every bit as much as his Mexican counterparts. In spells, he began to meet and match Porpramook.

This all crystallised in round seven. This may or may not be the fight of the decade, but round seven was almost certainly the round of the decade; the two just stood in the pocket and traded for three minutes. There were no clinches. Nor was it inexcusably wild. It was just two men stood toe-to-toe trying to outthink each other. Again and again Yaegashi seemed on the verge of taking over – but Porpramook boxed incessantly, to the rhythm of a metronome only he could hear, slower than Yaegashi’s but unshakable. When the Japanese hit him with four thudding jabs in a row, the Thai gave him a quick nod of respect and went back to work.

Most natural would have been for both men to seek rest in the eighth – instead, they did it again and it remains one of the most absurd, terrible, beautiful things I’ve seen in the boxing ring.  Yaegashi dominated while Porpramook waved him in. Then Porpramook landed a winging right hand and Yaegashi seemed, momentarily, ready to go. They ended a round that seemed to last six minutes tossing exhausted bombs ring center.

It couldn’t last, and it didn’t. In the tenth, Porpramook finally succumbed, rescued on his feet by the referee even as he tried to reorganize behind the jab and come again.

It’s a fight that is remembered, but had it been staged in Las Vegas between two western middleweights it would be talked about by boxing fans for a hundred years; as it is the linked footage of round seven currently has fewer than 5,000 views.

Francisco Rodriguez Jr. V Katsunari Takayama, Aug 2014

For a short while during the past decade, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, out of Monterrey, Mexico, was the single best bet for making a great match. The kid came to fight, and within him beat the heart of a true Mexican. Rodriguez may have backed up occasionally, but it was only to bait his opponent onto a volley of sure punches.

Defensive flaws and a good chin guaranteed action packed rounds and in the shape of Japanese whirlwind Katsunari Takayama he found his perfect foil. Arguably the world’s best 105lb fighter at the time of the contest, Takayama was also a volume puncher par excellence with the engine to make the nightmare real. No puncher, he overwhelmed opposition with sheer activity, forcing them to move, or trade.

Rodriguez chose trade.

Takayama literally ran from his corner at bell and the pattern for the fight was immediately determined: Takayama would move and flurry, Rodriguez would establish powerful left hooks upstairs and the two would share auspices to the body. The balance of combat here is exquisite.  Takayama will take a lead by virtue of his superior footwork. Rodriguez must endure but while he is enduring he must sap Takayama’s strength, knowing, as he does, that Takayama can complete twelve rounds at this pace if he is unfettered – the benefit of carrying barely more than a hundred pounds to the ring – but not if he, Rodriguez, can execute punishment severe enough to bring him down off his toes and into a Mexican wheelhouse.

Rodriguez found him late in the second, uppercut and a right hand, the punch he needed to establish to win the fight. The steam Takayama answered with in the third spoke of his awareness but the left hook he walked on to for a flash knockdown made the fight a desperate one from the fourth.

There are no rounds less than scintillating in this fight, but of the those remaining, the sixth may be the most interesting and in it there are echoes of the seventh and eighth between Ponpramook and Yaegashi. Rodriguez tries to establish a pace as quick as Takayama’s, to take away his volume advantage and for one minute he rules the fight. All the while, Takayama continues to deploy his punches as in the first five rounds and when Rodriguez, fighting at a pace unnatural to him, inevitably, wilts, Takayama once more takes control. Here the fight is won. Rodriguez must return to his left-hook heavy offense, lighter in number but heavier in artillery and nothing like enough to close the gap.

These are the two vintage 105lb displays from the decade and were it not for the rivalry between Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez, they arguably would have been number one and number two at any weight for this century.

Oswoldo Novoa vs Wanheng Menayothin, November 2014

As noted above, the current 105lb number one, Wanheng Menayothin, is shirking the top challenges within the division, but as challenger, he did not have that luxury. The beginning of his stewardship of his alphabet strap of choice began back in November 2014 with victory over the Mexican, Oswoldo Novoa. Novoa was the weakest of the 105lb strapholders and to tempt him out to Thailand to meet Menayothin, his promoter broke the bank – with a tiny purse bid of $170,000. Keep in mind that to pull the same trick up at heavyweight, Anthony Joshua’s promoter had to pay Charles Martin an eye watering $5,000,000.

Fight fans who tracked this one down though, were rewarded with a spectacle. Not the equal of the two above wars, this was a high-class squabble from first to last, filled with surging exchanges and a ceaseless quest for dominance on behalf of both men.

Menayothin has rarely ventured into the top ten for opposition for his own defenses, but here, against the world’s then number six, he proves the more compact, more technically assured fighter and hinted at the beginnings of something really special.

Novoa became increasingly desperate but he never shirked the brawl, even when in the eighth and ninth he started to ship three and four punch combinations instead of single shots; even when his strength abandoned him and Menayothin was able to lay upon him and work ceaselessly.

Novoa’s corner finally pulled him from the contest, but for all that the concluding rounds were edging towards one-sided, his resistance, and the fight, remained stirring.

As 2019 trickles into 2020, the 105lb decade promises much and hopefully will deliver its fair share.  Missing these fights is all too easy with matches made in far-flung cities at all hours of the day and night but perseverance can bring reward – certainly one for noting is the possible match between Menayothin and Thammanoon Niyomtrong, the legitimate pretender to the number one throne and a man who shares his nationality if not his promoter.

Should it come off it will be a legitimate superfight east of India and more than likely a contender for all those “fights of the decade” lists you may choose to wade through in ten years.

Have a happy New Year.

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Former World Bantamweight Champion Richie Sandoval Passes Away at Age 63

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Richie Sandoval, who won the WBA and lineal bantamweight title in one of the biggest upsets of the 1980s and then, not quite two years later, suffered near-fatal injuries in a title defense, has passed away at the age of 63.

News circulated fast in the Las Vegas boxing community on Monday, July 22, the grapevine actuated by a tweet from Hall of Fame matchmaker Bruce Trampler: “Boxing and the Top Rank family lost one of our own last night in the passing of former WBA bantamweight champion Richie Sandoval. It hurts personally and professionally to know that Richie is gone at age 63. RIP campeon.”

Details are vague but the cause of death was apparently a sudden heart attack that Sandoval experienced while visiting the Southern California home of his son of the same name.

Richie Sandoval put the LA County community of Pomona, California, on the boxing map before Shane Mosley came along and gave the town a more frequently-cited mention in the sports section of the papers. He came from a fighting family. An older brother, Albert “Superfly” Sandoval, became a big draw at LA’s fabled Olympic Auditorium while building a 35-2-1 record that included a failed bid to capture Lupe Pintor’s world bantamweight title.

Richie was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic boxing team that was stranded when U.S. President Jimmy Carter (and many other world leaders) boycotted the event as a protest against Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan.

As a pro, Sandoval’s signature win was a 15th-round stoppage of Jeff Chandler. They fought on April 7, 1984 in Atlantic City. Chandler was making the tenth defense of his world bantamweight title.

Despite being a heavy underdog, Sandoval dominated the fight, winning almost every round until the referee stepped in and waived it off. Chandler, who was 33-1-2 heading in and had avenged his lone defeat, never fought again.

Sandoval made two successful defenses before risking his title against Gabby Canizales on the undercard of Hagler-Mugabi in the outdoor stadium at Caesars Palace. In round seven, Sandoval, who had a hellish time making the weight, was knocked down three times and suffered a seizure as he collapsed from the third knockdown. Stretchered out of the ring, he was rushed to the hospital where doctors reduced the swelling in his brain and beat the odds to save his life. This would be Richie’s lone defeat. He finished his pro career with a record of 29-1 (17 KOs).

Bob Arum cushioned some of the pain by giving Richie a $25,000 bonus and offering him a lifetime job at Top Rank which Richie accepted. And let the record show that Arum was good to his word.

A more elaborate portrait of Richie Sandoval was published in these pages in 2017. You can check it out HERE. May he rest in peace.

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Amanda Serrano and Jake Paul Vanquish Overmatched Foes in Tampa

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Amanda “the Real Deal” Serrano mowed through knockout puncher Stevie Morgan in less than two rounds on Saturday and Jake Paul soundly defeated bare knuckle champion Mike Perry by knockout too.

Paul and Serrano move on to bigger things.

“It’s feels great, it feels amazing. My 50th fight, my 31st knockout, I’m super blessed,” said Serrano.

Despite jumping up three weight divisions Serrano (47-2-1, 31 KOs) showed more than 17,000 fans and Morgan (14-2, 13 KOs) at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, how she was able to win seven weight divisions.

Fans and perhaps Katie Taylor breathed a sigh of relief that Serrano is truly back. In Serrano’s last fight she was forced to withdraw back in March due to an accident to her eye moments before a fight. Now the Puerto Rican and Irish super stars will meet in Texas on November 15.

Fans can expect a rematch of one of the greatest fights of all time.

Tonight, before walking into the boxing ring, Morgan had commented that of all the top female fighters Serrano was low hanging fruit. The Puerto Rican legend merely shrugged her shoulders and replied that she lets her fists do the talking.

Both fighters hesitated touching gloves but did. After that, Serrano immediately went into assassin’s mode and moved forward while punching like a finely tuned hemi-engine. Morgan tried to keep up but discovered Serrano was not easy to hit.

Serrano moved forward smoothly while slipping and punching. A stiff looking Morgan, whose legs seemed unbent, tried to fend off the Puerto Rican champion’s blows but was smacked repeatedly in the first round with lefts and rights.

When the bell rang to end the first round, it was obvious that Morgan was overmatched.

As the second round commenced Serrano immediately slipped into attack gear behind her southpaw defensive guard. Once again, she fired combinations while moving quickly forward against the taller Morgan.

It was even worse than the first round as Serrano unloaded a dozen unanswered blows forcing the referee to stop the fight at 38 seconds of the second round.

“I think these girls were mistaking my kindness for weakness,” said Serrano. “If you’re not on my level that’s what happens.”

Morgan quickly learned she’s not on the championship level.

“Stevie Morgan just started a little while ago. I knew it would have been a little too much for her,” said Serrano. “My hat goes off to her. It’s not easy.”

Now it’s on to Katie Taylor.

Jake Paul KOs Mike Perry

In the co-main event Jake Paul (10-1, 7 KOs) floored Mike Perry (6-1) the Bare Knuckle Champion in the first and second round of the cruiserweight fight. And then battered the smaller fighter with a jolting jab to the body and head that opened up cuts on the former MMA fighter.

Paul continued to show improvement and proved once again that whether its MMA or Bare Knuckle fighting, his boxing skills are superior to their combat champions.

“Man, he’s tough as nails. I’m sorry it took so long. Respect man. He’s the king of violence,” said Paul about his fallen foe whose nickname is the “King of Violence.”

Paul attacked the body with a strong left jab while circling slowly left and right. Perry stood straight up with a low guard and his chin up. Paul hit that chin repeatedly and eventually cracked it in the fifth round.

Perry survived.

In the sixth round the bigger blonde fighter Paul bludgeoned Perry with another left jab and then opened with a barrage of blows that blasted the bare knuckle fighter to the canvas. Though he beat the count, he stumbled and the referee stopped the fight at 1:12 of the sixth round.

“I kind of expected that,” said Paul.

Perry was honest about the outcome.

“I tried man, but the kid hit me hard,” said Perry.

Now it’s on to Mike Tyson on November 15 in Arlington, Texas.

“Mike. I love you. But this is my sport now. I’m so honored but I’m going to take your throne.”

Other Bouts

A lightweight battle between undefeated fighters saw Canada’s Lucas Bahdi (17-0, 15 KOs) lose every round until he unloaded a three-punch combination that rendered Ashton Sylve (11-1, 9 KOs) unconscious before he hit the canvas.

Sylve utilized his speed and counters for five rounds and seemed to cruise for five years. But Bahdi showed a good chin especially against lightning uppercuts that sneaked through the guard.

“He’s very twitchy and very quick. I was trying to get to his body early on,” said Bahdi. “He’s very fast and has good counter punches.

In the sixth round Sylve was opening up a little more with his hands down and Bahdi saw the opening and quickly launched a right followed by a left hook that knocked out Sylve before he hit the floor at 2:27 of the sixth round.

“I knew his head’s there in the center all the time,” said Bahdi. “I think I stole the show tonight.”

Prelim Bouts

A rematch between lightweights saw Corey Marksman (10-0-1) win by majority decision against Tony Aguilar (12-1-1) in a back-and-forth battle. Marksman out-worked Aguilar with an especially effective counter-right that scored repeatedly. Their first encounter last February ended in a draw.

Shadasia Green (14-1, 11 KOs) stumbled a bit but got the win against Natasha Spence (8-5-2) to win by unanimous decision in a super middleweight. It was her first fight since losing to Franchon Crews-Dezurn for the world title.

Green was cruising for most of the fight behind a sharp jab and rights to the body but during an offensive out burst Spence caught her with a counter right and floored her in the seventh. It was half punch and half slip, but she was knocked down.

Though Green did not get a knockout she emerged with the win 78-73, 77-74 twice.

“I had fun in there tonight,” said Green. “I belong at the top with the best.”

Alexis Chaparro (2-0) knocked out Kevin Hill (1-2) with a five-punch combination at 2:01 of the second round in a middleweight fight.

Angel Barrientes (12-1) defeated Edwin Rodriguez (12-9-2) by majority decision after six rounds in a super bantamweight fight. The scores were 57-57, 60-54 twice for Barrientes who resides in Las Vegas.

Photo credit: Esther Lin / MVP Promotions

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Nakatani Strengthens his Pound-for-Pound Credentials: Blasts Out Astrolabio

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Junto Nakatani is the best 118-pound boxer in the world. Tonight, in Tokyo, he reinforced that judgment with a first-round knockout of Vincent Astrolabio at Japan’s national sumo arena. A short left to the solar plexus left the Filipino writhing on the canvas. He tried to rise but fell back down, forcing referee Tom Taylor to waive it off. It was all over in less than three minutes, 2:37 to be precise. Nakatani (28-0, 21 KOs) was making the first defense of his WBO bantamweight title after previously winning title belts at 112 and 115.

Tall for the weight class at five-foot-seven-and-a-half, the 26-year-old Japanese southpaw produced his second highlight reel knockout in his last four fights. The first come in May of last year at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas where he scored a frightening, 12th-round one-punch knockout of Andrew Moloney.

Nakatani won’t have to travel far to unify the belt. The other three current bantamweight champions are also Japanese. Down the road, potentially, is a showdown with countryman Naoya Inoue. That match, should it transpire, would be the biggest domestic fight in Japanese boxing history. Astrolabio, who had been stopped only once previously and was making his second stab at a world title, declined to 18-5.

Other Title Fight

LA’s Anthony Olascuaga, a stablemate of Nakatani (both train in LA under the tutelage of Rudy Hernandez), won the vacant WBO flyweight title with a third-round stoppage of Riku Kanu. A left uppercut put Kano (22-5) on the deck for the full count. The official time was 2:50 of round three.

Olascuaga (7-1, 5 KOs) was rucked out of obscurity in April of last year when he dropped down a weight class and performed far better than expected, albeit in a losing effort, against Kenshiro Teraji, a fight that he took on 10 days’ notice. Despite his inexperience and the locale, the LA fighter entered the ring a consensus 3/1 favorite over Kanu.

Also

In his first 10-rounder, ever-improving Tenshin Nasukawa (4-0, 2 KOs) stopped U.S. invader Jonathan Rodriguez in the third round. Five unanswered punches climaxed by a straight left ended matters at the 1:49 mark. The bout was contested at a catchweight of 120 pounds.

Nasukawa, a baby-faced, 25-year-old southpaw, transitioned to boxing after becoming famous in Japan for his kickboxing exploits. His first foray into boxing was an exhibition with Floyd Mayweather who knocked him out in the opening round, but he’s made considerable progress since then.

Against Rodriguez, Nasakawa was dominant from the get-go. Rodriguez was in dire straits as the second round ended. The first fighter from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley to fight in Japan, Rodriguez (17-3-1) joins the ranks of one-hit wonders. He scored a shocking first-round KO of former title-holder Khalid Yafai, but then lost his very next fight en route to this affair.

The promotion lost a bit of luster when the title fight between WBO 115-pound belt-holder Kosei Tanaka and Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Rodriguez (no relation to Nasukawa’s opponent of the same name) fell out when Rodriguez weighed a staggering six pounds over the limit.

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