Premium Feature Issue

Analysis: The super-bantamweight division

Emanuel Navarrete super-bantamweight
Our division by division breakdown continues with its 12th part, John Dennen examines the world’s top super-bantamweights

10. Azat Hovhannisyan (ARM)
Record: 18-3 (15) Age: 31 Height: 5ft 6ins
The Armenian, known as ‘Crazy A’, is one of the top boxers who, like Tomoki Kameda and Ronny Rios, has succumbed to a 12 round points defeat against WBC super-bantamweight world champion Rey Vargas. But he’s racked up four knockout wins since that defeat two years ago, taking out Franklin Manzanilla most recently. He has composure, swift footwork and knows how to hurt his opponents with counter punches as well as pile in with high-pressure attacks.

STRENGTHS: He is tough. Hovhannisyan can soften up his opposition with sharp, hard counters before unleashing sustained bursts of aggression to find the finish.

WEAKNESSES: Though he does have a solid jaw, he can let too many punches through. Those openings can see him fall short at the highest level.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Ronny Rios lasted six rounds him, but should really have been stopped two rounds sooner.

WORST PERFORMANCE: His pro debut ended in a points defeat after four rounds with the 1-0-1 Juan Reyes.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: In his most recent bout he overwhelms Franklin Manzanilla with thunderous hooks.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? He will be a handful for anyone outside of the world top three.

Azat Hovhannisyan

9. Tomoki Kameda (JPN)
Record: 36-3 (20) Age: 28 Height: 5ft 7½ins
The Japanese fighter has had a fascinating career. He’s had spells boxing in his home country, in Mexico (hence his nickname El Mexicanito) and in America. For the high hopes that were placed on him, he hasn’t been able to break through yet and join the ranks of the very best. Jamie McDonnell handed him back to back defeats which came as something of a surprise in 2015. Nor could Kameda bring down skilled WBC champion Rey Vargas in a wide points defeat.

STRENGTHS: He punctuates his dynamic combination punching with clean rights that can drive through the middle and hammer over the top.

WEAKNESSES: He struggles with those who can keep up with his work rate, but only if they are of the highest calibre themselves.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Kameda defeated Paulus Ambunda to win the WBO bantamweight title.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Jamie McDonnell confirmed his dominance in their rematch and dropped Kameda.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: Beating Alejandro Hernandez in Chicago was the last world title fight Kameda won.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? He should remain in the reckoning as an intriguing opponent for many of those above him on this list.

Rey Vargas super-bantamweight
Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos/Golden Boy

8. Ronny Rios (USA)
Record: 32-3 (16) Age: 30 Height: 5ft 7½ins
Ronny Rios has had a long career. He made his debut as long ago as 2008. Beating Rico Ramos in 2013 was something of a breakthrough and his victory the following year over Andrew Cancio was good considering the latter won the WBA super-featherweight world title as recently as last year. But he has weaknesses to exploit. Robinson Castellanos stopped him on his feet and in 2018 Azat Hovhannisyan knocked him out inside six rounds. Rios however bounced back in 2019 with three stoppage wins that included handing Diego De La Hoya a first loss.

STRENGTHS: He is happy to stand on the inside and trade leather, while his hooks targeting the body can be draining.

WEAKNESSES: He can be over-eager and swing wildly, which sharp opponents will exploit.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Coming back from the third loss of his career, a gruelling loss to Azat Hovhannisyan, to beat Diego De La Hoya was vital for him.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Robinson Castellanos’ record was littered with defeats when he beat Rios.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: A vicious uppercut sealed his win over De La Hoya.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? That he’s been overwhelmed by the likes of Hovhannisyan suggests he can drop down, or out, of this top 10.

Ronny Rios

7. Brandon Figueroa (USA)
Record: 20-0-1 (15) Age: 23 Height: 5ft 9ins
The young Texan remains undefeated in his 21 career fights. The only blemish on that record is a draw with Julio Ceja but that was one of his best fights, a thrilling battle which is well worth repeating. He had been on a good run leading up to that fight in Las Vegas, on a Deontay Wilder undercard, stopping seven consecutive opponents including Oscar Escandon and Moises Flores. He has held a ‘regular’ strap from the WBA but will be looking to secure a recognised version of a world title.

STRENGTHS: Tireless engine, impressive chin and good combination punching up close.

WEAKNESSES: He can be reckless and needs to refine his skills rather than rely on his physicality.

BEST PERFORMANCE: He destroyed Moises Flores in three rounds.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Raymond Chacon was the last opponent with a losing record that Figueroa has fought and he took the American the six round distance.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: A heavy uppercut almost lifts Oscar Escandon off his feet as Figueroa finds the finish.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? Expect Figueroa to continue to advance. At just 23 years old there is plenty of upside to his future, but he might not be able to stay at 122lbs too much longer.

Brandon Figueroa super-bantamweight

6. Isaac Dogboe (GHA)
Record: 20-2 (14) Age: 25 Height: 5ft 4ins
The likeable Ghanaian has travelled the world in his life and boxing career. He grew up in London, competed in the 2012 Olympics and he’s fought professionally in Switzerland, Belfast, Ghana, New Zealand and America. With infectious energy he stormed to victory in world title fights against Jessie Magdaleno and Hidenori Otake. However Emanuel Navarrete outclassed him to lay claim to the WBO super-bantamweight crown. Dogboe has not fought since his May 2019 defeat in the rematch with Mexican champion.

STRENGTHS: Dogboe is a strong puncher who puts together hurtful combinations.

WEAKNESSES: His ringcraft let him down in his two fights with Navarrete.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Picking himself up from the canvas to batter down Magdaleno and win the world crown.

WORST PERFORMANCE: His second fight with Navarrete was a one-sided stoppage defeat. It did come at the highest level but will be a tough loss to bounce back from.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: In an open air stadium in Accra he knocks out Cesar Juarez.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? He is still a young man with plenty to learn. That means he should rise again.

Isaac Dogboe on Ray Beltran show
Mikey Williams/Top Rank

5. Ryosuke Iwasa (JPN)
Record: 27-3 (17) Age: 30 Height: 5ft 7½ins
British boxing fans who attended the Whitchurch Sport Centre in Bristol in July 2015 will remember Ryosuke Iwasa losing an ‘interim’ IBF title to Lee Haskins. He has improved since then. In 2017 he won the IBF super-bantamweight crown after defeating Yukinori Oguni in Osaka. Ultimately he lost his title to TJ Dohney but since that reverse, the third defeat of his career, he has picked up two victories in the USA, beating Cesar Juarez and Marlon Tapales. The latter result granted him an ‘interim’ strap too from the IBF. While that belt alone might not be highly regarded it will keep him the frame for bigger fights.

STRENGTHS: His southpaw left can be quick and land with authority.

WEAKNESSES: He has the risky habit of dropping his hands before he throws his punches.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Stopping Yukinori Oguni won him the world title.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Lee Haskins stopped him when they fought in Bristol.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: A clash of heads dropped Marlon Tapales early, but it was a tremendous left cross that dropped and stopped him in the 11th round.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? He leaves himself too open still and the top contenders will take advantage of that.

Ryosuke Iwasa super-bantamweight

4. Daniel Roman (USA)
Record: 27-3-1 (10) Age: 30 Height: 5ft 5ins
The Californian had to overcome early career defeats to eventually rise up to become a world champion. But he has to rebuild again now after his split decision defeat to Murodjon Akhmadaliev. That loss though would come after 19 consecutive victories. He rose to prominence when he won the WBA title in Kyoto stopping Shun Kubo and made his first defence the title over in Japan too with a win over Ryo Matsumoto. Roman unified the WBA title with the IBF belt when he beat TJ Doheny in Inglewood last year. With Akhmadaliev arresting his momentum, Roman will have to fight his way back into the reckoning.

STRENGTHS: Roman is an effective pressure fighter who targets the body well.

WEAKNESSES: He needs to be swifter on his feet, or elite fighters will let his attacks fall short and pick him off.

BEST PERFORMANCE: His unification victory over TJ Doheny saw him hand the Irishman a first loss.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Drawing with an 0-1 Jensen Ramirez in just his second bout was not a good start to his career.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: You can watch him grind down Shun Kubo to win his first world title.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? He has regrouped and rebuilt before, he can do so again.

super-bantamweight Daniel Roman

3. Murodjon Akhmadaliev (UZB)
Record: 8-0 (6) Age: 25 Height: 5ft 5½ins
It is incredible that in only eight fights Murodjon Akhmadaliev has become a world champion, beating Danny Roman to take the unified WBA and IBF titles in January. A member of Uzbekistan’s ferocious 2016 Olympic team, Akhmadaliev has World silver and Olympic bronze medals to his credit as an amateur. But he has still been remarkably fast-tracked as a professional. While his win over Roman was close, it was a rare display of skill, intensity and resilience from both men. Akhmadaliev’s heavy hands rocked Roman and serve an ominous warning to the division. He promises more excitement in future.

STRENGTHS: Impressive amateur pedigree and explosive power make him a real threat.

WEAKNESSES: He certainly lacks experience as a professional fighter.

BEST PERFORMANCE: His victory over Roman was one of the best fights of the year so far.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Lowly Luis Fernando Molina took Akhmadaliev six rounds in 2018.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: The full fight with Daniel Roman is available online.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? What he’s done in so few pro fights is frightening. Akhmadaliev will be around at the top of the division for some time.

Murodjon Akhmadaliev super-bantamweight

2. Rey Vargas (MEX)
Record: 34-0 (22) Age: 29 Height: 5ft 10½ins
Mexico has a stranglehold at the top of the division. Otumba’s Rey Vargas made sure of the WBC super-bantamweight world title with a convincing victory over Gavin McDonnell, showing off his full repertoire of skills on a cold night in Hull. Since then he’s been on a five fight winning streak, beating Tomoki Kameda, Franklin Manzanilla, Azat Hovhannisyan, Oscar Negrete and Ronny Rios. His record is a flawless 34-0 and as long as the tall Mexican can make the weight, it would be great to see Vargas in a unification clash.

STRENGTHS: Nimble on his feet, he unleashes attacks with both hands. Vargas puts his long range to use well.

WEAKNESSES: His jab can be pawing at times and he can leave himself susceptible to being rushed.

BEST PERFORMANCE: He made his first defence of the WBC world title outpointing Ronny Rios in Carson, California.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Vargas was knocked down for the first time by Sylvester Lopez in 2014. He won after Lopez retired on his stool due to an injury.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: Highlights of his clash with Japan’s belligerent Tomoki Kameda are on Youtube.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? A fight with Emanuel Navarrete to decide the top man in the division would be a tremendous battle.

Rey Vargas super-bantamweight

1. Emanuel Navarrete (MEX)
Record: 31-1 (27) Age: 25 Height: 5ft 7ins
Navarrete shot to the top of the super-bantamweight division over the course of a stellar 12 months. He scored a firm points decision win over Isaac Dogboe to win the WBO super-bantamweight title at the end of 2018. Over the course of the following year, in a rematch, he subjected Dogboe to a painful stoppage loss to prove the first victory was no fluke. He boxed three more times in 2019, winning them all inside the distance. He even boxed in February of this year, stopping Jeo Santisima, and he is looking to box again as early as this month in Mexico. One of the most active world champions today, his form in recent performances is also most impressive.

STRENGTHS: His workrate in the ring mirrors his attitude to his career, extremely active.

WEAKNESSES: He seems to leave his guard open when he jabs his way forward, though few have managed to exploit this in practice.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Hammering an in form Isaac Dogboe to win the WBO crown in 2018.

WORST PERFORMANCE: He has lost once before, a 2012 unanimous decision to Daniel Argueta.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: Navarrete meets Dogboe head on as he hammers out a stoppage win in their second fight.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? He is well placed to unify in this division.

Navarrete
Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Boxing news – Newsletter

Current Issue