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Analysis: The super-flyweight divison

Roman Gonzalez
Chris Farina/K2
Roman Gonzalez, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Juan Francisco Estrada vie for the top spot in the super-flyweight division

World rankings as at June 23

10. Francisco Rodriguez (MEX)
Record: 33-4-1 (24) Age: 26 Height: 5ft 4ins
Rodriguez is conducting his career the Mexican way. He made his pro debut at the tender of age of 17, when taking on a fellow first-timer and winning by stoppage. He boxed three opponents making their debuts in his first six prizefights before moving up to experienced opposition with winning records. The losses and the draw on his ledger can be considered the result of competitive matchmaking. All the way back in 2013 he took on the great Roman Gonzalez in Nicaragua, losing forgivably inside the distance. In 2015 he lost points decisions to Donnie Nietes and Moises Fuentes, but he’s been unbeaten since then having gone on a 14-fight winning streak.

STRENGTHS: At his best when cantering forward slinging out straight shots.

WEAKNESSES: Less convincing on the back foot, where his defence is too rigid.

BEST PERFORMANCE: He outpointed Katsunari Takayama to unify the WBO and IBF strawweight titles.

WORST PERFORMANCE: An early loss to little-known Salvador Arias.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: He grinds down Merlito Sabillo to win his first world title with walloping combinations.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? This is a competitive division but Rodriguez is still only just coming into his prime.

Francisco Rodriguez

9. Gideon Buthelezi (RSA)
Record: 22-5 (5) Age: 33 Height: 5ft 5ins
The tall South African has built something of a stronghold in his home country. He has been unbeaten since 2015 most recently stopping Mexico’s Adrian Jimenez in July of last year. He’s not the hardest puncher, with only five inside the distance wins in his 27-fight career, but the Jimenez result came uncharacteristically quickly in the first round. Despite his advancing years he will hope to position himself for a shot at a more meaningful belt than the IBO strap he currently holds. His WBC light-flyweight challenge against Adrian Hernandez ended in a knockout defeat in 2011.

STRENGTHS: A sharp southpaw with good handspeed.

WEAKNESSES: Could do with sterner punch power and his punch resistance is also questionable.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Hekkie Budler is the most significant name that Buthelezi has beaten.

WORST PERFORMANCE: His chin was exposed in the thunderous knockout Edrin Dapudong handed him in 2013.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: Footage of Buthelezi is limited but he can be seen looking slick in his rematch with Dapudong until a sudden left hook knocks him cold.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? He would be the underdog against the other members of the world top 10.

8. Andrew Moloney (AUS)
Record: 21-0 (14) Age: 29 Height: 5ft 5ins
Australian twin brothers Jason and Andrew Moloney are signed with promotional powerhouse Top Rank. Andrew was a promising amateur who won the Commonwealth Games in Scotland in 2014. As a professional he’s done little wrong, compiling 21 victories against no defeats, with 14 of those wins coming by stoppage. He won an ‘interim’ belt from the WBA when he stopped Elton Dharry. The WBA, for reasons best known to themselves, decided to make that a ‘regular’ championship, even though Roman Gonzalez is in fact their super (real) champion.

STRENGTHS: Technically sound he prods jabs out from his high guard.

WEAKNESSES: His hooks on the inside can be ragged, reaching forward with his cross can leave him vulnerable to being knocked off balance.

BEST PERFORMANCE: With long range and strength Elton Dharry gave Moloney plenty to think about, but the Aussie managed to turn the tide.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Moloney was dropped on the way to his 10-round points win over Richard Claveras.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: He mixes his attacks to the head and body as he grinds down Luis Concepcion.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? His advance can continue, even though he has vulnerabilities to iron out.

Andrew Moloney super-flyweight

7. Fernando Martinez (ARG)
Record: 11-0 (7) Age: 28 Height: 5ft 3½ins
Martinez has plied his trade mostly in his homeland of Argentina since his professional debut in 2017. As an amateur he qualified for the last Olympic Games, losing his first bout in Rio to Daniel Asenov, a good quality Bulgarian. He’s done well to advance in the world top 10 as a professional. The 11 fights might not seem like much but it’s a misleading number when one considers the seasoning he gained during a lengthy experience in the World Series of Boxing where bouts were fought over five rounds.

STRENGTHS: Presses forward aggressively to land his power shots, dangerous with hooks.

WEAKNESSES: Leaves his chin to open to straight shots and can settle into rhythm relying too much on single punches.

BEST PERFORMANCE: In his most recent outing, he made his mark stopping Athenkozi Dumezweni in South Africa. Martinez ground down the home fighter in 11 rounds in December last year.

WORST PERFORMANCE: He could not find the stoppage in his bout with a 1-5 Santiago Jesus Perotti in January last year.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: His clash away from home with Dumezweni is available in full.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? World level fighters should have the edge over him.

Fernando Martinez super-flyweight

6. Kal Yafai (ENG)
Record: 26-1 (15) Age: 31 Height: 5ft 4ins
The Birmingham man had a long reign as the WBA super-flyweight champion, winning the crown in 2016 and holding it right up until he met Roman Gonzalez in February. Yafai, a 2008 Olympian, scythed through his early opposition as he rose to win the title. He got bogged down in defences of limited significance fighting infrequently in places like Monte Carlo and Fresno and only once in his hometown as a champion. But he did get to go in with the superstar of the division this year. Unfortunately for Yafai Gonzalez rediscovered his form when they clashed.

STRENGTHS: A gifted technical boxer, he throws fine combinations, punctuated with hard left hooks and is a dangerous body puncher.

WEAKNESSES: He became inconsistent and needed to be more active during his championship reign.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Outclassing Luis Concepcion, who came in too heavy, over 12 busy rounds to win his world title.

WORST PERFORMANCE: He was flat and out of sorts against Israel Gonzalez in Monaco.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: Yafai soundly whipping David Carmona with hooks and body shots.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? Learning the lessons from the Gonzalez fight can propel him back to world class competition.

Kal Yafai super-flyweight

5. Jerwin Ancajas (PHl)
Record:
32-1-2 (22) Age: 28 Height: 5ft 6ins
The formidable IBF super-flyweight champion from the Philippines has only lost once in his 35 career fights. In 2016 he handed McJoe Arroyo a first lost to win his world title. The following year he was in Belfast to hammer a gallant Jamie Conlan. Subsequently he embarked on a run of fights in America but is yet to secure a unification clash with one of the other champions.

STRENGTHS: With good footwork Ancajas can dictate the pace of a bout. The heavy-handed southpaw also lands punches to the body well.

WEAKNESSES: His movement has to be, and can be, nullified by a high quality mobile opponent who knows when to counter him.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Dropping Arroyo on his way to a wide points decision to win the world title.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Alejandro Barrios found flaws to give Ancajas a hard fight and secure a draw.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: Ancajas scored multiple knockdowns as he overcame Jamie Conlan in a 2017 showcase that should have led to further big-time exposure.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? He certainly now merits a unification showdown with one of the other champions. Even against the biggest names, Ancajas would stand a huge chance of winning.

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

4. Kazuto Ioka (JPN)
Record: 25-2 (14) Age: 31 Height: 5ft 4½ins
The remarkable Ioka is a four-weight world titlist. He won his first belt down at 105lbs when, in just his seventh pro fight, he stopped Kittipong Jaigrajang to win the WBC title. He unified that with the WBA championship when he beat Akira Yaegashi in 2012. Then he moved up to light-flyweight, halting Jose Rodriguez to win the vacant WBA strap. In 2015 he took the WBA 112lbs belt from Juan Carlos Reveco. He defended that five times before moving up to super-fly in 2018. His first attempt on the WBO’s super-flyweight ended in a contentious split decision defeat to Donnie Nietes. But Ioka bounced back in 2019 to win that title when stopping Aston Palicte in Chiba City.

STRENGTHS: Highly experienced, Ioka can adapt against most syles.

WEAKNESSES: He is not such a potent force at the higher weights.

BEST PERFORMANCE: His clash with Akira Yaegashi was the first time two Japanese fighters had boxed to unify world titles.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Amnat Ruenroeng handed Ioka his first professional defeat, the same man who beat him as an amateur.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: How he finishes Aston Palicte with a monstrous flurry of punches.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? Unifying in this division might be a step too far for him.

TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images

3. Roman Gonzalez (NIC)
Record:
49-2 (41) Age: 33 Height: 5ft 3ins
Nicaragua’s “Chocolatito” has had a long, thrilling career. He has won world titles in four divisions and assured himself of legendary status with the quality of his performances. He won his first world title in 2008 at strawweight and has been a champion, on and off, ever since. His rivalry with Juan Francisco Estrada began in 2012, a great win for Gonzalez and he has also scalped the likes of Akira Yaegashi, Brian Viloria, and Carlos Cuadras. Just when it seemed like the great warrior was fading, he returned to prominence this year when he overcame Kal Yafai.

STRENGTHS: At his best, he is one of the most outstanding pressure fighters in the business.

WEAKNESSES: His advancing years and his long career are catching up with him.

BEST PERFORMANCE: The 2012 victory over Juan Francisco Estrada has aged well.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Being destroyed in his rematch with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, at the time, seemed to mark a sudden decline for ‘Chocolatito’.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: His 12 round battle with Carlos Cuadras was a breakthrough moment for Gonzalez in America.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? Srisaket appears to have his number but an Estrada rematch would be fascinating. Deserves another run at the very top of this division.

Roman Gonzalez
Chris Farina/K2

2. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (THA)
Record:
47-5-1 (41) Age: 33 Height: 5ft 3ins
The strong southpaw from Thailand burst on to the scene in an extraordinary 12-month period over 2017 and 2018. For his first fight in America, in Madison Square Garden, he took on the legendary Roman Gonzalez. Srisaket upset the best laid plans for “Chocolatito” with an unexpected majority decision victory. In the rematch however he delivered an even bigger shock to prove the first fight was no fluke, knocking out Gonzalez in only four rounds. Then he went on to outpoint Juan Francisco Estrada no less. Last year he rematched Estrada and surrendered his WBC super-flyweight world title, baffling observers by switching orthodox from his normal southpaw stance.

STRENGTHS: A powerful, rugged southpaw, Srisaket, the only man to have beaten Gonzalez, is intimidated by no one.

WEAKNESSES: Curious tactical judgement has shown him up recently.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Destroying Gonzalez in his second fight is hard to top.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Being taken 12 rounds by Hiram Irak Diaz was a low key outing.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: His first fight with Juan Francisco Estrada was one of the best fights of 2018.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? He needs to resolve the mystery of that second fight with Estrada.

Srisaket Sor Rungvisai

1. Juan Francisco Estrada (MEX)
Record:
40-3 (27) Age: 30 Height: 5ft 4ins
The Mexican has fought his way to the top of the super-flyweight division over the course of his 12 year professional career. He came up short in his first world title fight at light-flyweight in 2012, but that was to a peak Roman Gonzalez. He bounced back in his very next outing, taking the unified WBO and WBO flyweight titles from Brian Viloria. He then knocked out Hernan Marquez and unanimously outpointed Carlos Cuadras but lost his WBC super-flyweight title challenge to to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in 2018. That loss he avenged the following year with a unanimous decision in Inglewood. It leaves him as the world leading super-flyweight and a star in the making.

STRENGTHS: Grinds down opponents with relentless aggression.Combination punching lets him set up his crunching right cross.

WEAKNESSES: He can be tipped on to the back foot when opponents rush him.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Topping the in-form Srisaket.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Losing to Juan Carlos Sanchez over eight rounds.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: He took a close but unanimous win in his hectic clash with Carlos Cuadras.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? He can add more titles to trophy cabinet and continue to build his profile.

Juan Francisco Estrada
Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing USA

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