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A Look at Hugo Cazares' Reign as the WBA Super Flyweight Champion
Pictured: WBA super flyweight champion Hugo Cazares

There has been harsh criticism regarding former WBO and Ring Magazine junior flyweight champion Hugo Cazares' choice of opponents since he dethroned WBA super flyweight champion Nobuo Nashiro in May 2010. Cazares has been very active as the WBA's super flyweight kingpin, defending his title four times with a fifth defense scheduled for later this month. Has he been defending against worthy challengers or has been putting his belt on the line against, as one writer termed it, "a 115 pound bum of the month club?"

When Cazares challenged for the WBA super flyweight title, he did so as that organization's official (that's the WBA's term for mandatory) challenger. It took him two twelve-round bouts with Nashiro, one resulting in a split decision draw and the other in a satisfying unanimous decision victory, to wrest the title.

After twenty-four tough rounds with Nashiro and not due to make a mandatory defense, Cazares was free to defend against anyone the WBA would approve. Team Cazares decided to have their champion make his first optional defense against fellow Mexican veteran Everaldo Morales, then the WBA's #14 ranked super flyweight contender. Could they have opted for a "more deserving" challenger? Of course, but considering Cazares' two consecutive bouts with Nashiro, Morales was a passable choice. Not counting a draw in a WBU title bout and a loss to Tomas Rojas in a bout contested for a vacant interim title, Morales had had three previous world title shots. Why did he receive so many title opportunities? It's because he, like Gilberto Keb Baas and Luis Lazarte, kept winning a myriad of regional (or steppingstone) titles. Morales came into his bout with Cazares as the North American Boxing Association (NABA) super flyweight champ. The NABA is affiliate with the WBA.

Unlike his fellow perennial fringe contender brethren, Morales has not been able to win a world title. Keb Baas, who had previously lost twenty bouts in his career, won the WBC light flyweight title in this third world title shot. Lazarte, not including a loss for a vacant interim title, won the IBF junior flyweight title in his fifth world title match.

In his relatively easy-as-expected title defense against Morales, Cazares chalked up a seventh round TKO victory to drop Morales to 0-4 in legitimate world title bouts.

Instead of picking up the level of his opposition for his second super flyweight title defense, Cazares next defended against an even less worthy challenger than Morales. Another veteran, Alberto Rossel, was granted the first world title shot of his then twelve-year career. Rossel was riding a six-bout winning streak including wins over regionally ranked Luis Singo and past-his-prime former WBO flyweight title challenger Reginaldo Martins Carvalho but none of his victories came over anyone resembling a then world ranked contender. What the streak did bring Rossel was the WBA Fedebol and WBA FEDELATIN flyweight titles and a resultant spot in the WBA's flyweight top 15. After signing to fight Cazares, Rossel found his WBA ranking changed when the WBA's new ratings were posted. He was #11 at 115.

Anyway, he got his undeserved shot and was stopped in the ninth round.

The WBA now ranks Rossel #12 as a light flyweight! (As they say, "you can't make this stuff up!")

Cazares' third title defense was against a legitimate world class fighter, Hiroyuki Hisataka, who has scored important victories at both 112 and 115 and who twice had fought for the WBA flyweight title. In his second title shot, Hisataka lost a split decision to defending champion Denkaosan Kaovichit in Kaovichit's native Thailand.

It has been pointed out that Hisataka was 4-5 in his nine bouts prior to challenging Cazares, That record includes a decision loss Hisataka avenged when he halted then WBC #1 ranked flyweight Panomroonglek Kratingdaenggym (who now fights as Panomroonglek Kaiyarn Hadaogym), an out-and-out robbery in the Philippines (Hisataka's outrageous split decision loss to Wyndel Janiola which convinced the comebacking former contender Janiola to retire), and the split decision loss to Kaovichit in Thailand.

Hisataka's December 2007 win over Hussein Hussein has been "dismissed" because Hussein was "barely relevant." Let's see if that's true. The 31-3 Hussein, had, up to that point, lost only to Pongsaklek Wonjongkam and Jorge Arce (twice). He had won three straight including knockouts of world ranked Kompayak Porpramook, who is still highly ranked, and Nouldy Manakane, now the PABA bantamweight titleholder and a world ranked bantamweight. Hussein would remain relevant after his loss to Hisataka (in a super flyweight bout) for one more bout. He fought in an IBF flyweight title eliminator, losing a decision to Moruti Mthalane which earned Mthalane, the current IBF flyweight champion, a mandatory title shot.

Cazares retained his title against Hisataka by unanimous decision.

There is no excusing Cazares or the WBA for his defense against Arturo Badillo. Badillo was basically a prospect being passed off as a contender. Too often fighters are ranked on the basis of their perceived potential rather than their accomplishments. While Badillo bounced back from his loss to veteran contender Ronald Barrera with three straight wins within the distance, none came against world ranked or even regionally ranked fighters.

Cazares demolished Badillo within three rounds.

So, how do the challengers in Cazares' four super flyweight title defenses measure up? I can't condemn Hugo for the Morales bout being that it followed his two bouts with Nashiro. I agree with those who don't find Rossel acceptable, have no problem at all with the always competitive Hisataka getting a shot, and agree that Badillo certainly wasn't qualified to be in the ring with Cazares.

That brings us to Cazares' next opponent, Tomonobu Shimizu. Shimizu is one of Japan's finest technical fighters. He's ranked #4 in the WBA's flyweight ratings and had been #11 in the WBC's until he was moved to their "Not Available" list because of his pending bout with Cazares. Shimizu also has been ranked in The Ring's top ten as recently as this year. It should be noted that he was pushed out due to attrition not because of a loss.

It has been written that it was "perplexing" as to how Shimizu was able to challenge for the WBC flyweight title on two occasions. Let me explain how he did it. It's really not difficult to comprehend. In October of 2005, Shimizu outpointed fellow prospect Hiroyuki Hisataka. That win took on more value when Hisataka, in his next bout, knocked out world-ranked Filipino veteran Bert Batawang. Shimizu then outpointed the rugged and often dirty Kenji Yoshida who was both highly ranked nationally and regionally.

After two more wins, Shimizu was matched with the WBC's #8 ranked contender, the ill-fated Fahpetchnoi Sor Chitpattana, and won a one-sided decision. That win earned Shimizu his shot at Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. The bout didn't go well for Shimizu. He was busted up and stopped in the seventh round.

Not to be deterred, Shimizu returned to the ring three months later and began a three-bout winning streak. The third bout of the streak resulted in a second win over the then reigning Japanese national flyweight champion Kenji Yoshida who was ranked #3 by the WBA and #22 by the WBC.

The win over Yoshida earned Shimizu a spot in the July 30, 2008 all-Japanese world flyweight title doubleheader in which Hisataka challenged then WBA champion Takefumi Sakata and Shimizu took on Wonjongkam's successor, Daisuke Naito.

After boxing beautifully and being ahead on all three scorecards after nine rounds, Shimizu got caught by the determined Naito and was knocked out in the tenth round.

Five months later, Shimizu returned to defend the Japanese title he won from Yoshida. It has been stated, erroneously, that Shimizu's post-Naito opposition has been "soft." Toshiyuki Igarashi, who Shimizu outpointed in his December 2008 return, has gone on to win the Japanese title (after Shimizu voluntarily relinquished it while trying to land a third world flyweight title shot) and is currently ranked #3 in the world by both the WBC and the WBA. Even the WBO, who rarely rank Japanese fighters, ranks Igarashi #14.

Shimizu also defended the Japanese title another three times before giving it up. Two of his opponents, Shigetaka Ikehara, with whom he fought to a 2-round technical draw, and Takayasu Kobayashi, whom he stopped in the seventh round, have also been ranked in the top fifteen by both the WBA and the WBC. Ikehara has also been ranked in the top 15 by the WBO. Since his technical draw with Shimizu, Ikehara has gone 5-1 including a third round TKO win over then world-ranked Shingo Yamaguchi and an eleventh round TKO loss to world-ranked OPBF champion Rocky Fuentes in a brutal war.

Shimizu did have a "soft" stay-active bout earlier this year. Since then, his management entered into negotiations with the management of WBA flyweight champion Hernan "Tyson" Marquez, hoping that Marquez would travel to Japan to make his second title defense. When those negotiations broke down, Shimizu's people turned their attention to Cazares. Cazares, who enjoys fighting in Japan and especially likes the "amount of yen" he's paid to do so, agreed to terms.

As a result on August 31, at the Nihon Budokan in Tokyo, on the same card in which Koki Kameda will defend the WBA bantamweight title against Mexico's undefeated but relatively untested David De la Mora, Cazares will defend against the qualified and more than acceptable, Tomonobu Shimizu, a proven world-class contender and certainly not a "bum of the month."

So, let's review- Morales- passable but only under the circumstances; Rossel- unacceptable; Hisataka- acceptable; Badillo- unacceptable, and Shimizu- certainly acceptable- whether he wins, loses, or draws, he is world-class and shouldn't be begrudged his deserved third shot at a world title (even if it would have been preferable that he received it at 112).

If Cazares retains his title August 31 and remains at 115 (there are rumors he may move up to 118), he'll eventually have to deal with Tepparith Singwancha, the WBA's interim champ who moved up from the flyweight division to upset Drian Francisco, and #1 ranked Daiki Kameda, who, so far, has been in no hurry to challenge for the super flyweight title.

Shimizu will be looking to render Cazares-Singwancha or Cazares-Daiki Kameda moot and put himself in a position to deal with them. He's working to make history repeat itself. Not counting a shot at the vacant WBA interim title, Takefumi Sakata won the WBA flyweight championship in his third world title bout, Shimizu is looking to repeat Sakata's success.

Some may not think much of a Cazares-Shimizu bout but it's a bout between two world-class fighters, a two-time world champion and a perennial contender, neither of whom can afford a loss at this time.

Article By: Ken Pollitt