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A Brief Look Back at 2019 and A Brief Look Forward to 2020- Part III
Pictured: Naoya Inoue

In Part III of "A Brief Look Back at 2019 and A Brief Look Forward to 2020", the 2019 activities and the scheduled 2020 bouts of the elite of boxing's six lightest weight classes will be reviewed and the bouts that are required to fill the lineal thrones of those divisions will be discussed.

The junior featherweight division has a reigning lineal world champion, Guillermo Rigondeaux (19-1, 1 NC, 13 KOs). Rigondeaux went 2-0 in 2020 with a non-title, over-the-weight KO-1 over Giovanni Delgado on January 13 and a lineal title-retaining TKO-8 over Julio Ceja on June 23. Rigondeaux is scheduled to fight in 2020 but he is dropping down to the bantamweight class to do so. He will be fighting TTR's #11 ranked 118-pounder, Liborio Solis (30-5-1, 1 ND, 14 KOs) on February 8. If Rigondeaux decides to continue to fight as a bantamweight exclusively and relinquishes his claim to the lineal title at 122, a bout between TTR #1 ranked Rey Vargas (34-0, 22 KOs) and TTR #2 ranked Emanuel Navarrete (30-1, 26 KOs) will be needed to crown his successor as long as Vargas and Navarrete retain their rankings.

Vargas fought twice in 2019, winning 12-round unanimous decisions over Franklin Manzanilla on February 9 and Tomoki Kameda on July 13. He does not yet have a bout scheduled.

Navarrete fought four times, going 4-0. He stopped Isaac Dogboe in the 12th round on May 11, KOed Francisco De Vaca in the third round on August 17, halted Juan Miguel Elorde in the fourth round on September 14, and knocked out Francisco Horta in the fourth frame on December 7. Navarrete does have an upcoming bout. He is slated to fight WBO #5 ranked/TTR unranked Jeo Santisima (19-2, 16 KOs) on February 22.

TTR ranks Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16 KOs) and John Riel Casimero (29-4, 20 KOs) as the top two bantamweights and the winner of a bout between the two would crown the first lineal world bantamweight champion since 1987 when Bernardo Pinango voluntarily relinquished the title to campaign as a junior featherweight.

Inoue, who is recognized by The Ring as the world champion, scored two memorable wins in WBSS bouts in 2019. He knocked out Emmanuel Rodriguez in the second round on May 18 and won a Fight Of The Year candidate via a 12-round, unanimous decision over Nonito Donaire on November 7. Casimero fought four times in 2019 and none of his opponents reached the final bell. He halted Kenta Yamashita in the sixth round on February 16, knocked out Ricardo Espinoza (Ricardo Espinoza Franco) on April 20, KOed Cesar Ramirez in the tenth round on August 24, and, in his most important bout of the year, stopped Zolani Tete in the third round on November 30.

The junior bantamweight division also has a reigning lineal world champ. Juan Francisco Estrada (40-3, 27 KOs) won the lineal title with a 12-round, unanimous decision over defending champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (birth name: Wisaksil Wangek; 47-5-1, 41 KOs) on April 26 and defended it with a TKO-9 over Dewayne Beamon on August 24.

Sor Rungvisai is TTR's #1 ranked contender for Estrada's title. He's 1-1 versus the champ having successfully defended the title against Estrada via a 12-round, majority decision the first time they fought. That bout took place on February 24, 2018.

Sor Rungvisai fought only once in 2019 but is rumored to be close to signing to fight TTR unranked Charlie Edwards (15-1, 1 NC, 5 KOs) in the near future.

Estrada was sidelined by a hand injury and had to withdraw from a December 14, 2019 bout with TTR #4 ranked Khalid Yafai (26-0, 15 KOs). That bout may be re-scheduled once Estrada is ready.

Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9 KOs), Moruti Mthalane (39-2, 26 KOs), and Julio Cesar Martinez (15-1, 1 NC, 12 KOs) are TTR's top 3 ranked flyweights. The #1 ranked Tanaka, who, in 2019, unanimously outpointed Ryoichi Taguchi over 12 rounds om March 16, TKOed Jonathan Gonzalez in the seventh round on August 24, and blasted out Wulan Tuolehazi in the third round on December 31, was recently bestowed the status of "Super Champion" by the WBO. That makes it easier for him to participate in title unification bouts and it also paves the way, should he opt for it, for him to move up to the junior bantamweight division as the WBO's #1 contender. Tanaka has not committed to either but is said to be giving serious thought to which path he will take. Should he remain at flyweight, a bout between him and the #2 ranked Mthalane would produce a new lineal champion.

Mthalane won both of his 2019 bouts. He unanimously outscored Masayuki Kuroda over 12 rounds on May 13 and halted former lineal champ Akira Yaegashi on December 23.

If Tanaka chooses to move up in weight, Mthalane and #3 ranked Martinez would become the division's top two conteders for lineal recognition. Martinez, whose 2019 ledger was comprised of a January 26 TKO-1 over Irvin Ordaz, a March 23 KO-5 over Andrew Selby, an August 31 bout resulting in a three-round No Contest with Charlie Edwards, and a December 20 TKO-9 over Cristofer Rosales, is scheduled to fight undefeated, TTR unranked Jay Harris (17-0, 9 KOs) on February 29.

Two national "dream" matchups, one in the junior flyweight division and the other at strawweight, are wishes for 2020. At 108, a bout between Japan's TTR #1 ranked Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10 KOs) and TTR #2 ranked Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9 KOs), the reigning Ring Magazine champ, and at 105, a bout between Thailand's TTR #1 ranked Wanheng Menayothin (birth name: Chayaphon Moonsri; 54-0, 18 KOs) and TTR #2 ranked Knockout CP Freshmart (birth name: Thammanoon Niyomtrong; 20-0, 7 KOs) would be produce lineal champions.

2019 saw Teraji score 4-round TKOs over Jonathan Taconing on July 12 and Randy Petalcorin on December 23; Kyoguchi post 12-round, unanimous decisions over Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (birth name: Tanawat Nakoon) on June 19 and Tetsuya Hisada on October 1; Menayothin win an 8-round, unanimous technical decision over Tatsuya Fukuhara on May 31 and a 12-round, unanimious decision over Simpiwe Konkco on October 25; and Knockout CP Freshmart win an 8-round, unanimous technical verdict over Ar Ar Andales on August 2.

"O must go" matches between Teraji and Kyoguchi and Menayothin and CP Freshmart would seem possible being that none of the four fighters have anything scheduled. Whether they come to fruition, only time will tell. Hopefully, the fighters' promoters and/or the sanctioning bodies involved won't be roadblocks preventing these intriguing matches from being made.

2020 already has a few great, historically significant bouts on the schedule and some others in negotiations. If the early part of the year is any indication, 2020 may be a very good one for boxing.
Article By: Ken Pollitt