Bad Left Hook Junior Bantamweight Rankings
The 115-pound division is neither shallow nor terribly deep, its real problem being how few of these fighters are likely to fight one another, as they're all spread about into regional circuits that keep most of them separate. You have the guys that fight in Japan (Nashiro, Munoz, Kono), the guys that fight in America but aren't going to come near each other again (Donaire, Darchinyan), Filipinos becoming hot tickets in Canada (Sonsona), Filipinos that have never quite caught on (Gorres), and then guys like Cazares, Nongqayi and Lopez that'll really fight anywhere they can.
Some have fought already, some will fight, and yet not a lot of movement is bound to happen until and unless my top two, Nonito Donaire and Vic Darchinyan, serve up a rematch that frankly I think both of them need at this point.
Let's be honest: Donaire and Darchinyan have limited options. Donaire's career didn't take off near the way it should have after he shelled Darchinyan in 2007, handing the Armenian loudmouth his first career loss in emphatic fashion, and Darchinyan right now is comebacking, starting on December 12 with a fight against a will-be-overmatched Tomas Rojas, a tough vet that poses no real threat to Vic. Donaire just beat an out of shape Rafael Concepcion, a guy who can hang in there, sure, but also has a name built almost entirely on an upset victory over AJ Banal.
Donaire goes into my top spot simply because he holds a win over Darchinyan and I don't think a rematch would wind up looking terribly different. Darchinyan's dominant run over Dmitry Kirilov, Cristian Mijares and Jorge Arce was really impressive, but neither Kirilov nor Mijares can punch, and Arce is beyond damaged goods. Donaire is faster than Vic, has real power, and just had his number from the opening bell when they fought. Vic has to beat Nonito, or Nonito has to seriously slip, for me to consider Darchinyan the better fighter.
30-year old Alexander Munoz is a Venezuelan ex-titlist that fights in Japan and in his home country, and he hasn't had a significant fight since he lost to Mijares in May 2008. He's fought once since then, beating a nobody with a 2-6-1 record by ten-round decision. I have a feeling either of the top two guys would smoke him, and that a lot of other guys on the list might well beat him down, too, but he does have something of a resume, which includes a pretty dominant win over the No. 4 guy, Nobuo Nashiro, back in '07.
As for Nashiro, he'll be fighting tenth-ranked Hugo Cazares, the former junior flyweight world champion, on September 30. Cazares was the original opponent for Donaire's last fight, but that fell apart. He's better than his record; two of his six losses were close decisions against Ivan Calderon, and the other losses all came early in his career. He was yet another Mexican fighter that started slow in his career and blossomed into a hell of a good fighter.
Simphiwe Nongqayi's back-to-back wins in Mexico over Jorge and Fernando Arce put him in the running, and you can only hope his status as IBF titleholder will at least get him some decent opponents. He's a name nowhere, but he might be able to play a villain in Mexico at this point. He's a clever, almost deceptive fighter. At the same time, it's worth considering that Fernando's not that good, and Jorge is toast.
The real wild card of the division is 19-year old mega phenom Marvin Sonsona. We're talking about a kid that just won a recognized title (WBO) against a damn good fighter (No. 8 Jose Lopez). He's a super prospect -- and already a titlist -- from the Philippines, which years ago may have meant a tougher climb up the ranks, but he's already got top training, conditioning, etc. We're in a post-Pacquiao world, where Filipino fighters are going to have better chances to succeed early. Watching Sonsona beat Lopez, I felt like this kid was absolutely the real deal.
No. 7 Z Gorres hasn't actually made 115 since he drew with Darchinyan, but he's fought and won twice, and chances are if he can get a decent fight at the weight, he'll still make it. No. 9 Kohei Kono lost a tight one to Nashiro about a year ago.
Jorge Arce is out of the top ten because I just don't think he'd beat any of these guys at this point. He's really got nothing left when in against someone that can fight, as he was dominated by Darchinyan, a short guy that makes himself even shorter when he fights sometimes, and then dominated by Nongqayi, a taller fighter. In both fights, he completely lacked any zip on his punches. We already know he's too small to move up in weight, and I guess the best thing we can say right now is thank God he never landed that fight at 122 with Israel Vazquez, who would have taken his head off.
But if the loss to Nongqayi was it for Arce (I doubt it is), then happy trails, Jorge, and thanks for all the wars.