Year-End Top 10
- Donnie Nietes (37-1-4, 21 KO)
- Yu Kimura (18-2-1, 3 KO)
- Pedro Guevara (26-2-1, 17 KO)
- Ryoichi Taguchi (23-2-1, 10 KO)
- Moises Fuentes (23-2-1, 12 KO)
- Akira Yaegashi (23-5, 12 KO)
- Javier Mendoza (24-3-1, 19 KO)
- Francisco Rodriguez Jr (17-4-1, 11 KO)
- Randy Petalcorin (23-1-1, 18 KO)
- Jonathan Taconing (22-2-1, 18 KO)
Nietes, 33, had his claim as the true top guy in the division strengthened when Kimura, 32, upset Guevara, 26, on November 28, (another number). Kimura's win over Guevara was controversial, a split decision with cards of 115-113 twice for Kimura, and 117-111 for Guevara. Kimura had home field in Sendai, and if you watch the fight, it is at least in my view tough to find seven rounds for him, but them's the breaks.
With that in mind, the gap between Kimura and Guevara at No. 2 isn't really a gap at all, and one could make a bold stand and say that Guevara really won the fight, and deserves to still be considered No. 2. But since I am removed from the situation, we'll put Kimura at No. 2 with this paragraph and change of an asterisk.
Taguchi, 29, won the WBA "world" title in 2014, and defended successfully two times this year, over Kwanthai Sithmorseng and Luis de la Rosa, both stoppage wins. He looks like he might be coming into his own somewhat.
Fuentes, 30, lost to Nietes in 2014, but scored a win in December over Francisco Rodriguez Jr on a split decision in Mexico, which was his first fight since the Nietes loss in this division, with three wins at 112/115 between then.
Yaegashi, 32, and Mendoza, 24, met on December 29, with Yaegashi winning a wide decision in Tokyo. It was a bit more competitive than the scores make it seem, but I thought a clear win for Yaegashi, and an upset win at that.
Rodriguez, 22, doesn't have a pretty record, and lost two fights this year, but he lost them to Nietes and Fuentes, and was competitive in both bouts. The former 105-pound titleholder is still really young and has a lot of big fight experience already. That can go one of two ways. The miles might add up quickly, or it might mean he peaks with that experience already part of his repertoire.
Petalcorin, 24, and Taconing, 28, are southpaw Filipino contenders on good winning streaks.
On the Cusp
Unbeaten Thai fighter Paipharob Kokietgym (32-0, 25 KO) made his pro debut in 2002, then didn't fight again until 2009, and has never really seen his career progress due to various factors. He beat Rey Megrino -- a very tough club fighter type -- in his seecond pro fight in 2009. In 2011, he won the interim WBA strawweight title against Jesus Silvestre, but was stripped in 2012 when he was arrested on suspicion of narcotics tracking. He's never lost a fight, and he wears a tiger print Heisenberg hat.
Milan Melindo (33-2, 12 KO) fought late in the year as a super flyweight, but it was a bounce-back fight, and it's likely he'll stay at 108. He had a shot at Mendoza's IBF belt in May of this year, losing a six-round technical decision in a dirty fight that was mostly Melindo's doing.
Peru's Alberto Rossell (34-9, 13 KO), now 40, lost his world title to Ryoichi Taguchi on New Year's Eve 2014, and came back this year with a pair of very easy victories at home. The veteran "Chiquito" may yet have one more run in him, but his back's against the wall due to his age.
Rey Loreto (20-13, 12 KO) has a junk record in terms of wins and losses, and he still can lose fights to guys he shouldn't, but he has knocked out former 105-pound ruler Nkosinathi Joyi twice in his last three fights, and has to be mentioned here. Joyi is not the fight he was at his peak, but still. Loreto has also beaten Pornsawan Porpramook. And he has lost to a lot of fighters.
WBC: Yu Kimura
- Pedro Guevara def. Richard Claveras (TKO-1, 4/11)
- Pedro Guevara def. Ganigan Lopez (UD-12, 7/4)
- def. Pedro Guevara (SD-12, 11/28 - TITLE CHANGE)
WBA: Ryoichi Taguchi
- def. Kwanthai Sithmorseng (TKO-8, 5/6)
- def. Luis de la Rosa (RTD-9, 12/31)
IBF: Akira Yaegashi
- Javier Mendoza def. Milan Melindo (TD-6, 5/30)
- def. Javier Mendoza (UD-12, 12/29)
WBO: Donnie Nietes
- def. Gilberto Parra (RTD-9, 3/28)
- def. Francisco Rodriguez Jr (UD-12, 7/11)
- def. Juan Alejo (UD-12, 10/17)
Kenshiro (6-0, 3 KO), 24, is the current Japanese champion, winning that title from veteran Kenichi Horikawa on December 27. He went 4-0 on the year, and there are high hopes for the young fighter, with it possible he could ascend into real contention by early 2016. His birth name is Kenshiro Teraji, but I'm all for an Ichiro/Cher/Madonna situaish.
Other prospects, listed alphabetically, most of whom I know nothing about but they have interesting records and/or I've read about them on other sites: Angel Acosta, Seigo Yuri Akui, Dexter Alimento, Christian Araneta, Carlos Canizales, Genki Hanai, Szilvester Kanalas, Riki Kano, Jorge Alberto Martinez, Robert Paradero, Rolly Sumalpong, Oscar Vasquez