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Boxing Year in Review 2015: The Flyweights

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Just like there's a lot more than corn in Indiana, there's a lot more to the flyweight division than Chocolatito Gonzalez. But just as there is mostly corn in Indiana, Gonzalez is the clear ruler of this division.

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Year-End Top 10

  1. Roman Gonzalez (44-0, 38 KO)
  2. Juan Francisco Estrada (33-2, 24 KO)
  3. Amnat Ruenroeng (17-0, 5 KO)
  4. Kazuto Ioka (19-1, 11 KO)
  5. Juan Carlos Reveco (36-3, 19 KO)
  6. Brian Viloria (36-5, 22 KO)
  7. Moruti Mthalane (32-2, 21 KO)
  8. McWilliams Arroyo (16-2, 14 KO)
  9. John Riel Casimero (21-3, 13 KO)
  10. Edgar Sosa (51-9, 30 KO)

Gonzalez, 28, is not just the best fighter in the division, but pound-for-pound the best fighter in boxing in this post-Mayweather world. Other, more famous, larger men -- Sergey Kovalev, Andre Ward, Gennady Golovkin -- might have arguments, but Gonzalez really is The Man in the mythical rankings right now. This year, he made his hard-earned debut on HBO, destroying veteran Edgar Sosa in May, and then following that up with a beatdown of Brian Viloria in October on HBO PPV. He's supposedly being groomed for a main event role in 2016.

Estrada, 25, is the biggest fight at 112 for Gonzalez, but that doesn't appear to be the immediate direction. The two did fight in 2012 at junior flyweight, but Estrada has gone on a great run since then, winning two belts at 112 by beating Viloria in 2013, with five successful defenses thus far, including two this year. He's also arguably a P4P top 10 guy right now.

Ruenroeng, 36, is a really odd fighter in some respects. First of all, he's old, not making his pro debut until he was 33. Second of all, he's a Thai fighter who fights under his birth name. Third of all, he's garnered relatively little respect when you consider he's beaten Rocky Fuentes, Kazuto Ioka, McWilliams Arroyo, Shiming Zou, and John Riel Casimero in the last two years. A couple of those wins were close (the Ioka and Arroyo fights were split decisions), but he's done a hell of a lot in a short period of time. His win in June over Casimero was an ugly affair, it should be said, but he got the job done. The feeling is he would be wiped out by Gonzalez or Estrada, but who knows? He hasn't been beaten yet.

Ioka, 26, is the WBA's "world" "champion," which is second to Estrada's WBA "super world" "championship," but allows Ioka to say he's won world titles at 105, 108, and 112 already in his career. Two wins this year over Juan Carlos Reveco give him as strong a 2015 as anyone here, really, save for Gonzalez, whose notoriety grew big time.

Reveco, 32, and Viloria, 35, are kind of in the same boat. Both are obviously still quality fighters, but they've come up short in recent challenges against the big two. Viloria has losses to both Estrada and Gonzalez in recent years, and Reveco lost two times this year to Estrada. They're both veteran fighters with some miles under their belts.

Mthalane, 33, is hard to rank, too. He's probably still one of the 10 best in this division, but he fought just one time in 2015, and has fought just three times since 2012. His last loss came in 2008, when he was stopped in six by Nonito Donaire, who was an absolute monster at flyweight, and since then, though not exactly recently, he's scored some solid wins, too. He's good, but it's been a while since that's been tested.

Arroyo, 30, lost a fight back in 2010 when he was still fighting four-rounders, another case against four round professional fights. He lost in 2014 to Ruenroeng. This year, he fought once, beating Victor Ruiz in April. He doesn't have any really big wins -- he's beaten some familiar names, but nobody who was a serious contender at the time -- but he can fight, and he's got big power.

Casimero, 25, is a former titleholder at 108 who moved up in weight this year and lost to Ruenroeng. His other two losses came in 2010-11, against Ramon Garcia and Moruti Mthalane. He is good enough to be called a contender but obviously not a world-beater.

Sosa, 36, is winding down what's been a very good career. He was wiped right the hell out by Gonzalez in May, which was his only fight this year, and marked the first time in his 15-year pro career that he's not had multiple fights in a calendar year. His standing at No. 10 for now is just as a placeholder, really. A titleholder at 108 from 2007-2009, with 10 successful defenses in that period, he's 0-3 in world title fights at flyweight dating back to 2011.

On the Cusp

Shiming Zou (6-1, 1 KO) had his bubble burst in March against Amnat Ruenroeng, and sat out the rest of 2015, though he does fight again late in January. The reality check that everyone knew was coming came, and it's really that simple. Zou is an OK pro fighter, but has bad habits, is old (he's almost 35), and showed clear decline between the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, though he won gold at both Beijing and London. He never really looked impressive as a professional, and everything about him was pure hype and a cash-in.

Juan Hernandez (29-2, 20 KO) might be someone to watch out for in the next year. He lost to Ioka back in 2011 when both were at 105, but has won a bunch of fights since then, though against really mediocre opponents.

Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep (37-3, 23 KO) scored a pair of nice wins in 2013-14 over Koki Eto and Takuya Kogawa (who is now the Japanese champion) before a TKO loss to Reveco in 2014. He won three straight easy fights this year and still has some upside at 25.

Ganigan Lopez (26-6, 17 KO) has been a contender at both 105 and 108, and moved up to flyweight in October after a loss at junior flyweight in July to Pedro Guevara in a WBC title fight. The move could just be a one-off, but the 34-year-old Lopez did fight for a minor WBC flyweight belt in the fight, so let's mention him here, though he could easily pop back down to 108.

Ardin Diale (30-9-3, 15 KO) is on a solid run right now, winning the OPBF flyweight title in December, his seventh straight victory overall.

Kevin Satchell (14-0, 3 KO) doesn't appear to have world level potential, but he did win the European belt last year, and is a former British and Commonwealth champion, too, so he's certainly earned mention.

The Titleholders

WBC: Roman Gonzalez

  • def. Edgar Sosa (TKO-2, 5/16)
  • def. Brian Viloria (TKO-9, 10/17)

WBA: Juan Francisco Estrada

  • def. Rommel Asenjo (TKO-3, 3/28)
  • def. Tyson Marquez (KO-10, 9/26)

IBF: Amnat Ruenroeng

  • def. Shiming Zou (UD-12, 3/7)
  • def. John Riel Casimero (UD-12, 6/27)
  • def. Myung Ho Lee (UD-12, 12/7)

WBO: Juan Francisco Estrada

  • def. Rommel Asenjo (TKO-3, 3/28)
  • def. Tyson Marquez (KO-10, 9/26)

Top 5 Prospects

British Lionhearts v USA Knockouts - World Series of Boxing Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images
  1. Andrew Selby (3-0, 2 KO)
  2. Daigo Higa (8-0, 8 KO)
  3. Stamp Kiatniwat (14-0, 6 KO)
  4. Nawaphon Por Chokchai (31-0, 24 KO)
  5. Jonathan Gonzalez (18-1-1,

Selby, 27, is an advanced prospect, both in age and amateur achievement. He won gold at the European Amateur Championships in 2011 and 2013, silver at the 2011 Worlds, and bronze at the 2013 Worlds. He was the No. 1 seed at the London Olympics, but lost to Cuba's Robeisy Ramirez, who went on to win gold. He also went 6-0 in the World Series of Boxing. He turned pro in October, winning fights on 10/30, 11/14, and 12/5. He's got a few years to get himself into contention, and the skill is all there.

Higa, 20, went 5-0 this year, turning pro in June 2014. He's stopped everyone in his way to date, and has won the WBC's Youth flyweight title. You could reasonably suspect that he's got a higher upside than Selby, which is nothing against Selby, but Higa is seven years younger and has shown some major potential himself.

Stamp Kiatniwat is a Thai fighter, just 18 years old, and has already won the WBA's pointless and ultimately meaningless interim flyweight title. But whatever it may or may not mean, he's an obvious prospect. He went 5-0 in 2013, 6-0 in 2014, and 3-0 in 2015, beating largely nothing opponents but a few guys who aren't bad. And again: he's 18. He turned pro at 15. He's still a child, really, and he's making a mark.

Nawaphon, 24, has also been known as Nawaphon Sor Rungvisai. His competition has been lacking to date, but he's gotten a lot of work in. This year, he went 6-0. It's probably time for him to take a risk.

"Bomba" Gonzalez, 24, lost a fight to Giovani Segura in 2013, running into a powerful puncher, and drew in his next fight out. That was a sort of reality check for him, it seems. He's come back to go 5-0 since then, and if he's been able to put the setbacks behind him, remains a good young fighter worth keeping an eye on.

Other prospects, in alphabetical order: Hani Ansi, Artem Dalakian, Ernesto Delgadillo, Charlie Edwards, Joy Joy Formentera, Keyvin Lara, Vincent Legrand, Genesis Libranza, Mohammed Obbadi, Pablo Robles, Jose Manuel Sanchez, Damien Vazquez, Iwan Zoda