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Road To Undisputed #1: Minimumweights

Welcome to “Road To Undisputed,” a brand new series where I look at every weight class in boxing, look at the champions and contenders and map out a road to crowning an undisputed champion and the chances of it happening anytime soon.

This week, we’ll be looking at the 105-pound division (minimumweight or mini flyweight), a group of fighters with a tremendous level of talent but is typically at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to grabbing the attention of pundits and fans.

Titleholders

  • WBC: Wanheng Menayothin
  • WBA: Knockout CP Freshmart
  • IBF: Pedro Taduran
  • WBO: Wilfredo Mendez

Contenders:

  • Jose Argumendo
  • Daniel Valladares
  • Ginjiro Shigeoka
  • Victorio Saludar
  • Tsubasa Koura
  • Nkosinathi Joyi
  • Leyman Benavides

Current outlook:

Boxing’s lightest division is also the most overlooked with most, if not all the champions, not registering on fans’ radar given the division’s lack of exposure out west. 

Really, the most exposure the division has received in the last couple of decades came from Ivan Calderon, who ruled the 105-pound division as the WBO champion for many years and is a potential Hall Of Famer at the end of the day. However, that attention was focused more on Calderon than the division as a whole.

After Calderon’s time at 105 pounds was over, it left a hole in the division in need of a No. 1 fighter. That title currently belongs to Menayothin, the undefeated Thai boxer who is best known for having surpassed Floyd Mayweather’s win-loss record and currently stands at 54-0.

Mendez and Taduran sit behind Menayothin as some of the newer faces in the division.  Lastly there’s Freshmart, who has also held his version of the 105-pound title for years. However, he has not exactly impressed the world with uneventful wins over the likes of Byron Rojas, ArAr Andales and Norihito Tanaka.

As far as some of the fresher faces in the division, there is a mix of veterans and former world champions such as Argumedo, Joyi and Saludar and younger faces such as the 21-year-old Shigeoka, who is already a top 10 fighter in the division with only five pro fights under his belt. If one fighter is destined to crash the 105-pound division, it is the seemingly heavy-handed Shigeoka.  

So when it comes to crowning an undisputed champion at 105 pounds, getting all four champions to face each other is a tough task. That’s not to say it is impossible or that none of the champions want to unify the division. 

What will it take to get an undisputed champion:

When I spoke to Mendez, the current WBO titleholder, this summer, he laid out his plan to unify the division, ending with him fighting Menayothin in an effort to hand the Thai WBC champion his first pro defeat.

“I have a lot of things in mind. One of those things is to fight [Menayothin]. I got other goals such as unifying titles with Pedro Taduran and [Freshmart]. I want to be able to unify championships. There’s not many Puerto Ricans that have done that. There’s only a few like Tito Trinidad. I’d love to fight everyone and become the undisputed champion at 105 pounds. That’s my goal to beat the champions and unify titles, God willing and then make the jump to 108 pounds,” Mendez said.

There is hope for minimumweight champions to make some noise in the western hemisphere. Prior to the pandemic, Menayothin was set to defend his title on a Golden Boy Promotions card. Mendez is making noise in Puerto Rico as the nation’s sole male world champion. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to envision Golden Boy Promotions coming to Mendez with an offer to unify belts with Menayothin. This unification fight could lead into a potential showdown with Taduran and end with an undisputed title bout against the WBA champion at the time.

But the key phrase in that last paragraph was pre-COVID-days. With all four champions in different corners of the Earth, putting together the resources to make those big fights happen is going to be close to impossible. Prior to the pandemic, there wasn’t exactly a strong demand for the champions to unify the division. This makes things in this current climate a lot harder to do. 

Mendez is currently training at Floyd Mayweather’s gym in Las Vegas with a number of fighters including bantamweight titlist John Riel Casimero and former 105-pound champion DeeJay Kriel. A fight before the end of the year for Mendez is in play, but as far as unifications go, it doesn’t make financial sense to spend a lot of resources on unifications that won’t get much attention in the U.S. 

As much as I would love to see unification bouts and the division itself, the United States has shown that it is not interested in those fighters. The IBF title has been relegated to off-TV fights on PBC shows in 2018 and 2019 where only a handful of people saw those title bouts live.

Chances of there being an undisputed minimumweight champion in the next 18 months: 1%

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