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Road To Undisputed #4: Super Flyweights

chocolatito

February 29, 2020; Frisco, TX, USA; Kal Yafai and Roman 'Chocolatito' Gonzalez during their bout on the Matchroom Boxing USA card at the Ford Center at the Star in Frisco. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing USA

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 take a look at the constantly-shifting flyweight division, whose group of champions is often considered one of the best in the sport’s lower weights.


Titleholders:

  • WBA “Super:” Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez
  • WBA “Regular:” Joshua Franco
  • WBC: Juan Francisco Estrada
  • WBO: Kazuto Ioka
  • IBF: Jerwin Ancajas

Contenders:

  • Kosei Tanaka
  • Carlos Cuadras
  • Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
  • Andrew Moloney
  • Israel Gonzalez
  • Kal Yafai
  • Francisco Rodriguez
  • Jeyvier Cintron

Current Outlook:

The super flyweight division has been one of boxing’s best in the past few years, constantly delivering “Fight Of The Year” contenders and producing new stars.

Back in early 2017, the division seemed to be in control by future Hall of Famer Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. However, two straight losses to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai has changed the landscape of the 115-pound division. 

Coupled that with HBO’s successful “Superfly” series (along with the spiritual successor shows on DAZN) and the division’s future never seemed brighter. Three years later and the division is still one of the sport’s best.

The current crop of champions are about as diverse as it can be. Juan Francisco Estrada has found life after beating Sor Rungvisai in 2019 and earned a spot on most people’s top 10 pound-for-pound list. 

Gonzalez has also revitalized his career with a huge win over Kal Yafai back in February to win the WBA super flyweight title. Gonzalez has been pretty much counted out after his two losses to Sor Rungvisai. His win over Yafai proved that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank and is one of the best pressure fighters today.

Both Estrada and Gonzalez are coming off successful title defenses against Carlos Cuadras and Israel Gonzalez, respectively. The former will likely end up being one of the three best fights of 2020. Right now, both of these champions are on a collision course for a major unification fight, likely in 2021.

The two newest beltholders at 115 pounds are Joshua Franco, who holds the WBA’s secondary title, and Kazuto Ioka, the WBO champion. Franco just had a controversial title defense against Moloney that ended in a no contest but by no means is Moloney still not a threat to Franco. Ioka will defend his title against Kosei Tanaka on December 31.

Franco is a product of the Robert Garcia gym, which is notorious for creating skillful boxers who are masters at adapting to situations and different styles mid-fight and winning titles. His title win against Moloney from back in June was proof of his boxing ability.

Ioka has bounced back well after losing to Donnie Nietes back in 2018. He defeated Aston Palicte with a masterful performance in Japan a few months later to win the WBO title. Ioka’s first title defense came against the inexperienced, yet highly-talented Jeyvier Cintron.

The odd man out seems to be Jerwin Ancajas, the IBF champion. Promoted by Top Rank, Ancajas has yet to really have a standout performance against a top tier opponent during his title reign. At this moment, his future does remain a bit uncertain.

The list of contenders is even deeper than the list of champions at super flyweight. Sor Rungvisai is arguably the best pound-for-pound boxer to not hold a title right now. In fact, a rubber match against Estrada would likely happen if an Estrada-Gonzalez rematch doesn’t happen.

The other pound-for-pound star is Tanaka, the three-division titlist who is on his way to being a major star in Japan. Tanaka has been a part of sensational fights in the past and is a gifted boxer with an arsenal of different punches at blazing speed that can overcome most opponents.

What will it take to get an undisputed champion?

As previously mentioned, Estrada and Gonzalez are on their way for title unification in the coming months, though that has yet to be officially confirmed. Assuming that fight gets made, it would mean two of the four titles are unified. 

That leaves two more champions remaining before we can crown an undisputed champion. There’s a lot of unknown with the IBF and WBO title situations given that Ioka is defending his title on December 31. That fight could go either way and unifications will depend on what happens on December 31.

No one knows what the future truly holds for Ancajas, so it’s hard to know if he’ll fight any of the other champions. Ancajas is promoted by Top Rank and both Estrada and Gonzalez fight under the Matchroom banner. A unification between both promotional entities is more than possible. In fact, Ancajas and Yafai, when he was WBA champion, shared the same ESPN+ card co-promoted by Top Rank and Matchroom. 

A unification involving Ancajas will take some time to secure. The pandemic has not helped things with travel restrictions limiting what fights can be made.

Still, out of all the divisions highlighted in this series, the super flyweights have the best chance of getting an undisputed champion within the next couple of years. A lot of the division’s top names are more than willing to fight each other and have done so. It’s a matter of time before the champions square off in the ring.

We could have more information in January as far as the direction of some of the champions. The WBO title fight on December 31 could help shape how the division looks like for 2021. Regardless of who the champions are, the super flyweight continues to be in great hands.

Chances of there being a minimumweight champion in the next 18 months: 20%

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