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State of the Game: Junior flyweights

25
Jun

This is the second in a series of stories from “The State of the Game,” the popular annual feature of THE RING magazine. We’re posting one weight class per day, starting with strawweight and working our way up to heavyweight. The package was featured in the July issue of the magazine, which is on sale through June 28. Today: Junior flyweights.

It’s often been said that in boxing, the top two percent of the fighters make about 98 percent of the money. Well, we’re about to feed directly into that inequity. Not only do the top two percent get most of the money, but they get most of the attention too, and in “The State Of The Game,” we focus primarily on that top two percent – the cream of every weight class. Maybe it’s not fair to the 145th best junior featherweight in the world, but hey, there’s a reason he’s only 145th best.

Still, you have to admit, we go deeper and include more fighters in State of the Game than just about any other article you’ll read all year. Where else will you find Wladimir Klitschko, Fernando Guerrero, Alfonso Gomez and Hekkie Budler all discussed in the same story?

Basically, the State of the Game is just what it sounds like: an all-encompassing exploration of where every division in boxing stands at this particular moment. As for the state of the sport as a whole, we know the balance of power is continuing to shift away from American fighters and away from the heavyweight division, but does that mean boxing is any worse off than it was a year ago or five years ago or 10 years ago? In a global sense, and judged in relativity to the economic climate across most of the world, no. Remember, some people in both the boxing community and the mainstream media opined three years ago that Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather was going to be the last megafight we’d see for years. How laughable is that now? We’ve since had four different pay-per-views cross the million-buy mark, and if Manny Pacquiao vs. Mayweather ever happens, it will crush every number Mayweather-De La Hoya posted.

Of course, all that this means is that the guys at the very top are getting exponentially richer while everyone else is struggling to make ends meet. Hey, that’s the way boxing has always been, and in a nutshell, that’s how life works. Boxing has loads of problems, no doubt, but year after year, it entertains and amazes those loyal followers who persevere through all the crap to get to the good stuff.

JUNIOR FLYWEIGHT

The most exciting matchup in boxing is zero-defense slugger vs. zero-defense slugger. But the most intriguing matchup is pure boxer vs. pure puncher. It’s always fascinating to ponder which set of attributes will win out.

Well, there’s no realistic matchup in all of boxing that matches a more pure boxer with a more pure puncher than a world junior flyweight championship fight between Ivan Caldero and Giovani Segura. THE RING champ and his top contender are absolute opposites inside the ropes. Calderon couldn’t crumple a piece of tin foil with his Sunday punch. Segura’s technique calls to mind a cross between Ricardo Mayorga and a discus thrower. But they’ve both been successful. “Iron Boy” is undefeated after nine years as a pro, with six successful defenses of the 108-pound title. And Segura has one loss, which he avenged by TKO, and has made three defenses of his alphabet belt. Calderon vs. Segura is by no means a superfight. But for hardcore fans, it would be the best way to generate buzz about the junior flyweight division.

And the list of quality fighters in the weight class doesn’t end with the top two. Former titleholder Omar Nino regained his belt on June 19 by outpointing Rodel Mayol. Mayol remains in the picture in spite of an apparent problem with head butts. He lost two points because of them against Nino and his victory over Edgar Sosa to win the title was partially the result of a head clash (see “Think About It” for more on Mayol’s pesky noggin).

New Jersey-based Colombian Carlos Tamara came from out of nowhere to stop Brian Viloria in a dramatic finish and take a title in January but then lost it to 39-year-old Luis Lazarte. Veteran ex-titlist Ulises Solis also remains dangerous. Plus there are plenty of up-and-comers in the division, from Juan Carlos Reveco to Johnriel Casimero to Milan Melindo to Hekkie Budler. And Budler undoubtedly gets credit for the best nickname at 108 pounds: “The Hexecutioner.” Sounds like a six-headed Bernard Hopkins (which would have to qualify as the most talkative mythical creature in history).

Think About It: Remember when Mills Lane had that improbable streak in the ’90s in which he refereed one bizarre fight after another? He had Fan Man, the Oliver McCall meltdown, the Mike Tyson ear bite, the Henry Akinwande hugathon and lastly the fight in which he accidentally shoved Bernard Hopkins out of the ring. Well, Mayol is on a streak almost as bizarre and improbable. The Filipino beltholder has had four fights in a row with controversial endings involving accidental fouls: He had two back-to-back accidental-headbutt-induced technical decisions against Calderon, the knockout of Sosa in which a clash of heads set up the finish, the technical draw against Nino where Mayol got flattened by a punch on the break and the loss against Nino in which he lost two points because of headbutts. We’re predicting Mayol hugs and then bites his crying opponent next time out, then bangs heads with him and ends up with a no-contest.

JUNIOR FLYWEIGHT

Best Puncher
Giovani Segura
Best Boxer
Ivan Calderon
Most Protected
Jose Rodriguez
Most Avoided
Edgar Sosa
Is He Still Around?
Bert Batawang
Matchmaker’s Dream
Ivan Calderon-Giovanni Segura
Deserves A Title Shot
Giovanni Segura
Most Fun To Watch
Giovani Segura
On The Way Up
Johnriel Casimero
On The Way Down
Munetsugu Kayo
Best Fight In 2009
Giovanni Segura KO 4 Cesar Canchila

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