Philippines, 30 Nov 2022
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Turning Dough to Bread: How Near or Far are we to Crowning One World Champion Per Division? (First of three parts)

Japan's Naoya Inoue.

Since finally and belatedly realising the confusion and the inanity of having as many as four world champions for each of boxing's now 17 (actually 18 if we include the so called Bridgerweight), authorities have dreamt of crowning just one true universally recognized boxing champion for each.

This has led to tournaments as Super Six which resulted to Andre "SOG" Ward being crowned as undisputed super middleweight king in the 2010s and the World Boxing Super Series that enthroned the likes of Oleksander Usyk and Josh Taylor at cruiserweight and Super lightweight respectively. It should have also crowned one true champion at bantamweight had the WBO not pulled out of the tournament on account of injury to then champion Zolani Tete.

This December, that delayed coronation would happen when unified WBC-WBA-IBF and Ring Magazine lineal world champion Naoya Inoue is expected to add the WBO title of Paul Butler to complete the crown jewel.

As the year winds down, it may be appropriate and timely to review how near or far boxing has been to its dream of one world champion per division.

In this three part series, we will look into the situation (the dough) and assess the potential of attaining the goal of one true champion (the bread ) for each of boxing's universally recognized 17 weight class or division

First Part- Minimumweight to Super Bantamweight

Minimumweight (Maximum limit of 105 lbs)

The Dough: Right now, four boxers are recognized as world champion by the four major sanctioning bodies namely: Panya Pradabsri (WBC) and fellow Thai Thamanon Niyomtrong, better known as Knockout CP Freshmart (WBA), Masataka Taniguchi of Japan (WBO) and Mexican Daniel Valladares (IBF). The Thai duo has completed their title defense obligations this year while Valladares has just won his title from Filipino Rene Cuarto and set to defend against Japan's mercurial Ginjiro Shigeoka. Taniguchi is set to defend his crown against another Filipino Melvin Jerusalem this early January.

Prognosis: Half baked bread only as it appears the Thais would rather preserve the status quo than arrange a unification between Panya and Niyomtrong. They should have made it when the popular Wanheng Menayothin was still champion and not Panya. There's a chance though for at least a two crown unification against the winner of the Valladares-Ginjiro Shigeoka fight and the winner of the Taniguchi-Jerusalem fight but let's not hold our breath for this.

Light Flyweight (Maximum limit of 108 lbs)

The Dough: Japan's smiling tiger Kenshiro Teraji is the unified WBC-WBA and Ring lineal world champion after defeating fellow Japanese Hiroto Kyoguchi recently. South African Sive Notshinga holds the IBF crown while Mexican Elwin Soto is the WBO champion.

Prognosis: Prospect for three title or even full unification is bright as Teraji is desirous and willing to fight the other champions. His immediate prospect is Soto. Notshinga is set for a mandatory defense against the winner of the all Filipino title eliminator between Mark Vicelles and Regie Suganob in the first half of 2023.

Flyweight (Maximum limit of 112 lbs.)

The Dough: Four boxers hold the world titles as recognized by the major sanctioning bodies, namely: Mexico's Julio Cesar Martinez (WBC), Russian Artem Dalakian (WBA), UK's Sunny Edwards (IBF) and Junto Nakatani (WBO). Nakatani though has vacated and moved up to 115 (who will fight for the vacancy is still to be officially announced).

Prognosis: the current world champions seem disinterested in unification save for Edwards and the WBO title has yet to be filled up. But Jessie Bam Rodriguez has announced his intentions to vacate his WBC regular super flyweight title to move down to 112 to unity all belts thereat. It would take two years at least for the dough to settle and the bread to bake fully.

Super Flyweight (Maximum limit of 115 lbs)

The Dough: It is confusing as Mexico's Juan Francisco Estrada is the WBC franchise champion, USA's Bam Rodriguez is the WBC regular champion, Roman Chocolatito Gonzales of Nicaragua is the WBC super titlist, Japan's Kazuto Ioka is the WBO champion, Argentine Fernando Martinez is IBF titleholder and Joshua Franco, Bam's brother, is the WBA regular world champion.

Prognosis: If Bam Rodriguez moves down as he announced, Estrada-Gonzales 3 set this December for the WBC and Ring titles produces a clear victor and Ioka or Franco emerges winner in their own unification, these will help clear up the muddle in the talent laden super flyweight division.

Bantamweight (Maximum limit of 118 lbs.)

The Dough: Japanese Monster Naoya Inoue holds the unified WBC, WBA and IBF titles as well as the Ring Magazine lineal world belt. UK's Paul Butler is the WBO champion, a recognition virtually yanked from Filipino Johnriel Casimero on technicality. Inoue won his titles clearly and decisively from Emmanuel Rodriguez (IBF) and Nonito Donaire (WBA and later WBC). Butler won the WBO title stripped from Casimero by outpointing another Filipino Jonas Sultan.

Prognosis: Full baked bread as barring major upset; Inoue is highly favored to become Japan's first and one of the world's very few undisputed world champion this December. However, Inoue may move up immediately to the super bantamweights and vacate all titles at 118 lbs

Super Bantamweight (Maximum limit of 122lbs.)

The Dough: Uzbekistan's Morudjon Akhmadaliev is the unified WBA-IBF titleholder while American Stephen Fulton holds the unified WBC-WBO belts. Akhmadaliev however is on approved medical leave to heal and recover from fight related injuries and it is not clear and definite when he will be able to make his next mandatory defense versus Filipino Marlon Tapales. Tapales has asked that he fight for the interim belt versus either Luis Nery of Mexico or Reese Aleem of the USA. Fulton on the other hand has been excused from making any defenses as he has been mandated by the WBC to fight for its also soon to be vacated featherweight crown currently held by Mexico's Rey Vargas.

Prognosis: With both Akhmadaliev and Fulton out of the picture at least in the first half of 2023, any prospect of a full unification is out of the discussion for that duration. Fulton will also decide to either stay in the featherweights if he wins or move back down to 122 in case he loses. There are plenty of possible step uppers though as Brandon Figueroa, any of Tapales, Nery and/or Aleem. And yes, Naoya Inoue if he makes good his plans to move up to 122 in 2023.

(To be continued)

The author Teodoro Medina Reynoso is a veteran boxing radio talk show host living in the Philippines. He can be reached at and by phone 09215309477.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Teodoro Medina Reynoso.

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