By Cliff Rold
For Flyweight followers in general, and surely for enthusiastic fans in Japan and Mexico, this has been a date circled on the calendar for a few months. Match two battle proven men at the championship level, with a title on the line, and the possibility of something spectacular is always there.
Flyweight Friday is almost here.
For the challenger, the possibilities might expand beyond the ring. Former WBC 108 lb. titlist Edgar Sosa has quietly had an outstanding career. Turned pro in April 2000, Sosa was a mediocre 12-5 through September of 2003 (four of those losses coming to future major beltholders, three by majority or split decision). In the decade since, he’s been better.
37-2 since, his only losses have come competitively on points to a likely future Hall of Fame entrant (Pongsaklek Wonjongkam) and controversially via stoppage to Rodel Mayol. In the latter, a nasty clash of heads left Sosa disoriented and with a broken jaw. Mayol stopped him shortly after.
Offsetting those losses, Sosa has defeated a slew of current and former titlists and posted ten title defenses in his Jr. Flyweight reign. Win this weekend, and he could cap the finest year of his career. Already in 2013, Sosa has avenged his first (and fifth) career loss to former 108 lb. titlist Ulises Solis, blitzing the Mexican veteran in three. He also posted an exciting decision over former lineal World Jr. Flyweight Champion Giovani Segura.
Segura has since gone on to win one of the best fights of the year against former Flyweight titlist Tyson Marquez to outline the quality of Sosa’s victory.
Sosa moves on to this weekend. He has a chance to win the lineal Flyweight crown. Do so and he cements his case for Fighter of the Year honors. In a year where lots of men have had stellar years (in particular Light Heavyweight Champion Adonis Stevenson, Jr. Featherweight Champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, and Welterweight and Jr. Middleweight Champion Floyd Mayweather), Sosa would be the easiest case to overlook in a western media that often overlooks Flyweights.
It shouldn’t be the case. A fighter with three world-class wins, capped by a late career victory for history’s crown at 112 lbs., shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone.
That’s one side of the equation. Yaegashi won’t give a damn about what kind of year Sosa is having. The Japanese warrior will have no intentions of letting his title go.
Yaegashi will be most familiar outside his native land for two notable fights that garnered significant attention via the joy of YouTube. In the 2011 Fight of the Year (according to this site and ESPN, and correctly at that), and arguably the greatest fight ever witnessed at Strawweight, Yaegashi won his first title with a stoppage of rugged Thai titlist Pornsawan Porpramook. In his very next fight, an attempt at unification in the division, Yaegashi battled through a badly damaged eye in a narrow decision loss against ingénue Kazuto Ioka.
3-0 since the Ioka loss, Yaegashi moved up two classes to win the Flyweight title in fight that was sometimes mugging but never really out of his control. Yaegashi has made one defense since to set the table for this clash. Win and Yaegashi may be looking at a well paying rematch with Ioka (presently a titlist at 108 lbs.) among other options in the ridiculously deep minefield that is today’s Flyweight class.
In a year full of great matches at 112 lbs., a year where Flyweight emerged as one of the best 2-3 divisions in the game, this one could provide a Fight and Fighter of the Year contender before it’s over. That’s a hell of a way to start the weekend.
Let’s go the report cards.
Title: Lineal World/TBRB/Ring/WBC Flyweight (2013-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: WBA Minimumweight (2011-12)
Height: 5’3 ½
Weight: 111 ½ lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 108.8 lbs.
Hails from: Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
Record: 18-3, 9 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 3-2, 1 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 4 (Eagle Kyowa L12; Pornsawan Porpramook TKO10; Kazuto Ioka L12; Toshiyuki Igarashi UD12)
Previous Titles: WBC Light Flyweight (2007-09, 10 Defenses)
Height: 5’3 ½
Weight: 112 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 112.4 lbs.
Hails from: Mexico City, Mexico
Record: 49-7, 29 KO, 2 KOBY
Rankings: #2 (BoxingScene) #3 (TBRB, ESPN), #4 (Ring), #5 (BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 11-2, 7 KO, 1 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 13 (Ulises Solis L6, L12, KO2; Omar Nino L10; Isaac Bustos L12; Gilberto Keb Baas UD12; Noel Arambulet Tech. Dec. 10; Brian Viloria MD12; Luis Lazarte DQ10; Roberto Leyva TKO4, KO2; Sonny Boy Jaro UD12; Pornsawan Porpramook TKO4; Rodel Mayol TKO by 2; Pongsaklek Wonjongkam L12; Giovani Segura UD12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Yaegashi A-; Sosa B
Pre-Fight: Power – Yaegashi B-; Sosa B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Yaegashi B-; Sosa B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Yaegashi A; Sosa A
The biggest edge Sosa may have in this fight is experience. While both have it at the top level, Sosa has much more. He’s been facing notable talents throughout the lowest classes since the professional crib and been forged because of it. Yaegashi was also matched tough early, losing his seventh pro fight in a too-soon title 105 lb. challenge of Kyowa, but was more deliberately matched in his further development.
It’s paid off and he’s stayed fresher than he might have with a Sosa-esque activity level. Yaegashi makes a third start in a single calendar year for the first time since 2009 and had solid layoffs after the wars with Porpramook and Ioka. Sosa certainly has more miles.
Just as certain, Sosa has less speed. Yaegashi has exceptionally quick hands. While there have been wars to excite, he’s shown the ability to move and box. He’s not a defensive genius or anything, but he also has good head movement and can resist engagement. He’s likely to get off first on Sosa.
Where Sosa can answer that is in what he fires back and when. Sosa is a schooled combination puncher with good timing. He paces himself well and knows how to build a win over the course of rounds. He’s more consistent to the body and if he can get downstairs when Yaegashi comes forward, he can erode his man. Where he will be vulnerable is to Yaegashi’s counter left (hook and short uppercut) and the slinging right he brings behind the jab and as a lead.
While those punches are quick, Yaegashi’s punch selection could work to Sosa’s benefit. Sosa has more offensive looks than Yaegashi, and varies his attacks more than the champion whose attacks can be predictable. All of that depends on Sosa being able to land enough to slow Yaegashi down. Yaegashi has never been stopped. That doesn’t mean he can’t be but Sosa’s best route to victory is over the distance.
Can he win enough rounds? To do so, he’ll need to draw Yaegashi into range and keep him there. This has the makings of a war but of the thinking man’s sort. If Yaegashi uses his speed to pick spots, Sosa could be playing catch up for a lot of the night.
Sosa winning would be wonderful topper to a commendable career. However, as good as his year has been to date, this fight is a much different challenge than his last two. As good as the wins over Solis and Segura were, they also might have been better style, or at least athletic, matches for him. Sosa had men coming towards him, neither of whom was very fast, and made it work.
Where Sosa has struggled sometimes is with quicker men. Wonjongkam, in what turned out to be his last top performance, used superior speed to outbox Sosa. Even without the headbutt, Mayol’s quick hands were giving Sosa fits. Sosa overcame the speed of Brian Viloria for what remains a career best victory, but that relied in part on Viloria’s inconsistent offensive output.
Yaegashi is going to move his hands and he doesn’t fight for knockouts nor does he score them regularly. Sosa has a proven chin and so Yaegashi will know coming in he’s looking at a long night. If he forces Sosa to lead, he has the fight in a place he can control. Being younger, quicker, and fresher has its advantages. So does the luxury of fighting at home (the fight is in Tokyo).
Sosa can win a decision there and foreigners in general typically get a fair shake (relative to boxing) in Japan. But if the rounds are close, and many might be, it’s likely to favor the champion.
This could be one of Sosa’s last big chances and so expect him to bring everything he’s got. The pick here is to expect his best to fall short with Yaegashi picking up a tough, earned verdict on points in an exciting affair.
Report Card Picks 2013: 56-25
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org