by Cliff Rold
It was easy to get spoiled for a while.
Fans of lighter weight divisions saw Bantamweight come alive in recent years. Fans were seeing a deep pool deeply challenged. The best 118 lb. fighters appearing on Showtime, and the best seen on HBO, never squared off to seal the era.
It didn’t matter.
The Abner Mares-Vic Darchinyan-Yonnhy Perez-Joseph Agbeko round robin played out on one network with the Nonito Donaire show on the other. Life was good. When Panama’s Anselmo Moreno was mixed in later against Darchinyan, life was even better.
The lineal Bantamweight title, vacant since the 1980s, remained so but the depth of fighters and fights made up for the lack of a finishing touch. The action continued up to 122 where we got Mares-Moreno, more Donaire show, and finally Donaire-Guillermo Rigondeuax.
Moreno’s competitive loss to Mares left him with few options after Golden Boy Promotions opted to cut ties. Their business was moving up the scale and Moreno, choosing to return to Bantamweight, is pursuing economic options elsewhere.
His performance against William Urina last weekend showed he hasn’t lost a step. Defeat at the hands of one of the best all-around talents in the game was just that: a lone defeat. Moreno remains one of the true masters of his craft. While some stylists can bore crowds, Moreno avoids that trap. A wicked body puncher who likes it in the pocket and rarely holds, he is a textbook on hit and don’t get hit in return.
Most of the US audience didn’t catch that performance. Most of the US audience has moved on now that the action in Bantamweight that caught their attention has finished. It’s too bad.
Bantamweight is still kicking.
In Japan, a new force has emerged at Bantamweight. Shinsuke Yamanaka won a title in late 2011 and promptly picked up a classy defense against the still tough Darchinyan last April. He’s added three more defenses now, all by knockout. That includes a first round knockout of Jose Nieves on Monday.
Interestingly, his other two stops came in round seven (vs. Tomas Rojas) and round twelve (vs. former Flyweight Champion Malcolm Tunacao). Clearly, the rangy southpaw is dangerous all night long.
So, with a clear top two in the class, a top two that would likely make for a very good fight, it’s all a no brainer, right?
Of course not.
This is boxing and it’s more likely Bantamweight has returned to the status quo most of the divisions lower on the scale settle into. The champions of the classes get paid at home, travel when purse bids demand it for mandatory’s, and have no economic motive for the best fight they can make.
It’s not that the fighters won’t fight the fights. Yamanaka has been quoted saying he’d like to fight Moreno.
It’s often that business and promotional demands mean it’s just not possible.
In a better world, a world where boxing was a structured sport that was built around determining top dogs, it might be different. That’s not always the world we have.
It’s not to say Moreno-Yamanaka will never happen. There have been a few unification fights in Japan over the years.
It’s just that it’s not worth getting hopes up over.
Report Card Picks 2013: 31-17
Bantamweight: Moreno and Yamanaka remain as they were: 1-2. No one else is really close for the moment.
Flyweight: Lineal Champion Akira Yaegashi has his first title defense in the books. That’s all well and good but
The full results of note and the total impact on the ratings are a click away.
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 [email protected]