Will Khalid Yafai Expand the Picture at 115?


By Cliff Rold

In a weekend chock full of fighting on the US airwaves, one of the more interesting bouts on tap didn’t make the cut.

Quality young heavyweights?


Jr. welterweight champion in front of a raucous hometown crowd?


A rock solid doubleheader on Showtime?


We’ve even got Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for those who still care. Fans who want their fill of the sweet science will get plenty on their plate. That doesn’t mean US fans won’t be missing a little bit. On the undercard of Anthony Joshua-Eric Molina, a 115 lb. title fight could be a show stealer.

It could also be a table setter for 2017.

Panama’s Luis Concepcion (35-4, 24 KO) has had one heck of a career save. In April 2015, he lost a respectable but wide decision to Carlos Cuadras. It appeared his chance near the top of any division might be past him. He’s since won three in a row, stopping a streaking David Sanchez, avenging two losses to Tyson Marquez, and upsetting Kohei Kono in Japan to win the WBA belt.

No one would confuse Concepcion with being the best in his division. Fellow titlists Roman Gonzalez (46-0, 38 KO, WBC) and Naoya Inoue (11-0, 9 KO, WBO) strongly preclude that. Cuadras (35-1-1, 27 KO), even after losing to Gonzalez, would still rate ahead of him as well. So too would the man Cuadras beat to win a title, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (41-4-1, 38 KO). The Thai puncher has won fourteen in a row, thirteen by knockout.

It’s still a nice rebound story.

Belts might not make one the best in their class but they certainly pay better. Concepcion is in the position to cash in on that belt if one of the titans goes looking for a unification bout they see as winnable or if former flyweight titlist Juan Francisco Estrada (34-2, 24 KO) decides he wants to try to win a belt before hunting bigger names.

They might not be fights he would be expected to win but losing for more money has its benefits. Concepcion might not ever get the chance at those bigger names, at least with a belt in tow.

The team of Khalid Yafai (20-0, 14 KO) made the right offer first. He’s got a real chance to win. The former UK Olympian is making a big jump in terms of opposition quality here. He’s certainly never seen anyone with the pop Concepcion carries in his gloves.

He’s a solid favorite to overcome those problems.


If he does, Yafai will arrive as a Jr. bantamweight titlist at one of the best times he could. Sometimes divisions have depth. Sometimes they have star power that matters at the box office. Both things don’t always happen at the same time.

Box office is relative of course. Even in the pockets of the world that are most enthusiastic about divisions below featherweight, there aren’t multi-millions to be made. There is just more in the pot now than is often the case. Estrada is a significant ratings draw in Mexico. Inoue is likely to come out of Japan and start building his name abroad next year.

Most important to the class, Gonzalez has become one of the HBO guys. His television ratings and ticket sales aren’t mind blowing compared across the scale, but they are significant for a 115 lb. fighter in the US.

Hardcore boxing fans are already excited about the possibilities emerging at 115. Yafai would add another stick of dynamite to the mix. If he defeats Concepcion, three of the four major titlists in the class would be undefeated. The fourth, Filipino Jerwin Ancajas (25-1-1, 16 KO, IBF), has lost only once. Ancajas was impressive in unseating, and outclassing, former Olympian McJoe Arroyo for the title earlier this year.

This is a pool of fighters worth getting excited about. They’ve already produced one classic battle this year (Gonzalez-Cuadras) and the possibility of a round robin could mean more where that came from.

Concepcion is an elder statesman in this crew.

Concepcion is only 31.

Everyone else mentioned, including the 27-year old Yafai, is under 30 years of age. It’s not just depth. We’re looking at depth in its prime.

If Concepcion wins this weekend, it keeps a nice story going. It also sets a ceiling on the depth of the class. A Yafai win expands it, even if only by one. If he impresses in winning, that expansion adds fuel to a fiery class. That he competes in the red hot UK market could add an additional dollar dimension too.

It’s one more guy that people might want to see mixed in with a must-see crew. It’s too bad US audiences won’t see this one easily this weekend, but in the age of YouTube that just means a delay. Regardless, there is still the chance that we will get something we want to see in 2017 out of Concepcion-Yafai.  

Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at [email protected]

User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by Sparked_26 on 12-09-2016

Joshua fight aside which on paper doesn't look like much but you never know maybe Molina bombs him out in an user it happens all the time with the big boys, but there are some cracking fights on the card…

Comment by BrometheusBob. on 12-09-2016

Idk, I remember being excited when fellow Yemeni Sadam Ali looked to be en route to contender status until he got stopped by a guy with like 10 KOs.\ I'll believe the hype when he proves it.

Comment by dan_cov on 12-09-2016

Been following this kid since his debut I believe he's got the goods.

Comment by 1hourRun on 12-09-2016

Yafai has one of the best left hooks to the liver in the sport in order to land that money shot hes going to gamble getting countered with Concepcions vicious uppercut...interesting scenario. Right now Yafai is -260 on the line,…

Post a Comment - View More User Comments (4)
Top Headlines Curtis Stevens Heading To 154: Eyes Hurd, Lara, Harrison, Munguia Pulev vs. Helenius Clash Still Be Worked Out For Crawford-Khan Broner: I'll Be Back; All You Motherf***ers Will Still Tune In! Manny Pacquiao vs. Adrien Broner: CompuBox By The Numbers Gvozdyk To Take Voluntary Before Mandatory Versus Browne Pacquiao To Have Scratched Cornea Re-Examined Monday In L.A. Andrade: I Want Golovkin Next, To Prove I'm #1 at Middleweight Hearn: Don't Be Surprised if Joshua is on DAZN in the US in June Broner: Ain’t Got Mark On Me; They Thought They’d F*** Me Up Pacquiao: I Was Surprised Broner Didn't Throw Lot Of Punches Manny Pacquiao-Adrien Broner: Afterthoughts Broner Falls Very Short on Promised 'New Beginning' For Career Luis Coria Win Big in First Garcia Brothers Promoted Card Badou Jack Gets Stitched Up, Has No Excuses Over Loss Manny Pacquiao Says Injury To His Left Eye is Not Serious Manny Pacquiao Dishes Out Adrien Broner's Comeuppance Pacquiao's LA Home is Burglarized a Day After Broner Win Claressa Shields: Anybody Who Thinks Broner Won is Crazy! Video: Shawn Porter Reacts To Pacquiao Defeating Broner Video: Buboy Reacts To Pacquiao Defeating Adrien Broner Video: Mayweather Sr. Throws Shade at Adrien Broner For Loss Pacquiao: We Can't Blame Broner For Thinking He Won Fight Former Champ Gamache Assaulted on Street By Mystery Man Video: Roy Jones Jr. Reacts To Pacquiao Defeating Broner Video: Devin Haney Reacts To Pacquiao Defeating Broner Video: Daniel Jacobs Discusses Canelo Alvarez Fight WBO To Review Saunders Suspension, Could Be in Line For Andrade Video: Adrien Broner Explains Why He Beat Manny Pacquiao Video: Mikey Garcia Reacts To Pacquio's Win Over Broner Video: Pacquiao Reacts To Win Over Broner, Wanting Mayweather Gervonta Davis Embraces Challenge of Fight in Mares' Backyard Ellerbe: Mayweather’s Retired; 'No Interest' In Pacquiao Rematch Wilder-Fury Rematch Could Land on April 27 or May, Says Warren Kell Book Looks at Jeff Horn, Jessie Vargas, Smith as Options Marcus Browne Dares Teddy Atlas: Bring Me Oleksandr Gvozdyk! Pacquiao Open To Rematch, Mayweather Remains Noncommital Photos: Manny Pacquiao Dominates Broner - MONSTER Gallery Photos: Marcus Browne Decisions a Bloody Badou Jack Photos: Nordine Oubaali Beats Rau'shee Warren, Wins WBC Belt Manny Pacquiao vs. Adrien Broner - CompuBox Punch Stats

Latest Active Forum Threads