Analysis: the flyweight division

In part 15 of our weekly series, Paul Wheeler analyses the
fighters who make up the current top 10 in the flyweight division

10. Maximino Flores (MEX)
25-4-2 (17) 2NC Age: 29 Height: 5ft 7ins
PRIOR to his clash with Carlo Caesar Penalosa in the Philippines in August last year, Flores had only fought outside of his native Mexico on two occasions. Both of these outings had resulted in decision defeats – first to Milan Melindo in the Philippines, then to Andrew Selby in the UK. Despite his previous poor form on the road, Flores was able to overcome Penalosa on a technical verdict after seven rounds to pick up the lightly regarded IBO strap.

STRENGTHS: A pro for over a decade, the aggressive Flores puts his head down and charges forward, looking to smother his opponents with incessant two-fisted assaults.

WEAKNESSES: With his front-foot approach, he can leave himself open to counters at times, while his attacks can also be rather wild.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Going into their bout, Angel Francisco Ramos was unbeaten in 17 contests, but Flores forced him out inside the course.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Suffering an opening-round reverse to Mario Lara Rivera – who had won one fight out of 11 – was a considerable setback.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: His hailstorm of punches that accounted for Ariel Guzman.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? His inconsistency is likely to hold him back.

9. Jay Harris (WAL)
: 17-1 (9) Age: 29 Height: 5ft 5ins
COACHED by his father, former British featherweight champion Peter Harris, this unassuming Welshman collected Commonwealth and European belts en route to securing a WBC title tilt against Julio Cesar Martinez in February. In his first appearance away from the UK, he left it all in the ring in Texas. Martinez retained his crown unanimously on the cards, but he was well aware that he had been in a fight, as Harris battled valiantly until the end.

STRENGTHS: With his quick and busy fists, the classy Swansea man delivers sharp and snappy combinations. His honey punch is the left hook to the body.

WEAKNESSES: He can sometimes stifle his own work by getting in too close, rather than maintaining a slight distance.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Knocking out ex-amateur standout Paddy Barnes on the Belfast boxer’s home turf.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Journeyman Brett Fidoe pipped him to one session and shared two in their six-rounder.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: The clinical and ruthless manner in which he dispatched Barnes.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? He will have gained invaluable experience from his ultimately unsuccessful shot at Martinez. Winning a world championship should still be his goal.

Jay Harris flyweight
Ed Mulholland/Matchroom

8. Giemel Magramo (PHL)
24-1 (20) Age: 25 Height: 5ft 4ins
EMANATING from a fighting Filipino family, Magramo has been victorious in his past seven bouts – all inside schedule – following his sole defeat at the hands of Muhammad Waseem in South Korea. In January last year, he travelled to China and wrecked the perfect record of local favourite Wenfeng Ge. Nicknamed “Pistolero” (Gunslinger), his fine form has seen him move into the number-one spot in the WBO’s list of leading contenders.

STRENGTHS: Out of all of the fighters in the top 10, the heavy-handed Magramo boasts the highest knockout ratio. His strikes to the midsection are particularly punishing.

WEAKNESSES: As he possesses considerable power, he is happy to stay in the pocket and exchange punches. Due to this, he often has to swallow a few shots.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Registering a late retirement win over Ge on unfamiliar and hostile territory.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Being outpointed by Waseem, who had been a successful amateur but was inexperienced as a pro.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: His rib-crunching stoppage of Petchchorhae Kokietgym.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? He has the chance to become a world champion in August when he takes on Junto Nakatani for the vacant WBO title.

7. Vincent Legrand (FRA)
31-0 (17) Age: 29 Height: 5ft 8 1/2ins
THE owner of a glittery unbeaten record, Legrand has twice claimed the European belt. He first gained the title by unanimously outscoring former EBU champ Valery Yanchy, before notching the same result against the overmatched Juan Hinostroza. Since defeating Hinostroza in April 2018, the Frenchman – who made his professional debut back in 2009 – has been strangely treading water in low-key six-rounders in his home country.

STRENGTHS: The tallest fighter on this list, Legrand uses his long levers to consistently thrust out southpaw jabs and one-twos.

WEAKNESSES: He has failed to build any momentum since becoming a European titlist for a second time. His recent opponents have been uninspiring.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Halting ex-two-time EBU boss Andrea Sarritzu on foreign ground in Italy.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Thomas Barbier had lost eight out of 10 contests going into his rematch with Legrand, yet there was not much separating them on the scorecards.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: The lovely left cross that deposited Sarritzu onto his backside.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? His future more than likely lies outside of the flyweight division. Expect to see him settle at either super-flyweight or bantamweight.

6. Cristofer Rosales (NIC)
29-5 (20) Age: 25 Height: 5ft 6ins
ROSALES gave a decent account of himself when being outpointed by Kal Yafai and Andrew Selby on visits to the UK. The Nicaraguan demonstrated his improvement by upsetting Daigo Higa in Japan to become WBC king. He surrendered his crown to Charlie Edwards in his second defence in the UK, before being stopped in nine rounds by Julio Cesar Martinez when gallantly attempting to regain the title in Arizona in December last year.

STRENGTHS: Seasoned, tough, tireless and tenacious, he comes forward with looping hooks, jolting uppercuts and hurtful left-rights.

WEAKNESSES: When up against accomplished adversaries with fast hands, he can be beaten to the punch.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Higa was 15-0 (15) prior to his bout with Rosales, but the fearsome Japanese was halted in nine.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Being deservedly defeated on points by Edwards.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: The debilitating right uppercut that he drove into Paddy Barnes’ solar plexus in Belfast, leaving the Northern Irishman writhing in agony.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? He is young enough to make another run at a world championship, though his recent sequence of two losses in three fights is a worry.

Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

5. Moruti Mthalane (RSA)
Record: 39-2 (26) Age: 38 Height: 5ft 3 1/2ins
A 20-YEAR pro, Mthalane has competed in seven countries and has not lost since 2008, when he was ruled out against Nonito Donaire due to a cut. He is currently in his second reign as IBF ruler. Among those he has vanquished in world title fights include Zolani Tete, John Riel Casimero and Muhammad Waseem. At the end of last year, he retained via ninth-round stoppage against Akira Yaegashi in what was his fourth straight away victory.

STRENGTHS: The experienced South African leads with a precise jab behind a tight, high guard. His spiteful combinations include shooting rights to head and body.

WEAKNESSES: Nearing 40, he is the oldest boxer in the top 10 by some distance.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Mthalane is the only man to have stopped Casimero, who has won world honours in three weight classes.

WORST PERFORMANCE: In his early years as a professional, he surprisingly succumbed to Nkqubela Gwazela inside time.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: His gruelling, action-packed battle with decorated warrior Yaegashi.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? Despite his advancing age, he remains a force to be reckoned with, though he is undoubtedly in the twilight of his career.

Moruti Mthalane flyweight

4. Artem Dalakian (UKR)
20-0 (14) Age: 32 Height: 5ft 4 1/2ins
AN Azerbaijan-born Ukrainian of Armenian descent, Dalakian clinched the WBA title by unanimously outpointing former two-weight world titlist Brian Viloria in the USA in early 2018. He has posted four successful defences of his belt – each time at the Parkovy Convention Centre in Kiev. Yodmongkol CP Freshmart, Gregorio Lebron, Wut Pitakparmuangkem and Josber Perez were all unable to dethrone the Eastern European.

STRENGTHS: Dalakian exhibits impressive movement and intelligent punch-picking. His accurate counters carry significant weight.

WEAKNESSES: He has admitted himself that he needs to string his punches together more frequently, rather than relying on single shots.

BEST PERFORMANCE: The breakthrough win over Viloria that put his name on the map.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Sergey Tasimov has 22 KO/stoppage defeats on his ledger, but he lasted until the final bell against Dalakian, who was having only his second pro contest.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: The barrage of blows that left Luis Manuel Macias in a heap.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? He has established himself as a solid champion who would fancy his chances against anyone in the division, especially fighting in his Kiev stronghold.

Artem Dalakian flyweight
Hennadii Minchenko/Barcroft Media/Getty Images

3. Kosei Tanaka (JPN)
15-0 (9) Age: 25 Height: 5ft 4 1/2ins
IT took Tanaka just a dozen bouts to become a three-weight world champion – a record for a male fighter which he shares with Vasyl Lomachenko. During his spells as a WBO belt-holder at strawweight, light-flyweight and flyweight, he has triumphed against the likes of Vic Saludar, Moises Fuentes, Angel Acosta, Sho Kimura and Ryoichi Taguchi, all of whom have been world titlists. He has never fought a rival with more losses than wins on their CV.

STRENGTHS: A skilled aggressor who strikes with speed and spite, Tanaka displays a good use of angles when landing swift jabs and vicious body raids.

WEAKNESSES: Saludar showed that the attack-minded Japanese can be caught with counter right hands over the top of his jab.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Acosta had won all 16 of his previous contests inside the distance, but Tanaka outscored him in style.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Although he eventually knocked Saludar out, he suffered a knockdown himself and was behind on all three cards.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: His all-action, toe-to-toe tussle with Kimura.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? The super-flyweight division is his next port of call, which is the reason why he has vacated his WBO 112lb title.


2. Julio Cesar Martinez (MEX)
16-1 (12) 1NC Age: 25 Height: 5ft 2ins
POCKET rocket Martinez thought he had won the WBC belt via KO against Charlie Edwards in August last year, but the outcome was quickly changed to a No Contest when it became evident that Edwards had been illegally hit with a punch while he was down on one knee. Four months later, the Mexican actually did win the title by stopping Cristofer Rosales. Two months after this, he kept hold of the strap by unanimously outpointing Jay Harris.

STRENGTHS: An exciting and pugnacious puncher who is full of energy, Martinez unleashes lashing left hooks and fierce bombardments downstairs.

WEAKNESSES: The shortest man on the list, he is so intent on attacking that he often neglects his defensive duties.

BEST PERFORMANCE: He became the first fighter to beat Andrew Selby when knocking out the slick switch-hitter.

WORST PERFORMANCE: His pro career got off to a bad start when he was bested on points by the unheralded Joaquin Cruz. This defeat was later avenged.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: The poisonous left hook to the liver that did the damage against Selby.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? He can go on to truly cement himself as the star of the division.

Jay Harris flyweight
Ed Mulholland/Matchroom

1. Charlie Edwards (ENG)
Record: 15-1 (6) 1NC Age: 27 Height: 5ft 6ins
IN 2016, Edwards challenged for the IBF title in only his ninth pro fight, but was halted by a quality champion in John Riel Casimero. He dusted himself off and rebuilt to earn another crack at world honours just over two years later. A unanimous points victory saw him wrest the WBC belt from Cristofer Rosales’ grasp. In his second defence of the crown in August last year, he took on Julio Cesar Martinez, with the bout ending in a No Contest.

STRENGTHS: Boasting a strong amateur pedigree, the skilful and speedy Englishman utilises clever footwork to get into range for pace-dictating jabs and varied combos.

WEAKNESSES: He has the lowest knockout percentage out of everyone in the top 10.

BEST PERFORMANCE: With his educated movement and sound fundamentals, the Epsom boxer had too much for Rosales.

WORST PERFORMANCE: He was too green when he came up against Casimero, who took full advantage of his foe’s inexperience.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: The emphatic overhand right that led to a conclusive stoppage of Anthony Nelson.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? After vacating his WBC flyweight championship, he is aiming to make his mark up at super-fly.

Charlie Edwards flyweight

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