The 122lbs division is absolutely on fire at the moment.
On February 27th British fight fans get a long awaited treat with Scott Quigg (31-0-2, 23) facing off against Carl Frampton (21-0, 14) in an IBF-WBA Super Bantamweight world title unification bout.
The contest will be the biggest in the Super Bantamweight division since the April 2013 contest between Guillermo Rigondeaux and Nonito Donaire, when they fought to unify the WBA and WBO titles.
The winner of the Quigg-Frampton bout will have a major target on their back and will almost certainly have to vacate one of their titles with the WBA and IBF both having mandatory title fights due, and both ordering the winner of the bout to face their mandatory.
For the WBA, the mandatory is well known and is former champion Guillermo Rigondeaux (16-0, 10). The Cuban slickster is widely viewed as one of the sport’s most avoided men and despite being 35, ancient for a Super Bantamweight, he’s still viewed as one of the most talented fighters on the planet.
Although incredibly skilled Rigondeaux is a promoter’s nightmare having suffered frustration in landing fights for large portions of his career and (at times) having a terrible mentality in the ring.
Although highly skilled, we all know his bouts often end up being tiresome and often preclude any actual excitement. He’s a fighter who shuts down the opponents offense perfectly but often forgets that to get big fights fans have to want to see him.
In his last fight the Cuban put on one of the most timid and exasperating performances in recent memory, putting on a 10 round sleeper with the limited Drian Francisco.
He’ll try to erase those memories on March 12th when he fights in Liverpool, against James Dickens (21-1, 6) but could well find that a poor performance could see him forced to sit in the proverbial cold.
The IBF mandatory is much less well known, especially in the West, but poses many of the same problems that Rigondeaux does, in being high risk and low reward.
That man is Japan’s Shingo Wake (19-4-2, 11), who earned the IBF mandatory position last June when he beat Thailand’s Mike Tawatchai with a wide decision.
That win was Wake’s 9th successive victory since turned his career around, following a 10-4-2 (5) start to his professional life.
Like Rigondeaux, Wake is a tricky southpaw and although less defensively masterful than the Cuban. the Japanese native is another nightmare to fight and combines slipperiness with a long reach, a very sharp jab, good movement and under-rated power.
Looking through his record you might not recognise many, if any, ‘names’, but his current 9 fight winning run has seen him beating very capable fighters from through out Asia like Jonathan Baat, Yukinori Oguni, Jaesung Lee and Tawatchai.
Those wins have seen him claim the Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation (OPBF) title and make 5 defenses of the belt.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, Wake looks to record his 20th win as he takes on another regional opponent, Indonesian national champion Waldo Sabu (7-2, 2).
Like Rigondeaux, he’ll see this as a potential chance to warm up for the winner of the Quigg-Frampton bout. It may not have the effect of Rigondeaux fighting in the UK but it will keep the contender busy and the juices flowing.
If Wake wins, as expected, against Sabu he will likely keep a close eye on the happenings of the Quigg-Frampton bout, as well as the Rigondeaux bout, whilst knowing that one way or another he will be getting a shot at the IBF title.
Whether that’s against the winner, or for a vacant belt , is yet to be seen but his team have made it clear that they have waited long enough and will wait no longer.
Whilst the winner of Quigg-Frampton does have a choice between the two mandatory challengers it is clear that neither will step aside and the titles will be split almost immediately.
It’s a shame, but it’s what happens when a division has a lot of fighters vying for their a title shot, and when their patience at the sport has begin to wane.
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