With the official announcement of four world champion bantamweights joining the World Boxing Super Series for the second season I take a look at the other possible participants.
The 118lb division is blessed with four very special fighters and the WBSS organisers have managed to pull off an absolute blinder as us Londoners like to say.
Northern Irishman Ryan Burnett (19-0, 9KOs) is the WBA ‘super’ champion and Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (16-0, 14KOs) picked up the second version of that strap when he stopped Jamie McDonnell on Friday night. Both fighters have signed up to compete in the 8-man tournament which also includes Puerto Rican IBF holder Emmanuel Rodriguez (18-0 12KOs) and South African WBO champ Zolani Tete (27-3, 21KOs).
Together they have a combined record of 80 wins and 3 defeats with 56 knockouts plus they hold three out of the five major world titles.
The other title holders
The first names that spring to mind when assessing who may join the fantastic four is Frenchman Nordine Oubaali (14-0, 11KOs) and Thailand’s Tassana Sanpattan (46-0, 31KOs) who fight for the vacant WBC strap on June 23.
Sanpattren may look dangerous on paper but he has a more padded record than Deontay Wilder. Ideally the winner should be entering the tourney and I’m tipping Oubaali over the Taiwanese fighter to pick up the vacant title and join the series.
The fifth and final version is the IBO world title that is held by Michael Dasmarinas (28-2, 19KOs) of the Philippines. The 25-year-old defeated Karim Guerfi in April to capture the belt. He is scheduled to fight in September against an unannounced opponent which could be an indication that he wants to throw his hat into the mix with the WBSS due to start in September.
Two fighters that have already expressed their desire to enter are Filipino Mark John Yap (29-12, 14KOs) and undefeated Ozzy Jason Moloney (17-0, 14KOs).
Yap is a 29-year-old that calls himself ‘The Journeyman’ and hasn’t been beaten since 2014. His career looked to be sizzling out three years ago with a record of (19-12) but has since turned a corner. He is undefeated in 10 and has placed himself high in the ranking with the WBC and IBF.
Following the Filipino’s last victory in Tokyo, Japan he said: “I deserve a slot in the tournament, this is my chance to become a world champion”
Jason Moloney produced an impressive performance against Kohei Kono in his last outing when he stopped the Japanese veteran in the sixth round. The only other fighter to have stopped Kono in his 46 bouts was Inoue.
Team Moloney which is spearheaded by the colourful character of Tony Tolj have been vocal about wanting to participate in the WBSS. After the win against Kono the 27-year-old said: “I believe I’m the best bantamweight in the world and these are the types of fights I need to prove it.”
Return of the former King
Another possibility is the third Filipino on this list and that is Nonito Donaire (38-5, 24KOs) who was recently beaten by Carl Frampton at featherweight.
At the ripe age of 35, Donaire is not ready to retire and is discussing the possibility of dropping back down a couple of weight classes although it will be the veterans body that will have the final say. The last thing we all want to see is Donaire looking severely weight drained and getting dusted by one of the young stars.
The former world champion in four weight classes may feel the chance of another shot at retaining the No.1 status he once had in the bantamweight division to good to turn down.
Promoter of ‘The Filipino Flash’ Richard Schaefer said in a recent interview: “One thing that seems to be very clear, he doesn’t really belong at 126lbs, he just doesn’t have the power to hurt at 126lbs, like he does at 122 and particularly 118. We actually are discussing for Nonito potentially going back down to 118 and maybe give it another run there and see where it goes.”
Of course there are other highly ranked fighters that could find themselves offered the chance to compete against the fantastic four.
Injuries have delayed another young Japanese fighter in Takuma Inoue (11-0, 3KOs). The 22-year-old my decide to wait a bit longer before jumping into the deep end.
Undefeated South African Mzuvukile Magwaca (20-0-3, 11KOs) is another option or Juan Carlos Payano (20-1, 9KOs) of the Dominican Republic. The 34-year-old was the WBA ‘super’ and IBO champion in 2016 when defeated Rau’shee Warren (16-2, 4KOs). The American then won the rematch before losing to Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-2, 18KOs) of the Kazakhstan in his first defence last year. All four could potentially be offered the chance to enter the WBSS.
If I were Comosa AG then my first point of call would be to secure the signature of the WBC and IBO world champions. To have all belt holders in the competition would be a huge achievement with the potential winner becoming an undisputed world champion as well as lifting the Muhammed Ali trophy.
With two slots remaining I would see how realistic it would be for Donaire to compete at the 118lb weight limit. If at all possible he would be an absolute must. Next in line would be Moloney or Yap with Warren and ‘Double Z’ my alternative options.
In an ideal world the best eight in my opinion would be Inoue (WBA), Tete (WBO), Burnett (WBA ‘super’), Rodriguez (IBF), Oubaali/Sanpatten (WBC), Dasmarinas (IBO), Donaire and Moloney.