Talking Boxing

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Flyweights on the fast track

"He's already completed his apprenticeship." Paddy Barnes could be fast tracked to a world title shot.


In British boxing and around the world right now there’s a common theme being exhibited.
Fighters from around the super flyweight division and below are being fast tracked to world titles. Perhaps Naoya Inoue is the best example recently, having won a world title at light flyweight in his sixth pro fight and then winning one at super flyweight in his eighth fight, incredibly enough.

But there’s also Daigo Higa, Muhammad Waseem and Iwan Zoda. Kosei Tanaka won a world title in his fifth pro fight and attempts to go for his second in just his eighth at the end of the year. Zou Shiming’s first title shot came in his seventh pro fight and he just won a world title on Saturday in his tenth outing.

Over in the UK there are Charlie Edwards, Andrew Selby and Paddy Barnes. Edwards recently fought for the IBF world flyweight title in his ninth fight, but was out of his depth against Filipino champion Jonriel Casimero. Selby has six fights now and fought 12 rounds in his fifth fight where he defeated Louis Norman for the British title at flyweight. Barnes debuted on Saturday in Belfast and is expected to be moved very quickly due to his age and amateur pedigree.

The three time Olympian and two time Olympic bronze medallist’s pro debut this past Saturday in Belfast was not under ideal circumstances. The Belfast man’s fiancé has been in hospital due to complications from the birth of their recent daughter. Furthermore, he hasn’t yet hooked up with a trainer to guide his pro career – his long time amateur coach Gerry Storey was working his corner this fight.

Nonetheless the fight for all purposes just served to get the pro debut out of the way for Barnes, winning via disqualification in the fourth round after his Bulgarian opponent Stefan Slavchev lifted him up in the air as if he were about to deliver a pro wrestling finisher. Slavchev being the bigger man, and just trying to survive, made things messy and frustrating for a Barnes who probably wasn’t 100% prepared.

Being 29-years-old, Barnes knows he has to move quickly and that’s what he intends on doing. Sporting a 7-1 record under the World Series of Boxing banner in five rounds fights, as well as his illustrious, accomplished amateur career and his aggressive style to boot, he’s far above fighting the level of opposition that most prospects do. As Barry Jones said on the BoxNation broadcast, "he’s already completed his apprenticeship".

Selby on the other hand is a bit younger and turns 28 in December. Like Edwards, the Welshman went 12 rounds in his fifth fight to win the British flyweight title. On November 18 he’ll be fighting Jake Bornea of the Phillipines for a minor IBF belt, with the purpose of moving up the rankings. Selby’s team have reiterated that they’re going to have to force people to fight them, so the mandatory route is a safe bet.

Having had six fights as a pro so far, Selby’s shown that he’s a high level fighter ready for bigger things in the flyweight division. For now he’s working his way up the ladder. Selby has a 9-1 record in the WSB, medalled twice at the World Championships and twice won gold at the European Championships, so it’s no surprise that he’s been ready for a high level this early in his pro career.

Edwards is different from Barnes and Selby in that he’s much younger at only 23-years-old. He wasn’t as accomplished as an amateur, not having fought in the Olympics or WSB. The difference in seasoning is apparent. His world title shot was a case of Eddie Hearn needing to fill up a PPV card more than anything.

Ideally Edwards wouldn’t have been rushed into a world title shot so fast, but he’s young enough to come back from the crushing defeat against the much more experienced Casimero. Some fighters are just ready at very young ages, much more so than others. Even Zou Shiming in his thirties was able to come back from his loss to Amnat Ruenroeng with a gift wrapped title shot against a man he’d already won every round against on a previous occasion.

The reason fighters can be rushed at the lower weights isn’t due to the lack of quality fighters but moreso due to the lack of fighters period. There just aren’t as many active fighters as there are in heavier divisions, starting at bantamweight. While a young fighter like Edwards may not have been ready, the likes of Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka were. The older ones with accomplished amateur careers like Waseem, Selby and Barnes appear to be on their way.

Follow Rian Scalia on Twitter @rian5ca





November 8, 2016