DON'T look now, but boxing’s little warriors are about to get their share of the spotlight in the United States.
On February 25 (Manila time), cable giant HBO will beam “Super Fly 2” from the Forum in Inglewood, California. The boxing card will feature the hottest super flyweight fighters today, in particular Thai slugger Srisaket Sor Rungvisai who will defend his World Boxing Council (WBC) title against former world champion Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico. Sharing the spotlight with Rungvisai is former super flyweight champ Carlos Cuadras of Mexico, who will take on McWilliams Arroyo of Puerto Rico for the WBC’s Silver Championship (a regional belt).
Two Filipino flyweights (112 lbs.) have been tapped to complete the card. Donnie ‘Ahas’ Nietes will defend his International Boxing Federation (IBF) flyweight crown against Juan Carlos Reveco of Argentina while Brian Viloria will contest the vacant World Boxing Association (WBA) flyweight crown opposite unbeaten Artem Dalakian of Ukraine.
“Super Fly 2” is a follow-up to the mega successful “Super Fly” card held on September 9, 2017 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, which saw Rungvisai knocking out Gonzalez in their rematch to retain the WBC super flyweight crown. Former pound-for-pound king Gonzalez was paid $600,000, a whopping sum for a lower-weight fighter.
The staging of “Super Fly 2” underlines the sudden surge of interest in the lower weight divisions. Believe it or not, the 115-pound division is finally receiving major exposure 38 after it was created.
The super flyweight division, also known as the junior bantamweight class, was created by the WBC in 1980. The idea was to create a bridge between the flyweight (112 lbs.) and bantamweight (118 lbs.) divisions and make it easier for the boxers to handle the move up in weight. The WBC also needed additional source for its sanctioning fees, thus the creation of the super fly class and many other junior divisions.
The first super flyweight champion in history was Venezuelan Rafael Orono, who captured the vacant crown by hammering out a 15-round decision over South Korean Seung Hoon Lee in his native Caracas, Venezuela, in February 1980. Orono made three successful defenses of the crown before getting knocked out in nine rounds by South Korean Kim Chul Ho in January 1981.
In September 1981, the WBA tapped Gustavo Ballas of Argentina and Bae Sok Chul of South Korea to battle for its newly-created 115-pound crown. Ballas bamboozled Bae in eight rounds to become the WBA’s inaugural super flyweight champ.
The IBF and the World Boxing Organization (WBO) crowned their first super flyweight champs in 1983 and 1989, respectively. South Korean Chun Ju Do became the IBF’s first super flyweight champ in December 1983 when he stopped Japan’s Ken Kasugai in five rounds in Osaka, Japan. The WBO’s first super fly champ was Puerto Rican Jose Ruiz, who defeated Sugar Baby Rojas for the vacant crown in April 1989.
In March 1984, Davao City native Diego De Villa became the first Filipino to challenge for the super flyweight crown, but he failed in his bid as he was knocked out in just one round by then IBF champ Chun Ju Do. Another Filipino, William Develos, made an attempt to dethrone Chun but he was also stopped in seven rounds in July 1984.
The Philippines produced its first world super flyweight champion in February 1997, when Gerry Penalosa eked out a split-decision verdict over Japan’s Hiroshi Kawashima for the WBC hardware. Penalosa made three successful defenses before losing to Cho In Joo in August 1998. Penalosa figured in two more bids for the crown but lost close decisions to Masamori Tokuyama in 2001 and 2002.
Believe it or not, while the super flyweight division has been in existence for over three decades, the Philippines has produced only three champions in the division. After Penalosa, other Filipinos who snared the crown were Marvin Sonsona (WBO, 2009) and Jerwin Ancajas (IBF, 2016-present). Ancajas currently reigns as the IBF super flyweight king and has made four successful defenses. Nonito Donaire defeated Rafael Concepcion in August 2009, but it was only for the interim and not the regular version of the WBA crown.
Thailand’s Khaosai Galaxy (47-1, 41 knockouts) is considered by many as the greatest super flyweight champion in history. He won the WBA title in November 1984 and made an incredible 19 defenses over the next seven years, winning 16 by knockout. He retired unbeaten as champion in 1991, shortly after beating Armando Castro by unanimous decision.