In November we counted down a number of honourable mentions for our 20 for 20. Now it's time to look at the 20 fighters who have managed to make it into the list properly, and they come from all over Asia and all over the weight classes. Some of these you may already be aware of, some are perhaps less well known, but either way these 20 men are going to be well worth following in the new year as they look to push forward in their career and move towards major success.
For these fighters we will look at the the reason why you should follow them, our expectations for them in the coming year and the issues they may face going forward. The one rule with all of these fighters is that they can have fought for a world title at the time of writing, as the fighters who have are, essentially, already ones to watch having dabbled at world level. Some of these are world ranked, and some of these may well be set for world title fights in the near future, but so far they have not had that top level bout.
Without any further ado, lets take a look at the man we have ranked #1 in our list of Ones to watch in 2020
Israil Madrimov (4-0, 4)
Uzbekistan (but based in the US)
One of the hottest hopefuls in world boxing right now is Uzbek hopeful Israil Madrimov, who has really turned heads since making his debut in November 2018, and comes into 2020 as a man who is expected to do huge things in the year or two. He has already generated attention, built a real buzz and looks set to build a lot more, very quickly.
For those who have seen Madrimov, they'll know that he looks like the sort of fighter who could be put in to a world title fight in his next bout or two.
The heavy handed, boxer-puncher appears to have it all. He's very quick for a 154lb fighter, with power in both hands, the ability to switch stances with ease, an incredible fluidity to his work and some of the most insane natural athletic ability we've seen in a fighter. He's not just a an excellent boxer, but he's an incredible physical freak. Those physical tools go with an outstanding amateur pedigree, that has taught him the basics of the sport and leas him to being a 2-time Asian Games winner.
He's not yet a totally polished professional boxer, but the reality is that we don't think he ever will be. And that's not an insult. Instead we see Madrimov as being one of those unique fighters, a rule break by nature. Someone who sees the text books, gets the idea, then puts his own spin on things thanks to his athletic ability. Similar to how Roy Jones Jr and Naseem Hamed made their styles and their traits work for them. Sometimes the rules are there to be broken, and sometimes breaking them is better for certain fighters than others.
What do we expect?
Our expectation is that Madrimov will have a big 2020, and by big we really do mean big. Though it's not totally clear what that will actually involve.
The obvious answer would be a world title, and there's no reason why he can't win a world title this year. The Light Middleweight isn't a bad one, but it's almost not an unbreakable one at the top and Madrimov will almost certainly feel he has the tools to take a title. He's currently ranked #4 with the WBA and their multiple title set up does leave it's door open to someone snatching a belt.
The less obvious answer is that Madrimov puts the professional scene on the back burner in 2020 and decides to head back to the amateurs for the biggest tournament of the year. Rather than pursuing a title he may well pursue a medal and go to the Tokyo Olympics, as one of a number of Uzbeks who can easily do both codes. If he does that it would be a shame in some ways, but also a clear statement of national solidarity with other Uzbeks.
If Madrimov goes the Olympic it would slow his professional ascent, ruling him out of pro fights for several months, but an Olympic medal would likely help his marketability for the longer term. On the other hand if he fully commits to the professional ranks there's no reason why can't take a title before the summer.
It's funny to say but our #1 choice for this series gives us more concerns than many of the others lower down the list.
The biggest of those is boredom. Every time we watch Madrimov we get the feeling he's bored, and he's trying to amuse himself. He's like a genius doing high school maths and trying to make things more tricky for himself. He needs to be given serious tests, and stimulated by tough competition. That is when we will see how good he really is. Until then we suspect that we'll see him make a lot of mistakes, get away with them, and despite fans criticising him he won't care.
It's that boredom idea that makes us feel we'll never know how good Madrimov is, until he fights at world level.
Another issues is, as previously mentioned, whether Madrimov is fully committed to the professional ranks, or is open to the amateurs. This isn't a massive negative concern, but will obviously slow his climb to a world title fight.
Another is whether or not his team will put the money up for him to get a world title fight. He's got the talent, but his team need to put up the money, and will have to compensate a world class fighter well to get them to face Madrimov. That compensation won't be cheap.
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features