By Marcus Bellinger (@marcusknockout)
Whilst the attention will be predominantly on Manny Pacquiao in his welterweight clash versus Lucas Matthysse which takes place in Malaysia this upcoming weekend, 3 Asian fighters on the undercard have the chance to massively elevate their careers and shine on a huge occasion.
Featherweight Jhack Tepora takes on Edivaldo Ortega over 12 rounds with the 25-year-old returning after 10 months. His last ring appearance saw him overcome the odds in more ways than one when he knocked out Lusanda Kominisi in 2 rounds to claim a minor 126 lb strap on the road in South Africa last September. Not only did Tepora win in emphatic style away from home, he showed the enormous mental strength to somehow maintain composure after a post-weight-in test came back positive for HIV. As a father this could have had life changing consequences but thankfully a mix up in the lab and follow up tests gave the Filipino southpaw the all clear.
A win for the Cebu City native puts him right in the mix in the stacked 126 lb class and performing on such a big platform will also hopefully propel Tepora onto more future opportunities on major cards. On paper Ortega presents a solid test with the 28-year-old having points wins over Drian Francisco and Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr and a stoppage victory over Tomas Rojas. The Mexican’s only loss came against then unbeaten Eduardo Ramirez via decision and an early career draw is the only other blemish on his record.
In just his second official professional bout China’s Lu Bin takes on Carlos Canizales and regardless of your view of a validity of the regular belt, make no mistake a win for the 23-year-old would be a phenomenal achievement and send out a real statement in the light flyweight division. China at the moment is in the boxing doldrums with Zou Shiming almost certain to retire due to a career ending eye injury and the dearth of talent coming through in the amateurs is a major concern so a victory for Bin would give the sport a timely boost.
Bin enjoyed a successful amateur career claiming world Youth gold in 2012, Bronze at the 2013 Asian Championships and the national crown in 2015 and 2017. After a 10 round contest versus Xion Zhao Zhong which Bin duly won widely on points, he made his official pro debut in September 2017, easily dispatching Chatchai Or Benjamas in 3 rounds.
There’s no doubting that Canizales is a dangerous assignment but the Venezuelan is very one dimensional and completely ineffective fighting on the back foot as was shown after the third round in his contest with Riya Konishi earlier on this year. If Bin can force Canizales backwards in the first 3 rounds or not be too far behind and the half way point then the man from China is in with a good shot of pulling off a terrific win and setting up some sensational matchups in a division teaming with talent.
Finally Muhammad Waseem aims to make history and become the first ever world champion from Pakistan when he squares off against Moruti Mthalane for the vacant IBF flyweight strap. Despite achieving Silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and Bronze in the Asian Games of the same year, it’s been a hard road for Waseem with minimal backing from his homeland.
Having grown disillusioned with the amateur code, the 30-year-old turned pro in South Korea in 2015, claiming the Korean bantamweight title on his debut. Waseem was quickly fast tracked and defeated Jether Oliva via unanimous decision in just his 4th bout to pick up the WBC silver belt. Next up he narrowly overcame then unbeaten Giemel Magrano in a close encounter and his shot at the WBC 112 lb crown was moving ever closer.
Unfortunately financial restraints saw a crack at then champion Daigo Higa disappear and Waseem’s future in the sport was up in the air. The IBF tilt against Mthalane came along at exactly the right time and with renowned agent Sean Gibbons now guiding his career and Jeff Mayweather training him, the future now looks a lot brighter for the Quetta born man.
Cricket is by far and away the biggest sport in Pakistan and the side are number 1 in the T20 rankings despite there being barely any international cricket being played in the country due to an attack on the Sri Lanka bus back in 2009 but if Waseem could claim the IBF title then who knows, a new generation could be inspired to swap the ball or the bat for the boxing gloves. Mthalane is a quality operator having beaten Zolani Tete and Johnriel Casimero inside the distance but at 35 and having been inactive for periods in recent times it’s difficult to know how much the South African has left.
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