By Marcus Bellinger (@marcusknockout)
In the last part of this mini-series we take a look at 5 more notable amateurs from the Asian continent who have achieved success for their respective nations.
Erdenbaat Tsendbaatar, Mongolia, bantamweight (56kg).
For a country with a population of around just 3 million, Mongolia regularly more than holds its own at major tournaments and produces excellent fighters who fight with pride, skill and determination. The country’s young boxing star is undoubtedly Tsendbaatar who enjoyed a golden 2018, triumphing at the Asian Games in Indonesia. Now campaigning at lightweight, Tsendbaatar reached the last 8 of the Rio Olympics, going out to eventual silver medallist Shakur Stevenson down at bantamweight.
The 21-year-old has ruled the roost at home, claiming 4 national titles and also a Bronze at the 2014 Asian Youth Championships. Tsendbaatar will be one of the favourites for the upcoming Asian Championships in Thailand and if boxing does take place at the Tokyo Olympics then he’s more than in the frame for a medal. You can view Tsendbaatar’s winning effort at the 2018 Asian Games below.
Chinzorig Battarsukh, Mongolia, light welterweight (64kg).
Battarsukh possesses copious amounts of experience but has been a bit of a nearly man and has lost a number of very close decisions. The 27-year-old is a 5-time national champion and after reaching the quarter-finals of the 2014 Asian Games, he managed to reach the podium 4 years later taking Silver.
Battarsukh grabbed silver at the 2017 Asian Championships in Tashkent but was highly unlucky to lose to home man Ikboljon Kholdarov in the final and later on that year he narrowly missed out on a world championship medal, losing in the last 8. Battarsukh is a tough out for anyone in his division apart from probably the formidable Cuban Andy Cruz and with a little bit of luck an Olympic medal isn’t out of the question. Battarsukh’s contest in the 2018 Asian Games final can be seen below
Carlo Paalam, Philippines, light flyweight (49kg).
Despite the limited resources at their disposal the Philippines isn’t lacking in talented pugilists with Paalam being one of a number of gifted Pinoys in the amateur ranks. A successful stint at youth level saw him take Bronze at both the Asian and world Championships in 2016. He was on the wrong end of an awful hometown decision in the quarter-finals at the 2017 South East Asian Games in Malaysia but bounced back to take Bronze at the 2018 Asian Games, losing to gold medallist Amit in the semi-final.
Paalam is still young therefore, there is plenty of room for growth and he is defitely capable of achieving success at future events. Some footage of Paalam sparring can be viewed below.
Christian Pitt Laurente, Philippines (56kg).
Laurente is yet to make his senior debut at a major tournament but the future looks bright for him judging by his performances at youth level. His first success came at the South East Asian Youth Games in 2017 as he took lightweight Bronze, being defeated by top operator Atichai Phoemsap. A move down to bantamweight saw him win silver followed by Bronze and the Asian and world Youth Championships respectively with elite Uzbek Abdumalik Khalokov victorious over him on both occasions. Laurente is clearly one for the future and you can watch him in action versus Khalokov
Kim Ink-Yu, South Korea, flyweight (52kg).
Korean boxing both sides of the border has been in the doldrums for well over a decade but there have been small signs of recovery especially in the amateur ranks in recent times. The most consistent performer has been South Korea’s Kim Ink-yu who came away from the 2017 world Championships with Bronze after winning silver at the Asian equivalent earlier on in the year. The world Bronze bettered his quarter-final appearance in the previous edition and he is capable of being in the mix for medals in future major competitions. Below is a bout involving Kim up against Uzbekistan’s Jasurbek Latipov.
By Marcus Bellinger (@marcusknockout)
Japanese professional boxing is in a great place right now when some truly elite fighters and a plethora of outstanding youngsters racing through the ranks at a lightning pace. The country is hosting the 2020 Olympics but boxing’s place is yet to be confirmed due to a dispute between governing body AIBA and the IOC.
Japan has never been a traditional powerhouse in amateur boxing but has had plenty of success at the youth and junior levels. Here are a small selection of boxers from the land of the rising sun who could either feature in Tokyo, or more likely in the professional ranks in the years to come.
Hayato Tsutsumi, bantamweight, (56kg).
The next potential superstar from Japan, Tsutsumi ruled the roost at the youth level and has made a solid start in the elite level. He’s had plenty of success domestically winning various tournaments. 2016 was a banner year as Tsutsumi claimed flyweight golds at the Asian and World Youth Championships before repeating the success up at bantamweight at the 2017 Asian Youth Championships.
His move to the senior ranks saw him win the national title in 2017 and reach the last 4 in 2018 but elimination in the first contest of the 2018 Asian Games will have been a disappointment but should be seen as a valuable learning experience. If boxing doesn’t take place in Tokyo, expect promoters to be queueing round the block to sign up Tsutsumi. You can view the final of the 2017 national Championships involving Tsutsumi below.
(Ed's note - The fight below is against highly regarded Teiken prospect Mikito Nakano, now 2-0 (2) in the professional ranks)
Sora Tanaka, light welterweight, (64kg).
Blessed with an exciting style and punching power, Tanaka won gold at the Asian Junior Championships in 2017. After winning Bronze at the 2018 Asian Youth Championships, Tanaka didn’t fare as well at the world Youth’s, going out in his first bout. An excellent performer at home, the teenager is definitely one for the future whether that’s as an amateur or a professional. Tanaka’s bout from the 2018 World Youth Championships can be seen below
Ryutaro Nakagaki, flyweight, (52kg).
Nakagaki’s first success away from home came in 2015 when he topped the podium at the Asian Junior Championships. His best result to date saw him take Asian Youth gold in 2017 as he prevailed over top notch Uzbek Abdumalik Khalokov in the final. Nakagaki’s 2 outings at the Japanese nationals saw him reach the last 4 in 2017 and the last 8 in 2018 and there is plenty to build on for the gifted youngster. You can take a look at a bout from 2015 involving Nakagaki below.
Sho Usami, welterweight, (69kg).
2018 saw Usami reach the quarter-finals of the Asian Youth Championships before going one better at the World Youth Championships in Hungary, coming away with a credible Bronze medal. A shot at the national crown last year saw him lose in his opening bout but again he should only improve given the right coaching and appearances at international tournaments. You can watch Usami’s semi-final contest at the World Youth Championships below
Finally it’s not just Hayato who has the boxing bug in the family as younger brothers Ryonosuke and Reito Tsutsumi have shown plenty of promise. Ryonosuke reached the last 8 at the 2018 World Youth Championships after grabbing Bronze at the Asian Youth Championships, losing out on both occasions to the outstanding Atichai Phoemsap. Reito’s most notable triumph so far saw him earn lightweight gold at the 2017 Asian Junior Championships. Footage of both Tsutsumi’s in action can be viewed below.
By Marcus Bellinger (@marcusknockout)
Currently professional boxing is in a pretty solid state in Thailand with 3 world champions and some decent contenders in the mix around world level. The amateur scene in the country could be on the verge of a really sustained period of success with the youth and junior programmes put in place in 2013 paying dividends. The nation has also hosted many significant events in the last couple of years and it will be the destination for the elite Asian men’s and women’s Championships this April.
Here are a selection of the best current Thai amateurs and some future stars who will be aiming to move up to the senior level in the upcoming years.
Chatchai Butdee, bantamweight (56kg)
A veteran of over a decades experience at the top level, Chatchai has been there, seen it and done it, competing at every major tournament and is probably the most well-known Thai amateur boxer. He was voted the top sportsman in his homeland in 2013 where he won South East Asian gold and a world championship bronze.
Further gold at the South East Asian Games in 2011 and silver in 2009 coupled with top spot at the Asian Championships in 2015 prove Chatchai’s quality and ability to compete with the best around. At 33 and with a very cagy awkward style, a transition to the professional ranks is unlikely but expect Chatchai to be a tough out for anyone at bantamweight in future competitions. Some footage of Chatchai in a bout versus Misha Aloian can be seen below:
Sailom Ardee, welterweight (69kg)
Another man with copious amounts of experience at the top level Sailom is a regular for Thailand at all the major tournaments and has had his fair share of success. His most recent medal came at the 2018 Asian Games where he took bronze.
The South East Asian Games has proved fruitful for Sailom with the 32-year-old claiming gold twice and 3 bronze medals. His other most notable achievement came in 2013 where he picked up silver at the Asian Championships. Given his age a run in professional boxing doesn’t seem likely but similar to Chatchai, expect Sailom to be in and around the medals in future events. You can view a contest between Sailom and Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez below:
Wuttichai Masuk, light welterweight (64kg)
Wuttichai is a highly decorated amateur winning a medal at every major event apart from the Olympics. 2015 was a great one for Wuttichai, with gold at the Asian Championships followed by a bronze at the world championships.
The 29-year-old has also captured gold at the 2009 Asian Championships, 3 golds and a bronze at the South East Asian Games and Asian Games gold and bronze twice along with a handful of bouts in the WSB. Presuming there is boxing at the Tokyo Olympics, Wuttichai is arguably Thailand’s best hope for a medal but a crack at the professional game could be a root to take if the AIBA IOC dispute can’t be resolved and he would be an interesting addition in the pro scene at home. Wuttichai’s bout in the final of the 2015 South East Asian Games can be viewed below:
Atichai Phoemsap, lightweight (60kg)
A young man with elite potential Atichai’s first breakthrough came at the 2017 South East Asian Youth Games where he topped the podium. The Korat born teenager then had what can only be described as a phenomenal 2018, winning Asian, world and Olympic Youth golds cementing his place as one of the hottest future talents in amateur boxing. At just 17 Atichai really does have the world at his feet but it’s unclear when the step up to senior level will come but the 2024 Olympics seems a very realistic aim. Atichai’s winning effort over home man Adrian Orban in the world Youth Championships final can be seen
Thitisan Panmod, light flyweight (49kg)
Not far behind teammate Atichai, Thitisan’s first success also came at the South East Asian Youth Games in 2017 where he claimed gold. After Bronze at the Asian Youth Championships in 2017 followed by silver in 2018, Thitisan finally went one better at the world Youth Championships in Hungary in the same year. Again the move up to the elite level should come in time with the teenage talent showing he has all the tools to succeed. You can watch Thitisan’s fight from the final of the 2018 world Youth Championships
Sukthet Sarawut, flyweight (52kg)
Finally, the last of a trio of top young Thai talent Sukthet won silver at the Asian Junior Championships back in 2017. After victory at home in the Asian Youth Championships, a medal at the world’s was more than a realistic aim but the teenager was drawn against top Uzbek Samandar Kholmurudov in the early stages. Having defeated him in the final of the Asian Championships Sukthet would have been confident but it was Kholmurudov who got the better of it on this occasion leaving the Thai empty handed. Sukthet did however go onto claim silver at the Youth Olympics in Argentina and the future looks bright for him if he continues to develop his skills and experience. You can take a look at a clash from the world Youth Championships involving Sukthet
By Marcus Bellinger (@marcusknockout)
2018 was another interesting year for Asian boxing with the usual ups and downs but it was one that saw the seeds planted for what can potentially be a golden era for the sport throughout the continent.
2018 was a disappointing 12 months for Japanese boxing at world level but with a core of elite pugilists and a plethora of outstanding youngsters on the rise, the future is still very bright for boxing in the land of the rising sun.
Long reigning WBC bantamweight boss Shinsuke Yamanaka quite frankly deserved so much better than to go out at the hands of the disgraceful Luis Nery who failed a drugs test after their first encounter then came in 5 pounds overweight on first attempt before their rematch. Yamanaka can hold his head up high and will go down as one of Japan’s best after a terrific career.
After losing his WBO strawweight belt to Vic Saludar, Ryuya Yamanaka was unfortunately forced to retire due to a serious head injury and stalwarts Kohei Kono and Yoshihiro Kamegai also hung up the gloves after exciting fan friendly careers. Katsunori Nagamine, who was always guaranteed to provide thrills and spills was also forced to retire due to injury which was such as shame as the flyweight became a favourite of mine.
Daigo Higa and Kenichi Ogawa will not want to be reminded of having the arduous distinction of being the only Japanese fighters to lose their world titles on the scales and for failing a drugs test respectively and both will hope for much better results in 2019. Ryota Murata has it all to prove after floundering against an inspired Rob Brant and Ryoichi Taguchi, Kazuto Ioka, Ryosuke Iwasa and Reiya Konishi will aim to return to world level after losing close decisions that could have easily gone the other way.
In what you could easily call the awesome foursome Naoya Inoue, Kenshiro, Kosei Tanaka and Hiroto Kyoguchi are as good a quartet of fighters anywhere on the planet and will be aiming to establish themselves as the number 1 in their respective divisions. Inoue blasted away both Jamie McDonnell and Juan Carlos Payano inside a round and claiming the World Boxing Super Series prize is the goal for 2019. Kenshiro enjoyed a rather fruitful 2018, impressively halting both Ganigan Lopez and Milan Melindo before scoring a wide points victory over Saul Juarez to cap off the year and hopefully the WBC light flyweight champion can secure a unification in 2019.
Kosei Tanaka became a 3-weight world champion in just his 12th bout but had to go through the meat grinder to do it as he took the WBO flyweight strap from Sho Kimura in undoubtedly the fight of the year. A rumoured clash with Ryoichi Taguchi is in the works for this spring and if it’s half as good as the bout with Kimura then we’re in for another classic. Hiroto Kyoguchi made a real statement as he broke down Hekkie Budler and became the first man to stop the South African and his heavy hands make him a force to be reckoned with at 108 pounds.
Finally Masayuki Ito deserves more than a mention after winning a world title away from home, something very few Japanese boxers accomplish. Ito was far too seasoned for Christopher Diaz and after a one-sided beat down of mandatory challenger Evgeny Chuprakov, the WBO super featherweight champion has options aplenty for 2019. Tomoki Kameda and Takuma Inoue will get cracks at full world titles this year after winning interim trinkets in 2018.
Overall 2018 was an excellent year for Filipino boxing with 3 of the nation’s favourite sons scoring notable victories. Donnie Nietes prevailed in a close and thoroughly absorbing contest with Kazuto Ioka, making him a 4-weight champion and let’s hope he defends against similar calibre of competition as there is no shortage of top challengers at super flyweight.
After defeat to Carl Frampton and moving down to a division which he hadn’t fought at in 7 years, few if anyone gave Nonito Donaire a prayer when he entered the World Boxing Super Series but the Filipino Flash defied the odds to beat Ryan Burnett and set up a semi-final contest versus Zolani Tete. It should be noted that a freak back injury left Burnett unable to continue but Donaire was highly competitive in rounds 3 and 4 so a win against Tete isn’t out of the question.
Manny Pacquiao knocked out Lucas Matthysse to keep his career going and he has a very winnable bout with Adrien Broner coming up shortly but the biggest winner in Filipino boxing in 2018 was visibility, with not only ESPN5 providing much needed coverage for boxing globally but other streams were provided for domestic cards making the sport far more accessible than it has been in previous years. Vic Saludar produced an excellent display to capture the WBO strawweight title in Japan but IBF 115 lb champion Jerwin Ancajas failed to shine in 2018 and will need to up his game if he’s to compete and overcome the elite of the division.
The 2 all Filipino world title fights between Jerwin Ancajas and Jonas Sultan and Donnie Nietes and Aston Palicte unfortunately completely underwhelmed but if the myth that these kind of bouts shouldn’t be happening is slowly being dispelled then that’s a positive and we saw other such good clashes at domestic and regional level between Jonathan Taconing and Vince Paras and Edward Heno and Jesse Espinas take place.
The biggest negative was the disappearance of exciting featherweight Mark Magsayo who failed to fight at all in 2018 and Mark Antony Barriga will also have to rebound after his first loss. Jhack Tepora and Reymart Gaballo enjoyed breakout years and are leading the charge of the next generation of young Pinoys, Romero Duno should continue to provide plenty of entertainment and KJ Cataraja and Dave Apolinario are 2 gems worth getting excited about.
Boxing in Thailand ticked over quite nicely in 2018 with all 3 world champions holding onto their titles and the country has 2 interesting prospects in Apichet Petchmanee and Downua Ruawaiking both at light welterweight. The Workpoint series was also a nice edition and saw much improved match making and some solid domestic bouts that delivered including the 2 encounters between Kompayak Porpramook and Pongsaklek Sithdabmij and the clash between Nawaphon Por Chokchai and Amnat Ruenroeng.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai scored a majority decision over Juan Francisco Estrada in a thoroughly enjoyable contest in the US to kick off his 2018 and after a stay busy bout he made history as he headlined a One Championship card in front of a raucous home crowd. The WBC super flyweight champion scored a wide point’s win over game Mexican Iran Diaz and heads into 2019 with numerous available options with a unification with Jerwin Ancajas looking a distinct possibility.
Wanheng Menayothin made his own history as he took his unbeaten record to 52-0 by the end of the year. The WBC strawweight titlist reached the magic 50-0 mark in style as he destroyed mandatory challenger Leroy Estrada before taking a unanimous decision over solid challenger Pedro Taduran. If the reports are to be believed and Wanheng does venture outside of Thailand then tougher challenges could lay ahead for the 33-year-old with a bout against the undefeated Tsubasa Koura mentioned as a possibility.
Despite making 3 defenses of his strawweight crown the stock of Knockout CP Freshmart dramatically dropped with 3 very poor performances and the fights against Xion Zhao Zhong and the rematch with Byron Rojas were honestly dire viewing. Knockout will need to dramatically up his game in 2019 if he’s to keep hold of his belt as he looks to be there for the taking.
Along with Cuba, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are now well established as the leading forces in amateur boxing and now both nations are making their presence felt in the professional ranks with Daniyar Yeleussinov, Murodjon Akhmadaliev, Shakhram Giyasov, Sadriddin Akhmedov and Israil Madrimov just a selection of names who are looking to make an impact. Expect the Kazak/Uzbek take over/invasion to ramp up even further in 2019 with so much strength in depth in both countries.
Finally any action that took place inside the ring in amateur boxing was completely overshadowed by a tumultuous struggle between AIBA and the IOC which has left boxing’s place at the Tokyo Olympics hanging by a thread. After being made interim President, controversial Gafur Rakhimov who is described as "one of Uzbekistan's leading criminals" by the United States Treasury Department was elected permanent President under farcical proceedings which saw certain delegations fail to vote and the electronic voting system fail to work.
Repeated warnings from the IOC regarding Rakhimov’s potential election as permanent President clearly were not heeded and coupled with governance and financial concerns, this lead to the planning for boxing in Tokyo being frozen therefore leaving everyone in total limbo. 2019 is without doubt a defining period in amateur boxing but the signs are bleak and a boxing tournament in Tokyo without AIBA’s involvement is a solid possibility which could lead to a messy split within the federations and in all of this the boxers are the ones who suffer due to the arrogance, selfishness and incompetence of those at the top.
By Marcus Bellinger (@marcusknockout)
A week ago Satoshi Shimizu extended his perfect record to 8-0 8 Kos as he defended his OPBF featherweight crown against the undefeated Takuya Uehara. Uehara proved no match for Shimizu who scored multiple knockdowns on his way to a third round stoppage.
The intention from Shimizu’s team at the Ohashi Gym is to get him a world title tilt in 2019. We’ve heard that talk for a while now and it’s clear that the unorthodox southpaw is well beyond the regional level.
Looking at the featherweight landscape it’s difficult to see where Shimizu’s shot will come unless he can win some sort of eliminator and become a mandatory challenger. WBO titlist Oscar Valdez looks to be set for a January return after suffering a broken jaw in his March clash with Scott Quigg and a unification with the victor of the Josh Warrington Carl Frampton clash looks to be in the offing for possibly next summer. Leo Santa Cruz is involved in yet another pointless matchup and Gary Russell Jr will probably make his annual single appearance sometime in 2019.
There are numerous opportunities 4 pounds south but given Shinizu’s significant frame possibly draining him would make no sense at all and a rematch from the Olympics with Isaac Dogboe is dead for now as the Ghanaian lost his WBO title at the weekend. One bout that hasn’t been mentioned for Shimizu and seems feasible is actually 4 pounds north against WBO champion Masayuki Ito.
Ito impressed on his voyage to the US where he proved too good for Christopher Diaz in their vacant world title tussle in July. Before any thoughts of a potential domestic dust up with Shimizu, Ito makes a mandatory defense against Evgeny Chuprakov on December 30 in Tokyo. The fight is being broadcast on Fuji TV, where the Ohashi Gym have aligned themselves so any stumbling block regarding who would show the contest between Shimizu and Ito shouldn’t be an issue.
From Ito’s point of view a win over a 2012 Olympic Bronze medallist would greatly enhance his profile at home and enhance his stock with a victory over someone as dangerous as Shimizu and then he could try and pursue unifications in the US. At 32 Shimizu really doesn’t have any more time to waste and cannot afford another year of bouts at the regional level where he’d be heavily favoured and as previously stated his options at 126 lb look slim and a contest against Ito would be the most realistic.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
By Marcus Bellinger (@marcusknockout)
The saga between AIBA and the IOC shows no signs of coming to an end and it was announced that the IOC Executive Board have frozen planning for the boxing competition for the Tokyo Olympics including the qualifying process and ticket sales.
An inquiry has been launched into AIBA’s ability to host the boxing competition and to assess whether the various “significant concerns” expressed by the IOC have been properly addressed to their satisfaction. The inquiry will be headed by Executive Board member Nenad Lalovic and IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell stated that the inquiry would take place over the next few months with the aim to have a definitive decision on boxing’s future at the next Board Executive meeting in Lausanne next June.
For the first time Gafur Rakhimov was directly mentioned by the IOC regarding their concerns along with AIBA’s inability to open or maintain a bank account in Switzerland.
Despite the promises of IOC President Thomas Bach that there will be a boxing competition in Tokyo, the ruling only heaps more uncertainty onto proceedings and raises a number of questions such as:
If indeed boxing does keep its Olympic place and the decision is made next June, is barely 15 months enough time to carry out the necessary qualifying tournaments?
Given the ever decreasing guarantees of Olympic participation will there be a mass exodus of fighters choosing to turn professional?
If AIBA is suspended will there be a huge split between the federations which would badly damage the integrity of the sport?
What happens to the allotted qualifying spots from the World Series of Boxing?
Finally what happens to the next 2 men’s world championships which have been awarded to Sochi and Delhi which surely both countries would have budgeted for?
Whatever the outcome and the answers to these various questions, unfortunately the athletes and us fans can do nothing more than wait as 2019 really is a defining moment for amateur boxing.
By Marcus Bellinger (@marcusknockout)
With HBO exiting the boxing business after their final card on December 8, US boxing is in an intriguing spot with 3 main entities jockeying for supremacy.
Top Rank has a long term deal with ESPN and the ESPN+ App also streams shows from the US and abroad, the PBC has extended its agreement with Showtime and inked a deal with Fox and streaming service DAZN has Matchroom and Golden Boy as their boxing providers along with the World Boxing Super Series.
For those outsiders there are actually some fabulous opportunities with the 3 above entities looking to snap up any available world class talent so as to fill the many dates and provide the best possible boxing content. One of those is World of Boxing, founded by Russian businessman Andriy Ryabinskiy, with well-known manager Vadim Kornilov managing the day-to-day operations. Their stable includes Alexander Povetkin, Denis Lebedev, Eduart Troyanovsky, Dmitry Kudryashov and Sergey Kuzmin amongst others. Hardcore fans, especially those in the UK where it was broadcast on Boxnation may remember the November 2015 Wednesday marathon afternoon of action from Russia which provided plenty of thrills and spills. You can view the show I’m referring to
Arguably the company’s biggest star Dmitry Bivol defended his light heavyweight title this past weekend in Atlantic City, out pointing Jean Pascal over 12 rounds. With his contract with HBO now expired, Bivol is a free agent and there surely won’t be a shortage of takers in an interesting 175 lb mix.
Adonis Stevenson defends his WBC belt against Oleksandr Gvozdyk this weekend with Stevenson aligned with the PBC and Gvozdyk signed with Top Rank. The rematch between Eleider Alvarez and Sergey Kovalev will take place on ESPN in February whilst IBF titlist Artur Beterbiev plies his trade on DAZN.
On the Bivol Pascal undercard, 3 of the brightest prospects in world boxing featured as a trio of Uzbeks all scored knockout wins.
Murodjon Akhmadaliev won medals at every major tournament which was no mean feat given the truly elite bantamweight mix in the amateur ranks. He notched up his 5th professional win, breaking down Isaac Zarate in 9 rounds and he is already world ranked at super bantamweight and has a very fan friendly style which viewers in the US should enjoy.
Shakhram Giyasov won Olympic silver in 2016 and gold at the 2017 world championships and was a flashy stylist with plenty of charisma as an amateur. In his 6 pro contests he really has adapted extremely quickly and he blitzed Miguel Zamudio inside a round in Atlantic City.
Making his debut was Israil Madrimov who stopped Vladimir Hernandez in the 6th of a scheduled 10 rounder. As an amateur Madrimov won gold at the Asian Games and Asian Championships and when in full flow his relentless attacks are a joy to watch.
Whilst it’s fair to say that Povetkin and Lebedev are at the tail end of their careers, the likes of Bivol, Akhmadaliev, Giyasov and Madrimov are supreme talents and if either of the 3 major networks can strike a deal with World of Boxing then it will only enhance their quality of product.
By Marcus Bellinger (@marcusknockout)
In September Indian boxer Vikas Krishan announced he would be turning professional and late last week it was officially confirmed that he had signed with US outfit Top Rank and would be making his debut on January 18 2019 at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. The 26-year-old southpaw will be trained by Wali Moses, the grandfather of unbeaten Shakur Stevenson.
A 3-time national champion at lightweight, welterweight and middleweight, a 2-time Olympian, a 2018 Commonwealth gold Medallist, a 2011 world championship Bronze medallist and a double Asian Championship medallist, Krishan’s amateur achievements speak for themselves and he also reached the podium at the last 3 Asian Games. Krishan can coast at times during fights, but he is an excellent and vicious body puncher and likes to use uppercuts and he certainly possesses enough traits to have a successful pro career.
Top Rank and especially Bob Arum have always been way ahead of the game in exploring and attempting to open up new markets and embracing the globalisation of boxing. Of course we saw Top Ranks venture into China with double Olympic gold Medallist Zou Shiming heading the charge and big cards in Macao featuring the likes of Manny Pacquiao. People will correctly point out that Shiming’s professional career was a bit of a busted flush but winning a world title was a good achievement given his limitations and hopefully he can inspire the next generation of boxers from his country.
Many may compare China and India but there are major differences between the 2 countries boxing and sporting cultures. Whilst India doesn’t have the infrastructure such as professional gyms and coaches compared to China, their amateur system is churning out so much more talent and the results have shown that in the last couple of years at senior, youth and junior level in both men’s and women’s boxing. India also generates an atmosphere at sporting events that is unrivalled anywhere in the world and given the mind boggling sums paid for IPL and Indian home cricket rites, if boxing can generate just a fraction of that interest then the sky’s the limit.
Vijender Singh has been an important cog in putting the key in the lock to try to swing the door wide open for Indian professional boxing and he has now signed a multi-year agreement with Top Rank and will make his US debut sometime in early 2019. With his last bout coming last December and a proposed July Commonwealth title fight being cancelled, Singh’s career had ground to a halt but hopefully this new deal can breathe new life into it.
With his notable profile and popularity and his last 4 contests all taking place in India and being broadcast on either Star Sports and Sony, a potential clash with WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez would be a truly historic event. If Top Rank can secure a long term deal with either of the previously mentioned TV channels to broadcast Krishan and Singh’s fights then not only does that give them a chance to build professional boxing in India but it also potentially opens up the biggest untapped market on the planet for the rest of their fighters.
Lastly, another intriguing intangible is the ongoing saga between AIBA and the IOC which has left boxing’s place at the Tokyo Olympics hanging by a thread. If boxing is ditched and a rival body isn’t established to cobble together an Olympic tournament then with no real professional scene to speak of, the Indian amateurs could be in limbo but with Top Rank now showing interest, this could be a much needed gateway for the nations numerous talented pugilists to pursue.
By Marcus Bellinger (@marcusknockout)
If it wasn’t so serious it would be hilarious.
Yes, I am referring to the recent events involving AIBA, the governors of amateur boxing which held their Congress in Moscow this past weekend which saw a new permanent President elected. You may have read on this site just over a week ago that Serik Konakbayev was awaiting a ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport regarding his being able to run against Gafur Rakhimov, well the Kazak received the nod from the CAS and we had a contest between the pair for the Presidency.
The first day of the congress on Friday November 2 saw Rakhimov put forward a proposal that a President could temporarily step aside for up to a year and with a successor appointed by the AIBA ruler Executive Committee. Rakhimov would have remained on the Executive Committee whilst also retaining full voting rights however, he fell 2 votes short of the 2-thirds majority needed to push through the proposal.
Let’s be honest this would have been a complete fudge, a way to kick the can down the road and a blatant attempt to sweep the matter under the carpet and this wouldn’t have washed with the IOC anyway.
The next day saw the election take place in what was more resembling of a comedy show rather than a crucial demonstration of the competence of AIBA to the world and more importantly the IOC.
The electronic voting system failed to work despite several attempts and despite the protests of the Konakbayev team and the Kazakh federation eventually a paper ballot was hastily organised.
Several delegates disappeared and failed to vote including India but Rakhimov was victorious, receiving 86 out of the 134 votes. It’s hard to work out whether it was arrogance personified or utter stupidity that lead the 86 federations to choose Rakhimov but the farcical and chaotic nature of proceedings will have only raised more concerns from the IOC.
Shortly afterwards a statement from the IOC was sent to the brilliant insidethegames with Presidential spokesman Mark Adams stating
“We take note of decisions taken by the AIBA Congress in Moscow.” The IOC has made it clear from the outset that there are issues of grave concern with AIBA regarding judging, finance, and the anti- doping programme, and with governance – which includes but is not limited to the election of the AIBA President.”
“As planned, we will now carefully evaluate all these areas at the next IOC Executive Board meeting in Tokyo on the 30 November – 2 December.”
Rumblings of a breakaway organisation possibly headed by Konakbayev being given IOC ratification to organise the boxing in Tokyo have begun to emerge and the IOC once again stated their desire to protect the athletes. Putting this into practise however, presents an uphill task given the short period of time.
Finally if you missed my piece on the potential ramifications of no Olympic boxing in Tokyo then it can be read here - The dire consequences if, no Olympic Boxing in Tokyo
By Marcus Bellinger (@marcusknockout)
The last couple of years have been turbulent times for amateur boxing with scandals and squabbles completely overshadowing any action that has taken place in the ring. Expulsion from the Tokyo Olympics is now a real possibility as the sport is now at a critical tipping point and arguably the most defining phase in its illustrious history. Before we get into the wide ranging ramifications here is a brief timeline of events that have lead us to this point for those who haven’t kept up to date or have simply got lost with the goings on.
The boxing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio was marred by controversial judging decisions with all 36 officials and referees suspended for alleged bout-fixing and it was clear changes needed to be made. After much wrangling and bitter infighting long time AIBA president CK Wu was forced out last November due to allegations of financial mismanagement within the organisation. Gafur Rakhimov, described by the US Treasury as “one of Uzbekistan’s leading criminals” was installed as interim president in January. Rakhimov as strenuously denied the claims but by now the International Olympic Committee (IOC) were showing concern.
An important report from AIBA regarding governance and reforms were submitted in April but IOC president Thomas Bach stated in May
“This report shows some progress and goodwill but still lacks execution and substance in some areas,”
“Therefore we retain our right to exclude boxing from Tokyo 2020.”
Further controversial judging verdicts blighted this year’s Asian Games in Jakarta with a couple of team officials escorted out of the arena with AIBA promising to reintroduce an appeals process. The crisis dramatically deepened at the beginning of October as Gafur Rakhimov was announced as the only presidential candidate at the AIBA congress in Moscow on November 2 and 3 with Serik Konakbayev supposedly not receiving enough support from the federations and not submitting this support within the stated deadline. Konakbayev, the head of the Asian Boxing Confederation (ASBC) has launched an appeal to the court of Arbitration for Sport claiming that his candidacy should be allowed to stand under Swiss law as the Sep 23 deadline was a Sunday therefore not a working day. The outcome of the CAS appeal should be known on October 30 and in the meantime Konakbayev has been allowed to continue campaigning. The IOC have made it abundantly clear that if Rakhimov is elected that boxing’s future at the Tokyo games is in real jeopardy. Rakhimov had stood firm but has softened his stance in recent times and has said he would step aside if necessary.
In a startling release on October 3, the IOC Executive Board stated
“The Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) today expressed its ongoing extreme concern with the grave situation within the International Boxing Association (AIBA) and its current governance.” “These include the circumstances of the establishment of the election list and the misleading communication within the AIBA membership regarding the IOC’s position.
“Such behaviour is affecting not just the reputation of AIBA and boxing but of sport in general. “Therefore, the IOC reiterates its clear position that if the governance issues are not properly addressed to the satisfaction of the IOC at the forthcoming AIBA congress, the existence of boxing on the Olympic programme and even the recognition of AIBA as an international federation recognised by the IOC are under threat.
“At the same time, we would like to reassure the athletes that the IOC will – as it has always done in such situations and is currently doing at the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 – do its upmost to ensure that the athletes do not suffer under these circumstances and that we will protect their Olympic dream.
Pretty damming words and anyone who had underestimated the seriousness of the situation should now be left in no doubt. Whilst the last part of the statement referring to the athletes not suffering and Olympic dreams being kept alive is well meaning but if AIBA were to be expelled then organising the various continental championships, World Series of Boxing which has Olympic places and the other qualifiers would be an unwanted headache for the IOC and seems pretty farfetched. Rumours have swirled of a professional body being put in charge of this process if necessary but of course nothing official has been confirmed.
The funding or at least part of it, for most federations around the world hinges on Olympic participation so if the worst were to happen and boxing is kicked off the Tokyo roster then the very grassroots of the sport will be directly affected and future generations could be lost to other sports. Every 4 years the Olympics acts as a shop window, not only for amateur boxing itself with worldwide coverage available but the boxers themselves who first have dreams of reaching the podium but then afterwards securing a big professional contract. Winning an Olympic medal isn’t the be all and end all as showing some charisma or a style that maybe more suited to the professional ranks can be enough to seal a lucrative deal with Michael Conlan, Errol Spence and Oscar Valdez being 3 good examples of this in recent times.
Without Olympic boxing fighters will be turning pro at a financial disadvantage and displaying their skills on such a major platform also gives them a taster of possible future big nights in the professional arena. Of course turning professional isn’t an option for everyone with Cuba being the obvious example with fighters having to defect from the country which is often a harrowing process.
From an Asian prospective we’ve seen numerous Uzbek and Kazak pugilists transition over to the professional side of the sport in recent months but make no mistake about it, their success is completely down to the heavy investment in the amateur programme that has made both countries the powerhouses in amateur boxing along with Cuba. Given the deep love and passion Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan could probably soak up a lost Olympics but a drain in talent to the pros would surely be inevitable at least in the near future.
Fighters from the Philippines and Thailand often benefit from more financial stability by staying amateur as pro boxing in both nations can be a lottery at times. The reputation of amateur boxing in Japan has taken a battering in 2018 with president of the JABF Akira Yamane forced to resign due to allegations of misappropriation of funds to boxers and gang ties. If the once in a lifetime opportunity to campaign in a home Olympics were to be snatched away then the public’s view of the sport would only further sour and all at a time when the land of the rising sun is producing elite young talent by the truck load.
Mongolia, which time and time again punches above its weight for such a small nation would almost certainly lose all its top stars and would need time to try and rebuild. Arguably the most affected member of the continent would be India, whilst making huge strides in the last 2 years at all levels, with no pro scene to speak of it would be an uncertain future for the many gifted boxers and the potential growth in one of the 2 most populated nations on earth could severely regress.
Finally the biggest impact of no Olympic boxing in Tokyo would be on women’s boxing at all levels. Despite making solid progress over the last several years the biggest issue in women’s professional boxing is a lack of depth at another 2 or 3 Olympic cycles is the integral ingredient for remedying this. It’s highly unlikely that Claressa Shields, Katie Taylor and Nicola Adams would have been signed to professional contracts without their performances at London and Rio respectively and the Olympics is an essential gateway to attempt to inspire young girls to take up the sport and without it women’s boxing could go back decades.
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