Whilst March started somewhat quietly it certainly ends with a crescendo of action, thanks to a huge flurry of fights in the last week or so of the month. While they are of varying quality they do come thick and fast!
Yuki Yamauchi (2-0, 1) Vs Claudevan Sese (7-0-3, 1) - Hyogo, Japan
In a meeting of unbeaten fighters touted Japanese prospect Yuki Yamauchi battles against unbeaten Filipino Claudevan Sese. We're bit on Yamauchi, and this looks like a really good test for the former Japanese amateur standout, even if Sese hasn't shown much in terms of power through his career. It's not a huge bout, by any stretch, but we do love seeing touted amateurs tested and this should be an ideal test for Yamauchi.
Sergey Lipinets (14-1, 10) Vs Lamont Peterson (35-4-1, 17) - Maryland, USA
Kazakh-Russian Sergey Lipinets looks to continue the rebuilding process following his 2018 IBF world title loss to Mikey Garcia. In the opposite corner is another former world champion, Lamont Peterson, himself needing to rebuild from a loss to Errol Spence. This isn't an amazing match up in terms of names but in the ring the styles should gel to provide us with something very exciting and very enjoyable, with the volume and strength of Peterson against the explosive power and ruggedness of Lipinets.
Hironori Mishiro (6-0-1, 2) Vs Takuya Watanabe (35-8-1, 20) - Tokyo, Japan
The potential hidden gem of the month will take place on March 27th and will see OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro defending his title against Slver champion Takuya Watanabe. Both of these men are very talented boxers, both can be dragged into a war and both can put on a show. Mishiro is the more natural talent, with amateur polish and the promising prospect tag, but Watanabe is a gritty veteran who has seen it all before. This really could be one of the best bouts of the month.
Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) Vs Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6-6, 7) II - Thailand
After several changes in regards to the date, we now finally see the rematch between unbeaten WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin and former WBO champion Tatsuya Fukuhara. We though their first bout was incredibly close, actually feeling as if Fukuhara's work rate should have earned him a win, but since then the Japanese fighter has failed to shine. Wanheng however has moved past Floyd Mayweather's 50-0 record and is unlikely to be just giving up the WBC title any time soon. An interesting match up that should tell us a lot about the future of both men.
Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4) Vs Wulan Tuolehazi (10-3-1, 5) - Shanghai, China
Touted Japanese youngster Ryota Yamauchi takes a huge step up in class, in his first bout away from Japan, as he battles world ranked Chinese foe Wulan Tuolehazi. The Japanese prospect has impressed from the off, with a couple of notable wins already, but this is a massive leap up in what will be his first bout scheduled for 12 rounds, and to do that in enemy territory shows his confidence. Tuolehazi isn't the most polished of fighters, but he's strong, makes fights ugly and is riding a good winning streak into this, including an excellent win over Jayr Raquinel.
Baishanbo Nasiyiwula (15-2-1, 6) Vs Yusuke Konno (14-4, 7) - Shanghai, China
Another China Vs Japan bout will see Baishanbo Nasiyiwula take on Yusuke Konno, in what should be a chance for Baishanbo to look good. The Chinese hopeful looked less than brilliant against Ernesto Espana last time out, but has shown plenty to get excited about in the past, with a usually fun style, a rugged toughness and a dislikable streak of mean arrogance. Konno looks like the clear under-dog on paper but he's been enjoying a solid run of performances coming into this and will feel confident enough of over-coming the Chinese hopeful.
Sho Kimura (17-2-2, 10) Vs Pigmy Kokietgym (60-10-2, 24) - Shanghai, China
Arguably the biggest fight on the card, in terms of name value, is also the biggest mismatch, with former world champion Sho Kimura battling against Thai veteran Pigmy Kokietgym, himself a former world title challenger. For Kimura, who is still hugely popular in China, this will be his first bout since losing the WBO Flyweight title to Kosei Tanaka in 2018. Pimgy is a veteran, but a veteran who has lost 7 by stoppage and is already 37 years old. The Thai has gone on too long, and is likely to be used as little more than a confidence booster for Kimura.
Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (15-0, 9) Vs Keita Obara (20-3-1, 18) - Pennsylvania, USA
Unbeaten Uzbek Kudratillo Abdukakhorov takes on Japanese puncher Keita Obara in an IBF Welterweight eliminator, to earn a shot at the title later in the year. The unbeaten Uzbek is the more naturally gifted boxer and the more rounded fighter, with a good boxing brain, good movement and speed, but he is a relatively light punching fighter compared to Obara, who is technically less impressive but a solid hitter. This should make for an interesting dynamic, and both will see this as a potentially career defining bout, leading to a massive fight in the near future.
Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9) Vs Lito Dante (15-10-4, 7) - Kanagawa, Japan
Also at the very end of the month will be the next OPBF Minimumweight title defense from unbeaten Japanese fighter Tsubasa Koura, who will be taking on limited but tough Filipino challenger Lito Dante. On paper this looks like a total mismatch, but in reality it should be a lot more competitive than it looks. Not to say we don't Koura will win, but he will have to work for the win against the very under-rated Dante, who has never been stopped and has faced world class fighters numerous times during his 29 fight career.
This pas week hasn't been the biggest news week of the year, but has been a pretty interesting one with returns, retirements and a number ob bout announcements, as well as some punishments from the JBC.
Kuroda to face Mthalane on May 13th
The biggest bout to be announced this week is the IBF mandatory Flyweight title bout between South African world champion Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) and mandatory challenger Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16) [黒田 雅之]. The bout was known to be in the works from the start of the year, with Kuroda have been assured a shot prior to Mthalane's defense in December. It's a good match up, and whilst the champion will be favoured Kuiroda is a veteran challenger who will know that a loss here ends any hope he has of ever winning a world title.
Yamauchi Vs Tuolehazi, Konno Vs Baishanbo
A pair of WBA International title bouts, set to take place on March 30th, were announced for a Shanghai show. One bout will see Yusuke Konno (14-4, 7) [今野裕介] battle Baishanbo Nasiyiwula (15-2-1, 6) [拜山波] for Baishanbo's title at 140lbs whilst the other bout is an even more interesting contest between unbeaten youngster Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4) [山内涼太] and world ranked Chinese fighter Wulan Tuolehazi (10-3-1, 5). We're still expecting 1 more bout to be announced for this show, but two bouts we now have are fantastic.
Sho Kimura to return in China in Spring!
China won't just play host to the two WBA International title fights mentioned above but also to the return of former WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (17-2-2, 10) [木村翔], who is set to fight "in Spring" in China. It's unclear if he will be on the same show as the two bouts above, though it is known that he will be continuing his career and despite losing to Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7) [田中恒成] last year he isn't hanging up the gloves. Fingers crossed that we get more news on Kimura's return next week!
Akira Yaegashi's return set for April 8th
Popular Japanese warrior Akira Yaegashi (27-6, 15) [八重樫 東] will be back in action as the headline attraction of an April 8th show at the Korakuen Hall. At the moment the full details of his bout haven't been announced, though it's expected to be a "world title prelude" over 10 rounds at Super Flyweight. Yaegashi is one of the most popular Japanese fighters, due to his style, and we're glad to see him back in the ring, though we do worry about his health if he does fight for a world title.
WP Boxing to return in March
The excellent WP Boxing, from Thai television channel Work Point, will also be making a return, with their next show being set for March. WP Boxing raised the standard for Thai broadcasts last year, having high quality matches, a sizable audience and a professionalism rarely seen in other Thai shows, so we're really looking forward to seeing what WP Boxing brings in 2019.
Unbeaten Uzbek Kudratillo signs Top Rank deal
Uzbek Welterweight contender Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (15-0, 6) [Қудратилло Абдуқаҳҳоровдан] has long been linked to an IBF Welterweight world title eliminator with Japanese puncher Keita Obara (20-3-1, 18) [小原 佳太], with that bout set to be set for March 30th. The news this week is that the UZbek hopeful has now inked a deal with American promoter Bob Arum and Top Rank, who will promote his next 3 bouts, including the March 30th contest.
Erika Hanawa retires
Just days after losing in her second world title bout Japan's Erika Hanawa (10-4, 4) [塙英理加] handed in a retirement notice to the JBC. Hanawa had really put in an excellent performance against WBC female Light Flyweight champion Yesenia Gomez (15-5-3-1, 6) but had made it clear that she would retire if she lost. We're hoping she reconsiders her decision in the future, given that she is only 28, though for now at least that's the end of her short but notable career. As well as he losses in world title bouts she would win a couple of regional titles and mix top company during her 14 fight career.
Nietes Vs Palicte purse bids set
The WBO have laid down the law, and have announced that the purse bids for the WBO Flyweight world title bout, between defending champion Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23) and mandatory challenger Aston Palicte (25-2-1, 21) will take place on February 28th. The rumour is that Nietes' team were looking else where for bouts, but the WBO seem to be wanting to rule with an iron fist this year, and this is the second time they have done something to stamp their authority. The odds are that Nietes will vacate if the money for this bout isn't as attractive as it is for other contests, however we do expect to see the purse bids take place and for Nietes' team to weigh up their options before deciding what's next.
JBC officials punished for time keeping error
The JBC announced punishments for 3 different officials this week due to a time keeping error back in December in an OPBF title fight. The toughest punishment was given to the time keeper, who has been given an indefinite suspension, whilst others have been cautioned. It's clear that the JBC saw this error, or rather the number of errors, as seriously harmful to the sport, and it's interesting to see they have taken such a harsh line. In a way it's admirable, though it is perhaps setting a standard that other countries won't follow.
In part 1 of “The Uzbeks are Coming” we looked at the fighters who had fought at the 2016 Olympics, where the Uzbek team had really shone. Whilst those fighters are certainly getting a lot of attention they aren't the only Uzbek fighters work making a note of. In fact there are two other Uzbek fighters already in the world rankings, another who is rising through the ranks at an impressive pace and a number of novice prospects who appears to be on the fact track to the top.
If you missed part 1 that's available to read here - The Uzbeks are coming - Part 1 - The pros from Rio!
Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (14-0, 9)
The most proven Uzbek as a professional right now is Kudratillo Abdukakhorov, who's name is also transcribed as Qudratillo Abduqaxorov. At the time of writing he is in the top 10 with the WBA, WBC and IBF at Welterweight and has looked like someone with a lot of confidence and self belief. Not only that but he's been willing to proven himself time and time again.
The "Punisher" was a decent amateur before turning professional in 2015, as the age of 22 and after starting his career in low key bouts in Uzbekistan he began to come into his own in 2016, with wins over Larry Siwu and Adones Cabalquinto. He has subsequent scored very notable wins over Charles Manyuchi and Dmitry Mikhaylenko, whilst claiming and defending the WBC silver Welterweight title.
Abdukakhorov has emerged from the shadows of the Uzbek scene by fighting in Maylasia, Singapore and Russia and looks likely to continue to score big wins outside of native Uzbekistan. Saying that however he has no problem returning home to fight, and he'll be doing this coming May against a yet to be announced opponent. That bout is likely to lead to bigger contests down the line and by the end of this year we're expecting to Abdukakhorov on the verge of a world title fight
Azizbek Abdugofurov (10-0, 4)
Abdukakhorov is one of two Uzbek fighters who have been strongly connected, the other is Super Middleweight Azizbek Abdugofurov. There's no intention of the two men to have some bizarre catch weight bout, but instead both have regularly been featured on the same shows in Malaysia and in Singapore and both have been matched hard on those shared shows.
Abdugofurov was a good amateur himself, though hadn't been a major star before turning to the professional ranks in 2016 at the age of 24. he was immediately matched hard and won his first 4 bouts by stoppage, including an opening round KO over Chaloemporn Sawatsuk. Since then life in the ring has gotten harder, but he has scored notable wins over Sirimongkol Singwancha and Martin Fidel Rios. Sadly though his last 4 bouts have been steps backwards.
The unbeaten Abdugofurov looks set to step back up on May 5th, when he takes on Russian Dmitrii Chudinov in a bout for the WBC Silver Super Middleweight title. A win there will put him into the world rankings, though it's a very tough ask.
Shohjahon Ergashev (11-0, 11)
The second world ranked Uzbek right now is the charismatic and hard hitting Shohjahon Ergashev, who is ranked by the WBA at 140lbs. He announced himself on the Western boxing scene earlier this year when he stopped Sonny Fredrickson in a real coming out performance. Prior to that bout the "Descendant of Tamerlane" had really done nothing of note since his debut in 2015.
Blessed with power and natural flair Ergashev has the potential to be a very TV friendly fighter. There is certainly a lot of style to him, and whilst we do need to see what substance is beneath that style we have been impressed by the 26 year old, who has created his own buzz and will be looking to build on that when he returns to the ring on April 28th.
As mentioned Ergashev will be in action shortly, taking on China's Zhimin Wang. It's a bout that Ergashev is expected to win and one that could really boost his standing, especially if he can stop the Chinese fighter who has previous taken the hard hitting Ivan Baranchyk the 10 round distance. If he can stop Wang then expect to hear a lot more about Ergashev over the next few years.
Ulugbek Khakberdiev (4-0, 2)
Russian based Uzbek hopeful Ulugbek Khakberdiev is a 25 year old Middleweight-come-Super Middleweight who debuted in March 2017 and reeled off 6 wins before the year was over. Whilst that's not amazing he did score a huge win over former world title challenger Dmitry Sukhotskiy, stopping him in round 6 of a very 1-sided bout.
Sadly Khakberdiev has seen his rise slow since that win, having had 3 fights fall through since that victory. It'd be a shame for him if his career can't kick on from such a big win. He has twice been scheduled to face Kazakh Aidos Yerbossynuly and that would be a great fight, fingers crossed it's third time lucky for that fight.
If Khakberdiev does fail to build on his big win through the rest of this year there is a good chance he will get forgotten about and lost in the shuffle. Given his age, and how open the Middleweight division looks set to become, he will have time to get his career back on track. We would however love to see him have a strong second half to this year, and make a move towards the world rankings before the end of 2019. He'll not be ready for a world title fight for some time, but has got the tools to become a champion in the years to come.
Jasur Akhmadjonov (4-0, 3)
Abdugofurov and Abdukakhorov are both promoted by Vikram Swapragasam, who also promotes 22 year old Light Welterweight Jasur Akhmadjonov, who turned professional at the end of 2017, having previously fought in the WSB, but is already making a name for himself and holds a win over former world title challenger Roy Mukhlis, who is admittedly a shadow of the fighter he once was.
Akhmadjonov debuted on December 17th last year in Uzbekistan and would fight twice in his native country in January before defeating Mukhlis in Singapore. He's pencilled in to fight again on May 5th, though his opponent hasn't been announced yet, and could well look to kick on from the victory over Mukhlis.
At 22 years old Akhmadjonov has got time on his side and won't be rushed, despite his clear talent. He's a boxing baby and there is no reason for Swapragasam to throw him in with killers yet, though as with many of the Uzbek fighters we see rise through the ranks there may be some aggressive match making for Akhmadjonov once he matures, and he could be in with notable names in 2019.
Ravshanbek Umurzakov (3-0, 3)
Another Russian based Uzbek is Ravshanbek Umurzakov, who has fought entirely in Ekaterinburg, where he has taken out his first 3 foes in a combined 6 rounds. He hasn't stepped up too much, but did stop the previously unbeaten Merab Turkadze this past weekend.
Stood at 5'10” “The Prince” is a tall and gangly Lightweight who's body doesn't look like it has quite filled out yet. Despite that the southpaw is heavy handed, can dig to the body and has a good understanding of the ring. There is still a lot of work that he needs to do before thinking of world titles, but there is a lot to like about him and there is a lot for his team to work with, including a sharp jab and a brutal left hand to the liver.
At the moment Umurzakov's biggest issue is that he looks like he could be pressured a bit too easily, and perhaps just needs a few more easy fights to develop his in ring composure. He has looked a little bit worried at times in these early stages of his career, but it's hard not to like him at this early stage, especially given he only debuted in December. His next bout will be in May against the tough Denis Lashin and should see the the the unbeaten man answer some new questions/
Ulugbek Sobirov (4-0, 2)
Another of Vikram Swapragasam's many Uzbek hopefuls is 19 year old Ulugbek Sobirov, who debuted in January and has already impressed whilst picking up wins in Uzbekistan, India and Malaysia. Yes, despite only being a professional since January Sobirov has already fought in 3 countries and notched 4 wins! The best of those saw him travel to New Dehli to defeat Siddharth Ravindra Varma in February.
Despite his young age Sobirov has shown that he understands how to use the ring, and looks like he is a natural in the ring, with amazing composure for someone so young. He has a nice jab, looks like a naturally strong young man and has a lot of tools his team can mould. At times he looks a little too relaxed, his shots sometimes need tightening up and he will have to show more urgency if he's to become a threat. However at 19, he really does have time on his side and he looks like the sort of fighter who will mature into a monster in the years to come.
Sobirov is set to return on May 5th, as part of a stacked Uzbek card in Tashkent, and although his opponent hasn't been announced. We don't expect anyone too tough for the teenager, but hopefully someone a bit more ambition than Hamis Mwakinyo, who hardly looked like he wanted to be in the ring when he fought Sobirov.
Although we wouldn't be surprised by some of these fighters failing to reach the top, there is so much talent coming through the ranks that we're expecting to see the start of a golden age for Uzbek professional boxing. A number of fighters from the country have the potential to be world champions and it's going to be very fun to follow them in their journey's to the top.
(Images courtesy of Boxrec and the WSB)
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