The middle section of February is pretty interesting , with a number of notable regional level bouts.
Ben Mananquil (16-1-3, 4) Vs Tenta Kiyose (15-2-1, 7) - Hyogo, Japan
Filipino fighter Ben Mananquil travels to Japan to take Tenta Kiyose in what appears to be a really well matched bout for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title. Mananquil has been unlucky in a number of his bouts, though was fortunate to get a draw against Hinata Maruta. Kiyose on the other hand hasn't fought at the same level as Mananquil, but did score a very notable win over Oleydong Sithsamerchai last July and will be looking to build on that win here. This looks like a very interesting match up an should be very, very competitive.
Hiroki Okada (19-0, 13) Vs Raymundo Beltran (35-8-1-1, 21)- California, USA
Japan's Hiroki Okada takes part in his second US bout, as he battles former world champion Raymundo Beltran, in what looks to be an unofficial world title eliminator for the WBC Light Welterweight title. Okada failed to shine in his US debut, last year, but is a talented boxer-puncher and is certainly better than he looked last time out. Beltran, at his best, was handful for anyone other than the elite, and would have been strongly favoured against Okada, but he has looked to be on the slide in recent bouts, making this a very interesting match up, and something close to a 50-50 fight.
Genesis Servania (32-1, 15) vs Carlos Castro (21-0, 9)- Califnornia, USA
Former world title challenger Genesis Servania, from the Philippines, will be looking to take a huge step towards his second world title fight as he takes on the unbeaten Carlos Castro. Castro is taking a massive step up in class, and will be regarded as the under-dog, but Servania knows he needs to shine, not just win, if he's to open up the doors he needs to get a second title shot. Servania is best known in the US for his fantastic bout with Oscar Valdez and fans will be aware of how good he is, however Castro is an unknown, and could see this as his huge chance to make a name for himself, in what could be a very interesting match up.
Edward Heno (13-0-5, 5) Vs Koji Itagaki (18-13-3, 7)- Hiroshima, Japan
Filipino fighter Edward Heno returns to Japan to make his next defense of the OPBF Light Flyweight title, as he takes on Japanese veteran Koji Itagaki in Hiroshima. The unbeaten Filipino won the title in Japan back in 2017, when he stopped Seita Ogido, and has made 2 impressive defenses since. As for Itagako, he has come up short in Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific title bouts, but this will be his first for an OPBF belt. The Japanese fighter, who is now 35, is in last chance saloon, but has sadly not looked great in recent bouts and has scored just 2 wins in his last 7. All signs point towards another defense for the champion, but can Itagaki put in a career defining performance to save his career?
Hiroaki Teshigawara (18-2-2, 11) Vs Yuki Iriguchi (10-2-1, 4)-Tokyo, Japan
Over the last few year's we've been incredibly impressed by Hiroaki Teshigawara, who will be looking to make his next defense of the OPBF Super Bantamweight title, as he takes on Yuki Irigughi. This is a bout where the champion will be the clear favourite, but the challenger is far from a patsy, and holds a win over recent world title challenger Ryohei Takahashi. Given the styles of both men we're expecting a potential FOTY candidate and both men really do love to let their shots go. Sadly for the challenger he may not have the power needed to make the champion respect him, though he will have the self belief to bring the fight. This really could be the highlight of the week.
Kenichi Horikawa (38-15-1, 12) Vs Satoru Todaka (9-2-4, 3) -Tokyo, Japan
On the same show as the Teshigawara Vs Iriguchi bout is a brilliant bout to crown a new Japanese Light Flyweight champion, as veteran Kenichi Horikawa takes on little known foe Satoru Todaka. Horikawa is a former Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific champion who is an incredibly experienced fighter. At 38 Horikawa is coming towards the end of his career, but he showed there was still life in his legs last year when he stopped the previously mentioned Koji Itagaki. At 29 years old Todaka is the much younger man, but this is a major step up in class for him.
Shohjahon Ergashev (15-0, 14) vs Mykal Fox (19-0, 5)- Kansas, USA
In Kansas we'll see unbeaten men colliding, as highly touted Uzbek puncher Shohjahon Ergashev takes on Mykal Fox in a very interesting looking match up. The Uzbek shined last year, when he went 5-0 (4) putting himself on the map with notable wins over Sonny Fredrickson and Wang Zhimin. Fox, a tall rangy fighter, is stepping up massively here, but a win will boost his chances of a huge fight and he will likely be coming into this bout with the knowledge that this could be his coming out party. It's always good to see prospects colliding, and that's exactly what we have here!
Having already looked at 12 rumoured bouts, it makes sense to cover more bouts that appear to be getting spoke about, before we start to see action picking up in the coming days.
If you missed part 1 and part 2 they are available:
6 bouts rumoured to be in the works for 2019
6 more bouts rumoured to be in the works for 2019 (AKA Part 2!)
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) vs Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-2, 20)
In part 1 of this mini-series, if you will, we mentioned that IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas had a mandatory title defense against Ryoichi Funai hanging over his head. In part 2 we mentioned that WBC Super Flyweight Srisaket Sor Rungvisai had his own mandatory looking against Juan Francisco Estrada. Interestingly however both Srisaket and Ancajas have expressed a desire to unify the WBC and IBF titles, and that bout has been rumoured as being something both fighters are targeting for March. It would seem likely that the two world title bodies would allow the champions to unify if, and only if, they can get the bout sorted sooner rather than later. We suspect March has been given to both parties as a sort target with April likely the hard deadline for the bout. If it gets made it will be a very special bout and we've got out fingers tightly crossed that this one does get made sooner rather than later!
Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7) Vs Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12)
WBO Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka and countryman Ryoichi Taguchi were meant to meet when both were Light Flyweight world champions, but injuries suffered by Tanaka derailed those plans, before he moved up in weight. Now the two are supposedly targeting in a late Spring date for the match up, with Taguchi moving up to chase Tanaka. Of the two Tanaka is the more naturally gifted talent, and the more internationally well known due to his rapid rise to being a 3-weight world champion. Taguchi on the other hand is the naturally bigger fighter, the more experience man and arguably the fighter the fighter who's body will suit Flyweight better. The teams are said to be working on this bout and it's one both fighters want, and one without any TV issues, with the two fighters essentially both fighting on the same network. There really is no reason for this bout not to get made this year!
Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) Vs Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16)
At the end of 2018 we saw Moruti Mthalane make his first defense, of his second reign, of the IBF Flyweight title, stopping Masahiro Sakamoto. Going in to that bout the two men knew he would have a mandatory defense against Japan's Masayuki Kuroda in 2019, with the IBF giving the winner 90 days to make that defense. Mthalane is one of the most over-looked and under-rated fighters out there, and although he has spoke about unification bouts it's unlikely he'll get one without facing his mandatory first, as the IBF do tend to enforce mandatory defenses. Kuroda is best known for losing in a WBA Flyweight world title bout against Juan Carlos Reveco, though has since re-established himself with a number of decent performances on the talent laded Japanese scene. Mthalane would be the favourite, but Kuroda is a live under-dog.
Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3, 16) Vs Cesar Juarez (23-6, 17)
Originally rumoured for December 2018, though now seemingly delayed until 2019, is a world title eliminator between former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Ryosuke Iwasa and exciting Mexican warrior Cesar Juarez. When the bout was first mentioned it appeared Iwasa was still unsure about his future, but in recent weeks he has been training for a comeback to the ring. This is the sort of stylistic match up where we see heavy handed fighters face off, one is a more pure boxer, Iwasa, whilst the other is an aggressive pressure fighter and together it should make for some real fireworks.
Shakhram Giyasov (6-0, 5) Vs Shohjahon Ergashev (15-0, 14)
A lot of the Uzbek fighters seem to be good friends, however in recent weeks we've seen 2016 Olympic Silver medal winner Shakhram Giyasov and fellow unbeaten Light Welterweight puncher Shohjahon Ergashev doing a TV Face-Off and allowing a lot of talk about the two fighting each other. The two are already world ranked, both had huge 2018's, with both climbing into the world rankings and scoring notable wins, and both can bang. It's hard to predict a winner between these two, but it would certainly be a very special bout between two fantastic fighters. Although they are already building hype in the bout there is a chance that the bout will be held off until one, if not both, hold a world title, adding a even more prestige to the contest.
Floyd Mayweather Jr (50-0, 27) Vs Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39) II
Although it's unlikely, at the time of writing, there has been talk of a rematch between Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao, with the Filipino recently signing with Al Haymon, something that was seen as making the bout even more likely. These two clashed in a massive, yet well over-due, bout in May 2015 and could end up rematching again this year. Both are said to be keen on raising their profiles in Japan, with Mayweather recently featuring on Rizin 14 and having business interests in the country and Pacquiao also stating he wanted to fight in the country, following a deal with a fitness company. They could also fight in the US, where both are major names, even if fans are cynical based on their original contest. This has been rumoured, and we wouldn't be surprised if it's not rumoured every year going forward, even as the men both slide further and further beyond their primes.
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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