Over the last 6 years Kazakh boxing, at least in the professional ranks, has been dominated by Gennady Golovkin, who has spearheaded the countries boxing scene. Although he's not solo he has pretty much been the focal figure for the country's success in professional boxing, with only Zhanat Zhakiyanov's short reign at Bantamweight and the controversial and much maligned Beibut Shumenov for company as a world champion. At 36 years hold however Golovkin won't be able to lead the Kazakh charge for too much longer.
With that in mind we've decided to take a long over-due look at the rising Kazakh boxing hopefuls, who will look to rise through the ranks and become the new faces of Kazakh boxing, and the ones to continue the good work that Golovkin, and to a lesser extent Shumenov, and Zhakiyanov have done in recent years.
Ivan Dychko (5-0, 5) - Heavyweight
Former amateur star Ivan Dychko has long been on the radar of fight fans, who have followed him since he was a youngster in the unpaid ranks. He first made a mark at the 2008 AIBA Youth World Championships, claiming a silver medal at Heavyweight before growing into a Super Heavyweight. At the heavier division he claimed a number of major medals, including bronze at the 2012 Olympics and the 2011 World Amateur Championships, as well as Silver medals at both the 2013 and 2015 World Amateur Championships.
Stood at 6'9” at weighing in at around 245lbs he has the size of a fully fledged Super Heavyweight and he's already looking to charge through the division. He made his professional debut last September, stopping Aubur Wright in just over 2 minutes, and has needed just 9 rounds to race out to a 5-0 record. He has, admittedly, fought poor competition so far but will look to make a notable step up in class shortly. He's pencilled to face Michael Marrone in June, a step up of sorts, but won't want to waste too much time at this type of level given how strong his amateur pedigree is.
Ali Akhmedov (11-0, 8) – Light Heavyweight
The 22 year old Ali Akhmedov is one of a number of US based Kazakh hopefuls, though is also well travelled having already notched up professional wins in Kazakhstan, Poland and the US. Not only has he been willing to travel for fights but has also been matched pretty well with notable wins against Patrick Mendy, Curtis Hill, Justin Thomas and DeShon Webster. Impressively he has only been a professional for around 2 years, making his debut in May 2016, but has been active, aggressively matched and his team are stepping him up.
Given his age Akhmedov has a lot of time on his side but it's unlikely he or his team will be looking to waste that time and instead he'll likely be matched hard and allowed to develop against decent competition. His boxing is already solid technically and like a number of fighters from Central Asia he seems to have very heavy hands and an aggressive exciting style. He's perhaps not a concussive puncher, but every shot seems to be damaging, and he has that exciting flair that the new era of Central Asian fighters seem to have, wanting to put on a show as well as win.
Zhanibek Alimkhanuly (2-0, 1) - Light Heavyweight
Another former amateur star is 25 year old Zhanibek Alimkhanuly, who shone at the 2013 World Amateur Championships, where he claimed gold, and was tipped as a medal contender for the 2016 Olympics, where he lost in the quarter final. He made his professional debut, unless you include his fights in the World Series of Boxing, in October 2016, blitzing Milton Nunez inside a round, before returning to the amateur code. He would again surface as a professional in September 2017, taking testing 6 round decision over Gilberto Pereira dos Santos.
At the moment it's pretty unclear on what Alimkhanuly plans to do. He has the world at his feet in any form of boxing, professional, amateur or one of the AIBA professional systems. We're hoping he commits to professional boxing, and if he does he really could be fast tracked. He's a very sharp, accurate and powerful puncher with brilliant movement and a high boxing IQ. He's got the tools to do a lot in the sport, but one does wonder about his mentality, and that could be the biggest question mark over his potential.
Nurzat Sabirov (6-0, 5) - Super Middleweight
There are a number of Kazakh hopes rising through the Canadian scene at the moment, one of whom is Nurzat Sabirov. The Quebec based 24 year old made his debut in July 2017 , scoring an opening round win over Kasjan Inglot, and has since been slowly stepping up his competition. Not only has he been stepping up in terms of quality opposition but he has continued to impress, stopping all of his foes, but going a few rounds in the process. He's expected to have a busy 2018 so it could very interesting to see where his career is at the end of the year.
From the footage of Sabirov he looks like a very exciting fighter, with a high level of ring craft and defense as well as explosive offensive capabilities. There is clearly a lot of development that his team will be wanting to do with him, and at 24 there is a lot of time for that development to take place, but he has a lot to work with. That includes impressive handspeed, nice ring IQ and really impressive variation in his shots.
Meiirim Nursultanov (6-0, 5) -Middleweight
When a fight skips the 4 round stage of their career you tend to take notice of them, and that was the case when Meiirim Nursultanov made his debut in November 2016, scoring a 6 round decision over Henry Beckford. Since then he has been matched well and consistently impressed as his team have matched him harder and harder as his career has gone on. That saw him being matched with Ismael Bueno in September 2017 and then the unbeaten Eric Moon just 2 months later. Not only is he being matched well but with Egis Klimas managing his career you know that he has a great team behind him.
As you may have guessed from Klimas' involvement Nursultanov is based in the US and the 24 year old has been getting himself on high-profile under-cards already, with his last 2 bouts coming at Madison Square Garden on shows headlined by Sergey Kovalev. Not only has he been on big cards but he's been shining when fans have had the chance to see him, and his body show KO of Lanny Dardar was a sickeningly brutal one. He's a fighter with serious power and a man who will be looking to make a name for himself in the not too distant future. Given he's a Middleweight he may also be the one to take over Golovkin's role as the country's leading man at 160lbs.
Aidos Yerbossynuly (7-0, 6) – Middleweight
Another potential successor to Golovkin at Middleweight is Aidos Yerbossynuly, a 26 year old fighter who is actually based in Kazakhstan, a bit of a rarity for a prospect from the country. Despite being based in the country of his birth he has also travelled for fights and has already picked up wins not only Kazakhstan but also Ukraine and the USA. So far he has looked exciting, talented and yet flawed, and was dropped early in his career, though has certainly improved since then and his win over over Jonathan Geronimo Barbadillo last September showed that he was one to watch.
Although very exciting and very aggressive there is an openness to Yerbossynuly that he will need to sort out before stepping up too far, but we suspect that will be sorted when he steps up and he will start to contain the wild aggression that he does occasionally show. When that happens we'll have a talented, exciting and hard hitting fighter, who could well give Nursultanov a good run to become the leading Kazakh Middleweight. For now though he looks a step behind his countryman and fighting in Kazakhstan may not help him with his profile internationally, though it is good to see a prospect actually staying in Kazakhstan given how many of them have gone to the US or Canada.
Nursultan Zhanabayev (3-0, 2) – Light Middleweight
We've already mentioned fighters skipping the 4 round phase of their career, but amazingly Nursultan Zhanabayev skipped straight to 10 rounders to begin his career, making his debut in 2016 and taking a 10 round decision over Xingxin Yang to kick off life as a professional boxer. On paper that debut win relied on a 10th round knockdown of the then 11-4-3 Chinese fighter, to claim a split decision, but the reality is that Zhanabayev deserved a very clear and very impressive debut win. He has since built on that debut win with a stoppage against the Joel Dela Cruz and a blast out win against Alex Sandro Duarte.
Zhanabayev seems to have an issue with staying active. He has his first 2 bouts just 2 months apart, bout would be out of the ring for 9 months. He's now been inactive since September 2017, and we do wonder when he returns. He's a genuine talent, and could go a very long way with the right sort of promotional and managerial backing, but without that he could become one of the many lost talents this sport has had. If a team can get behind him, guide him properly then the sky is his limit. Thankfully he is only 25 and has certainly got time to build his career, though may not want to wait too much longer before getting back to action.
Part two of this series will be posted shortly and will feature some of the other top prospects from Kazakhstan, who are going to be worth following over the years to come.
Images courtesy of:
A thanks to Matt Horan for pointing out Zhanat Zhakiyanov's world title reign.
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