Last week we posted an article under a "Hidden Gem of the Week" heading and as we all know things aren't always perfect. This week, we'd like to revise the title to "One to Watch", the same concept just with a more apt heading for the article, which looks at a bout which we wouldn't usually preview, but feel it's worthy of attention for some reason or another.
The One to Watch?
Aidos Yerbossynuly (11-0, 8) Vs Rocky Jerkic (17-1, 13)
August 14th (Wednesday)
This coming week does feel like it lacks real stand out bouts, however it's hard not to get exciting by bouts that just look like they will be fun, and this one certainly looks like it will be a very exciting bout between two men coming to the ring and looking to put on a show, and claim their latest win. This is about action!
Aidos Yerbossynuly is a 27 year old Kazakh hopeful who has collected some minor belts already in his career but wants to add another WBA belt to his collection and make his mark in a new location. So far he has fought in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, USA and Russia and is now looking to add Australia to the list of nations that he's picked up a win in. He's not the best, and has shown shakey whiskers, but tends to be in fun to watch bouts.
Rocky Jerkic is a well regarded Australian, but one who is unlikely to ever make a mark at the world stage. He's a solid domestic fighter with the potential to be in the mix at regional level. He's aggressive, rough and tough and his 2015 fight with Shannon King was an absolute barn burner, with Jerkic proving his toughness to pull the win out of the bag when down on the cards. He's not a pretty fighter, by any stretch, but he is a fun and exciting fighter with a lot of flaws, flat that make him fun to watch.
What to expect?
Given the styles of the two men involved we can't help but expect something really exciting here. We'll be honest and say we don't see either man reaching the pinnacle of but against each other they should end up giving us a brawl. Yerbossynuly has been down a few times during his career and, given Jerkic's aggression we wouldn't be surprised to see the Kazakh down again here. In the end however we do feel that Yerbossynuly will come out on top, relying on his boxing, after being dropped, to take a clear win. It'll be clear, but fun, and Jerkic will not just let Yerbossynuly hit and run. The Aussie will always come forward and try to make a fight, but will be beaten to the punch and struggle to win more than just a couple of rounds.
The bad news?
The bout is on a PPV card in Australia, and unfortunately it does seem, like most Australian PPV's, to be over-priced.
In 2019 we've tried some new things on this site, and have done a number of regular weekly features, with the "Introducing...", "Closet Classic", "Weekly Awards" and Podcast, which has been on hiatus due to some technological issues which should be sorted shortly, all being done on a weekly basis.
The key idea behind each of those, other than the podcast, was to shine a little beam of light on something, be it a fight from the past or an emerging young fighter, that fans may not have been aware of. We'd like to continue to add to this site, and begin our latest weekly feature, the "Hidden Gem of the Week".
The idea of this feature is to shine the light on an upcoming bout that we see as the hidden gem. These won't be bouts we'd typically preview, but instead a bout that interests us for some other reason. Whether it's a notable debutant, a low key bout which we believe could deliver fireworks, or just a bout that has something else about it, worthy of your attention. We're hoping these can be done every Tuesday, but they may flex a little bit, where we need to work around the scheduling of fights.
So without me rabbiting on any further, lets having a look at our first "Hidden Gem of the Week"
The Hidden Gem?
Masahiro Suzuki (2-0, 1) Vs Kosuke Arioka (9-3-1, 8)
August 8th (Thursday)
Because Masahiro Suzuki is a really promising former amateur standout who faces a JBC and OPBF ranked opponent in just his third bout.
Masahiro Suzuki is a former amateur standout with a 64-26 (21) record from the unpaid ranks. He fights out of the World Sports Boxing Gym, which also boasts Takeshi Inoue among others, and he is tipped to go on to do huge things in the sport. His team have shown no fear of throwing him in hard and after a debut win in November he is already jumping into 8 round bouts.
Kosuke Arioka is the 2017 Lightweight Rookie of the Year. He's a big puncher, with a nasty streak and is riding a 7 fight unbeaten run, including 6 wins and 5 stoppages. His wins over Mirai Naito, Yui Oikawa and Leonardo Doronio have been impressive and he is a legitimate puncher on the lower end of the Japanese domestic scene.
What to expect?
Arioka is, as we expect from a puncher, a very aggressive fighter who comes out looking for bombs to both head and body. He's not a particularly rounded fighter, and can be put under pressure, but he is a very strong one with real killer instinct. His Rookie of the Year final win, over Takeru Kobata, ended when Arioka hurt his man and unloaded on him, turning around a fight that had not been going his way. His power is real and his opponents cannot risk getting into a slugfest with him.
Suzuki on the other hand is the accomplished amateur star who looks the business and looks like he is already a polished, well rounded fighter with excellent ring craft, wonderful variety and surprising adaptability. He's one of the most rounded novices we've seen and has shown good boxing, fantastic body punching and impressive defensive awareness. Although it's still early days he does look like he's going to go a very long way, if he has a chin.
We're expecting Arioka to come out aggressively and Suzuki to answer the pressure with back foot boxing early on, before turning the fight around after Arioka has lost some of his fire and sting. Smart body punching from Suzuki will be used to slow down Arioka and eventually close the show. Arioka will be game, have some success early, but ultimately come undone against a real dynamite talent.
The bad news?
Sadly the bout isn't likely to be shown in full on TV, due to the quality of the card it's on and the fact that the show has two title bouts which will likely take up the TV time. There is hope Fuji TV will show highlights, which may be the best we get. Despite the bad news being aware of the bout, and the result afterwards, is worth your time as we find out whether Suzuki is the rising star we think he is, or another fighter who has bitten off more than he can chew this early in his career.
Yu Che Li (5-1-2, 4) KO4 Waldo Sabu (13-15, 3) - This is Sabu's third loss since his surprise KO win Vs Ernesto Saulong last July
Ju Wu (7-0-2) UD8 Adones Aguelo (31-20-2, 21) - Career best win for Chinese teenager
Leshan Li (16-3-1, 9) MD6 Venson Delopere (6-5-4, 2) - Li scores third win since TKO loss to Takuya Watanabe, but is run very close by unheralded Filipino
Danrick Sumabong (9-2, 8) RTD3 John Rey Lauza (13-21-4, 6) - Young Filipino puncher continues to impress. Lauza now 0-10-1 in last 11
Elvin Gambarov (5-0, 4) UD6 Larry Smith (10-41-1, 7) - Azeri hopeful hears the final bell for the first time
David Drapac (7-1, 3) Pts6 Deok No Yun (3-1, 2) - Korean fight Yun suffers first defeat at hands of Drapac
Davao del Sur, Philippines
Ronald Johnson (16-1, 4) UD12 Saul Farah (69-23-3, 60) - In Heavyweight action Johnson dominates Farah over 12 in Davao City
Aries Buenavidez (13-3, 7) UD12 Roy Nagulman (8-1-1, 6) - Nagulman loses unbeaten record in 12 round defeat by Buenavidez
Joe Tejones (13-6, 7) SD12 KJ Natuplag (8-1-2, 7) - Unbeaten Natuplag loses narrow decision to under-rated Tejones
Orlie Silvestre (14-5-1, 8) UD8 Jenuel Lauza (5-7, 5) - Exciting Filipino warrior Silvestre takes decision win over limited Lauza
Metro Manila, Philippines
Bienvenido Ligas (10-1-1, 7) UD10 JC Francisco (8-15-6, 3) - Ligas claims PBF Super Flyweight title with wide win over Francisco
MJ Bo (8-2-2, 4) UD6 Powell Balaba (9-30-1, 5) - Bo recovers from opening round disaster, when he was down twice, to defeat Balaba
Floryvic Montero (5-7, 3) TKO1 Joan Ambalong (6-13-1, 3) - Limited fighter Montero wins GAB female Light Flyweight title inside a round
Yeoncheon, South Korea
Hyun Min Yang (8-2, 7) TKO5 Yihao Wang (5-4, 1) - Wang dropped twice in round 5 as Yang claims WBA Asia Middleweight crown
Dong Kwan Lee (11-2-2, 5) RTD5 Anthony Sabalde (13-9, 8) - Filipino Sabalde suffers 4th loss in 5, Lee scores third straight win
Jong Hwa Yoo (1-0-1, 1) KO1 Woong Hee Jung (0-1) - Yoo and Jun trade opening round knockdowns, Jung fails to see round 2
Bang Phli, Thailand
Thanongsak Simsri (9-0, 9) TKO2 Watcharaphon Chaisai (0-1) - "Srisaket II" picks up latest stoppage win. Simsri is now looking to train at the Green Tsuda gym in Japan and the 18 year old is building a fearsome reputation
Sukkasem Kietyongyuth (23-10, 15) TKO3 Anuch Noithong (0-6) - Sukkasem bounces back from May's loss to Yukinori Oguni with an easy win
Aso Ishiwaki (6-2-1, 4) TKO1 Sudtay Daungmala (0-1) - Excellent Japanese teenager Ishiwaki makes international debut and scores first win in 3
Artem Dalakian (19-0, 13) TKO10 Dennapa Kiatniwat (20-2, 15) - Thai southpaw comes up very short against WBA Flyweight champion Dalakian
Yuri Takemoto (7-1-1, 4) TKO1 Kiki Marciano (1-4) - Rookie of the Year king Takemoto blows out Marciano in a round
Retsu Kosaka (10-4, 4) TKO2 Anshori Anhar Pitulay (9-18-2, 6) - Inconsistent form continues for Kosaka who is now 4-4 in last 8
Shisui Kawabata (2-0, 2) TKO2 Mongkol Kamsommat (5-5, 4) - Japanese amateur standout picks up second win
Shu Utsuki (5-0, 4) KO3 Omrri Bolivar (8-2, 3) - Utsuki breaks down OPBF and JBC ranked Bolivar, in 3 rounds
Miyo Yoshida (13-1) UD10 Casey Morton (8-2-3, 1) - Miyo makes it look easy as she dominates Morton for WBO female Super Flyweight title
Hiroto Kyoguchi (13-0, 9) UD12 Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-1, 5) - Kyoguchi retains WBA Light Flyweight title, Satanmuanglek puts up solid effort in loss
Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14) TKO10 Aston Palicte (25-3-1, 21)- Ioka claims WBO Super Flyweight title to become 4-weight champion, stops Palicte in 10 rounds
Unbeaten English Heavyweight Anthony Joshua wants to be the undisputed ruler of the Heavyweight division, the king pin, the fighter with all 4 of the major world titles. However in 2019 securing the titles is trickier than that it has ever been, with numerous problems holding back Joshua's dream.
At the moment the Heavyweight division is on the precipice of a golden era, combining top talent, different personalities and completely different styles. The top of the divisional tree, including the unbeaten trio of Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, gives us a trio of elite talent that we haven't seen since the likes of Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. Even then, back in the 1990's, we never had a point where all 3 men were at the top and unbeaten, making this current scenario even more compelling, as recently covered by in a recent article on the insider.
Despite the amazing trio that we have at the top there are major problems, problems that we simply cannot ignore. The three men aren't fighting each other next, or, it seems, any time soon. This means that Joshua, the IBF, WBO and WBA "super" champion, Wilder, the WBC king, and Fury, the Lineal champion, aren't battling to prove that they are the true king of the division.
Instead of facing each other the three men are all going in different directions, with Wilder having recently fought Dominic Breazeale, Tyson Fury battling Tom Schwarz in the coming weeks and Joshua fighting this coming weekend.
The unbeaten Joshua, the fighting pride of the UK, will be defending his trio of titles this coming Saturday as he takes on the unheralded Andy Ruiz Jr at the legendary Madison Square Garden. Whilst unable to secure bouts with Wilder or Fury he is looking to leave his mark on the US, and put pressure on his rivals. He is expected to shine against Ruiz, and Joshua is the clear favourite in the boxing odds to beat Ruiz – and move one step close to getting the huge bouts he desires.
Whilst Joshua has had no problems unifying 3 of the major titles, his pursuit for the illusive WBC title is a much trickier task. There are more problems securing this title than any of his others, and the chase to get Deontay Wilder in the ring is certainly tricky than it is to get almost any other opponent.
Part of the issue is the promotional, and managerial teams of the two men. Joshua's promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, and Wilder's adviser Shelley Finkel, have spent well over a year pointing fingers and making accusations at each other. What seemed a logical and easy fight to make, has taken a problematic turn in terms of agreeing a deal, with clear animosity, distrust and frustrations between the two sides, each believing they deserve more from negotiations than they are able to secure.
Of course promoters in the sport have long disagreed, with the likes of Bob Arum and Don King or Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn's father Barry Hearn, famously not seeing eye to eye. However common sense often seemed to come out on top, in the end, and the promoters realised their was too much money on the table to not eventually make the bouts.
On the subject of money each promoter will be looking at doing what they can to both line their fighters pocket and their own. Arguments about purses are only a fraction of the issue, with other problems regarding PPV upsides, sponsorship deals, long term rights issues, international TV rights. The arguments extend well beyond pay, with another major issue being the venue. Joshua would likely prefer to fight in the UK, in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley, but Wilder would almost certainly prefer a US dominated crowd and home advantage.
Even little issues can be used as bartering chips. Who is first on the shows poster, what size of ring will they use, what type of gloves, who gets introduced into the ring first, who's anthem is played first and which officials are selected. Even what sort of drug testing can become an issue, and whilst the WBC's Clean Boxing Program will likely be part of that their may be additional testing on top.
One of the most pressing issues for bouts right now is actually the broadcaster, with Anthony Joshua's promoter being the lead promoter for the newly launched DAZN US, Tyson Fury being a figure head of the ESPN boxing deal and Wilder essentially being part of working relationship with US TV giant Showtime. Whilst there are possibilities for the broadcasters to split shows, as we have seen a couple of times between Showtime and HBO, they are rare and given the different mediums.
Whilst all 3 men are unbeaten the potential bouts between Joshua, Fury and Wilder will continue to build in terms of the financials involved. It does however take just a single slip up, a poor performance, a draw, or even worse a loss, and the bout loses a lot of it's allure. We saw this when a potential super fight between Mike Tson and Evander Holyfield was scuppered by Tyson losing in Tokyo to Buster Douglas, and we also saw it when Manny Pacquiao lost his ability to request a 50-50 split with Floyd Mayweather Jr following a KO loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in their fourth bout. As soon as one man loses their "0" his drawing power and appeal does. His invincibility is gone. Here a loss in a lesser fight will potentially be worth 10's of millions of dollars. A figure us mere mortal can only dream of.
Even if the fighters can agree a deal to fight, an get the broadcasters to agree, and can secure a future date for the bout there are still issues in play. This like the world title bodies, who have been accused of making up their rules as they go along, could throw a wrench into the works by ordering a mandatory challenger, or stripping a champion, or in the case of the WBA just creating a random new title. There are also issues with potential injuries, an adverse finding in a drug test, as we've seen in cases involving Fury along with Alexander Povetkin who was scheduled to Deontay Wilder and more recently Jarrell Miller, who was set to face Joshua on June 1st.
Another issue is that Joshua could, potentially, be frozen out. Wilder and Fury have fought before, fighting to a draw in 2018. Their promoters have a friendly relationship and would happy work together again if the finances make sense. Fury's promoter, Frank Warren, has long had a rivalry with Matchroom Sport, first with Barry Hearn and now with his son Eddie Hearn. A rematch between Fury and Wilder seems much more likely than a match between Joshua and either of the other two.
Looking beyond June 1st it's clear that Joshua will have mandatory challengers to deal with, especially if he wants to keep his 3 titles unified, that will further delay a potential show down with one of his two main rivals. It is however worth noting we should never over-look an under-dog. We've seen it time and time again, such as in 2006 when the super fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr and Zab Judah lost it's lure when the much unfancied Carlos Manuel Baldomir upset Judah, and Joshua cannot look past Ruiz this weekend.
The heavyweight division might by the sports gold banner, but until the best face the best the division will continue to frustrate fans, broadcasters and other fighters. Fingers crossed we begin to get the best against the best later in the year
The Light Heavyweight division is a strange one at the moment with really good champions, a number of contenders who have proven not to be good enough, or consistent enough in some cases, and some really exciting and promising prospects. So lets have a look at those prospects.
If you missed our review of the champion's that's available to read here The state of the Division - Light Heavyweight - The Champions whilst the contenders are available here The state of the Division - Light Heavyweight - The Contenders
Joshua Buatsi (9-0, 7)
Ghanaian born English boxer-puncher Joshua Buatsi is one of the best prospects in British boxing. The 25 year old caught the eye at the 2016 Olympics, claiming a bronze medal, and since turning professional in 2017 he has looked exciting, heavy handed and really promising. In his first 9 bouts he has scored 7 stoppages, 5 of which have come in the first 2 rounds. His competition hasn't been amazing, though wins over Tony Averlant and Renold Quinland are solid. He's pencilled in to fight again in March, against Liam Conroy for the British title.
Braian Nahuel Suarez (9-0, 8)
Argentinian puncher Braian Nahuel Suarez isn't a name that many will be talking about, at least not in the US or UK, but he should be. He's been a pro for a little over 2 years but has already scored a 10 round decision win for a regional silver title, he's heavy handed and is certainly a promising fighter making his mark in one of the most under-rated boxing scenes out there. He's unlikely to make a mark in a bigger country for a while, and that's not actually a bad thing, but when he does he will have developed his experience and technique and will be ready for bigger tests than he gets at home.
Brandon Glanton (8-0, 7)
Another power punching prospect American Brandon Glanton, dubbed "Bulletproof" he was a very accomplished amateur, perhaps not an amateur star but certainly an accomplished fighter on the domestic scene at both Super Heavyweight and Heavyweight. He is somewhat short for a Light Heavyweight, but is very powerful and very heavy handed with the potential to make a real mark in the next 12-24 months.
Lyndon Arthur (13-0, 10)
"King" Arthur Lyndon is another Brit breaking through at 175lbs, one of many. His match making hasn't been as impressive as that of Buatsi, and his best win to date has been over Charles Adamu, though he's gone about things quite quietly without much bluster and fanfare. Whilst that has certainly seem him lack the attention of some others he has been able to develop his style and experience with out too much criticism and could well be set for a break out year in 2019.
Willy Hutchinson (6-0, 4)
Staying with Brits 20 year old Willy Hutchinson looks to be one of the real hidden gems of the division, though someone who will not stay hidden for long. Hutchinson, from Scotland, won the European Junior and World Youth championships, has already worked with Ismael Salas and Dominic Ingle and is now promoted by Frank Warren. His professional opposition hasn't been anything great, but given his age that's no surprise., good competition will come sooner rather than later and he could be very easily turn out to be something very, very special.
Alfonso Flores (7-0, 6)
Unbeaten Venezuela 24 year old Alfonso Flores is another puncher who hasn't had much attention. He's not really made much noise, but has travelled, scoring his last 2 wins in Mexico. At the moment there a lot of questions over Flores, but it's hard not to excited about a Latin American puncher, looking to punch their way out of Venezuela, especially given the state that that country is in right now. If he can head further north and go to America or stay in Mexico, and develop his skills there could be something of a dark sheep to Flores.
Anthony Sims Jr (17-0, 16)
Another big punching prospect at the weight is the charismatic Anthony Sims Jr, who has really improved his profile in the last year or so whilst going in to detail about his out of the ring battles In the ring he has been great so far, he's exciting, talented, explosive and was a very solid amateur before beginning his professional career. At 24 and with 17 bouts under his belt we are expecting a big year from Sims in 2019, especially following his massive rise in profile last year.
The Light Heavyweight division is a really interesting one at the moment, with a really strong set of champions and a lot of depth in the contender region. Sadly whilst we have depth at Contender level, a lot of that is fighters who have proven to be under the level of champions, or are yet to prove themselves against fellow contenders.
If you missed our review of the champion's that's available to read here The state of the Division - Light Heavyweight - The Champions
Badou Jack (22-2-3, 13)
Former WBC Super Middleweight champion and WBA Light Heavyweight champion Badou Jack is a throw back to when fighters took on stiff competition fight after fight. Going back over the last 4 years Jack has faced 7 straight world class opponents. Sadly though he is now 35 and the wear and tear are certainly taking a toll on him. He's been a breath of fresh air in the sport, though it does seem like his career is close to ending. Last time out he was beaten, widely, by Marcus Browne and needed a lot of stitches afterwards for a cut, so he may only fit in 1 m ore fight, if that, before his 36th birthday.
Joe Smith Jr (24-2, 20)
Crude but hard hitting American Joe Smith Jr is a feel good story for boxing, who scored back to back wins over Andrzej Fonfara and Bernard Hopkins. A loss to Sullivan Barrera in 2017 was a set back, but he is set to get a shot at Dmitry Bivol in March, in what will be his first world title bout. Smith can be out boxed, he can be out brawled, but he will always be a danger man, and has the sort of power which can drop anyone. A very crude but dangerous fighter
Eleider Alvarez (24-1, 12)
Colombian boxer-puncher Eleider Alvarez is a 34, soon to be 35, year old who is best known for upsetting Sergey Kovalev in 2018 to become the WBO champion. Sadly for him his reign was short lived and he actually lost the belt to Kovalev in an immediate rematch. Given his age and the danger he brings, he may well find himself becoming a card carrying member of the who needs him club. He is talented and heavy handed, but has been too patient at times, and has failed to find another gear when he's needed to really impress. A frustrating fighter.
Sullivan Barrera (22-2, 14)
Talented Cuban Sullivan Barrera is 36, and soon to be 37, and is looking for another big fight, having called out almost every notable Light Heavyweight in recent weeks. He's dangerous, talented and holds good wins over Karo Murat, Joe Smith Jr, Vyacheslav Shabranskyy and Sean Monaghan, among others. Sadly though he has come up short against his most notable opponents, Andre Ward and Dmitry Bivol. His time in the sport is limited, but he is actively chasing a big fight and fingers crossed he does get one more as he has shown an attitude that few others have. A Barrera Vs Jack fight would perhaps be the perfect crossroads fight.
Anthony Yarde (17-0, 16)
Frustrating, yet hard hitting, Englishman Anthony Yarde has a big punch, a lot of confidence and a team that seems to want to protect him. He's the current WBO #1 ranked fighter but his opposition so far has been disappointing and his team appear unwilling to match him in a truly risky fight until they have secured him a shot at a world title. If, or when, he gets a shot at a belt we'll learn a lot about the 27 year old from Hackney, but we may end up waiting a while given how his career has really not progressed as many would have hoped. He's now 27, so still pretty young, but needs to get a move on before if he wants to really make the most of his career.
Umar Salamov (23-1, 17)
Once beaten Russian Umar Salamov has reeled off 4 straight wins since a very close 2017 loss to Damien Hooper, in Australia and put himself in the mix. He lacks a real A level win, but the 24 year old has scored good wins over the likes of Doudou Ngumbu, Bob Ajisafe, Denis Liebay and Emmanuel Anim. He's probably a couple of fights from facing a fellow top contender but we wouldn't be surprised by it happening by early 2020. In a way it's a shame he hasn't built on the win over Ngumbu from back in 2015.
Callum Johnson (17-1, 12)
When we talk about frustrating careers few will match that of Callum Johnson, an incredibly talented and hard hitting Englishman who's career has stumbled due to injury time and time again. He's a former world title challenger, best known for losing an up and down bout with Artur Beterbeiv late last year. Despite the set back against Beterbiev he showed he was talented and dangerous enough to remain in the mix and will look to earn another title fight, sadly though he is now 33 and debuted over 8 years ago. Had he not suffered injuries he could well have been a major player in the division.
Fanlong Meng (14-0, 9)
China's Fanlong Meng is one of the more interesting fighters in the division. He's one of the few Chinese fighters in the bigger weights, he's a talented boxer puncher, and he's also shown some chin issues, having been down a couple of times. He made a great impression last year, stopping Frank Buglioni in Monaco, but has suffered with inactivity recently. He could be just a fight or two from a world title fight, and certainly has the skills to hold his own against fellow contenders, but there is a lack of notable names on his record, which is a shame. An accomplished amateur his ability isn't to be questioned, but his team and their desire certainly is questionable.
Sven Fornling (15-1, 7)
Little known 30 year old Swede has won his last 5 in a row, including a December win over Karo Murat for the IBO title. He's talented but has shown frailty, being stopped by Yevgenii Makhteienko and lacks a second stand out win. Given how boxing is in Sweden he's unlikely to ever be a major star, but he is certainly someone who is ranked and could find himself in a world title fight in the coming future.
Jean Pascal (33-6-1-1, 20)
Former world champion Jean Pascal is, like Badou Jack, a throw back who has been in with almost everyone of note for over a decade. His competition really does put some of top names in the sport to shame. He has fought Carl Froch, Adrian Diaconu, Chad Dawson, Bernard Hopkins, Lucian Bute, Sergey Kovalev, Eleider Alvarez and Dmitry Bivol, among others. Sadly those wars have taken a toll on a fighter who was always more of a talented athlete than a truly skilled boxer. At 36 years old he is still a "serviceable" contender but is less of a threat to the top guys than he once was.
Doudou Ngumbu (38-8, 14)
French veteran Doudou Ngumbu is a 37 old who has been a professional for around 12 years and has 46 fights to his name. His long career has seen him mix with plenty of notable names, especially on the European scene, but suffer mixed results, including a 2017 loss to Igor Mikhalkin, a 2015 loss to Umar Salamov and 2014 loss to Andrzej Fonfara. Despite set backs in recent years he is now lined up for a March world title fight with Oleksandr Gvozdyk.
The Light Heavyweight division is one which is very top heavy right now, but any of the top fighters would make for an excellent match up if put against each other, and it's incredibly hard to to define who is the #1 in the division, with 4 very strong claimants.
Oleksandr Gvozdyk (16-0, 13) - WBC Champion (0 defenses)
Unbeaten Ukrainian Oleksandr Gvozdyk is one of a number of talented fighters to have emerged from the excellent Ukrainian amateur system in recent years, such as Vasiliy Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk. "The Nail" won the WBC title back in December, when he ended the long reign of Adonis Stevenson, and is set for his first defense in March. Gvodzdyk is talented, heavy handed and is a technical boxer-puncher who can keep a relatively high pace, especially for the division. At 31, and turning 32 in April, his reign might not be an incredibly long one, but he is certainly someone worth watching.
Sergey Kovalev (33-3-1, 28) - WBO Champion (0 defenses)
Heavy handed Russian Sergey Kovalev recently regained the WBO title, avenging a prior loss to Eleider Alvarez. The 35 year old "Krusher" is coming to the end of his career, but is still a very dangerous fighter and someone who has very solid power and criminally under-rated boxing ability. He's slipped form his best, and has shown mental cracks in recent years, but is still a very good boxer-puncher who looked better than he has last time out. At his best he put fear into opponents with his power, though now it seems likely that he will be looking to use that power as a weapon in his arsenal rather than as his key way to victory. If he can stay on the right track he could beat anyone in the division, but out of the ring issues may end up derailing his renaissance.
Dmitry Bivol (15-0, 11) - WBA Champion (4 defenses)
Unbeaten champion Dmitry Bivol, born in Kyrgyzstan though regarded as a Russian fighter, is the youngest of the champions and is arguably the most rounded. He's a busy, active boxer puncher, with stiff power on his shots. He's not heady handed as Kovalev, Gvozdyk or Artur Beterbiev, but he's more technically sounded, a better ring general and a smarter boxer with more wrinkles to his game. He does have areas to work on, and certainly needs to work on things still, but the 28 year is proving to be a very talented, rounded and fantastic fighter who could be the best in the division. With wins over Sullivan Barrera, Isaac Chilemba and Jean Pascal in 2018 he has a very impressive resume that seems to be getting better with every fight.
Artur Beterbiev (13-0, 13) - IBF Champion (1 defense)
Another hard hitter in the division is IBF champion Artur Beterbiev, another Russian who punches like a mule. Beterbiev won the title in late 2017 but has struggled through his career with activity, management, and competition. He's been a professional for close to 6 years but has only managed 13 contests in that time. He has changed his team a few times and has been avoided, making his career one of the most disappointing. At the age of 34 he doesn't have long left in his career, and yet has only had 47 rounds as a professional. As an amateur Beterbiev was a star but as a professional his career appears likely to end up being an underwhelming one. A shame, but a very dangerous shame.
Marcus Browne (23-0, 16) - WBA "interim" Champion (0 defenses)
American fighter Marcus Browne had been bubbling under the surface for a few years whilst compiling a solid, yet unspectacular record. This past January however he put himself firmly in the mix when he defeated Badou Jack to become the WBA "interim" champion. The 28 year old former amateur stand out struggled past Radivoje Kalajdzic in April 2016 but sincee then has looked very good, beating not only Jack but also Sean Monaghan, Francy Ntetu and Thomas Williams Jr. He's the least accomplished amnd impressive of the top guys, but certainly appears to be developing well in recent bouts and could be the long term American hope of the division.
The final part of our look at the Super Middleweight division looks at the prospects emerging through the rankings. If you missed our earlier parts they can be read here:
The state of the Division - Super Middleweight - The Championsand here:
The state of the Division - Super Middleweight - The Contenders
Vladimir Shishkin (8-0, 5)
Unbeaten Russian Vladimir Shishkin looks like he's going to be a fast tracked fighter at Super Middleweight, and that was clearly shown last year. The fighter turned professional in 2016 and took his time to get going, before stopping Siarhei Khamitski and Nadjib Mohammedi in 2018. He's heavy handed, talented and looks to be developing quickly, both in terms of his skills and his physical maturity. It's going to be very exciting to see what he does this year, and we wouldn't be surprised to see Shiskin in the world title mix by the end of 2019.
Zach Parker (17-0, 11)
Englishman prospect Zach Parker is world ranked but hasn't really shown that type of quality yet. Despite not appearing world class he has had some impressive wins, at least domestically, and scored his biggest win last November, when he narrowly outpointed Darryll Williams in Glasgow. He has shown promise, but there is still a lot left for the 24 year to improve on before he starts to think about a world title shot, no matter what he team maybe suggesting.
Nicolas Ezequiel Masseroni (17-0, 17)
It's hard to really know what unbeaten Argentinian Nicolas Ezequiel Masseroni has to offer. So far he has been destructive on the Argentinian domestic scene, taking out 17 opponents in a combined 22 rounds. Despite that the 26 year old is yet to face anyone with a pulse, and we suspect he, and his team, will be looking to pad those numbers a it more before getting him to step up. His 17 career bouts have included some fights on the road, with an early career contest in Uruguay and a couple in Mexico, but it is very hard to know what he really brings to the table.
Aidos Yerbossynuly (10-0, 8)
Kazakh boxing is on the rise, there is a lot of promise making it's self known as Gennady Golovkin sees his career coming to an end. Among those looking to make their mark on the sport is Aidos Yerbossynuly. Despite only being a professional since October 2015 Yerbossynuly has already fought in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, USA and Russia, and looks like he is wanting to make a big mark on the sport. Sadly he has shown some issues with durability, having been dropped several times already, but has a fun and exciting style that should help lead him to pretty notable success in the years to come. Even if Yerbossynuly fails to reach the big time he will certainly give us some exciting fights.
D'Mitrius Ballard (19-0-0-1, 12)
25 year old American D'Mitrius Ballard has been a professional for 6 years and like many American fighters his progress was incredibly slow, especially early on. In 2017 however he did begin to show some interesting signs, beating Adrian Luna Flores and Jaime Solorio, before adding a win over Alan Campa in 2018. It's unclear what Ballard has, but as with many prospects it's going to be interesting to see his development from here, especially given that he's not in his mid 20's and can't afford to take a step backwards from his last few opponents.
Nurzat Sabirov (8-0, 7)
Canadian based Kazakh fighter Nurzat Sabirov is a 25 year old boxer-puncher who only turned professional in 2017 and has been kept active since then, fitting 8 fights into about 20 months. To date his competition hasn't been amazing, but he has beaten more experienced fighters, such as Guillermo Romero and Rocky Montoya. He has looked very heavy handed, very smart, very talented and like a potential star in the making. The big question, as it is with a lot of these super prospects, is whether his team can both challenge him and develop him. If they can do that, then Sabirov may well find himself in the world rankings by the end of 2019, in title fights in the later part of 2020.
Rufat Hajiyev (4-0, 4)
It's not often that we get to talk about Azeri fighters but Rufat Hajiyev is certainly worth talking about. The now 25 year old debuted in December 2017 and has taken out his first 4 opponents in a combined 6 rounds. His competition hasn't been particularly good, with all 4 of his bouts taking place in Georgia, but he has been taking care of business, and been stepping up his level of competition. Hopefully that continues in 2019. Sadly Hajiyev may be one of those fighters who just disappears, having never managed to secure the big fights he needs, but we really hope he isn't, and instead does get a chance to sink or swim.
Dieudonne Wilfred Seyi Ntsengue (2-0, 1)
One of the potential hidden gems at Super Middleweight isCanadian based Cameroonian 21 year old Dieudonne Wilfred Seyi Ntsengue. The unbeaten youngster was a former amateur stand out, winning a Gold medal at the 2015 African Games and a Silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth games. He would also compete at the 2016 Olympics, though fail to make his mark at Rio. As a professional Ntsengue made his debut in Cameroon in 2017, before fighting in Canada last year and it now looks like he will be returning to a Canadian ring in the coming week, to really kick things off. He really could be the dark horse of the division and given his amateur background he is clearly worth keeping and eye on.
Muslimbek Olimov (2-0, 2)
The Uzbek's are certainly on the rise, and in 2018 a number of Uzbeks really left their mark on the sport with a serious of great displays. There isn't too many uzbek fighters at 168lbs worthy of note, though Muslimbek Olimov seems to be one who is worthy of some attention. The heavy handed man from Fergana debuted in July and scored 2 opening round wins before the year was over. Hopefully his activity will pick up this year, and his level of competition also improves. What is worth nothing is that his debut came against a guy with a record of 13-4 (9) and that level of competition is rare for a debutant.
One of the best things about the Super Middleweight division is the depth in the contender range, which has a mixture of former champions, rising hopefuls, and fighters from various parts of the globe. Not only is there good variety, but there is also good solid talent through out, and interesting styles.
If you missed our look at the champions that can be read here - The state of the Division - Super Middleweight - The Champions
Anthony Dirrell (32-1-1, 24)
Although not as gifted as brother Andre, Anthony Dirrell does appear to be the more true fighter, and has the grit and determination that would have made Andre a very special fighter. At the age of 34 Dirrell is getting what looks likely to be his final shot at the top, and although he's getting on, and has had a hard career, he is very much a solid fighter. He is a former WBC champion, having beaten Sakio Bike for the belt in 2014, but lost it in his first defense, so Badou Jack back in 2015. Since losing the title he has gone on a 5 fight winning run to land himself a shot at the vacant WBC title on February 23rd against Avni Yildrim.
Avni Yildrim (21-1, 12)
Having mentioned his name it makes perfect sense to go in depth about Turkish fighter Avni Yildrim, who will be looking to claim his first world title when he faces Dirrell. The Turk is a bit of a basic fighter, but at 27 he is in his physical prime and has reeled off 5 wins since losing to Chris Eubank in the WBSS in 2017. Although he is best known for the loss to Eubank ,Yildrim isn't actually a bad fighter, and holds wins over Glen Johnson, Marco Antonio Periban, Ryan Ford and Lolenga Mock. He does seem to be relatively inconsistent though and doesn't do anything special, meaning that he should be there for the taking against Dirrell.
Chris Eubank Jr (27-2, 21)
Second generation fighter Chris Eubank Jr is a very good natural athlete who has chose to follow his father into boxing. He's quick, powerful, strong and tough. Sadly however he lacks the boxing brain, and hasn't really shown what he truly can do, instead of showing how good of a boxer he can be he tends to spend more time moving around, posing and trying to play up to the crowd. If he can make the most of his natural gifts with a new trainer there's no doubting he can go all the way to the top. Sadly though he has suffered losses to two fellow British fighters, Billy Joe Saunders and George Groves, who made the most of Eubank's low boxing IQ to defeat him. He'll be back in the ring on February 23rd when he takes on another Brit, James DeGale.
James DeGale (25-2-1, 15)
Olympic gold medal winner James DeGale was once tipped as a star, but appeared to turn professional with the wrong attitude and fans quickly turned on him early in his career. In fairness however DeGale has turned fans to his side in the later stages of his career, with notable performances against the likes of Andre Dirrell, Lucian Bute, Badou Jack and Caleb Truax. Sadly the tough bouts against Jack and Truax have taken their toll and it's unclear what the 32 year old still has left in the tank. Although a natural talent DeGale did at times show a real sense of laziness in the ring, and that has long been a problem. At 32 it's hard to imagine him showing the energy that was often lacking earlier in his career.
Jose Uzcategui (28-3, 23)
Hard hitting Mexican based Venezuelan Jose Uzcategui recently lost the IBF title to Caleb Plant, in what was a really compelling match up. The exciting Uzcategui is technically a little on the limited side, but is very heavy handed, aggressive and determined. He's unlucky to have 3 losses on his record, with a DQ loss against Andre Dirrell really being harsh, though he has scored notable wins over Julius Jackson, Andre Dirrell, in a rematch, and Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna. He's not looked his best since winning the IBF title in early 2018 and we do wonder if a move up to Light Heavyweight will do him the world of good, as he looked slow and sluggish early on against Plant. we don't expect to see Uzcateguin in the ring any time soon, but we do look forward to his return.
David Benevidez (20-0, 17)
Hard hitting David Benevidez is one of the top youngsters in the sport, and actually won the WBC title back in 2017, when he defeated Ronald Gavril. Sadly his reign was interrupted after issues with recreational drugs, and he's now been out of the ring since February 2018. Blessed with brutal power, and solid boxing skills the 22 year old does seem like he could be a major player for the next 10 years or so, but will obviously need to sort out his out of the ring issues to do that. He'll be back in action in March, and should he win that he will likely look to recapture the WBC title, from the winner of the Dirrell Vs Yildrim fight.
David Lemieux (40-4, 34)
Canadian puncher David Leemieux has long been a fixture on the Middleweight scene, but has had repeated issues with making the 160lb limit. With that in mind it's expected that he will make the move up to Super Middleweight. In terms of power he should have more than enough on his shots to hurt fighters at 168lbs, though his lack of reach and size is likely to be a problem for him, and he had short arms even at Middleweight. At the age of 30 it does seem like Lemieux should roll the dice, move up and see how he can do, as he has had so many issues making the Middleweight limit, that it's simply not worth boiling down for again. He's popular, exciting and well backed, so shouldn't struggle to get notable bouts at 168lbs going forward.
Azizbek Abdugofurov (12-0, 4)
Uzbek 26 year old Azizbek Abdugofurov looks to be the best hope for Central Asia and at one point it was hard to imagine not going to the top. He started his career in 2016 and immediately looked like a star in the making, taking his first title, a regional WBC belt, just 2 months after his debut. Sadly he hasn't really shined since then, despite scoring wins over notable names like Sirimongkol Singwancha, Martin Fidel Rios and Dmitrii Chudinov. He is still young and could improve but there is a feeling that he doesn't have the power he will need to make an impact at the top, and he's gone the distance in his last 8 bouts. He's a talent, but certainly needs to have a big 2019 to stay in the mix with some of the other top contenders.
Jesse Hart (25-2, 21)
American Jesse Hart is a 2-time world title challenger, having lost two competitive decisions to Gilberto Ramirez in bouts for the WBO title. Hart, a second generation fighter following in the footsteps of Eugene "Cyclone" Hart, has proven to be a talented boxer-puncher. He was a standout amateur, racking up an 85-11 record in the unpaid ranks, and has been a solid professional who will almost certainly get another shot sooner rather than later. Although talented Hart has some clear technical flaws to tidy up, and we dare say if he can sort those out he could end up going all the way. He is a "nearly man" at the moment, though with his likable personality and relatively exciting style he will get more chances.
Rocky Fielding (27-2, 15)
It's hard to know what to make of 31 year old British fighter Rocky Fielding. At times he looks solid, and like he belongs to be in the list of contenders, and other times he doesn't. He did notable take the WBA "regular" title from Tyron Zeuge last year, but had it ripped form his hands in 3 rounds by Saul Alvarez. His other loss was a opening round defeat to Callum Smith. So it's clear he's well below the level of those at the top of the division, but he has wins over Zeuge, John Ryder and Christopher Rebrasse, show that, at worst, he's a solid European level fighter. We suspect we'll see what he has left in his next serious outing, and we may also find out what desire he still has left as a fighter.
John Ryder (27-4, 15)
Englishman John Ryder may have lost to Rocky Fielding but there is no reason that the 30 year old Southpaw isn't to be regarded as a prospect himself. In fact since that loss to Fielding, in 2017, Ryder has reeled off 3 of his best wins, stopping Patrick Nielsen, Jamie Cox and Andrey Sirotkin, to keep himself in the world title mix. Although he's on a good run of stoppages Ryder isn't a big puncher, he's more a talented boxer, who has started to sit on his punches more. He began his career at Middleweight, losing a razor thin decision to Billy Joe Saunders, lost by stoppage to Nick Blackwell and then found a real lease of life at Super Middleweight. Sadly though he is small for the weight, and there is a feeling that a top guy would out power him. Still he's hard to ignore and is certainly on the verge of a wold title shot.
Erik Bazinyan (22-0, 17)
One of the lesser known contenders is Canadian based Armenian Erik Bazinyan, who looks to be the a contender worthy of attention. The hard hitting 22 year old made his debut in 2013, when he was just 18, and has been busy since then. As with most fighters his early record isn't worth getting too excited about, but he has stopped 14 of his last 16, including Adrian Luna Flores, Francy Ntetu, David Zegarra. Managed by the well respected Eye of the Tiger Management he has a strong team behind him and could be the gem of the division. We suspect he might be a year or two away from a title fight, but with the wins he's been getting it's going to be very hard to hold him back. A really exciting contender, and someone every one should be following.
Shefat Isufi (27-3-2, 20)
The world rankings throw some weird things at us, and one of the weirdest could be the fact the WBO's #1 ranked contender at Super Middleweight, at the time of writing, is Shefat Isufi. We at Asian Boxing tend to think that we're pretty knowledgeable about global boxing, but we hadn't heard of Serbian born German Isufi prior to starting this article. The 29 year old has been a professional since 2010 and was 12-2-2 (8) after 16 fights. Since then he has gone 15-1 (12) but only really beaten David Zegarra, taking far longer than Bazinyan, and Uruguayan veteran Radael Sosa Pintos. There is almost nothing else of note on his record, and it's almost impossible to work out what he's done for his world ranking. A really odd ranking from the WBO.
Vincent Feigenbutz (30-2, 27)
Whilst Isufi has a weird ranking his fellow German Vincent Feigenbutz is well deserving of a world rankings. The 23 year old, who debuted at the age of 16, is already a young veteran with 32 fights on his ledge. He would lose in his second bout but bounce back and reel off 20 wins, picking up a WBA title along the way. A loss to Giovanni De Carolis in 2016 derailed his rise to stardom but he has bounced back with 9 wins since then and has scored stoppages in his last 4 wins. He is strong, powerful, heavy handed and technically decent, but has areas to improve on before moving to the top for another world title shot. A proper contender, who is perhaps just a win or two away from a world title fight.
Historically the Super Middleweight division has been dominated by European fighters, with British boxers in particular having a great history there with the likes of Joe Calzaghe, Carl Froch and the recently retired George Groves being huge stars there. Today though the division has sort of shifted with a new found Mexican influence at the top.
So lets begin by looking at the top guys at 168lbs.
Callum Smith (25-0, 18) - WBA "super" (0 defenses)
English boxer-puncher Callum Smith claimed the WBA "super" title in 2018, when he won the Super Middleweight WBSS and stopped George Groves. Despite that being his first world title bout he had long been considered as one of the truly elite fighters in the division, having held English, British, European and WBC "Diamond" titles. At 28 Smith is in his physical prime and is a huge and imposing fighter at 168lbs. Sadly his size is likely going to be an issue and force him to move up sooner rather than later. However, as long as he's at 168lbs he will be one of the top guys there, and one of the best body punchers in the sport today. There are some technical flaws to work on, but the reality is that he's a big, strong, powerful talented guy who will typically be able to overpower more skilled foes.
Gilberto Ramirez (39-0, 25) - WBO (5 defenses)
Another huge fighter at the weight is unbeaten Mexican Gilberto Ramirez Sanchez, who has held the WBO title since April 2016. The 27 year old Mexican is seen as a fighter who may be moving up in weight sooner rather than later, as he's huge and stands over 6'2". Fighting out of the southpaw stance Ramirez has the hall marks of a big Mexican star. He's talented, looks good, can be exciting, if matched properly, hits hards and has good boxing fundamentals. Sadly his recent performances haven't been great, and his competition hasn't allowed to really show what he can do. He also seemed to suffer an injury last time out, so it could be a bit of wait until he faces another top name.
Caleb Plant (18-0, 18) - IBF (0 defenses)
Unbeaten American Caleb Plant, dubbed "Sweethands", showed how good he was in January when he dethroned Jose Uzcategui in LA, to claim the IBF title. The talented Planet proved he his harder than his record suggests, dropping Uzcategui twice, as managed to show great hand speed, movement and activity, at least early on. He struggled late in the bout, in what was only his second 12 round bout. Despite holding a world title Plant looks like a fighter who is still a work in progress, but the 26 year old American is certainly a solid boxer, with a likable personality and a back story that will have fans on his side for a long time to come. It's hard to imagine him beating any of the other champions at the weight, but in reality there's not many contenders that would be clearly favoured over him, and if he improve as we expect than he could end up having a very good reign.
Saul Alvarez (51-1-2, 35) - WBA "regular" (0 defenses)
A bit of an oddity here is that Saul "Canelo" Alvarez is the WBA interim champion, having won the belt in late 2018 from Rocky Fielding. That win showed that Canelo, at 168lbs, still holds a punch but appears to have been little more than a 1-off, for now. The 28 year old Mexican icon has since announced that he will be dropping back down to Middleweight to face Daniel Jacobs in a WBA "super", IBFand WBC Middleweight title unification. Alvarez will certainly end up at 168lbs down the line, but for now he's a Middleweight who dipped his toes at Super Middleweight and picked up a secondary title.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.