One of the things that has always interested me about boxing was just far scoping it was around the world. We all know there's some "boxing countries" and some "non-boxing" countries, with places like Japan, Philippines and Thailand being dominant places for boxing in Asia. At the moment however we do feel like boxing in traditionally non-boxing countries is about to come alive, and that there are seeds being planted for other countries to develop notable professional scenes.
With that in mind we've decided to do a list of interesting "active" fighters from non-boxing countries. By that we mean countries with no real professional scene, though they may have a small handful of fighters. We've tried to keep to fighters where we've managed to get some footage, but for some fighters that turned out to be impossible, despite our best efforts. Still we felt even those without videos to show deserved a mention as they certainly have some sort of an interesting story to tell, even if we're not totally sure of their story.
This is part 1 of this series, with part 2 to be posted in the coming days.
Raymond Poon KaiChing (6-1, 3) - Hong Kong
When we think of boxing in Hong Kong we immediately think of Rex Tso, the exciting Super Flyweight contender who's career has fallen off the map in the last 12 months or so. Despite Tso being away from the ring, to recover from an eye injury, the sport isn't dead in the country and instead it's come down to his "brother" Raymond Poon KaiChing, to carry the flag. He's not the talent that Tso is but he's getting a fair bit of media attention at home and looks to be the best they have, in Tso's absence.
The 22 year old Light Flyweight made his debut back in May 2016 and won his first 2 bouts before suffering a loss to Tat Fai Yu, in what is Yu's only bout so far. Since then he has rolled off 4 straight wins, taking the unbeaten record of Frengky Rohi and claiming the a pair of regional titles. He ceiling doesn't appear to be as high as that of Tso, but for now he's the one beacon of boxing hope in Hong Kong, at least until Tso's return.
KaiChing is set to be part of the December 31st card in Macau, in a scheduled 10 round bout to defend his regional titles. At the moment his opponent hasn't been announced though we're not expecting anyone too testing for the youngster, with a limited regional foe seeming highly likely.
Lap Cheong Cheong (4-0, 3) - Macau
Another fighter scheduled for the New Year's Eve Macau card is Macau local Lap Cheong Cheong. Lap is a 22 year old Flyweight who looks likely to fill the void left by Kuok Kun Ng, who was once tipped to be the local face of the Macau boxing scene. Lap made his professional debut just over a year ago in Macau, beating fellow debutant Zhenwu Xie with a 4 round decision, and since then has racked up 3 stoppages, including 2 in Thailand. Given his local support, young age and style there is actually real potential here for Lap to develop into someone significant to the region.
The youngster has shown an exciting and aggressive style. He's still certainly raw around the edges, offensively flawed, but very exciting, with a lot of self belief good power and a natural aggression that does make him someone we want to follow. Sadly however without a good trainer to make the most of his skills his flaws, and limitations, may well hold him back.
Fingers crossed than Lap does get the chance to develop, and maybe even spends prolonged stints in Japan, Thailand and the Philippines to develop his skills.
Tsendbaatar Erdenebat (1-0) - Mongolian - Olympian
The most recognisable name on this list, we think, is former Mongolian Olympian Tsendbaatar Erdenebat, who is really one of 3 Mongolian's worthy of any attention right now. He's not the "stand alone" fighter like some on this list but he is certainly someone worth knowing about, just like the more well known Tugstsogt Nyambayar and exciting but limited Korean based Mongolian Batzorig Batjargal.
Although some way behind Nyambayar in terms of potential, power and skill Erdenbat is a talent himself and is a very exciting fighter who only made his debut earlier this year but impressed, defeating Chinese based Filipino Joseph Omana over 6 rounds. Given his amateur pedigree there is a lot to be excited about, though Mongolian fighters have typically found it hard to make a mark on the professional scene, with only a small number of notable fighters coming from the country.
If Erdenbat can either fight out of China, Korea or Japan on a regular basis there is a real chance that the 22 year old Lightweight could make a mark on the professional ranks, though the fear is that his career ends up in unfortunate obscurity.
Nak Roeum (1-0) - Cambodia
Cambodia is yet to really develop a fighter that has ever made a name in the professional ranks, in fact they also lack in terms of notable amateurs unlike Mongolia who have developed strong amateurs even if they professional success. With that in mind we're really interested in Nak Roeum, a Cambodian fighter who made his professional boxing debut earlier this year, defeating Fahpetch Singmanassak over 6 rounds in Thailand. It's hard to read much into that result, but maybe Roeum could be the guy to put Cambodia on the boxing map.
Sadly Roeum's debut was in May and he's not yet returned to the ring as a boxer, suggesting this could just have been a 1-off bout for him. We think that may be the case as he's actually better known for his Muay Thai fights, and has since returned to other combat sports, rather than professional boxing. It's a shame, but not a surprise to see him not committing to professional boxing.
On his debut Roeum looked exciting, confident and like someone who could be a strong fighter, with some training. He showed traits not associated with fighters from a strong amateur backgrounds, which is a concern, often leaning over his front foot, over-stretching, and leaving himself open to counters, but he could certainly work on those flaws.
Kwang Myong Kim (1-0) - North Korean
To us North Korea has been a morbid curiosity, and North Korean boxing has always been something to have an interest in, in the hope that a professional fighter breaks through and begins to carve out a career. We know that seems unlikely to happen any time soon, but with the rise of Hyun Mi Choi it certainly seems like it COULD happen for a refugee from the country.
The 29 year old Kwang Myong Kim is one of only 2 North Korean men to have had a professional bout this year, along with Chung IL Hong (0-1), with both fighting on the same obscure Chinese card in October. He would go on to win his debut, a 6 round bout with 20 year old Chinese debutant Runyu Liu, and potentially leave the door open to another bout in China in the future.
We've always been curious as to what Chol Su Choi COULD have done had he been committed and allowed to fully pursue a career so we're hoping that Kwang will get the opportunities and will be allowed to develop as a fighter. Unfortunately at 29 years old, and without much in terms of an amateur background, that we could find at least, it doesn't seem like he's going to be more than just a curiosity.
Sadly footage of Kim's debut doesn't appear to exist, which is a real shame, but we certainly would love to see him back in the ring and see what he can do.
For those interested in Cho Su Choi we did an article on him in 2016 which can be read here Choi Chul Su, the North Korean enigma
The good Japanese fights through 2018 really haven't stopped coming, the main issue perhaps is less about the consistency of great fights but where they were shown. During August and September we had a huge number of great fights, sadly some of those are tucked away behind a paywall on boxingraise.com. They include the all action Middleweight bout between Yasayuki Akiyama and Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa and the third meeting between Saemi Hanagata and Yuki Kuroki.
Even with those bouts "out of sight", so to speak, there was still 5 other great bouts during those two months that were televised.
If you missed part 1 than can be read here The best Japanese Fights of 2018 (Part 1)
Part 2 can be read here The best Japanese Fights of 2018 (Part 2)
And part 3 can be read here The best Japanese Fights of 2018 (Part 3)
August 17th - Korakuen Hall
Satoshi Shimizu (6-0, 6) vs Shingo Kawamura (16-3-1, 8)
On paper the OPBF Featherweight title bout between defending champion Satoshi Shimizu and domestic challenger Shingo Kawamura looked like a mismatch. It was hard to imagine the 2012 Olympic bronze medal winner and current OPBF champion losing to a fighter like Kawamura. Someone obviously hadn't told Kawamura he was there to lose, and instead he set off like the confident, cocksure fighter who had been the betting favourite. With Kawamura pressing the fight and Shimizu forced to respond we got something truly hellacious! It's just a little bit unfortunately that is shared a card with an even better bout.
August 17th - Korakuen Hall
Akira Yaegashi (26-6, 14) vs Hirofumi Mukai (16-5-3, 6)
As mentioned Shimizu Vs Kawamura was good, it was however over-shadowed by the insane war between Akira Yaegashi and Hirofumi Mukai, a fight that may well be the best Japanese fight of the year, and one that had everything. Both Yaegadhi and Mukai have seen better days, both are beyond their best and both have shown clear signs of sliding. Despite the wear and tear both are warriors and that was seen when they got in the ring together and featured in a truly amazing back forth brawl that saw both men rely on their heart, just as much as their skills. This had one of the best rounds of the year, worldwide, as well as being one of the true standout Japanese fights of 2018.
September 1st - Korakuen Hall
Yuta Saito (10-9-3, 7) vs Eita Kikuchi (21-5-4, 8)
We had to wait most of the year to finally see a Japanese Bantamweight title bout, after a number of bouts fell through this year, but when we finally did see the title being fought for we got a really fun bout to crown a new champion. On paper the match up between Yuta Saito and Eita Kikuchi didn't promise a lot, but it really did over deliver in what was a short but thrilling war, as both men seemed to put it all on the line, knowing this could be their final shot at a title. It wasn't just the desire of the two fighters that shone, but their styles also jelled amazingly well and made for something action packed.
September 11th - Korakuen Hall
Takuma Inoue (11-0, 3) Vs Mark John Yap (29-12, 14)
In mid-September we saw a WBC world title eliminator at Bantamweight, when the unbeaten Takuma Inoue faced off with OPBF Bantamweight champion Mark John Yap. On paper this promised a lot, with both men knowing that a win would secure them a world title fight, and although it wasn't a FOTY contender it was a very good contest and a very well fought one between two talented fighters each desperate for a shot at a world title. This wasn't explosive but did nicely combine skills, styles and wills to win, in a very competitive contest. Sadly though, for both men, it did show they were some way below the divisional elite and they will have to improve before making that final step up.
September 24th - Takeda Teva Ocean Arena
Sho Kimura (17-1-2, 10) Vs Kosei Tanaka (11-0, 7)
When we did The best Japanese Fights of 2018 (Part 1) we were inspired to due to the brilliance of WBO Flyweight title bout between Sho Kimura and Kosei Tanaka, a bout that we still consider the leading FOTY candidate, not just for Asia but for the world this year. We had high expectations for the bout, and it over-delivered, massively. Both fighters came to win, Kimura came looking for his third defense whilst Tanaka came chasing his third world title, the styles gels, the mentality of both fighters worked perfectly, and the bout ended up being something extra special. The sort of bout that every fight fan should watch, and if you've already seen it it's worth watching again!
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.