Our "One to Watch..." is all about pointing a light on an upcoming fight that deserves more attention than we typically give it. Ususually these are fights involving styles that should gel, or a prospect on the way up, or even a veteran in what could be the final fight of their career. It is, for all intents, a chance for us to talk about a contest that we're not doing a typical preview for, but we still want to help make fans aware of. This week we get a fight that ticks lots of boxes at once. It has an emerging prospect in action against a fun to watch veteran in what should be a very, very entertaining contest.
The One to Watch?
Kudura Kaneko (10-0, 7) vs Moon Hyon Yun (18-7-3, 4)
September 21st (Saturday)
We have a hard hitting and fast rising prospect against a tough veteran who has never been stopped. We have a 21 year old puncher, against a 35 year old pressure fighter. We have an uneaten man stepping up against someone now fighting for their career. We have the ingredients for something very, very exciting. Kaneko has pretty much had things his own way in recent fights, not coming close to a loss since his first bout with Shota Irie in early 2016, but Yun is a nightmare for everyone and nobody has ever had an easy time with him. This is a gut check for the youngster and a chance for Yun to add one final Hurrah to his thoroughly entertaining career.
The 21 year old Kudura Kaneko is a Afghan born Japanese based boxer-puncher. He debuted at the age of 17, after having had almost no amateur fights, and rose through the ranks relatively quickly for such a novice. He won the Japanese youth title in 2018, in his second fight against Change Hamashima, and has since added notable wins over Toshio Arikawa and Rikuto Adachi to his record. Entering this bout he is ranked #3 by the JBC and is likely to get a senior title fight in 2020, if he can get past Yun here. He's strong, a bit basic, but heavy handed and technically solid, though has plenty of areas to work on.
Yun on the other hand is a 35 year old veteran who has more than 12 years of professional experience. Although no world beater Yun is one of the great servants to the Japanese domestic scene and has proven to be a mainstay since his 2008 Rookie of the Year triumph. Back in his Rookie days he was fighting at 140lbs, but has since grown into the Welterweight division, where he has been since 2011. During his career he has beaten the likes of Daisuke Sakamoto, Takehiro Shimokawara, Tetsuya Suzuki, Nobuyuki Shindo and Shusaku Fujinaka. Sadly Yun has picked up losses, though has run the likes of Suyon Takayama, Koichi Aso, Ryota Yada and Ma Roo Jung all very close. He's an in face, all action fighter, who has always given so much value.
What to expect?
Kaneko will be looking to fight behind his jab, control the distance and open up Yun's defense for his right hand. That however will be much, much tougher than it seems and Yun will be looking to crush the distance, cramp Kaneko up and work on the inside. This could cause an ugly fight, if Kaneko ends up holding and fighting negatively, of could force Kaneko into fighting Yun's fight.
If we see Kaneko holding, spoiling and looking to the referee to keep them apart, this could be a real stinker and a horror to watch. In Japan however referees don't tend to break fighters as quickly as they do in the West and we could end up with the referee allowing Yun to work up close and begin force Kaneko into a fire fight. If that happens we'd expect a very tough bout for Kaneko and one that could see him being really tested mentally.
Alternatively we could see Kaneko decide, from the early going, that he's going to trade with Yun and if that happens we're going to be in for something amazing. Yun's toughness and pressure could break Kaneko, on the other hand Kaneko's power, physical strength and nasty straight straight, could end up breaking down the 35 year old. Yun has had a long career, and one more hard battle could well be too much for his body.
Expect action, excitement and a lot of fantastic back and forth trading!
The bad news?
Whilst the bout is available live, it is hidden behind a pay wall with the bout being aired on Boxing Raise, a service we're huge fans of but a paid service all the same. This will limit the amount of viewers who will get to watch it. Despite that limitation it is on a stacked card and the for fans wanting a value for money, this show is worth paying for a month of Boxing Raise for.
The action this coming week is slightly down in quality from some recent weeks, with a lot of action taking place at Rookie of the Year level in Japan and other lower level action. Thankfully though there are some bouts that have caught our attention, including one in China this coming Wednesday that should be a very interesting test for a rising Chinese hopeful. It's with that in mind that we've selected this week's "One to Watch"
The One to Watch?
ZongLi He (5-0, 1) vs Hamson Lamandau (10-3-1, 7)
September 11th (Wednesday)
The bout is the headline fight of a card in Xi An, China and will be a regional title fight with both men looking to shoot themselves up the rankings and prove what they have in the tank. For He it's a chance to get chin checked, whilst also potentially picking up his second stoppage win after a 4 straight decisions. For Lamandau it's a chance to claim his first win on the road, and begin to get his career back on track after going 2-3-1 in his last 6. Both men will be going in to this with the intent of picking up a win, and looking good in the process.
It's rare to see Chinese prospects catching the attention at an early stage in their career's, however ZongLi He has done just that thanks to notable wins over Diarh Gabutan and Vincent Astrolabio. Those wins have boosted him into the Boxrec top 100, at the time of writing, after just 5 fights. He's not blown away Gabutan or Astrolabio but has taken wins over both and has proven he can do 10 rounds.
Indonesian fighter Lamandau showed some early promise, starting his career 8-0, but has been matched hard since then and lost by stoppage to Hinata Maruta, Brock Jarvis and Sukkasem Kietyongyuth. His career has faltered big time, but this is certainly a chance for him to pick up a win on the road, and score his best win to date.
What to expect?
Footage of He show's him to be boxer who likes fighting off the back foot, he moves, a lot, and although he looks negative a lot he's a smart fighter with quick hands, a good tank and a bit luck on his side. His two big wins do have some question marks over them in terms of scoring, but they were bouts that were perhaps too much too soon for him too look good in. He showed something to like in both but left a lot of questions, questions we want to see him answering. We want to see more from him offensively, and see more of what he can do when he's not on the back foot against someone with more power and experience.
Lamandau has been under-sized in his losses. He's been beaten by much bigger men than himself in all 3 defeats and here we see him in with someone of a similar size to himself. We also see him taking on someone who lacks power. Given all 3 of Lamaandau's losses have been by stoppage it's interesting to see him in with a non-puncher here. In the ring he's an aggressive little bull and if well matched he should make for some very fan friendly bouts.
With Lamandau coming forward and He boxing off the back foot the styles should gel excellently and should make for some very exciting action, in what looks to be a true hidden gem for the week.
The bad news?
The bout is going to be a hard one to find, with Chinese streams being a bit hit and miss at times. The card is also a pretty low key one over all and whilst this is a bout worth making a note of it's not likely to be worth the time spent watch the whole card. We also wouldn't be surprised by some potential funny business with the score cards if this is close.
In recent weeks we've seen a surge in the number of notable Japanese amateurs turning professional. Whilst some of this is down to the Olympics dropping certain weight classes, there are other reasons for so many switching codes and turning professional. Whatever their reasons their move to the pros has given us something to get excited about, new, fresh blood, looking to begin their careers, more fighters to watch. It's with that in mind that our latest "One to Watch" features of of those fighters who has just turned pro.
The One to Watch?
Katsuya Fukui (0-0) Vs Sang Hoon Kim (4-1-2, 3)
September 7th (Saturday)
Fukui ran up a solid 59-16 record in the amateurs before signing over with the Teiken Gym, who have been snapping up amateur talent a lot in months. The gym, still the most well known in Japan, has been going through a bit of a struggle in terms of creating stars, and it seems clear that by signing so many talented youngsters they are wanting to put themselves back on the top of the Japanese scene. Kim Kim on the other hand is an exciting fighter who comes out the blocks fast, with power, a crude style and a Korean mentality. The visitor was stopped last time out, by De Kang Wang in China, and will be looking to get back to winning ways here against the Japanese debutant.
As mentioned earlier Fukui ran up a 59-16 amateur record over 75 fights in the unpaid ranks. The 23 year old won he 2014 Japanese Interschool Athletic Meet in Chigasaki in August, joining the likes of Go Hosaka and Yudai Shigeoka, and actually beat the very well regarded Yusuke Mine in the final and with Teiken's backing he's been getting top quality training and sparring since turning professional.
Kim is a 19 year old Korean who debuted as a 16 year old back in 2017. He debuted as a Flyweight, but did fight as a Bantamweight last time out, losing in 6 rounds in China. Aside from the loss in China all his bouts have been in Korea against fellow novices, but he has shown something to get excited about and like many Korean fighters his offensive is his best defense. Something that almost always makes for fun TV fights.
What to expect?
As with any amateur turned pro Fukui will be looking to impress, and leave a mark on the viewer. He'll put himself under extra pressure to shine, knowing he's being televised live in Japan on G+ on a card featuring Jorge Linares. Although a very good pure boxer we suspect he'll want to do more than just box his way to a win, and will, instead, want to shine. Against an aggressive opponent Fukui will find himself taking risks and this could force a very exciting bout, though one that Fukui should take thanks to his solid amateur background. Don't be surprised to see Fukui take a risk or two trying to catch the eye, but we expect him to win inside the distance.
The bad news?
Whilst this bout is televised it's going to be the show opener on G+ this Saturday. For Western fans his bout will be aired very early in the day and you'll really need to set an alarm clock to see this one. You'll also need access to G+ which is typically only available through some paid services, whether your in Japan out outside of the country.
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.
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.