One of the best things about Asian boxing right now is the rising wave of prospects making a name for themselves, many of whom are incredibly young fighters. Here we take a look at 10 teenage hopefuls all looking to build on bright starts to their career's. Some are fighters that we covered in some depth already, whilst others are rising youngster who have so far under-the-radar, but are worthy of some attention as they grow, mature and develop.
Thanongsak Simsri (11-0, 11)
Japanese based Thai puncher Thanongsak Simsri is one of the most notable youngsters out there. The Light Fly from Si Sa Ket in Thailand has been hailed as "Srisaket II" in his homeland and has been impressive against a variety of foes. Most of his competition so far has been limited, but earlier this year he scored an impressive win against Filipino Ricardo Sueno and since then he has picked up the Thai Light Flyweight title.
Simsri is naturally very heavy handed, and whilst he's not the most rounded or polished of fighters the 19 year old has strong teams in both Thailand and Japan behind him, with the long term plan seemingly being for the Green Tsuda gym in Japan to help develop him. There is talk about him fighting for a regional title before the end of 2019 and if he does that there's a chance he could be ready for a huge 2020.
Musashi Mori (10-0, 6)
Talking about winning a regional title at a young age it's hard not to be impressed by WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight champion Musashi Mori, who at 19 is a genuinely accomplished young professional. The Japanese youngster turned professional in 2016 before winning the 2017 Rookie of the Year at Super Featherweight. He dropped down in weight in 2018 and claimed the WBO Asia Pacific title, and has defended it once.
Unblike many on this list Mori does have wins over some noteworthy names, including Richard Pumicpic, twice, and Allan Vallespin. Those wins have however made it clear that he has areas to work on, and fingers crossed work will be done to tidy up his defensive flaws before he begins to pursue world ranked opposition. Given the regional depth at 126lbs there's a lot of competition out there for him, so hopefully there will be real development fights for the talented youngster in 2020.
Lienard Sarcon (7-0, 2)
Filipino southpaw Lienard Sarcon is one of the lesser raved about fighters on this list, and that's a shame as he has had a huge 2019. The young Bantamweight debuted back in October 2017 and was 4-0 going into 2019, though this year has seen him win the inaugural Ultimate Boxing Series Bantamweight crown on ESPN5. The youngster did struggle through some of his tournament bouts, but that's what happens when well matched fighters face off, and his competition through the tournament had gone 18-1-1 when he faced them.
Sarcon is one of the fighters on this list who hasn't yet grown into his man strength and power, but at 19 that's not a worry and the "UBS" win will do his career the world of good. We expect to see ESPN in the Philippines push his career forward over the next year or two and by the time he's a fully mature fighter he could well find himself in the regional title picture. Unfortunately for him he's in one of the most talent packed weight ranges, and even a move back to Super Flyweight won't give him many easy options to a regional title.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (4-0, 3)
If anyone on this list is being fast tracked to the top it seems like that is Ginjiro Shigeoka, the 19 year old has only been a professional since September 2018 but is already the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight champion and has proven to be a total a total monster in the ring. The aggressively minded Watanabe gym fighter turned professional after a 56-1 amateur record and after a straight forward first 2 bouts was taken the distance by Joel Lino before blasting out Clyde Azarcon to claim his first belt, It's unclear when he will be back in the ring, though it's assumed that he'll fit in one more bout this year.
The expectation is that Shigeoka will be mixing in more title bouts in 2020 and could well be moved aggressively to a world title bout by the end of next year. He turns 20 in October, but already appears a very mature, strong and powerful fighter, with a very polished, aggressive pressure style. Shigeoka is a youngster who is tipped to go a long way, and if you mark down just 1 name on this list this is the one we would flag as the one you "must follow".
Ryu Horikawa (2-0, 1)
Another Japanese 19 year old who hasn't been a professional long is Ryu Horikawa. The talented Horikawa turned professional earlier this year, and although he showed recklessness in his debut his second bout was near flawless as he out boxed, out punched, out fought and out thought the talented Yuki Nakajima. He'll be back in the ring in mid-October, fighting China for the WBO Youth Light Flyweight title, taking on Xiang Li in Shanghai. That's a tough ask, especially this early in his career, but a win in that bout will flag him as a clear one to watch.
Horikawa had been a talented young amateur before turning professional, and debuting in June. Despite only being a professional for a few months he already looks like a real talent, who can box and fight in equal measure. There is still polishing to do, as you'd expect from such a professional novice, but there is so much upside for the Misako gym fighter, and with Misako gym being behind him he's in a gym that is red hot right now.
Toshiya Ishii (2-0, 1)
It can be a bit too easy to get over-excited about Japanese youngsters and maybe that's the case with REBOOT's 18 year old Toshiya Ishii, but so far he's hardly put a step wrong he debut in April with an early win over Indonesian Adam Wijaya before stepping up massively and schooling 2017 Rookie of the Year Fumiya Fuse in a Japanese youth title eliminator. Next up for Ishii should be Haruki Ishikawa, in a bout for the Japanese Youth Bantamweight title, and that should be a real test of his chin and what he's like under pressure.
As an amateur Ishii went 30-14 (7) but achieved a number of notable results in domestic tournaments and certainly looks like he has the basis to build a very good career on. There is, obviously, work to do and he will need to physically mature into his frame but the future is so bright for the 18 year old, and the REBOOT team certainly view as a very special talent.
Issei Ochiai (1-0)
As an amateur Issei Ochiai ran up an impressive 23-7 amateur record and made his professional debut this past August as a Celes gym fighter. The 18 year old, who is a gym headed by former world champion Celes Kobayashi, will be getting gym time with top fighters and it's clear that Mr Kobayashi things incredibly of him. The evident of how highly he's thought of is the fact he debuted against Lerdchai Chaiyawed in a 6 rounder. On paper that doesn't sound impressive, but Lerdchai had given very good tests to domestic level Japanese guys Ryoki Hirai and Seita Ogido and holds a win over former world title challenger Samartlek Kokietgym.
In his debut we weren't blown away by Ochiai, but he handled Lerdchai with ease, taking a dominant decision win over the Thai and showed good understanding of the ring, nice movement and clever foot work. There is clearly work to do with the youngster, but with the Celes gym having fighters like Ryosuke Iwasa there we suspect that Ochiai will improve, and will improve quickly as he matures into his wiry body.
Nan He (1-0)
The Chinese boxing scene isn't known for it's prospects but Nan He is worthy of some attention, despite having only made his debut a few weeks ago, and did so without any notable amateur pedigree. The youngster debuted against the then 5-0 Haiyun Duan and was expected to lose to the more experienced foe. Instead He really impressed, he boxed well, moved well, gauged distance well and used the ring fantastically for such a novice. It's rare to see someone show a natural aptitude to the sport without any amateur pedigree but He seemed to.
Given He's only 18, and even then he's a baby faced and scrawny 18 year old, he will need to physically mature before stepping up too much, but the skills are there to work with if he can get a good team behind him. Obvious a lot of work is needed here but given how he looked in his debut we're really excited to see how far He can go.
Ayumu Hanada (5-0, 3)
At the moment it's unclear when, or even if, Ayumu Hanada will fight in his native Japan, however the youngster is still well worthy of attention. The 17 year old has been carving out his career in a similar way to Devin Haney in his early years, fighting in Mexico. The young Hanada, only has 4 bouts recorded on boxrec though has apparently had a 5th at some point, and from the footage we've seen of him he may be the best kept secret from Japan.
He's technically solid for such a youngster, he has nice speed and combinations, throws heavy shots and has fantastic balance. There are technical areas to work on, but he's not relying on his laurels and earlier this year sparred with Kento Hatanaka, in what was a surprisingly competitive spar. The youngster looks like he is learning new things with every fight and in a year or 2, when he matures, he could be rushed into the title mix. Given his age there is no rush at the moment, but there is a lot get excited about, even if there is still a clear need to polish up
Dastan Saduuly (3-0, 3)
A second 17 year old who looks to be making a mark is Kazakh fighter Dastan Saduuly, who has fought solely in Kazakhstan. The youngster debuted only months after his 16th birthday and looked like a very talented fighter immediately, and also like a youngster who seemed much more mature than his years suggested. Watching him in action we see a really serious, aggressive pressure fighter who gets in the ring to beat up his opponents, who have been limited so far. He has good balance, though is a bit wild with his punches times. Despite the wildness he is powerful, quick and very confident in the ring.
After fighting 3 times in a little over 6 months, from September 2018 to March 2019, to begin his career Saduuly hasn't actually fought in the last 6 months, and it's a shame. The talented youngster was last seen stopping veteran Alexander Saltykov and hopefully it won't be too long until the the teenager returns to the ring for his next bout.
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 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.
Whilst the Middleweight division doesn't appear to have much depth in terms of contenders it does have some really interesting fighters rising through the ranks right now, and they are a very varied bunch of fighters from all over the globe.
For those who missed our looks at the champions and contenders at Middleweight those were covered here:
The state of the Division - Middleweight - The Champions
The state of the Division - Middleweight - The Contenders
Christian Mbilli (13-0, 13)
One of the best prospects in world boxing, regardless of weight, is Cameroonian born French fighter Christina Mbilli, who is looking like one of the most outstanding Middleweight hopefuls out there. He was a stellar amateur, winning gold medals at the European Youth, European Union and European Olympic qualifiers, and competed on the WSB. Since turning professional less than 2 years ago he has ripped through his competition, stopping his 13 foes in just 38 rounds. His competition hasn't been the strongest, but he has taken the unbeaten record of Ramon Aguinaga and smashed through Mexican Luis Fernando Pina. At 23 years old he should be regarded as one of the hottest fighters in professional boxing and someone to seriously keep an eye on.
Serhii Bohachuk (12-0, 12)
We know how there's a Ukrainian take over of boxing with the likes of Vasyl Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk and Oleksandr Gvozdyk all holding world titles and all set out to prove they are. There is also a second wave of Ukrainians below those top tier fighters, and including in that is 23 year old Serhii Bohachuk. The youngster made his debut in early 2017 and has gradually stepped up his competition, whilst running through fighters. Dubbed "El Flaco" he is certainly explosive and appears to have no issues making Light Middleweight, at the moment, but clearly has the frame to fill into a very strong Middleweight. A long term prospect, but one well worthy of attention.
Kazuto Takesakao (10-0, 10)
Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako isn't the next Ryota Murata, but the 27 year old is a legit prospect, and a really heavy handed, aggressive and exciting fighter, who usually comes forward, and always throws with bad intent. His KO win over Shoma Fukumoto was a big coming out win, and since the he has won the Japanese title and defended it once, with his next defense set for March. There are technical issues he needs to sort before progressing beyond regional level, but he has suggested that he wants to unify the Japanese title with the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles, so it's clear that he's looking to make gradual steps upwards, towards a world title fight. One to watch, but not one who will be in the world mix in the next 12 months.
Meiirim Nursultanov (10-0, 8)
The 25 year old Meiirim Nursultanov is one of two notable Kazakh prospects at Middleweight, and is probably the better of the two, if we're being honest. The Oxnard based, Klimas managed fighter turned pro in late 2016 and has been moved gradually through the rankings, with his best wins coming in his last 2 bouts. In late 2018 he stopped Jamar Freeman and began his 2019 with a win over Ramon Aguinaga. He's young, very powerful, and has been sparring with top competition, helping develop his skills, though he is still some way from a big fight of his own.
Misael Rodriguez (8-0, 4)
Talented Mexican Misael Rodriguez won a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and is tipped to turn that medal into professional titles under the guidance of Abner Mares and Richard Schaefer. The talented 24 year old debuted in 2017 and although easy so far he is a fantastic talent who is getting experience and being developed by a fantastic team. Although talented it's unclear how talented he is given the level he's been fighting at, but given his amateur credentials and the team involved with him it's hard to not be excited about him. Sadly he appears to be a long term project, and it could be 3 or 4 years before we see him in really meaningful fights, though he is scheduled to fight just hours after this article goes live.
Artem Chebotarev (6-0, 4)
At the age of 30 Russian fighter Artem Chebotarev will need to make a big step up this year, but he did show signs of doing that last year, so we will give him the benefit of the doubt. He was a stellar amateur, winning a gold at the European Championships in 2010 and a bronze at the 2013 World Amateur Championships. He won the APB title in 2016, and scored notable wins in both the APB and the Amateurs. Sadly those side ventures meant he didn't make his "proper" professional debut until January 2017. In his debut year he went 4-0 (3) and scored a notable win over Nuhu Lawal. He built on that start in 2018 and ended the year with a big win over Javier Francisco Maciel, though did lose 12 months out of the ring. If he can score 1 or 2 big wins this year he will certainly be in the title mix by the end of the year.
Ulugbek Khakberdiev (5-0, 3)
Unbeaten Uzbek hopeful Ulugbek Khakberdiev has had a frustrating career so far. He turned professional in 2017 and beat Karen Avetisyan, a very under-rated journeyman. He really came to our attention in September 2017, when he stopped Dmitry Sukhotsky, in what should have been a huge break out win, but he would then have a break from the ring losing momentum and not fight for over 7 months, before picking up a low key win in Uzbekistan. Sadly he's again been inactive, and hasn't fought since May 2018. Given how talented, promising, heavy handed he is there is so much to be excited about, and at 26 he does have time on his side, but needs to get active after essentially wasting the last year and a bit. He's too good to not fight, but it appears there is something keeping him inactive, and that is a huge shame during what should be the start of his prime years.
Janibek Alimkhanuly (4-0, 1)
Whilst top Uzbek amateur fighters have taken immediately to the pros, some of the top Kazakh amateurs have taken a few fights to adapt. It appears another Kazakh who hasn't quite settled to the professional style yet is the unbeaten Janibek Alimkhanuly, who looks to have the tools to go a long way, but just needs a little bit of time. As an amateur he won the World Amateur Championships, the Asian Championships, twice, and competed at the Olympics. As a professional his career has been stop start, but he's now based in the US with Top Rank and has fully committed to being a professional boxer. He's notched recent wins over tough competition, in the form of Carlos Galvan and Vaughn Alexander and we're expecting to see him really spread his wings in 2019, with some top performances as he continues to adapt to professional boxing.
Although the Light Middleweight division has long been seen as the ugly step sibling of the Welterweight and Middleweight division it may be the most interesting division for prospects right now, with so many top young fighters looking to be fast tracked through the ranks. It's one of the few divisions, outside of the lightest divisions, where fighters look like they want to make a mark, and make their mark quickly.
If you missed our look at the champions and contenders in division, you can catch up here
The state of the Division - Light Middleweight - The Champions
and here The state of the Division - Light Middleweight - The Contenders
Israil Madrimov (1-0, 1)
Uzbek 23 year old Israil Madrimov made the headlines last November when he not only debuted in a 10 round bout, a real rarity, but looked sensational as he schooled, and stopped, Vladimir Hernandez, to claim the WBA Inter-Continental Light Middleweigth title. On his debut he showed everything a fighter could want to show. He was smart, accurate, quick, exciting, moved well, active and appeared to be able to switch hit with ease. He was a top amateur before turning professional, but unlike many he instantly looked pro-ready and like the sort of man who wants to make an impact, and do so quickly.
Abass Baraou (4-0, 2)
Another fight who looks like they are on the super-fast track is German 24 year old Abass Baraou. He made his debut in April 2018 and claimed the German title in his second professional bout. By the end of 2018 he had beaten Robert Maess and Sasha Yengoyan to really put himself on the map. Through his first 4 fights his opponents have had a combined record of 88-11-3. The German boxing scene needs a star and Baraou looks like he might be the one, with Sauerland clearly pushing him hard and fast. His next bout will be on February 16th, when he takes on former world champion Carlos Molina, and a win there would likely see him being put into bouts with world ranked opponents later in the year.
Nursultan Zhangabayev (6-0, 4)
Madrimov isn't the only Central Asian fighter on this list to have debuted in a 10 round bout. He is joined by unbeaten Kazakh Nursultan Zhangabayev, who debuted in China in 2016 beating Xingxin Yang over 10 rounds. Whilst technically a split decision the Kazakh appeared to dominate large stretches of the bout. Since then his competition hasn't been the most testing, but he did get a good win in December 2018 when he over-came Arnel Tinampay, who is much better than his record suggests. Sadly Zhangabayev's career has been a bit stop-start at times, but he is a natural talent and ending 2018 with 3 fights in 3 months shows there is eagerness to fight. At 26 he's young enough to put the past behind him, but needs to remain active in 2019.
Souleymane Cissokho (7-0, 5)
An Olympic medal doesn't assure a fighter of professional success, but it's hard to imagine 2016 Olympic bronze medal winner Souleymane Cissokho not going far. The unbeaten Senagalese born Frenchman was unlucky in major international competitions, facing Daniyar Yeleussinov in the 2016 Olympics and the 2013 World Amateur Champions, but still managed to impress in the unpaid ranks. Cissokho turned professional in 2017and has looked fantastic with his last win coming against Carlos Molina in June. Sadly his career has stalled a bit since that win, but he's expected back in the ring in February in a bout for the French national title against Romain Garofalo. At 27 years old it's clear he will be coming into his prime years and won't be wanting to tread water for long.
Mohammed Rabii (8-0, 5)
We don't tend to think of Morocco as a country that produces world class boxers, but in Mohammed Rabii they certainly have someone special. The 25 year old was a stellar amateur fighter, taking a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics, losing in the semi-final to Shakhram Giyasov, and winning the 2015 World Amatuer championships, beating Josh Kelly and Daniyar Yeleussinov along the way. Since turning professional he hasn't really blown fans away, but has shown a lot of promise and holds notable victories over veterans Giuseppe Lauri and Anderson Clayton. He's young enough to have another year of experience building, but it seems more likely that he'll pursue better opponents rather than staying busy and just padding his record.
Josh Kelly (8-0, 6)
"Pretty Boy" Josh Kelly is another of the fighters who shone as an amateur, winning a bronze medal at the AIBA Youth Championships in 2012, and competing at the very highest level in the amateur ranks. Although highly regarded amateur Kelly's style as a professional is less of a skilled technical fighter and much more of a slick fighter, with his hands down, drawing a lead to counter. He's an exciting fighter, and already holds wins over the likes of Carlos Molina and Kris George. Despite his style being a fun one to watch it does seem like a risky one, and it's going to be very interesting to see how it holds up against better competition. He's 24 years old, and turns 25 in March, so there is time to work on his style, but with Adam Booth working with him we suspect it's a style he'll be sticking with for the foreseeable future.
Anthony Fowler (9-0, 8)
Former Birtish amateur star Anthony Fowler is a controversial figure in some circles, but few can doubt his credentials with a Commonwealth games gold medal, as well as a bronze medal at the 2013 World Amateur Championships. Since turning professional, after the 2016 Olympics, Fowler has looked destructive against his competition so far. There is, clearly some question to be had over the level he's been fighting at, but the performances have been impressive and he's certainly showing the tools and spitefulness to go a long way. It's yet to be seen how he comes with a genuine threat at the weight, but we expect to see him answer some real questions in March when he takes on the unbeaten Scott Fitzgerald, in what looks like a good test. With his 28th birthday coming just weeks before the Fitzgerald fight it seems clear that he doesn't have much time to waste.
Bakhram Murtazaliev (14-0, 11)
Oxnard based Russian boxer-puncher Bakhram Murtazaliev had a relatively slow start to his career, being matched very softly in Russia for over 2 years. Since fighting in the US he has gone from strength to strength and has started to leave a glowing impression with early knockouts and dominant performances. He'll be back in the ring in February, against former world title challenger Elvin Ayala, and will be expected to have a break out performance at some point in 2019. At the age 26 he is coming into his physical prime and he has been a professional for close to 5 years, so there is no excuse to keep him on a leash any longer.
Ted Cheeseman (15-0, 9)
Another British prospect in the division is Ted Cheeseman, a 23 year old form London who is set for a big step up in class on February 2nd when he faces off against unbeaten European champion Sergio Garcia. That bout is a major step up for "The Big Cheese" and a genuinely good test. Given the talent coming through the ranks in the UK Cheeseman looks like he could end up being "the forgotten man" but he is a talented fighter and scored notable wins in 2018 over Carson Jones, for a WBA International title, and Asinia Byfield, to claim the British title. Given his age there is no need to rush him, but he has been linked, repeatedly, to a bout with the aforementioned Anthony Fowler, and that's a possible match up for later this year.
Carlos Adames (15-0, 12)
US based Dominican fighter Carlos Adames is a under-the-radar 24 year old who has been quietly building a reputation for himself with wins against the likes of Patrick Lopez, Ivan Alvarez, Carlos Molina and Joshua Conley. He will look to further enhance that record shortly, when he faces Juan Ruiz in what could be a bit of a coming out party for Adames. Prior to turning professional Adames had been a good amateur, and competed in numerous international tournaments. Hopefully a win against Ruiz will open the door for big fights later in the year as he looks to cross over from prospect to contender in the near future.
The Welterweight division has a really interesting, exciting, and varied collection of fighters from across the planet. In fact we don't think any other division has the national variance in prospects that the Welterweight division currently has.
If you missed our previous looks into the Welterweight division they are available here:
The state of the Division - Welterweight - The Champions
The state of the Division - Welterweight - The Contender
Thulani Mbenge (15-0, 12)
Unbeaten South African Thulani Mbenge put himself on the map in 2018. Last he went from a 12-0 (10) prospect that was best known winning the South African national title and holding a win over Jayar Inson to a 15-0 (12) fringe contender/prospect with stoppage wins over Diego Gabriel Chaves and Miguel Vazquez. Not only were his bouts shown in South Africa but he also got exposure in the UK, via Boxnation, and looks set to have another big year ahead. He's a tall, wiry, big punching fighter, who has some raw edges, but a lot of promise.
Josh Kelly (8-0, 6)
"Pretty Boy" Josh Kelly is arguably the most promising fighter in England, and is one of the most pleasing to watch fighters coming through the Welterweight division. He was a stellar amateur, who competed in numerous international competitions and won medals in things like the World Youth Championships in 2012, and the European Championships in 2015. The 24 year old is being fast tracked, and has already scored notable wins over Carlos Molina and Kris George, and was looking to fight David Avanesyan prior to an illness forcing that bout to be cancelled at late notice.
Custio Clayton (15-0, 10)
At the age of 31 Canadian fighter Custio Clayton hasn't got time to waste, and we suspect that in 2019 he will be ramping up the level of competition he's facing. He's yet to score a big win, bug has got solid victories over Cristian Rafael Coria, Johnny Navarrete and Stanislas Salmon. Clayton is aggressive, exciting, heavy-handed and very talented, with a strong amateur background. His age is the big worry when it comes to Clayton, but he has got the ability to go a long way, if his team pushes him aggressively this year.
Jaron Ennis (22-0, 20)
At the age of 21 American hopeful Jaron "Boots" Ennis is one of the most promising American fighters out there, He turned professional back in 2016 and has been incredibly busy since then, fighting 22 pro bouts in less than 3 years. Not only is he active but he's heavy-handed, and has stopped his last 12 opponents, with no one lasting more than 4 rounds with Ennis. Despite his high level of activity his competition hasn't been great, but he does have notable names on his record like Ayi Bruce, Mike Arnaoutis and Raymond Serrano. He has time on his side, a lot of ability and great power. There is so much to like about Ennis, and we expect he will become a major player over the next few years.
Kudura Kaneko (9-0, 6)
Afghan born Japanese based 20 year old Kudura Kaneko has had a remarkable rise though the Japanese domestic system since debuting in 2015. He won the Japanese Youth title in 2018 before going on to beat former national champion Toshio Arikawa in an excellent performance late in the year. Although clearly a boxing baby Arikawa is a hungry talented fighter, who hits hard and looks to be improving with every fight. We suspect he'll get a senior title bout in 2019 and then look to face decent international tests in 2020, before potentially climbing into the rankings. As with anyone who has seen war in Afghanistan it's hard to doubt the mental toughness of Kaneko and his desire to build a school in Afghanistan is something that will drive him and his career.
Jordy Weiss (21-0, 3)
Unbeaten Frenchman Jordy Weiss, "El Gitano", is a 25 year old who has already claimed the European Union Welterweight title and scored solid wins at that type of level against the likes of Steven Bloyer and Aitor Nieto. There's a long way for him to go, but he has shown plenty of promise and skills. One of the big question marks about Weiss is how he reacts to fighters walking through his shots, which will happen sooner rather than later. It seems like he won't have the power to get opponents respect at a higher level, but we have been surprised in the past and he certainly has the potential to mix on a very competitive basis on the European title scene.
Sergey Lubkovich (10-0, 7)
Fats rising Russian 23 year old Sergey Lubkovich made his debut in 2016 and already has notable wins over Jose Ocampo, Viktor Plotnikov, Karim Mayfield and Juan Ruiz. He's talented, hits hard, and looks like he has the belief of his team, who haven't tried to protect at all during his short career. He still needs a bit more maturing before taking on a true world-class fighter, but it seems inevitable that he will fight at world level sooner rather than later, and there's a good chance, given his age, that he does pick up a title down the line.
Gor Yeritsyan (9-0, 8)
Scary hard hitting Armenian fighter Gor Yeritsyan is one of the division's "hidden gem" fighters. He made his debut in May 2017 and has fought all but 1 of his fights in Russia, hiding away on cards that Western fans may not have seen. Despite being hidden from most fans Yeritsyan has scored notable wins over Ali Funeka, Jose Luis Prieto and Alvin Lagumbay. With 5 bouts in 2018 his team have kept him busy and if he continues that level of activity in 2019 there's a real chance he will crash into the world rankings by the end of the year.
Eimantas Stanionis (7-0, 5)
Baby faced Lithuainian fighter Eimantas Stanionis debuted in 2017 and has climbed up the rankings gradually, with a huge win last August over Levan Ghvamichava being the pick of his victories. Aged 24 Stanionis has time on his side and has a strong amateur background, that saw him reaching the second round of the 2016 Olympics. Based in Oxnard it's clear Stanionis has got top sparring and training on offer and there is real potential for 2019 to be a big break out year for him.
Daniyar Yeleussinov (5-0, 3)
Unbeaten Kazakh fighter Daniyar Yeleussinov is a 27 year Matchroom promoted southpaw who won Olympic gold in 2016 and has over-come some early career problems. Originally Yeleussinov didn't look suited to the professional side of boxing, but impressive performances against Matt Doherty and Marcos Mojica have seen Yeleussinov show amazing improvements and the plan for 2019 is for him to fight in his first title bouts. An announcement on his next bout is expected shortly and there is real expectations on his shoulders to continue to shine following his last two wins.
Jon Miguez (9-0, 5)
Spanish hope Jon Miguez, the "Goodboy", is a 22 year old who has shown promise but is still finding his feet in terms of competition. He took a good step up in class last time out, against Abdessamad Nechchad and looks to be stepping up again in early 2019, taking on Vasyl Kurasov in February. A win there should help Miguez find his feet at a new level and hopefully he'll continue moving forward through the rest of the year. He's still not developed his man strength, but has scored a stoppage over durable Spanish based Nicaraguan Miguel Aguilar and clearly has sting on his punches, even if he's not a KO artist.
Having looked at the Champions and the Contenders at 140lbs we now move onto the interesting prospects rising through the ranks at 140lbs, and we really get a lovely look across the boxing world in a weight class that has a really metropolitan feel to it.
If you missed our looks at the champions that can be found here The state of the Division - Light Welterweight - The Champions whilst the review of the challengers can be found here The state of the Division - Light Welterweight - The Contenders
Batyr Akhmedov (5-0, 4)
If we were asked to mention just 1 prospect in the division it would have been Uzbek born Russian based Batyr Akhmedov, who confuses things even more having fought at the 2016 Olympics for Turkey under the name Batuhan Gozgec. Akhmedov debuted in early 2017 and hasn't been particularly active, yet has already notched big wins over Ricky Sismundo and Ismael Barroso. He's highly skilled, heavy hand, exciting and wanting to prove himself quickly. We're expecting 2019 to be a massive year for Akhmedov, who will almost certainly be ending the year in the world rankings, even if he does only squeeze 2 or 3 fights into the year.
Fabian Andres Maidana (16-0, 12)
The younger brother of Marcos Rene Maidana is Fabian Andres Maidana, a rising prospect, former amateur standout and one of the future stars of Argentinian boxing. Like his older brother he is a brutal puncher, and his 16 bouts have averaged less than 4 rounds. Notably he has been getting tested, with bouts against the tricky Johan Perez in 2017 and Andrey Klimov in 2018, with wins against those two men helping building his image and profile. There is a lot work for him to do, but with a good team behind him, his brother's advice and a willingness to travel, the expectation is that Maidana will go far. He's Scheduled to fight in January, against Jaider Parra, and could end up having a huge year ahead.
Akeem Ennis Brown (12-0, 1)
One of the lighter hitting prospects in the division is Englishman Akeem Ennis Brown, a tricky, smart, boxer who shone in 2018 with notable wins over Chris Jenkins and Darragh Foley. Those wins saw him build on good victories over Freddy Kiwitt in 2016 and Glenn Foot in 2017. At the age of 23 "Riiddy" looks like being a nightmare to face off, and is perhaps only going to be held back by his lack of power. Despite not having much sting in his shots he is an awfully good fighter, a nightmare to come against and a truly frustrating proposition for anyone in the division.
Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (6-0, 3)
A third notable Uzbek at 140lbs is 27 year old Fazliddin Gaibnazarov, who despite being a gold medal winner looks a lot less of a threat to the champions than compatriots Shakhram Giyasov and Shohjahon Ergashev. Whilst Giyasov and Ergashev turned professional with pro-ready styles the same can't be said of Gaibnazarov, who has had to adapt his style since making his debut in 2017. He has began to show touches of brilliance but unfortunately the jury is still out on him as we enter 2019. Despite not standing out it is worth noting that Gaibnazarov is promoted by Top Rank and will be expecting a huge 2019, beginning with his January 18th bout against Ricardo Garcia.
Yazid Amghar (21-0, 9)
Over the last few years the French boxing scene has come alive, with a number of interesting and talented fighters breaking through the ranks. One of those is 29 year French Light Welterweight champion Yazid Amghar. Having debuted in 2012 it took a while for Amghar to gain much traction with his career, but that has started to happen recently thanks to good wins over Douda Sow, Jarkko Putkonen and Berman Sanchez, as well as a total gutcheck against Renald Garrido, a favourite of everyone here! Amghar is perhaps not a world class prospect, but will certainly be mixing in the European title scene in the years to come and will be a good addition to those ranks.
Alexander Duran (17-0, 4)
Duran is the most iconic of names in Panamanian boxing, and 26 year old southpaw Alexander Duran has been unfortunate enough to share the same surname as the legendary Roberto Duran. Despite the same surname the two won't every be fairly compared, however the unbeaten hopeful is worth talking about following some good recent results. These have included wins over Patrick Lopez, Luis Ronaldo Castillo and once touted Mexican Adrian Estrella. There is still a long way for Duran to go, but he's had a good 24 months and should be breaking on to the radar of more fight fans in 2019.
Genaro Gamez (8-0, 5)
American 23 year old Genaro Gamez came to our attention last year when he beat Shoki Sakai, in what was a really good step up for the youngster. Gamez looks to build on that win in February when he takes on Ivan Delgado and despite being a big of a hidden gem we would be very surprised if more fans weren't talking about him towards the end of the year. He has been featured on Golden Boy on ESPN cards, the Golden Boy team and has looked like a sharp puncher with nice movement and quick hands. There is clearly a lot of work to do with Gamez, but after just 8 fights he looks really promising and just needs his team to put him in the right tests in 2019.
Juan Pablo Romero (9-0, 6)
We don't see too many Mexican fighters making a mark on the international amateur scene before beginning their career but Juan Pablo Romero, or "Pivi", did just that, making his way to the 2016 Olympics. Sadly Romero's Olympic dream was ended by Italian Vincenzo Mangiacapre but he's now on a professional journey and is rising quickly. He debuted in April 2017 and was 5-0 (3) by the end of the year, before stepping up his competition in 2018, going 4-0 (3) including a very nice win over Jose Luis Prieto. Mexican TV are behind him, he looks a very clean puncher, very sharp and defensively smart with some lovely body shots in his arsenal. At 28 he's going to be moved quickly this year and we'd suspect his US debut is just around the corner.
Mykquan Williams (13-0, 7)
American youngster Mykquan Williams has been a pro for close to 3 years, but is still only 20 years old. He's not had the spotlight shined on him in the way some American prospects have, but has impressed, especially in 2018 when he went 4-0 and hardly lost a round. He's a boxing baby but took his first professional title last year and will look to continue building momentum. He has a pretty aggressive style, a likable personality and a recognisable promoter in DiBella. He comes across as someone who has his head on his shoulders and a strong team guiding his career at this early stage. It could be a few years before we see what he's able to do, but we do like what we've seen of him.
Lei Wang (2-0, 1)
Whilst Batyr Akhmedov might be the 1st name we'd put on a prospect list at 140lbs China's Lei Wang isn't far behind. The former Chinese amateur star made his professional debut in September 2018, stopping Anthony Sabalde, and went on to beat Ricky Sismundo in December. Although he's only done 11 rounds as a professional Wang has shown a lot to be excited about. Although he was given a really tough time by Sismundo that shouldn't be a negative for Wang, who would have learned more in that bout than 10 at a lower level. There's a lot to like about Wang, but also a lot that he and his team need to work on now he's in the professional ranks.
Koki Inoue (12-0, 10)
The third member of the Kanagawa Inoue clan is Koki Inoue, the cousin of Naoya Inoue and Takuma Inoue. The Shingo Inoue trained southpaw boxer-puncher will be getting a Japanese title fight later this year and looks to add to his impressive start to professional boxing. There's a lot to like about Inoue, even if he isn't comparable to his cousins, and he's an aggressive, exciting, hard hitting fighter who is expected to move well beyond domestic level. He didn't look close to his best last time out, against Marcus Smith, though it was later revealed he was carrying several injuries into that bout. If he can defeat Valentine Hosokawa in their title showdown he will instantly be getting a lot more attention.
Masahiro Suzuki (1-0, 1)
Another fighter who made their debut in 2018 is Masahiro Suzuki, who debuted in November against the hard hitting Antonio Siesmundo. We were incredibly impressed by Suzuki who showed a real calmness in the face of a hard hitting pressure fighter, and we were instantly looking forward to what he's going to do in the future. He looked talented, sharp, intelligent, exciting and incredibly promising on debut, and was clearly looking to use his amateur background as a starting point for what he's doing in the professional scene. He's expected to be back in the ring in Spring and it's going to be a very exciting journey to follow him on.
The Lightweight division is one with a strange between the top fighters and the top contenders. The champions really look several levels above their most dangerous contenders, in what is a pretty strange division. Despite being strange at the top it's really at prospect level, with a lot of hungry fighters looking to race through the ranks, a number of which are getting serious attention already.
If you've missed our previous looks into the Lightweight division they can be read here:
The state of the Division - Lightweight - The Champions
The state of the Division - Lightweight - The Contenders
Devin Haney (20-0, 13)
One of the biggest and most highly touted prospects in world boxing right now is 20 year old Devin Haney, who has been viewed as one of the can't miss prospects. Making his debut at the age of 17 Haney has developed a reputation as a skilled boxer-mover and has already been compared to the likes of Floyd Maywather Jr. He has shown touched of real class, beating veterans like Mason Menard and Juan Carlos Burgos in 2018, though there are question marks about his power and his killer instinct, but things that can be worked on over the coming years. Given his age he is likely to out grow the Lightweight limit sooner rather than later, but it's hard not to see him having success at Light Welterweight when that happens.
Teofimo Lopez (11-0, 9)
Regarded as being another of the future faces of American boxing Teofimo Lopez is a 21 year old boxer-puncher, with a lot of spite, and nasty intentions. He debuted in late 2016 and has raced away to 11-0 in just 34 rounds. In 2018 he scored 4 wins, including opening round KO's of Vitor Jones and Mason Menard. Lopez is still a boxing baby though looks like a total monster in the making, and could well be one of the next US superstars, if Top Rank guide him well and if he has the hunger for the sport. At the moment he's ticking every box a prospect can tick, and we dare say he's proven more in less time than the aforementioned Haney.
Joe Cordina (8-0, 6)
Welshman Joe Cordina was an accomplished amateur before turning professional in 2017, following a gold medal at the 2015 European Championships and an appearance at the 2016 Olympics. Aged 27 Cordina is a fully grown man, who will be looking to make a big impression in 2019, and has entered the year with both the WBA International and Commonwealth titles, as well as a notable win over fellow Brit Sean Dodd. There are a lot of questions for Cordina to answer, but with Matchroom Sports behind him along with his amateur pedigree it seems inevitable that he will go far, and will almost certainly end up fighting at world level, somewhere down the line.
Shuichiro Yoshino (9-0, 7)
Another 27 year old prospect with a strong amateur background is Japan's Shuichiro Yoshino, who took the Japanese title in his 6th fight and has already made 3 defenses of the belt. The talented Yoshino went 104-20 (55) in the unpaid ranks and was a multi-time high school champion before turning professional at the age of 24. With the established Misako gym behind him there's a good chance he will progress from Japanese level to regional level in 2019 before moving on to a potential world ranking in 2020. From there it's really a case of proving what he can do. Sadly his activity level hasn't been the best and he won't actually be back in the ring until mid-April, which won't help his rise, sadly.
Alfredo Santiago (11-0, 3)
Puerto Rico based Dominican 24 year old Alfredo Santiago is of the division's hidden gems. The tall fighter debuted in 2015 and hasn't had much publicity despite already having wins over Jayson Velez, Cristian Ruben Mino and Jonathan Victor Barros. Although showing a lot of promise questions will be asked of Santiago's power, having stopped just 1 of his last 8 bouts early, though few can doubt his skills and the experience he's getting, with 4 bouts going 10 rounds already. Also it's worth noting that Santiago is listed 5'11", which is tall for a Lightweight, but he looks even tall with genuinely freakish size and reach.
Ravshanbek Umurzakov (6-0, 5)
Uzbek puncher Ravshanbek Umurzakov made his debut at the end of 2017 and has impressed already in his short career, thanks in part to his brutal power. He impressed almost immediately, with opening round wins against Evgeny Smelov and Dohdan Zemlianya and continued to build on that through 2018. Sadly his biggest win to dat was a 58 second win against Eden Sonsona, with Sonsona really looking like he just didn't want to be in the ring and used any excuse to get away. Despite Sonsona's disappointing performance we shouldn't over-look Umurzakov, who looks like he will be fast tracked through 2019, and could end up in the world rankings by the end of the year.
William Zepeda (16-0, 14)
In 2018 we saw Jamie Munguia turn his long unbeaten record on the domestic Mexican scene into a world title, and it's fair to suggest that William Zepeda will be looking to follow suit somewhere down the site. The 22 year southpaw from México City turned professional at the age of 19 and has slowly built himself a pretty good looking record, without setting the world on fire. Despite not really getting too much attention he has started to take some minor steps up in class, with wins against Jesus Acosta and Ulises Perez. We expect him to toil away on the Mexican scene a little bit longer, but continue to move up in class, and in 2020 we would 't be surprised to see Zepeda make his US debut. There's plenty for him to develop, but he's young, powerful and gaining valuable experience at a young age.
Xiangxiang Sun (15-0, 10)
Chinese prospect Xiangxiang Sun, dubbed the "Pretty boy", has had a frustrating career. He debuted way back in December 2012 but failed to be active during those early years, fighting just once in each of 2013 and 2014. Thankfully the last couple of years we have seen him being active and scoring notable wins over Roy Mukhlis and Nelson Tinampay. On paper he is a step behind countryman Yongqiang Yang, however we've been more impressed by Sun than Yang, who had a bit of luck to over-come Takuya Watanabe. Between them however they do give China a good 2-pronged attack force at Lightweight, and hopefully one of them will manage to make a serious mark on the world stage.
Shawn Oda (10-0, 8)
Current Japanese Youth champion Shawn Oda is a really interesting prospect, who, at the age of 20, has so much potential. Oda is one of the few fighters who speaks fluent English, opening up the Western markets, and also has a more athletic style to his boxing than many Japanese fighters. He first came to our attention in 2016, the year he debuted, when he won the Japanese Rookie of the Year, at the age of 18. His 2017 was a bit of a write off but with 4 wins in 2018, including his Japanese title win against Seiryu Toshikawa, he has rebounded wonderfully. We suspect 2019 will be a year of development for the youngster, before he looks to progress onto a national title but he is certainly one to watch, and arguably the best hope Japanese has in the division longer term.
Go Hosaka (2-0, 1)
Japanese-Filipino Go Hosaka debuted in the summer of 2016 and has impressed, showing not only speed, power and skills but also excellent composure. He blew his debut opponent away before taking on Jason Tinampay in November. Hosaka began by trying to take Tinampay out but quickly realised the Filipino was luring him in to counter, and began to just control things behind his reach and use his range. Prior to turning professional he was an outstanding amateur and looks likely to be the Asian wild card in the division. At 22 he is slightly older than Oda, but has got the strong amateur pedigree that Oda lacks, which will make it fun to watch the two men as they develop from prospect status. It's worth noting that Filipino promotional powerhouse ALA are guiding Hosaka's career and they do have a decent track record of getting fighters towards world title fights. Sadly though they have often seen their fighters lack something at the very top level, and Hosaka will hopefully avoid being another nearly man of the ALA Gym.
Over the last few days we've covered the champions and contenders in the Super Featherweight division. Whilst there is plenty to be excited about in those 2 groups of fighters there is also a lot of frustration with them. The champions have been inactive and had politics play a major part in their titles and the challengers are, on the most part, under-whelming.
For those who want to know about the divisions champions we have covered those here - The state of the Division - Super Featherweight - The Champions and the contenders have been covered here The state of the Division - Super Featherweight - The Contenders
Thankfully, the prospects in the division are actually exciting, busy, active, charismatic and a great mix of fighters from across the globe.
Eduardo Hernandez (27-0, 24)
At the age of just 21 Eduardo "Nino Artillero" Hernandez has already had 27 fights. He turned professional at the age of just 16 and like many Mexican's he has developed his experience by being active at a young age. In 2018 he fought 3 times, stopping Drian Francisco, Marlyn Cabrera and Luis Diaz Pastrana in a combined 5 rounds, to extend his current KO streak to 21 straight stoppages. Whilst his competition is still only at fringe level he may well be the next fighter to follow Jamie Munguia and Emanuel Navarrete by jumping from notable Mexican prospect to world champion. He's aggressive, hard hitting, young, exciting and has all the hall marks of being a big hit when he leaves Mexico, which could well be in early 2019.
Ryan Garcia (17-0, 14)
Arguably the most marketable prospect in the division is American 20 year old Ryan Garcia, dubbed "King Ry" and "The Flash". He's already gotten huge media attention, a massive amount of followers on social media, and is being given opportunities to shine by promoter Goldn Boy. He's got the "pretty boy" looks which has helped interest female fans but has shown he can really fight, as shown in a recent win over Braulio Rodriguez. At times he has been a little bit lucky, but he recently changed his trainer and it now appears he's taking things more seriously than he was. With his personality, million dollar smile, good looks he has the potential to be a cross over star, like promoter Oscar De La Hoya, but will need to deliver in the ring to have that platform. His promoters are smart and know that they can't rush Garcia, but they also know they have a very marketable young man on their hands and need to protect him whilst he develops his skills and physical strength.
Abraham Nova (14-0, 10)
Aged 24 Abraham Nova, aka "El Super" is a Puerto Rican born American who is already filling his passport with various stamps. During his 14 fight career, that began in 2016, he has fought in the US, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Uruguay and Belgium, in fact 4 of his last 7 fights have been in Belgium. Although yet to really step up in class he has won the NABA USA Super Featherweight title, gone 10 rounds, and had been an accomplished amateur. He's probably best known for fighting on a PBC show early in his career, being trading knockdowns with Wilfredo Garriga, but since then has developed significantly and shouldn't be written off due to that performance.
Shakur Stevenson (9-0, 5)
American fighter Shakur Stevenson is one of the mostly regarded prospects in the division, if not in boxing. The 21 year old shined as a teenager at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, taking a silver medal, and has shown real promise as a professional, despite some problems when he first turned professional. He struggled to show real power in his first few bouts, but a sensational stoppage of Romanian veteran Viorel Simion in October showed that he can punch and is developing his man strength, as he matures from a boy to a man. With Top Rank behind him, an abundance of confidence, a fantastic and appealing look and a feel good story Stevenson looks like one of the biggest potential stars in American boxing, and he may well be fighting for a world title sooner rather than later. Potentially the best prospect in the division.
Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu (13-0, 6)
One of the few gems in the RCC stable is Russian based Kyrgyzstan fighter Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu, who had a solid 2018 with wins over the likes of Leonardo Padilla and Jon Jon Estrada. He's 28, so will need to make a move in 2019, but has been impressive without being spectacular and looks like he's learning with every fight. He has an exciting style, and a pretty unique look, but has been dropped a few times and does appear to be a bit on the reckless side. Uulu is unlikely to reach the very top, but his journey to an eventual world title fight will be exciting and well worth watching.
Michael Dutchover (12-0, 9)
"West Texas Warrior" Miichael Dutchover is a 21 year old American fighter who has been a professional for a little over 2 years and took some notable steps up in class during a busy 2018, which saw him fight 5 times. His biggest tests to date have seen him going the distance, but there is certainly power there, with multiple knockdowns in many of his wins. He's promoted by the excellent people at Thompson Boxing Promotions, who have helped guide Daniel Roman to a world title, and appears to be building a following in California. Even at the age of 21 there's a lot to like about Dutchover and with such a good team behind him we don't see any reason for him not to be moving towards contendership by the end of 2019. If he keeps his head on his shoulders then there is real promise for this young man.
Michel Rivera (14-0, 9)
Dominican 20 year old Michel Rivera began his career in early 2016 and has fought entirely on the domestic scene, where he has beaten the likes of Marco Acevedo, Manuel Botis and Yankiel Leon. His next bout is however set to take place in Uruguay as he looks to expand his name and his profile. Footage of him shows a pretty nice looking fighter, who's relaxed, composed and judges distance well. There are question marks, as there is always, about how he'll fight when he travels but from what we've seen we're really excited about his potential, his style and his flair. Like many Dominican fighters it does look like he wants to have fun in the ring as well as win and that is something we'd like to see a touch more of from fighters.
Robson Conceicao (10-0, 5)
At 30 years old Brazilian hopeful Robson Conceicao is on the old side for a prospect, but is a fighter who we suspect will be raced from "prospect" to "contender" in 2019, perhaps even ending the year in a world title fight. The unbeaten fighter from Salvador made his name in the amateurs, winning gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics after failing to shine in the 2008 and 2012 games. He turned professional after winning Olympic gold and has fought 10 pro bouts since November 2016. Fighting under the Top Rank banner Conceicao will be moved on to bigger and better fights and is scheduled to fight later this month. An old prospect, but someone worthy of some attention.
Sam Bowen (14-0, 10)
Englishman Sam Bowen is the current British and WBO Inter-Continental champion at 130 and he already has notable wins over Lorenzo Parra, Maxi Hughes and Horacio Alfredo Cabral. He's supposed to be back in the ring on February 23rd against the under-rated Ronnie Clark, in what should be a great test for the 24 year old "Bullet". He's tall and powerful at the weight but still needs to work on a few technical aspects, though has a lot of potential and has shown a great ability to fight on the inside with great body shots. He's certainly one to keep an on.
Shu Utsuki (3-0, 2)
Japan's Shu Utsuki was a former amateur standout who has been who debuted in March 2018 and notched 3 wins during the year, with the latest coming as the headline bout of a notable Japan Vs China card. He's proven to be highly skilled, very composed and has solid power. At the moment it's probably too soon to get too excited about him, but he's promoted by the Watanabe gym who fast tracked their former Super Featherweight star Takashi Uchiyama and look to have current hopeful Hironori Mishiro on a fast track as well. With that in mind we suspect Utsuki will be in notable bouts by the end of 2019.
The Bantamweight division doesn't just have notable names at the top of the division, but also a deep amount of contenders in what is one of the more overlooked and deep divisions in the sport.
The division also has an incredibly bright future with a lot of fantastic young prospects coming through the rankings, and better yet it appears that it's not just Eastern prospects that are being fast tracked, but also some from Europe and the Americas.
If you missed out on our previous articles about the Bantamweight division they are here:
The state of the Division - Bantamweight - The Champions
The state of the Division - Bantamweight - The Contenders
Carl Jammes Martin (11-0, 10)
Not many teenagers could get away with being called "Wonder Boy" but 19 year old Filipino prospect Carl Jammes Martin certainly seems to be living up to the moniker. He debuted at the age of 16 and has already worked his way into the world rankings. The youngster is in need of a step up yo see how good he really is, but he's already won the WBA Asia and WBO Oriental Youth titles and looks to be one of the brightest prospects in the Philippines with his mixture of power, speed, aggressions and skills. It's just a shame that, so far, he has been blasting people out before we've managed to see just how good he actually is.
Tenta Kiyose (15-2-1, 7)
Japanese 22 year old Tenta Kiyose isn't one of the country's many "super prospects" who turned professional with a depth of amateur experience. Instead he's someone who has had to turn his career into a success. Afer losing on debut, being 1-1-1 after 3 bouts and losing in the 2015 Rookie of the Year final to Matcha Nakagawa we have finally seen Kiyose develop into a genuine prospect, winning his last 8 bouts. During his current winning run he has won the WBC Youth Super Bantamweight title, with a shut out over Joe Tejones, and scored a career defining stopping over Oleydong Sithsamerchai. He's big at the weight and with his current form he will be full of confidence.
Ukashir Farooq (11-0, 4)
British-Pakistani fighter Ukashi Farooq is dubbed "untouchable", and given how few rounds he's lost during his 11 bout career he does live up to that nickname pretty well. In 2017 he took the Scottish Area title, stopping Scott Allan in 8 rounds in their second meeting, and has since won and defended the British title. He looked sensational in his British title win, stopping Jamie Wilson in a round, and his win over the once touted Iain Butcher in November was very impressive. There are question marks around this power, despite the blow out of Wilson, but he is undeniably skilled and will begin chasing international honours shortly.
Kazuki Nakajima (6-0, 5)
The Ohashi gym is packed with top talent and highly regarded prospects, meaning it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle. One man looking to avoid that position is touted Bantamweight puncher Kazuki Nakajima, a 25 year old Southpaw, who debuted in summer 2017 and, one bout aside, has looked sensational. He struggled in his third bout, against the under-rated Taiga Higashi, but since then has gone from strength to strength, and looked fantastic beating veteran Yoshihiro Utsumi. Nakajima won't be the next big Ohashi star, but he has the potential to reach the top, and do so rather quickly.
Lee McGregor (5-0, 5)
Arguably the most under-rated and overlooked prospect in Britain is "Lightning" Lee McGregor, a 21 year old Bantamweight from Edinburgh who has won the IBF Youth and Commonwealth Bantamweight titles, and done so against decent competition, stopping both Goodluck Mrema and Thomas Essomba in 4 and 12 rounds respectively. McGregor was a former amateur standout before making his professional debut in November 2011 and has risen rapidly under the guidance of Cyclone Promotions. If you like the way Josh Taylor has been managed then we suspect you'll like how McGregor has been moved too.
Jade Bornea (13-0, 9)
Unbeaten Filipino 23 year old Jade Borena has been quietly rising through the ranks without too much fuss, though is a quality fighter, as he proved in the amateur ranks beating the likes of Murodjon Akhmadaliev and Kosei Tanaka in the 2013 Asian Confederation Youth Boxing Championships. At the moment Bornea is lacking a "big" win but has picked up some minor titles since his 2014 debut and is a natural talent. We really hope 2019 is a year where he begins to make a real mark on the regional scene.
Junior Almonte (11-0, 8)
Dominican puncher Junior Almonte isn't a well known fighter, but like many Dominicans rising through the ranks he's heavy handed, exciting and busy. He debuted in July 2017 and already has 11 bouts under his belt , those 11 bouts combine for 33 rounds showing how dangerous he is early on. Sadly his best wins are against the likes of Rafael Rodriguez and Donny Garcias, but we expect to see him make a step up in 2019, and hopefully make his international debut.
Fumiya Fuse (7-0, 1)
The 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year quietly won the Rookie of the Year tournament last year as a 19 year old, just 11 months after his debut. Since then he has added a couple more wins, gone 6 rounds for the first time, made his international debut and genuinely looked like a pure natural talent. He's a skilled boxer-mover who's only question mark at the moment appears to be his power. He's only 20 years old now, so may have his man strength to develop in the coming years and if so the talented southpaw really could be one of Japan's many notable Bantamweights.
Ryusei Kawaura (5-0, 4)
From a Japanese non-puncher to a Japanese puncher, Ryusei Kawaura is a heavy handed boxer-puncher who stepped up in 2018 to over-come Marjun Pantilgan, with an 8 round decision, and Yuki Yoshimura. He's currently fighting between Super Flyweight and Bantamweight, though suspicion is that his 24 year old frame will fill into a fully fledged Bantamweight in the new year. Kawaura is a southpaw who's career has developed slowly but has a lot of potential
Seiya Tsutsumi (4-0, 3)
Another Japanese fighter looking to find their ideal weight is 22 year old Watanabe prospect Seiya Tsutsumi, who won a Danagn B Class tournament at Bantamweight in September but has since flirted with Featherweight and spoke about fighting at Super Flyweight. We're really unsure where Tsutsumi will settle, and it seems like he's also unsure, but what we do know is that he's an exciting, aggressive, hard hitting fighter who brings a lot of pressure and a lot of action. Given his age his body will almost certainly grow into that of a fully fledged Bantamweight, and we see that being the weight that he makes his name at.
Elie Konki (5-0, 1)
It's strange referring to a national champion as a prospect, but French national champion, and 2016 Olympian, Elie Konki is certainly a prospect, and one with a lot of upside. The "Spider" is a tall Bantamweight who has raced to a national title, doing so last time out, racked up experience over 10 rounds and looks like a genuine one to watch. He needs more seasoning before stepping up, but at 26 time is on his side, and there is a growth in the French scene at the moment, suggesting that Konki may get promotional backing in the near future.
Jonathan Lopez (5-0, 3)
Unbeaten "Bum Bum" Jonathan Lopez is a Puerto Rican hopeful who debuted in 2017 but really made a mark in 2018, which included a massive career win over former world title challenger Jose Alfredo Rodriguez in December. Whilst Rodriguez is no world beater, he is a the type of fighter that prospects don't tend to face in just their 5th professional bout. Given that Lopez has fit 4 bouts into 2018 we're looking forward to seeing what he and his team have in store for the new year.
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.