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.
The Light Flyweight division is a division that is developing quickly at prospect level with a lot of exciting, young, new talent in the division. Some of those fighters are perhaps a little early in their career but are expected to be fast tracked, as we often see in the division. Here we look at some of those prospects, following on from our look at the champions in the division, The state of the Division - Light Flyweight - The Champions, and the leading contenders,
Christian Araneta (16-0, 14)
The Light Flyweight division may be stacked with punchers, but there are more coming through. One of whom is Filipino 23 year old Christian Araneta, who is rising through the ranks an living up to his nickname of "The Bomb". The youngster has stopped 13 of his last 14 opponents, and scored notable wins over domestic foes such as Jesse Espinas, Jerry Tomogdan, Philip Luis Cuerdo. He can be out boxed, and has been at times already, but is certainly a puncher who knows he can rely on his power, when he needs it.
Jesse Espinas (19-3, 11)
Another Filipino prospect, on the verge of being a contender, is the aforementioned Jesse Espinas. Espinas was last seen losing to OPBF champion Edward Heno, in a bout that showed Espinas still has a lot to learn, but the 26 year old has got a lot of promise and should be regarded as one to following in the division. Sadly though he is relatively low down the picking order in the Filipino domestic scene, which could end up being a blessing in disguise giving him extra time to develop from prospect to contender, whilst the others get shots before him.
Taku Kuwahara (3-0, 2)
Japanese 23 year old Taku Kuwahara was a fantastic amateur who only debuted in May of this year but has already shown touches of genius and could well end up being the next Ohashi star to break out. He's intelligent in the ring, has fantastic timing and speed and very solid power. His first 2 bouts were opening round blow outs, but he proved he do more than blow opponents away last time out, taking an 8 round decision over another highly touted Japanese hopeful. Kuwahara is perhaps the dark sheep among the prospects, as he looks likely to be fast tracked into contendership very quickly, but for now, at least, he's just a very exciting prospect.
Jesse Rodriguez (8-0, 4)
American teenager Jesse Rodriguez is only 18 years old but is already one of the most promising prospects at 108lbs, and not just because he's a rare American hopeful at the weight. He was a stand out amateur, who claimed a silver medal at the 2015 World Junior Championships and has been touted as a potential star of the little men. The unbeaten southpaw debuted early last year and is developing well, with great skills, an exciting style and impressive patience for such a youngster. Although not a massive puncher he is accurate and picks his shots well, and looks like he could develop power when he gets his man strength
Shokichi Iwata (1-0, 1)
American based Japanese fighter Shokichi Iwata is a bit of a prospective wildcard in the division thanks to his link ups in the West. It's still very early in his career, but he was a stand out amateur before deciding to turn professional and is now looking to go a route of his own in America. Notably he appears to be learning English, something that could really help him increase his fan base in the West, and he looked really exciting on his debut. Maybe not as technically developed as countryman Kuwahara he's still a fantastic addition to the division and could be someone who has a real impact in the West
Takamori Kiyama (2-1, 2)
One final Japanese prospect worthy of note is Takamori Kiyama, who battle Taku Kuwahara earlier this year and lost a decision to the Ohashi man. Kiyama is a very promising southpaw, who lost to a sensationally prospect, but shouldn't be written off for his early career loss. At 22 years old Kiyama has the potential to go a very long way, he's proven he's tough, skilled, his hard and is willing to be tested, having faced 3 successive unbeaten fighters. The fact he's already gone 8 rounds bodes well for the southpaw who has a lot to be excited about.
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.