Over the Christmas period we saw an interesting match up being speculated on featuring English Light Heavyweight Anthony Yarde (17-0, 16) and American based Cuban veteran Sullivan Barrera (22-2, 14). That bout didn't get much further than speculation, started by Barrera, but was an interesting match up all the same.
Sadly it was turned down with Yarde's defenders suggesting he wasn't ready, he needed more experience, he needed seasoning take on someone like Barrera.
The Englishman's lack of an amateur career was also put forward as to why taking the bout at this stage would be foolish, with Yarde's amateur career only lasting for about 12 fights.
That got me into thinking about other fighters who lack much in terms of amateur credentials, and how they have been developed. The one that stood out the most was Japan's Masayuki Ito (24-1-1, 12), the current WBO Super Featherweight champion. Ito had 0 amateur fights, and was developed through a very different professional system to the one that has brought Yarde to the point where he is. In fact Yarde, as the WBO's #1 contender, is technically next in line for a WBO world title fight, but supposedly isn't ready for a grizzled veteran like Barrera.
As mentioned Yarde had 12 amateur fights before beginning his professional career in 2015, at the age of 23, and he scored 4 wins during that year, going 4-0 (3). All of those wins came against fighters with losing records, little ambition and who were there to pick up losses and supposedly teach Yarde a few things before losing. They included the then 0-11 Curtis Gargano, who is now 0-51-1, and the then 3-10-2 Tamas Danko, who is now 3-22-2.
Ito on the other hand debuted in 2009, aged 18, and only fought once that year. It wasn't until November 2010 that he would be 4-0. By that point he had most faced domestic novices, who didn't have much of a career afterwards, there was one who had a winning record when Ito faced him but on the whole those opponents were hard to make any sort of note about.
Ito's 5th bout however was a draw with the then 4-0 Tsuyoshi Tameda, in a Rookie of the Year bout, that was a big step up and we've since seen Tameda carve out a name for himself as a big puncher on the Japanese domestic scene. That compares very favourably with Yarde's 5th opponent, David Sipos, an Hungarian who tends to lose whenever he fights outside of Nyíregyhaza, Hungary.
The Rookie of the Year competition is really the building ground for a lot of Japanese fighters. It's a domestic tournament that pits novices against each other, developing the talent of fighters. It's lead to over 20 world champions, with Ito being the most recent, and is a great proving ground for fighters to fight opponents at a similar experience level. In 2012 Ito would win the tournament whilst advancing his record to 9-0-1, 3. Within 10 fights Ito had become Rookie of the Year, had fought to a draw with Tameda and would actually beat Masaru Sueyoshi and Kosuke Saka. Sueyoshi, then 3-0, is the current Japanese Super Featherweigth champion whilst Saka, then 6-0, is a now former Japanese Featherweight champion.
By his 10th fight Yarde had beaten just 1 opponent with a winning record, stopping the then 22-10 Ferenc Albert inside a round. His other 9 opponents all had either losing records, or 50-50 records at best. There was no unbeaten fighters on his ledger, no hungry youngsters looking to build themselves up, just domestic journeymen or very limited visitors.
Interestingly Yarde would claim his first title in his 11th bout, winning the British Area Light Heavyweight title by stopping Chris Hobbs. Hobbs was 6-1-1 and was an obvious step up for Yarde. Yarde would then begin collecting minor WBO titles, beating Richard Baranyi for the WBO European title and Norbery Nemesapati for the WBO Inter-Continental title. Those titles have since been defended against Nikola Sjekloca, Tony Averlant, Dariusz Sek and Walter Gabriel Sequeira as he's climbed up the WBO rankings use those belts as a launch pad for his #1 ranking.
On paper wins over the likes of Baranyi, then 18-1, Nemesapati, then 25-6, and Sjekloca, then 32-4-1, were really good wins. Since then however none have done anything. Baranyi has lost 2 of his 3 bouts, Nemespati hasn't fought, and had lost 4 of his previous 8 suggesting his best days were behind him, and Sjekloca has picked up 3 low key wins. They were all credible wins, but the reality is that none of them have shown any ambition since. It could be that Yarde beat it out of them, or it could be that they were all just starting to slide.
Essentially leads us to where we are now with Yarde. 17-0 (16) with no wins over notable domestic opponents, a string of wins over fringe European level fighters on the slide, and a lack of real substance. A fighter with power and talent, but no real experience and no real desire to change that.
Ito's 12th bout would be a win against Taiki Minimoto, the now reigning Japanese Featherweight champion and his following bout would be his first title bout, a win over Jeffrey Arienza for the WBC Youth Lightweight title. Ito wouldn't defend the belt and would instead go on to face domestic foes. Those domestic foes included the big punching Masao Nakamura in what was Ito's 16th fight. He was the under-dog going into that bout but pulled off an upset win over the former OPBF champion to make fans really sit up, that was his 17th bout and he was still just 23. In his 18th bout he challenged Japanese champion Rikki Naito, and lost a razor thin decision to Naito.
Since losing to Naito we've seen almost every fight from Ito being a step forward. He would win the OPBF title just 6 months after losing to Naito, and would unify it with the WBO Asia Pacific title 16 months later by beating Takuya Watanabe. He would notch up wins a variety of opponents, such as the skilled Shingo Eto, the hard hitting Lorenzo Villanueva and the teak tough Vergil Puton. Every bout served a purpose, other than to add to the number in the win column. Those bouts prepared him for this summer's win over Christopher Diaz for the WBO world title, which it's self was an upset.
It's far to say that after 4 bouts both were similar. Neither had done anything. Ito would then take the lead, winning the Rookie of the Year crown. Ito would continue to face stiff competition but Yarde arguably went above him, winning his first title and his first international before Ito had. Ito however faced challengers who wanted to take the belt from him, unified against a live opponent and took on fighters who fought with ambition, rather than the desire to survive. Whilst Yarde had over-taken Ito in terms of where they were he hadn't developed like Ito had.
There is, of course, time for Yarde to catch up. He's fit his first 18 fights into the same amount of time that it took Ito to fight 9 fights. The difference there however is that Ito debuted as a teenager, he had time on his side, Yarde was in his mid 20's, and hasn't got that huge amount of time to waste treading water.
We would love to see Yarde take a big step up in February, when he returns to the ring, but the feeling is that if Barrera is too seasoned then Yarde won't be in with a top fighter. Instead we may need to wait until he is 28, 29 or even 30 before he fights a top name. It's a shame given that the UK scene at 175lbs has had fighters like Hosea Burton, Frank Buglioni, Callum Johnson, Ricky Summers, Bob Ajisafe and Charlie Schofield all in it in recent years, and now has Joshua Buatsi rising incredibly quickly though the ranks. The fact Yarde failed to face any top domestic fighters is a massive shame, yet it was facing top domestic competition, at the same point in their careers, that has helped make Ito the fighter he is today.
We're not saying Yarde should jump in with Barrera, but it would certainly do his career the world of good to have opponents who have 3 months to prepare, who are ambitious and come to win. Whether that's a top domestic foe, a top European fighter or a fringe world class fighter, he needs someone to give him a fight, and to do it before fans turn away.
We might get proven wrong, Yarde might be able to deliver at the top, but the Light Heavyweight division is expected to become red hot in the coming years, and with the likes of Dmitry Bivol, Marcus Browne and the aforementioned Buatsi all in or around the top there's not going to be a generational shift to open the door to Yarde. In fact if anything the division could be overcrowded with top Super Middleweights like Callum Smith, Gilberto Ramirez Sanchez and David Ramirez all expected to move up sooner rather than later.
(Images courtesy of Frank Warren.com, Boxmob.jp)
In 2019 we expect to see a wave of Japanese fighters racing through the ranks, following the patter we've seen from the likes of Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka. At the moment there are 4 fighters with 1-0 (1) records that we expect to see racing through the rankings, potentially fighting for their first titles before the end of 2019.
Masahiro Suzuki (1-0, 1)
World Sports Boxing Gym
On November 3rd we saw Masahiro Suzuki make his debut, and he was really impressive as he over-came Antonio Siesmundo at the Korakuen Hall. Fighting at 140lbs, though expected to drop down to 135lbs going forward, Suzuki was put in a baptism of fire with a hard hitting and tough Filipino who came to win, and win big. Suzuki showed off the tools he learned whilst composing an impressive 64-26 (21) amateur record, showing great composure, fantastic skills and the ability to mix up what he was doing. He didn't have things all his own way, and seeing him adapt was the most impressive thing about his performance.
He's pencilled in for his second bout on March 2nd at the Korakuen Hall, though his opponent hasn't yet been named, and we are really looking forward to that bout, which should be televised on G+.
Mikito Nakano (1-0, 1)
Debuting on October 6th we had massive expectations of 23 year old Mikito Nakano, who was tipped as one of the future stars of the Teiken gym. As an amateur Nakano went 68-9 (48) and turned professional having sparred with the likes of Hiroaki Teshigawara. With such lofty expectations we were, in some ways, expecting a punch perfect debut against Thanawat Yancharoen. Instead it seemed like Nakano was just impressive, rather than spectacular in debut.
Despite not being totally blown away by Nakano we do see a lot to like about the Featherweight hopeful, who showed excellent footwork, lovely punch variety and the mentality of punching through the target. He looked sharp and is obviously a top prospect, despite not making our jaws hit the flaw.
At the moment it's unclear when he will return to the ring but we'd suspect he'll be in action in Spring.
Yuki Nakajima (1-0, 1)
Another 23 year old who debuted in October was Yuki Nakahima, a Light Flyweight fighter under the Kadoebi banner. He made his debut on Slugfest 6 and looked excellent as he defeated Thai novice Somphon Banyaem. Nakajima showed a lovely crisp jab, good movement and a very confident approach to his work in the ring, something that he'll have developed during his amateur career which saw him going 52-21. He controlled the first round of his debut behind his jab before upping the ante in round 2 and taking out the Thai with a brutal left hook to the body.
Interestingly Nakajima's bout is the only one from Slugfest 6 not to be posted publicly by Kadoebi, with Boxingraise being the only way to watch the bout at the time of writing. A real shame we'd have loved to have shared his debut. Subscribers to boxingraise can however watch Nakajima's debut by searching for him in Japanese, "中嶋憂輝".
It should be noted that Yuki's older brother Kazuki Nakajima (6-0, 5) is himself a very highly regarded prospect with the Ohashi Gym.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1)
Minimumweight hopeful Ginjiro Shigeoka made his debut back in September, when he was 18, following an amazing 56-1 amateur career. His debut was televised, on tape delay, on TBS and he looked like a special talent after just a few seconds. He quickly put the then 4-0 (4) Sanchai Yotboon on the back foot and showed touches of genius whilst applying constant educated pressure, switching levels, throwing combinations and still being defensively responsible. It was the sort off debut that immediately impressed and was the sort of thing that got us very, very excited.
Sadly there is no set date on when Shigeoka will return, but Watanabe are well known for handling prospects well, and we've seen a number of their fighters race through to title fights, so wouldn't be surprised if Shigeoka gets a big fight before his 20th birthday, which will be in October.
We also want to quickly explain that the rematch between Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa and Yasuyuki Akiyama would have been on this list were it not for the fact that it is hidden behind a pay wall and we can't share the fight video. For us that's the best OPBF and best WBO Asia Pacific title fight of the year, and would probably be #2 on top 3.
#3 - Ryoichi Taguchi (27-2-2, 12) Vs Hekkie Budler (31-3, 10)
May 20th – Ota-City General Gymnasium
The first fight on our list of best 3 is the IBF, WBA and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight title bout between Ryoichi Taguchi and Hekkie Budler from back in May. The bout was a thrilling competitive war between two world class Light Flyweights, with very little to split the fighters. Both men had flaws exposed, both men seemed to have a year or two taken off their careers and as fan we had something very special.
Sadly since this bout, way back in May, bout we've not seen either man return to the ring. Taguchi is supposedly in talks for a Spring 2019 return up at Flyweight, in a WBO world title bout, whilst Budler will be facing off with Taguchi's stablemate Hiroto Kyoguchi on December 31st in Macau.
#2 - Akira Yaegashi (26-6, 14) vs Hirofumi Mukai (16-5-3, 6)
August 17th - Korakuen Hall
Our second entry is the fantastic Super Flyweight bout between former 3-weight world champion Akira Yaegashi and 2-time world title challenger Hirofumi Mukai. These took didn't take long to get to know each other, and as the bout went on the action got more and more intense, with round 6 being a contender for round of the year. Mukai tried to use his reach early on but got dragged into Yaegashi's type of fight as the contest played out, becoming more and more of a war.
Neither man has fought since this contest, but both are expected to return to the ring in 2019. Yaegashi has got his eye on fighting for a Super Flyweight world title, something that we don't give him much of a chance of winning, whilst Mukai would likely be looking for one more good run on the regional scene.
#1 -Sho Kimura (17-1-2, 10) Vs Kosei Tanaka (11-0, 7)
September 24th - Takeda Teva Ocean Arena
Our Fight of the Year, not just in Japan but globally, is the WBO Flyweight title bout between Sho Kimura and Kosei Tanaka, a fight that we can't talk highly enough. It was two brilliantly matched fighters, with styles and mentalities that gelled perfectly, it had two men willing to put it all on the line, it had a incredible atmosphere, a high work rate from both men, an amazing sequence from both with right hands in round 12 and it had a young fighter chasing history. This really was, for us, the most exciting bout of the year, the best bout of the year, and a bout that had everything we had wished for and more.
If you've not seen this one we suggest putting an hour away and giving it a watch. If you have seen it, you know what to expect and should make the time to rewatch it, as it's simply fantastic. One of the times where a bout didn't just live up to expectations, but thoroughly exceeded them.
The final part of our 19 for 19 series focuses on 3 more prospects, all of whom are exciting and aggressive fighters with fantastic power and eye catching skills.
If you missed the first 4 parts of this series you catch up here:
19 for 19: Part 1 - The Teenage Prospects,
19 for 19: Part 2 - A Rookie, an Uzbek puncher, a Pinoy Prodigy and an Olympic champion
19 for 19: Part 3 - Unbeaten novices from China, Uzbekistan, Thailand and Japan!
19 for 19: Part 4 - Heavy handed fighters from Uzbekistan, Indonesia and Japan!
Sadriddin Akhmedov (6-0, 6)
Rising Kazakh prospect Sadriddin Akhmedov is one of the best pure prospects in the sport, with great amateur pedigree, an exciting and aggressive style, serious power, a good promotional back, in Eye of the Tiger Management, and a great level of activity. He also has the advantage of fighting in a heavier weight than some other prospects on this list, as he's fighting between Light Middleweight and Middleweight. So far he has scored 6 wins since April this year, and looks likely to be kept active against in 2019, with a bout already pencilled in for January. It's clear his team are wanting to keep him busy and develop him with activity, though we really are hoping to see him take a step up in the new year.
Shawn Oda (10-0, 8)
Japanese Lightweight Shawn Oda has been a professional for just over 2 and a half years but has already accomplished a lot. He came to our attention in 2017, when he claimed the Rookie of the Year and has since gone on to claim the Japanese Youth Lightweight title. At the age of 20 his future is incredibly bright, and he has already shown the ability to box, brawl and bang. For a Japanese fighter at 135lbs he is someone to make a note of, though is still rough around the edges, and perhaps still depends on athleticism when he could be using his skills. Still he should be seen as a genuine top prospect.
Seiya Tsutsumi (4-0, 3)
Someone who really caught our eye in 2018 has bene Seiya Tsutsumi, an aggressive, pressure fighter who fights out of the Watanabe gym and won a B Class tournament this year. The hard hitting youngster had been a very impressive amateur on the Japanese domestic scene before turning professional and at just 22 years old he looks like being one of the most exciting Japanese prospects, in terms of both in ring style and long term potential. Sadly Tsutsumi did have to pull out of a bout earlier in December, though we are hoping to see him make a return in early 2019.
As well as the 19 fighters featured over the 5 parts we've also included a small list below of extra prospects to make a note of. For many of these they were missing from the main series due to a lack of available footage to share, but are all worth adding on to any sort of a prospect list.
Kudura Kaneko (9-0, 6)
Taku Kuwahara (3-0, 2)
Ginjiro Tsutsumimoto (2-0, 2)
Kanan Huseyinaliyev (4-0, 4)
Sultan Zaurbek (3-0, 2)
Makhmud Gaipov (2-0, 1)
Ryusei Kawaura (5-0, 4)
Andika D'Golden Boy (15-0, 8)
Sanjar Tursunov (1-0, 1)
Tran Van Thao (11-0, 8)
Through out this month we've been doing our "19 for 19" list of prospects. Here is part 4 in our series, and it looks at 4 men with perfect records, not just in terms of 100% winning rates, but also a 100% KO rate. This part of the list features an Indonesian fighter, a Japanese fighter and a couple of fighters from Uzbekistan.
If you missed the previous parts they are here. The first part 19 for 19: Part 1 - The Teenage Prospects, the second part is here 19 for 19: Part 2 - A Rookie, an Uzbek puncher, a Pinoy Prodigy and an Olympic champion and the third part 19 for 19: Part 3 - Unbeaten novices from China, Uzbekistan, Thailand and Japan!
Ari Agustian (7-0, 7)
Indonesian fight fans don't usually have much to get excited about, but Ari Agustian could be the fighter to change that, with an exceptionally fun style, a lot of power and no fear of going away from home. Agustian was a decent amateur before turning professional in 2017. In his first 12 months as a professional he was 6-0 (6) and has since added a big win over Baolin Kang, in China, to his record. Sadly he's not fought much this year, but there is talk of him facing Khunkiri Wor Wisaruth in the near future. He's exciting, hard hitting and very aggressive. The sort of fighter who will get the attention of fight fans.
Kai Ishizawa (5-0, 5)
Japanese Minimumweight Youth champion Kai Ishizawa is a flawed but thrilling fighter, who isn't the most technically apt, but is very heavy handed, with under-rated boxing skills and a good ring IQ. He lacks in terms of speed, but fights with an intense pressure that breaks down good fighters, as we saw earlier this year when he stopped Yuga Inoue in a thrilling fight. Ishizawa certainly needs to work on his technical skills if he's to progress to the top, but he's still one to watch in 2019, as he will be taking on better competition, staying busy and looking to retain his Youth title. Due to his aggression he's going to be a fighter who is always worth watching.
Bakhodir Jalolov (4-0, 4)
We don't get to talk about real Heavyweight prospects very often so it's always a good thing to bring attention to Uzbek Heavyweight giant Bakhodir Jalolov. Jalolov was a former amateur standout who turned professional earlier this year, debuting in May. Jalolov's amateur credentials are brilliant with an Asian Championships gold medal and a world championship bronze medal among others and he's adapted to the professional ranks really well. Sadly his competition hasn't been great but he has been doing what he's supposed to do and taking his opposition out quickly. With his size, amateur background and age, he's only 24, there is so much to like about Jalolov.
Elnur Abduraimov (3-0, 3)
It's rare we see a fighter in action almost monthly but former amateur standout Elnur Abduraimov, from Uzbekistan, debuted in September and managed to fight in October and November. Whilst his competition hasn't been great, lasting a combined 4 rounds, it's hard not to be impressed by how good he's looked. He's aggressive, yet picks his shots amazingly well and has some frankly disgusting body shots. As he steps up in competition we expect activity to drop off massively, but at 24 he looks to be a Lightweight who wants to hit the ground running and get involved in big fights as quickly as he can.
Through out this month we've posted Part 1 and Part 2 of our 19 for 19, looking at Asian prospects, and here's our third part. If you missed the first part that's here 19 for 19: Part 1 - The Teenage Prospects and the second part is here 19 for 19: Part 2 - A Rookie, an Uzbek puncher, a Pinoy Prodigy and an Olympic champion
Here we are looking at 4 novices, with a combined record of 7-0 (7) but all 4 men involved have looked incredibly promising and appear to be well worthy of attention.
Lei Wang (1-0, 1)
It can be easy to get over-excited about Chinese prospects, and we might be heading that way with Lei Wang, however there is a lot to get excited about. The 28 year old Chinese fighter was a very good amateur and when he made his debut this past September he did so in style, stopping Filipino Anthony Sabalde in 5 rounds, doing what Nihito Arakawa and Wang Zhimin both failed to do. On debut Wang looked razor sharp, both on defense and offense, he looked like a fighter with a great boxing brain, a flashy style and like someone incredibly exciting. He looks incredibly relaxed in the ring and we're hoping to see a lot more of him in 2019.
Israil Madrimov (1-0, 1)
Uzbek fighters all look like they are trying to out do each other at the moment, much like the Ukrainians did in the wake of the 2016 Olympics. So far we've seen several Uzbek fighters all begin their careers with aggressive match making, though no one rivals Israil Madrimov, who debuted in a 10 round bout and took a minor WBA title in his very first professional contest. The 23 year old, dubbed "The Dream" looks to be a phenomenal switch hitter who is a natural in the ring, sharp with both hands and has an excellent boxing brain. We've got a lot of questions to see him answer, but we've also been hugely impressed by Madrimov's sole professional outing.
Apichet Petchmanee (1-0, 1)
Former Thai amateur stand out Apichet Petchmanee made his debut this past October, at the age of 28, but did so in a notable bout against the then 13-0 Attanon Kunlawong. He'll be back in the ring on December 22nd, when he fights for the OPBF "silver" title at 140lbs and he may well find himself fighting for the full OPBF title in 2019. He really impressed on debut and we're expecting a really bright future for him, given how strong his amateur background is. Sadly he is now 29 years old, though we suspect he will be fast tracked and will end up fighting notable international opponents before the end of 2020.
Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4)
At the end of 2017 we were raving about Ryota Yamauchi, who was then 2-0 (2). During 2018 he doubled that record, and scored a big domestic win over Yota Hori, but a lack of activity has left the 23 year old Flyweight failing to reach our predictions for the year. Despite failing to build massively on his impressive start he has continued to develop and the hope now will be for 2019 to be his break out year, and if he can fit 3 fights into the year he should well be in the mix for a title by the end of the year. He's aggressive, quick, heavy handed and managed by the highly recognised Kadoebi gym, who just need to keep him active, and well matched next year
Earlier this week we posted part 1 of our 19 for 19, looking at Asian prospects. If you missed that it's available to read here 19 for 19: Part 1 - The Teenage Prospects.
Here's part 2. Unlike the first part there isn't a set theme to this, but we have included a trio of youngsters, taken fighters from 4 different countries, including an Olympic champion, a rising Uzbek, a Filipino prodigy and a Japanese Rookie of the Year.
Fumiya Fuse (7-0, 1)
The unbeaten Fumiya Fuse impressed last year, when he not only debuted but also went on to win the All Japan Rookie of the Year at Bantamweight. This year he has only fought twice, but has really impressed, taking the unbeaten record of Yohanis Tatul and shining on the road in Korea, where he schooled Dong Young Lee over 6 rounds. Although lacking power the 20 year old is gorgeous boxer to watch in action, with clean crisp punching, great movement a fantastic engine and a very good boxing brain. The only issue really is his lack of power, and hopefully that'll change as he matures.
Ulugbek Sobirov (9-0, 5)
The Uzbek scene is red hot right now, with a number of rising youngsters coming from the country. One of the youngest is 20 year old Light Middleweight boxer-puncher Ulugbek Sobirov, who looks freakishly mature for such a youngster. He only debuted in January, but has stepped up through the year whilst picking up international experience with bouts in India, Malaysia, the Philipines and Thailand. He's lacking a real break out win, but has been fighting experienced regional opposition and been looking very good so far.
KJ Cataraja (9-0, 7)
The Philippines has, for a long time, relied on it's trio of aging legends, Manny Pacquiao, Donnie Nietes and Nonito Donaire, to keep interesting in boxing high. Thankfully however it's got a number of amazing prospects, the best of which may well be Kevin Jake "KJ" Cataraja. In fact he may well be one of the world's very best prospects, with an offensive and free flowing style that combines skills, speed, power and under-rated defense. Cataraja is still some way from fighting for a world title, but at 23 years old he has a lot of time to mature before being thrown in with world class opponents, which could come by the end of 2019.
Daniyar Yeleussinov (5-0, 3)
At the 2016 Olympics we saw Daniyar Yeleussinov take his most notable amateur tournament win, winning the gold medal in the talent laden 69KG division. Since then the Kazakh has began to make a mark in the professional ranks. Originally he didn't look like he suited the professional style though his last two fights have changed that opinion, a lot, and he looks like he is now settling into the professional ranks in a very fashion. He still has a lot of questions to answer, but the story out of Kazakhstan is that he will be moved into minor title fights in summer 2019 and so we should see those questions being answered in the near future.
The new year is only a few short weeks away and wonderfully there is so many prospects to get excited about as we enter what could be a very big year for professional boxing. With that in mind we've compiled a 19 for 19 list, looking at 19 of the top prospects in Asian boxing.
Before we get into part 1 of this series of articles we just want to, quickly, determine what fighters will and won't qualify as a prospect. We've not set an age limit or fight limit for this article, though most fighters have only had a handful of fights. One limitation we have applied here however is that a fighter isn't allowed to be world ranked on December 6th 2018. This rules out Shakhram Giyasov, Carls Jammes Martin, Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov and Murodjon Akhmadaliev, who are all in at least 1 top 15 world ranking.
We've also ruled out fighters where we've not been able to get some sort of video of the men in action, as we feel sharing footage of the men included is vital. This has ruled out fighters like Taku Kuwahara and Junjun He among others.
Right so lets begin by having a look at part 1 of this list, which will feature only men who are under the age of 20. The men in this part are proper professional novices in terms of experience, but all of them have impressed us in 2018 and we expect to see them do the same in 2019.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1)
Japanese 19 year old Ginjiro Shigeoka turned professional earlier this year, following a 56-1 career in the amateur ranks, and immediately impressed, stopping Thailand's Sanchai Yotbooon. Although he was in with an over-matched opponent it was clear that Shigeoka was a special talent, with amazing shot selection, exciting aggression, and very explosive hands. His debut performance saw the East Japan Boxing Association award him with their newcomer of the month, for September, and with Watanabe backing him there is massive potential for him to go a very long way, very quickly.
Musashi Mori (8-0, 5)
By the time you read this Musashi Mori may have creeped into the world rankings, but at the time of writing he isn't. The 19 year old Japanese boxer really burst on to the domestic scene in 2017, when he won the All Japan Rookie of the Year at Super Featherweight. Since then he has gone 3-0 (1) and claimed notable international wins against Filipino pair Allan Vallespin and Richard Pumicpic, claiming the WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title in the process. He has shown great development this year and his performance against Pumicpic is by far the best of his career.
Dave Apolinario (9-0, 6)
Filipino boxer-puncher Dave Apolinario is another 19 year old who has really impressed, since his debut in June 2017. In 2018 he has gone 5-0 (3), stepped up his competition well and claimed the WBC Asian Boxing Council Youth Flyweight title, with a win over Michael Camelion. Interestingly for such a young fighter he had already gone 8 rounds twice, and looks to be learning from the mistakes of older brother Mark John Apolinario. It's worth noting that he was a very good amateur on the domestic scene and shows those traits every time he's in the ring. Hopefully he'll have a busy 2019 and continue to step up his competition as he did in 2018.
Jeong Han Cha (3-0, 3)
It's nice to get excited about a Korean fighter against and Jeong Han Cha is someone worth getting excited about, especially now that it seems the Korean scene is finally calming down and settling into some sort of order, after years of being a mess. Like the best Koreans of the past Cha is an aggressive fighter, with a little bit of a "rough around the edges" style, but at 18 years old, with power, heart and decent fundamentals he looks like someone who could, potentially, make a mark for himself on the international scene. It will take time and effort to develop him, but Korea do have a talent on their hands here.
Note - Cha will be fighting on December 9th
Yesterday we saw the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) announce their next class of inductees. Those inductees included 3 fighters from the "Modern Category". Those were Donald Curry (34-6, 25), Julian Jackson (55-6, 49) and James "Buddy" McGirt (73-6-1, 48). The selections were pretty widely criticised by fans and left the IBHOF open to the same criticism that many have made in the past, that it's very US centric, with all 3 men having made their names Stateside, with Curry and McGirt being American's and Jackson being from the US Virgin Islands.
The three men all had great careers.
Curry had a reported record of over 400 amateur wins before turning professional in 1980 and fighting through to 1991, before making an ill fated comeback in 1997. During his career he would go on to hold the WBA, IBF and WBC Welterweight titles, and the WBC Light Middleweight title. He would go on to have a 9-5 (7) record in world title fights with notable wins against Marlon Starling (twice), Milton McCrory, Carlos Santos, Lupe Aquino and Gianfranco Rosi. Sadly though he would lose to Lloyd Honeyghan, Mike McCallum, Rene Jacquot, Michael Nunn and Terry Norris, whilst in his prime, and to Emmett Linton in the second bout of his comeback.
Julian Jackson is widely regarded as one of the greatest punchers of all time. The "Hawk" went 10-4 (9) in world title bouts and scored wins against the likes In Chul Baek, Buster Drayton, Terry Norris and Herol Graham, and was a 3-time champion. Sadly for Jackson all 3 of his world title reigns came from winning titles and he would be stopped in all 6 of his career defeats. His career as a professional ran from 1981 through to 1998 and he will always be remembered from his freakish power, that bailed him out famously against Herol Graham. Sadly however losses to Mike McCallum, Gerald McClellan (twice), Quincy Taylor and Verno Phillips leave him looking a little short of elite.
McGirt is now widely regarded as one of the most accomplished trainers in the sport, with a huge list of notable fighters who have had success under his tutelage. As a professional he also had real success, winning 73 of 80 professional bouts. Sadly though many of thos wins were against less than formidable opposition. His professional career began in 1982 and ended in 1997 and saw him claim the IBF Light Welterweight title and the WBC Welterweight title. Sadly however he went 5-3 (2) in world title fights, with his most notable wins as a professional Saoul Mamby, Joe Manley, Simon Brown, Patrizio Oliva, Genaro Léon and Livingstone Bramble. He would however lose to exceptional talents, Pernell Whittaker (twice) and Meldrick Taylor.
Whilst all 3 were fantastic fighters, truly fantastic, none of them seemed as if they were the elite of the elite. Or the fighters that did something exceptional. Instead they seemed like safe choices from a voting panel that are perhaps biased in terms of a pro-American stance, behind showing an over-abundance of fighters of voters from the region. It also seemed to be a very weird class given that all 3 had careers that began and ended in a very similar time period. All began their career between 1980 and 1982, and all retired for good in the late 1990's, though as mentioned Curry really ended his career in 1991 before his late comeback. They also all fought in similar divisions, with all 3 men fighting between Light Welterweight and Middleweight.
Among those on the ballot paper were fighters who had much more distinguished reigns, though weren't from the US or didn't fight much of their career in front of a US audience.
Mexican puncher Rafael Marquez (41-9, 37) who held world titles at Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight, going 9-4 (7) in world title bouts. Marquez would fight from 1998 to 2013, and despite fighting mostly in the US didn't fight in a a glamour division. Instead he made his fights glamourous with wars aplenty, including an infamous 4 fight series with fellow Mexican Israel Vazquez, a series that essentially ended both men's prime. He would hold notable wins over Mark Johnson (twice), Vazquez (twice), Tim Austin, Mauicio Pastrana (twice) and Silence Mabuza (twice). Sadly late career losses to Juan Manuel Lopez, Toshiaki Nishioka, Cristian Mijares and Efrain Esquivias do mark his record up.
Korean punching machine Sung Kil Moon (20-2, 15), who only fought professionally between 1987 and 1993 yet compiled a 13-2 (8) in world title fights, scoring wins against Khaokor Galaxy, Nana Konadu (twice), Gilberto Roman, Greg Richardson, Hilario Zapata and Carlos Gabriel Salazar. Moon was one of the many Korean stars of the late 1990's and rose the attention for boxing in Korea, even from those outside of Korea, due to his all action style and ferocity. His losses, to Khaokor Galaxy in 1989 and to Jose Luis Bueno in 1993, were both by decision. During his career he first won the WBA Bantamweight title before taking the WBC Super Flyweight title, making him one of the very few fighters to drop in weight to win multiple weight title titles. Notably only one of Moon's fights was outside of Asia, a 1991 TKO win over Nana Yaw Konadu.
Mexican Technichian Gilberto Roman (54-6-1, 35), who went 12-3-1 in world title fights and was a 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion. His career saw him defeat the likes of Antonio Avelar, Jiro Watanabe, Frank Cedeno, Sugar Baby Rojas (twice), Kiyoshi Hatanaka, and Santos Benigno Laciar. Unlike most Roman was very well travelled, winning the title in Japan and defending it in France, Argentina, Thailand and then going on to regain it in the US, before losing his final bout to the previous mentioned Moon. His career ran from 1981 to 1990, before he died in an automobile accident at the age of 28.
Japanese based Russian destroyer Yuri Arbachakov (23-1, 16). The fearsome Flyweight was one of the first group of group of Russian and Central European fighters to turn professional, doing so in 1990 when he signed with Kyoei in Japan, who took on a number of other top fighters from the region. His career would end in 1997 but during his 24 fights he would go 10-1 (5) in world title fights, beating the likes of Muangchai Kittikasem (twice), Hugo Rafael Soto and Chatchai Sasakul. His impact is being felt today with his success being part of the rise of the Soviet fighters in the professional ranks, and his reign as the WBC Flyweight champion was also as the Linear champion.
Whilst the fighters I've mentioned are certainly not the only choices one could have selected from the ballot, and aren't necessarily the best choices anyway, they do show there was options to pick outside of the Light Welterweight to Middleweight to Middleweight bracket and the US rationality. I do find it very odd that all 3 men have so many similarities, with weight, era and the US bases for all 3 fighters, and whilst all 3 inductees were very good, none were truly outstanding as professionals.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).