The second youngest man on the 30 fighter list is 18 year old Japanese fighter Riku Kano (8-1-1, 4) who is a Japanese Minimumweight expected to race through the rankings to a world title fight. The teenage debuted as a 16 year old, in the Philippines, and fought his first 7 bouts overseas, whilst too young to even qualify for a Japanese license. Since then however he has began to make a mark in his homeland and last time out he dominated the experienced Pigmy Kokietgym. The target for his team is the Japanese national record for youngest world champion so we suspect that 2016 will be a very significant year for the youngster who will have to be matched aggressively over the coming 12 months.
To date his best opponent is Pigmy though it's thought that in early 2016 he face another world ranked opponent en route to breaking into the rankings, which he will use to get himself a title fight. There is also some suspicion that he will travel for that title fight, possibly returning to Thailand or the Philippines, to get around the JBC's rules on needing to win a domestic or OPBF title before "graduating" to a world title bout.
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The only Mongolian on this list is American based fighter Tugstsogt Nyambayar (4-0, 4) who really does look like one of the sports most promising prospects. The heavy handed Mongolian was a former amateur star, and won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics, and turned professional last year winning 4 bouts in a combined 7 rounds. Aged 23 and fighting in California he has a real chance to break out in 2016, if given TV time. His style is aggressive, his hands are heavy and he's part of the rising crop of fighters looking to make a serious mark on the Super Bantamweight division. To date his opponents haven't been outstanding, but he has been stopping tough guys quickly and really should be stepped up in his first bout of the new year.
At the moment we've yet to see him face an opponent who was likely to beat him, but we also haven't seen him face an opponent that he was supposed to blow away as easily as he has done so far. If he has the Mongolian grit, the grit that made the less skilled Lakva Sim a world champion, then there is no doubting that Nyambayar has the potential to become the most successful professional Mongolian fighter in boxing history. (Video is of Nyambayar Vs Arturo Badillo)
Pakistan isn't a notable boxing country but we are really excited about the talented Muhammad Waseem (2-0, 2). The 28 year old, who debuted back in October 2015, is based in Korea and claimed the Korean Bantamweight title on his debut, though has since dropped down and it seems he may be looking to make a mark at Super Flyweight. Waseem has a long amateur background and is a very complete fighter who has also proven his stamina, having gone in to round 9 on his debut. Backed by Korean promoter Andy Kim there is some real excitement that Waseem could bring top quality action back to Korea and become the first Pakistan national to really make a mark on professional boxing. Given his age we do suspect he'll be moved quickly through the international ranks and could well climb into the world rankings by the end of 2016.
Although unlikely to ever make professional boxing "big" in Pakistan it is great to see Waseem making a name for himself in the professional ranks and hopefully AK Promotions will help him get the fights his talents deserve. With some luck that will include going for an OPBF title before the year is out.
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The rather small country of Kyrgyzstan may well be the birth place of one of boxing's truly elite prospects in the form of the unbeaten Light Heavyweight Dmitry Bivol (5-0, 5). The 25 year old debuted in November 2014 and has already been making a real impact in the sport. So far he's just missing out on the world rankings, with the WBC ranking him at #19, but one more win should see him break in to the top 15's. Blessed with hurtful power, good stamina, a nasty mentality and every punch in the book Bivol does look like one of the most complete prospects in the sport, and has been matched hard from the off. Despite being matched hard there is a feeling that we've only seen a tiny bit of what Bivol is capable of and it's worrying to know just how much potential this young may have.
Although not yet a threat for the likes of Sergey Kovalev, Adonis Stevenson, Andre Ward, Arthur Beterbiev or Jean Pascal it is far to say that Bivol will be finding himself in that company in the near future, if he keep up his high level of performances. Perhaps we will need to wait until 2017 to those types of bouts, but it'll be great fun to see him progress through the next 12 months.
Indonesian fight fans might not have had a lot to be excited about since the retirement of Chris John but one of their shining hopes is teenager Iwan Zoda (8-1, 7) who has stopped everyone he's faced, avenged his sole defeat and began to look like a man with real star potential. The youngster is a natural athlete who has had to fight for everything and that desire shows when he's in the ring. Not only is he hungry but he's also confident, tough and surprisingly heavy handed for someone so young. With a good team behind him there is a lot to be excited about by Zoda, though the chances are he will need to move outside of Indonesia for the big fights his ability deserves.
At just 19 years old Zoda is a really young fighter yet he has already proven that he can fight hard for 12 rounds on the road, in fact he's done so in the horrific conditions of Thailand. Any fighter who can win as a visitor to Thailand is worth making a mental note of, when considering he did so as a teenager against an unbeaten and touted opponent in Petchchorhae Kokietgym, then it really does put into perspective just how good Zoda already is, and how good he could be become in the near future.