For those who missed them the previous parts are available below-
Part 1 is here
Part 2 is here
Part 3 is here
Part 4 is here
Part 5 is here
Part 6 is here
Firstly WBO Bantamweight champion Pungluang Sor Singyu (51-3, 35) [ผึ้งหลวง ส.สิงห์อยู่]. The experienced Thai is now a 2-time world champion and begins 2016 with a defense against Jetro Pabustan in February, before facing mandatory challenger Marlon Tapales later in the year. Aged 27 Pungluang is just starting to reach his prime, despite his 54 fight career, we suspect he'll be a man to watch this coming year, despite being best known for suffering a stoppage loss to Tomoki Kameda. If he gets past Pabustan he'll then be looking to face Marlon Tapales later in the year.
The biggest name fighter from Asia actually missed out on being included in our 30 fighters to watch, though of course he too is worth keeping an eye out to see. That is Filipino star Manny Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38). The “Pac man” is expected to finish his career this year and currently has a bout scheduled for April 9th, a rubber match with American Timothy Bradley. Sadly it's due to the fact that Pacquiao is 37 and set to retire that we didn't include him in the original 30, but he is always worth watching. If the third Bradley fight does end up being the final bout of Pacquiao's career then it really will be the final time to see him in the ring.
Another notable fighter who was missing from the original 30 was unbeaten 20 year world champion Kosei Tanaka (6-0, 3) [田中 恒成]. The WBO Minimumweight champion won, and defended, the title in 2015 but seems almost certain to vacate as he begins to target the Light Flyweight division. Sadly for Tanaka we were less than impressed by his final showing of 2015, a stoppage of Vic Saludar. We hope that that performance was partly due to struggles at the weight though there is the possibility that he may not be as good as we first thought.
Another Minimumweight worth making a note of is the wonderfully named Knockout CP Freshmart (11-0, 6) [น็อคเอาท์ ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท], the WBA “interim” champion. The former Muay Thai stand out gained attention from his debut, due to his excellent ring name, and in 2014 scored his best win, defeating Carlos Buitrago via close decision. In 2015 we were a little disappointed by Knockout's inactivity, fighting just twice, however he did look excellent against Alexis Diaz and it does seem likely that he will chase a big fight in 2016, with Hekkie Budler's name being among those mentioned by his team. It does seem however that a rematch with Buitrago, in February, will come first.
Many fighters on this list are relatively unknown in the West, and certainly a vast majority haven't appeared on American TV. One of the few exceptions to that is the exciting Light Welterweight Keita Obara (15-1-1, 14) [小原 佳太] who left an impression on US audiences when he faced Walter Castillo this past November. Although Obara was robbed in that bout he left a solid impression and is likely to get a rematch with Castillo in late Spring. Also, given that he's at 140lbs, he will likely be in the conversation for Stateside bouts with other well known names and he also, of course, has a fun style.
We've looked at a number of world champions but of course not everyone holds a world title, despite the many jokes about there being too many titles. One man who doesn't have a title, though is always worth watching, is Japanese action man Katsunari Takayama (30-8-0-1, 12) [高山 勝成]. Takayama lost the IBF Minimumweight title at the very end of 2015 and although retirement is looming he will almost certainly fight at least once more, likely at 108lbs. Given that Takayama always provides action we suggest watching whatever is left of his career, as sadly so many fans have missed out on one of the sports most exciting fighters of the last decade.
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Whilst many of the fighters on this list are from traditional boxing countries, such as Japan, Philippines and Thailand, there are a few from non-traditional boxing countries. One such fighter is Qiu Xiao Jun (19-2, 9) [裘晓君], a Chinese hopeful who is very highly ranked by the WBC at 122lbs, one of the divisions which has the potential to be an eye catching weight class next year. Jun is exciting, crude, powerful and always looks for the KO. His style certainly isn't “correct” but he has shown improvement through his career and may well be the most talented fighter currently active in China, and yet is one outside of Bob Arum's little foray into the country. Interestingly it's been confirmed that Jun will fight for the WBA "regular" title at 122lbs in February
We've never been ones to hide the fact that we like action fighters. We can appreciate the sweet science but we are huge fans of the old “Korean style”, where fighters fight. With that in mind we quickly fell in love with little Thai prospect Chanachai CP Freshmart (5-0, 2) [ชนะชัย ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท] who gets in the ring and fights. His style is high octane, exciting and all action and whilst we don't think he'll make a mark on the world scene in 2016 we would certainly advise fans try try and watch him when they can as he is a lot of fun!
Staying with Thailand it's only fair to include over-looked Light Flyweight contender Paipharob Kokietgym (32-0, 25) [ไผ่ผารบ ก่อเกียรติยิม]. The Thai, who has been highly ranked over the last few years, appears to have been over-looked for a world title fight once again however his team will continue to pursue a title fight through 2016. His long unbeaten record does include numerous poor opponents, but he does have notable wins over Rey Megrino and Jesus Silvestre and has the ability to really question the top guys in the division. Sadly 32 year old has been wasting time waiting for a chance and it's fair to say that he's not getting any younger.
One young man who does seem likely to have a title fight in the near future is exciting Filipino Jerwin Anacajas (24-1-1, 16). The 24 year old Super Flyweight is a really exciting Southpaw who combines speed, power, ability and movement. The “Pretty Boy” has generally been over-looked by fans and powerful promoters but he's now expected to get an IBF title fight and could potentially break out as a Filipino star before the year is out. We get excited when we watch Ancajas and suspect others will too given his style.