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
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For us the #1 Asian fighter to keep an eye on in 2016 is the sensational Naoya Inoue (9-0, 8) who is set for a potentially massive year. The youngster, who has fought just 4 rounds in the last 16 months, looks to bounce back from a disappointing 2015, a year in which he fought just once, with 3, if not 4, bouts this year. The first of those is expected in Spring, in Japan, before a highly anticipated US debut and then at least one other bout later in the year, likely in late December.
The youngster really is the boxing gem of the East and has all the tools to become one of the real stars of world boxing. Blessed with devastating power and physical strength he has honed his boxing ability under the tutelage of his father and is as devastating a fighter as the sport has right now. Not only is he devastating in the ring but he's the type of fighter who makes everything seem effortless and actually appears to get enjoyment from stepping into the ring. His potential is possibly the highest of any active fighter and yet he's already a 2-weight world champion with a 4-0 (4) record in world title fights.
Whilst Inoue is the future of Asian boxing it's fair to say that the current star is Kazakh destroyer Gennady Golovkin (34-0, 31). The Middleweight ruler is a fighter who has sliced through the contenders at 160lbs and is now looking to secure a win over a “big fish” in the division, sadly however it does seem like those big fish are doing their best to stay out of his relatively small pond. The heavy handed Kazakh is widely regarded as one of the sports most feared fighters, one of the hardest punching and a man who can do it all, box or bang. Sadly though he really isn't a fighter with time to waste and the 33 year old will know that his team had to throw money at potential opponents this year if he's to move to the next level in terms of his popularity, and silence the doubters.
Although well known in boxing circles Golovkin hasn't yet crossed over, though does have the potential to with school boy looks, memorable “Golovkin-isms”, and personable character. He also speaks English and is developing his language skills, things that have helped him catch on with HBO who do back him heavily. Hopefully HBO will back up their support with cold hard money to try and turn him into something more than just an exciting fighter.
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Another very serious puncher in the sport right now is Japanese Super Featherweight ruler Takashi Uchiyama (24-0-1, 20), aptly named “KO Dynamite”. The heavy handed Watanabe gym fighter is a very young 36 who has typically avoided wars due to his devastating power, and although his rise to the top has been hindered by injuries he now looks to be injury free and ready to announce himself to a bigger, more global star. That announcement is likely to begin with a Spring bout against unbeaten Jamaican Nicholas Walters, a win there would see Uchiyama supplant himself on US TV and possibly become a star on both sides of the globe.
Although Uchiyama has faced some questionable opposition since claiming his world title, more than 6 year ago, he has beaten some top fighters such as Juan Carlos Salgado, Takashi Miura, Jorge Solis and Bryan Vasquez. To date he has 11 defenses and is seeking to break the Japanese record of 13, held by Yoko Gushiken, and that record may well go be the end of 2016.
One more final Japanese fighter to mention, and another puncher, is Shinsuke Yamanaka (24-0-2, 17), the WBC Bantamweight champion and a man regarded by many as an elite pound-for-pound level fighter. Aged 33 Yamanaka has got time against him but he's not had many wars, has scary power in his left hand and is a naturally heavy handed puncher. The Southpaw champion, known as “God's Left”, has recorded 9 defenses beating the likes of Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai and Anselmo Moreno, though the win over Moreno was a controversial one.
We're expecting Yamanaka to return to the ring in March with a potential rematch against either Suriyan or Moreno likely to occur before the end of the year. Hopefully he will also have time to fit in a US debut, hopefully with Jamie McDonnell, or a unification bout with Juan Carlos Payano, Lee Haskins or Pungluang Sor Singyu. Sadly however Yamanaka is getting to the point where fights need to be big before his career is over and although talented he may well become a fighter who fails to acceptance in the West until his career is oiver
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Thailand doesn't have many stars right now, and many of those who are “stars” are exciting fighters with aggressive styles and a mentality that going the distance isn't great. One exception top that general view is the slippery, tricky, dirty and frustrating Amnat Ruenroeng (17-0, 5) who seems to delight in torturing opponents over the full 36 minutes with a combination of boxing, wrestling and everything in between. The IBF Flyweight champion may well be the dirtiest champion in the sport right now, but is also one of the most over-looked and potentially most difficult to dethrone.
The 36 year old Thai won his world title in early 2014 and has already scored 5 defenses, including wins over Kazuto Ioka, Zou Shiming and Johnriel Casimero. It's likely that a rematch with either Casimero or Ioka will come in 2016 though there is talk about a potential fight with Roman Gonzalez and, given the depth at Flyweight, there is a number of other possible match ups out there.