Sadly the “western” system means we have cases like David Price, who looked like a million dollars as he climbed to 15-0 (13) in a little under 4 years. Those 15 wins however so him face opponents who he blitzed through without being tested,in fact at best those 15 were domestic opponents. It's an unfortunate system that often sees fighters taking baby steps when they don't need to, and can often see them leaping from facing domestic fighters to world class fighters. Sometime they can make that leap, whilst other times they won't manage to do it, and in other cases they might need a second bite of the cherry, such as the case with Gary Russell Jr who looked like a fighter who was under-developed as a professional when he took on Vasyl Lomachneko, but looked a much better fighter in his second world title fight, against Jhonny Gonzalez.
Thankfully not everywhere has that same mentality and in some places the idea isn't about running up a long list of wins to build a name but instead about racing to the top, trying to make a point early in a fighters career and not bothering to pad a fighters record. With that in mind I've decided to look at the “Top 5 Under 5”, the 5 best prospects with less than 5 bouts. The only rules for this is that they must have made their professional debut and must have fewer than 5 fights in the traditional paid ranks, so bouts fought under WSB and APB rules don't count towards their records.
1-Hinata Maruta (3-0, 2)
When you begin you're career and you're dubbed “The #1 Hope” it's fair to say you're expected to back up the talk, especially when your amateur credentials don't actually scream “Superstar”, and Hinata Maruta has done just that. On his debut he beat the then world ranked Jason Canoy, in what was a flawed but brilliant performance, and instantly set the Bantamweight division on alert. His performances since then have gotten more and more mature with each win showing something new from the youngster who is just 19.
Blessed with a freakishly slender frame, outstanding balance, blistering speed, frightening power and a lot of youth the youngster has limitless upside and is genuinely someone who could become the one of the faces of boxing. The only real question about Maruta is how will he mature? His long term future certainly isn't at Bantamweight but question need to be asked about where he will end up in the future and whether he can take a full blooded shot at Featherweight, or Super Featherweight. Signs are that he does have some good whiskers, but whether they will hold up against bigger men is yet to be seen. Notably though he has sparred with much bigger men, including Dominican Felix Diaz, who is currently making his name all the way up at Welterweight.
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2-Muhammad Waseem (4-0, 3)
Whilst Maruta is a kid building his name at a rapid rate in a country that has a brilliant and vibrant boxing scene the same cannot be said of 28 year old Korean-based-Pakistani Muhammad Waseem. The “Falcon” has already claimed a major scalp with a dominant win over former world title challenger Jether Oliva and looks likely to find himself in the world title mix in the near future, potentially becoming one of the quickest to a world title in history. In fact a place in history is almost guaranteed for Waseem who looks likely to become the first Pakistani born fighter to fight for, and likely win, a world title.
It's fair to say that Waseem was a standout amateur, despite never quite claiming a big win, though he has changed his style since turning professional and has worked intensively with Jeff Mayweather who speaks incredibly highly of him. Whilst a trainer speaking highly of their charge is expected Waseem has actually backed up his team's words and has shown excellent movement, a tight defense, smart offensive and an incredibly high boxing IQ. He has also been able to drop from 118lbs to 112lbs, where he actually looks stronger, and has already gone 12 rounds. He has answered more questions in 4 bouts than many fighters answer in 4 years!
3-Denys Berinchyk (4-0, 3)
The most decorated amateur on this list is actually the most Western fighter on the list, and the only non Asian, and that's Ukrainian former amateur star Denys Berinchyk. Berinchyk was part of the incredible 2012 Ukrainian amateur boxing team, along with Vasyl Lomachenko Oleksandr Usyk, Ievgen Khytrov, Oleksandr Hvozdyk and Taras Shelestyuk. Unlike some of the others from that team however Berinchyk didn't rush over to the US or even rush to turn professional, and instead turned professional last August, and remained in Ukraine, along with Usyk.
It's been in Ukraine where Berinchyk has fought all 4 of his bouts and he has looked disgustingly destructive with an ultra aggressive style that combines his amateur abilities with a hunger to excite the fans. His only bout to go the distance so far saw him drop Gyorgy Mizsei Jr 4 times, and win by a 10 point margin...over 6 rounds! Like Waseem he has dropped from his debut weight and despite starting at 140lbs his last fight was at 135lbs suggesting that his long term future lies in the relatively interesting but flawed Lightweight division. Although offensively minded he comes from the Ukrainian school that values defensive work as well and he combines the two excellently to avoid blows on the way in before letting rip with his fearsome blows. At the moment he's looking for his ring return and I wouldn't be shocked if he was looking to face a world ranked opponent in his next 2 or 3 fights.
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4-Azizbek Abdugofurov (3-0, 3)
We all like action fighters, lets be honest action fighters are why many of us tune into the sport. One of the most exciting novices in the sport today is 24 year old Uzbek Azizbek Abdugafurov, who only debuted in May but is already making waves and impressing with his punching power, aggressiveness and solid match making waves in the Middleweight division. The real hardcore fans may be aware of Abdugafurov for two reasons. Firstly his performance in the 2013 World Amateur Champions, where he engaged in an all-out war with Artem Chebotarev before being stopped due to a very nasty cut. Second his 2016 win over Chalermpol Singwancha.
The Uzbek is a well schooled fighter who had did have a reputation in the amateurs as a promising fighter with big power and an exciting style. His style however wasn't particularly suited to the “hit and don't get hit” style of the amateurs and he was far more suited to the amateur side of the game, where the smaller gloves combined with his power was going to be devastating. That power was shown on debut, when he scored a 5th round TKO over the experienced Giga Nadiradze, and has since become more refined as he's notched wins over Sahlan Coral and Sinwangwancha. Notably he has fought his last two bouts in Singapore and could well be looking to base his career there, where possible bouts with fighters from through the Orient and Eastern Europe could take place without too many issues.
5-Hiroto Kyoguchi (3-0, 3)
A relative dark horse on this list is Tokyo based Osakan Hiroto Kyoguchi who only turned professional earlier this year, and has only fought 6 rounds, but already looks like a star in the making and a future multi-weight world champion. In fact I'd not be shocked to see Kyoguchi fight for a title, be it the Japanese the OPBF or the WBO Asia Pacific, in December. The young Light Flyweight-come-Minimumweight was a very solid amateur on the Japanese scene before turning professional with the well established Watanabe Gym who are seeking their next star, with the imminent retirement of Takashi Uchiyama, and may well have found it with this young man.
Kyoguchi fights in a manner similar to Berinchyk, he's aggressive, looks to get up close and unloads combinations whilst switching between head and body with heavy leather. He may not be quite as aggressive or as polished as the Ukrainian but you can tell that he likes beating people up and already has an excellent hook to the body, a lighting right hand up top and can find holes that other fighters can only dream of. Unlike some Japanese fighters he doesn't depend on being tough to survive but instead relies on a tight guard, good upper body movement and an excellent ability to read an opponent. Those skills were all on show when he recently schooled the decent Kenichi Miyazaki in a very credible step up in class. Whilst he has been impressive there are still a lot of questions for him to answer, with the most obvious one being about his stamina which is totally untested so far