With the year now over we're going to slowly be putting out our awards over the coming days. To start with we're going to go with the Prospect of the Year award, and there a lot of fighters considered here, from right across Asia.
We had fighters like Rentaro Kimura, Ryosuke Nishida, Tursynbay Kulakhmet, Kamshybek Kunkabayev, Jin Sasaki, Odiljon Aslonov and Sung Min Yuh all in the running for what they've done in the past 12 months.
In the end however we thought "which prospect has got us to the point where we are more excited about their future than any other fighter, due to what they have done in 2020?"
When we asked ourselves that question the answer suddenly became quite easy, and that was Phoobadin Yoohanngoh (10-0, 5).
The 16 year old Thai went into 2020 with an 8-0 (4) record, and the reality was that he hadn't actually faced anyone. He had won TL's promotion's rather low key "The Fighter" tournament in 2019, but other than that, and being super young nothing was too notable about him. By the end of 2020 however he had become the youngest fighter to ever claim a WBA regional title, at the age of 16, and he had impressed in different ways in his two bouts.
His first bout of the year, in July, saw him out point Kulabdam Sor Jor Piekuthai over 10 rounds, proving his stamina, his mental attitude, his composure and and his boxing skills. It was an excellent boxing performance.
In his second bout of the year he again showed composure, showed he could cope with pressure and box. But he also showed killer instinct, and after figuring out Atchariya Wirojanasunobol over the first 3 rounds, he completely dismantled him in round 6, showing a much more destructive side to his boxing.
Fighting at 140lbs Phoobadin looks like he has everything need to develop into a genuine world class contender. He's not a Thai feasting on scraps to make his name, but is someone who is impressing against decent fighters, showing a lot to his boxing and is still only 16 years old. Sure there is a very real chance his promoters rush him, and push him, and he slips up in the next year or two, like other Thai youngsters, but there is also a chance that TL Promotions hold back on him a little, get him decent competition and, in 2024 for example, get him into the world rankings with 20 or so bouts behind him and move him towards a big title fight.
In 2020 this youngster proved he was an absolute prodigy and is, in our eyes, the deserving prospect of the year, and one of the most exciting youngsters in the sport today.
2019 - Sadriddin Akhmedov.
2018 - Ulugbek Sobirov
2016 - Hinata Maruta
Our final award for 2019 is the Prospect of the Year award, and it was one of the toughest to decide on, with a host of fighters in the discussion. There was different arguments to be had for different fighters.
For example Thai teenager Thanongsak Simsri had activity on his side, notching 8 wins during the year. He also impressed in many of those wins and his December victory over Christian Bacolod was genuinely very noteworthy. Similarly Phoobadin Yoohanngoh, who only turned 16 at the start of 2020...and that's not a typo, went 5-0 in 2019 and won "The Fighter" in Thailand.
Another couple of Thai's worthy of a mention were Oscar Mastertoddygym, who debuted at the start of the year and had 2 solid wins by the end of it, and Chainoi Worawut, who went 6-0 (5) for the year and became the face of Work Point Boxing.
From the Philippines there was Carl Jammes Martin, who went 4-0 (4) for the year, and proved himself to be as good of a "TV fighter" as anyone else in the sport. The youngster was asked to step up, and that's exactly what he did. Jayson Mama went 3-0 (1) but all 3 wins were solid ones, and he now seems set for a huge 2020, whilst Dave Apolinario impressed us time and time again.
Although Korean teenagers Min Jang and Han Bin Suh both claimed versions of Korean titles in 2019 both should be regarded as prospects and both had solid years. On the other hand the Korean "Battle Royal" tournament allowed Da Won Gang and Sung Min Yuh to shine. However the standout for Korea this year was 18 year old Jong Seon Kang.
The obvious choice to look at was probably Uzbekistan, and with Israil Madrimov and Bektemir Melikuziev shining either of those two could have taken the award. Both men excelled this year and both seem certainly be in the world title mix in 2020.
Talking about the world title mix 20 year old Japanese fighter Ginjiro Shigeoka is another who will be in the world title mix in 2020, and has already impressed, with the youngster winning his first title and beating a former world title challenger. Likewise his older brother Yudai Shigeoka beating an OPBF champion in his second bout was incredibly impressive.
Overall though the fairest pick seems to be someone who has mixed activity with competition, and is still young. With that in mind we've picked a 21 year old who went 5-0 (4) against good competition. That was Kazakh Sadriddin Akhmedov. The Canadian based Kazakh not only impressed in terms of results, but also performance and showed absolutely everything we could have wanted to see in a young hopeful. He showed he could box, he could bang, he could fight, and no matter what he did he always in complete control. From his 29 rounds fought in 2019 we suspect he only lost maybe 3, if that. He was fantastic. He might not be on the verge of a world title fight, like some others, but he had the complete year. Expect huge things form him in 2020.
Over the last few years it's been getting harder and harder and harder to define what a prospect is. The fact fighters like Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka having been able to win world titles after just a handful of fights have meant we can't just consider someone a prospect due to have a lot of talent and not many fights. In fact a lot of the truly tremendous amateur stand outs seem to be rushing from novice to contender in double quick time. A great example of that is Murodjon Akhmadaliev, who debuted in March and is already in line for a WBA title fight.
As a result when we looked for our Prospect of the Year we decided that if a fighter was world ranked, by any of the 4 major world organisations, they weren't to be classed as a prospect. This rules out Akhmadaliev, who is ranked #1 by the WBA, along with fellow Uzbek's Shakhram Giyasov and Shohjahon Ergashev and the likes of Junto Nakatani and Carl Jammes Martin.
What we were left with was a lot of fighters, though one that really caught our eye a lot in 2018 was 20 year old Uzbek Light Middleweight Ulugbek Sobirov. Sobirov isn't a fighter who got a lot of attention by the boxing press in 2018 despite having a genuinely amazing year. He was busy and went 9-0 (5) during the year, with 5 wins over opponents with winning records, as well as well travelled, with fights in Uzbekistan, India, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. Given his young age, his high level of activity, his willingness to travel to his opponents back yard and his controlled performances he's our prospect of the year and one of the men we suggest actively following in 2019. He's not got the flair of some of his countryman, or the attention that others have gotten but he has had a fantastic year!
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