In November we counted down a number of honourable mentions for our 20 for 20. Now it's time to look at the 20 fighters who have managed to make it into the list properly, and they come from all over Asia and all over the weight classes. Some of these you may already be aware of, some are perhaps less well known, but either way these 20 men are going to be well worth following in the new year as they look to push forward in their career and move towards major success.
For these fighters we will look at the the reason why you should follow them, our expectations for them in the coming year and the issues they may face going forward. The one rule with all of these fighters is that they can't have fought for a world title at the time of writing.
Some of these are world ranked, and some of these may well be set for world title fights in the near future, but so far they have not had that top level bout.
Without any further ado, lets take a look at the man we have ranked #14 in our list of Ones to watch in 2020, and began our count down to the man we rank #1
Ali Akhmedov (16-0, 12)
Kazakhstan (but based in the US)
The Kazakh boxing scene is only a year or two from losing Gennady Golovkin as it's focal point, and finding his successor is a key to maintaining the Kazakh fan base which has grown around Golovkin. With that in mind we probably need and aggressive, exciting and hard hitting fighter to build around. In steps Super Middleweight prospect Ali Akhmedov, who has power, aggression, a good look and a very exciting style. He is someone who ticks almost every box and at only 24 years old he could be the long term successor to Golovkin.
Unlike Golovkin Akhmedov doesn't have a legendary amateur career that "GGG" used to help build his professional legacy, but he has youth and he's been based in the US for his formative boxing years. Golovkin was 30 when he made his US debut against Grzegorz Proksa in 2012, in what was his 24th professional bout. Whilst his landing in the US was big, it had taken more than 6 years to kick off the most exciting part of his career.
Akhmedov on the other hand has been fighting in the US since 2017, making his US debut in his 8th bout, and really generating a buzz in his early 20's. He's not the natural talent Golovkin is, but he's managed to make the switch to the US very early, and with his style there is no reason that Akhmedov can't become a star.
What do we expect?
With 3 fights in 2019 Akhmedov has been busy but underwhelming in the last 12 months. He fought just 12 rounds, and his final bout of the year was a farce against late replacement Andrew Hernandez. We expect his level of competition to increase markedly in 2020. No more late replacement, opponents or rick over fights and instead more testing opponents and top 50 type of foes. He has the potential to fight at a high level in the coming years but needs to be given the developmental fights to prepare for world class fighters.
Likewise Akhmedov's profile and name also needs increasing, and for that we need to see him in with "known" opponents. No more Mike Guys and Marcus McDaniel's and instead someone like Ryno Liebenberg, Ryan Ford, Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna or Peter Quillin. Sure not all of those opponents are likely to watch to face a rising Kazakh puncher but they are the type of opponents his team need to be looking at.
We'd hope that Akhmedov can land a big fight by the end of the year and can really begin to connect with a more casual boxing audience.
Given that Akhmedov has an exciting style there are going to be major concerns on what happens when he can't blitz opponents, when they tag him back and what his chin is like.
It could take a while to really find out about his chin and stamina, especially given the way he is blowing away opponents, but so far the concern is that he may not take a shot as well as he delivers one.
A bigger concern is that he will always be compared to Golovkin. That's not a huge issue to begin with, but longer term it could be a real negative for Akhmedov, who could end up with a huge shadow hanging over him, and that could be very hard to shake.
Another concern is that Akhmedov may not have the full backing of his team, or their full belief, at least that's a feeling from his match ups this year. If they continue to match him softly it could cause him to regress and see him fall short of his potential. Hopefully this concern will be allied in 2020, when he fingers crossed, is matched much tougher than he has been.
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features