On Sunday we finished our Fighter of the Decade countdown, and now we look towards the future with out prediction of who will be the top 10 at the end of this coming decade. Before we start however we'll just reflect slightly.
For the decade we've just seen finish 2 of the top 10, including the winner, actually debuted after the decade began. The other 8 fighters had all debuted before the decade began, with 7 fighters debuting between 2000 and 2009 and 1, Manny Pacquiao, debuting in the 1990's. It's worth noting that two of those in our top 10 debuted in 2009, so essentially 40% of those making it into the top 10 debuted in either the final year of the decade, or in the decade it's self.
Only 3 of the top 10 went unbeaten during the decade, so an unbeaten record isn't necessary to claim a top 10 spot. Also there was 4 men who didn't move weight, showing that good enough competition and dominance in 1 weight class is enough to claim a place on the list. It does however help to have the ability to move through the weights, with that clearly being a big factor for several fighters.
Despite debuting in 2018 we don't expect many fight fans to be aware of Phoobadin Yoohanngoh, but the Thai teenager is someone well and truly worth attention, and is a long term one to watch. He's still only a teenager, and will be for a chunk of the decade, but the 130lb youngster is someone with a lot of potential and he showed that potential in 2019 when he won "The Fighter" tournament. He's still very young, and very much a work in progress, but he has time on his side a lot of room for development and the backing of a notable Thai promoter, with TL Promotion behind him. This is very much a left of center choice, but when looking at this coming decade we are looking at young fighters looking to make their mark over the coming years, and Phoobadin is just that type of fighter.
Having debuted in 2018 Ginjiro Shigeoka has got himself into a great position as we enter the decade. He is already a regional champion and looks likely to fight for a world title in the first year of the decade. At just 20 years old he has time on his side, and we mean a lot of time on his side, and we wouldn't be surprised to see him fight right through the decade, giving him 20 or so fights to build up his record. He has spoken about wanting to run up 20 defenses and given his frame there's a real possibility that he will only really fight in 1 weight class. We rate Shigeoka highly in terms of skills and potential, but his diminutive size will limit his potential to climb up the rankings.
Few Filipino prospects have shown that they have the tools to fly the flag over the next decade or so, but one that has is Dave Apolinario, who has skills, youth, speed and a boxing brain. The youngster was 20 when the decade began, giving him a full decade in the sport to come, and he has all the tools to develop a very credible career off of. So far he is pretty untested, but in reality that's expected to chance in 2020 and 2021 before he climbs through the ranks and begins to mix at a much higher level. In recent years he's been fighting at Flyweight, though could likely move up a couple of divisions before his career is over. He won't be fast tracked like some, but will certainly be worthy of attention when he hits his prime.
For the last decade Naoya Inoue took the #1 place for this decade however we see him sliding down the rankings a lot. Part of that is to do with his age, and what we see him achieving over the next decade. Entering the decade the "Monster" is 26 years old, so if he complete the full decade he'll be 36 by the end of it. We suspect that he'll probably finish his career a year or two before that, and he has mentioned retiring at the age of 35. Of course that is pretty much the full decade, so he has the potential to do a lot but with age and accumulated damage there's a chance he won't be mega active right through the decade. There's also the fact we suspect his maximum effective weight is going to be Featherwieght, which gives him only another 2 weight classes to conqueror. What he did last decade is impressive but has little bearing on what he'll do this decade, other than starting him at Bantamweight. We expect a big decade for Inoue, but not something that matches up with what he did in the 10's.
As mentioned previously 2 of the fighters who made it into the top 10 of the previous decade hadn't debuted by the start of the debut. With that in mind we should look at the fighters who haven't turned professional yet, but could do in the next couple of years. One such fighter is Hayato Tsutsumi, who currently 20 years old, still an amateur and at 5'7" has the size to move through a few divisions. He'll not turn professional until late this year, at the earliest, and could well have the backing of some very significant players in the Japanese when he does turn professional. We see Tsutsumi as being the Japanese ace of the future. Whilst we acknowledge it's a big call putting him this high up the list all signs point towards him being able to make a huge impact in the next decade.
Two things that really are key in how we can rank someone is their age as we enter the decade, and their ability to move through weight classes. Few fighters have the upside in those two categories as Junto Nakatani. He was 21 when the decade began, turning 22 on January 2nd, and standing at 5'7" he has the natural size to fill out his frame and move through the weight as he ages and matures. Just to put into some perspective just how big Nakatani the young southpaw he's more than 1" taller than Nonito Donaire, who managed to have success at Bantamweight. Whilst we're not expecting Nakatani to be the next Donaire we do expect him to be a major star in the next decade and a multi-weight world champion. He has all the tools to be one of the biggest names in Japanese boxing and fit in excess of 20 fights into the decade.
As with Hayato Tsutsumi we're picking outside the box again and looking towards amateur standouts with this pick as Thai teenager Atichai Phoemsap deserves a serious mention for the future. The 19 year old is a standout amateur, a truly brilliant little youngster who has already won gold at the Youth Olympics, World Youth Championships and Asian Youth championships in 2018. Of course amateur success on the Youth scene doesn't guarantee anyone success in the professional ranks, but from what we've seen of Atichai he has the potential to be a star in the professional ranks. Don't be surprised if he turns pro in a year or two and is raced through the ranks, backed by a strong promoter in Thailand and moved in a very aggressive manner. Entering the decade as a teenager and with serious potential Atichai is the dark horse to be a major player in the 20's.
If Uzbek fighter Israil Madrimov was just 2 years younger we would have placed him better on this list, but with his 25th birthday coming in February he'll be in his mid 30's by the end of the decade, and given his style is a very athletic based one we suspect he will be sliding by the end of the decade. Madrimov is a true athletic freak. He's quick, has great stamina, speed, timing, balance and power. Scarily he keeps those traits whether he's fighting orthodox or southpaw and he's going to be a very, very hard man to beat. Along with his age we are also concerned about his lack of stature, and at 5′ 8½″ his ability to move up the scales is limited. We suspect he has the natural tools to make a mark all the way up to Light Heavyweight, late in his career, but he'll likely struggle up there at 175lbs against naturally bigger, stronger men.
At 23 year old when we enter the decade we suspect that Uzbek Bektemir Melikuziev will have a better decade than his slightly older compatriot Israil Madrimov, though we suspect the two men will have very similar careers overall. The big punching, body snatching Melikuziev broke into the pros in June 2019 and ended the decade 4-0 (3) having proven that he can box, move, bang, brawl and fight. Oh and he can pretty much send an opponents stomach out of their body with a shot to the midsection. Although not quite the athletic freak that Madrimov is we see more technical polish with Melikuziev and with the slight age difference and slight height difference he just has those little advantages that we suspect could split the two men at the end of 2029.
Aged just 21 as we started the decade Sadriddin Akhmedov has the world at at his finger tips. He's entered the decade 11-0 (10) and appears to be the all-round star that Kazakhstan needs to replace the ageing Gennady Golovkin. He's heavy handed, technically very good, aggressive, exciting and knows how to box safely when he needs to. We do wonder whether Eye of the Tiger Management have the power to push him to the very, very top, but we suspect they will work with a bigger promoter, if needed, to net Akhmedov the top fights he needs to make the decade his. Given his youth he will fill out his frame and move quite easily from 154lbs to 160lbs and potentially all the way up to 175lbs. This young man is a very, very special fighter and someone we advise every fight to be following very closely going forward.
By Marcus Bellinger (@marcusknockout)
Currently professional boxing is in a pretty solid state in Thailand with 3 world champions and some decent contenders in the mix around world level. The amateur scene in the country could be on the verge of a really sustained period of success with the youth and junior programmes put in place in 2013 paying dividends. The nation has also hosted many significant events in the last couple of years and it will be the destination for the elite Asian men’s and women’s Championships this April.
Here are a selection of the best current Thai amateurs and some future stars who will be aiming to move up to the senior level in the upcoming years.
Chatchai Butdee, bantamweight (56kg)
A veteran of over a decades experience at the top level, Chatchai has been there, seen it and done it, competing at every major tournament and is probably the most well-known Thai amateur boxer. He was voted the top sportsman in his homeland in 2013 where he won South East Asian gold and a world championship bronze.
Further gold at the South East Asian Games in 2011 and silver in 2009 coupled with top spot at the Asian Championships in 2015 prove Chatchai’s quality and ability to compete with the best around. At 33 and with a very cagy awkward style, a transition to the professional ranks is unlikely but expect Chatchai to be a tough out for anyone at bantamweight in future competitions. Some footage of Chatchai in a bout versus Misha Aloian can be seen below:
Sailom Ardee, welterweight (69kg)
Another man with copious amounts of experience at the top level Sailom is a regular for Thailand at all the major tournaments and has had his fair share of success. His most recent medal came at the 2018 Asian Games where he took bronze.
The South East Asian Games has proved fruitful for Sailom with the 32-year-old claiming gold twice and 3 bronze medals. His other most notable achievement came in 2013 where he picked up silver at the Asian Championships. Given his age a run in professional boxing doesn’t seem likely but similar to Chatchai, expect Sailom to be in and around the medals in future events. You can view a contest between Sailom and Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez below:
Wuttichai Masuk, light welterweight (64kg)
Wuttichai is a highly decorated amateur winning a medal at every major event apart from the Olympics. 2015 was a great one for Wuttichai, with gold at the Asian Championships followed by a bronze at the world championships.
The 29-year-old has also captured gold at the 2009 Asian Championships, 3 golds and a bronze at the South East Asian Games and Asian Games gold and bronze twice along with a handful of bouts in the WSB. Presuming there is boxing at the Tokyo Olympics, Wuttichai is arguably Thailand’s best hope for a medal but a crack at the professional game could be a root to take if the AIBA IOC dispute can’t be resolved and he would be an interesting addition in the pro scene at home. Wuttichai’s bout in the final of the 2015 South East Asian Games can be viewed below:
Atichai Phoemsap, lightweight (60kg)
A young man with elite potential Atichai’s first breakthrough came at the 2017 South East Asian Youth Games where he topped the podium. The Korat born teenager then had what can only be described as a phenomenal 2018, winning Asian, world and Olympic Youth golds cementing his place as one of the hottest future talents in amateur boxing. At just 17 Atichai really does have the world at his feet but it’s unclear when the step up to senior level will come but the 2024 Olympics seems a very realistic aim. Atichai’s winning effort over home man Adrian Orban in the world Youth Championships final can be seen
Thitisan Panmod, light flyweight (49kg)
Not far behind teammate Atichai, Thitisan’s first success also came at the South East Asian Youth Games in 2017 where he claimed gold. After Bronze at the Asian Youth Championships in 2017 followed by silver in 2018, Thitisan finally went one better at the world Youth Championships in Hungary in the same year. Again the move up to the elite level should come in time with the teenage talent showing he has all the tools to succeed. You can watch Thitisan’s fight from the final of the 2018 world Youth Championships
Sukthet Sarawut, flyweight (52kg)
Finally, the last of a trio of top young Thai talent Sukthet won silver at the Asian Junior Championships back in 2017. After victory at home in the Asian Youth Championships, a medal at the world’s was more than a realistic aim but the teenager was drawn against top Uzbek Samandar Kholmurudov in the early stages. Having defeated him in the final of the Asian Championships Sukthet would have been confident but it was Kholmurudov who got the better of it on this occasion leaving the Thai empty handed. Sukthet did however go onto claim silver at the Youth Olympics in Argentina and the future looks bright for him if he continues to develop his skills and experience. You can take a look at a clash from the world Youth Championships involving Sukthet
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