Before the new year we were asked by our good friend @PollitoDiablo2 to do a "22 for 2022" which is not something I had any intention of doing. Not this year. Sadly 2021 has taken away a lot of the love of the sport I once had. It's drained me like no other year. Both the sport it's self and the year in general. It was, for lack of a better term, a year to forget, and a year that really saw the output on this site die down, from regular daily features, along with the news, to basically just the news. The cancellations, the politics, the frustration of Covid continuing to ravage the sport, and my own personal frustrations all made me want to hide in a corner and not touch a keyboard over Christmas, and into the new year.
Despite that it's clear for this site to even be worth continuing, we do need to let people become aware of fighters! And with that in mind a 22 for 2022 seems like a great starting, so take a look at 22 fighters who will have something meaningful, hopefully, in 2022.
To be included on this list a fighter can't have won, or fought for, a world title. They can, however, have a world title lined up as we head into the new year. They are either contenders, prospects, or fighters that have the potential to make some sort of mark in 2022.
22-Garen Diagan (8-1, 4)
Dubbed the "Hellboy" Garen Diagan is someone who has quietly been making a name for himself on the Filipino domestic scene over the last few years. Unlike most hopefuls he's not been matched easily, at all, and from his 9 professional bouts 6 have been against unbeaten opponents. Notably he has ended the unbeaten records of Arvin Magramo (8-0-1), Jerry Francisco (7-0) and April Jay Abne (7-0) in his last 4 bouts. Aged 25 Diagan is coming into his prime, his results speak for themselves and this coming year should be one where he begins to target a regional title. The Light Flyweight and Flyweight divisions are incredibly interesting divisions, but a guy like Diagan would be a welcome addition in either and we expect that's what we'll see in 2022.
21-Jong Seong Kang (14-0-2, 7)
South Korean boxing has been in a mire since the very early 00's and the country, which was once a major force in the sport, is now one which lacks any notable name outside of Hyun Mi Choi. Thankfully that could be set to change thanks to the rise of Jong Seong Kang, who looks like he might end up carrying the sport in South Korea over the coming years. The 20 year old Featherweight is everything we love about Korean boxing. He brings the in ring Korean mentality to life, he is all about aggression, work rate, desire and the fighters mindset. Technically he is limited and can be caught, but his offense is his best form of defense and his exciting style will capture fans and attention. Notably he is also scoring good, solid, wins with victories over Tomjune Mangubat and Pete Apolinar in his last 5 wins. He is set to become the face of Korean boxing, and we would expect his team to move him towards more regional honours, to add to the WBO Oriental Featherweight title that he won in January.
20-Bek Nurmaganbet (6-0, 4)
When we talk about Asian fighters there's not many Super Middleweights that stand out, but that could all change over the next few years with the rise of the Central Asian fighters. One of the leading hopefuls for the division is unbeaten Kazakh Bek Nurmaganbet, who was a sensational amateur before beginning his professional campaign in 2020. Aged just 23 time is certainly on his side, but so to is ability, and we would be very surprised if his handlers didn't let him loose on better and better opponents this year. In just 6 fights he has beaten opponents with a combined 150 wins and his team have seemingly got a lot of confidence in him, which leads us to believe that his team will look to match him with a former world champion or a former world title challenger this year. Hopefully his team will also get him a run out in the US to help build his international profile ahead of a potential world title eliminator in 2023 or 2024.
19-Talgat Shayken (7-0, 4)
Aged 21 Talgat Shayken is one of the most exciting young Welterweight prospects in the sport. He has a good amateur pedigree, he has good skills, he has a strong backer, with MTK Kazakhstan behind him, and he's incredibly young yet incredibly strong. Watching him since he turned professional we've seen Shayken develop from a rather clumsy but effective and aggressive teen, into a very talented and composed young fighter who brings effective pressure to the ring. He's not the polished fighter yet, and that's probably a couple of years away still, but he's proving himself to be an excellent prospect and has already won the WBC Youth title. In 2022 we expect to see his competition step up, and whilst we're not expecting him to face anyone world ranked, we wouldn't be surprised to see him break into the fringes of the world rankings by the end of the year and score at least one notable win before we see the start of 2023
18-Nutlai Lalbiakkima (3-0, 3)
Heading into we haven't got too many wild cards in this list, most of the names on the list are probably somewhat familiar to fans, even if one or two are surprises in the list they are names that we think most fans who follow Asian Boxing will be familiar with. One of the few wildcards however is Indian Minimumweight Nutlai Lalbiakkima, who is the IBA Intercontinental Minimumweight champion and the potential Indian star of tomorrow. India has never really embraced professional boxing, yet, but a country as big as India certainly has the potential to create stars and Lalbiakkima looks to be the best bet, for now. With Marine Boxing backing him he has a powerful backer, an exciting style, a good amateur pedigree and he's an aggressive and hard hitting Minimumweight. Given how big an Indian contender, or even a world champion, could be for the sport, Lalbiakkima is definitely one to keep an eye on, and someone who could make a big splash in 2022. He might be one of our wild card entries here, but that's more down to 2022 maybe being a year too early for him, but time will tell.
17-Yudai Shigeoka (4-0, 2)
The older of the two Shigeoka brothers Yudai Shigeoka had a stellar 2021, after the covid19 pandemic kept him out of the ring for over a year. Heading in to 2020 he seemed on the verge of something big, following a great win over Lito Dante, but 2020 was a total write off. In 2021 he thankfully made up for lost time pretty well, winning the Japanese Youth Light Flyweight title in February before winning the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title in November, with a hard fought win over Tsubasa Koura. Those wins showed that Shigeoka was a very, very promising prospect, but there is still a lot of work to do for him, and we expect to see him defending his regional title a couple of times this year, whilst climbing up the world rankings and moving towards a world title shot in 2023 or 2024. The biggest for him might well be that he's probably the #3 guy at the weight in his own stable, and that could slow his ascent to the top, though it seems like a case of "when" and not "if", Yudai Shigeoka will win a world title.
16-Ryosuke Nishida (5-0, 1)
One of the big revelations of 2021 was Japanese Super Bantamweight-come-Bantamweight Ryosuke Nishida, who had impressed in 2020, with a win over Shohei Omori, then went better in 2021 with a big win over Daigo Higa to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title. That win over Higa made fans sit up an take note, especially given how dominant he was, but it's fair to say there is still work to do for Nishida, who's only defense of the regional title came against Tetsuro Ohashi. Nishida has shown what a great boxer he is, and there is a lot to like about him. Sadly we don't see him getting a world title fight in 2022, but we do see him moving towards one, and the WBO regional title will certainly help him there. The one issue we see holding him back, for now, is his lack of power, but we suspect experience and confidence will help him there. Whilst we don't see him getting a world title fight this year, we wouldn't be surprised at all if he's one of the men sniffing around titles when Naoya Inoue eventually moves up in weight.
15-Carl Jammes Martin (18-0, 15)
Dubbed the "Wonder Boy" Carl Jammes Martin is someone who has been on the radar for a few years now, and is widely seen as one of the next stars of Filipino boxing. The youngster has had plenty of exposure in the Philippines, but the attention so far has been very firmly based at home and he's yet to travel for a bout, something we hope might change this year. Early in his career Martin was an aggressive monster, all about offense, combinations and aggression. In recent years however we have seen him tone that down a little bit, whilst getting valuable rounds against the likes of Mark Anthony Geraldo and Richard Rosales, which will have served him really well and proven he can't take everyone out. An important lesson at this stage of his career. In recent bouts we've seen more boxing from him, less fighting, and it seems he is mentally maturing into a very good young fighter. In 2022 we're expecting to see him continue to get good rounds, continue to get some seasoning fights and potentially take on a former world title challenger towards the end of the year, to add some quality to his record and moves towards a world ranking. He's not ready for a top guy, and won't be by the end of 2022, but we certainly anticipate him moving towards a big bout and possibly landing one in 2024.
14-Sadriddin Akhmedov (12-0, 10)
The Light Middleweight division is one of the most interesting in the sport right now, with not just recognisable names on top but a lot of emerging hopefuls chasing through the ranks and looking to make a name for themselves. One such fighter is Canadian based Kazakh prospect Sadriddin Akhmedov, who has managed to fly well under the radar of fans who don't follow the Canadian fight scene. The 23 year old has been a professional since 2018, and although he's yet to have a break through win he has shown a lot to like with a wide variety of tools in his arsenal, good stamina, great shot selection and a very good style that should allow him to go a very way in the sport. We don't see him getting a world title fight in 2022, but we certainly wouldn't be surprised by him making his US debut and moving towards a world title eliminator.
13-Hironori Mishiro (11-0-1, 4)
The idea of Japanese fighters being moved quickly is something we're all well aware of, and was certainly the plan for Hironori Mishiro, who won the OPBF Super Featherweight title in just his 6th bout, 15 months after his debut. He would defend that title 4 times before leaving the division and beating former world champion Masayuki Ito at the end of 2020, and then score an excellent stoppage in 2021 over Kazuhiro Nishitani. Those two wins, as well as his OPBF title reign, have shown what he's capable of in just 12 bouts, and the win over Nishitani seemed to show more belief in his power than we've seen from him previously. Despite his good form he hasn't yet received much recognition by the world title bodies, but we expect that to change in 2022 and we're anticipating a big year for Mishiro who will likely look to make a climb up the rankings this year. We doubt he'll get a world title shot, but expect to see him climb up the rankings rather notably at Lightweight this year.
12-Chainoi Worawut (14-0-1, 12)
The Super Bantamweight division is one of the best in the sport right now, and has been providing so much great action over the last few years, right across the various levels of the sport. One man looking to move into the mix for big fights, at least regionally, in the division will be hard hitting Thai fighter Chainoi Worawut, who is one of the key faces on the WP Boxing series of shows. The unbeaten puncher, like many Thai's, had a frustrating 2021 as the on-going pandemic limited his in ring activity, with him only fighting once in the year. Whilst that is disappointing it did give him another year to physically mature, and now aged 24 he's slowly coming into his prime. We suspect 2022 will be a year where he looks to build some new momentum, and whilst a world title fight this year is highly unlikely, he will certainly find himself climbing up the WBC rankings by the end of the year.
11-Thanongsak Simsri (20-0, 18)
The pandemic era of boxing has effected numerous fighters and fights over the last two years, and 21 year old Thai fighter Thanongsak Simsri is certainly one such fight. He was set to get a world title fight against Hiroto Kyoguchi in last 2020, before Kyoguchi contracted Covid19, forcing the bout to be cancelled. The hope was for Simsri to then get a shot at the Japanese champion the following year, but that never happened and Simsri has gone from a man literally on the verge of a world title fight, to the forgotten man at 108lbs. Notably however he has been staying busy, and amazingly fit in 6 bouts in 2021 and got some valuable ring time whilst also maturing, and allowing his body to fill out a bit more. Whilst we're still not sure he'd have much of a chance with Kyoguchi, the fact he's not sulked and been inactive is great, his high level of activity will help him, and if Covid restrictions can be scaled back in Asia this year then we suspect he'll be right in the mix for a major regional title. Whilst 2020 was the year of disappoint and 2021 was the year of activity for Simsri, 2022 should be the year where his competition toughens up again and he begins to move towards a world title shot, yet again.
10-Phoobadin Yoohanngoh (12-0, 7)
Thai teenage sensation Phoobadin Yoohanngoh had a break out in 2020, when he won a regional title and defended it in style against Atchariya Wirojanasunobol. Sadly we didn't see much of him in 2021, fitting just two professional boxing bouts into the year Covid19 forced Thailand to essentially lock down sports events for a large portion of the year. Now aged 18 Phoobadin and his team will likely be looking to make an impression this year, and we wouldn't be surprised at all to see him chase a more notable regional title, perhaps even and OPBF title. It's hard to imagine any domestic opponents facing him in 2022, and instead they'll have to import opponents, likely from Japan and the Philippines, so we wouldn't be surprised to see him taking on some of the top regional competition at 140lbs and maybe even make his international debut. His talent is undeniable, his potential is incredible, and fingers crossed 2022 will be the year where he shows his skills against some noteworthy opponents and begins to move into the fringes of a world ranking.
9-Joe Noynay (19-2-2, 8)
Over the last few years Filipino fighter Joe Noynay has slowly, but surely, been proving his ability and the 26 year old jaw breaker has been slept on time and time and time again. With 2 losses and just 8 stoppages from 23 bouts it can be easy to over-look Noynay, but the Filipino has notched wins on the road against the likes of Jinxiang Pan, Kosuke Saka, Satoshi Shimizu and most recently Liam Wilson. He is also someone who has a technical draw with Kenichi Ogawa and has 2 defenses of the WBO Asia Pacific title to his name. One thing we've learned in recent years is that Filipino fighters have a scary reputation for coming out of nowhere and scoring wins, for Noynay that happened when he beat Saka and Shimizu and we wouldn't be surprised at all if he ends up travelling West for a fight and upsetting a notable US or British name. He's easy to over-look, but dangerous, confident in the ring, very calm and self assured, and far more dangerous than his record suggests. Do not be surprised at all if he ends up landing a world title eliminator, or a world title fight this coming year.
8-Mark Magsayo (23-0, 16)
There is only one man on this list with a scheduled world title fight and that is unbeaten Filipino Featherweight Mark Magsayo, who faces Gary Russell Jr on January 22nd. Sadly for Magsayo that bout is a good reason why he's so low on this list. He's going to make a mark, of course he is, by getting a world title fight in the US against a long reigning champion. Sadly however he will go into that bout as a massive under-dog, especially given his performances in recent bouts, which included a very poor performance against Rigobero Hermosillo in 2020 and huge come from behind win against Julio Ceja in August. Those two bouts may have resulted in wins, but they showed the talented Magsayo was still missing things he will need at world level. Whilst we're expecting him to come up short against Russell Jr, we hope to see him put in a good performance and bounce back later in the year.
7-Kamshybek Kunkabayev (4-0, 3)
Unbeaten Kazakh Cruiserweight Kamshybek Kunkabayev is a man who appears to make the sport look really, really easy. The big man from Kyzylorda is a former amateur standout who has been moved through the ranks like a special fighter, he has already picked up the WBO Asia Pacific and WBA Gold titles, and is already towards the world rankings. Although not the most flashy or exciting fighter, he's a big, talented, relaxed and heavy handed southpaw who has yet to be forced out of second hear since debuting in 2020. We really wouldn't be surprised at all if he picked up 2 or 3 wins in 2022 and ended the year banging on the door of a world title fight. Interestingly the Cruiserweight division does look like one that is ready for some new faces and Kunkabayev is potentially the right guy, in the right place at the right time, to make a lot of noise in the division.
6-Seigo Yuri Akui (16-2-1, 11)
One of the very few men on this list without an unbeaten record on this list is Japanese Flyweight Seigo Yuri Akui, who had a frustrating 2021, but is already set to kick off his 2022 campaign, and move towards a world title fight towards the end of the year. The hard hitting Japanese Flyweight champion impressed in July, when he stopped Taku Kuwahara in the 10th round, and will be back in the ring in February to defend his title again against Takuya Kogawa. If he gets past Kogawa, as expected, we expect to see him actively pursue a rematch with WBO world champion Junto Nakatani, one of only two men to beat Akui. He's dangerous, heavy handed, and very much under-the-radar, despite having a very notable win over current world champion Masamichi Yabuki.
5-Hinata Maruta (12-1-1, 9)
Long tipped as a special talent Japanese Featherweight Hinata Maruta has long flattered to deceive. It's always been clear he has incredible ability but struggled to get things to click. That has has changed in the last few years however and 2021 was a huge year for him, as he scored a very impressive stoppage over Ryo Sagawa, to claim the Japanese title, which he defended in December against Ryo Hino. Those two performances showed the progression of Maruta, who is world ranked by the IBF and WBC, and who could well be on the verge of a world title fight by the end of the year. He's slippery, he's sharp, he's heavy handed and whilst we don't think he'll get a world title fight this year, we do expect big things from him. Fingers crossed the year will begin with either a Japanese title defense or a bout for a regional title, before a potential US or UK bout as he looks to increase his international profile. This should be the year where the Morioka Gym allow him to make a statement, and 2023 should be the year where he gets a shot at the big time. His loss to Hidenori Otake in 2017 was a set back but he has developed so much since then and looks like one of the best emerging Featherweight contenders on the planet right now.
4-Hasanboy Dusmatov (4-0, 4)
There are are very, very, very few fighters ready to be unleashed on the divisional elite in their first 5 or 6 fights. One such fighter is Hasanboy Dusmatov, the former Uzbek amateur sensation who was talking about fighting for world titles from almost the day he made his debut. Sadly he's not yet landed a major fight, of any note, and his biggest wins as a professional are at a very low level, but he's showed he is head and shoulders above the 4 guys he has already beaten and now needs to move onwards and upwards. At the age of 28 there is no point in him wasting more time, and with that in mind we are expecting huge things of him in 2022. Sadly the Light Flyweight division does appear to be one with a lot of champions being tied up, at least early in the year, but if Dusmatov and his team are smart they could end up being primed for a world title fight towards the end of the year. If not they need to end the year with a big win and put pressure on the champions for a 2023 world title fight. He's already ranked very highly with the WBA, his team should look to push forward and chase the winner of the planned, though yet to be scheduled, Hiroto Kyoguchi Vs Esteban Bermudez bout.
3-Israil Madrimov (8-0, 6)
When he made his professional debut in 2018 Israil Madrimov looked like someone special, and his first 4 bouts showed what could do, as he showed everything a prospect could want to show, against solid competition. Sadly however disappointing performances against Eric Walker and Emmany Kalombo saw some of the shine being taken off Madrimov's rise. Thankfully for him however he managed to notched a notable win at the end of 2021, stopping Michel Soro, albeit in very controversial fashion, to essentially book himself a WBA world title fight in 2022. There is talk of a rematch against Soro, which we think would be a good move for Madrimov, but regardless he is now knocking on the door of a world title fight, and we would be very surprised if he didn't get a world title fight by the end of the year.
2-Ginjiro Shigeoka (6-0, 5)
We honestly believe that were it not for the pandemic and the issues to the boxing calendar and travel situations we've seen over the past 2 years Ginjiro Shigeoka would be a world champion today. The talented, hard hitting, exciting, explosive, young Minimumweight looked primed for a huge 2020, following an excellent win over Rey Loreto at the end of 2019, to retain the WBO Asia Pacific title. Sadly the pandemic stopped his career in it's tracks. He had very, very, very few options domestically, and with travel limited over the last 2 years his career essentially stalled out, big time. The only saving grace was the emergence of Toshiki Kawamitsu, who Shigeoka fought this past July, and stopped without too many issues. Ranked by all 4 world title bodies now, we suspect Watanabe Gym will be pushing hard for him to get either a world title crack or a world title eliminator by the end of the year. He won't chase the WBO title, held by stablemate Masataka Taniguchi, but any of the other 3 titles are well within his reach for the year.
1-Zhanibek Alimkanuly (11-0, 7)
Unbeaten Kazakh Middleweight Zhanibek Alimkhanuly, aka "Qazaq Style", looks set to get his first world title fight in 2022 and is a man coming in to the year with a lot of momentum. Unlike many fighters he set his eyes on someone, calling out Demetrius Andrade in late 2019, and then took steps to try and secure a fight with the man he was calling out, winning the WBO "Global" title and defending it, to push his case with the WBO to let him fight for their world title. He not only did what the WBO wanted, but also notched good wins in 2021 over Rob Brant and Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam. The only real questions going into the new year is whether Andrade, the supposed "most avoided man in boxing" will be defending his title against Alimkhanuly or whether the Kazakh will be fighting for a vacant title, either way it seems almost a given that 2022 will be a huge year for him.
Honourable mentions (yes there's another 22, albeit in no order!):
Sung Min Yuh
One of the things we love about boxing is being able to see the new generation of fighters come through the ranks, building their names and their profiles in front of our eyes. Going from prospects, and sometimes even children, to being contenders, champions, and stars. With that in mind we’ve decided, with next year being 2021, to look at 10 young Asian fighters, under the age of 21, that we think are worthy of your attention, as you too can join us in watching fighter mature from being youngsters to being stars.
As is typical for these articles, we’ll only be looking at Asian fighters, but we will be looking across the scope of boxing in Asia to bring you the 10 fighters of note, including some fighters who fight are weights we don’t always associate with boxing in Asia. We’ll also only be talking about active professionals, and not covering anyone who is still an amateur.
Musashi Mori (12-0, 7) - 21 years old
We would be amiss to not begin this list with Japanese 21 year old Musashi Mori, a brilliant Featherweight who currently holds the WBO Asia Pacific title and has already worked his way into the world rankings, in just 12 fights. The talented southpaw has already notched notable wins over Zirolian Riku, in what was the Rookie of the Year in 2017, Richard Pumicpic, Takuya Mizuno and Tsuyoshi Tameda. In May 2021 we’ll see him face Satoshi Shimizu, and if he wins that he’ll likely be on the verge of a world title fight. Talented, young, a solid boxer, with respectable power, a maturing body and with Ismael Salas and Yasuei Yakushiji behind him, the future is very bright for Mori.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (5-0, 4) - 21 years old
Another WBO Asia Pacific champion worthy of note is Minimumweight hopeful Ginjiro Shigeoka, who had a really disappointing 2020, which saw him out of the ring for the entire year, but he is certainly not someone to write off. The heavy handed youngster burst on to the scene in 2019, going 4-0 (3) during the year and defeating the likes of Joel Lino, Clyde Azarcon and Rey Loreto. He seemed poised for a monstrous 2020 before Covid19 derailed his entire year, which wasn’t helped by issues at the Watanabe gym. The heavy handed southpaw has been put on a fast track since he turned professional and we suspect that when he’s back in the ring he’ll be in with a very notable name, likely a solid world title contender.
Carl Jammes Martin (16-0, 14) - 21 year old
The most experienced man on this list is all action Filipino fighter Carl Jammes Martin, who has been a professional since 2016 and yet is still just 21 years old! The Wonder Boy is a talented Bantamweight with a naturally exciting style, but a style his team will want to mould and sharpen this year, before potentially unleashing him at a higher level in 2022. The youngster has been blasting out fighters since very early in his career, but recently showed there was more to him than raw power and aggression, going 10 rounds for the first time in December. The hope for Martin is that they will look to turn him into a boxer-puncher before he faces a big international test, rather than trying a new style in a big bout...as we saw recently with Reymart Gaballo.
April Jay Abne (5-0, 2) - 21 years old
One of the true hidden gems of the Filipino fight scene is 21 year old April Jay Abne, one of the most naturally gifted fighters in the country and one of the men who has had almost no attention, despite winning the Ultimate Boxing Series in 2019. Abne was a solid amateur, who has been thrown in tough since turning professional in 2019, and has sadly missed out on a year of his career in 2020. He’s incredibly skilled, composed and very rounded as a fighter, though will certainly need international opportunities to develop. Within just 5 fights he is already among the best Filipino fighters at Flyweight and we suspect he’ll be on the hunt for international titles in 2021 or 2022 at the latest.
Yeveniy Pavlov (3-0, 2) - 21 years old
A relative newbie to professional boxing is Kazakh Yeveniy Pavlov who only made his debut in July but is already making waves thanks to the tough match making of Suleimen Promotions. The talented Featherweight hopeful made a low key debut in July before notching a win over the experienced Goodluck Mrema in October and then beating live Filipino fighter Alie Laurel in December. Although not a big name in Kazakh boxing, yet, the 21 year old appears to have a lot going for him, including a notable promoter noteworthy amateur experience, and he’s very well schooled with nice hand speed, a nice style, great size for the weight, and a willingness to mix it at mid range. Although clearly not a fully developed fighter the youngster ticks a lot of boxes already and we suspect that a good 2021 could see him develop into a fringe contender.
Thanongsak Simsri (14-0, 12) - 20 years old
It’s fair to say that 2020 will be a year that could have been so much bigger for Thanongsak Simsri, however as we leave the year the 20 year old Thai is still very much a bright hopeful and someone who will have a sympathy story for a promoter to play off. The hard hitting youngster was scheduled to face Hiroto Kyoguchi in a world title fight in November and sat through 2 weeks of quarantine before hand. His chance was then taken away when the bout got cancelled, on the day, due to a positive covid19 test for Kyoguchi. As a result Simsri spent several weeks in Japan, taking in the Japanese culture and sparring with top fighters at the Green Tsuda gym, whilst also featuring on an NHK documentary. Although he missed out on the Kyoguchi fight this year he does, supposedly, have a contractual agreement to face the WBA Light Flyweight champion next year, so 2021 could end up being his break out year!
Talgat Shayken (3-0, 2) - 20 years old
Our second Kazakh on this list is the very exciting 20 year old Talgat Shayken, a Welterweight who has a very solid amateur background, and is already making his mark on the professional ranks. The exciting Shayken turned professional with Tukeshov Promotions and MTK Kazakhstan, and they’ve matched him well since his October 2020 debut. As an amateur he had always looked a bit rough around the edges, and that same roughness showed on his debut, against the then 5-0 Berikbay Nurymbetov, but since then he has looked like he has been developing well and picked up a couple of stoppages. Unlike some Kazakh fighters we’ve seen recently Shayken is a natural fighter, not a boxer, and despite only being 20 years old he is a very strong, powerful, and aggressive kid. We suspect he’ll become a staple of MTK Kazakhstan shows and could quickly become a fan friendly fighter at 147lbs or 154lbs over the coming years. He won’t be fast tracked like some fighters on this list, but he will certainly be a man to follow.
Jin Sasaki (10-0, 9) - 19 years old
One of the big success stories of 2020 in Japan has been 19 year old Light Welterweight Jin Sasaki, who went from unheralded prospect to rising domestic contender in the space of just a few months. Sasaki turned professional in 2018, following a lacklustre amateur run, and immediately showed impressive power in stopping his first 5 opponents. Sadly he was unable to compete in the business end of the 2019 East Japan Rookie of the Year but that’s already a distant memory. In August 2020 he blitzed Shun Akaiwa and since then he has notched 2 more wins, including a terrifying and dominant battering or Aso Ishiwaki to claim the Japanese Youth title at 140lbs. He’s powerful, big, strong and oozes charisma. Whilst Japanese fighters don’t tend to make a mark at 140lbs Sasaki might well be one to watch. He’s already ticking a lot of boxes and is still, just, 19. Certainly one to follow in 2021, when we suspect he’ll begin the pursuit of a senior title, to go along with his Youth belt.
Toshiya Ishii (3-1, 2) - 19 year old
Talented 19 year old Bantamweight Toshiya Ishii did not have a great 2020,in fact during the year he fought once and lost, however don’t let that suggest you should write him off. Firstly he impressed, mightily, in his first 3 bouts, which all came in 2019. Secondly his loss this year came in a huge step up against former world title challenger Sho Ishida, and thirdly he ran Ishida very close. The heavy handed Ishii would have learned a lot from his loss and at just 19 the future is still very bright for him. Notably he is still the JBC Youth Bantamweight champion and he will be returning to the ring in March to defend that title, for the first time, as he takes on Kaito Takeshima. We expect to see some improvements from him defensively here, and suspect 2021 will be a year where he rebuilds, moves forward and perhaps begins the hunt for revenge against Ishida. He might have a loss, but he should still have your attention.
Phoobadin Yoohanngoh (10-0, 5) - 16 years old
Last, but certainly not least, is 16 year old Thai Light Welterweight Phoobadin Yoohanngoh who managed to make big waves in 2020. The talented Thai youngster debuted as a 14 year old in 2018 before he won a small tournament in 2019, as part of TL Promotion’s “The Fighter” series. In 2020 he claimed his first professional title, a WBA regional title, and he ended 2020 with a stunning win over the once touted Atchariya Wirojanasunobol. Despite being 16 Phoobadin looks like a fully grown man, he has a very good boxing brain, he knows how to move around the ring, and when he has his man hurt he knows how to finish them off, as we saw against Atchariya. Given his age we don’t imagine he’ll be getting big international fights any time soon, but when those opportunities arrive he’ll be very much prepared for them. This youngster is one of absolute gems of boxing, and looks like a man who could have a very, very bright future, if he and his team can focus on the long term, and the development of the super talented youngster.
Just missing out:
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 #20 in our list of Ones to watch in 2020, and began our count down to the man we rank #1
Carl Jammes Martin (14-0, 13)
With Manny Pacquiao, Donnie Nietes and Nonito Donaire all looking like their best years are behind them the Philippines needs a new star and although he's on the raw side there are few fighters in the Philippines as magnetic and TV friendly as Carls Jammes Martin. The all action youngster is a thrill a minute joy ride to watch and with such an exciting style he is the sort of fighter that a channel like ESPN5 can really get behind. Of course he needs to be given development fights in 2020, but that alone is a reason to watch him and see him make the improvements needed to become a legitimate contender at the higher levels.
Sadly at the moment it's unclear what ESPN5's plans ate for 2020 and although Martin looks like the type of fighter who can help any TV channel in the Philippines it really does take a channel to actually show boxing for someone like Martin to attract a fan base. If ESPN5 are out of the fan base it would be a major issue for Martin and whilst he'll still be worth tracking down streams of, even dodgy facebook streams put on by the GAB, it would be a massive kick in the teeth to treat a fighter with such potential star power like Martin in such a way, but his style really is amazing to watch and he is worth jumping through hoops to see.
What do we expect?
It would be downright foolish to rush Martin into a world title fight over the next couple of years, however seeing him mix on the oriental title picture wouldn't be a bad idea at all, and that's where we expect him to be by the end of 2020. The OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles might be out of reach for him by the end of the year but the WBA Oceania title, or the WBO Oriental title would be great stepping stones for the youngster. We also expect to see him taken rounds this year as he gets the right developmental fights to build on his natural skills.
If ESPN5 can push Martin then there is a real chance he could end 2020 as one of the key faces of Filipino boxing, and the brightest rising star.
On the other hand if ESPN5, the channel that looked like it was going to be a huge positive for Filipino boxing, is withdrawing from the sport the expectations we have for for Martin really do come down, and rather than being on the verge of big fights there's a chance that his 2020 will see him toil, and almost fade away. If that happens then it would be a massive shame, and slow the momentum he has been building over the last couple of years.
As we're alluded to through this entire article the big concern for Martin is exposure and ESPN5's dwindling interest in boxing. If they don't re-emerge in 2020 as a serious broadcaster then Martin's rise really will have had the handbrake shoved on it. His bouts will still get attention among hardcore fans but that attention will only be a fraction of what it should be, or rather would be, if ESPN5 continued to back him. As well as the limitations in exposure the lack of ESPN5 backing could also be a major financial problem for the fighter, who may lack the ability to lure over interesting opponents, or develop his skills in the way he needs to.
If ESPN5 do drop boxing, as seems likely, there is also a horrible risk of Martin being taken from his homeland and needing to be the opponent for other fighters. If this happens then any chance of Martin becoming a star will be significantly reduced. We have seen Filipino fighters go on the road and make a name for themselves, but we suspect that Martin needs more time, more fights and more experience before he follows that route. What he needs is developmental fights, not opportunities to try and upset the applecart, at not quite yet.
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