One of the things we, as boxing fans, all want to do is spot the talent before they make it big, and follow their journey from obscurity to the top. Of course to follow them, they need to be on the radar of fans, and with that in mind the guys at Asian Boxing have decided to share some of their picks for the future.
This week they share those picks as they answer the questions:
"Who... should be on the radars of fans but aren't?"
The guys were told to make two choices, with each choice coming from a different country and to pick fighters who really weren't on the radar of fans. Essentially if they were world ranked, they were too well known.
Lee: "I'll be honest and state the obvious. There is probably no Korean boxer right now on the radar of your average boxing fan. It's a sad shame and a real downer for us Korean fans of the sport. Thankfully however the country does some talent coming through the ranks. The most notable of those is a real talent, called Sung Min Yuh. Who I am a huge fan of!
The 20 year old Light Middleweight has been a professional since 2019 and has already won the Battle Royale tournament, the KBM version of "Rookie of the Year", and the KBM Light Middleweight title.
Watching Yuh I see a fighter who has IT. He's talented, he's big, he's growing, he's skilled, he's defensively smart, he can fight inside, he oozes charisma and charm and he knows how to entertain. There is work to do, but at 20 years old and without much amateur experience that's to be expected.
Given the local lack of talent, and his young, young age, I think we'll see Yuh travel outside of Korea before his career is over, and he could well well find himself mixing at a very high level. Get him on your radar now fans!
Outside of Korea, I would also advise taking a look at Ikboljon Kholdarov, who recently turned professional and made his debut in April. He is a super talented young fighter out of Uzbekistan. He was a very highly regarded amateur and someone who has the tools to go a very, very, very long way in the professional ranks. And he has the ability to climb the rankings very quickly."
Takahiro: "I think most Japanese prospects are on the radar of fight fans who read this website. Fighters like Ginjiro Shigeoka, Yudai Shigeoka, Jinki Maeda, Rentaro Kimura, Shokichi Iwata, Shu Utsuki and so many other fighters who have been featured in our "Introducing" series. One man who hasn't been in that series, yet, is Tsubasa Narai.
The 21 year old Narai turned professional in 2019, scoring 3 wins in the year, but really came alive during covid19 delayed Rookie of the Year, winning 4 bouts in the tournament, in 5 months, all by TKO (in fact it took just 9 rounds for him to win those 4 bouts). During his 7 fight career he has barely lost a round, he has been thrilling to watch and he has proven himself as one of the ones to watch going forward. Do not sleep on this unheralded Super Featherweight hopeful.
Kazakhstan is another country that we have spoken about a lot in our "Introducing" series and done numerous articles on some of the nations most promising talent. One fighter who hasn't had much attention is Mikhail Kokhanchik, who made his professional debut last November. The 22 year old Cruiserweight made his debut last year and he looked like a man who every fan should have on their radar. He's not a big guy at Cruiserweight, but he's aggressive, lets his hands go and likes to come forward. He was a good amateur who sadly struggled to fight on the international stage due to the depth that Kazakhstan had, but now I see him being one to watch going forward. He's not the most polished fighter, but he looks like a lot of fun and very impressive on debut."
Scott: "My first pick this week Thai professional novice Thitisak Hoitong, who made his professional debut last year, beating Wittawas Basapean (aka Samartlek Kokietgym) in a 6 rounder. He looked fantastic on his debut, showed cased a brilliant boxing brain, a lot of variation in what he could do in the ring and really looked like the sort of fighter who could be moved very quickly. He was a good amateur, but given how good he looked in his professional debut I get the feeling his moved to the paid ranks will be an excellent one.
Of course saying that I'm assuming other top Thai hopefuls, like Phoobadin Yoohanngoh, Chainoi Worawut, Thanongsak Simsri, Phongsaphon Panyakum and Thananchai Charunphak are all already on your radar.
Another fighter who should be on the radar of every fight fan, is Filipino fighter April Jay Abne, a very young Flyweight who looks like he has all the tools to reach the higher levels in the sport. He is talented, sharp, very young and very promising. He's in his early 20's and has a lot of time to develop. Sadly however he's not been particularly active in recent years and has lost the momentum he seemed to be building in 2019, when he won the Ultimate Boxing Series. Fingers crossed he'll be more active soon and get his career back on track."
Once again the guys behind Asian Boxing have come together to answer another question based on the future of boxing through Asia. This time the team focus on the Philippines as they take a look at some of the most promising talent from the Pearl of the Orient.
This week's question is "Who... is the most promising prospect in the Philippines?"
To answer this we all agreed on what makes a "prospect", and for the sake of this it's a fighter who isn't yet world ranked, which we agreed made someone a "contender", and they couldn't have previously fought for a world title, as that also makes them a "contender". Outside of that there was no other limitations, meaning no limits based on number of fights or age.
Lee: "I recently saw Filipino Flyweight Ben Ligas in action, and he really, really impressed me in his win over Alphoe Dagayloan, so I think I need to pick him. In the early rounds he almost stopped Dagayloan, which was really impressive, and as the bout went on he managed to neutralise the pressure and mauling style of "Wolverine" really well. At the moment he's only 22 years old, has very good size and power at Flyweight and a good style, with the ability to polish up around the edges.
With a 13-1-1 (9) record he doesn't have an "0" to protect and I think that will serve him well, allowing his team to continue to match him well, as they did with Dagayloan. and as they have in the past against fighters like Christoval Furog, Jesel Guardario and Joseph Ambo.
He's in a tough division internationally, but given his age I think he has time on his side and will become a future world champion."
Takahiro: "My pick here, is Richard Bulancan. I very much like the 21 year old puncher who never seems to get any attention but has been very, very impressive so far.
I understand he was a good amateur on the Filipino Youth scene and is now a dangerous puncher and has a 10 round bout under his belt. I really took notice of him when he stopped Anthony Sabalde, who went 12 rounds with Nihito Arakawa. Unfortunately he's not fought since then, but I am very excited to see him back in action one day soon!
As well as his win over Sabalde he has also beaten fighters like Vergel Deguma and Rimon Rama. He has power, he had rounds and he has so, so much potential! Hopefully I get to see what he can do again soon!
Richard Bualcan is my pick for best Filipino prospect"
Scott: "Someone I've been high on since I first saw him in 2019 is April Jay Abne, a 21 year old Flyweight with buckets of talent, a really deep understanding of boxing and so, so much potential. He impressed so much in the Ultimate Boxing Series (UBS) in 2019 and showed the potential to go a long way, very quickly. Not only did he show impressive skills but he was also matched hard, beating fighters with records of 6-0-1, 4-0-2 and 8-1-1 in the UBS. Prior to turning professional he was a solid amateur and he ticks a lot of boxes that I like to see.
As well as showing good skills and facing tough competition Abne has also fought over 6 and 8 rounds in his short career and it's clear he can be let of the leash and chase a national title of some kind. He has that sort of ability and in ring understanding to be moved quickly, moved aggressively and raced through the ranks.
Sadly Abne never fought in 2020, in a year that was essentially written off for many fighters due to Covid19, though I'm hoping to see him back in the ring sooner rather than later. Given his inactivity last year I'd expect him to have an easy bout or two then begin the hunt for silverware towards the end of the year."
Fighters ruled out on the rule "meeting" due to being contenders:
(*Note - This is based on rankings as per February 18th 2020)
One thing we love here at Asian Boxing is a good old fashioned tournament. The Rookie of the Year in Japan and Battle Royal in South Korea are both great ways to get young talent some exposure. In 2019 there was something similar in the Philippines thanks to Gerry Penalosa's "Gerrypens Promotions" and ESPN TV5 who hosted the Ultimate Boxing Series. The tournaments were less deep that those tournaments in Japan and Korea, with just 2 weight classes, but they were still a fantastic opportunity for young fighters to make a name for themselves and get some exposure.
One of the men who shined in that tournament was talented youngster April Jay Abne (5-0, 2) of Wild Boxng in Cebu. The youngster impressed through out the tournament and went on to win the whole thing at Flyweight, showing fantastic skills and real maturity for someone so young and inexperienced.
The earliest footage we've managed to see of Abne was some sparring footage from 2018 and it was clear he was a natural talent, though a bit of a diamond in the rough. He was exciting, aggressive and like a little terrier. There wasn't much footage of him as an amateur, though he did apparently have an extensive amateur career, but it was clear that he was a a real talent, at a very young age.
Alongside the amateur footage of Abne we had the chance to see some sparring footage from 2018, as he was beginning to prepare to turn professional, something he did in 2019. Although Abne was small, really small, it was clear he could box, he knew his way around the ring and was looking like a natural talent, with some genuinely stunning body shots in his arsenal. Those at the Wild Boxing Gym seemed to know they had a real talent on their hands, but one that needed nurturing and sparring with the other top youngsters at the gym certainly helped there.
In February 2019 Abne made his professional debut, taking on fellow debutant Marvin Laping. The then 19 year old Abne dropped Laping several times to record an opening round TKO. The youngster, really showed what a natural talent he was, using the body shots that were shown off in the sparring footage along with some stunning counter punching, putting Laping down with a great counter right. Although his offensive work was impressive it was also nice to see him slipping and sliding shots, showing some impressive defensive skills, foot work and ring craft.
The win over Laping showed a real natural ability for Abne who, with just 1 fight to his name, entered the Universal Boxing Series (UBS). Just 3 months after his debut Abne was matched with southpaw Ronel Dela Cruz, then boasting a record of 6-0-1 (4), in a 6 rounder in the first round of the "UBS". Despite the step up in class from his debut Abne impressed. He regularly found a home for his straight hand up top, dropping Dela Cruz with a dynamite right hand in round 2. Dela Cruz got to his feet but couldn't match the skills or movement of Abne. Only weeks after beating Dela Cruz we saw Abne return to the ring to take on another unbeaten southpaw, Joseph Bayubay who was then 4-0-2 (2), in the UBS semi-final. Bayubay was aggressive, pressed the action and pressured Abne from the off. Abne soaked up the early pressure on and countered fantastically, using his feet to create space and landing clean right hands. Despite being forced to work for the win Abne was the deserved winner and booked his place in the final.
Abne's final bout in the UBS saw him moving up to the 8 round schedule and take on Ronel Sumalpong, then 8-1-1 (5), in August 2019. Abne, who had the much longer reach, made the most of his technical skills, defense, jab, movement and ring craft to neutralise most of Sumalpong's aggression and control much of the fight. It wasn't an exciting fight, for the most part, but it was a controlled performance from Abne, who looked the much more polished fighter. Some how one judge scored the bout even, but thankfully the other two judges got it right, giving Abne a majority decision win, and the the tournament victory.
Having won the UBS Abne could have relaxed for the rest of 2019 but actually fit in another fight in December, when he stopped Isagani Ypanto Llaban in 2 rounds. On paper this looks like a stay busy fight but Llaban had come in on the back of a good win over Ven Joshua Vanguardia, and had previously given a good test to Adrian Lerasan and held Roland Jay Biendima to a draw.
As with every fighter right now (this is being written in mid April so things are subject to change), it's fairly unclear when Abne will be back in the ring, though we're very excited to see what he will do in the coming years. The one thing missing from his game, so far, appears to be power, but at just 21 years old we expect him to build on his power as he develops his man strength. Given how clean of a puncher he is, knockouts will come and he really is someone to get very, very excited about.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces