This past week has been an odd one, not a bad one, but an odd one, with of the action only really taking place, or becoming possible to watch, very, very late in the week. There was fights early on the week that weren't televised until Saturday, the biggest bout featuring an Asian took place on Saturday night in the US, there was two touted Uzbek's in action on Saturday night and a lot of action took place in Osaka on Sunday. Due to that these awards are going out a little later than usual, though we suspect we all know who's sweeping most of the awards this week!
Fighter of the Week
It's fair to say there was only one fighter in the running for the Fighter of the Week award and that was Japan's Masayoshi Nakatani, who scored a notable upset win as he stopped touted Puerto Rican hopeful Felix Verdejo. Not only did he win however, but there was so many under-lying stories before the bout and during the bout. Nakatani, who hadn't fought in 17 months, had retired in September 2019, had then refound his love for the sport, signed with Teiken, and was dropped twice en route to a great comeback. This week was Nakatani's week, and hopefully a world title fight in 2021 will follow.
Performance of the Week
Had Nakatani just won a pretty dull fight we'd have had to find someone else for our performance of the week, but lets be honest his performance was great, gutsy, determined and full of hunger. The things we had questioned before the bout. He had been dropped in the opening round, as Verdejo couldn't miss him with the right hand, and he was rocked several more times by huge right hands from the Puerto Rican. He was dropped to a knee in round 4 as a loss looked like a formality. Then he gritted it out, and turned it around, turning the bout on it's head with one of the greatest comebacks of 2019. It was a performance worthy of rave review and this weeks Performance of the Week.
Fight of the Week
Masayoshi Nakatani Vs Felix Verdejo
We're sad to do this, but we need to continue raving about the sensational bout between Nakatani and Verdejo which had it all. The fight had drama, it had action and it had intrigue. It wasn't a high tempo bout. It wasn't a slugfest, and it likely won't be on any Fight of the Year short lists, but as a contest it was truly compelling, utterly fascinating and high drama. A must watch, even if, at times, it did lack the intensity of our favourite style of fights.
Round of the Week
Rentaro Kimura Vs Thunder Teruya (Rd3)
Whilst the drama and excitement of Nakatani Vs Verdejo will linger for a long time we don't actually think it had any amazing rounds, and was instead a great fight due to the over arching drama. As for a great round however round 3 of the bout between super prospect Rentaro Kimura and the amazingly named Thunder Teruya was great. The tempo was solid through out, saw both men land some solid blows and even saw the prospect stumbling backwards before turning the tables and hammering Teruya late in the round. It wasn't a round of the year contender, but was very intriguing and entertianing round.
KO of the Week
Elnur Abduraimov KO1 Abraham Oliva
A very easy award here goes to Elnur Abduraimov for his brutal KO of Abraham Oliva in Mexico. This was a sensational one punch KO that had Oliva collapsing in a disgusting fashion with his legs buckling under him. If you've managed to see this one we seriously advise giving it a watch. Brutal.
Prospect of the Week
There was a lot of prospects in action over the last week, but for us the most impressive, and interesting, was the debuting Takahiro Tai, who put on a showcase in clowning, and made us sit up and take not. Tai's debut wasn't flawless, he didn't beat a big name, or score a win of note, but his performance will certainly have caught the eye with a very un-Japanese style. He was show boating through out, closed the show well and certainly proved to be a fighter worthy of attention.
When we talk about the most promising Uzbek prospects one name that seems to get over-looked, a lot, is Elnur Abduraimov (5-0, 5), who seems to never get any sort of a mention at all, despite being a genuine talent. The 26 year old look fantastic in the amateurs, and is looking very promising in the professional ranks, despite taking a break from the pro-ranks over the last year, when he turned his hand back to the amateur code.
Despite being massively over-looked we thought he was a fighter deserving of more attention, and the perfect fighter to talk about his week, in our Introducing series, as we continue to shine a light on talented and promising fighters from Asia.
Abduraimov was born in 1994 in Chirchik City in the Tashkent region of Uzbekistan. Like many top fighters he took to the sport at a young age, and began boxing aged just 10, being trained by his father. That early training put him on a journey through the sport and set him up for notable amateur success.
Abduraimov was shining at a young age on the domestic scene and in 2009 he was starting to make an impression on some of the international tournaments, competing at the President Heydar Aliyev Cup in Baku in 2009, where he reached the semi-finals. Despite only being a teenager at this point someone were suggesting he was a youngster to keep a serious eye on.
Although Abduraimov had come up short in the 2009 President Heydar Aliyev Cup it wasn't long until he had began picking up small tournament wins, with one coming in neighbouring Kazakhstan in 2010.
Of course winning small tournaments as a teenager is one thing, and doing them as an adult is something different altogether. As it turned out however Abduraimov could do it at the top level, claiming bronze at the World and Asian Championships in 2015. He was in the running for a place at the 2016 Olympics, but sadly missed out to compatriot Hurshid Tajibayev, who went to Rio instead and reached the quarter finals.
Having missed out on the Olympics Abduraimov managed to have a big 2017, winning the Asian Championships as part of a dominant Uzbek national team. The team won 9 of the 10 available golds and was a scarily strong team. It included the likes of Hasanboy Dusmatov, Murodjon Akhmadaliev, Israil Madrimov, Bektemir Melikuziev and Bakhodir Jalolov, as well as Abduraimov.
The amateur success, particularly the success at the Asian Championships, saw Abduraimov become an attractive fighter for promoters to try and get at and in 2018 he finalised a deal with DiBella Entertainment and Max Alperovich to turn professional. Despite doing that he also kept the door open to the amateurs, allowing him to essentially compete in both codes, where he saw fit, very similar to Bakhodir Jalolov who had also switched between pros and amateurs.
Originally the plan had been for Abduraimov to debut in May 2018, but sadly that debut was delayed, and instead we had to wait until September 2018 to see what he could do in the pros. Sadly we only got a glimpse of his ability as he blasted through Aaron Jamel Hollis in 104 seconds.
Just weeks after making his professional debut Abduraimov was back in the ring, at the same venue in Indio, California, where he stopped Giovannie Gonzalez in 2 rounds. His busy activity in the professional ranks continued when he made his Russian debut in November 2018, and blasted away Aelio Mesquita. In the space of just 2 months he had gone from 0-0 to 3-0 (3) and seemed destined for a busy career and a rapid ascent. Sadly however Abduraimov's 2019 was much less focused on the professional ranks, fighting just twice as a professional during the year, and instead focusing on the amateurs, with his viewing being to compete at the 2020 Tokyo games.
Having spent of 2019 focusing on the Olympics Abduraimov managed to book his Olympic ticket earlier this year, when he won the Asia/Oceania Olympic Qualifying tournament in Amman. Sadly with the Olympics being delayed to 2021 we won't see him fighting in Tokyo for a while still.
Thankfully Abduraimov's not sitting and resting on the side, and recent reports from Uzbekistan have emerged to suggest Abduraimov will be back in the ring later this year for another professional bout, potentially in the US. It would be his first pro bout since a 4th round TKO win over Issa Nampepeche in May 2019.
In regards to what Abduraimov is like as a fighter he is a southpaw with a text book style aided by excellent speed and power. He's defensively tight, come in behind his jab, presses forward and is very well schooled. Like many of the Uzbek fighters he's as comfortable going to the body as he is going up top. He is a text book fighter, but he has got a bit of that Uzbek flair we're seeing more and more of, and his style seems to have converted over to the professional ranks wonderfully.
Our guess is that after the Tokyo Olympics Abduraimov will commit fully to the pro ranks, and when that happens we expect him to tear it up at Lightweight, and get into the world title mix within a year or two of the Olympics. He'll go in to the games as one of the top medal contenders and will be looking to leave a mark in Tokyo, before stamping his way through the professional ranks.
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